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One of the principles of Jewish mystical thought is the parallel between the physical structure of the human being and the spiritual structure of creation.
One such mystical concept is the three layer structure: there is an inner spiritual - and physical - layer, a middle layer and an external layer. Spiritually speaking, these are the soul, time and world. A human being possesses all three aspects. (We'll come back to this.)
The human embryo also develops in three layers - endoderm (inner), mesoderm (middle), ectoderm (outer).
The endoderm forms the lungs, thyroid, and pancreas; it also produces the stomach, intestines, etc. From the endoderm comes the respiratory and the digestive systems. Ironically, our innermost layer is the one with the most direct contact with what's outside us: air, food and water enter through endoderm organs.
"And the L-rd G-d formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul" (Gen. 2:7). We are soul-connected to our Divine origin.
The mesoderm, the middle layer, forms the skeleton and its muscles, connective tissues, the heart, blood, kidney and spleen. The middle spiritual layer is time - movement. The heart beats; there is rhythm. The skeleton and the muscles enable us to move. Time is a measurement of movement. And it is through time that the soul connects with the world.
The ectoderm, the outer layer, forms the epidermis (skin), the central nervous system and the sensory organs. It is our sense of self, which psychologists tell us is the most external part of our being - the unconscious or subconscious (the endodermic or inner layer - the soul layer) being where most of "who we are" resides. (Athletes and performers know this: they become truly one - "in the zone" - with the performance or the act, and "lose" the sense of self.) The world outside us we perceive - and thus interact with - through barriers. There are borders to our perceptions (we cannot see ultraviolet light, for example, and need it "translated" into the visible spectrum).
And now, so what? What is at least one lesson from this observation?
Agency: we require agency - the senses, including our skin, and their "interpreter," the central nervous system - in order to affect the world. We affect the world by how we move through it - movement, which is time, that results in change. And we ourselves, at our innermost core, are agents of G-d - we are sustained by the Divine "breath of life" breathed within us.
Thus, our formation, physical and spiritual, indicates that we are an expression of G-dliness and the Divine life force within us. Let us reveal that as we move through life, for our movement automatically changes the world.
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This week's Torah portion Noach, has special significance because it is the first Torah reading which comes after the frenetic month of Tishrei which was filled with Jewish holidays from its beginning until almost the end of the month. Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah kept us busy doing all kinds of mitzvot (commandments) connected to their respective celebrations.
The month of Cheshvan, however, and the first Torah portion we read to inaugurate it, start a new chapter and facet of our lives. It is this week that we begin our service of G-d within the context of our everyday, mundane activities. This is reflected in the name of the portion itself - "Noach," which comes from the Hebrew root meaning "rest" and "satisfaction," for our worship of G-d, if performed properly, should arouse such feelings in us.
The Zohar teaches that all the days of the week receive their blessing from the Shabbat which precedes it. Last week, when we began to read the Torah anew with the portion of Beraishit (Genesis), we read about how the world was created and how it exists as a complete and perfect entity. Noach, however, contains G-d's promise that the world, even after man's descent into sin, will continue to exist forever. Indeed, Noach teaches us the state of perfection that man can reach if he only turns to G-d with a true desire to return to Him. In other words, Noach teaches us how the vast potential of G-d's creation can be brought into actual expression.
When a Jew fulfills his mission in life by living a lifestyle in consonance with Torah law, his service generates satisfaction and pleasure for G-d, as it were, fulfilling His desire to have a dwelling place in the world below.
"And the earth was corrupt before G-d; and the earth was filled with violence," the Torah states. Never had the world sunken to such a low and degenerate state. Yet even after such a tremendous descent, man was able to recover, with the ultimate result that the world was brought to a higher level of refinement and purity than before.
This concept is even reflected in the Torah's terminology for G-d. When discussing the creation of the world, the Torah uses the word "Elokim," which is numerically equal to the word "hateva," meaning the natural world and the laws of nature which G-d put into place. In contrast, with regard to Noach, the Torah states, "And Noach found favor in the eyes of G-d (yud, hay, vav, hay)," a terminology which points to a level of G-dliness above the natural order of things. Our job as Jews, by adhering to the Torah, is to fuse the two types of holiness, so that even that level of G-dliness which is higher than mere nature is revealed in our daily lives and illuminates the physical world.
This fusion finds voice in the promise G-d made to Noach that the world will continue without interruption, for it is in the maintenance of the world's natural order that G-d's infinite power in reflected. The lack of change in the natural world conveys to us the immutability of an infinite and unchanging G-d of the universe.
Adapted from a talk of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, 5752-1991
Getting Older not Old
by Rabbi Eli Hecht
This month I visited my dear father at a nursing home. He is frail and nearing his ninetieth birthday. Presently he is weak but very determined to become stronger than ever. He was widowed and had been living at home for the past few years with 24 hour care. At this time he is not able to live at his home as more care is needed. So, by choice, he is a resident at the Sephardic Nursing and Rehabilitation Center located in Brooklyn, New York. His message seems to be that "I am getting older, not old. And to prove the point he runs his life as always. He stays in control. He made the choice and it was a wise choice indeed.
My father is the President of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. For over sixty five years he has lead the Jewish community and rabbinical organizations. He still sees hundreds of people that come for advice or socialization. His room at the nursing center is his new office and temporary home.
This month he participated in a special program for the Rabbinical Alliance of America. The organization has over 800 Rabbis and many came together meeting for inspiration, Torah and rabbinical direction. If you can't make it to the program then bring the program to you! The way he pictures his predicament of living away from home is that it will prolong his life and not, G-d forbid, as some think, otherwise. If you want to live then take the courage and enter a home where they can help you.
Let me explain with a four-hundred year old story attributed to Rabbi Zechariah Alshari.
A man dreamed that he saw an angel standing over him with a sword. "Who are you, my lord?" he asked in alarm.
"I am the Angel of Death, and I have come for your soul."
"Have pity on me, I have my little sons and daughters. Wait until they grow up and then come back."
The Angel of Death pitied the poor man, returned his sword to its sheath, and said, "I'll let you off. But the next time I come for you, no excuses will help."
The man thanked him and requested that he send a messenger before coming again, so that he could prepare himself and not have to live in constant fear. The Angel of Death agreed.
When the man awoke, he realized it was only a dream. Little by little, his dream about death was forgotten. In the course of time, he married off his sons and daughters, grandchildren, and even some great grandchildren. At last he grew old and fell fatally ill. Now the Angel of Death arrived and was ready to take him.
"How could you have come like this without a warning? Didn't you promise to send me a messenger first?"
"Oh man," said the Angel of Death, "I sent you not one messenger, but many."
"Where were they?" asked the man. "I didn't see or hear a single one of them."
The Angel of Death said, "Why, they're right here, all of them. The first was your eyes, which used to be sharp and grew dim. Then were your teeth, which once could grind stones and then fell out of your mouth. Then there was your stature, for now you are bent like a bow while once you were straight as a palm tree. The next was your legs on which you hobble and last was your appetite - how flat everything tastes to you now! Those are the messengers I sent you. So come along and no excuses."
My father had a problem with his teeth - so he got new ones. He has a problem with his eyes - so he got a cataract operation and a new pair of glasses. Now he has a problem with is appetite so he changed to a better tasting diet. He can't walk well - that's why they make wheel chairs! He needs to talk so he has two phones - one by his bed and a cell phone. He wants to stay active with his beloved Rabbinical Alliance so he brings them to meet at the nursing home. These people now realize that these things can be done for every person.
There is a lesson to be taught.
We must educate the communities about the good things about nursing homes. How they can help nurture and preserve life in a quality fashion. Most of all it is up to the families to show a strong interest, support, by preserving the love and bond between those entering nursing homes. Unfortunately when this is not done feelings of abandonment are experienced and become a detriment to their health.
Remember a nursing home is a home away from home providing better care, love and nourishment which cannot be given in a home setting.
You can provide a great mitzvah in sharing this message with families facing the decisions of placing loved ones into dignified nursing or retirement homes. Meanwhile we pray for the health of my father, Rav Avraham Dov ben Sara.
Torah Scrolls Welcomed
A double celebration was held at the Sadovsky Street Synagogue in Chernovtsy, Ukraine. The synagogue, which had been closed by the Soviet Regime over 70 years ago, was renovated and reopened, and a new Torah scroll was completed and welcomed into the synagogue. Chabad of North Brooklyn, New York, welcomed a new Torah scroll, dedicated in the merit of Sholom Rubashkin. Chabad of Palm Springs, California, welcomed a new Torah scroll on the eve of Rosh Hashana. Chabad of Kenosha, Wisconsin, recently welcomed a new Torah scroll that was started when their two Torah scrolls were stolen in April, 2008. Though the Torah scrolls were recovered in 2010, the writing of the new Torah continued, as Rabbi Tzali Wilschanski of Chabad Kenosha explained, "Once you start something positive, you shouldn't stop." Cozumel, Mexico, celebrated the completion of a Torah scroll for the first time in history. The Torah was welcomed into the Chabad House of Cozumel.
26 Teves 5725 
Greeting and Blessing:
This is to acknowledge receipt of your letter with the enclosure, in which you write about your problem of acute anxiety, and ask my advice.
The best and most effective thing to do, in a situation such as yours, is to study thoroughly those sections and chapters in our sacred books where the matter of Divine Providence and bitachon [trust] are discussed, such as Chovos Halvovos, Shaar Habitachon, and similar. It is well to keep in mind those chapters and verses in the Tehillim [Psalms] which speak of these subjects, as well as the Midrashim and interpretations of our Sages on them.
These things should be studied with such depth that they should become a part of one's thinking. In this way there will be no room left for any kind of anxiety or worry, and as King David said in the Tehillim, "G-d is with me, I shall not fear. What can man do unto me!"
As you well know, the matter of hashgocho protis [Divine providence] is the basis of true monotheism, a concept which to us means not only that G-d is One, but that there is oneness in the whole of nature. In other words, the whole universe has one Supreme Being, Who not only is the Creator of everything, but also is the Master, continually supervising every detail of his handiwork. The corollary of this is that there cannot be a single point in the whole order of the world which is separated from the Supreme Being, or in any way not subject to His control. At the same time it is obvious that the Supreme Being is also the Essence of Perfection and Goodness.
And although many things in the world seem imperfect, and require completion or perfection, there can be no doubt that there is a perfect order in the world, and even the lowest in the scale of Creation, namely the inanimate things, display wonderful perfection and symmetry, as can be seen from the atoms and molecules of inorganic matter. Hence, the conclusion must be that even those things which require completion are also part of the perfect order and necessary for the fulfillment of the good, as all this is explained at length in the teachings of Chassidus.
It is explained there that in order for a man to attain perfection, it is necessary that he should also have the feeling that he is not only on the receiving end, but also a contributor, and according to the expression of our Sages of blessed memory, "A partner in the Creation." This is why things have been left in the world for him to improve and perfect.
I also want to make the further observation, and this is also essential, that there is really no basis for anxiety at any time, and as you yourself mentioned in your letter, that you find no reason for it. Even in such cases where you think you know the reason for your anxiety, the reason is undoubtedly imaginary, or at any rate, not the real cause. For the real cause is that one's daily life is not in complete harmony with the true essence of a Jew. In such a case it is impossible not to have an awkward feeling that things do not seem to fit somehow, and it is this disharmony which is at the bottom of the anxiety, and it is in proportion to the discrepancy between his way of life and his true natural self.
Everybody recognizes that anxiety has to do with the psyche. But in the case of a Jew, the so-called psyche is really the neshama [soul]. Some Jews have a particularly sensitive soul, in which case the abovementioned disharmony would create a greater anxiety. In such a case even subtle and "minor" infractions of didukei mitzvoth [details of the commandments] would create anxiety. But even in the case of an ordinary soul of the average Jew, there must inevitably be created some anxiety if there is a failure to observe the fundamental mitzvoth. It is very possible that the above may have a bearing on your situation. If this is so, then all that is necessary is to rectify matters, and bring the daily life and conduct into complete harmony with the essence of the soul, through strict adherence to the Torah and mitzvoth. Then the symptoms will disappear of themselves.
It is necessary to mention also that in your case, where your position gives you a great deal of influence on your environment, your influence is an integral part of your harmonious life, and it is therefore essential that your influence, too, should be in harmony with the Torah and mitzvoth in the fullest measure.
I suggest that you should also have the mezuzoth of your home checked, as also your tefillin, and before putting on your tefillin every weekday morning, to put aside a small coin for tzedakah [charity].
Hoping to hear good news from you in regard to all the matters discussed above.
P.S. As for the question of seeing me personally in connection with this year's occurrence, the calendar of appointments is filled to capacity and for a long time in advance. But the important thing is that it is not at all necessary for you to take the trouble and time to see me personally, inasmuch as all I could tell you is what I wrote to you above.
FEIVEL is a Yiddish form of the ancient Jewish name FEIVUSH whose origin was the Latin vivus, meaning "life." Feivush was erroneously considered to be a derivation from Phoebus, god of the sun and consequently it became associated with the Hebrew URI (light) and the Aramaic SHRAGA (candle).
FEIGEL or FEIGE is the Yiddish form of TZIPORA, "bird" in Hebrew. Tzipora was the wife of Moses.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
There was once a train that had to travel over a steep mountain. The locomotive that pulled the cars strained and groaned with the effort. "How wonderful it would be," the engineer thought, "if the engine didn't have to drag all those cars. Then I could reach my destination in record time." At that moment the cable connecting the locomotive to the rest of the convoy snapped, and the engineer's wish came true. He arrived at the station house well ahead of schedule.
Excitedly, the engineer told the stationmaster how the locomotive had traveled much faster by itself. But much to his surprise, his boss was not pleased. "You fool! Who cares if the engine reaches the station house? The whole purpose of the locomotive is to bring the train to its destination. Without the cars behind it, there's no point to the whole trip."
The "locomotive" in the story is the month of Tishrei; the "cars" of the train are the 11 other months of the year.
We are now in the month of Marcheshvan, the only month of the Jewish calendar without holidays. The feelings of spiritual nourishment, uniting with family, closeness to G-d, that come from celebrating Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Simchat Torah and Shemini Atzeret are behind us, and the year to come - like train tracks stretching out to the horizon - looms ahead.
As we return to "reality," our challenge now is to incorporate the warmth and spiritual elevation of the holidays into our regular day-to-day existence. Will the "locomotive" stay attached to the "cars" and lead them in the right direction, or will all the positive emotions we experienced - the deep faith in G-d that was aroused, the feelings of Jewish unity and love for our fellow Jews - remain disassociated from our daily lives?
By channeling our resolve into practical action (perhaps taking on an additional mitzva: putting on tefilin, eating kosher, being more careful in Shabbat observance, etc.), the month of Tishrei will propel us forward and upward. For in truth, being Jewish is a 365-day-a-year excursion...
And take to you of all food that is eaten...and it shall be for food for you, and for them (Gen. 6:21)
When a righteous person consumes food, the food fulfills its purpose in creation, becomes spiritually elevated, and "justifies" its existence. G-d therefore told Noah, "It shall be food for you, and for them [i.e., spiritual sustenance for the various foods themselves]."
G-d said to Noah, "Come you and all your house into the ark" (Gen. 7:1)
The Zohar explains that the name Noah ("Noach" in Hebrew), from the root meaning to rest, is an allusion to Shabbat, which is also derived from the Hebrew word meaning cessation of work. Moreover, in the same way that the ark was the means by which Noah and his family were saved from the Flood, so too is the holy Shabbat the "lifesaver" that rescues the Jew from drowning in the world's deluge...
Noah went in, and his sons...because of the waters of the Flood (Gen. 7:7)
As Rashi comments, "Even Noah was of little faith; he believed and did not believe that the Flood would come, and did not enter the ark until the waters forced him." When a person trusts in G-d that something will happen, his faith actually helps it occur that much sooner; in fact, the speed with which it happens is in direct proportion to the magnitude of his faith. Thus Noah didn't want to believe "too much" in the Flood, for fear that his faith would bring it on sooner rather than later.
There was once in Poland, a Jewish timber merchant named Reb Dov Ber who traded for many years with the gentry. One day he was walking through the dense forests as was his custom before entering a bid on any timber. Suddenly he was accosted by a huge brown bear, two heads taller than himself.
Dov Ber was himself a burly, muscular man, but he had no desire to fight the huge monster, and so, he quietly and calmly moved away from its line of vision. The hungry bear pursued him and he hid behind a thick tree, hoping the bear would continue moving on.
The bear, however, caught up to him and they began a frantic chase, running in circles around the trees, both becoming increasingly exhausted.
Finally, the weary bear, reached out trying to grab the man, but instead encircled the tree trunk with its massive paws.
Dov Ber grabbed both paws with his hands and desperately stuck them into the wood of the trunk. As the bear tried to disengage his paws, Dov Ber removed his belt and with his last strength, he tied the helpless bear to the tree. He hurried to the closest village and related his harrowing experience to the villagers.
They listened skeptically to his tale, and although it seemed far-fetched to them, they armed themselves and followed him to the spot. Sure enough, the bear was still belted to the tree, tired from its struggle to extricate itself.
One of the men ran to get the local poretz (Polish landowner), who finished the bear off with one well-placed shot.
Reb Dov, suffering from the terrible trauma, appeared home the next day a changed man. His hair and beard were now snow-white, and from that day on he was called "White Bear."
Reb Dov prospered in his business, earning a reputation being an honest, G-d fearing man. From his contract with the great Count Potocki he made a large annual profit, for although the timber was available to the highest bidder, White Bear had established his claim.
Once, a new timber merchant named Meir Pinsker came to the area and decided that he would take Count Potocki's business away from Reb Dov. When Reb Dov was informed that this newcomer had decided to try to take away his accustomed account he was deeply disturbed. How could a fellow Jew disregard the Torah law of not encroaching on the livelihood of another? He decided to visit his Rebbe, the Shpoler Zeide, who was a disciple of the Baal Shem Tov.
The Shpoler Zeide listened to Reb Dov's problem and told him, "G-d hates injustice. Don't worry. Go home and continue your business as usual. The L-rd who provided for you up to now will not abandon you."
When the time arrived for the bids to be considered, his new competitor won the contract to the timber. Pinsker hurried to the forest and was marking his trees when two horsemen appeared and angrily asked his name, demanding to see his contract. They studied the document and said, "If your name is Pinsker, then you are a thief, for there is another name written here." And they beat Reb Meir unmercifully.
Meanwhile, Reb Dov followed the advice of his Rebbe and went about marking his trees as if this year was no different than all the preceding ones.
The same two horsemen stopped him in the forest and in a friendly tone one remarked, "Can you imagine that! Just a couple of days ago another man claimed these trees as his own. And with your name clearly on the contract!" They handed him the contract, and there was his own name clearly written and stamped.
When Meir Pinsker recovered from his beating, he went to make a complaint to the count. But when all the forest-keepers were summoned, Reb Meir was unable to identify the two who had beaten him. The count scoffed. "Perhaps they were devils, paying you in kind for your bit of devilry with the 'White Bear,' " he chided. But he promised to look into the matter.
Reb Dov was summoned to appear before the count. They concluded that due to the custom of many years, Reb Dov's name was filled in as a matter of habit. "What would you like to do, White Bear?" asked the count.
"Let Meir Pinsker and I go before my rabbi and he will decide." The count was agreeable and the two men stood before the Shpoler Zeide.
"Your lust for money caused you to transgress the commandment not to diminish your brother's livelihood!" the Rebbe said to the repentant Pinsker, and he gave him an appropriate penitence to atone for his sin.
Reb Dov was told to make a monetary settlement with Reb Meir, so that the latter would not suffer unduly. In the end both men left the Rebbe feeling happy with his verdicts with peace established between them.
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.