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The next few weeks are busy travel times. Whether the travel is for visiting family or taking a vacation, for business or going to or from university.
With travel comes inconvenience. Packing, tickets, transportation to and from the transportation, hotel or other accommodations, schedules, maps, food, itineraries and someone or something getting lost.
Then there's security. Or insecurity. Passports, picture id's, screeners, (mis)handlers - as if traveling wasn't risky enough. Somehow it seems more dangerous to be on the road - or in the air - than scooting around town.
Whether we like to travel or find it a nuisance, we try to take proper precautions and we hope that whoever's driving (or flying) is driving safe. Travel's not by horse and wagon (though sometimes it may feel that way), but there's still plenty to worry about.
With all the precautions taken on a physical level, though, we often don't concern ourselves with precautions on a spiritual level - other than perhaps a heartfelt yet fearful prayer on takeoff and a heartfelt and relief prayer of thanks on landing.
One reason for this neglect is that we think we're traveling for our purposes - whether business or pleasure. If a person is traveling pursuing his or her own affairs, then, in a sense, what does G-d care? But if we're not just traveling for ourselves, we're traveling (at least also traveling) to fulfill one of G-d's commandments, then our going and coming just might (no guarantees) merit extra spiritual protection.
One of the universal commandments - a Divine decree applicable to all humanity - is charity - tzedeka in Hebrew. Thus there is a Jewish custom - but it's a custom that everyone can adapt - of designating a dollar or some coins as "charity travel money." This money - it doesn't have to be a lot - is given to a charity once the destination is reached.
So even if you're going on vacation for yourself, you're also going to deliver charity, which G-d wants and needs you to do, to your destination city. G-d goes with you, so to speak.
It's even better if a third party participates, so that you're actually a messenger. So if a friend or family member is going on a vacation or a business trip, why not give them a dime or a dollar, and ask them to deliver to some charity upon their arrival?
To read more visit davidybkaufmann.blogspot.com
Our Sages stated: "Everything that happened to our Ancestors is a sign for their children." The events of our ancestors' lives were not just a foreshadowing of what would happen to the Jewish people throughout history, but a source of strength and encouragement that Jews have called upon throughout the ages.
We read in this week's Torah portion, Toldot: "There was a famine in the land." G-d appeared to Isaac and said, "Do not go to Egypt. Dwell in the land which I will tell you of. Sojourn in this land, and I will be with you and bless you."
When G-d commanded Abraham to offer Isaac as a sacrifice, Isaac had been willing and he was thereafter considered by G-d to be "a perfect offering." It was therefore inappropriate for him to leave the holy soil of Israel for the lesser sanctity of other countries. G-d forbade him to go elsewhere despite the famine that gripped the land.
G-d's command to Isaac contains a lesson for us, his descendants: The only rightful place for the Jewish people is not in exile but in the Holy Land. Jews can never be truly happy in exile, for they know that they are not where they belong. Our perpetual hope and plea to G-d is that He bring us back to the land of Israel, as we pray three times each day, "May our eyes behold Your return to Zion in mercy."
Years before, in the time of Abraham, there was also a famine in Israel. But unlike Isaac, Abraham went down to Egypt, carrying the knowledge of the One true G-d even there. Abraham brought everyone with whom he came in contact under the wings of the Divine Presence, drawing them nearer to their Creator.
Isaac, however, never once left the borders of Israel. And, even within Israel, Isaac's emphasis was "inward." Isaac did not actively go out to draw people closer to G-d. His focus was more on achieving self-perfection.
Abraham and Isaac teach us two different paths in the service of G-d:
From Abraham we derive the strength to go outward, to reach out to other Jews. Abraham taught us how to spread the knowledge of G-d wherever we go, to disseminate Torah throughout the world. Even a Jew whose primary concern is Torah study and the perfection of his own path of worship must set aside time to involve himself with others.
Isaac, on the other hand, taught us the importance of turning "inward," and it is from him that we derive the strength to involve ourselves in Torah study. For even a Jew whose primary focus is on worldly affairs (by means of which he draws others closer to G-d and brings holiness into the world) must occasionally withdraw from these concerns to devote himself to learning and self-betterment.
Adapted from Likutei Sichot, Volume 25
by Chava Tombosky
When we were kids, my father had a ritual that will stay with me forever. In the early days during his physician's residency, he would get home from moonlighting at the hospital in the middle of the night. (My brother recounts his memory of thinking that "moonlighting" meant my dad was an actual astronaut who healed sick people on the actual moon.) Ta would wake my little brother and I up before the sun came up and he would whisper into our ears, "Come on we're gonna go see Dawning."
He would then drive us in his Datsun at 4:00 a.m. right down to the pier and buy us spicy chilly for breakfast to keep the morning chill from freezing our small delicate bones. And together, we would watch the purple colored crest rise in the east. The sun would come up over the coastline and that was Dawning. Throughout the years, as my other siblings were born, he would take them on this Dawning outing. While on our summer breaks, it was my father who was the first one up during our family beach vacations to escort us little ones to "Dawning".
This is by far my sweetest childhood memory. But it has only been recent that I have discovered a greater and deeper significance and wisdom to the beauty of Ta's Dawning.
My father lost his dad when he was nine years old. He always said that the hardest thing about losing a father at such a young age was the constant feeling that he was not like the other kids. He always said, he hated being different and he wished he could remember his father better. Mostly, he hated the look that people gave him upon realizing they were speaking to a child without a father. The look of pity was a familiar gaze most uncomfortable to him. When he was in his 30s and began searching for purpose and spiritual meaning, he was very much attracted to Chabad Chasidut as a result of the relationship he had the privilege of having with the Lubavitcher Rebbe, also known as Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson. More than anything, he was impressed with the Rebbe's resolve and ability to overcome adversity and pain and transform it into purpose and action.
My father had told me on more than one occasion, that the Rebbe's ability to connect with him filled the void he had had for so many years as a result of not having a dad. My father struggled to be an observant man, but he remained to his dying day a very religious person. He used to say, "The difference between an observant man and a religious man, is an observant man is afraid of going to hell, while a religious man has been to hell and back already."
This past June I was privileged to hear Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Jacobson retell a story that had been told to him by his own father, of blessed memory, who was a journalist and a personal liaison to the Lubavitcher Rebbe while he was alive. During the USSR's iron curtain, the Rebbe had sent Rabbi Jacobson Sr. to Russia for the sake of reporting on the Jewish community's condition.
Rabbi Jacobson Sr. spent weeks collecting stories and writing down each person's Jewish name on his own body since recording these names on paper, could have possibly been viewed as a national felony of the state, and a highly suspicious act of spying. Upon the arrival of Rabbi Jacobson Sr. to New York, he read from his limbs each Jew's name along with the mother's name for the Rebbe to pray for on their behalf. Rabbi Jacobson spent all night sharing stories of Russian Jewry but it was one story that brought tears to the Rebbe's eyes causing him much anguish and sadness.
A small child had gone to public school one day and instead of being given the typical ration for lunch that consisted of potatoes, that day the child was offered ice cream. The child's mother had warned him not to partake of the ice cream as it was not kosher. The child with a tear in his eye, wept and innocently asked, "But mama, I get nothing to eat all day, why can't I eat the ice cream like the other children?"
It was this story out of all the stories of suffering and deprivation that made the Rebbe sob. His sensitivity to a child's innocent request for a childhood treat that he was unable to revel in because he lived in a country that forbade him to celebrate his Judaism freely is the story that crushed the Rebbe. However, as the sun came up and the Rebbe looked outside towards the sunrise, he slammed his hand on the desk, dried his tears and pronounced, "It is morning, no more tears."
Kabbalists have said that sunrise is the ultimate transition of time. And it is this transition that teaches us the ability to leap into a new day and into a new existence. We have the power to transform our pain from victimized Moons who reflect the wounds of time in our darkest hour into Suns who can shine on our own, stand on our own two feet and contribute to the world using the lessons and challenges we have endured. Dawning is that bittersweet G-dly whisper telling us something very precious must leave us and seize in order to make room for something new.
Dawning is the perfect expression of recovery and revival. It is the remedy to all pain. It is G-d's answer to growth. It is G-d's ultimate comfort.
I remember the morning I got up from Shiva for my father. As I woke up to the sun hitting my face, a terrible fear swelled inside me. How would I go on? How would I transition to a new day without my father physically with me? How would I live normally? I closed my eyes and remembered driving through the night with my family just 11 days earlier from Chico, California. I recalled the silence of the night and the monotonous 10 hour drive. But at 4 a.m, I looked out the car window and watched the birth of the early morning and I called my dear brother who was driving in the car ahead of me and said, "Yaakov, look outside, it is dawning."
"I know," he said, "I see it too, I see it too."
I Go to the Dentist
Lively and colorful, I Go to the Dentist is just the book parents need to prepare young children for their very first dental checkup! Step by step, the rhyming text explains everything a child will encounter during a visit to the dentist's office... from the cleaning and the x-rays to the special tools and little round sink. The friendly dentist in the story stresses that good dental hygiene and regular checkups represent one way we can do the mitzva (commandment) of guarding our health. This newest release from HaChai Publishing is written and illustrated by Rikki Benenfeld.
11 MarCheshvan, 5722 
... in connection with your writing that your children had been attending a Hebrew Day School, but that you took them out from there and have engaged a private teacher instead. I need hardly point out to you that Jewish education is not confined to the acquisition of a certain level of knowledge and information about Jewish life, but rather that the child should be brought up within such a life and within an atmosphere which is permeated with this kind of life. This is something that a private teacher cannot replace by teaching just a number of hours a week.
Besides, when the Hebrew lesson comes after the boy has spent most of the day in public school, where he is given tests and homework, the Hebrew lesson cannot have the same importance in the mind of the boy as the public school, not to mention other factors such as the effect of classroom, discipline, community with other children, etc., etc. All this relegates the Hebrew lesson to a third or fourth place in importance, so that it often comes to be regarded altogether as an unnecessary burden.
12 MarCheshvan, 5722 
... I believe that during our conversation we touched upon the subject that, as the Torah has always been called Toras Chaim, the Law of Life, and has always been both the source of our life and existence as well as the guide in our daily life, it is infinitely more so in the present day and age. The danger to Jewish life and existence in the free countries, especially in these United States, is not the danger of physical extermination, G-d forbid, from another Hitler or Eichman, but there is, nevertheless, a danger which is no less destructive, the danger of assimilation. Precisely because there is no external antagonism and discrimination against the Jews, especially on the middle and lower class level (although in the upper classes, the tendency towards assimilation is checked by prejudice), the danger of mass assimilation is a very real one.
In addition, such factors as compulsory education and social and economic pressures of conformity, etc., coupled with the widespread ignorance of Jewish values, greatly increase the danger of assimilation from one generation to the next. If allowed to continue unchecked, who knows to what it might lead.
It is, therefore, the duty of every conscious and conscientious Jew to do everything possible to stem the tide of assimilation, and it is truly a matter of saving a life.
It is self-evident that such an effort should not be limited to the adult and older generation, but especially in regard to the younger generation, and the very young in particular. And needless to say, a person on whom Divine Providence has bestowed special capacities for influence, is especially duty-bound to use these capacities in the direction outlined.
This is not the time to engage in theoretic research as into all the aspects of the situation, and postpone action pending the results of such research. For, when a house is on fire, there is no time to study the laws of combustion and methods of fire extinguishing, but everything must be done to extinguish the fire before the house is destroyed, with possible loss of life.
... Similarly, you have the capacity to extend your influence beyond your immediate surroundings at home, to the community at large. This you can do both in a direct way and perhaps even more so in an indirect way, by raising the standards of your religious and spiritual living.
AVNER means "father of light." Avner ben Ner (I Samuel 14:50) was the uncle of King Saul and commander of his army. According to the Midrash, Avner was so strong that "it would be easier for a person to move a wall six cubits thick than to move one of Avner's feet."
ASHIRA has two meanings. When spelled with an ayin (g) it means "rich." When spelled an alef (t) the meaning is "I will sing."
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This Shabbat is the annual Kinus HaShluchim, the International Convention of Emissaries of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Over 4,000 emissaries of the Rebbe from every continent in the world are arriving at Lubavitch World Headquarters, 770 Eastern Parkway, for the 29th annual conference. They will go back to their communities after Shabbat with renewed energy to continue carrying our their mission to prepare the world for Moshiach!
This Shabbat is also the Shabbat on which we bless the new month of Kislev, the third month of the Jewish calendar.
The name Kislev represents a fusion of opposites. "Kis" refers to a state of concealment or covering over, whereas "lev" (lamed-vav) is symbolic of the ultimate in revelation. (Lamed-vav, numerically equivalent to 36, six times six, represents the highest level of revelation of our six emotional powers.)
Kislev, in Chasidic tradition, is also called "the month of redemption." The 10th of Kislev is the anniversary of release from Russian imprisonment of Rabbi Dov Ber, the second Rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch and th 19th of Kislev is the release and anniversary of redemption of Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidism. And, of course, we have the victory and redemption of the Jewish people at the time of Chanuka that we celebrate on the 25th of the month of Kislev.
May the coming month truly be a time of thanksgiving and redemption for the entire Jewish people, with the coming of Moshiach and the Final Redemption.
Sojourn in this land, and I will be with you (Gen. 26:3)
The Torah uses the word "sojourn" instead of "dwell" to teach us that one must always consider oneself a temporary resident of this world. "The Shechina (G-dly presence) does not move away from one who considers himself a stranger in this world," we are taught. The second part of G-d's promise, "I will be with you," will be fulfilled when Jacob thinks of himself in this manner.
And they departed from him in peace (Gen. 26:31)
Even after having partaken of a meal with the tzadik, Isaac, Avimelech still departed convinced of his own self-importance. This is something that a Jew would have been unable to do. A Jew, when in the presence of a tzadik, realizes his own shortcomings and is humbled.
And it came to pass when Isaac was old, and his eyes were too dim to see (Gen. 27:1)
Rashi explains that Isaac's eyesight was ruined by the smoke of the incense offered up by Esau's wives to their idols. But why was he the only one in the household to be adversely affected by the smoke? "Isaac was too pure to behold evil," our Sages comment. He was therefore unable to withstand witnessing the idolatry of his daughters-in-law.
Hundreds of years ago there was no dependable mail service. Transportation was difficult, and communication between distant locations almost nonexistent. Shabtai Cohen was no different from many other lads who followed our Sages' dictum to "exile oneself to a place of Torah." Nonetheless, it was a wrenching experience to leave his widowed mother and sister for a foreign land.
Despite the heartache, Shabtai's mother gave her blessing to her firstborn's departure. From an early age she had recognized that her son was destined for greatness. Only in a place of Torah could he live up to his vast potential and extraordinary talents.
The lad arrived in Vilna, where he studied for several years in the city of Torah giants. When he reached marriageable age, he was taken as a son-in-law by one of Vilna's most respectable citizens and continued his studies. Within a few years he was a renowned legal authority and had authored the work Siftei Kohen, or as it is known by its initials, the Shach. However, his mother and sister knew nothing of this.
It was at this time in history that the cursed Chmielniki and his followers began to wreak havoc in Europe. The destruction they brought to the Shach's hometown was beyond description. Countless Jewish men, women and children were brutally murdered. Their property was plundered and their homes burned to the ground.
The Shach's sister managed to escape with the clothes on her back. In the course of her subsequent wanderings with a group of beggars, she arrived in the city of Vilna and sought shelter in a synagogue.
The gabbai's wife was immediately stricken by the young woman's obvious refinement, as evidenced by her bearing, speech and comportment. "How is it that you have been reduced to wandering?" she asked her kindly. "Why don't you remain here in Vilna? I will find you a respectable position, that you may earn your bread with honor."
The young woman was delighted by the offer, and was hired as a domestic by one of Vilna's leading Jewish families. After all of her travails, she was happy.
The mistress of the household was also soon impressed by the young woman's qualities. "The truth is that I really have enough domestic help," she told her. "But I have a special job for you, one that is not very difficult yet requires someone responsible. You see, my son-in-law is a Torah scholar, who studies Torah until very late at night. By that time, the rest of the household has already gone to bed, and no one is awake to serve him his supper. I would like to assign this task to you."
And so, that evening the young woman sat outside the son-in-law's study door and waited for him to finish. She listened as he studied aloud, and the sweet melody resonated within her soul and awakened long-forgotten memories. For a brief second she imagined herself a child back at home; the voice sounded uncannily like her late father, Reb Meir, of blessed memory. But of course, he had died years before when she was very young.
The contrast between the warm, pleasant dream and her present status as a poor orphan was suddenly too much to bear. A flood of emotion overwhelmed the young woman and her eyes filled with tears. Unable to control herself, she began to weep.
The son-in-law heard her crying and opened the door. When he asked her what was the matter, she dried her eyes and said, "It's nothing." The son-in-law went back to his studies. A few minutes later, however, she could no longer contain herself, as the sound of his learning was just too evocative. When he came out a second time she poured out her heart.
The young woman told the son-in-law all about her illustrious family, about her father who used to learn with the same sweet melody, and the wonderful memories his learning had brought back. Then she filled him in on the rest of her sad story.
She was so intent on her tale that she didn't notice how he had suddenly paled. The realization that the young woman was his sister almost made him faint. For the time being, however, he kept his emotions in check, and comforted her as best he could.
At the request of the Shach, the young woman was elevated to the status of family member. No one knew why, but everyone respected his wishes. The young woman was soon beloved by all.
A while later the mistress of the household fell ill and passed away. After the mourning period, the matchmakers pressed the husband to remarry, as he was still relatively young. When he asked his son-in-law what to do, he advised him to marry the young woman who had come to live with them. "She is modest, wise, and from a good family," the Shach told him. "G-d willing, at the wedding I will reveal her true identity."
And so it came to pass. The Shach revealed to everyone at the wedding that the bride was, in fact, his sister. As a wedding present the Shach blessed the new couple with a son who would illuminate the Jewish world; his blessing was fulfilled with the birth of the famous Rabbi Meir, author of the Panim Meirot.
When Isaac summoned his older son, Esau (Gen. 27:1) he intended to reveal to Esau the day Moshiach would come, in the hope that this information would cause him to leave his evil ways. At that very moment G-d hid it from Isaac and said, "In the future I will conceal this information from Jacob's sons because they aren't deserving, and I should let it be known to this wicked man, Esau?"