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Who doesn't love a wedding? The music, the flowers, the food, the beautiful bride, the father blessing his daughter, the chupa (marriage canopy), breaking the glass and shouting "Mazal Tov!"
For the bride, the groom and the immediate family, there is a constant build-up of excitement, anticipation and preparation. The bride and groom, in particular, are living with the wedding and the wedding plans: eating, breathing, and even sleeping, every detail of the awesome event. For others, the level of involvement is far less intense.
An acquaintance need only be aware of the approaching date of the wedding. A quick check of the calendar ensures that there are no conflicting plans. A few days before the wedding you'll go out and buy a present, and a few hours before you'll get ready to go. But until you actually arrive at the wedding, the myriad details have little reality for you. You have to see them to get truly excited.
A close relative or friend gets more involved in the preparations, perhaps even talking about it to colleagues who don't know the bride or groom. The excitement is more concrete. Weeks in advance you think about what you'll wear. You'll go back and forth in your mind over what would be just the right gift, and maybe you'll be involved in planning pre- or post-wedding celebrations. The wedding, with all of its details, is much more real to you than to the acquaintance who shows up at the right time.
And what if you were the bride or groom, or parents of the couple? Even months before the wedding it would be very real to you because you would be busily immersed in every detail of the big event. The excitement, anticipation and longing for that day would be tangible.
It's not hard to realize that the more one is involved in the actual, wedding plans, whether you're family, friends, or hired professionals, the more of a reality the wedding is to you.
This scenario is similar to the revelation of Moshiach and the Final Redemption. For, certainly, the Redemption has been likened to a wedding, specifically the consummation of the wedding between G-d and the Jewish people that took place at Mount Sinai.
The more we are involved in this ultimate wedding - the more we participate in practical deeds and suitable activities relating to the Redemption - the more excited we will automatically become and the more of a reality it will be in our own lives.
The Rebbe teaches that we should study more about Moshiach and the Redemption as a preparation for the once-in-a-lifetime event. In addition, we should engage in practical deeds and suitable activities which will further prepare us for this ultimate wedding, mitzvot that will help hasten the Redemption and accustom us to what it will be like living in the Messianic Era.
It can be as simple as another good deed, another kind act, to prepare us for a world where G-d's goodness and kindness will be clearly evident and where people's innate positive qualities will shine brightly to create a peaceful, healthy and benevolent world.
In this week's Torah portion, Vayechi, we witness a conversation between the aged patriarch Jacob and his son, Joseph. Joseph brought his two sons to Jacob for his blessing. He placed Menashe, the first born, near Jacob's right hand and Efraim, the younger of the two, near Jacob's left hand. However, when Jacob blessed the youngsters, he crossed his hands over and placed his right hand on Efraim's head and his left on Menashe's head.
Joseph explained to Jacob, "It is not so, my father." Moving Jacob's hands, he continued, "for this is the first-born."
"I know, my son, I know," was Jacob's reply. "Also he [Menashe] will become a people. He, too, will be great. But his younger brother will be greater than him."
According to our Sages, neither Jacob nor Joseph made a mistake. Rather, their priorities were different.
Menashe and Efraim symbolize two distinct aspects of a Jew's G-dly service. Joseph believed that the G-dly service represented by Menashe was more advantageous, whereas Jacob felt that Efraim's was higher.
Joseph named his oldest son Menashe - "For G-d has caused me to forget ("nashani") all of my toil and all my father's house." This name intimates Joseph's anguish over being distanced from his father's home and his native lifestyle. His younger son, he called Efraim - "For G-d has caused me to be fruitful ("hifrani") in the land of my affliction." Here, Joseph thanks G-d for the benefits that he reaped specifically because he was living in exile.
When Joseph brought his sons for his father's blessing, his feelings of sorrow over being separated from his family ruled. The spiritual service this parallels is the desire to cleave to G-d, even in exile. Jacob, however, viewed the exile differently, represented by the name Efraim. He saw that there is an "advantage" of exile; in exile, one changes darkness into light. And the light which follows darkness is much brighter, much more noticeable.
The paths of Joseph and Jacob should both be manifested in our lives. We must realize that we are far away from our "father's house"; we are still in exile and the final Redemption has not yet come. Just as important, or possibly more important, is to realize that we can actually light up the darkness of exile. This comes about through studying Torah and observing the commandments.
When a Jew finds himself in a situation or surroundings which are uncomfortable, he must not only be troubled by it and think of the day when he can escape. Rather, he should work to his utmost ability to change that which is bad to good, the dark to light, for this is the entire purpose of being in exile.
Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe
The Ripple Effect
by Rabbi Meir Kaplan
On a Wednesday evening in late November, I left Victoria, Canada, on my way to the International Conference of Chabad Rabbis in New York. My stopover was at the Toronto airport, where - now that it was morning - I had my first opportunity to wear my Talis and lay Tefillin.
Seated at the gate, my sons Leibel and Mendel who were joining me on this trip were by my side. I was used to past experiences of people being curious when they saw me in the airport in Talis and Tefillin but this time was different. Hundreds of eyes were directed on me with amazement.
Wondering why, I looked up at the TV screen at the airport reporting from Israel. The reporter was covering a follow-up story to the terrible massacre in Jerusalem. "A day later - services are back in the synagogue," the reporter was saying, while images of men wearing Talis and Tefillin were streamed from the little synagogue in Har Nof that morning.
I felt a shiver down my spine as I realized that I had become part of the news story everyone was watching. I felt like I was standing there with the Jews of Jerusalem and tears started rolling down my cheeks.
We were all shocked to our cores by the terrible massacre that took place in the capital of Israel, killing Jews who woke up to pray to their Father in Heaven. Horrifying images of Taleisim and Torah books soaked in blood, pictures that we hoped we would never see again, became a reality we needed to face.
I believe that the stirring emotions within us all can be turned into a constructive reaction. Let us all come to synagogue and stand together in prayer to show our solidarity with the Jews of Har Nof and unite as brothers and sisters around the world.
On my last day in New York, I ran to the hardware store to get tape for the boxes I was packing. While picking up my tape I overheard an argument between the store owner and a customer.
The customer from Israel had purchased an electronic device at the store, and he came back to pick up a converter for the plug. The owner wanted him to pay $2 for it, but the customer claimed, "You told me that this will work in Israel - you should just give it to me. I don't have two dollars to spare".
Sensing that this argument could escalate, I took $2 out of my pocket and gave it to the owner, who seemed surprised. The customer thanked me and left the store.
One hour later, I was on my way to Newark Airport in New Jersey. I was using my phone as a GPS with voice navigation to help direct me to the airport. Stuck in heavy traffic, not even out of Brooklyn, the battery died and I didn't have a car charger for my phone.
At the next traffic light I opened my window and tried to get the attention of the nearby driver. "Sorry, my phone just died, I'm trying to get to the Holland Tunnel, do I take a left after the bridge?" The woman in the car managed to say "yes," and then the light changed.
At the next traffic light her car was ahead of mine, and she opened the window to extend her hand. I saw she was holding two car chargers for Apple and for standard smart phones. "Take what you need!" she shouted.
I jumped out of my car and took the correct charger, thanked her from the bottom of my heart for her generosity, and jumped right back into the driver's seat, to the amazement and astonished eyes of my children.
"This was so out of character for New York," I thought to myself. Then, my encounter a few hours earlier at the store appeared in my thoughts. No question this was a more generous act than mine, but kindness has a ripple effect and the ripples have a way of getting bigger...
I went to the Chabad conference in New York to charge myself, but while trying to charge my phone, I experienced generosity and care, and that left a great lasting impression on me.
Excerpted from Rabbi Kaplan's blog on Chabad of Victoria Island's website - chabadvi.org.
Saying Mazel Tov
For centuries, it has been customary for Jewish women to adorn the birthing room and the cradle with Psalm 121. The Psalm states our dependence on G-d for our safety and well-being, and His commitment to guard us at all times. For a color print of the Psalm call LEFJME at (718) 756-5700, e-mail email@example.com, or visit www.LchaimWeekly.org/general/art/shir-lamaalot.jpg.
The Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center of Moscow, the largest Jewish Museum in the world, recently opened a new exhibit exploring the revival of Judaism in our generation. The museum's thoroughly modern in approach, favoring personal testimony, archival video footage and interactive displays - all translated into Russian and English. The exhibitions are divided chronologically, helping visitors understand the life of Jewish communities as they travelled across medieval Europe, settling in shtetls before moving to the cities.
11th of Adar, 5718 
Greeeting and Blessing:
I received your letter of February 11th, in which you write that you had been given to understand that in connection with a Shidduch [match for marriage], the true approach of the Torah and Jewish way, is not to let the heart play a decisive part in it, but that the important thing is to ensure the good qualities, etc., of the party concerned. Therefore, you write, that my replay, as it was reported to you, seemed inconsistent with the above.
Now, I do not know how my reply was reported to you. At any rate, my reply always relates to a particular question, asked by a particular person, on the basis of a particular set of date, and, needless to say, my reply is given to the person concerned, who along can reveal the answer to others. With regard to your particular problem that you write in your letter, however, let me state that it is true that according to the ideal of the Torah, "The mind should rule the heart," and when the mind desires something in accordance with the Torah, the heart should follow without question. This is theoretically true also of a Shidduch, where the ideal woman is described as "Grace is deceitful, and beauty is vain; but a woman that feareth G-d, she shall be praised." Proverbs 31:30. The same is true, of course, of a man.
Undoubtedly, however, in our present-day world, it is not always a case where the heart follows the mind, but the heart often has an opinion of its own, not consistent with the above quotation. Therefore, when it comes to a particular case, and it is necessary to decide whether it is a suitable Shidduch among two particular person, it is then necessary to take into consideration the two concerned parties as they are, and not as they should be, in all perfection. Hence, there is no contradiction between the idea of the Torah in connection with a Shidduch, and the practical necessity to advise one, in a particular situation where the party has not attained the ideal stage, to listen also to the voice of the heart.
I trust that you know of the three daily Shiurim [lessons, i.e., studying daily part of the weekly Torah portion, Tanya, and reciting the daily allotment of Psalms] and observe them, and may G-d grant that you find your suitable Shidduch in all details, since G-d's blessing is necessary in every case, and particularly in the case of a Shidduch.
Wishing you a happy Purim,
15 Tammuz, 5712 
I extend my heartfelt wishes to you that your wedding take place in a fortunate and good hour and with mazal tov. May you construct a Jewish edifice on the foundations of Torah and mitzvos.
Understandably, it need not be emphasized that on a deeper level marriage means that chassan [groom] and kallah [bride] jointly embark on constructing a life - a most joyous life - and an edifice that endures for many, many long and happy years.
It is self-understood that it is of primary and crucial import that the foundation of an edifice be constructed of the most durable material possible, material that is able to withstand the changes and havoc that can be wrought by changes of temperature and moisture, by an earthquake, and so on.
The same holds true when chassan and kallah embark on building a life together [and lay the foundations for that life]. This joint life is to be founded on the foundations of Torah and mitzvos [commandments], the strongest materials in existence.
These materials have withstood the test of time, overcoming a multitude of obstacles during the passage of the approximately three and a half thousand years since Gd gave us His Torah and mitzvos.
These, then, are the vessels through which a couple receives Gd's blessings for a truly joyous life. May Gd bless you - as previously stated - with a mazal tov and [with the ability to construct] an everlasting edifice on the foundations of Torah and mitzvos.
From Eternal Joy, sie.org
A person's life is dependent on the air around him. Without air he cannot live and the quality of life is dependent on the quality of air. In a Torah atmosphere there is healthy life. In an atmosphere bereft of Torah, life is diseased. The first general step in healing is to purify the atmosphere. Purification of the air is the task of every person familiar with Torah and Torah-literature, and is effected through the words of Torah. When reciting words of Torah while in the store or walking in the street or riding the subway, one cleans the air. Everyone knowledgeable in Torah must have some Torah memorized - Chumash, Psalms, Mishna, Tanya, etc., so that at all times and in all places he will be able to think and utter the holy words of Torah
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
In this week's Torah portion, our ancestor Jacob tells all of his children to gather together so that he can tell them "what will happen to you at the end of days."
The Talmud relates that Jacob wished to reveal the end of the exile but it was concealed from him. The literal meaning, however, is that Jacob wished to "reveal, i.e., bring about, the end."
Jewish teachings explain that the actions of the ancestors are a guiding light for the Jewish people throughout all the generations. Herein lies an important lesson for each one of us. We are to follow in the footsteps of Jacob, and hope and pray for the manifestation of the ultimate end - the final Redemption. Contemplating this will of itself assist our service of G-d, inspiring us to attain our ultimate goal of the revelation of Moshiach.
Hoping and yearning for Moshaich actually hastens Moshiach's coming. This is clearly seen in the translator/commentator Onkelos' rendering of the verse in Isaiah (64:3) "G-d will act for him who waits for Him." As Onkelos paraphrases, "for those who hope and wait for Your Redemption."
How does our yearning hasten the Redemption?
If we hope and pray for the Redemption, sincerely and earnestly, we live more ethical, moral, G-dly lives. By virture of each individual's good actions and deeds, the Jewish people as a whole are found to be increasingly worthy, and the long-awaited Redemtpion is hastened.
The days of Israel's death drew near, and he called his son Joseph and said...deal with me kindly and truly (Gen. 47:29)
The mitzva of accompanying the dead is called an "act of true kindness" ("chesed shel emet"), as its motivation can never be the expectation of reward. Furthermore, the Hebrew word for "truth," "emet," is an acronym for aron (casket), mita (bier), and tachrichin (shrouds).
Israel strengthened himself and sat up in bed (Gen. 48:2)
From where did Jacob derive this extra strength? The Talmud explains that when someone visits a sick person, 1/60th of the illness is taken away if the visitor is his "astrological twin." According to our Sages, Joseph resembled his father in many ways. Thus, when he visited him, a sixtieth of his father's illness was removed and he was able to sit up in bed. This is alluded to in the Hebrew word for "bed, " "mita," the numerical value of which is 59.
And Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it upon Efraim's head, who was the younger (Gen. 48:14)
"The deeds of our forefathers are a sign for their children." Like Jacob, we should always try to draw the younger generation closer with our "right hand," symbolic of love and affection, to the light of Torah.
And let my name be named on them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac (Gen. 48:16)
Jacob was afraid that the younger generation (especially Joseph's children, who were born and bred in Egypt and accustomed to the wealth of the royal palace) would assimilate among their Egyptian neighbors. To prevent this from happening, he insisted that his grandchildren keep their original Jewish names. Changing one's name is the first step toward assimilation.
Once, three men - a poor man, a simpleton, and a bachelor who was both poor and unlettered - came to Elijah to ask for his blessing.
The first man came to the prophet and said, "I am so poor that I can't even feed and clothe my family. Please, take pity on me, and give me your blessing that I may become wealthy."
Elijah agreed to help him, but on one condition: "When you become rich, and you certainly will, you must promise to give charity and share your wealth with others." The man promised, and Elijah handed him a coin. "This coin will make you rich," assured the prophet. "Don't forget your promise."
The second man came and made his request: "The one thing I desire most in the world is to become a Torah scholar. Please, help me."
Elijah considered his request worthy, but made one condition: "When you become a Torah scholar, you must promise to instruct even the simplest folk who come to you asking to study Torah."
"Of course, I promise," said the man. "It would be my honor and privilege to teach my fellow Jews."
Elijah took a sheet of parchment on which was written the Hebrew alphabet and handed it to the man, saying, "If you study from this page you will certainly become a great scholar. But don't forget your promise." The man parted from the prophet happily clutching the parchment to his chest.
Then the third man approached the prophet. "Master, please take pity on me. I am not wealthy nor am I learned. But worst of all," said the man, "I'm all alone in the world without a wife. But I won't take just any wife - I will marry only a woman with good sense."
Elijah took pity on the man. "I have the perfect woman for you. But, you must promise to listen to your wife in every matter, all the days of your life." The man agreed and Elijah led him into the depths of the forest. They entered a small hut in the forest where an old woman and her daughter were sitting. "This woman is the perfect wife for you," said the prophet, nodding towards the daughter. Both parties agreed to the marriage and it took place soon after.
Two years passed and Elijah returned to see if the three had kept their promises. First, he visited the opulent home of the formerly poor man. Approaching the huge door, he saw a sign that read: "Beggars and Deliveries to the Rear." Elijah went to the back door and was given a small coin. "I wish to speak with your employer," demanded the prophet. "Not permitted. You can have a coin and a loaf of bread."
"No," insisted Elijah. "I want to see the master of the house!"
"Take two coins and be off!" was the curt response. Still, Elijah stood his ground. In fact, he created such a fuss that the servants had to call the owner.
Elijah asked the man for a more substantial sum, but he just scoffed: "One coin should be enough for you!" Each time he asked, Elijah was rebuffed more violently.
"I see that you don't recognize me and you have forgotten your promise," Elijah said solemnly. "So, you must return my coin."
"Ha! Do you think that silly coin did anything? You can have it back, it's worthless." The man returned the coin and in no time he was poor again.
Next, Elijah went to visit the great yeshiva where the simpleton was now a renowned Torah scholar and dean of the yeshiva. "Pardon me Rabbi, but I would like to learn Torah," the prophet said to the great men.
"Have you studied the entire Talmud and all of its commentaries?"
"No, I haven't had the chance to study, but I want to very much."
"I'm sorry, I don't have time to instruct beginner students. You see, I am the head of the yeshiva, and I have more important things to do!"
Elijah begged the man, but to no avail. Then the prophet said, "I see you don't recognize me. What is more, you haven't kept your promise. You must return my parchment!"
"This parchment is worthless!" the scholar laughed. "Take it." No sooner had the prophet departed, than the head of the yeshiva forgot all of his learning.
Sadly Elijah trudged to the hut of the couple who had been married two years. The wife saw Elijah and told her husband, "We have never been privileged to have a guest, and here is a distinguished looking man approaching. Let's take our cow to be slaughtered and serve our guest properly."
The husband could not imagine how they would manage without the cow; they eked out a bare subsistence from her milk. It did not seem to make sense, but he agreed all the same. "If you feel that we should, let's prepare the cow."
Elijah ate and when he finished, he said to the couple, "I see that you have lived according to your promise, and so I have two more gifts for you - a coin and a parchment..."
Marriage draws down Gd's infinite power, the infinite energy of Ein Sof into this world. The fully complete and revealed state of Gd's infinite revelation within this world will take place during the Era of Redemption. We therefore conclude and bring to a close the marriage blessings with the blessing, "...there shall speedily be heard in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem, the sound of joy and the sound of happiness, the sound of a groom and the sound of a bride." This shall take place in the course of the true and complete Redemption, through Moshiach.
(Hisvaaduyot 5745, Vol. V, pp. 2,883-4)