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The 10,000 Hour Rule posits that to master any subject, one must practice a particular skill for 10,000 hours. This 10,000 hour rule apparently applies no matter what the skill or craft. Do you want to become a master golfer, mechanic, chef, long distance runner, surgeon, salesperson - or even writer? Put in your 10,000 hours!
But - what kind of practice is required? Can you just go through the motions or is full concentration required? Can one gain expertise with a half-hearted effort for some of the time? For surely it's nearly impossible to maintain the same level of focus, to go through the mechanics or routine with complete consistency for that long. The 10,000 Hour Rule assumes trial-and-error and mistakes and false starts and sidetracks in the middle and faltering at the end. So perhaps mental lapses are to be expected.
Also, mastery isn't the same thing as success. For instance, many athletes put in their 10,000 hours - or more - and don't win a championship. Many don't even make a professional team. The same is true with any profession: many people with expertise aren't necessarily successes, at least by any outward, measurable, or objective standard. Ah, but mastery is its own reward: the self-improvement and self-awareness (and self-esteem) that comes with expertise is neither external nor quantifiable.
Also, what happens at 10 hours, or 100 hours, or 1,000 hours? What are the levels of mastery?
All this has relevance to one of the most important mitzvot (command-ments) in Judaism: prayer. Most of us, when asked if we pray, will say yes, but perhaps not "formally." We find it hard to get into the "routine" - yet routine, doing the same task over and over, is critical to the 10,000 Hour Rule of craft mastery.
And yet the routine, that very trial-and-error, in-and-out-of-focus, and the asking of why are crucial components of the 10,000 hour rule. Part of the doing is getting the mechanics and technique down. The baseball player doesn't just swing the bat, he examines the mechanics. The guitar player doesn't just strum the strings; he ana-lyzes his technique. The poet doesn't just throw together rhymes; she studies the sound-sense combination.
So, too, with prayer. To become an expert requires time, focus, participation and repetition. We have to set aside time to pray every day - just like the athlete or musician sets aside practice time. And that time has to be inviolable, except for the greatest emergencies. The athlete or musician or any master craftsman turns off the cell phone and tunes out the world when it's practice time. That's because practice time is also performance time.
We have to focus on the words of prayer. The "Shema," the Sages direct, should be said in Hebrew. But almost all else can be said in any language we understand. Hebrew is preferable, but most important is to focus on the meaning of the words, and the spiritual ladder they create.
Take a class or read a book to access the deeper levels and structure.
And of course, repetition is key. Repetition of the same "movement" - the same words. The motions of a great baseball swing, or of maestro violinists, are fundamentally the same. The mechanics - the words of prayer - don't change. The nuance is the feeling we put into them.
There's one last point that all masters know: the 10,000 hour rule is just the beginning. It requires a lifetime of 10,000 hours to get it right. And a lifetime of prayer to reveal the potential of our soul.
This week's Torah portion, Vayishlach, begins, "And Jacob sent angels before him to greet Esau, his brother." Jacob entrusted the angels with a message: "Im Lavan garti - I have sojourned with Laban." In these words Jacob summed up the approach he had taken toward Laban throughout his years in Charan: "garti - I have sojourned," i.e., I was only a temporary visitor and never fully at ease.
To Jacob, the mundane affairs of this world were extraneous, removed from his true self and concerns. In Laban's household Jacob was like a ger - a stranger who was only passing through. His interest did not lie in the pursuit of wealth or material riches. Rather, Jacob's true "home" was in the realm of the soul, in Torah study and the observance of mitzvot (commandments). Jacob only felt himself at home, truly at ease and comfortable, when he was involved in the service of G-d.
The Torah states, "He built himself a house, and for his cattle he made booths." For "himself," his true self, Jacob built a "house" - a permanent dwelling. For his "cattle," his material possessions, Jacob built booths - assigning them only marginal importance, like a suka that is designed only for temporary residence.
In this light, we may better understand the explanation of Rashi, the foremost Torah commentator, on the verse "I have sojourned with Laban": "And I have observed the 613 commandments."
In Hebrew letters the number 613 is written taf, reish, yud gimmel - the same letters that form the word "garti" - sojourned. Jacob was informing Esau that despite his extended stay in Laban's household he managed to keep all of the Torah's mitzvot. How? By relating to the physical world and to Laban as being only temporal and transient.
The Maggid of Mezeritch used to say: "At home, it is different." A person's home is his castle; a home must contain all the amenities of life. When a person travels, however, it is not so important if his temporary dwelling is furnished beautifully, for the time spent there is only minimal.
The Jewish people in exile are only "on the road." We are not yet in our true home; rather, we are more like strangers on a temporary visit to a foreign land. Our entire experience in exile is expressed in Jacob's message to Esau: "garti - I am only a sojourner."
The road we are on is the road to the Final Redemption, which, for the Jew, represents true life. In the Days of Moshiach, we will finally be at "home," in our permanent dwelling, engaged in our real task of serving G-d. Indeed, by relating to the physical world and its affairs with this in mind we hasten the Redemption, may it happen immediately.
Adapted from Likutei Sichot vol. 1 of the Lubavticher Rebbe
Bar Mitzva Centurian
by Rabbi Asher Deren
The Hermanus Nursing Home where Arthur - a sprightly and energetic man only two months short of his 103rd birthday - and I met wasn't the typical setting for your average Bar Mitzva ceremony. Yet it definitely was one of the most moving experiences of my life. I was in Arthur's room at the nursing home as he slowly wrapped Tefilin for the first time in his life.
In 1922 Arthur turned 13 and celebrated a "Bar Mitzva" - a "big do" as he described it, but Tefilin wasn't a part of it. Since arriving in South Africa from his native England in 1951, he hasn't stepped foot in a synagogue. And now he was completing his Bar Mitzva as we slowly wrapped Tefilin about his strong-willed, but frail arm.
So how did people in the home know about Arthur's Judaism, to connect me with him while in Hermanus for a Rabbinic training course?
Well, despite not having been in a synagogue in over 60 years, every time any of his friends or nurses would try to talk to him about "other" divinities, Arthur would protest loudly; "I'm Jewish, and I only pray to one G-d - every night!"
What inspired him? Perhaps a conversation at a Bar Mitzva Party, the first Bar Mitzva ever!
The father of the Bar Mitzva boy was only 10 years older than Arthur. Our father Abraham was 113 when his son Yitzchak (Isaac) came of age.
While the paparazzi were still a few millennia off, so there aren't pictures of the A-list guests at the Bar Mitzva, the Midrash gives us a taste of the table chatter at what was definitely the "must-be-seen-at" event of the decade.
As the nobility and royalty from across Canaan came to join in the celebration, a few of the braver folks on line at the buffet took on one of the conspicuously cynical guests.
Og was the Bashanite King whose staggering strength, physical stature and survival skills were surpassed only by his sarcastic disparagement of Abraham and his monotheistic revolution in an idolatrous society. Yet there was Og, grabbing his sushi at Yitzchak's Bar Mitzva party!
"Hey Og, weren't you the one who used to say that Abraham is sterile?" "Didn't you say that 100 year old Abraham could never have children?"
"Ha," Og snorted as he dipped his sashimi into the wasabi. "Look at that young boy that Abraham is celebrating, what kind of a gift is that? With one swipe of this finger, I could crush that puny lad," he said, mocking this gift of a child born to Abraham and Sara in their old age.
The Midrash says G-d responded, "By your life (I swear), this gift that you mock will produce millions of descendants, and you yourself will meet your downfall in their hands..."
And many years later, when Og waged war, attacking the Jewish people with Moses at their head, he was killed in his final assault in a lifelong war against Abraham and his people.
More than just an interesting conversation that the hidden mics picked up for the participating journalists, this story reflects a far greater struggle.
"Abraham is sterile," Og used to say, implying: A wholesome faith in One G-d, a Oneness that pervades every moment of the day, every thought of the mind, sounds really nice. for your generation.... But it can't bear children.
There is no way, Og said (and most of society still says) that a young forward-thinking generation growing up in an "open source" pursuit of self-serving and self-created truths, would buy into that type of a theology.
But as the guests pointed out to Og, it seems he was proven wrong. Here was a young man, little Yitzchak, who was "born," who was able to match his youthful universal idealism, with absolute truths in the faith pioneered by his father.
"But I can crush him," Og laughed, meaning: Maybe in the closed world of Abraham's tent it can exist, but not beyond that. It will survive, but it can't thrive. Just wait until he meets normal people in the real world. There are no secrets any more. Yitzchak can access alternative ideas. Religion is a dying business, Og said.
Yes, authentic Judaism can exist, but it's not sustainable. I, Og, with all of the glittering opulence, and jet-age good life, can crush him.
"The Gift of the Jews," Og said, may have made Thomas Cahill famous, but that's all they are, "a gift." You can't survive by gifts. G-d may have given you (as a) gift, but it's the grassroots truths of society that will prevail. Not the G-d given truths of Judaism. "That Gift, I'll crush..."
"By your life," G-d responds, "this gift will produce millions of descendants and you will meet your end at their hands."
From the philosophers of Greece, to the Noblemen of Rome, from the priests of Spain to the enlightened minds of France, everyone thought "I will crush him."
The challenge we endure by those who have tried to destroy us physically is only a manifestation of the deeper battle of ideas that we have had to wage since our inception. And like with Yitzchak, since our inception, literally.
And like with Og, in the ideological conflict of mind and spirit, we have prevailed and will continue to do so, in body and soul.
The ideas above are adapted from notes that the Rebbe prepared for the Bar Mitzva of my beloved uncle Moshe Kazarnovsky in 1942. The Rebbe spoke then in the context of the times, when Og's battle of ideas had become a fight for survival against Og's descendants in the Nazi War Machine and beyond.
As the Rebbe spoke about defeating Og at my uncle's Bar Mitzva celebration in Brooklyn, 34-year-old Arthur, a Sergeant Major in Her Majesty's Royal Armed Forces, was fighting Og in North Africa.
But for the next 70 years Og still didn't give up on Arthur. Lost in the vast new country, Arthur's Judaism, whilst born, still faced the challenge of endurance.
On that morning, just two months shy of turning 103, Arthur completed the victory against Og. And I feel blessed to have been able to help him finally win the war.
Rabbi Deren and his wife Zeesy are directors of Chabad of the West Coast, South Africa.
New Centers and Programs
A new kindergarten recently opened in Ust Kamenogorsk, Kazakhstan, where the youngest members of the community will receive a strong, proud Jewish and secular education. Children are also served nutritious meals and after-care is available. Beth Loubavitch of Bry sur Marne, in the eastern suburbs of Paris, France, has purchased a new property for the Chabad House. The foundation stone for a new building for the Knesset Yisrael synagogue in S. Paulo, Brazil, was recently laid. Chabad at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, has purchased a funeral home which will be renovated and turned into a student center and synagogue.
Continued from the previous issue, from a freely translated letter of 14 Kislev, 5714-1953
It is also abundantly clear that since G-d, who is the essence of goodness, compels the soul to descend from its "sublime heights to the lowest depths," for the purpose of the study of the Torah and the fulfillment of the Mitsvoth [commandments] - how great is the value of Torah and Mitsvoth.
Furthermore, the descent of the soul for the purpose of ascent shows that there is no other way to obtain the objective except through the soul's descent to live on this earth. If there were an easier way, G-d would not compel the soul to descend from the sublime heights of the Seat of Glory down to this nether world, the lowest of all worlds.
For only here, in the lowest depths, can the soul attain its highest ascent, higher even than the angels, and as our Sages say, "The righteous precede the foremost angels."
Reflecting upon the greatness of the Torah and Mitsvoth, specifically pertaining to this life, reflecting also that the Torah and Mitsvoth are the only means to attain the soul's perfection and the fulfillment of the Divine purpose, one will experience a sense of real joy at his fate and destiny, despite the many difficulties and handicaps, from within and without, which are inevitable on this earth. Only in this way can one live up to the injunction: "serve G-d with joy," which the Baal Shem Tov made one of the foundations of his teachings, and which is expounded at length in Chabad, and stressed by its founder, whose liberation we commemorate on the 19th day of Kislev, in his monumental work, the Tanya (chapters 26 seq., 31 seq.).
I wish to express herewith, my inner wish that every one of us be liberated, with G-d's help and by determined personal effort, from all handicaps which arrest the good and noble in everyone's nature, so that this part of one's nature reign supreme, giving fullest expression to the threefold love: love of our people Israel, love of our Torah, and love of G-d, which are all one.
15th of Cheshvan, 5733 
Greeting and Blessing:
I was pleased to be informed of your forthcoming Dinner celebration on the 20th of Kislev. It is significant that the event will take place one day following Yud-Tes Kislev, the historic anniversary of the release and vindication of the Alter Rebbe [the "Elder" Rebbe, Rabbi Shneur Zalman], founder of Chabad. Moreover, the 19th of Kislev will this year also mark the 200th Yartzeit anniversary [of passing] of the illustrious Maggid of Miezricz, whose disciple and successor the Alter Rebbe was.
Anniversaries in Jewish life are observed for the purpose of their instructive significance, so that each and every one of us can learn from and be inspired by the life and work of our great leaders of the past, and translate this inspiration into actual deeds in our daily life and conduct.
The two great luminaries, the master and his disciple and successor, led consecrated lives, dedicated to the material and spiritual betterment of Jews and Judaism. Their selfless dedication knew no bounds. Furthermore, they set out from the beginning to involve the masses, for their love of a fellow Jew embraced all Jews. They laid particular stress on the education of the young, both the young in years as well as the young in Jewish knowledge and experience, and instilled this spirit in all their numerous followers.
The same spirit of love, responsibility, and dedication animates all those who are associated with the Chabad-Lubavitch educational activities in the present day, reaching out to our fellow Jews everywhere.
The Jewish community of Glasgow, with a fine tradition of its own, is fortunate to have the opportunity of sharing in this vital work for the preservation and strengthening of Torah and tradition in its midst.
May G-d grant that the Anniversary Dinner should have the utmost Hatzlocho [success] in every respect, and may He also bestow His generous blessings on each and every one of you and your families, to enjoy health and prosperity, both materially and spiritually.
NACHMAN means "comforter." Rav Nachman bar Yaacov was a noted 4th century Babylonian scholar. Rabbi Nachman bar Yitzchak, a later Babylonia scholar and dean of Pumbadita, owed his greatness to his mother: An astrologer told her that he would grow up to be a thief. So she made sure that he always wore a head-covering (which serves as a reminder that G-d is above) and reminded him, "Cover your head so that you will fear G-d; always pray for His mercy that you should not be overcome by your evil impulses." Rabbi Nachman heeded his mother's advice and became one of the greatest Sages of his generation.
NAVA means beautiful or pleasant.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This coming Thursday, Jews the world-over - Chasidim and non-Chasidim alike - will celebrate the Yud Tet Kislev, the Rosh Hashana of Chasidut.
Yud Tet (19) Kislev is the anniversary of the release from prison of the founder of Chabad, Rabbi Shneur Zalman, known as the Alter Rebbe. Because the entire future of Chasidut was at stake, his liberation was not only a personal redemption, but the redemption of the entire movement.
Nothing happens down here in this world without a spiritual counterpart. In fact, the reason things happen in this world is because of what is going on "up above" in the higher celestial spheres. When the Alter Rebbe was freed from prison it was a vindication of his teachings - and a "green light" from Above to continue their dissemination full speed ahead.
The underlying purpose of Chasidut is to prepare the world for the Messianic era, when the knowledge of G-d will be commonplace. Maimonides explains that King Moshiach "will restore the entire world to serve G-d together, as it states, 'For then I will transform the nations...that they all call in the Name of G-d.'"
This point - that Moshiach is for everyone, Jew and Gentile alike - was emphasized in a letter the Alter Rebbe sent to the famous Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev upon his release. Rather than stressing the joy that was felt over the liberation of Chasidut from its bondage, the Alter Rebbe wrote that "G-d's Name was made great and publicly sanctified, particularly in the eyes of the officials...who also considered it a great wonder...and declared, 'It is from G-d that such a thing has happened.'"
May the holy day of Yud Tet Kislev, the preparatory redemption of Chasidut, lead to the ultimate Redemption of all mankind with the coming of Moshiach immediately.
I am not worthy of all the mercies and of all the truth You have done with Your servant (Gen. 32:11)
The more benevolence G-d demonstrated to Jacob, the more it made him feel humbled and small. When G-d bestows His loving-kindness upon a person, it indicates a special closeness between the individual and G-d. Thus the closer one's relationship with G-d, the more humble and self-effacing he must be.
And the terror ("chitat") of G-d was upon the cities that were around them (Gen. 35:5)
Rabbi Menachem Mendel, the third Chabad Rebbe known as the Tzemach Tzedek, related: "In 5603 , when I was summoned to participate in the Rabbinical Commission in Petersburg, I went to pray at the gravesite of my sainted mother in Liozhna. She told me that in the merit of her self-sacrifice for Chasidim and Chasidut, she had been permitted to enter the celestial chamber of the Baal Shem Tov, and had asked him for a special segula [merit or virtue] that I be able to stand up to my opponents. The Baal Shem Tov had replied, "Your son knows the Five Books of the Chumash, Tehillim [Psalms] and Tanya by heart, the first letters of which spell chitat [terror]. Whoever knows the letters of these books can overcome all kinds of Divine concealment."
The other band which is left may then escape (Gen. 32:9)
Approaching his brother Esau, Jacob divided his camp into three groups, each of which was for a distinct purpose: to appease Esau with gifts, to pray for G-d's help, and to prepare for war should it become inevitable. This parallels the commandment in the Shema in which we are enjoined to love G-d "with all your heart" (prayer); "with all your soul" (war); "and with all your might" (possessions and wealth).
Reb Moshe Meisels was a loyal chasid of the Alter Rebbe, as Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidism was known. He was ever ready to undertake any mission the Rebbe would assign to him.
In the year 1812, when Napoleon invaded Russia, Reb Moshe received a secret letter from the Alter Rebbe. In the letter, the Rebbe informed his trusted chasid that it was most important for the spiritual well-being of the Jews that Czar Alexander win the war against Napoleon.
When Napoleon's armies reached the gates of Vilna, Reb Moshe "found himself" in the occupied zone. He became friendly with the French officers who were impressed with his wide knowledge of languages and general education. When an interpreter was needed to question captured soldiers and officers, or to deal with the local populace, or to issue public notices and proclamations, Reb Moshe was much in demand to help carry out these tasks. It did not take long before Reb Moshe enjoyed the fullest confidence of the French general staff.
Thus, Reb Moshe was able to learn many important military secrets, and through his connection with other chasidim of the Alter Rebbe, he was able to transmit important information to the Russian generals on the battlefront.
Once, when Reb Moshe happened to be in the French General Headquarter, the generals were making plans about their next attack. Huge maps were spread out on the table, and the generals debated heatedly about the various possibilities of distributing their military forces on the battle front in order to give the Russians an unexpected blow.
Reb Moshe pretended not to hear or see what was going on, and the generals paid no attention to him.
Suddenly the door burst open and in came Napoleon. The generals sprang to their feet and stood at attention. With one glance Napoleon took in the whole scene.
"What is this stranger doing here?" he demanded, pointing to Reb Moshe. Without waiting for a reply, Napoleon rushed up to him, exclaiming, "You are a spy!" Saying which, he pressed his hand to Reb Moshe's chest to feel if his heart was beating rapidly at having been unmasked.
But Reb Moshe's heart was not pounding and his face did not pale, as he calmly replied in perfect French:
"Your Majesty, your generals appointed me to be their interpreter, and I await their orders."
His cool manner and calm voice completely disarmed Napoleon, and his suspicions were immediately dispelled. Reb Moshe saved from certain death.
When Reb Moshe related the episode of his encounter with Napoleon, he declared that the "Alef-Beit" (most basic teachings) of Chasidut had saved his life at that particular moment. He explained:
"The Rebbe has taught us that the 'Alef' of Chasidut is that a Jew has to use his natural powers for the service of G-d. One of these natural powers is that the brain rules the heart. In other words, according to the nature which G-d created in man, reason is basically stronger than feeling; a person has the power to control his emotions. However, it is not enough for a man to know this; but he must persistently train himself to exercises this power in his daily life and conduct, until it becomes a natural habit with him. In actual practice this simply means that whenever one feels a strong desire for something, one should say to oneself, 'I can do without it.' The exercises of such self-control is the 'Alef' of Chasidut and having mastered this 'Alef' one can steadily advance further.
"Thus I have schooled myself to achieve absolute self-control, so that in everything I think, speak, and do, I let my mind rule my heart. And where it is important for the heart to express its feelings, the mind, too, must have its say, to make sure that the feelings do not get out of control.
"And so I trained myself to control my feelings, not to get excited under any circumstances, and not to be overwhelmed by anyone or anybody.
"And this 'Alef' of Chasidut saved my life."
During the time of The Alter Rebbe, a group of his chasidim in a certain town were being severely oppressed by the misnagdim there. Some of the chassidim were even arrested, due to the slander and false accusations presented to the local authorities. G-d was merciful, however, and the innocent victims were released. They immediately sat down together to write a letter to the Rebbe, informing him of the good news of their deliverance.
Among this group was a poor tinsmith named Shimon, who was only average in knowledge and understanding, but was strongly bonded to the Rebbe with love and dedication. He was often heard to spontaneously cry out, "Oy Rebbe!" This Shimon took it upon himself to arrange the delivery of the letter to the Rebbe. Instead of sending it by regular mail, he decided to hire a private messenger in order that their letter get to the Rebbe "express," absolutely as soon as possible. He arranged to pay for the extra costs out of his own pocket.
In those days, every Chabad-Chasidic community had its own council, which would direct all chassidic matters. The council members were all well-acquainted with the dire economic situation of R. Shimon how he sometimes had to trek from village to village to find more work, how he barely managed to support his family at the most minimal level, how his wife and children were sick. When he said he intended to pay the expensive fees for the express messenger out of his own meager funds, they refused to hear of it. They told him he shouldn't do it.
R. Shimon, however, refused to accept their decision. He said that the good news of their release would give the Rebbe relief and happiness, and if such news could reach the Rebbe even just one hour earlier, it was worth more to him then all the wealth in the world.
As part of the council, one chassidic elder in each community was responsible for matters of education and guidance, and he would report on a regular basis directly to the Alter Rebbe. When the matter of the messenger was brought before the elder chassid in this position in R. Shimon's town, who also oversaw the fundraising campaigns for the Rabbi Meir Baal HaNess fund [to support the Chasidic commuinity in the holy land] and for maimad [to support the Rebbe's household], he counteracted the council and endorsed the tinsmith's choice.
Eventually, the report of what R. Shimon had done became known to the Maharil ztz'l (Rabbi Yehuda Leib, brother of The Alter Rebbe and a tzadik in his own right), who had been appointed by the Rebbe to be the overall supervisor in Chabad communal matters of tzedaka.
After some time had passed, one of the leading Chasidim, Rabbi Yaakov of Semillian, arrived in the town as an emissary of the Rebbe. He had been sent to collect the money for the above-mentioned campaigns from all the chasidic communities in that area of Russia. Much to the astonishment of the chasidim who had all gathered to meet with R. Yaakov, he delivered a letter to R. Shimon the tinsmith written entirely in the personal handwriting of the Alter Rebbe himself. In it the Rebbe thanked him for arranging a special messenger to deliver the good tidings of the release speedily. The Rebbe concluded by blessing R. Shimon that G-d Al-mighty should bless him to be always a bearer of good news.
Not long after that, R. Shimon's situation started to improve. His wife and children became healthy, and he himself began to prosper greatly. The Rebbe's blessing was fulfilled. Because R. Shimon the tinsmith exerted himself to make another Jew happy, and especially a great tzadik, and at great personal sacrifice, he merited to become a bearer of happy news: of himself and his family, and of the chassidic brotherhood of his town.
Marriage draws down G-d's infinite power, the infinite energy of Ein Sof into this world. The fully complete and revealed state of G-d's infinite revelation within this world will take place during the Era of Redemption.
(Hisvaaduyot 5745, Vol. V, pp. 2,883-4)