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We've all seen pictures of optical illusions: which line is longer? Is it a vase or two faces? Which dots are darker? But did you realize that every instant you are encountering optical illusions?
Lying in bed just days before his passing, Rebbe Shneur Zalman, the founder of Chabad Chasidut, was discussing this very topic with his son, Rabbi Dov Ber. "Do you see that ceiling beam," the Rebbe asked his son. "It is pure G-dliness," he declared.
Touching the beam, Rabbi Dov Ber objected, "But father, all I feel is material wood."
"That is because you are touching it with physical hands," his father explained.
Does it seem hard to imagine that everything in this world is, as Rebbe Shneur Zalman proclaimed, pure G-dliness? Try considering the following and it might be easier.
Every part of matter is made up of atoms and even smaller particles. These atoms and all of their particles are constantly in motion. Yet, when we look at a ceiling beam for instance, what we see is a very solid, stationary object.
Now, rather than discussing particles of matter, consider pure G-dliness. According to Jewish philosophy, G-d is very much in touch with the world He created. He did not simply, as some believe, create the world and then leave it to its own devices. In fact, the world continues to exist because, and only because, G-d is constantly reinvesting His life-force into the world. This means that each and every object, from the largest building to the smallest particle, from the squirmiest jello to the most solid ceiling beam, exists only because it is constantly being reinvested with G-dliness. It is pure G-dliness!
When Rebbe Shneur Zalman explained to his son that he was feeling physicality because he was using his physical hand, it's like the 3-D glasses that let you see everything three dimensionally, or rose colored glasses that make everything seem rosy. The fact that everything looks 3-D or seems rosy doesn't mean that either of those conditions are true. Similarly, because we look at or touch things with physical limbs doesn't mean that they lack G-dliness.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe said that Moshiach is already here; if we only open our eyes we will see him. Most people don't go through life with their eyes closed. So what does "open your eyes" mean? Perhaps the Rebbe is talking about spiritual eyes.
So, how do we open our spiritual eyes? How about trying to see the positive points in others. Or, every time something happens "coincidentally," realizing that it is Divine Providence that orchestrated the event. Or, thanking G-d for all the good in your life. (If this seems difficult, spend a few moments with the less fortunate and you'll realize there's lots to be thankful for.)
Looking at everything with spiritual eyes is unlike using rose-colored or 3-D glasses, though. For, with spiritual eyes, we see the true essence of everything; as Rebbe Shneur Zalman declared, everything is pure G-dliness. And once we have exercised our spiritual eyes in this manner, they will be healthy and fit enough to see Moshiach, who, as the Rebbe said, is already here.
This week's Torah portion, Lech Lecha, deals entirely with Abraham, the very first Jew. In the Mishna "Ethics of the Fathers," Abraham is referred to as one of G-d's five special "possessions": "The Holy One, Blessed Be He, acquired five possessions in His world. These are the Torah, one possession; heaven and earth, one possession; Abraham, one possession; Israel, one possession; and the Holy Temple, one possession."
G-d created the world, so the whole universe obviously belongs to Him. Why, then, are these five "possessions" singled out? Furthermore, if the entire people of Israel is already a possession, why is Abraham regarded separately?
The explanation lies in the exact wording of the Mishna, which states that G-d acquired these possessions "in His world," not "in the world." G-d "owns" all of creation, but in some creations this ownership is more apparent than in others. The five possessions listed in the Mishna were chosen because they most openly demonstrate G-d's ownership. Let's look at each of them individually:
The Torah, even as it is enclothed in physical terms we can relate to, is obviously G-d's wisdom and will. The Jewish people, whose souls are "a veritable part of G-d Above," testify to G-d's presence in the world by revealing holiness. Similarly, the Holy Temple functioned as a dwelling place for the Divine Presence. From Jerusalem, the Temple's light spread out to illuminate the entire world.
Heaven and earth reveal G-dliness because of their quality of everlastingness. Most creations are visibly affected by the passage of time, but the stars and planets appear immutable and unchanging. The earth, too, reminds us of G-d because of its latent powers of germination and growth.
Finally, our Patriarch Abraham is worthy of inclusion on this list because his entire life was devoted to teaching people about G-d. All Jews are G-d's possessions by virtue of their soul, but Abraham's sole raison d'etre was to make G-d's Name known wherever he went.
Abraham is especially noteworthy because he lived before the giving of the Torah. Nonetheless, he succeeded in fostering belief in G-d in his fellow man, despite tremendous obstacles. Not only did Abraham remain uninfluenced by the prevailing idolatry of his era, he was able to persuade others to worship G-d and to serve Him.
Abraham is thus regarded as a "possession" in his own right, or as G-d told him, "I consider you My partner in the world's creation." Furthermore, as a descendant of Abraham, every Jew inherits this ability to withstand opposing forces and reveal G-dliness and holiness in his surroundings.
Adapted from Likutei Sichot, Vol. 35
A Second Home
By Keren Baruch
Every Friday night, Rivka Gurary serves a $1,000 meal to her family. She spends two to three days preparing dishes of chicken, soup, challah, gefilte fish, rice, salads and desserts - from scratch.
The meal is not only for her immediate family - her husband, Rabbi Moshe Gurary and their five children - but also the entire Jewish community at UB (University of Buffalo).
The Chabad House is a home away from home to over 100 UB students and thousands of UB alumni, according to Rabbi Gurary. Since 1971, the Chabad has hosted services, meals and other activities for free each Friday night and Jewish holiday.
When Rabbi Gurary was born, his father was the rabbi at the Chabad house on UB's South Campus. Growing up, Gurary spent every Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath, helping his family host dinners for Jewish students. He said he always knew he would someday follow his father's footsteps.
Now, he's continuing his father's tradition at the Chabad on North Campus. Gurary said he is inspired by the impact the Chabad has had on Jewish students for 35 years. He said the Chabad welcomes all Jewish students from any kind of background.
"Many people have a myth and they think that this is for religious people, run by rabbis in black hats and beards," Gurary said. "They feel intimidated and think that they won't be accepted if they are not religious. But, actually, the majority of the students that do come to the Chabad House are not religious, and students are welcomed because we look at them as Jewish. It doesn't matter what level, this is a home for every Jew." Gurary said the intimidation usually ends as soon as students walk through the doors.
Dana Himoff, a senior communication major, comes from a modern Orthodox Jewish family in New York City. Her grandfather was a well-known Orthodox rabbi who moved to Israel from Yemen and was very active in his Jewish community. Himoff was very close with her grandfather and feels obligated and inspired to continue spreading Judaism the way he did, she said.
She studied at a yeshiva, an orthodox Jewish school, from kindergarten up until attending UB. She was nervous to go to a big school like Buffalo because it was her first time fully engulfing herself in a non-Jewish community. She said the Chabad changed her entire experience at UB.
"Chabad plays a huge role in my life," she said. "It's definitely a home away from home for me. I go every Friday night for Shabbat dinner and on every holiday. I also like to support Chabad with any events they have and try to involve other people as well. Judaism is a huge part of my life."
Ebbie Boutehsaz, a dental school student, also spends every Friday night at the Chabad. "Growing up in a community where family and religion are important aspects of life, I believe the Chabad house offers both, in a relatively similar manner, with individuals from all walks of life," Boutehsaz said.
Himoff and Boutehsaz see the importance of staying in touch with their Jewish heritage and believe the Chabad has helped them do so.
The Chabad serves over 100 UB students currently, but is always looking to promote its services to other Jews at UB.
The Chabad does not receive funding by UB or any other national organization. Every dollar used for meals, programming and lessons comes from fundraising. Parents, alumni and others in the Jewish community donate to the Chabad, Gurary said. Each Friday night meal costs approximately $1,000.
Rivka said the atmosphere is "amazing" each Friday night. "It's so powerful," Rivka, who recently had a baby, said. "Sometimes I don't feel good; I turn to my husband in the morning and say, 'How am I going to pull this off today?' I just can't imagine. After not sleeping, cooking for days, nursing and having a baby, but the second the students walk in, I get such a burst of energy and I don't even know where it comes from."
Rivka doesn't mind dedicating hours each week to cooking the food for dinners and holidays. Furthermore, the Chabad provides room and board to students staying at UB on Jewish holidays. The Chabad has even housed students who didn't have anywhere to live for a few months.
"If a student gets stuck and doesn't find an apartment, we welcome them," Rivka said. "You know, I had a student that couldn't find an apartment for a few months and lived here. I have a student now that's going away and she didn't want to spend $500 to live here for a month so she's living by me, too."
Rivka maintains very close relationships with the students. She has five children of her own and works as an online Jewish studies teacher for children in Guatemala, Sweden, America and all over the world. Yet, she finds time for the UB students.
Rivka loves helping students during their time in Buffalo and even after they graduate. The Gurarys recently went to New York City to attend weddings of UB alumni who attended Chabad each week.
"The students are so close to me," Rivka said. "I had a student who woke up once and there was something wrong with her eye. She couldn't see, she saw stars and she couldn't open her eye. I was the first phone call she made. During their lifetime - when they give birth, for bad things too, God forbid, funerals of parents - we're there through it all."
Judy Buchman, a UB alumna, felt immediately connected to Rivka and the Chabad. "Even before I moved into UB, Rivka messaged me and asked if I needed help moving in, or a home-cooked kosher meal, which really made me feel at ease," Buchman said. "I always saw the Rabbis at the Student Union trying to indulge the Jewish students in Morning Prayer, they had Tefillin prepared. They really care about the students and not only preach the Jewish religion, but they make it relatable and fun to learn."
Himoff encourages every Jew to try out the Chabad; she emphasized how welcoming it is to everyone. "It does not matter how religious you are at all, it's just a place where Jewish students can learn about Judaism, meet other people and have extremely good food," Himoff said. "It's definitely a great experience."
Reprinted from the UB Spectrum
New Torah Scrolls
Chabad of the Cayman Islands on Grand Cayman Island in the Carribean recently welcomed two new Torah scrolls. The writing of the Torah scrolls was actually completed on the island, an historic first for the Cayman Islands. After borrowing Torah scrolls for years, Chabad of Okanagan, British Columbia, Canada, now has their own Torah scroll. The Torah completion and dedication ceremony took place this past month.
The Illustrated Family Tehillim is a "must-have." Each of the 150 chapters of Tehillim (Psalms) is prefaced by a short paragraph consisting of a core message, background information, and historical context. In the page margins, tidbits with a wide range of information appeal to many different interests, imbuing the reader with the insights into the inspiration with which King David wrote these Pslams. Illustrated by Michoel Muchnik, published by the World Wide Tehillim Club. www.thefamilytehillim.com
Continued from the previous issue, from a letter dated 24 Marcheshvan, 5720 
Consider these six Miitzvoth [commandments]. What does it mean, To believe in G-d? If we come to define belief in G-d, we will have to admit that a child's belief in G-d is adequate for him, though he imagines G-d to be a big, strong man, with powerful arms, something like his father, but perhaps more so. But what would we think of a grown-up person who has such an idea of G-d? For this is the very contradiction of one of the basic principles of our faith that G-d is neither a body nor a form in a body, etc.
Or consider the Mitzvah of being constantly aware that there is no reality outside of Him. This involves the principle that "there is no place devoid of Him" (as the Zohar states), for if one would admit that there is a place devoid of Him, one would admit a separate, independent existence, which again would be in direct conflict with our faith, as explained also in the Rambam, [Maimonides] in the beginning of Hilchos Yesodei Hatorah.
Similarly in regard to the commandment always to bear in mind that G-d is one and unchangeable, a belief which must go hand in hand with the belief that G-d created the world 5720 years ago, and that prior to that date our world was non-existent, yet G-d remained the same after the Creation as He was before Creation, and that the plurality of things does not, G-d forbid, imply a plurality in Him, and so on.
Suppose Mr. A. comes to Mr. B. and offers to give him a deeper understanding and insight into these highly abstruse subjects which are so remote from the ordinary mind, yet which have to be borne in mind constantly, and Mr. B. does not wish to be bothered, being quite content to remain with his childish image of G-d, etc. - this would not be a case of merely forgoing a Hiddur [enhancement] of a Mitzvah, but of renouncing the entire Mitzvah. For having the brain and ability to acquire the necessary knowledge about G-d, yet refusing to make use of them, is tantamount to willful refusal to comply with the Mitzvah.
Likewise than with regard to the commandments to love and fear Him. Surely it is impossible really to love or fear anything without at least some knowledge of that thing, as is also alluded to in the Rambam, beginning in Hilchos Yesodei Hatorah Chapter Two. Note there.
Finally, the same is true of the sixth commandment - not to go astray after the heart and eyes. For insofar as a (spiritually) mature person is concerned, the commandment surely does not refer only to carnal temptation and crude idolatry, but that one should have a heart and eyes only for that which is true and good, to see in the world what is truly to be seen and to think what are truly good thoughts. However, to cultivate such vision as to see the inner content and reality of the world, and to train the heart only to dwell on the good and the true - this is a very difficult attainment which requires tremendous effort, as explained in Kuntres Etz haChayim.
Nevertheless, everyone is commanded to attain all that he is capable of attaining, each and everyone according to his mental capacity and grasp. And when it is said "each according to his capacity," it should be remembered that a rich man who brings a poor man's offering, has not fulfilled his obligation," and there is "no 'riches' or 'poverty' except when it refers to the mind," i.e. potential intelligence.
I trust you will take no offense, if I ask you, Do you really think that you can fully carry out the Mitzvah of "Thou shalt love G-d thy G-d," a Mitzvah which is to be performed not by uttering a verbal form, but with heartfelt feeling, if you will know about G-d only from what you have learned in the Gemoro, or Yoreh Deah, etc.
Needless to say, all that has been written above at such length is not for the purpose of causing you pain, but in the hope that perhaps it may after all bring you to the realization that it is the Yetzer Hora [evil inclination] that is inventing for you all sorts of strange and peculiar reasons to discourage you from learning Chassidus, thereby not merely preventing you from knowing what is taking place in the World of Atzilus [the highest spiritual world], as you put it, but preventing you from fulfilling actual Mitzvoth, commanded in the Torah, Toras Chaim [the Torah of life], to be fulfilled every day. But, of course, the Yetzer Hora does his work 'faithfully', and he will not come and tell you: Do not observe those six Mitzvoth which one is obligated to fulfill every day; he is too 'smart' for that. Instead he will tell you, what good will it do you to know what is happening in Atzilus!
Incidentally, let me add that the Wilner Gaon (not only the Baal HaTanya [Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidism], mind you) writes that those who do not learn Pnimius haTorah [inner teachings of the Torah] prolong the Golus [exile] and delay the Geulo [Redemption], and that without the knowledge of Pnimius haTorah it is impossible to know properly nigle d'Torah [revealed aspects of Torah].
May G-d grant that you have good news to report concerning all that has been written above, and may it be soon.
Rachel was one of the four matriarchs of the Jewish people. She was the second wife of Jacob, but the most beloved. She gave birth to Joseph and died nine years later when giving birth to her second child, Benjamin. She passed away on 11 Cheshvan and is buried outside of Bethlehem, in Kever Rachel (Rachel's Tomb). Kever Rachel has been a place of prayer for Jews for over 35 centuries. The Midrash states that Rachel is the only one able to extract a promise from G-d that the Jewish people will return to the Holy Land after they are exiled.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This Friday is the seventh day of the Hebrew month of Cheshvan. In the times of the Holy Temple, the Jewish people traveled to Jerusalem for the festivals of Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot, the seventh of Cheshvan marked the end of the pilgrimage season surrounding the festival of Sukkot, according to our Sages. During Sukkot, the entire Jewish people were in Jerusalem. For the Jews living on the Euphrates River, the furthest reaches of the Holy Land, their journey home took fifteen days and thus, was concluded on the seventh of Cheshvan. It was beginning on the seventh of Cheshvan that the prayer for rain commenced, once all of the pilgrims were comfortably home again.
This fact, of the delay of the prayers for rain until the last pilgrims reached their homes, is relevant to the concept of Jewish unity.
During the pilgrimage festivals, the essential unity of the Jewish people is expressed. However, that unity applies to the essential oneness that binds our people together, while transcending our individuality. The unity expressed by the seventh of Cheshvan relates to Jews as individuals. Jewish unity remains even after each Jew returns to his own home and his individual lifestyle.
The seventh of Cheshvan is the final stage of Jewish unity that was begun during the month of Elul (the days of preparation for Rosh Hashana) and enhanced throughout all of the days of month of Tishrei. May we continue to work on and enhance Jewish unity in every way possible until the ultimate revelation of total Jewish unity and the unity of G-d and the entire world with the coming of Moshiach, NOW!
Go out of your country...to a land which I will show you (Gen. 12:1)
The Hebrew word for "I will show you" can also be interpreted to mean "I will reveal you." It is through man's service of refining the earthly plane that his true potential is revealed. Regardless of a Jew's position in the world, he is connected with G-dliness and can thus elevate the world, revealing the G-dliness within it.
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)
Your name shall no longer be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations.
Rashi explains that the changing of Abraham's name from Avram, meaning "the father of Aram," to Avraham, meaning "father of many nations," shows how our forefather transcended his previous level of spirituality and achieved a new level of service. As reflected in his name, Abraham was thus given the potential to elevate the entire world.
(Sefer HaSichot 5752, Lech Lecha)
Also the nation they serve will I judge, and afterward they will go out with great substance (Gen. 15:14)
Just as those Jews during the Egyptian and Babylonian exiles who put their faith in the nations and their kings for salvation were proven wrong, so too will those who, in our present exile, think that we must rely on the nations of the world for our continued existence and redemption. When Moshiach comes and G-d judges all the nations, the Jews will see that their faith was misplaced. At that time we will also "go out with great substance," the greatest riches of them all - the ultimate Redemption.
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)
And G-d said to Abraham...your reward is exceedingly great (Gen. 15:1)
According to logic, the reward for doing a mitzva should be limited to the amount of effort that the person expended on its behalf. G-d, however, in His infinite greatness, increases our reward beyond the boundaries of time and place.
David Leib, the son of the famous rabbi and scholar Tzvi Aryeh, was ready to marry. The wealthy Reb Chaim of Vitebsk was happy to offer his daughter's hand in marriage. After all, such a promising young scholar would certainly bring great honor to the family. As part of the arrangement, young David Leib was promised eight years of support during which he would be free to pursue his budding rabbinical career.
The time passed in fruitful study, but when it was drawing to a close, the parents-in-law started to worry, for their illustrious son-in-law showed no inclination whatsoever to seek out a rabbinical position. When they broached the subject, he informed them that he did not intend to make a living from his Torah knowledge; he intended to earn his bread as a cobbler!
What was wrong with him? they wondered. And what would they tell their friends and acquaintances who were all expecting great things? They couldn't imagine a greater disgrace. When they saw that the pressure they were exerting on him made no difference, they suggested that he give their daughter a divorce; at least she would have a decent chance at a "normal" existence. But when his devoted wife heard the talk, she cried, "What about me? I don't want a divorce!" That was the end of the discussion about divorce.
David Leib's in-laws couldn't have guessed that over his years of study, David Leib had developed into a serious philosophical thinker. He had delved deeply into the wells of Jewish mysticism and had decided to devote himself to the perfection of his character in the manner of hidden tzadikim (righteous people), while trying in every way to aid his fellow Jews.
His in-laws were so distraught that they enlisted the aid of David Leib's father, Rabbi Tzvi Aryeh. Surely he would be able to talk some sense into his son! When David Leib heard of the imminent arrival of his father, he decided to meet with him in advance of his arrival in Vitebsk, to better explain his point of view away from the excitement of the city.
The father and son had not seen each other for eight long years during which time David Leib had matured considerably. They enjoyed each other's company and scholarly discussions, and Rabbi Tzvi Aryeh gave his blessings to his son's chosen path of Divine service. Thus, life continued on a steady, but uncomfortable course.
One day, a solution presented itself. A customer at his cobbler's shop suggested to David Leib that he move to Hatinka where he would be welcomed, and he would be able to make a good living from his cobbling.
Soon the young family settled in Hatinka, David Leib secretly devoting himself to his studies and the welfare of his fellow Jews. He greatly desired to find other hidden mystics, many of whom used to travel through the towns and villages, exerting themselves to instill a love of Judaism in the simple Jewish workers. By turning his home into a hostel for wayfarers, David Leib was able to form a close bond with some of the hidden mystics who crisscrossed the countryside during that interesting period of early Chassidut.
One of the secret mystics was Shmerel, the local village "idler." Known to one and all as "Shmerel the Idler" and "Shmerel the Yawner," this Shmerel was the local character. He would spend his time telling the women and children inspiring stories of Jewish history and heroes. In his gentle way, he would tell them that they should never envy others, and they should love their fellow Jews. Since Shmerel was so very good-natured, his little "talks" were always popular with his eager listeners.
Only David Leib suspected there was something more beneath Shmerel's mask. One day his suspicions were confirmed when he decided late one evening to follow Shmerel to his home. As his passed Shmerel's run-down shack he heard the most divine, heavenly singing of the evening service that he had ever heard. That proved that Shmerel wasn't the illiterate bumkin he pretended to be. David Leib desperately wanted to become an intimate of this hidden tzadik.
One day he couldn't contain himself any longer. David Leib approached Shmerel and tearfully begged to be admitted into his confidence. From that day on David Leib became part of the elite circle of hidden tzadikim, a member of a world of which he had only dreamed.
Although David Leib's own son noted how his father secretly cared for the sick and the needy, how he would deposit a new pair of shoes on the doorstep of a destitute family, how he would always manage to send some food to a poverty-stricken new mother, during his lifetime no one ever knew how David Leib aided his fellow Jews. David Leib and his associates were some of the unsung Jewish saints of a bygone era, a time when there were men and women who served G-d and man with only the stillness of their own souls to witness to their deeds.
Adapted from The Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe's Memoirs
Until the Redemption, we are constantly seeking to take possession of the Land of Israel as it exists in a full state, a land of ten nations. These ten lands refer to the refinement of our personal powers, the seven emotional powers and the three intellectual powers. In the present time, the Jews were granted only the lands of seven nation, i.e., the seven emotional powers. Although we also make use of our intellect, the intellect serves the emotions. In the Era of the Redemption, the three intellectual powers will be expressed in their full potential, achieving a complete bond with G-d. For through Torah study, a person connects his mind to G-d as He is manifest in the Torah.
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Parshat Lech Lecha, 5752)