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Golf for Life
Items that always seems to be available at garage and yard sales throughout the summer, or at any other time of year, are golf clubs. Whether the avid adolescent golfer is away at college or beyond, or Dad never really took to the new pastime, or Mom has perfected her stroke and game to the point where she needs better clubs, golf clubs can easily be purchased for the neophyte golfer.
In keeping with the Baal Shem Tov's teaching that we can learn something to enhance our lives spiritually from everything we see and hear, even if you've only tried your skill with clubs and balls at the local mini-golf, there's a lot that can be learned from this mellow sport.
"Hold the club firmly with both hands," a seasoned golf expert will tell any newcomer to the game. Applied to Jewish living, this means that our approach to Torah study and mitzvot (commandments) observance has to be firm, not wishy-washy or laissez faire. In addition, Torah teaches that "the right hand brings closer and the left hand pushes away." This means that our "hands-on" approach to Judaism has to include bringing that which is beneficial and positive into our lives while pushing away that which can be harmful or negative to Jewish living.
In real golf (as opposed to miniature golf, where people sometimes skip a hole if there is a long wait and then come back to it) you must complete all 18 holes as established by the course. Similarly, a set course has been established for us by the Torah, beginning with our daily routine and encompassing our entire lives.
When we get up in the morning, we train ourselves that our first conscious thought is to thank G-d for giving us another day of life. Throughout the day we have a sequence of activities and mitzvot that we fulfill up until the time we go to bed, following the declaration that we forgive all those who might have knowingly or unknowingly wronged us, after which we entrust our soul to G-d's safekeeping. Just as our day is ordered and sequential, so is our week, month, year, and entire the Jewish life-cycle.
To truly hone our living skills (unlike when we putter around on a mini-golf course, where we can dodge the rules) we must follow the established progression of the Torah. And though the mitzvot are "written in stone" (at least the Ten Commandments, to be exact), Judaism allows for, acknowledges and even encourages individual expression and personal preferences within the established guidelines.
Any golfer worth his tee will inform you that one of the main guidelines of the game is to keep your eye on the ball. In the big golf game of life, the ball is the goal. As long as we keep our eyes on the goal and know where we're going, it's hard to get off track.
Jewish teachings have always explained that our goal is the Geula (Redemption), at which time the Goel (Redeemer, i.e. Moshiach) will lead the Jewish people out of gola (exile). No one knows which tiny mitzva-tap on the ball of exile will gently drop us into the final hole (numbered 18 perhaps for "chai-life," for after the Redemption we will experience life as G-d truly intended it to be). It might be your kind word, or his extra charity, or her heartfelt prayer, or my Shabbat candles. If each one of us tries our best, then certainly, very soon, we will get the ultimate hole in one.
In the beginning of this week's Torah portion, Pinchas, G-d rewards Pinchas for having "zealously taken up My cause among the Israelites and turned My anger away from them." The reward was the priesthood: Pinchas and his descendants would be kohanim (priests). "I have given him My covenant of peace...a covenant of eternal priesthood to him and his posterity after him."
Our Sages tell us that "Pinchas is Elijah." Like Pinchas, Elijah the Prophet was a zealot, chastising the Jewish people when necessary. Similarly, as reward for "zealously taking up My cause for G-d, the L-rd of Hosts," G-d granted Elijah a "covenant of peace" - that he would personally attend every brit mila ceremony.
On a deeper level, the term "covenant of peace" alludes to the relationship ("treaty") between body and soul. This connection was particularly apparent in Elijah, as his soul never departed from his physical body. As the Torah relates, instead of passing away, Elijah ascended heavenward "in a tempest" - both the soul and physical body.
How was Elijah able to do that? The answer lies in the concept of refinement. Elijah's physical body had been completely purified to the point that it no longer obscured the underlying spirituality of the soul, thus constituting a vessel for holiness. Accordingly, there was no need for Elijah to die and be buried. The body itself could ascend and absorb all the higher spiritual revelations.
In this respect, Elijah was even superior to Moses. Moses' physical body was certainly holy; in fact, "the house filled with light" the moment he was born, illustrating how his physical being was not an impediment to the light of the soul.
Nonetheless, Moses passed away and was interred, as this light never completely permeated his body to the extent that it was fundamentally transformed. While he was alive, Moses' body allowed the light of the soul to shine through, but it remained essentially physical.
This helps to explain why Elijah the Prophet will be the one to herald the Final Redemption, as the whole meaning of Redemption is the definitive refinement of the physical world and its transformation into a vessel for holiness. Indeed, in the Messianic era, "The glory of G-d will be revealed and all flesh shall see [G-dliness]." "Flesh" - the material plane - will be able to perceive "that the mouth of G-d has spoken."
The power to effect this transformation was granted to Pinchas; had we been worthy, the Final Redemption would have occurred immediately upon the Jews' entrance into the Land of Israel. Due to various negative factors this was not the case, and we are still waiting. But thank G-d, Elijah's announcement of Moshiach's arrival is imminent, along with the era of complete Redemption it signifies.
Adapted from Likutei Sichot Vol. II
Home and Extended Family
by Chassida Fine
From a speech at the 60th Annual N'Shei Ubnos Chabad Convention
I grew up in Cape Town, South Africa. A small, very relaxed "city" nestled in mountains and hugged by two oceans. It's beautiful beyond words.
I went to a Jewish day school. My dad insisted on all of us getting a Jewish education. I went through school, loved being Jewish, hated being Jewish, couldn't care either way whether I was Jewish cause I had things to do and other things on my mind. You know important things like which nightclub to go to, what city I was going to travel to, what subjects I wanted to study.
And so I travelled. Always searching for a little something. Looking for my purpose. Some sort of something that would ease or quell that feeling of not being totally satisfied, of being just a little empty. Sometimes I would feel it deeply and other times I wouldn't notice it at all.
I thought maybe my purpose was in meeting people, seeing the world, sometimes I thought it was in which career I chose and how successful I was. But across continents I felt the emptiness, across wild nights out or quiet dinners, across careers and successes and failures there was something missing.
Then, a gift of opportunity was given to me. It was just after the South African 2010 soccer world cup and my film-making business had slowed from mad busy 18-hour days to so much time. I came across a request from the national South African broadcaster for a proposal on a documentary about the Jewish festival of Shavuot. Unlike all the hundreds of other requests that call for native African languages, this one called for Jewish-ness and I looked at my business partner and said...now this, THIS I can do!
I researched and developed a documentary script for the holiday of Shavuot. And then everything grew from there. My granny said I just had to speak to her favorite rabbi she has ever known, at the Gardens Shul in Cape Town and so off I went to speak to Rabbi Oshy Feldman. He offered some good tips and points of interest for the documentary and before he sent me on my merry way he said, "So, its Rosh Hashana coming up, why don't you come to shul and check it out?"
I thought the least I could do for the rabbi who gave me his time was to show my face at shul. I came. And I never left. Not sure if it was the choir. Or the building. Or thinking of all the history that happened in that shul. My granny was married there. Or if I was experiencing that yearning for something. Or maybe it was Rabbi Oshy's inspiring and enlightening sermons. Every week he made the parsha speak directly to me.
Over time Rabbi Oshy and the amazing Rebbetzin Sarah inspired and encouraged me on my journey, never through asking me to do things or be someone I was not yet, but always through their being role models of serving G-d with joy.
My first real mitzva (commandment) that I took on, was keeping kosher. It was Shavuot two years ago and I had made the move from sleepy Cape Town to fast paced Johannesburg. In Johannesburg I was blessed to meet more inspiring and amazing emissaries of the Rebbe who epitomize his values and goals and live and breathe Chabad. Rebbeztins Rochel Goldman, Mashi Lipskar and Rabbi Ari Shishler to name just a few. They play such an important role in my life, encouraging and guiding my growth and are always there to support me.
My growth had a slow start and then with everything that I learned my passion and energy grew and it took a sharp rise. Judaism just became so true to me, having a relationship with G-d became so important to me... and I felt so behind, I felt an urgency and that I had so much to learn.
So I started looking into seminaries. Rabbi Shishler told me about Machon Chana in New York. After much deliberation with all my Rabbis and Rebetzins we decided on Machon Chana. It was in Crown Heights, the heart of Chabad, the headquarters and if I wanted to experience and learn from Chabad families, then this was place. Apparently good for shidduchim too.
It wasn't a frivolous decision my move to New York. I remember trying to convince my mom that this wasn't yet another irresponsible move; to quit my job and become a student again. I had a lot of supporters, but it was also really hard for people to swallow that here I am, a 34 year old woman with two degrees, quitting her job to go study how to be a Jew with zero reference to a career.
I didn't really know what to expect from Crown Heights or Machon Chana. But like most things, I have learned that G-d is so generous and kind and greatly loving in ways that I have no ability to foresee and little ability to comprehend fully.
Machon Chana has become my home and my extended family. It has been the greatest opportunity for learning about Torah, life, myself and others. It's so comfortable and yet just challenging enough to push me further and greater. It is difficult to describe just how much of a nurturing environment it is. Even though I have never lived at the dorm and a little bit older than the other girls, I have been received as part of the family and always encouraged to participate. From my first arrival, Mrs Gansburg, of blessed memory, was always welcoming and pleased to see me join in the meals or festivities or late night farbrengens.
The staff at Machon Chana, and I mean everyone involved from admin to teachers and dorm counselors to study-partners, all invest so much of themselves, more than just in the school or classroom. And then, there is Rabbi Majeski, the principal, like our caring father and trusted mentor. So very grateful.
Who else makes up Machon Chana? The students of course. Each student brings a special light to the family. They are beautiful inside and out.
My experience of Crown Heights doesn't end at Machon Chana. Whilst it was essential that I met the Rebbe's emissaries who led me to this time and place, it has perhaps been more important that I met the Rebbe's emissaries here in Crown Heights. You happily invite me for Shabbat meals, call to check in how I am doing, greet me in the street with a sunny smile and much more. I even have a Crown Heights mom and dad, Rabbi Moshe and Kraindy Klein.
G-d has been so generous and kind and greatly loving in ways that I had no ability to foresee. I truly feel like I have the Rebbe's blessings and I hope he will always be proud of me.
The Rising Life: Challah Baking. Elevated
The Rising Life explores challah as a recipe for a life well lived. Filled with gems of Kabala, Torah and Chasidic lore, The Rising Life is a treasure chest of a book that will entertain, inform and inspire the reader. Written by Rochie Pinson in a uniquely engaging and warm voice. Challah baking as a recipe for balanced, integrated nurturing of our self and our loved ones. The recipe of challah explored as a recipe for life. A tremendous scope of fascinating information, from the history of challah to the significance of the challah shapes as we know them today. Segulot, Kabbalistic traditions, and customs related to challah. Charming and whimsical illustrations are sprinkled generously throughout the book. This book was written as a companion book to the challah cookbook, RISING! The Book of Challah.
Continued from previous issue, a letter dated 15 Tammuz, 5723  to the Annual Convention of the Rabbinical Alliance of America
It is incumbent to exert every effort so that each and every Jewish child should study in an all-day Yeshivah or when this is not feasible, that every Jewish child should attend a Hebrew all-day school. But although this is the aim, we must recognize the fact that far too many Jewish children do not study Torah all day or do they even attend Hebrew all-day schools. A vast number attend public schools and to these children we must also turn our attention for we must not despair nor may we neglect them. The circumstances requires that a supreme effort be made to preserve the spark of Jewishness in each child so that it will not be extinguished, G-d forbid. At the very least, these children should recite a "proper prayer" each day so that the "name of G-d will be fluent on their lips."
It goes without saying that this is not the ultimate objective, for as stated above, the ideal situation would be for all and every Jewish child to study in a Yeshivah. But since this is not yet achieved, we must not make light of having the children in the public schools at least recite a proper prayer. While the performance of the Mitzvah [commandment] of "proper prayer" is only a minimum, it must not be disregarded. Especially as there are some people who are waging a battle against the mere mention of G-d's name in the public schools and thus, regardless of their intentions, creating an appalling Chillul Hashem [desecration of G-d's name].
It is superfluous to emphasize again and again that what is referred to here, is a nondenominational prayer. And to insure that the nondenominational aspect is heeded in all the schools. Bible-reading in Public schools should be ruled out to prevent introduction of religious subjects nonacceptable to many.
The following precedent established by the saintly Baal Shem Tov will serve to discard the wrong stand of some misguided people, as well as those who oppose the mention of G-d's name in the public schools, supposedly, in deference to the Shulchan Aruch!
One of the Baal Shem Tov's "holy tasks" was to use every opportunity to cause people, men, women and children, to bless G-d's name. He would ask them how they are, so that they would reply: "Thank G-d", etc. My father-in-law of sainted memory, emphasized that the Baal Shem Tov would do so not only in the synagogue and at home, but also in the street and stores, and places of work; at every time and every place....
May you achieve success in your endeavors to enhance the position of Torah and Mitzvos in the daily life, each in your community. And in matters of holiness there is always room for improvement, for their source is the Infinite, blessed be He.
May the Almighty grant that you act with the fitting warmth and inner joy in the conviction that you are in the service of G-d, and may others learn from you and follow your example.
With esteem and blessing for abundant success,
26th of Tammuz, 5721 
Greeting and Blessing:
I was pleased to receive your letter on the 18th of Tammuz, as well as the regards through the visitors from England. I trust that the visitors will also bring back with them regards from here, and share their inspiration and experience with their friends back home.
As requested, I will remember all those mentioned in your letter, in prayer, when visiting the holy resting place of my father-in-law of saintly memory, and may G-d grant that you will have good news to report.
I trust it is unnecessary to emphasize to you, and that you will also convey it to the others, that the daily life in accordance with the Torah and mitzvos is the channel and vessel to receive G-d's blessing in all one's needs.
As we are now in the midst of the Three Weeks, and our Sages said that Jerusalem was destroyed only because the education of young children was disrupted in it ( [Tractate] Shabbos 119b), this is the time to increase all activities designed to make amends for, and offset the failings of the past, namely, activities for kosher Jewish education.
Hoping to hear good news from you,
Moses received the Torah from Sinai and passed it on to Joshua; Joshua passed it on to the Elders; the Elders to the Prophets...(Ethics 1:1)
Why does the Mishna state "from Sinai," instead of "from G-d"? Saying "Sinai" underscores two important character traits. On the one hand, Sinai is a mountain, reminding us to stand tall in the face of all challenges. Nevertheless, Mount Sinai is "lower than all the mountains," emphasizing that this pride must be tempered by humility. (Sichot Kodesh Shemini, 5731)
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
Last Shabbat was the Seventeenth of Tamuz, when the ancient city of Jerusalem was assaulted by invading gentiles. Twenty-one days later, on the Ninth of Av (Tisha B'Av), the Holy Temple was set afire and razed.
The fact that this interval on the Jewish calendar is known as the "Three Weeks" and not the "Twenty-One Days" is not incidental. The number three alludes to the inner significance and function of the Three Weeks as a period of preparation for the Third Holy Temple.
On a superficial level the Three Weeks are a sad time, a period of mourning for the destruction of the Temple and the beginning of the Jewish people's current exile. But on a deeper level they contain a hidden good. Why? Everything that happens in the world is directed by G-d. G-d is the essence of good, and everything He does is good, even if it doesn't appear that way at first. Having come directly from G-d, there is no other possibility.
Accordingly, the Three Weeks, although superficially associated with sadness, contain a positive meaning: At the exact moment when the Second Holy Temple was destroyed, the Third and eternal Holy Temple was constructed up in heaven! In this light the entire destruction can be seen as nothing but a preparatory stage in the Redemptive process, a necessary step toward the Final Redemption with Moshiach, at which time the concept of exile will no longer exist.
At present, the good contained within the Three Weeks remains hidden. But reflecting upon its true, inner meaning hastens the day when its inner goodness will be revealed, when the Temple will be reestablished.
Let us therefore accustom ourselves to seeing the hidden good that exists in all things, thereby meriting the ultimate revelation of inner goodness with the arrival of our Righteous Moshiach.
Pinchas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, has turned My anger away from the people of Israel, while he was zealous for My sake among them (Deut. 25:11)
In enumerating Pinchas' praise, the first thing the Torah mentions is that he acted "among them." In Judaism, true zealousness for G-d does not mean withdrawing from society and becoming a recluse, but expressing it on the communal level.
(Rabbi Pinchas of Koretz)
From Yetzer, the family of the Yitzrites; from Shilem, the family of the Shilemites (Deut. 26:49)
Our Sages said: "A person is led in the direction he wishes to go." If a person wants to indulge his "yetzer," his evil inclination, he will not be prevented from doing so. But if he truly strives for wholeness (from the same Hebrew root as "Shilem") and purity, G-d will help him achieve his goal.
(Rabbi Yechiel Michel of Zlatchov)
Attack the Midianites...for they attack you (Num. 25:17,18)
The Children of Israel were not commanded to battle the Midianites because of past events; they were not seeking revenge for past aggression. Rather, the Midianites are still our enemies who seek our destruction - "for they attack you." And as the Torah teaches: "If someone comes to kill you, rise up and kill him first."
And Moses did as the L-rd commanded him, and he took Joshua...and he laid his hands upon him, and gave him a charge (Deut. 27: 22-23)
The Talmud relates that Moses passed the mantle of leadership to Joshua "even more generously, and to a greater degree than he was commanded." Commented Rabbi Yossi Bar Chanina: From this we learn that a person is not jealous of his disciple.
The Western Wall, the Kotel, is the one remaining wall of the great walls that surrounded the Holy Temple. Its name refers to the fact that it stood on the western side of the Temple.
When the Temple was destroyed, G-d swore that this part of the wall would remain forever. Our Sages say that the Divine Presence never leaves this holy site. For this reason, the Kotel has become the national spiritual focal point.
Tens of thousands of Jews have undertaken pilgrimages to Jerusalem throughout the centuries, even when it was very dangerous, in order to stand before G-d in prayer at this holiest place. The tradition has been passed down that no prayer offered at this most sanctified spot goes unanswered.
The Kotel consists of four layers of stones, dating from different time periods and constructed in different styles. The lowest level consists of the largest stones, which date back to the first Temple of King Solomon. The largest stones are actually several meters high, one even calculated to weigh 400 tons!
The second level of stones dates to the time of the Second Temple. The third level was laid 700 years ago. The highest seventeen upper rows, which consist of much smaller stones, were laid only about a hundred years ago by Sir Moses Montefiore.
Architects and engineers are puzzled as to how the huge blocks of stone were quarried and brought to the site without modern methods of transportation.
Our Sages, however, have given the answer: The enormous stones were borne aloft and laid one on top of the other in a miraculous fashion.
The great tzadik, Rabbi Chaim ben Attar, known as the Ohr Hachayim (HaKadosh), after his work of the same name, had many remarkable students. One of them was Rabbi Chaim Yosef David Azulai, who is known by the acronym of his name, the Chida.
When the Chida went to live in Israel his teacher gave him, as is the time-honored custom, a note to insert between the stones of the Kotel. The Chida took the note, put it in a safe place, and resolved to follow his master's bidding as soon as he arrived in the Holy Land.
When he arrived in Israel, the Chida decided that rather than depend on charity of any kind, he would work by the sweat of his brow. To implement his plan, he bought a donkey and a wagon and set about earning his meager subsistence as a hauler of clay.
He lived in this way for the first few years, satisfied that he was managing through his own efforts, and avoiding accepting charity. Then, suddenly his donkey died, leaving him with no means of support.
The Chida was crushed by this unforeseen turn of events, and as Torah teaches us, he searched into his actions trying to discover the reason for his suffering this calamity. Then he realized: the note! He had completely forgotten about it. The Chida first immersed himself in a mikva. Then he hurriedly found the paper on which the Ohr Hachayim had written his message, and rushed with it to the Kotel.
Once there, he inserted it, unread, into the deep crevices of the ancient stones. He immersed himself in prayer, asking the forgiveness of his teacher. Feeling much relieved, the Chida returned to his usual place in the study hall. But something was different.
People were looking at him with different gazes than before and treating him with great deference and almost fear, as if he was a notable personage. "What has happened that you are behaving in this strange manner towards me?" he asked them.
But the people themselves couldn't explain what it was about him that provoked their reaction. "Maybe you can tell us what is different about you today," they replied.
With that, the Chida told them about his misfortune, which he regarded as a punishment for his forgetting about the note he had forgotten about for so long.
He explained to them that today he had at last completed his task and obeyed the Ohr Hachayim by placing the note in the stones of the Kotel.
When the scholars of the study hall and the heads of the community heard this story, they were very curious to know what was written on the note.
Invoking all their authority, they implored the Chida to show them where he had placed the note. He took them to the exact spot at the Kotel where the note lay.
They took it out and opened it. The message on the note read, "My sister, my bride [mystical references to the Divine Presence which rests at the Kotel] I beg you to help my beloved student in his time of need."
When word spread around Jerusalem of this wondrous story the people understood the greatness of the Chida and decided to appoint him Chief Rabbi of the Holy City.
Pinchas is identified with the prophet Elijah who will announce the coming of Mashiach. The Torah portion of Pinchas begins with Gd's declaration, "Behold, I grant him My covenant of peace." This is Elijah's mission, to establish peace among the Jewish people as the prophet Malachi relates, "Behold, I will send you Elijah, the prophet, who will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers." This emphasis on peace will nullify the cause of the exile, unwarranted hatred. When the exile's cause is nullified, the exile itself will cease.
(The Rebbe, 21 Tammuz, 1990)