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November 6, 2015 - 24 Cheshvan, 5776

1395: Chayei Sara

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  1394: Vayera1396: Toldos  

Living with the Rebbe  |  A Slice of Life  |  What's New  |  The Rebbe Writes
All Together  |  A Word from the Director  |  Thoughts that Count  |  It Once Happened
Moshiach Matters

The Best Windows Ever

by Rabbi Levi Liberow

Like millions of Windows users around the world, I too saw a message from Microsoft popping up on my desktop: "Get Windows 10." The message remained on my screen until I clicked "upgrade" and reserved the new operation system.

Reportedly, within four weeks since its launch, over 75 million devices were upgraded to Windows 10. What's behind Microsoft's aggressive campaign to get everyone on Windows 10? Why is it being offered free of charge and easy to install?

No one suspects that Bill Gates and Microsoft just woke up one day with an ambition to make life easier for all the many Windows users with a brand new, bug free, easy to operate system.

Offering Windows 10 - "the best Windows ever" - free of charge is hardly an act of entrepreneurship as much as it is a shrewd business venture which, Microsoft hopes, will make back every penny invested in developing the new system.

Microsoft is cutting out expensive tech support for old systems by aggressively promoting Windows 10. They are attempting to manipulate the natural evolution process from older to newer technology that would usually take three or four years, to just a few short months.

What's the Divine message we're getting through the Windows 10 promotion campaign?

Since the principles of Judaism were initially "invented" at Sinai, they haven't changed and they never will, much as the principles of computing have remained the same since they were first introduced. Only the operating systems have changed and adapted over time due to faster and better technology.

There are two major "operating systems" in Judaism, and they both help us out of our spiritual "exile":

The "old school" system turns to a Jew who is struggling to choose right from wrong. The Torah reaches out to him and offers support to make proper decisions, either by portraying the abundant reward or the bitter punishment - in this world and in the next - that his decisions will lead to.

The "new" operating system reaches out to a Jew who appreciates doing what's right because it's right. While he still feels the "old' struggle, it's easier for him to win the battle when he knows that his actions are part of a master plan to make the world a place where Divine meaning prevails.

Our world in the past was one in which the 'old' operation system worked better. This was because the reality of the world was such that evil usually prevailed. But ultimately good must prevail and the transition to that reality is happening now.

Signs predicted by the sages to signal the turning point in history from exile to redemption have begun to unfold before our eyes. To us they signal a new phase in how we should serve G-d.

The world we live in today requires of us to quickly upgrade from the old frame of mind in which the world was viewed as an adversary to G-d, to a frame of mind in which the world is gradually becoming what it was meant to be from its inception: a place G-d can call home.

Moshiach will come soon and the old system will be officially outdated and unsupported. And good for you: the vista we see through the old windows - a struggle between good and evil - will change and portray an everlasting struggle between good and better.

Maybe it's hard; changes are never easy, but we've got to live with the times. There is an amazing new world emerging: one in which we can see, smell and touch G-dliness with no passwords to remember.

G-d is launching an aggressive campaign: start living with your head in the future; look through "the best windows ever!" And one more important message: if you get it now, it's free!

Reprinted with permission from Principles Magazine, PrinMag.com


Living with the Rebbe

As we read in this week's Torah portion, Chayei Sara, after Sara passed away and Abraham wanted to bury her in the Cave of Machpelah, the sons of Chet offered to give Abraham the land for free. "A mighty prince you are among us," they said, "in the choice of our tombs bury your dead." However, Abraham refused their offer, and insisted on paying "the full price."

Rashi, the foremost Torah commentator explains: "The full price" means "its full value." Abraham was adamant about paying the full value of the field in order to completely dissociate it from its former owner, Efron. Had Abraham received it as a gift, Efron would have still retained a certain claim on the land, even though it now officially belonged to Abraham. By paying "the full price" for the Cave of Machpelah, Abraham severed any connection it might have had to its previous owner.

King David did the same thing many years later after he conquered Jerusalem. Jerusalem had been already captured and was under his control, yet David did not wish to receive it as a gift from Aravna. Like Abraham, David insisted on paying "the full price" for the site, in order to possess it in the absolute sense.

The spiritual service of every Jew is to refine and elevate his surroundings, through learning Torah and observing mitzvot, to the point that he becomes the true "owner" of his particular corner of the world. Just as Abraham paid "the full price" for the field he bought from Efron, so too is it necessary for every Jew to pay "the full price" - to expend real effort and exertion - in his service of G-d.

A Jew must never say to himself, "I have been blessed with a good head and many talents. Why should I have to work hard if everything comes to me easily? Even my Evil Inclination isn't so powerful that it has to be fought all that vigilantly."

In the same way that Abraham and David refused to accept what was easy, rejected "gifts" and insisted on paying "the full price," so too must we invest real effort on the spiritual "labor" of Torah study and observance of mitzvot (commandments). For it only through hard work and a little "elbow grease" that we will truly succeed in refining our surroundings and by extension, the entire world.

Adapted from Likutei Sichot vol. 10


A Slice of Life

How a Chabad Chasid Became a South Bronx Middle School Legend
by Deena Yellin

It's noontime at Jordan L. Mott Middle School in the South Bronx, and in the playground the tempers are flaring. A seventh-grade girl has discovered that a classmate had posted something about her on Facebook. The expletives are flying, and friends are taking sides. As the crowd grows, the tension thickens.

Enter Tuvia Tatik, dean of the seventh grade. He is dressed in a crisp white shirt, along with khakis and with tzitzit that sway as he walks. He listens carefully to both girls before speaking. "Is it worth fighting over?" he asks softly of the tall 13-year-old girl, who sullenly folds her arms over her bright-pink shirt and holds her oversized purse in her hands. Then he turns his attention to the other girl, whose thick black hair is pulled back with a white hair band: "I know you're mad. But is this worth fighting over?" He invites both girls to his office, where they can talk it out. "Is that good by you?" he asks each girl, who nods in turn. "If you beat her up, it's not going to make it better," he reminds each of them, as such an act could bring suspension and a phone call to parents.

His role as dean is to handle behavior and disciplinary issues in the seventh grade. "I'm not a policeman," Tatik said, asserting that he doles out discipline rather than strict punishment. "I'm here to help them become good citizens and train them for a good life."

Enforcing the rules does not dampen his popularity. As he monitors the hallways and lunchroom for trouble, teens shake his hand and high-five him, "Yo, Tatik." He grins back, slapping their shoulders. "Hey, this is my favorite student," he says of each and every one. Some kids want to gab with him about sports, others about their problems. "He can get on your nerves and stuff, but he's trying to push us to do good," said 13-year-old Raven, who sided with her friend in the brawl. "He breaks up fights all the time. And he explains math when we don't understand what the teacher is saying."

Tatik stands out in the three-story, red brick middle school in the South Bronx, which is dominated by students of color from the surrounding neighborhood. The bearded, yarmulke-clad psychologist is a father of six from Brooklyn's Crown Heights.

For the past nine years that Tatik has worked at the school, his day has begun at 5 a.m. with a bicycle ride to the mikveh, followed by morning prayers at a synagogue and then a rumbling 80-minute subway ride in which he thumbs his way through the Book of Psalms. He shrugs his shoulders at the arduous grind. "You get used to it," he said, explaining that he peruses the Torah, and occasionally naps on his way home.

For Chabad Chasidim like Tatik, there are no religious restrictions that prevent them from working in the public school system - even though they typically don't send their own children there.

"They get degrees in education or psychology, and it turns into a good job for them," said Alan Brill, a professor of Jewish-Christian studies at Seton Hall University. There are no statistics on how many Chabad Chasidim work in the public school system, but Brill estimated there are a few dozen.

Tatik never envisioned his current career. He grew up in a Conservative household in the Bronx, and attended public school. (His cousins even went to Jordan L. Mott.) His Jewish education consisted of once-a-week Hebrew school attendance in the afternoon. At age 27 he encountered several Chabad rabbis whose "message and vision," he said, inspired him as he was "searching for the truth." He became Orthodox.

Tatik worked as the warehouse manager of a furniture company for several years. After the business went bankrupt, he sought a new line of work. A close friend advised him that he'd make a great school psychologist. He liked the idea, since he had always been interested in psychology, so he completed two master's degrees, one in school psychology and a second in mental health counseling from Touro College. "I was 36, with two young kids and terrified," he recalled. "Working with kids was a different mindset than managing a business with grown men." But he soon discovered that he connected easily with young people.

He was working as a school psychologist at a yeshiva in Brooklyn when someone introduced him to the former principal of Jordan L. Mott, Shimon Waronker, who was also a Chabad Chasid. When the school's dean got sick, he was hired in his place.

"I used to come home with stories about kids with anger problems. Fights. Kids breaking windows. Punching fences. Pretty strong things," he said. Those stories are gone. "Now it's so much happier that we've moved it to a different level. Now we can talk about what their education is about."

In 2004 Jordan L. Mott was among the most violent schools in New York City, according to a list compiled by the New York City Department of Education along with the police department and the teachers union. The school was removed from the list in 2006, but remains among the city's so-called Renewal Schools, which are entitled to special funding because they are considered troubled.

"They are really great kids," Tatik said with genuine warmth about the students. "They come from difficult circumstances, from the poorest neighborhoods per capita."

Roughly 94% of the students are entitled to free lunches because of their poor economic background. As a group, they are underachievers: According to a recent quality assessment by the Department of Education, only 2% of the students met state standards in math, and 6% in English, as measured by test results. In 2011, a review by the Department of Education deemed the school at priority status because the students were not meeting the benchmarks for New York State testing, a status that remains in effect today.

What all the students have in common is the need for a relationship with an adult who understands and believes in them, he says. For many kids, Tatik is that adult. "Who's to say one of them can't cure cancer?" he said, noting that he often tells them, "You're just as smart as the kids on the Upper East Side, Long Island and Manhattan."

His faith has not gone unnoticed by colleagues and students. "They see he wears his yarmulke and his little strings. He prays. He eats certain food. He's strictly by his religion," said Edith Holloway, an assistant teacher. At a teachers conference earlier this year, Tatik drew attention by ordering in from a kosher Chinese restaurant. "I didn't even know they have a Chinese restaurant for kosher people," Holloway said. "Now other staff members like it, too. He turned them on to something new."

But far from serving as a barrier that makes him a cultural mismatch dividing him from his subjects, Tatik says his faith helps him connect: "There is a feeling that we are all together as one in the world."

Deena Yellin is a newspaper reporter in New Jersey whose work has appeared in The New York Times, Newsday, The Jerusalem Post and other publications. Reprinted from the Forward

What's New

Restored Synagogue

The historical building of the Grand synagogue in Kaluga, Russia, was opened this past month. The opening marks almost 90 years since the last time the synagogue welcomed Jewish worshippers at its doors. The Grand synagogue of Kaluga was built by the community in 1913 and operated for a dozen years until it was appropriated by the Communist government. Two years ago, the regional government returned the building to its historical owners.

In another part of Russia, the oldest synagogue in S. Petersburg, known as the "Small Synagogue," (in comparison to the Grand Choral Synagogue) re-opened its doors after four years of renovations. The synagogue was the hub of Jewish life in S. Petersburg even under the most grueling conditions in the past century.


The Rebbe Writes

6th of Shevat, 5728 (1968)

Blessing and Greeting:

I duly received your letter with the enclosed copy of a proposed will.

First of all, I wish to refer to the first part of your letter in which you write about the birthdays of yourself, husband and children. I wish each and every one of you hatzlocho [success] materially and spiritually. These generally go hand in hand together, and insofar as a Jew is concerned they not only go together, but with the supremacy of the spiritual over the material. Such supremacy does not mean the negation of the material but, on the contrary, to make the material a means and a vehicle for all things good and holy. I particularly send you my prayerful wishes that you and your husband should bring up your children to a life of Torah, chupah [wedding canopy] and good deeds, in good health and happiness with much hatzlacha for your husband in his field and for you in yours.

...May G-d grant that you should have good news to report in all the above.

With blessing,

P.S. Inasmuch as you invite my suggestions in regard to your proposed will, a matter which in this country is an accepted practice to make it early in life, and it is a segula for long life - I will offer the following suggestions, although I do not, of course, touch upon any of the aspects relating to investments and the commercial handling of the estate, etc.

Firstly, there is in my opinion an omission of an essential point, namely the matter of tzedakah [charity]. To be sure, those who will, after one hundred and twenty years, inherit their share of the estate will, please G-d, make provisions for the distribution of tzedakah of their own good will. Nevertheless it is a personal mitzvah [commandment] to provide for tzedakah rather than to leave it for others to do so, even the closest members of the family. Moreover, the provision for tzedakah should be one of the first clauses for a Jewish will.

Needless to say, the amount of tzedakah provided for in the will should be according to the generosity of the testator. But if you wish my opinion in this matter, I would suggest that the amount so provided should be chomesh/one fifth of the net estate, with the proviso that the distribution of the tzedakah should not be delayed until the whole estate is properly and fully evaluated, but that a proportionate amount of any and all distributions under the will should automatically be deducted for tzedakah.

A further point which is also essential and indeed, should perhaps even precede the tzedakah clause, as customary among Jews, is the matter of arranging for the various expenses connected with funeral, including tombstone, etc., in accordance with strict orthodox Jewish observance, so that these expenses should again not be left to the discretion of even the closest surviving members of the family.

In addition to the above, there are several other observations which I would like to make to make sure that everything be done in fullest accord with the Torah and yiddishkeit, especially in the matter of a Will. Consequently, unless there are compelling reasons to the contrary, I would suggest that the distinction which the Will makes (end of page four) between surviving and predeceased children, namely that those who are alive receive a full share individually, while the children of the predeceased receive one share collectively - if this is the meaning of the closure - be reconsidered, since it does not accord with the Torah. For according to the Torah, the children of each predeceased heir receive their parents' full share. Of course, the children of a predeceased child all receive no more than the share their deceased parent would have received were he alive, but no distinction is made between living and deceased children insofar as their share is concerned.

A further observation from the Torah viewpoint, and I trust you will not mind my mentioning it, is that according to the Torah, when there are sons and daughters, the daughters may receive any bequest which a parent wishes to make for them in the form of a gift, but not in the form of inheritance. Therefore it would be right, in my opinion, that a Jewish Will should make a distinction between the sons and daughters, such symbolic compliance being even if there is no more than on dollar difference. The important thing in this case is that the Will should bear evidence that it is made by a Jew whose life is based on the eternal truths of our Torah.

Finally, a technical point, in reference to page eleven, line four: the words "as then in effect" are usually added according to legal usage.

I am returning the copy of the Will herewith.

I have addressed the above letter to you, since it is in reply to the letter which you wrote and signed. But, of course, my good wishes and cordial regards extend equally to your husband.


All Together

The unique mission that is incumbent upon each and every person this year is to actively seek opportunities to gather people together. Each and every person wields influence on a certain number of people - perhaps adults, perhaps children, and is able to influence them to increase in all matters of Judaism. The foremost tool of influence is to serve as a living example. Those who involve themselves in this effort will certainly see success - great and resounding success, far beyond their own estimation.

(26 Tishrei, 5748-1987)


A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

This Shabbat is the annual Kinus HaShluchim, the International Convention of Emissaries of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Over 3,000 emissaries of the Rebbe from every continent in the world are arriving at Lubavitch World Headquarters, 770 Eastern Parkway, for the annual conference. After five days packed with Torah study, prayer, workshops, round table discussions, and farbrengens, hey will go back to their communities with renewed energy to continue carrying our their mission to prepare the world for Moshiach!

This Shabbat is also the Shabbat on which we bless the new month of Kislev, the third month of the Jewish calendar.

The name Kislev represents a fusion of opposites. "Kis" refers to a state of concealment or covering over, whereas "lev" (lamed-vav) is symbolic of the ultimate in revelation. (Lamed-vav, numerically equivalent to 36, six times six, represents the highest level of revelation of our six emotional powers.)

Kislev, in Chasidic tradition, is also called "the month of redemption." The 10th of Kislev is the anniversary of release from Russian imprisonment of Rabbi Dov Ber, the second Rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch and th 19th of Kislev is the release and anniversary of redemption of Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidism. And, of course, we have the victory and redemption of the Jewish people at the time of Chanuka that we celebrate on the 25th of the month of Kislev.

May the coming month truly be a time of thanksgiving and redemption for the entire Jewish people, with the coming of Moshiach and the Final Redemption.


Thoughts that Count

The status of the field and the cave rose (Gen 23:17)

From Abraham's example we learn that we can elevate objects by acquiring them for a holy purpose. In fact, the mere intention of using an object for spiritual purposes sanctifies and uplifts it, even before we actually use it, just as the Machpeila field was lifted out of its former status even before Abramam buried Sara there.

(Likutei Sichot vol. 35)


Isaac went out to pray in the field toward evening (Gen 24:63)

We recite the morning prayer before beginning our workday and the evening prayer after completing our day's activities. In contrast, the afternoon prayer requires us to stop in the midst of our mundane affairs and focus on G-d. Our daily mundane affairs are symbolized by "the field" the area outside the city limits, which is untamed and uncultivated. Though instituting the afternoon prayer, Isaac transformed "the field" into a place of prayer to God.The morning prayer undeniably serves as our principal daily renewal of divine consciousness. Nonetheless, afterwards, it remains to be seen how we will fare when we go out in "the field.' Will the secular and materiel influence of "the field' cause us to loose the spiritual awareness and closeness to G-d that we achieved during the morning prayer? By stopping in the middle of our mundane affairs in order to recite the afternoon prayer, we demonstrate that our involvement in material affairs does not separate us from G-d.

(Sichot Kodesh 5715)

Reprinted from the Synagogue Edition of the Kehot Chumash - Chabad House Publications, Kehot Publication Society


It Once Happened

It was a typical autumn day in 1906 when Rabbi Yedidya Horodner walked into the "Tiferet Yisrael" synagogue in the Old City of Jerusalem with a big smile on his face. With a grand flourish he placed a bottle of whiskey and some cake on the table, and invited everyone to make a "lechaim."

The congregants wondered what the cause for celebration might be. A rumor had been circulating that the day before, Rabbi Horodner had gone to all the local yeshivot and distributed candy to the children. Something good had obviously occurred, and they waited expectantly to hear what it was.

Indeed, after everyone had made a blessing on the cake and lifted a few glasses, the Rabbi filled them in:

The whole story revolved around the Rabbi's nephew, a 15-year-old boy named Shmuel Rosen who was originally from Riga. His father, Rabbi Ozer Rosen, had sent the lad to his uncle when he was only eight years old, in the belief that there was no better place in the world to develop the boy's intellectual talents than the holy city.

Rabbi Horodner raised little Shmuel as if he was his own son, and the boy flourished. He was a delightful child, and exceptionally devoted to his studies.

A few weeks ago, however, disaster had struck. After experiencing deteriorating vision for several months, Shmuel was now completely blind. The total darkness had set in as he was sitting and poring over a volume of the Talmud.

The boy's spirit was completely broken. For days and nights he wept over his fate, most bitterly over his inability to study Torah by himself. Suffering from a profound sadness, he withdrew and rarely ventured from his room.

His uncle felt helpless, until it occurred to him that a change of place might do the boy good. He contacted his friend, Reb Shimon Hoizman of Hebron, who agreed to let the boy stay in his house. Shmuel felt a little better in Hebron, but remained very depressed.

At that time the Jewish community of Hebron was headed by two Torah giants: the Sefardic Rabbi Chizkiyahu Medini (author of Sdei Chemed), and the Chasidic Rabbi Shimon Menashe Chaikin, the chief Ashkenazic authority in the city. Every evening at midnight, the two Rabbis would go to the Cave of Machpeila, the resting place of the Jewish Patriarchs and Matriarchs, to recite Tikun Chatzot (a special prayer lamenting the destruction of the Holy Temple).

Reb Shimon Hoizman was very affected by the boy's suffering. But what could he do to help? Then one evening, he came up with a plan...

About a half hour before midnight Reb Shimon went into Shmuel's room. "Wake up, son," he whispered to him softly. "Get dressed and follow me." The two went off into the night, in the direction of Rabbi Chaikin's courtyard.

A few minutes later the two Rabbis could be seen approaching, on their way to the Cave of Machpeila. As soon as they reached the spot where Reb Shimon and Shmuel were standing, Reb Shimon disappeared and left Shmuel by himself. The two Rabbis quickly realized that Shmuel was blind. With gentleness they asked him how he had become sightless.

When the young man got up to the part about how he had become totally blind while studying, Rabbi Medini asked if he remembered the last words he had been able to see. "Of course I remember!" Shmuel responded. "They were in Tractate Chulin, on the first side of page 36: 'On whom can we count? Come, let us rely on the words of Rabbi Shimon [Bar Yochai]' "

The two Rabbis became very excited. "If that is the case," they said almost simultaneously, "then you can certainly rely on the holy Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai to help you. Go to his grave in Meron, ask for his blessing, and G-d will surely heal you."

The next morning Shmuel returned to Jerusalem, and the very same day he and his uncle set off for Meron. It was a difficult journey, but after several days they arrived safely. Even before they approached the holy gravesite they were filled with a feeling of confidence. For days they remained at the grave of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, praying steadily to G-d for a miraculous recovery.

The miracle occurred exactly one week later. Rabbi Horodner was reading aloud from the Gemara when all of sudden Shmuel let out a yelp. "Uncle! I can see your shadow!"

Over the course of the next few days Shmuel's vision improved steadily, until 13 days later it was restored completely. Still camped out at the holy gravesite, uncle and nephew broke out into a spontaneous dance, as they sang the verses that are traditionally sung on the anniversary of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai's passing:

"His teachings are our protection; they are the light of our eyes. He is our advocate for good, Rabban Shimon Bar Yochai..."


Moshiach Matters

The Torah portion of Chayei Sara discusses Abraham's efforts to purchase a kever in which to bury Sara. The word "kever" has dual meanings: A tomb and a womb. The final redemption is likened to childbirth. At the time of redemption, the Jewish people will emerge from both forms of kever - from the womb of exile that gives birth to redemption and from the tombs that G-d will personally open for the resurrection.

(Ohr Hatorah)


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