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"Turn that frown upside down!"
"Don't get so upset."
"Put a smile on your face."
"Sha, sha. Don't cry. Everything will be okay."
It's hard to keep track of what the latest trend is in expressing or suppressing one's feelings or how deep one should (or must) dig in order to get to the essence of what one truly feels.
So what's a Jew to do when the Jewish month of Adar begins and we're told that the standard "Serve G-d with joy" and "It is a great mitzva to be continually joyous" is supposed to be intensified?
Yes, you read correctly. Pretend as if you are really happy. You'll be amazed at the results.
A Chasid wrote to the Tzemach Tzedek (the third Rebbe of Chabad) and told him that it was difficult for him to attain a level of "joy."
The Rebbe answered: "Thought, speech and action (the three 'garments' of the soul-the way in which the soul expresses itself) are the three main parts of a person's behavior. Each individual was given control over what he thinks, speaks and does according to his desire.
"A person must guard what he thinks, thinking only thoughts that cause joy; he must keep away from speaking about matters that are sad and depressing; and he must act as if he has a full and joyous heart, to show joyous mannerisms even if that is not how he feels at the moment. Ultimately it will be this way in actuality."
In a similar vein, a Chasid came to the Alter Rebbe (Rabbi Shneur Zalman, fouder of Chabad Chasidism), asking how he could help a fellow Jew who acted as if he were pious when in reality he was actually quite a sinner.
The Alter Rebbe declared: "May what the Talmud says happens to a person who pretends to be a pauper but is not really poor, happen to him!"
The Chasid was taken aback. He had hoped for some practical and pleasant advice. Not what seemed to be a curse!
Then the Alter Rebbe explained: "The person who pretends to be a pauper but is not will ultimately become a pauper. So, too, this man who pretends to be pious but is not should ultimately become pious!"
As indicated in both of these stories, the initial step to being happy is even to go so far as to pretend we are happy even if we are not. Eventually, the play-acting will no longer be acting but real.
This "put on a happy face" attitude encompasses our religious duties but extends to our interaction with others, as well. Judaism teaches "Receive all people happily" and "Receive all people with a cheerful countenance." Receiving people happily is an inward expression of one's feelings. Even if we aren't inwardly, genuinely happy to see someone, at least we should greet him with a cheerful countenance, an external expression of joy. "Even if your heart does not rejoice when someone visits you, pretend to be cheerful when he arrives," a great Sage once taught.
So be happy, it's Adar. And even if you don't feel happy, pretend until you are!
The Torah portion this week is Mishpatim - statutes. Included amongst the many mitzvot (commandments) found in the portion is one which discusses how to behave toward an enemy in distress. "When you see the donkey of your enemy lying under its burden, you might want to refrain from helping it, but you must make every effort to help him [unload it]." (23:5)
The Baal Shem Tov, founder of the Chasidic movement, translated and explained this commandment in a unique way which makes it relevant to each one of us. It is important to note that the Hebrew word for donkey - chamor is similar to the word for materiality - chomer.
When you see a donkey - when you carefully examine your materiality, your body, you will see...
your enemy - for your materiality hates your Divine soul since it is the Divine soul which longs for G-dliness and spirituality. Furthermore, you will see that it is...
lying under its burden - it is overwhelmed and overloaded with the command placed upon it by G-d, namely, that it should become refined through the study of Torah and performance of mitzvot. But, the body, like a donkey, is lazy and stubborn to fulfill these commands. It may then occur to you that...
you might want to refrain from helping it - to enable it to fulfill its mission. And instead, you might follow the path of mortification of the flesh to break down the body's crass materiality.
Hundreds of years ago, it was indeed considered proper to subordinate the body through afflicting it with ascetic practices, but the Baal Shem Tov rejected this path. He saw the body not as an obstacle to the spirit, something intrinsically evil and ungodly, but as a potential vehicle for the spiritual, a means for the soul to attain heights otherwise inaccessible.
The light of Torah will not reside fully in this method. Rather...
You must make every effort to help it - purify the body, refine it, but not to break it.
Thus the "enemy" is transformed into an ally, an instrument through which to perform mitzvot. In great measure the mitzvot employ gross physical matter to fulfill G-d's will, e.g. leather for tefilin thongs, wool for tzitzit, etc. We must care for our physical selves in order to fulfill G-d's commandments. Indeed, it is a commandment to watch over the health of one's body.
Adapted from Hayom Yom, compiled by the Rebbe from teachings of the previous Rebbes.
Sign of Wonders
by Rabbi Meir Kaplan
The following are from Rabbi Kaplan's blog on the Chabad of Vancouver Island (British Columbia, Canada) website.
Once upon a time, our home was mostly the Chabad Centre in Victoria; the shul (synagogue) was on the main floor, and the Preschool/Hebrew School was in the basement. In between, there were living quarters for a young couple with two babies.
Shortly after our arrival, we ordered a nice sign to be placed in our front yard. "Chabad," read the sign in large letters.
Thank G-d, after a little while, the shul wasn't fitting into the living room; the preschool became a full time licensed program, and our family also started to occupy more space. What stayed the same was the Chabad sign in front.
A few weeks ago, I realized that the sign had begun to fade away, and I considered that it was time to remove it. Our home is now mostly our family's residence, and we have acquired another space for Chabad. I decided to speak to my wife Chani and let her have the last word.
That week, I got an email from Jonathan, a student who had just arrived from Lyon, France. He wanted to know about Shabbat services and events, and he possessed a strong desire to get involved in the community.
When I met Jonathan, he told me he attends Camosun College, and he rents a room on Richmond Road close to his school. A few days after his arrival, he took a walk in the neighborhood, and was stunned when he saw the 'Chabad' sign. He found us online and got in touch.
When he told me his story, it reminded me of a wonder that this sign created in our first year here:
A family from Toronto, that was considering a move to the Island, came to visit Victoria to check out the city. At the time of their visit, Chani and I were out of town, but we got to speak to the family on the phone.
"We were taking a drive through the city", the man told me...."We were pleased with much that we have seen, but we were still concerned about how our children, who grew up in a Jewish environment, would be able to stay connected in Victoria where the Jewish community is so small. As we were driving through Lansdowne, we came across the Chabad sign. We had no idea that Chabad was in Victoria! I turned to my wife and said, 'if Chabad is here - our children will be OK."
We were blessed to have this family move to this city and enrich the community. Their children are a source of Jewish pride to their family and to us all.
If you happen to be driving on Lansdowne this afternoon, you may find me standing on the corner of Aldridge. I'll be removing the 'Chabad' sign in front of our house, to replace it with a new, fresh one.
And responses to the rabbi's blog:
Ruth wrote: I am so glad you are not removing the sign! I didn't know there was Chabad in Victoria as I have lived on Pender Island for nine years having moved from Montreal. One day, last year I was visiting my daughter and I saw the Chabad sign in a drive way on the corner of Aldridge; I couldn't believe my eyes! I was so excited.... Since then I have made it to several events.
Malca wrote: Your family has had such an impact on this community. The sign is just an example of how one doesn't really know the effect we can have on others.
Faiga wrote: I'm glad you're keeping the sign. Even before I connected with you, Chani and Chabad in 2005, the sign was a source of Jewish pride for me. In a community where we blend so well with our neighbours and co-workers, it can be easy to forget our heritage and purpose in the world. For those of us who regularly drive by your home, it's a strong reminder; for others who find it by happy-accident, it is an invitation to connect and become a part of the Jewish Community. Todah Rabah!
It started like a fairly common story. A mother wants her child to take Bar Mitzva lessons and make this event special in his life and the life of his family. However, the son gets nervous by the expectations, and is afraid of the thought of learning a new language and being introduced to concepts that weren't part of his life up to this point. He refuses to cooperate.
As a last resort, I went for a home visit to try to break the ice through casual conversation. At the scheduled time, I arrived at the family home, parked my car, and started to walk to the door; but then the garage door opened. I turned around. I thought that they wanted me to come through the garage, but it didn't seem like anyone was greeting me there, so I turned back to the front door.
I spent about two hours at the house. I had great conversations with the family and the boy; we connected pretty well, and I felt that it was a good beginning to assist the boy in reclaiming his heritage.
As I stood with the family by the doorway to the house, I got ready to leave and clicked my remote to unlock the car; the garage door opened instantly. I clicked the remote again, and the garage door stopped. Turns out... my car remote opens and closes their garage door.
Standing there and watching it happen the boy seemed to think that I have special powers; the mother took it as a clear sign from heaven that this is the right path for her son... Without any doubt this incident closed the deal!
When I got home and did my google research, I learned that there is an extremely small chance that a random car remote will match the code of a garage door. I was thinking - that my remote was able to open the garage is perhaps a "special touch"; but that it was able to open the heart of another - this is G-dly.
New New New
A completion and welcoming of a new Torah scroll took place recently at Chabad Lubavitch of Southwest Florida in Forth Myers, Florida.
A new, state-of-the-art mikva (ritual bath), has opened at Chabad of Boca Raton, Florida.
A ground-breaking ceremony for a new Early Education Center under the auspices Chabad of Ashkelon, Israel, took place recently. There are currently four Chabad Houses and synagogues serving the city. In addition, 19 pre-schools, a boys and a girls elementary school, a boys and a girls high school, and a soup kitchen under the Chabad Ashkelon network.
Rosh Chodesh Kislev, 5740 
Greeting and Blessing,
I am in receipt of your letter of Nov. 14th, in which you register a complaint against two persons in your community.
I trust it is unnecessary to point out to you the rule of the Shulchan Aruch [Code of Jewish Law], which is also an accepted principle in any civilized society, and is also a matter of common sense, that one must not pronounce judgment in a dispute, without hearing first both sides. Besides, in the present case, I am confident that both parties involved will readily submit to the judgment of a Rov [rabbi] before whom the dispute can be submitted, and he will pronounce the proper judgment in accordance with our Torah.
I will take the liberty to make a further remark, namely, that the above ruling refers not only to a third party who must not make a judgment without hearing both sides, but also to the involved parties themselves, who must not prejudge their positions. For a person cannot be objective in a situation in which he is personally involved, and, therefore, cannot make an objective judgment, not to mention an accusation, until he has heard the objective opinion of a person not involved in the situation who is fully knowledgeable of all facts from the viewpoint of both parties to the dispute. And among Jews, a knowledgeable person in such a situation is one who is not only aware of all the facts, but also is knowledgeable in the Torah, which is called "Torah Or," [Torah of Light] because it illuminates all things in their true light.
I trust you will not take amiss the above remarks, inasmuch as the purpose is not to find fault or defend, but since by Hashgocho Protis [Divine Providence] you brought the matter to my attention, I must state to you what I think is the proper approach in such a situation.
May G-d grant that, together with your wife, you should bring up each and all of your children to a life of Torah, Chuppah [wedding canopy] and Good Deeds, and have real Torah Nachas [pride] from each and all of them, in good health and happy circumstances.
17 Adar Rishon, 5744 
After reading your letter, my first reaction was to instruct my secretary not to answer it. But then I remembered the exhortation of our Sages of the Mishnah to judge everyone "in the scale of merit"; though, frankly, I have difficulty in finding this in your letter - perhaps because I am not accustomed to read letters of this kind of (pardon the vulgar expression) "name - calling."
What would you think of a person (even not a Rabbi Emeritus) who had "just read a report" of something happening thousands of miles away, in a place and country equally far away in terms of the socio-spiritual climate and mores prevailing there, accepts the report on its face value, without appropriately taking the trouble to verify whether it is perhaps biased, or a "slight" distortion of the actual facts, and immediately comes to the conclusion to condemn the alleged "culprits" and, by association, a host of other people, in a vehement and unrestrained manner, using expressions and epithets such as in the above mentioned letter.
What actually took place and the circumstances surrounding it, made me wonder how many apologetic letters you would have to write to those whom you've "misjudged", etc. in your "outburst."
In light of the above I trust you will understand my not signing this letter. Though I dictated and read it.
With due respect,
If you only knew - the Tzemach Tzedek (Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch) said - the power of verses of (Psalms) and their effect in the highest Heavens, you would recite them constantly. Know that the chapters of Tehillim shatter all barriers, they ascend higher and still higher with no interference; they prostrate themselves in supplication before the Master of all worlds, and they effect and accomplish with kindness and compassion.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This Shabbat we bless the new month of Adar Rishon - the "first" Adar. Because this is a leap year, our calendar has thirteen months and it is Adar, the month permeated with happiness, which is doubled.
We are constantly enjoined by the Torah and our Sages to be joyous. "Serve G-d with joy" is a well-known maxim which indicates that joy and happiness are an integral part of our Divine service. Sadness and melancholy, we are told, can, G-d forbid, bring one to transgression. And furthermore, the G-dly spirit only rests on a person when he is filled with joy.
It is therefore very appropriate that it is the month of Adar which is doubled. For about Adar it is stated, "When Adar begins, we increase our joy." The holiday of Purim (which we celebrate in the "second" Adar) was a time of true salvation for the Jewish people. The whole month, then, remains an auspicious and festive month.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe stated that the only work left on our part to bring Moshiach and the redemption (may it take place speedily in our day) is that we permeate our every action with joy.
May we have the strength, especially in the upcoming days of the first and second Adar, to fulfill this suggestion with a whole heart.
If you lend money - kesef. (Ex. 22:24)
The Tzemach Tzedek, the third Chabad-Lubavitch Rebbe, explained that the Hebrew word for "money," - kesef - comes from the root word meaning "longing and yearning." The soul, he explained, always yearns to go upward, attaining higher and higher levels of spirituality. "If you lend money" - G-d "lends" the eternal soul to each of us for a certain period of time, to dwell in a physical body in this world. It is up to the individual to utilize that loan to the fullest, taking advantage of every day that is granted on earth.
His master shall bore his ear through with an awl (martze'a) (Ex. 21:6)
Why a "martze'a?" Because its numerical equivalent is 400 - the same number of years the Jewish people were originally supposed to be enslaved in Egypt. When G-d took the Jews out of Egypt, He declared, "The Children of Israel shall be servants unto Me." Subsequently, anyone who willingly chooses to serve a human master rather than G-d deserves to have his ear bored through...
Keep far away from falsehood (Ex. 23:7)
A liar is more despicable than either a robber or a thief: The robber steals only at night, for he worries about being discovered. The thief steals by night and by day, but only from individuals, as he is afraid to confront a larger group. The liar, however, lies by night and by day, and spreads his falsehoods and gossip about everyone.
(The Maggid of Kelem)
Do not glorify a destitute person in his grievance (Ex. 23:3)
Very often, the grievance of a poor person is that he feels that G-d takes care of everyone else, but not him. When someone gives charity to that poor person, he refutes the poor person's complaint, but if someone refuses to give charity, he is confirming the poor man's grievance.
This is the story of a remarkable man named Ovadia, who lived during one of the worst periods in Jewish history - the Crusades. As during the terrible Roman persecutions, the time of the Crusades saw a notable number of men and women who risked their lives to become Jews. These gentiles, often from the highest echelons of society, became converts to Judaism out of love of the Torah and a desire to serve G-d according to its holy precepts.
Johannes, who upon conversion took the name Ovadia (which means "servant of G-d"), was one such man. He was a Norman nobleman and the son of a Norman knight who took part in the First Crusade under the command of Godfrey, the Duke of Lorraine.
The First Crusade, initiated by Pope Urban II, drew a motley crew of noblemen, adventurers and rogues who left France in 1096, ostensibly to free the Holy Land from the Moslem "infidels." Along the way, they seized the opportunity to rid France and Germany of the local "infidels," the Jews who lived peacefully in hundreds of communities along the Loire Valley, throughout the Rhineland, in Bohemia and in England. As the Crusaders passed through these lands they engaged in the most fearsome wholesale slaughter of tens of thousands of innocent Jews who happened to live in their path.
Johannes was introspective and scholarly, different from his brother, Roger, who fought alongside his father in the Holy Land. It is unknown whether or not Johannes also accompanied his father, but when Jerusalem was conquered by Godfrey and all the Jews in the Holy City were mercilessly slaughtered, he was living in Southern Italy and studying to become a priest. At some point in his Bible study, Johannes came to the conclusion that Judaism was the true faith, and he resolved to become a Jew. It is possible that he was moved by the staunch adherence to their faith displayed by countless thousands of Jews who chose to die horribly rather than abandon their beliefs. It is also possible that he was inspired by the conversion of another prominent gentile several years earlier.
The conversion, in about the year 1094, of no less a personage than Andreas, the Archbishop of Bari (Italy) created a great stir and caused tremendous consternation within the ranks of the Church.
In his diary, Ovadia (Johannes) wrote of Andreas: "G-d put the love of the Law of Moses into his heart. He left his country, his priesthood and glory, and went to the land of Constantinople, where he underwent circumcision. There he suffered great persecution and he had to run away before the uncircumcised, who had tried to kill him. But others imitated him and entered the Covenant of the Living G-d. And the man went to Egypt and lived there until his death, while the leading churchmen were downcast and bowed their heads in shame."
Upon his decision to convert, Johannes traveled to Aleppo, where he sought the help of Rabbi Baruch ben Yitzchak. Johannes told the rabbi that he came from a wealthy and powerful family, but he had decided to abandon everything to become a Jew. This revelation was not only quite astonishing, but frightening as well, since persecution was guaranteed to follow and death was a very real possibility for any gentile who risked conversion. Johannes replied that he was well aware of all the repercussions of his actions, having made the decision thoughtfully over many years. And so, convinced of Johannes's sincerity, Rabbi Baruch accepted him as a righteous convert.
It was impossible to continue living in France, and so Ovadia moved to the city of Bagdad, where life was far from easy, but there was more religious freedom for Jews. Ovadia had managed to bring a considerable part of his fortune with him, and in Bagdad he devoted himself to helping his less fortunate Jewish brethren. He became distinguished for his distribution of charity and was even appointed by the community to be treasurer of the community chest.
Ovadia wrote a fascinating diary during these years. In approximately 1121, he decided to relocate to Fostat (old Cairo), which had a flourishing Jewish community. He noted that while traveling, he met a certain Karaite named Shlomo Hakohen, who claimed to be Moshiach. The man tried to persuade Ovadia to become one of his adherents. Ovadia just laughed at him, countering that Moshiach would be a descendant of King David, not from the priestly tribe as was this Karaite.
Ovadia eventually settled in Egypt, where he wrote an autobiographical memoir in the year 1241. The only fragments that remain were discovered in the famous Cairo Geniza (a collection of ancient manuscripts discovered in the Ezra Synagogue in Cairo). In this remarkable cache of thousand-year-old documents were not only fragments of his memoirs, but an inscription on his prayer book and a letter of recommendation given to Ovadia by Rabbi Baruch ben Yitzchak. The bits and pieces which have come down to us, provide us with a window into that time and a glimpse into a remarkable life of faith, sacrifice and adventure.
Adapted from Talks and Tales
This week's portion states: You shall serve the L-rd your G-d (Ex. 23:25) According to Maimonides, we learn the positive mitzva (commandment) of praying to G-d from this verse; "service" refers to "the service of the heart," i.e., prayer. During the exile our prayers must take the place of the sacrifices that were offered in the Holy Temple. However, when the Temple stood, only kohanim (priests) were allowed to actually bring the sacrifices; Levites and Israelites were prohibited from doing so. Thus the exile has a certain advantage over the time when the Holy Temple was in existence, for nowadays, every Jew can fulfill the role of the greatest kohen just by calling upon his Father in heaven.