Don't Forget to Set Your Clocks | Living with the Rebbe | A Slice of Life | What's New
The Rebbe Writes | Today Is ... | A Word from the Director | Thoughts that Count
It Once Happened | Moshiach Matters
If you live in North America, for a fleeting moment you might consider what would be the best way to use the "extra" hour you'll gain in the wee hours of Sunday morning when we begin Standard Time. But, as quickly as that question enters your head it exits. After all, what could be better than an extra hour of sleep?
According to Jewish teachings, that hour might be much more valuable than you would have ever thought! "Far better an hour of repentance and good deeds in this world than a lifetime in the World to Come," our Sages said.
How can one hour thus occupied be so precious? (To sidetrack for one-sixtieth of your extra hour, it is important to note that repentance should not bring on depression, discouragement or inertia. Rather, a soulful inventory should prompt one to improve, advance and feel invigorated.)
Why is an hour of repentance and good deeds so valuable? Because our actions here and now are bringing about revelations of goodness and G-dliness that will culminate in the Messianic Era!
But the transtion to Standard Time this weekend in North America and around this time or earlier in a number of countries throughout the world, contains a more general lesson as well.
The Jewish year in which we now find ourselves is a leap year. Unlike the solar calendar which adds one day in a leap year, the Jewish lunar calendar adds an entire month in the late winter.
However, not all leap years in the lunar calendar are the same. This year has the distinction of having the maximum number of days that any leap year can have - 385.
A leap year in the Jewish calendar makes up for the "deficiency" in the number of days of previous years, bringing the lunar year into harmony with the seasons (determined by the solar year).
In addition, not only does the "extra" month make up the past deficiency, it also gives an "advance" on the future.
What does all this have to do with our lives here and now? Every person has his or her own mission in this world. Although each day comes with its own task that has to be accomplished on that particular day, the extra month in a leap year gives us the opportunity to make up for past deficiencies and even gives us an advance on the future.
This leap year, containing a maximum number of days, also teaches us to maximize the opportunity to make up for the past and get a jump on the future. And certainly, if G-d gives us this mission, He also gives us the courage and energy to accomplish our goals.
Now, what was it you were thinking of doing early Sunday morning?
In this week's Torah portion, Toldot, we read of the birth of Esau and Jacob, Esau's sale of his birthright to Jacob and the subsequent blessing of Jacob and Esau by Isaac.
Jewish teachings explain that the name of a particular Torah portion gives us a special insight into that portion. The name of the portion, Toldot, is derived from its opening words: "And these are the generations (toldot) of Isaac." An earlier Torah portion, Noach (Noah), begins with a similar verse, "These are the generations of Noah."
What is the essential difference between these two portions, as reflected in the Torah's choice of names?
The portion of Toldot emphasizes the concept of descendents. "And these are the generations of Isaac, the son of Abraham: Abraham begot Isaac."
Toldot, related to the Hebrew word for birth (holada), implies both physical offspring and spiritual heirs. When we help a fellow Jew by teaching him about the beauty and warmth of Judaism, we create new "generations," new spiritual children. Even if we are not well-versed in Torah knowledge or the practice of mitzvot (commandments), whatever we do know we should share with others. Every Jew has the obligation to act as a "candle" unto his surroundings, spreading the light and warmth of Torah to more and more Jews.
The "generations" we create, however, must be "the generations of Isaac"; it is not enough that we produce "the generations of Noah."
To explain: The name Noah is related to the word "n'yacha," meaning rest and repose. Noah is symbolic of a person who is tranquil. It is a desirable state, but one that is less elevated than the level implied by the name Isaac.
Isaac (Yitzchak in Hebrew) is related to the word meaning laughter. Isaac is thus a symbol of the joyful person, one who is filled with laughter and delight. Enjoyment is obviously a more desirable state than relaxation, for the person is not only at rest but is happy.
This, then, is the way in which we are to fulfill our mission as "candles that illuminate": It isn't enough for a Jew to quietly share the light of Torah and mitzvot throughout the world in a sedate and easy-going manner. Rather, as we learn from the Torah portion of Toldot, our efforts to inspire our fellow Jews in particular and be a "light unto the nations" in general must be carried out with joy and happiness, as alluded to by the name Isaac.
Adapted from Volume 1 of Hitva'aduyot 5744
I was born and raised in Israel, and I came to New York in 1979 after spending a summer as a Hebrew teacher at Camp Ramah in Nyack, N.Y. After the summer, I went to school to become a dental technician. Being all alone in N.Y., and not really knowing exactly what I wanted to do with my life, I decided to take a course in Jewish studies and the theme of the course was the Baal Shem Tov.
In order to finance my studies, I took a job, to visit an elderly woman and keep her company twice a week. She was not Shabbat observant but liked to talk about Judaism. One day, she told me that she very much wanted to light Shabbat candles, but was afraid to do so because of the fire hazard. (The woman was paralyzed and confined to bed.) I remembered that at home, I had a Chabad pamphlet about lighting Shabbat candles, which I had once been given on the street. There was a phone number to call for more information.
As soon as I got home, I found the paper and dialed the number. The phone was answered by a woman, Esther Sternberg, who spoke to me in a fluent Hebrew. She said that, of course, there is an electric candle that the elderly woman could light, and if I would give her my address she would send it to me. The conversation went on and she started to ask me about my life and what I was doing in New York. When I told her about my interest in studying Judaism, she mentioned that there is a Sunday program in Machon Chana. Within a week or so, the electric candle came in the mail.
The following Sunday, on Esther's urging, I came to Crown Heights. I joined the Sunday program of Machon Chana and enjoyed it very much.
Those electric candles brought light to the old woman, and also lit the path for religious Jewish life for me. I remember the first time I was at a farbrengen (Chassidic gathering) with the Lubavitcher Rebbe. It was a special experience and there are no words to describe the emotions I felt.
I began coming regularly every Sunday to Crown Heights. After spending several Shabbatot there, I found an apartment with nice young women my age. I also found a job in Worcester, Massachusetts. Rabbi Herschel Fogelman, the principal of the school, was looking for a dorm counselor for the high school girls who studied there, and he found me suitable for the job. I wrote to the Lubavitcher Rebbe for a blessing for my undertaking, received an answer that day and went there right away.
In the middle of winter of that year, Rabbi Fogelman brought a young lady, 18 or 19 years old, to stay in the dormitory. She had come from San Paulo, Brazil, and wanted to stay with us while studying nursing at the nearby university hospital. I was happy to find such a nice friend. Sandra and I spoke English and we used to speak mostly about her studies at the university. One day she told me that she was leaving to go back to Brazil. But before leaving, she wanted to see New York.
I felt sorry to lose her friendship. I suggested that she stay in my apartment in Crown Heights (I had kept an apartment in Crown Heights for when I'd come in for Shabbat), and at the same time try some classes in Machon Chana, even for a short time. Sandra agreed, went to Crown Heights, stayed there for a couple of weeks and then went back to Brazil.
After spending a year in Worcester, I returned to Crown Heights and lived in the home of Rebbetzin Shaina Jacobson. I stayed with her for over two years and from her I learned most of my practical knowledge about Jewish family life.
Eventually, I returned to Israel, got married, was blessed with a child and lost contact with Sandra. Until about two years ago, when Esther Sternberg called me (we had kept in contact all the years) and said that a woman from Brazil was looking for me. After a separation of 25 years, Sandra got in touch with me and we spoke by phone. She also sent me a nice letter with pictures of her family. Her oldest daughter (20-21) was getting married to a religious young man, and her other children were studying in Jewish schools. I would never have dreamed that there would be such a transformation in Sandra's life. I was amazed to hear her speak in a fluent, well-spoken Hebrew. In America we had only spoken English; she did not know one word of Hebrew and was not involved in Jewish observance at all.
Thinking about Sandra's journey turned my thoughts towards me. I am sure that my friends in Israel, from my youth, think the same about me as I thought about Sandra. As a matter of fact, my class from elementary school recently organized a reunion. Meeting people that I hadn't seen for over 35 years was no small thing. I went to the reunion asking myself what their reaction would be to seeing me with my hair covered, a religious woman. To my astonishment, there were only positive reactions and admiring questions such as, "How did this happen and when?" I was also asked to give my opinion about various issues, as people wanted to hear the perspective of one who looks through the eyes of a Torah-observant Jew.
My answer to them at the reunion and today is the same. I wish that my entire class and all other Jewish people would observe Shabbat and study Torah. This would protect them and their families from all danger. And the main thing: it will bring Moshiach speedily, Amen, may it be G-d's will.
Adapted from an article in the N'Shei Chabad Newsletter
New Torah Scrolls
Kostroma, Russia, recently completed and welcomed a new Torah scroll to their synagogue. The festive parade was led by an army band. Kostroma is the city where the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe was exiled after being accused of "counter-revolutionary activities" for teaching Torah and dispatching emissaries to keep Jewish life alive under communism.
Chabad of Arizona Jewish Center in Phoenix, Arizona, celebrated the completion of a new Torah dedicated in honor of Sashie Levertov, the Rebbe's emissary at Chabad of Arizona who is recovering from an illness.
Chabad House of Ann Arbor, Michigan, welcomed a Torah that came all the way from a synagogue in Tel Aviv, Israel.
Chabad of Katmandu, Nepal, welcomed a new Torah scroll in memory of a young Jewish backpacker from England, George Abudi, who had drowned while on a trek in Nepal. The Torah was dedicated by the Abudi family. The Torah's final home will be the new Chabad House to be opened shortly in the Anapurna region where George went missing.
6th of Kislev, 5730 
Greeting and Blessing:
This is to acknowledge receipt of your letter of November 14th, in which you report on the meeting which took place in the home of -. Many thanks for the good news, and particularly for your thoughtfulness in reporting to me about it.
May G-d grant that all the good resolutions which were made at this meeting should be carried out, and, indeed, even more than was resolved. For, in the words of our Sages of blessed memory, "He who has 100 desires 200," etc., and certainly this should be so in matters of the spirit in general, and in regard to the activities of the Lubavitch House - in particular. It is hardly necessary to emphasize the vital importance of Chinuch [Jewish education], especially in this day and age. Moreover, every good result achieved with young people in their formative years is multiplied, and brings forth "fruits and the fruits of fruits," as in the case of a seed or seedling. There is surely no need to elaborate on this.
As we are now in the auspicious month of Kislev, the month of Geulo [redemption] and light, may G-d grant that there should be a deliverance from all difficulties and obstacles in the spreading of the light of the Torah and Mitzvoth [commandments] in a growing measure, as symbolized by the Chanukah lights, and may it also bring a growing measure of light and happiness to you and yours.
20th of Kislev, 5732 
Blessing and Greeting:
I am in receipt of your letter of the 12th of Kislev. I must say I was greatly surprised to note the mood in which your letter was written. Surely you realize that children are the greatest of all Divine blessings. Indeed, it is the first Mitzvah in the Torah pru u'revu - "Be fruitful and multiply," and the fact that it is the first Mitzvah and blessing in the Torah in itself is very significant and shows how important it is. Thus, the news of the expected addition in the family should have brought you considerable joy.
You wonder and are shocked at your reaction. But surely you know from your own previous experience when G-d had blessed you and you were in a similar condition, that it is natural in a state of pregnancy to have certain reactions, which have nothing to do with the blessing itself. And just as there are certain physical reactions, such as, for example, a craving or dislike in regard to certain foods, so there could be also a certain moodiness and the like. At any rate, there is no basis at all to have a feeling of depression, nor to be discouraged by such a feeling if it does appear occasionally. I therefore am confident that this letter will find you in a much improved state of mind, and in full appreciation of this great Divine blessing with which you and your husband and family have been blessed.
May G-d grant that you should have an easy and normal pregnancy, and give birth to a healthy offspring at the proper time, and that, together with your husband, you should bring up all your children to a life of Torah, Chuppah [marriage] and Good Deeds.
11th of Shevat, 5727 
Greeting and Blessing:
Thank you very much for your letter of the 5th of Shevat, containing details of your speaking engagements and activities during the past year. I want you to know that your letter has indeed brought me a great deal of real spiritual gratification. True, I have periodically included, and I have also received reports, from our mutual friends about your activities which they, incidentally, praised very highly for the impact which your lectures made. Nevertheless, there is no real substitute for a firsthand report direct from you.
In view of the fact that the Zechus Horabim [merit of the community] is at your side, I am confident that you will continue this good work consistently, with joy and gladness of heart. May G-d's blessings accompany you, to be increasingly effective in spreading the ideals of Torah and Mitzvoth and Yiddishkeit [Judaism], with a correspondingly growing measure of G-d's blessings to you and yours also in your personal affairs.
I shall continue to look forward to hearing good news from you.
Yocheved (Jochebed), the daughter of Levi, was born as the Children of Israel entered Egypt. She was married to her uncle Amram and gave birth to Miriam, Aaron and Moses. Together with Miriam, she worked as a midwife for the Jewish women and they were referred to as "Shifra" and "Puah." Yocheved as also called Yevudia in the book of Chronicles. Rabbi Judah Hanassi said: "There was a Jewish woman who was the mother of 600,000 children." He explained that this was Yocheved, who gave birth to Moses who was equal to the 600,000 men who left of Egypt.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
The Lubavitcher Rebbe's address at the Shabbos farbrengen (gathering) in 1992 was the officially commencement of the annual International Conference of Shluchim (Emissaries). The Rebbe stated:
"It must be emphasized that the task of the shluchim in the present age, and particular at this time, is to prepare for the acceptance of Moshiach and the advent of the ultimate Redemption.
"This is the task facing every Jew, for we are all shluchim of G-d as obvious from the Mishnah's statement, "I was created solely to serve my Creator." In particular, however, this concept is relevant to those individuals who have merited to serve as the shluchim of the Previous Rebbe and dedicate their entire existence to this mission.
"To explain: Although as a whole, our shlichus (mission) is constant and unchanging, from time to time, a different dimension of the shlichus receives emphasis. At that time, that dimension permeates the entire shlichus and defines its character, serving as the gateway through which the entire shlichus ascends. Surely, this applies in the present instance, when the emphasis is on such an essential and all-encompassing point, preparing for Moshiach's coming.
"As mentioned repeatedly in the past, we are not speaking about a matter of the distant future, but rather a present and immediate concern. Our Sages declared that "all the appointed times for Moshiach's coming have passed." We have completed all the service required of us, even - to borrow an expression from the Previous Rebbe - "having polished the buttons." Thus in principle we are prepared to receive Moshiach, and the shlichus of our generation centers on preparing us to receive Moshiach in practice."
May this year's International Conference of Shluchim, with the participation of over 3,500 emissaries from around the world, be the first one to take place in the Messianic Era!
The one people shall be stronger than the other people (Gen. 25:23)
As Rashi comments, "When one rises, the other shall fall." Jacob and Esau are symbolic of the struggle between the G-dly soul and the animal soul. When a Jew's G-dly soul is strengthened and "rises up," he does not have to fight his Evil Inclination in a direct manner. Rather, the animal soul automatically "falls" in its presence, in the same way that darkness is automatically dispelled in the presence of light.
Isaac loved Esau...but Rebecca loved Jacob (Gen. 25:25)
Isaac was a "perfect offering," whose "style" of Divine service was somewhat removed from the material world and its concealments. Rebecca, by contrast, had grown up in household surrounded by devious people. When Esau asked his father how to "tithe salt," it was beyond Isaac's imagination that his son was being deceitful. Rebecca, however, with her experience in the ways of the world, recognized that it was only a scheme to impress his father, and "loved Jacob" for his quality of truthfulness.
(Der Torah Kval)
Because Abraham obeyed My voice, and kept My charge (Gen. 26:5)
Why did G-d bless Isaac in Abraham's merit rather than in his own, as He did with the other Patriarchs? Isaac is associated with the attribute of "gevura" (severity), the nature of which is to withhold. Thus the Divine blessing and influence had to come through Abraham, who is associated with "chesed" (loving-kindness), the attribute that bestows an abundance of blessing.
(Likutei Levi Yitzchak)
December 1700. It was a cold winter in Poland, and a blanket of snow covered the entire country. The city streets were filled with people bundled up in fur coats, and the countryside peasants were busy warming their homes with wood, and themselves with vodka.
But in the Jewish section of Krakow, gloom and fear filled the air; the children were dying of smallpox. It was the beginning of an epidemic. The doctors were helpless to stop it, and the various home remedies did nothing. Everyday the town was visited with more heartbreaking tragedies. Whom could they rely on? No one but their Father in Heaven.
The rabbi of the community had declared a fast day, then another, then three days of prayer and self-examination. But nothing seemed to work. A week of supplication was announced, but before it began, the elders of the community decided they had to make a "Sha'alat Chalom" (a request for a dream in which they would be given an answer to their problem).
It was a drastic move, but they had no other choice. They purified themselves, fasted, recited Psalms continuously, immersed in a mikva (ritual pool), and then requested from G-d, according to ancient Kabalistic formulas, that He send them some sort of sign that night in their sleep.
That night, every single one of the community elders had the identical dream. An old man in a white robe appeared and said, "Shlomo the Butcher must lead the prayers for the congregation!!"
Early the next morning they met in the synagogue and compared notes. It was clear what they had to do. The 20 of them solemnly walked to Shlomo's home and knocked on the door. When the butcher's wife opened the door, she almost fainted. "How can I help you?" she stammered.
"We want to speak to your husband. Is he home?"
Shlomo came to the door and invited them all in. When everyone was seated, one person began:
"Shlomo, we made a Sha'alat Chalom yesterday. We asked G-d to tell us what to do about the epidemic, and last night we all had the same dream. We dreamed that you have to lead the prayers today."
Shlomo was dumb-founded. If it weren't such a serious matter he would have thought that it was a joke. "I...should lead the prayers? Why I....I can't even read properly. I can't. I mean, what good will it possibly do?"
The elders looked at poor Shlomo and they took turns trying to convince him. "Listen Shlomo, just come and do what you can. You don't have to really lead, just pray in front of everyone. Maybe there will be a miracle, maybe you will begin to read. Just come and give it a try. Everyone is in the synagogue waiting for you to begin the prayers."
So Shlomo, with no other choice, left his house and accompanied them. But no sooner had they entered the crowded synagogue and closed the door behind them then Shlomo suddenly broke away, ran back outside and down the street, out of sight.
What could they do? He disappeared. They didn't even know where to look. They had no choice other than to wait.
About half an hour later the door opened and in came Shlomo pushing a wheelbarrow covered with a cloth. All eyes were on him as he went up to the podium, pulled off the cloth, and lifted an old set of scales out of the barrow. He had brought his butchers' scales into the synagogue!
They were pretty heavy but he lifted them over his head and although his face was contorted with the effort, it was obvious that he was crying too.
"Here" he yelled out. "Here, G-d! Take them! Take the scales! This must be why you want me to lead the prayers, right? So take the scales and heal the children! Just heal the children. Okay?!!"
He was crying pretty loudly by then and the whole place was dead silent. A few men rushed over, helped him put the scales on a table in the front of the room, and the congregation began the prayers.
The next day all the children got better. You can imagine the joy and festivities that followed. A craftsman even created a nice case for the scales, which were left permanently in the front of the synagogue for all to see.
After a few days when the excitement died down, the community elders had to admit that they couldn't figure it out. After all, there were tens of shops that used scales in their town and all of them were owned by G-d fearing Jews. What could be so special about these scales?
The answer was soon in coming. When they went around checking all the other scales, they discovered that without exception each one was a bit off. It was a minute amount, never enough to constitute bad business, but inaccurate nevertheless. It seems that Shlomo used to check his scales twice every day, "That's what G-d wants" he explained. "I just check and don't ask questions," while others checked only occasionally.
Legend has it that these scales remained proudly displayed in that Shul for over 200 years until the Germans destroyed everything in WWII.
The Midrash explains that in the blessings that Isaac gave to his son Jacob there are a number of references to the Redemption: Before the blessings were given, Isaac ate the food Jacob brought to him. Isaac later said that he had eaten "from everything." Rabbi Nechemiah explained that Isaac had been given a sample of all the delicacies that are being kept for the days of Moshiach. The first blessing was "dew from the heavens." This refers to a special dew that G-d will use to bring the dead back to life at the time of the Resurrection of the Dead.