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"Sweet dreams," is a typical wish before retiring for the night. Often, if you dream at all, your dreams really are quite pleasant, though more often than not a bit unrealistic. Once in a while, thought, it doesn't go so well. You wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat.
Jewish teachings often compare the current era in which we live as a dream. In King David's Psalms we read: "When G-d will return the exiles of Zion, we will have been like dreamers."
For, when dreaming, we think that what we see in our mind's eye is real, when in reality, it is simply a figment of our imagination.
Similarly, while in exile, we think that the world runs itself, that G-d is removed from this world; that every occurrence is independent, or, at the most, "coincidental." This is our reality. But our reality is just a dream.
Regarding our current state of exile, the Lubavitcher Rebbe explained: "A person can become so permeated with a feeling of exile that he cannot sense the impending Redemption, to the point that any discussion of it sounds to him like a dream. In reality, however, the opposite is true: it is the exile which resembles a dream, as is explained in Chasidut.
"There is a positive side to this analogy, for in one moment one can wake up from a dream and return to reality. In the same way the entire Jewish people can return, in one moment, to their true reality - to a state in which they love G-d and cleave to Him, to an actual state of Redemption.
"Current conditions can be transformed, literally in one moment, so that on this very day, and at this very moment, people will open their eyes and suddenly see that Moshiach is here!"
There is only one fail-proof method to make sure that we stop dreaming and start living with the reality of the Redemption, a time of international and interpersonal peace, prosperity for all, and connectedness to the Divine. That method can be understood through the following story:
The Yid HaKadosh ("the Holy Jew," Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchak of Pshischa) and Rabbi Simcha Bunim of Pshischa were once discussing the statement of one of our Sages in the Talmud, "Let him [Moshiach] come, but let me not be there."
The Sage felt compelled to say this because the time immediately preceding the coming of Moshiach will be a very difficult one, so difficult that we are told we will be holding on to our faith by the skin of our teeth!
The two Rebbes were debating what the best way to react would be if they were privileged to be alive at that time.
Said Rabbi Simcha Bunim, "The best advice I can think of is to get drunk and go to sleep."
"That is truly good advice," responded the Yid HaKadosh. "If someone has sechel (intelligence), that is certainly what he will do!"
"Why," one might ask, "would someone - a scholar and holy person at that - give such advice? Get drunk?! Go to sleep?!"
The true meaning of these sagacious words is as follows:
Get drunk on Torah, particularly the Torah as elucidated by Chasidic philosophy, known as the "wine of Torah." Imbibe it, savor it, partake of it at every opportunity. And then, in this spiritual drunken stupor, go into a deep sleep, a sleep in which exile is considered just a bad dream nay, a nightmare. And know that the true reality is Redemption, a time when we will truly be awake to the goodness and G-dliness inherent in every creature and all of creation.
This week we read the second portion of the Torah, Noach (Noah). In describing the virtue of Noah the Torah states: "Noah was a righteous and wholehearted man in his generations." Our Sages emphasize that Noah was considered righteous in comparison to his own morally depraved era, but not in comparison with other generations. The Zohar specifies three generations in which, had Noah lived at that time, "he would have been considered as nothing": the generation of Abraham, of Moses, and of David.
Why were these three particular generations chosen for the comparison?
With each of these generations, a new phase began in the world's development. Abraham, the first Jew, initiated the stage in which the Jewish people started to fulfill its Divine mission. Moses brought the Torah to the world, which marked the beginning of the ability to sanctify and refine physical reality. King David initiated the era of sovereignty, the ultimate objective of which is to establish G-d as King over the entire world.
Noah, too, lived in a time of new beginnings: the world as it exists after the Flood. The Midrash tells us that when Noah went out of the ark "he saw a new world," and began to establish the foundations on which to rebuild it. Nonetheless, because Noah's service was on a very low preliminary level, his contribution is considered "as nothing" in comparison to the service of Abraham, Moses and David.
In truth, Noah's righteousness was mainly in comparison with the wickedness of the generation of the Flood. The people of his time were extremely corrupt in the way they dealt with each other. But righteousness in interpersonal relations is not enough to bring the world to its G-dly perfection. While certainly a prerequisite, it merely allows the world to function the way it should.
For this reason Noah's service is considered "as nothing" in contrast to that of Abraham, Moses and David. Their service went beyond the social realm; they actually connected the world to G-dliness. Abraham disseminated the belief in One G-d; Moses received the Torah at Mount Sinai; and David built the infrastructure for the Holy Temple in which the Divine Presence would rest.
Another difference: Noah's service was primarily motivated by fear; his warning to the people of his generation was connected to the threat of the imminent Flood. The Midrash even states that "Noah was lacking in faith; had the water not reached his ankles, he would not have entered the ark."
By contrast, the service of Abraham, Moses and David stemmed from a deep and inner recognition of G-d's greatness, which enabled them to set the "ground rules" for the world's perfection - a process that will be completed by Moshiach, speedily in our day.
Adapted from Vol. 35 of Likutei Sichot
Feeding My Soul
by Laila Tassano
Who are you and why are you here? These are the questions that kept going through my mind three years ago. The desire to get answers to these questions was one of the reasons that made me return to my essence and today, thank G-d, I find myself immersed in the world of Torah, living in Crown Heights, and studying in Machon Chana Women's yeshiva.
My name is Laila, I am 18 years old and I was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I grew up receiving a basic Jewish education. I studied in Jewish schools most of my life and my family was always traditional. The family gathering at my grandma's on the Jewish festivals and Friday nights were precious to us. We used to go to the synagogue on Shabbat and the holidays, though we didn't keep the stringencies of these holy days. For us, being Jewish wasn't about practicing Judaism meticulously. As long as we felt in our souls our Jewish identity, our Jewishness remained intact.
I was 14 years old when I began attending a non-Jewish high school. My experience in that school was what awakened me to look for more in Judaism.
I remember having a geography teacher who was not friendly to Jews. He would make sure to mention the political situation in the Middle East and how bad Jewish people were. I used to ignore everything he said but, one day, he showed us a picture of a kibbutz. Then, with a deep and sarcastic laughter, he told us how easy would it be to throw a bomb and kill all the habitants at once. I wanted to say something, even just to scream at him, but no words came out of my mouth. I had no idea how I could reply to this unacceptable commentary.
At that moment I thought to myself: I am a Jew and I am supposed to know how to defend my people. If I can't do that, who am I? A mixture of frustration and confusion rested upon me. In shock, I left the class right away and went home, where I cried in my mom's lap the whole night. It touched me inside in such a way that I had an enormous desire to strengthen and feed my Jewish identity.
For the second year of high school I wanted to leave behind everything that was connected to that place. A friend of mine mentioned to me that her brother had studied in Israel through a Brazilian program. The way she described it seemed like heaven. After all the excitement, she told me an "irrelevant" detail: the school was religious. Although being religious wasn't something I was interested in at that point, I didn't care anymore. I thought going to Israel would be the solution to my problem of needing a deeper and stronger Jewish identity. The fact that I would be living there would instantly make me feel more Jewish. My family was very supportive and at the same time, very worried about letting me move so far at such a young age. Yet, they trusted me.
I fell in love with Israel from the moment my feet touched the Holy Land's ground. In the beginning, I followed the religious rules required in school, but when going out with my Israeli family or friends on the weekends, I did not feel bound by Torah and its commandments. In the afternoons I used to go to my piano and guitar classes, until the day that, instead, I tried the optional Judaism classes. After that, I made sure to quickly reorganize my schedule so that my musical passion and my upcoming thirst for Judaism wouldn't go against one another. The classes were breathtaking and slowly I started to be more careful with Torah and mitzva observance.
I went back to Brazil for the summer and I realized that everything was also very different at home. Since my brother's Bar Mitzva had taken place in the Chabad synagogue two years earlier, my mother had begun attending the shul regularly. When I returned from Israel I noticed that my mother was totally involved with all of the Chabad House activities and classes. Our wonderful shluchim, Rabbi Nissim and Rivka Katri had included my mother in their family. I sensed a new inner peace in my mother as well as a so much passion.
I returned to Israel for a second year. Inspired by my mother's journey into Judaism I was determined to put more effort into my Jewish journey. Three months into the school year, my mother called me to tell me that she was engaged to be married to a wonderful man she had met through her involvement at the Chabad House.
I graduated high school in Israel and returned to Brazil. My stepfather is an amazing person and he continuously encouraged me to see the beauty of the world of Chabad Chasidic teachings that I had never met before. I couldn't hold myself back from asking him a plethora of questions a day.
In February 2013, my mother and I attended the guest program of the convention for Shluchot (Women Emissaries of the Lubavitcher Rebbe) in Crown Heights. For the first time I visited Machon Chana and what truly caught my attention was how comfortable the girls were. They looked like they were sitting in their own home, talking to their own sisters. An aura of peace and tranquility surrounded them. I could see passion and thirst for Torah in their eyes.
A few months later, after struggling to make my decision, I finally decided to attend Machon Chana. Coming to Machon Chana was the best opportunity G-d gave me and I thank Him every day for allowing me to find this holy place and myself.
The approach of learning combined with our staff's unique care for every single student is what enables young women coming from all over the world and different backgrounds to feel at ease. The principal Rabbi Shloma Majeski, the dorm mother Mrs Gita Gansburg, and all of our exceptional teachers and mentors bring down the most deep and profound concepts of Judaism to the level of each girl. Our relationship with them doesn't remain just inside of the classrooms. They make themselves available for whatever we might need.
Studying in Machon Chana has permitted my soul to express, find and feed itself. I grew up spiritually and became much more mature. Chasidut brought me to a strong connection with G-d and opened my eyes to see the beauty in how every second He creates the world. With much gratitude to G-d, to the Rebbe, to Machon Chana and the entire Crown Heights community, I pray that we will all become stronger in the fulfillment of the mitzvot so that we can greet Moshiach in the Holy Temple, right now.
To contact Machon Chana email MachonChana@outlook.com or call 347-770-4141.
Rabbi Akiva and Taibe Komisar have opened a permanent Chabad House for Israelis in Amsterdam, Holland. The new Chabad Israeli Center is in the city center.
The Chabad Jewish Center of Hoboken, New Jersey, recently moved into a permanent home. The 1,800-square foot facility will serve as a synagogue, Hebrew school and community center for those in Hoboken, Jersey City.
Rabbi Yaakov and Mushkee Raskin arrived in time for the High Holidays in Jamaica, West Indies, to establish Chabad of Jamaica. Jamaica is the ninth Carribean Island to have its own full-time emissaries of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
Rabbi Yaakov and Chana Chaiton recently moved to the Hamilton-Robbinsville areas of Princeton, New Jersey, to establish a new Chabad House for the local residents.
25th of Tishrei, 5721 
I received your letter in which you discuss the question of your husband's trip, which has entailed certain difficulties, and you ask my opinion whether it was justified.
Let me begin with some brief introductory observations.
In the view of our Torah, which is called Toras Chaim, the Law of Life, and especially as emphasized in the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Chassidus... a husband and wife are not two separate entities, but are one.
And, as in the case of the physical body, when any part is strengthened and invigorated, it automatically adds vigor and strength to all the other parts, so, and much more so, is the case with a husband and wife who have been married "k'das Moshe v'Yisroel," ["according to the laws of Moses and Israel"] the benefit to one is a benefit to both.
Therefore, there can be no question but that the benefit which your husband expected to derive from his trip, and I trust he unquestionably did derive it, will be fully shared by you and the rest of the family.
Another point is that the Jewish festivals in general, and those of the month of Tishrei in particular, have lasting benefits.
Similarly, the festival of Succoth, Shemini Atzereth and Simchath Torah, which are the Season of our Rejoicing, are not intended to bring true joy and inspiration only during these days, and when they are over they are forgotten. But their purpose and intent is that the Jew should draw from them stores of joy and inspiration to last him throughout the year and every day of the year.
The nature of such joy and inspiration, being connected with the Torah and Mitzvoth [commandments], is such that it truly permeates one's whole being and is the wellspring of a harmonious and happy Jewish life.
Add to this the fact that the state of mind is a powerful factor, not only in regard to one's spiritual life, but also one's physical and material life. For it is a matter of common experience that when one goes about his affairs in a happy frame of mind, with faith and confidence, he is bound to be more successful.
Applying all the above to your Jewish family life, it is well to bear in mind that at all times, and especially in our time, it is not a simple matter to set up a truly harmonious Jewish life.
A young couple inevitably experiences certain difficulties, trials, and sometimes even crises, chas veshalom [G-d forbid]. But when one realizes that these are only trials designed to strengthen the foundations of the home, which is to be an everlasting edifice (Binyan Adei-Ad), and as the Torah states, "For G-d tries you to make known your love" etc. (Deut. 13:4), one appreciates them in their true perspective. For, in sending these difficulties and trials, G-d also provides the capacity to overcome them. Far from being discouraged by such difficulties, one considers them as challenges to be overcome, in order to reap the benefits that are inherent in them.
Finally, human nature is such that when one has various problems to cope with, it is more difficult to cope with them in isolation, and it is much easier to overcome them by belonging to an atmosphere and society which is permeated with the same approach and the same way of thinking. (Incidentally, this is one of the reasons why certain things in Jewish life require the presence of at least a minyan of ten people.)
After all the above observations, you should consider the fact that your husband has been given the very important function of being connected with the cause of Chinuch Al Taharas Hakodesh [a pure Torah education] and the general development ..., which has great promise for the future. In addition, your recent settlement in - also requires a special reserve of strength and capacities. The more one is equipped with faith in G-d, confidence and joy, the better one can cope with all these problems.
Your husband's visit here has brought him in personal contact with other young men similarly situated, and in some cases even with more difficult problems, and the mutual benefit derived from such contact is simply inestimable. Even if the trip entailed certain personal sacrifices on his part as well as on yours, they will be more than compensated by the benefits, and not only spiritual benefits but also in terms of material benefits, as indicated above.
I am sure it is unnecessary to elaborate further on this matter, knowing your background and understanding. I only want to emphasize again that the benefits from your husband's visit are bound to be shared equally by both of you, and your children, and may G-d grant that these benefits be even greater than anticipated.
I will be glad to hear good news from you in connection with all the above.
Rabbi Sholom Ber of Lubavitch taught: Ever since G-d told Abraham, "Go from your land etc." and it is then written "Abram kept travelling southward," we have the beginning of the mystery of birurim-elevating the sparks. By decree of Divine Providence man goes about his travels to the place where the "sparks" that he must purify await their redemption. The Righteous see where their sparks await them and go there deliberately. As for ordinary folk, G-d brings about various reasons and circumstances that bring these people to that place where lies their obligation to elevate the sparks.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
"A tzadik in Peltz" i.e., a righteous person in a warm, fur coat. This is one way of describing Noah, whose story we read about in this week's Torah portion. There are various ways to warm oneself when in a cold room. One way is to build a fire (or turn up the heat). A second method is to bundle oneself up warmly.
If one builds a fire, the entire room becomes warm and all of the people in the room benefit. If, however, he just wraps himself up all cozy and snug, he is the only one who profits.
The Zohar explains that one of Noah's greatest faults was that, though his own behavior was righteous, he did not try to influence others. In Noah's generation, everyone except his own family, was totally immoral. G d informed Noah that He would destroy the entire world with a flood, saving only Noah's family. Yet, Noah did not argue with G d. Instead, he withdrew into his own little world, building the ark and continuing in his own personal righteous ways. Only when people approached and asked what he was doing, did he tell them about the impending disaster.
For these reasons, the flood is referred to in the Bible as the "Waters of Noah." Noah could have averted the disaster if he had reached out to his fellow man. But he clothed himself warmly in his righteous deeds, unconcerned with the bitter "cold" from which his generation suffered.
When we see another Jew in the cold, we must not just bundle ourselves up even more warmly. Rather, we must invite him in and build a fire helping fan the spark within every Jew into a burning flame.
And he sent forth a dove (Gen. 8:8)
Where did it fly? To the land of Israel, which had not been inundated by the great Flood. The Jewish people is likened to a dove. Banished and exiled over the face of the earth, the Jew's heart is nonetheless always drawn to the Holy Land, the land of Israel.
(Be'er Mayim Chaim)
I have set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of My covenant between Me and the earth...and I will remember My covenant...and the waters will no more become a flood to destroy all flesh (Gen. 9:13-15)
Why does the rainbow signify that G-d won't bring another Flood? Before the Flood, the clouds in the sky were thick and dense, obscuring the light of the sun. The Flood, which cleansed and purified the earth, also refined the clouds and made it possible for the rainbow to be observed, a phenomenon caused by the sun's rays. The rainbow, a product of the process of purification, is therefore symbolic of the Final Redemption, which will come about through the refinement and elevation of the physical world. Its appearance in the sky is a sign of the imminence of Moshiach, as stated in the Zohar: "When a rainbow appears with its shining multicolored hues - await the arrival of Moshiach." The Messianic Era, in which the world will reach unprecedented levels of holiness and refinement, is the culmination of that process of purification.
(The Rebbe, Parshat Noach, 5721)
G-d descended to see the city and the tower (Gen. 11:5)
Why does the Torah tell us that G-d "descended" to investigate? Isn't G-d All-Knowing and All-Seeing, present in all worlds and Omnipotent? Rather, these words contain a lesson for mankind: One must always investigate a matter thoroughly and never pronounce judgment on something one has not personally witnessed.
There was once a Jew named Shmuel who lived in a small European town. A scholar of Torah and upright of character, he was also clever and competent. When the governor of the district heard about his abilities he appointed him his business manager, and grew to trust him implicitly.
Along with his other responsibilities Shmuel was entrusted with the keys to the treasury. The governor had no compunctions about this, as he knew he could rely on the honest Jew. Shmuel, for his part, proved to be more than worthy of the governor's trust. He exercised his duties faithfully.
The governor's assistant business manager, however, was a vicious anti-Semite. Shmuel's success, and the esteem in which he was held, were almost too much for him to bear. His greatest desire was for the governor to get rid of the Jew and appoint him in his stead.
Then one day, it seemed as if his fantasy was about to be fulfilled...
The governor had just returned from an extended trip, and was throwing a party for his friends to celebrate his return. Before leaving, the governor had appointed Shmuel in charge of his household.
In the middle of the festivities, during which the wine flowed like water, the governor decided to impress his guests by showing off his wealth. One his most priceless possessions was an extremely large and rare diamond, whose value was beyond estimation. The governor had never displayed it in public, but the party seemed like the perfect opportunity to do so.
Shmuel, as manager of the estate, was asked to retrieve the jewel from the treasury. A few minutes later he returned holding a tiny golden box, encrusted with precious gems and diamonds. Everyone gathered around the governor to see this special sight.
With an extravagant gesture the governor opened the box, but was stunned to find it was empty! The diamond had evidently been stolen.
After the initial shock had worn off, all of the guests began to look at Shmuel with suspicion. Everyone knew him as an honest fellow, but what other explanation could there be? Who else had access to the treasury?
The governor turned to Shmuel and said delicately, "For many years you have worked for me faithfully. But sometimes, a person may give in to temptation. If you return the diamond, I give you my word that nothing bad will happen to you."
"G-d forbid!" Shmuel cried as his face paled. Pain and disgrace were visible in his eyes. "In my whole life I've never touched anything that didn't belong to me, and I certainly didn't take your diamond."
The crowd was silent. The Jewish manager's words sounded sincere, but unfortunately, all the evidence pointed to his guilt.
Then Shmuel had an idea. "If you give me a chance to prove myself," he said, "I will show you who the real thief is."
After asking the assembled guests to remain in the hall, Shmuel rushed off to his house. He returned, clutching a black rooster under his arm.
Everyone's curiosity was aroused by the odd spectacle. "Esteemed guests," Shmuel announced in a loud voice, "this rooster is not your ordinary, run of the mill bird. In fact, it has a special ability to detect thieves! When an honest man touches this rooster, it does not react. But if a thief dares to pet it, it immediately ruffles its feathers and crows at the top of its lungs. Pay attention - it will now reveal the person who stole the governor's diamond."
Shmuel chose five guests at random and asked them to pet the wonderful bird. The guests did as they were asked, but the rooster remained silent.
A wave of laughter rippled through the hall. What an impudent Jew! It wasn't bad enough that he had stolen the diamond; now he was making fun of them as well!
Shmuel, however, appeared unconcerned. "Wait! The test is not yet over," he called out. The five men who had petted the bird were then asked to raise the hand that had touched it. Five hands shot up in the air. Four palms were as black as coal, but the fifth - the one that belonged to the assistant manager - was white.
"Here's your thief!" Shmuel announced, pointing to the assistant manager. "He is responsible for the robbery." Everyone stared at the man, who was trembling with the fright of discovery. Without a word in self-defense, the assistant manager then admitted to stealing the diamond.
When the governor asked Shmuel to reveal the rooster's secret, he burst out laughing. "There really isn't anything special about this rooster," the Jew explained. "The only thing I did was to rub soot into its feathers before I brought it here. I figured that an innocent person wouldn't hesitate to pet it, whereas the guilty party would only make believe he was touching it. And indeed, my assumption was correct..."
After apologizing profusely the governor gave Shmuel a warm hug, and announced that he was giving him a promotion. And the assistant manager was thrown into jail, where he remained for the rest of his life.
"Noach opened the window of the ark..." Even while it is still the time of exile - a state of flooding prior to the redemption - a Jew might conclude that perhaps the end of the flood has come. At this point, he must leave the ark and head out into a "new world," a Redemption world. He must do all he can to clarify the matter, including sending out messengers. A Jew must not sit by idly and wait until G-d commands him to leave exile and enter the Redemption. He must do everything he can to hasten the Redemption. Although leaving the exile and entering the Rredemption can only be according to G-d's directive, nevertheless, when G-d sees Jews yearning for the redemption to come immediately, this itself quickens the commandment to be issued forth from G-d to "leave the ark," to leave the exile for the Redemption.
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe, 10 Tammuz 5745)