Tzedaka - Charity | 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
Crowd-sourcing. Crowd-funding. Giving Tuesday. Charity apps. Donate miles... furniture... clothes... cars. Credit card gift cards. Credit card rewards points to charity.
Isn't it wonderful? Everywhere we turn, we are being reminded to give to those less fortunate than ourselves. Never have there been more ways and means to give charity!
Big businesses, as well, have taken on the causes of those in need. And it's even more inspiring to see that they are facilitating our participation in these worthwhile endeavors. No longer do we need to rely on chance meetings with indigent beggars or receiving fundraising letters in the mail to give charity. Just by going about our day-to- day lives, we are being reminded of others who have less than us.
It's never been easier to give charity. Just place your spare change in an envelope, sign over that bonus check, or use the postage-paid envelope to help do your bit.
What is so important about charity - tzedaka - that we see the concept permeating our lives?
The significance of charity is not the money itself, but the energy that a person has invested in earning the money. For most of us, the money we donate has been acquired through performing a job.
Jobs come in all shapes and sizes. But even the most menial labor involves cerebral activity, albeit on a low level. And even the highest-calibre research involves physical action, though in a minor way.
So, a person's entire being is embodied in that money which he is now giving to charity; by giving charity we literally give of ourselves.
This concept it true even for one who is "born into" wealth or who wins millions in the lottery (it should be by all of us!). For, even if the money has not been acquired through expending our life force and energy, still and all the money could have been used for food or clothing, which are necessary for one's life. In this way, even a retired billionaire who plays golf all day is still giving of his life for charity.
It's not surprising, then, that charity is called "the mitzva" in the Talmud. And it's also not surprising that the Talmud teaches that "charity brings the Redemption nearer" and that "the Jews will only be redeemed because of charity."
This week's Torah reading, Teruma, opens with G-d's command to the Jews to donate to the Sanctuary: "And you shall give an offering...gold, silver, and brass."
At first glance it seems odd that G-d should list gold first. Would it not have been more appropriate to begin with brass, an item that could be given freely by all, and then work up to the silver and gold, which only wealthy Jews could afford to donate? Although we know that when the Jewish people left Egypt they were inundated with gifts by the Egyptians anxious for them to leave, and that the Jews amassed great wealth during the splitting of the Red Sea, there were always differences in personal wealth between them. In fact, we find that in actuality, much more brass and silver were donated to the Sanctuary than gold. Why then is gold mentioned first?
Furthermore, since the Sanctuary was intended to establish a dwelling for G-d in this world, would it not have made more sense for it to be fashioned only through the service of the most elevated and sophisticated among the Jews? In reality, however, every single Jew, without exception, was allowed to contribute to its erection.
By way of explanation, Chasidic philosophy teaches that a Jew shares an intrinsic connection to gold. Every Jew, as he exists within the material world, is "G-d's only son," and as such, is by nature rich. The Jew has the potential to give generously, and to give gold. The very Hebrew word for "gold" - zahav - reflects a Jew's tendency to give to others, for our Sages interpret this word as an acronym for the phrase, "He who gives while healthy," that is, a person who gives not to ward off any unfavorable influences, but as a natural expression of his inner self. To emphasize this attribute, the first item asked of the Jewish people was gold.
A Jew is connected to his spiritual source, even within the context of the material world. He is in essence rich, and his inner spiritual wealth should be reflected in actual material wealth. If this is not openly apparent, it is only because G-d desires that the Jew reveal this wealth through his own efforts, that he transform the darkness into light. This, in turn, will draw down an abundance of Divine blessing into the world.
This is especially true in the present time, when the Jewish people have completed all the spiritual tasks demanded of them, and all that is necessary is to actually accept Moshiach. At this time, each and every member of the present generation, the last generation of exile and the first generation of Redemption, is surely worthy of abundant material wealth, which, as Maimonides explains, enables a Jew to devote himself to the study of Torah and the observance of mitzvot in a more complete manner, and to give more charity. This will lead to the construction of the Third Holy Temple, towards which every Jewish man, woman and child will donate, speedily in our days.
A Timely Letter
Rabbi Dovid Crispin opened the door one evening to find his neighbor from two flights up, Chasia Neumark. She was holding a document in her hand. "I have something for your wife, Rachel," she said, holding it out to him.
"Does she know what this is about?" asked Rabbi Crispin.
"No," answered Chasia, "but you can open it and read it."
Rabbi Crispin started to read, and suddenly he became very excited. "Rachel," he called, "you must read this. This is unbelievable!"
The story had begun earlier that day. Chasia worked as a librarian in the Beth Rivkah College in Kfar Chabad, Israel. As secretary, she had access to the archives of the institution, even though she rarely had any need to search those archives.
On that day, Chasia had a few free minutes, and decided to use the time to peruse the archive. She knew that, among other things, the archive contained many letters that the Lubavitcher Rebbe sent to the directors of the institution and to its students, and she wanted to read them.
Chasia went into the archive and went straight to the files that held the Rebbe's letters. She leafed through them, but there was no particular letter that caught her attention.
Suddenly she noticed a familiar name. The letter was written 45 years earlier, to the students of the 9th grade, in response to a letter they had sent to the Rebbe for Rosh Hashana. The Rebbe addressed each student by name and wished them all a blessing for the new year: "As we enter the new year, which is coming upon us and all of Israel for good and blessing, I wish to bless you that you be inscribed and sealed for a good and sweet year, for a year of success in your studies and good conduct, in good health."
Chasia recognized one of the names, Rachel Nizri, as the maiden name of her neighbor. She figured that although the students had most likely had an opportunity to read the Rebbe's letter at the time, they probably had not each received a copy, especially in the days before Xerox machines. She decided to surprise her friend with a photocopy of the letter.
When she returned home from work that afternoon, she went straight to the Crispins' door, but nobody answered. That evening, she again rang the bell, and this time they answered.
Rabbi Crispin was overcome with emotion when he read the letter. "You have a blessing from the Rebbe," he cried out to his wife. "The Rebbe blesses you with good health!"
"You have no idea what you just did for us," they told their neighbor Chasia. "We are just getting back from the hospital. This morning, Rachel fainted. She was brought by ambulance to the hospital and they found that her blood pressure was very low. The doctors decided to send her home but she would need very close follow-up.
"We were just sitting here and deciding how to proceed further, on the advice of the doctors, when suddenly you come here with the letter in which the Rebbe wishes Rachel and all her classmates his blessings for good health and all other good things! Apparently, the moment that you decided to look through the letters was the time she was being brought to the hospital."
"It really is an amazing thing," said Chasia. "All these years I am working there as a secretary and never had any inclination to search the archives, and suddenly to pick up these two letters..."
"What do you mean, two letters?" asked Rachel. "Did you find another letter with my name mentioned?"
"No," smiled Chasia. "There was another letter with a name I recognized, a friend of mine from Kiryat Malachi. I called her and told her about my find, and she asked me, almost in a panic, to fax her the letter. From her tone of voice, it seems that for her, it was also a very opportune moment."
And Chasia was correct. Two days later, her friend from Kiryat Malachi called and said that the day after she had received the fax, she had undergone a medical procedure that worried her a lot. The letter, which also had a blessing for health, came at just the right time.
Two names out of hundreds, or perhaps thousands... and for some reason, even though these were not the only two names Chasia recognized, she decided to copy the letters for them. The Rebbe's blessings from over 45 years ago were intended for this very moment as well.
Reprinted from Beis Moshiach Magazine
Bringing Heaven Down to Earth
The book "Bringing Heaven Down to Earth" by Tzvi Freeman has been translated into German and released this month. The book is titled "Den Himmel Auf Die Erde Bringen - 365 Meditationen." The book contains a meditation for each day of the year based on the Rebbe's teachings. It contains short thoughts that carry a person through your day, giving each day a spiritual content, making that day meaningful. Translated by Wulfing von Rohr and Miriam Magall into a beautiful and poetic German text.
In celebration of their 28th year, Chabad of El Paso, Texas, has just broken ground for a new building. The Chabad Center will have a sanctuary that will seat 100, a social hall, two kosher kitchens and a library.
The Chabad Jewish Center of Santa Fe, New Mexico, recently purchased a 9,500-square-foot building in downtown Santa Fe, that will be renovated to house a synagogue, offices, classrooms, a commercial kosher kitchen and cafe. Chabad of Santa Fe had originally intended to build a new facility on their current property but when the opportunity to purchase this building arose they felt it was more expedient to purchase and remodel the downtown builidng rather than build from scratch.
Blessing and Greeting,
I was pleased to receive your letter in which you write that you have noticed that in the Torah and in Yiddishkeit [Judaism] in general the figure seven occupies a special place and you ask why.
You surely know that there are other figures which are similarly significant and prominent, such as the figure ten and three.
As a matter of fact there is hardly any justification in questioning G-d's ways, why He has chosen certain numbers for special significance. For, as you will readily understand G-d's wisdom is beyond human understanding.
The question may be asked, however, after G-d has chosen a certain number of days in which to create the world, namely the number seven, what can we learn from this?
Approaching the question from this point of view, it is possible to say that inasmuch as certain categories of things and creatures were created in one day, each category stands out separately in importance and in the scale of Creation, as also explained in the various commentaries on the Chumash [Five Books of Moses]. Man, who was created last, on the sixth day of Creation, is the most important creature. But the whole of creation was crowned with the seventh day, the holy day of Shabbos, which is a source of life and blessing for all the creatures, inasmuch as the Shabbos is the "soul", so to speak, of the whole world.
And because G-d in His infinite wisdom, chose to create the world on the basis of this figure of seven days, there are many matters of Torah and mitzvos [commandments] which reflect this figure seven, such as the seven weeks of the Counting of the Omer, the seven years of Shmittah [Sabbatical], the seven Shmittos of the Yovel [Jubilee], etc.
In a similar manner we must approach your question why a girl becomes bas mitzvah at twelve while a boy at thirteen, and why not sooner or later? As you can well understand, duties and obligations must come together with sufficient maturity and understanding of their importance, and why they should be cherished and observed with love and devotion. According to G-d's scheme of Creation such maturity is attained by a Jewish girl at the age of twelve and by Jewish boys at the age of thirteen.
Duties and obligations must come together with sufficient maturity and understanding of their importance...
Of course, you might ask, G-d surely could have speeded up or slowed down the age of maturity, so that the obligation to fulfill the mitzvos would also fall sooner or later than the said twelve and thirteen years. But in that case the question could still be asked whatever the Bar Mitzvah and Bas Mitzvah age would have been. Clearly, G-d, Who is the Creator, created the best possible order in Nature and in human development.
Judging by your thoughtfulness and interest in Jewish matters, I am confident that you are learning with proper devotion and dedication to the Torah, Toras Chayim [the Torah of Life]. And the study of the Torah with the proper devotion and dedication means the kind of study that leads to the fulfillment of the mitzvos in the everyday life. I hope that you are a good influence on your friends in this direction.
3 Adar I
Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidism, said: The commandment of ahavat Yisrael - Love of one's fellow - extends to any Jew, even if you have never met him. How much more so does it extend to every member - man or woman of the Jewish community where you live, who belongs to your own community.
6 Adar I
It is a magnificent gift of G-d to merit an innate sense - a "feel" - for doing kindness to another, to derive deep pleasure from it. This can develop to the point that one cherishes the other more than oneself. He may find many explanations as to why he deserves his own tribulations, G-d forbid, but to do so with regard to another's suffering - is absolutely impossible.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This Friday begins the month of Adar, a month that is associated with an increase in joy. The Talmud explains that during the month of Adar, Jewish "mazal" (generally translated as fortune or destiny) is very potent. The mazal (or source of influence) of a Jew refers to the higher levels of his soul, which are connected to the essence of G-d at all times. In Adar, we have the opportunity to draw down an abundance of holy energy through good deeds that are imbued with joy.
Interestingly, our Sages taught that "Israel has no mazal" ("ein mazal l'Yisrael"), which means that Jews are above being influenced by the stars and planets. Nevertheless, even within the sphere where mazalot have power, in Adar, their mazal is strong and healthy.
By changing the vowels under the Hebrew letters slightly, "ein mazal l'Yisrael" can be read "Ayin - the Infinite - is the mazal of Israel." The Jewish people receive their influence from G-d from a transcendent level, the transmission of which is particularly powerful in the month of Adar.
The name Adar has several meanings, one of which is cloak or mantel. This is a reference to G-d's compassion for the His people, the Jews. The purpose of a garment is to provide us with warmth. In Adar, when the holiday of Purim occurs, we experience the warmth and comfort of G-d. A garment also conceals the body of the person who wears is. Similarly, the miracle of Purim was "dressed" in a series of natural events.
The word Adar is a combination of "alef" and "dar," meaning "G-d dwells." (Just as alef is the initial letter in the alphabet, so too is G-d the "first.") G-d created the earth in order to have a dwelling place in the physical world. Through the study of Torah and the performance of mitzvot, we create an abode for Almighty G-d.
May the positive influence of Adar be expressed in the advent of the true and complete Redemption with Moshiach in the immediate future.
Gold and silver and copper... (Ex. 25:3)
G-d commanded that the Tabernacle be built not only of precious metals, such as gold and silver, but also of copper. We learn from this that even a very learned person must not consider himself above the "average" Jew. For, without the simple people, the "copper," the Tabernacle could not have been built. By the same token, the average Jew - even if he is not at all learned - should not hesitate to approach G-d and holiness, for he must remember that the Tabernacle was built also of copper.
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)
Speak to the Children of Israel that they may bring Me a contribution... gold (zahav) and silver (kesef) and copper (nechoshet) (Exodus 25:2,3)
Our Sages explain that each of these metals is an acronym for a phrase which refers to a specific level of giving tzedaka: Zahav: "Ze hanotein bari" - "A healthy person who gives." On this highest level, a person gives tzedaka solely to fulfill G-d's commandment. Kesef: "K'sheyesh sakanat pachad" - "When there's danger or fear." On this level, a person gives tzedaka for his own personal gain, i.e., so that his merit will ward off an impending threat. Nechoshet: "Netinat choleh she'omer tnu" - "The giving of a sick person who says to give." This is the lowest level, for the person gives tzedaka only as a last resort, when he himself is suffering.
And you shall make a crown of gold (zahav) around its border (Ex. 25:25)
The numerical equivalent of the word "zahav" is the same as "David," as the crown of sovereignty was promised to King David and his descendants forever. Moshiach is a descendant of King David.
One Friday, the Baal Shem Tov said to his students, "Go out and look for a guest for Shabbat." The students began their search, looked for a long time, but found no one. However, the Baal Shem Tov remained determined and asked them to find a guest.
Half an hour before Shabbat, there was still no guest. So the students went to the outskirts of Mezhibuzh, and waited by the crossroads, until finally they found a Jew arriving with a heavy sack on his shoulder. They asked him if he has a place for Shabbat, and he said no. They suggested that he spend Shabbat with the Baal Shem Tov in Mezhibuzh, and he happily agreed.
The Baal Shem Tov was truly pleased to see the guest, and it appeared that the holy man was in an especially good mood. During the Shabbat meals, a most joyous and arousing atmosphere reigned. At the third Shabbat meal, the Baal Shem Tov sang niggunim, wordless melodies. In the middle of the meal, he stopped the niggunim and told his students that he wanted each one to share a Torah thought.
Starting from the right, each student shared a Torah thought. When the guest's turn came, the Baal Shem Tov said to him, "Say a Torah thought." The guest responded that he didn't have what to say. The Baal Shem Tov asked him if he could at least say something short. The guest replied that he hadn't really studied much. "Did you learn as a child in cheder? Perhaps you can share a story about our patriarch Abraham."
The Jew, who was a simple person, didn't understand exactly what the Baal Shem Tov was asking. But when he heard the word "story," he figured that he was being asked to tell a story - any story. "I'll tell you a story that happened to me," he said, "if you would like to hear it." The Baal Shem Tov smiled and agreed. "Yesterday, Friday, I was released from imprisonment by a paritz (landowner). For an entire year, he held me in a pit because I owed him rent. In that pit, I heard voices coming out from under the ground. I didn't know if they were voices of people or spirits. I was afraid even to move.
"It was only during my last week in the pit that I got up the courage, bent down to the ground, and asked if they could hear me. They said that they could.
"I asked them if they are people or spirits. ''We are spirits,' they replied.
"I continued to ask them questions. 'I have realized that you have a strange custom that you cry every day of the week, but when Friday night comes, you laugh. What does this mean?'
"The spirits answered: 'We are a group of spirits that live from the sins of one chasid. He fasts every day of the week, going without food or drink. When Shabbat comes, he wants to eat. However, due to his fasting, his stomach has shriveled and he can't eat meat or fish. So he makes Kiddush on wine, and then immediately afterwards, his wife brings him a cup of milk. After he drinks the milk, he waits until he is allowed to eat meat, and only then does he eat his Shabbat meal.
" 'However, every time his wife brings him the cup, we make sure that a little bit spills, and then he gets angry and annoyed at her. 'I fast the whole week, and you spill my milk!' he scolds her. Sometimes, he even threatens that if the milk is spilt one more time, he will take her to the rabbi. Every week, we make certain to spill the milk, so when Shabbat comes, he will chastise her again. This makes us very happy, because then more sins are created, sins from which we live."
"I asked another question. 'Why did you cry last week twice as much, and when Shabbat came you laughed twice as much?'
"The spirits replied: 'This week, we were in serious danger. The chassid said to himself that from now on, he would not get angry at his wife. "I'll pour the glass of milk in the afternoon, and I'll place it in the cupboard, so when Shabbat comes I'll have a glass of milk ready for me," he resolved. '
" 'On Friday afternoon, the chasid poured his cup of milk, placed it in the cupboard, and then went to shul (synagogue) for his Shabbat prayers. Suddenly, his wife heard from outside that someone was selling wood for half price. She began to look in her husband's money compartment. In the meantime, the wood sellers were knocking at the door, saying that they were lowering the price even more. In her haste to find some money, the wife opened the cupboard, and the glass of milk fell out and broke.
" 'On Friday night, the chasid came back home very happy. "This time, I won't get angry at my wife. Peace and tranquility will reign at home," he thought to himself.
" 'The chasid opened the cupboard, and the glass of milk was not there. He saw that everything had spilled. When he turned to his wife for an explanation, she started to apologize. He became furious and said, "Now I understand! Every time, you spilled my milk on purpose! If I had a doubt up until now, now I know the truth. On Sunday, we are going to the rabbi to get divorced..."
" 'If we were crying the whole week many times more than usual since we didn't know what to do,' the spirits said, 'on Friday evening, we laughed many times more because we had succeeded in our mission.' "
When the guest concluded his story, the Baal Shem Tov began to sing a niggun. When he finished, it was already after Shabbat, and the study hall was shrouded in darkness. The Baal Shem Tov ordered for light to be brought, and lo and behold, there was the student who sat to his right, on the floor in a dead faint. It was known that this chasid fasted the entire week...
As told by Rabbi Zalman Notik in Beis Moshiach Magazine
The Power of Saying Shema: According to the foremost commentator Rashi, at the moment that our forefather Jacob was reunited with his son Joseph after 17 years of separation, he recited the Shema. Jacob did this because our Sages state that the merit of our recital of Shema each morning and evening - as commanded in the Torah - is sufficient to facilitate our Redemption.