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In these days when the minds and hearts of Jews the world over have been turned to our brethren in the Holy Land, let us all take action, even if that action is seemingly as impotent as a passing shadow.
Depending on the time of day (i.e., the sun's location in the sky) the very same object's shadow will be short and fat or tall and thin. Since your shadow is always with you, it is a built-in compass, as long as you're not in a forest or a city of skyscrapers.
It's also a ready-made source of outdoor fun for kids - remember trying to stand on your friend's shadow?
The Baal Shem Tov comments on the verse in Psalms, "G-d is your shadow at your right hand," that G-d has implanted a spiritual dynamic into the universe: Just as the movement of a person's body is reflected and magnified in his shadow, every step of our conduct in this world likewise arouses spiritual forces of incomparable power.
Every action we take in this physical world, every mitzva (commandment) we do, has a reaction and ramification in the spiritual worlds.
But the concept of our conduct in this world impacting the spiritual worlds is not limited to physical actions. It also includes even our words (and thoughts) as illustrated by the following anecdote:
Once, while in the Baal Shem Tov's shul, two villagers were arguing. One shouted at the other that he would tear him to pieces like a fish. The Baal Shem Tov told his disciples to hold one another's hands, and to stand near him with their eyes closed. Then he placed his holy hands on the shoulders of the two disciples next to him, completing the circle. Suddenly the disciples began shouting in great terror: They had seen that fellow actually dismembering his disputant!
This incident shows clearly that every potential has an effect - either in physical form or on a spiritual plane that can be perceived only with higher and more refined senses.
With these teachings in mind, it might actually be a compliment to say of someone, "He's afraid of his shadow." If that "fear" is actually cautiousness toward his words and actions, fearing that they might have negative ramifications, then we would all do well to be afraid of our shadows.
But, lest one think that only our actions and our words create shadows, think again. For, in the words of the Previous Rebbe, "Thought is potent." Even our thoughts can effect the world. Thought knows no bounds; no partition can stand in its way; at all times it reaches its required destination.
We see an example of this from the story of Job, when his friends felt his plight despite their distance from him. People who are connected, friends or family, can often feel when someone is thinking about them. And if the thought is a warm one, one that shows concern for the person's situation, it can have lasting benefits. It can, according to Chasidic teachings, actually help a person spiritually and even materially.
And we all thought that a shadow was just an image cast on a surface by a body intercepting light!
This week's Torah portion, Vayeira, relates that Abraham established an inn for guests, and there he "called upon the name of 'kail olam,' the eternal G-d." Our Sages interpret this phrase to imply that Abraham was not satisfied merely to call to G-d himself, but that he taught others too to proclaim G-dliness.
What did he do? He established his tent at a crossroads in the desert and generously provided food and drink to wayfarers. After they completed their meal, he asked them to: "Bless the One who provided you with food and drink."
When the guests began to bless Abraham, he told them: "Was it I who provided you with food? Bless He who spoke and brought the world into being." By providing people with their physical needs, he made them conscious of the spiritual reality.
The Hebrew term kail olam has also attracted the attention of the commentaries. Translated here as "the eternal G-d," it can also mean "G-d of the world," or more literally "G-d, world." "G-d of the world" would imply that G-d and the world are two distinct entities, the former paying homage to the latter, while the more literal meaning is deeper, namely that G-d and the world are indistinguishable; everything is an expression of G-dliness. This is the intent of the phrase "G-d is one" that we recite in the Shema prayer: not only is there only one G-d, but everything in the world is at one with Him.
This is not only an abstract concept. It affects a person's fundamental approach to his life. When he sees G-d as "G-d of the world," he understands that he has obligations to Him. After all, if G-d is the Ruler of the world, a person has to pay his dues.
But that he thinks - is all he is obligated to do. In the rest of his affairs, his life is his own. It's like paying taxes. You have to give the government a percentage of your income, but afterwards, you can spend the remainder of your money however you like. Similarly, in a spiritual sense, such a person recognizes that he owes something to G-d, but his life is primarily his own; he can do with it whatever he wants.
When we appreciate the world as one with G-d, by contrast, our entire relationship with Him changes. Religion is not merely going to the synagogue or carrying out a certain body of laws, but an all-encompassing experience, affecting every element of our lives.
Every situation in which we are found, every person whom we meet gives us an opportunity to advance in our knowledge of G-d and our connection to Him.
This is the heritage that Abraham gave to his descendants - to spread the awareness that we are living in His world, that our lives are not intended merely to provide ourselves with a little bit of enjoyment and satisfaction, but are instead mediums to make His presence known to others.
From Keeping In Touch by Rabbi Eli Touger, published by Sichos in English.
by Tzippy Clapman
Rebecca, a hospital administrator who had no children, was an only child herself. I worked in the same hospital as Rebecca, and a friend and I would make monthly luncheons. We would hang posters all over the hospital and many Jewish medical students, nursing students, doctors and even orderlies would come. Guest lecturers came and we often focused on the upcoming Jewish holiday or special date. Rebecca always attended.
Years passed and I no longer worked in that hospital, so I lost touch with Rebecca. Then one day, I bumped into her just a few blocks from my home. Rebecca, now in her 70s, tearfully told me that her husband had died of sudden heart failure. She had retired from her job, and she was very lonely without her beloved husband who was also her one and only relative. She had moved to just a few blocks away from my home!
I invited her to come to our home for Shabbat. I told her that I would have one of my children meet her at her apartment door to escort her to our home and that someone would walk her home after the meal. She was very skeptical, "Let me tell you right off the bat that I am not a religious women and I don't even keep kosher or any of your traditional Judaism."
I told Rebbeca that I am not G-d, and I do not judge her religious actions, but I would truly love to have her presence at our Shabbat table.
For the next 15 year, Rebecca sat at our Shabbat and holiday table. Rebecca had never had siblings or children. She was very set in her ways. She could not stand children's loud voices and squabbles (common at our table). She could not stand a lot of movement (my children and grandchildren would run around the house). I would notice her look of displeasure during all those meals and I would feel sorry for her. But for 15 years, despite her disapproval at all the ruckus, Rebecca came back to our house every Shabbat and Jewish holiday. We also invited her to all of our birthday parties, and weddings, and other milestones. Rebecca was our official honorary Bubby for all those years.
Our children were not delighted with Rebecca as our continuous guest. But my husband and I decided that this was the best Jewish education we could give them; to teach them to tolerate her and treat her well despite her disapproval of them.
Over the years my children grew up and began to enjoy her presence. As they matured they began to understand how someone who had spent most of her life around very few people might feel. Although Rebecca needed us so that she wasn't totally alone in the world, we really needed her to teach us unconditional love for a fellow Jew.
Eventually Rebecca started to keep kosher. She began lighting candles for Shabbat and Yom Tov, and then she began keeping all the laws that she knew.
Rebecca was a graduate of Brooklyn College and during our time together, her graduating class celebrated her class's 50th reunion. There would be a weekend of dinners and conferences, and her class was going to walk down the aisle with that year's graduates and then have a graduation banquet. Rebecca was very touched that I attended this gala event which was quite costly. But I knew it was important that I was with her and took pictures and stood by her side.
Rebecca did have one distant cousin who would call her from Florida once or twice a year to make sure she was still alive. This cousin knew that she was in her will and she would even send her a birthday card. One day Rebecca turned to me and asked me if she should put me in her will. Without a second thought, I answered, "Absolutely not!" I very lovingly told her that if she wanted, she could pick a charitable organization to receive a donation after her death. I explained that this would be very beneficial for her in the afterlife. "But don't give anything to me!"
My children were shocked by my quick response and I noticed their eyes widen with amazement. After Rebecca left, my children asked me why I did not accept the offer. "Mommy, you are the one who cares for her, and had her all these years, you deserve her inheritance!" I immediately answered the children, "If I would accept her offer, she would feel that I did all this for her money!" My children had to admit I had a point, something they had not thought of.
Over the next couple of years, Rebecca became older and more frail and we advised her to wear an emergency alert necklace in case she fell or felt ill. I was the first "relative" on her list and she gave me the keys to her apartment. Once or twice I was summoned to her home by the response team, and ran over to see what was wrong and to deal with it. From one episode she was hospitalized for a couple of weeks, and we all took turns visiting daily with her. She had sufficient rehab and by the time she came home we happily had her back at our Shabbat and Yom Tov table.
We celebrated Passover last year with Rebecca and a few days later a neighbor called us to say that she had not taken in the mail outside her door that day. I immediately called and there was no response. She would always pick up the phone right away, glad to receive a phone call. My husband and I grabbed her keys and ran to her apartment where we found our beloved friend at her kitchen table with a cup of tea in front of her, no longer alive. I called her distant cousins in Florida and asked permission for us to arrange that she have a proper Jewish burial. The relative gave permission to release her funeral directives and to let us handle it all. Rebecca had a very large number of people gather outside her building as well as all my children's classmates and friends to bid her farewell with Psalms and tears. We had a minyan of men who attended her burial and made sure that everything was done properly and with the fullest respect.
I will forever be grateful to G-d for sending Rebecca into our lives. She helped bring out the best in us, and her presence gave my children a priceless sensitivity to the needs of a fellow Jew.
Tzippy Clapman, RN, MS, FNP, lives in Crown Heights with her husband, Rabbi Yehuda Clapman, a certified sofer. Tzippy, formerly a NICU nurse and now the director of school-based clinics, Condensed from an article in the N'Shei Chabad Newsletter.
Rabbi Rabbi Dovid and Devorah Bush recently moved to Sonoma County to establish Chabad of Petaluma, California. They will be offering Torah classes, community events, Shabbat and Holiday meals and other services to the local Jewish population.
Three new Chabad Houses on college campuses in the United States opened in time for the school year.
Rabbi Isser and Chaya Mushka Kluwgant have arrived in Woodland Hills, California, to start a new Chabad on Campus at Pierce College, just outside of Los Angeles.
Rabbi Hershy and Sheva Stolik arrived recently in Pasedena, California to establish a Chabad on Campus at California Institute of Technology (Caltech University).
Rabbi Levi and Chanee Raichik have moved to Athens, Ohio, where they are starting Chabad on Campus at Ohion University.
On the 28th of Nissan, 5750 (April 23, 1990) the Rebbe was notified that P.L.O. terrorists were threatening to attack various targets throughout the world. The following is the Rebbe's response at a public gathering, freely translated:
I was notified that the P.L.O. has given instructions to all its branches worldwide to strike at targets throughout the world, G-d forbid.
It is therefore necessary to invoke and emphasize the blessings from G-d to all Jews in all places, in all their needs. Primarily the most needed blessing is the miracle of the complete and perfect Redemption through Moshiach (whom we await every day that his coming not be delayed even as much as the blink of an eye). These blessings should be emphasized with complete trust and confidence, as well as with joy and gladness of heart.
We should especially fulfill the directive of the Chabad Rebbes, "Think good and it will be good."
This means that thinking positively causes the course of events to actually turn out good.
This information should be utilized not to scare anyone, G-d forbid, but rather in the positive sense, to enhance the service of the Jewish people in the study of Torah and the observance of mitzvot (commandments).
On the verse (Gen. 27:22), 'The voice is the voice of Jacob,' our Sages tell us that the power of the Jewish people is with "our mouth." Through our heartfelt prayers and Torah learning we can eliminate the plans of "the hands of Esau," the terrible schemes of our enemies.
Thus there should be additional activities in Torah study and prayer and in mitzvot in general.
Special emphasis should be placed on studying Torah diligently. For our Sages explain the verse, "If you will follow my statutes" to mean that if you will labor in Torah... "I will grant peace in the land. You will sleep without fear."
Through Torah study we eliminate all negative things and they are even transformed to good.
Also, additional prayers should be said. Keeping with the spirit of "thinking positive" it would be advisable to recite daily an extra three chapters of Psalms. One of these three chapters should be the final chapter of Psalms (ch. 150) which concludes with the verse, "Let every being that has a soul praise G-d." This means that every man, woman and child praises and gives thanks to G-d for His benevolence, and for the blessings and good fortune that He bestows upon us and will continue to bestow upon us.
Thinking positively causes the course of events to actually turn out good.
It would also be appropriate to add in the giving of charity.
Although "fasting" is out of place (especially in the context of "thinking positive") this does not contradict the giving of charity to redeem a fast.
It would be appropriate to give charity in the amount of two meals, and even better in the amount of three meals. This charity should preferably go to support people who learn Torah or institutions involved in disseminating Torah.
Certainly these directives will be publicized in all Jewish communities, to all Jews, men, women and children.
Emphasis must be placed however, to be very cautious not to scare anyone, G-d forbid. Rather, the purpose is to inspire everyone to enhance his/her Torah study and mitzvah observance, with true bitachon, complete trust and confidence in G-d, with joy and a glad heart.
The main thing is that the resolutions regarding the above should hasten and quicken the concept of "think good and it will be good" in actuality starting from the ultimate good - the complete and perfect Redemption through Moshiach.
The theme of Hakhal, to "assemble the people" is all the more necessary and it has a far deeper effect after the holidays of Tishrei have concluded. The purpose of Hakhel is to gather together the dispersed Jews and to inspire them to great fear of Heaven. We can then be certain that the gathering and the unity will continue to permeate tthe Jewish people when they are dispersed. Teh accomplish this, a far more powerful effort is requried.
(Sefer HaSichot 5748)
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
The 20th of Cheshvan, this year corresponding to Monday, November 2, is the birthday of the Rebbe Rashab, Rabbi Shalom Dovber. The Rebbe Rashab was the fifth leader of Chabad/Lubavitch.
The Rebbe Rashab was universally known for his steadfast defense of Torah true Judaism in Czarist Russia and for his establishment of the Lubavitcher Yeshiva, Tomchei Tmimim, in the town of Lubavitch in 1897. The Rebbe Rashab also worked diligently to implement the virtue of ahavat Yisrael (love of a fellow Jew) among all Jews. A key Chasidic discourse that the Rebbe Rashab delivered one year delved primarily into the spiritual roots of baseless hatred. However, the essence of the discourse was to foster love and unity among all Jews. "One must assume that the other person is good in every respect. One should not view others in terms of one's own experience, for one must judge every man positively and firmly believe he is surely better than oneself. Hence, one ought to be deeply distressed by the suffering of one's fellow..."
Once the Rebbe Rashab instructed his son the Previous Rebbe to travel to a particular place to help a particular chassid and businessman. When the Previous Rebbe returned he told his father, "I have done everything you told me. I did the favor in the best manner possible."
The Rebbe Rashab replied, "You are making a mistake. The favor you have done is a favor for yourself, not for the other. The A-lmighty has done the favor for the other; he arranged emissaries to fulfill the divine providence. The favor you have done is for yourself as it says in the Midrash, "More than the house owner does for the poor man, the poor man does for the house owner."
In the merit of the Rebbe Rashab let us all do our utmost to abolish senseless hatred and foster true, unblemished love for our fellow Jews, which is certainly the precursor to the final redemption, the coming of Moshiach, speedily in our days, NOW.
The men of Sodom surrounded the house, young and old, all the people from every quarter (Gen. 19:4)
Despite the wickedness of the inhabitants of Sodom, Abraham tried to defend them before G-d. In fact, Abraham was the first person in history to speak up in defense of others. The Midrash relates that Abraham declared to G-d, "If you want the world to exist, strict judgment cannot also exist; if You want strict judgment to exist, the world cannot also exist." G-d replied: "Because you seek to justify My creatures' behavior, I will reward you by anointing you as My chosen one, which I have never done to another. Furthermore, in all the ten generations that have passed since Noah and the generation of the Flood, you are the first person with whom I have communed."
(Sefer HaMaamarim 5686)
There is simply no fear of G-d in this place, and they will kill me on account of my wife (Gen. 20:11)
In this statement, Abramam voiced the two principles underlying his life's work: first, that making the world into a home for G-d means, above, all encouraging virtue and the pracice of justice; and second, that a virtuous and just society is possible only if it is predicated on the belief in G-d as the Creator and Master of the world.
G-d tested Abraham (Gen 22:1)
G-d tests us in order to bring our esssential soul-powers to the fore. Life in general - the very descent of the soul into this world - is such a test. Before descending into this world, the soul relates to G-d within the limits of reason. But when the soul is encased in a physical body, which is by nature antagonistic to spirituality, it must summon its innermost strength to reamin faithful to G-d despite its daily trails and tribulations. With this newfound dedications to G-d, the soul comes to apprehend and appreciate G-d in a much more profound and intimiate way.
(Sefer Hamaamarim 5700)
Reprinted from the Synagogue Edition of the Kehot Chumash - Chabad House Publications, Kehot Publication Society
One day, Reb Shraga Faitel Levin was studying with Reb Shmuel Berhzin, the local shochet, in the shul (synagogue) of Nevel, when the shochet's son suddenly arrived, searching for his father. Reb Shmuel's son was a wealthy butcher who lived in a different town.
"I'm just passing through," his son explained. "The Rebbe Rashab (Rabbi Sholom Dovber, the fifth Chabad Rebbe) is close by at his place of vacation and I am on my way to visit him."
"Wonderful!" exclaimed Reb Shmuel. "I wish I could also go!"
His son did not miss a beat. "I will buy you a ticket," he said.
Reb Faitel promptly seized the opportunity to express his overwhelming desire to see the Rebbe, and to his pleasant surprise, the young man bought him a ticket as well. The group set out on their journey.
The Rebbe Rashab was staying at a resort location not far from the Black Sea. The trio reached the closest port on Friday morning. It was a few mile walk to the village where the Rebbe was staying, with other small villages in between.
Before they began their walk, they decided to immerse in the Black Sea. Reb Faitel and the shochet immediately emerged from the water, but the son continued to swim around for quite a while. When he finished swimming, he rejoined the others to walk to the Rebbe's home.
Suddenly, the son dropped to the ground and lay there motionless. All his father's efforts to arouse him were to no avail; the young man was unconscious. Reb Faitel helped the distraught father carry his son to the nearest Jewish home, and as the son lay immobile in bed, their hosts ran out to fetch the closest doctor.
When the doctor finally arrived, he examined the patient. "I can't understand what happened," the father explained. "We were just swimming in the Black Sea and my son was healthy. When we continued walking, he collapsed to the ground, and he's been lying like that ever since."
The doctor looked at them in astonishment. "The Black Sea?" he repeated. "You swam in that water?"
"We didn't stay too long," the shochet said. "My son was there longer than us. He probably swam for a few minutes."
"A few minutes!" the doctor shook his head in dismay. "I'm sorry, but there is little I can do. That water is contaminated and prolonged contact has always proved fatal. Your son is in a coma, far beyond human help!" The doctor packed his bag and headed out the door.
The shochet turned to Reb Faitel in desperation. "Only the Rebbe can help us," he said. "We must go straight to him!" They left the invalid in the care of the hostess and walked to the resort, arriving at the Rebbe Rashab's residence on Friday night at midnight. When they arrived, the shochet immediately asked the assistant of the Rebbe Rashab to grant him a private audience.
"The Rebbe is not seeing anyone now," explained the assistant. "However, if you really must speak with the Rebbe, wait outside his room, because the Rebbe always goes from one room to the next between three and four in the morning. Then you will be able to speak to him."
The shochet and Reb Faitel waited outside the Rebbe's room for hours. Suddenly, at 3:30 a.m., the door opened and the Rebbe came out. "What do you want?" the Rebbe asked.
Reb Shmuel burst into tears and quickly related what had occurred. When he finished, the Rebbe made a dismissive gesture and said, "He will be here for Havdala (the ceremony marking the end of Shabbat on Saturday night)." Then the Rebbe went to a different room.
The pair looked at one another in amazement: Reb Shmuel's son was stretched out in bed, practically lifeless, and yet the Rebbe expected him to walk five miles to the resort in time for Havdala! However, being true Chasidim, they did not question the Rebbe's words.
A little while later, back in the village, the young man suddenly awoke to find strangers looking at him. "What am I doing here?" he said. "Where is my father?" The son tried to get up, but fell back, exhausted by the effort.
"Watch yourself!" said the woman of the house. "You are very ill and the doctor said you will die soon! Don't move or you might make it worse!"
The family tried all they could to get him to stay in bed, but he resisted. "What do you mean?" he said indignantly. "I came here to see the Rebbe, not to stay in bed!"
Gradually, he mustered enough strength to sit up. Then he stood up and walked around. After eating something, he left the house, against the strong exhortations of his hosts to remain and gather his strength. When he arrived at the house of the Rebbe Rashab, he opened the door to find the Rebbe standing at the table with the cup of wine in his hand, just ready to begin Havdala. He had arrived in time.
Decades later, one of Reb Faitel's sons related this story to his children. "This story," he observed, "illustrates the incredible faith of the Chasidim. This man had left his son on a deathbed with the doctor saying there was no hope for him, yet when the Rebbe said he would be fine, the Chasid did not return to check to see if the son had returned to heath. The Rebbe had spoken; his word was enough!"
by E. Lesches, reprinted from Beis Moshiach Magazine
The Talmud (Sanhedrin 92b) states: "This world exists for 6,000 years, and then one of desolation." Rabbi Sholom Dovber of Lubavitch explains: "'One of desolation' means that in the 7th millennium it will be desolate and empty from physicality." The physical aspect of the world will pass away, but the Divine vitality within it will continue to exist and in fact be elevated. The Rebbe continues, "In truth what is stated 'one millennium of desolation' is not really disappearance, but rather elevation to a higher level, and all that will be lost is the physicality. This does not mean that they will be nullified completely...keeps them in existence now is unchanging," for the truth of the world endures eternally.