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The light bulb is an important invention, one that illuminates our lives and improves our standard of living.
Although history attributes the invention of the incandescent light bulb to Thomas Edison, historians list 22 inventors of incandescent lamps prior Edison. And, of course these scientists did not create the properties of electricity and vacuum physics. They merely harnessed some of the natural resources that G-d put into his world for the benefit of mankind.
But Edison is given credit because he was able to develop a suitable material for the filament and a means of creating a vacuum in which the light could burn.
We can find multiple similarities between the development of the light-bulb and the way in which Chasidic teaching and the deeper dimension of the Torah was revealed to us laymen.
The inner dimension of the Torah too, stems from properties dating back to Sinai. Yet it took many centuries for it to become a vital component of Jewish life.
This phenomenon was "observed" by Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai but remained hidden even from the sages for centuries long. Then it was "rediscovered" by the Kabbalists of the medieval age, and finally clarified and refined by the Arizal to be released to the community of sages to use this wisdom - like light-bulbs - to illuminate their own lives and study halls, though not yet to the masses.
Only in 1698 the Baal Shem Tov came to this world with the mission of finally inventing the "light-bulb" of Chasidut. He developed a model which was now being manufactured by his many students, who became lighthouses in their respective regions, and attracted thousands of followers who could benefit from its light and warmth.
Subsequently, in 1745, came Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the leader who made that "light bulb" available to every single Jew regardless of his or her prior knowledge or affiliation. He provided an easy-to-follow manual of how to use the "light-bulb" to illuminate our thought, speech and actions and bring warmth and joy to every Jewish experience.
As with the light bulb, the factors that transformed the new invention to become more useful to all were an effective incandescent material and a higher vacuum. The Baal Shem recognized the G-dly soul that is latent in every Jew, especially the simple ones, the material that allows them to realize their potential as burning flames and luminaries. The vacuum which allows the light of Chasidic teachings to shine and be more effective than ever is the generations that come right before the coming of Moshiach, that are so spiritually numb - the intense darkness before the dawn.
This model is "economically viable," because G-d has given every Jew a mission, and Chasidut teaches us how to direct our G-d given energy and talents towards that mission.
Until the light-bulb was invented, people managed to get through life. Now, modern-day life relies on it so heavily that it is no longer a luxury but an inseparable part of everyone's life. Chasidut too, was a luxury when it was revealed, but now we are required to deal with spiritual challenges and opportunities that are indeed unmanageable if not for Chasidut.
One more point of light: the incandescent light-bulb is in the process of being replaced with brighter, stronger and longer-lasting sources of light like LED lamps; Chasidut too, is just a "taste" of the "Torah of Moshiach" which we will soon be able to enjoy in its entirety. And the good news is that it's real close, and we could make it happen sooner.
Condensed from an article by Rabbi Levi Liberow from prinmag.com
The Torah portion of Vayishlach begins with the meeting between Esau (interpreted by our Rabbis as the progenitor of Rome) and Jacob (the ancestor of the Jewish people) and the Haftorah develops that theme, focusing on the ultimate confrontation between these nations when: "Saviors will ascend Mount Zion to judge the Mountain of Edom and the sovereignty will be G-d's."
In truth, the conflict between the two is cosmic in nature. Esau is identified with the body; its drives and its cravings. He is a hunter and a man of violence. Jacob is identified with the soul. He is "a simple man, dwelling in tents," "the tents of study," devoting his life to the study of the Torah and straightforward, honest business dealings.
One might think: Well, that's perfect! There is no need for conflict. Let Esau have the material realm and Jacob take the spiritual.
But from the very beginning of their conception, this compromise was not accepted by either. In her womb, the Matriarch Rebecca felt an awesome battle between the two. They were, in the words of our Sages, "fighting over the inheritance of two worlds." For Jacob understands that the purpose of creation is not for spirituality and physicality to remain skew lines, but for the physical to become subsumed to the spiritual. And Esau knows about the spiritual and desires to corrupt it.
And so there is a conflict between the two. This conflict is reflected on an individual level, as the Esau and Jacob within each of us seek dominion. And it is reflected on a national level in the struggles of our people within the sphere of nations.
As stated above, the ultimate resolution of this struggle will be in the era of Mashiach. That, however, is dependent on the service of each individual. As each one of us defeats his individual Esau, achieving a personal experience of redemption, the path is paved for an experience of redemption in the world at large.
Our portion relates that, at their encounter, Jacob promised to visit Esau at his home in Seir. In fact, however, he never made that journey. Our Sages ask: Would Jacob, the embodiment of the attribute of truth, lie?
They explain that Jacob's words were future-oriented. When would he keep his promise? In the era of the Redemption, when "saviors will ascend Mount Zion to judge the mountain of Esau."
The intent is that the interaction between Jacob and Esau is of cosmic significance. For the ultimate of existence is not for the spiritual and the physical to remain as separate realms, but for the two to be intertwined and for spiritual awareness to encompass the worldly realm. So while Esau - material reality - is dominant, Jacob will not visit Seir. But ultimately, after the world will be refined and its spiritual content brought to the surface, he will also go to Seir. For every element of our existence must be brought into contact with essential Gdliness.
From Keeping in Touch, adapted by Rabbi E. Touger, published by SIE.org
From Teresopolis with Love
by Sara Gutman
Adapted from a talk at Machon Chana Women's Yeshiva.
As I was preparing my words to share with you this evening, I began thinking about where I am today and how far I have come.
I am from the small city of Teresopolis near Rio De Janiero, Brazil. I did not grow up religiously observant in any way, nor did I know what it means to be a Jew. My journey has been one step at a time. And looking back I realize that G-d has always made everything happen at the perfect moment.
To make my long story short, I came to Machon Chana thanks to Rabbi Yehoshua Goldman, the Rebbe's emissary in Rio. Rabbi Goldman has always been there for me and my family, supporting us in every way possible. After our family went through a number of challenges - my grandmother had passed away and we had a devastating house fire - Rabbi Goldman felt that it was a good time for me to learn about Judaism and to grow spiritually. So he contacted Rabbi Shloma Majeski, principal of Machon Chana to help smooth my application process.
As I said before, I was clueless before I came to Machon Chana and so I came having no idea what to expect in regard to most Jewish observances, Torah study, being part of a Jewish community, or even just life in the United States!
Although I knew some English thanks to my studies in law school, I was not fluent in the language. In addition, city life was the opposite of the rural lifestyle that I had grown up with.
Initially, I was not able to understand many things that were taught in the classes, not only because of the language barrier, but also because I had never been exposed to some of even the basic Jewish concepts we were studying.
I arrived right before Rosh Hashana. I had never kept kosher or celebrated Shabbat. I had never seen a shofar or a Sukka. I had also never seen so many beards and black hats!
It took time, but I soon came to learn and understand that there is a reason for all of the unusual things I was seeing, learning and experiencing. And the most important reason of all is to make a stronger connection with G-d.
The teachers were always so helpful and understanding, and in the dorm every little detail was taken care of for us. This made me feel very much at home and gave me the ability to adjust to my new environment.
When my mother came to visit me, she fell in love with Machon Chana. She wanted so much to be part of the experience for herself and also so that she could share it with my siblings. And thank G-d, arrangements were made for my mother to be able to study here as well.
Machon Chana has had an impact not just on me but on my entire family. All of the opportunities that Machon Chana has given to me and now also to my mother is unbelievable and I'm very grateful for all this.
I can't begin to tell you how much I have learned at Machon Chana. But if need to narrow it down to one thing specifically, it is love for one's fellow Jew. Now I know the real meaning of this all-important Jewish concept; all the people who helped us and everything they did and keep doing' are real life examples of love of a fellow Jew. At Machon Chana we learn by example.
No matter what level you are, Machon Chana makes you feel that you are always growing and becoming a better person than the way you came in.
by Malka Gutman (from a letter to Rabbi Majeski)
For a long time I knew nothing of my religion, or knew very little. For some reason, despite my lack of knowledge, I would read King David's Psalms whenever I had a chance, though I did not know the value of reciting Psalms at the time. Now that I have had a chance to study some Torah, I understand that these holy words written by King David as he went through his various experiences of life are what kept me up. But at the time, it was just something from deep inside me that I knew I needed to read and that I was always happy to read
It has been such a privilege that my daughter, my friend, my great companion, came to be with you in Machon Chana, and through her I was able to begin to explore a life of Torah as well.
Never before in my life have I felt so happy and been so at peace!
Although it might seem as if I do not understand anything as I sit in class, I am absorbing everything slowly. True, I am not starting in my 20s like most of the other students but my journey is different...
To find out more about Machon Chana Women's Yeshiva or their ten day Winter Program call (718)552-2422 or email email@example.com
Winter Study for College/Post-College
Study opportunities for college students and recent grads are offered by Chabad-Lubavitch. Short-term programs in men's and women's yeshivas for beginners take place over winter break. The Winter Program of Machon Chana Women's Yeshiva runs from December 24 - January 3 and takes place in Brooklyn, New York. It includes classes, workshops, tours, and Jewish cultural activities. For more info email WinterProgramMC@gmail.com or call (718) 552-2422. To find out about other winter study programs for college students visit chabad.edu/study or call (718) 510-8181.
The 34th completion of the study of Maimonides' Mishne Torah took place recently in locations around the world. The "Siyum HaRambam" marked the conclusion of the learning cycle and beginning of the new cycle instituted by the Rebbe to unite the entire Jewish nation around learning Torah.
12th of Tammuz, 5720 
Greeting and Blessing:
This is to acknowledge receipt of your letter of the 8th of Sivan, in which you touch upon the influence of Chabad and various other loyalties and obligations, etc.
There is, of course, the general principle that the larger sum already includes the smaller one, or, as our Sages expressed it, "In the sum of 200, 100 is included." I refer to the teachings and way of life of Chassidus [Chasidic teachings]. For Chassidus did not come to minimize in any way, G-d forbid, but to add to and strengthen all matters of Torah and Mitzvoth by instilling a spirit of vivacity and enthusiasm into all aspects of Jewish life. The Baal Shem Tov, whose 200th anniversary of the completion of his life's work we have just observed on the 1st day of Shovuoth, placed the emphasis on serving G-d with joy and on the awareness of G-d's Providence which extends to everyone and in every detail, in particular - two basic principles which go hand in hand together. For, when one reflects on G-d's benevolent providence and His constant watchfulness and care, etc., there is no room for anxiety, and the Jew can indeed serve G-d with joy and gladness of heart.
Although you will suspect me of being favorably inclined to the Chassidic point of view, and I will not deny it, and in any case it would be futile to deny it, nevertheless the fact is that Chassidus, far from creating a conflict in the matter of allegiance to the Torah and Mitzvoth [commandments], is the ingredient which gives the necessary flavor and zest to all matters of Torah and Mitzvoth, and can only strengthen and vitalize all positive forces in Jewish life.
I say this in all sincerity and with the fullest conviction, and I hope that you will accept these words in the spirit that they are given, especially as I am writing this letter on the auspicious Day of Liberation of my father-in-law of saintly memory, whose life and work fully reflect the above. You are surely familiar with the conditions of Jewish life in Soviet Russia in those days when, under the pressure of extreme religious persecution, many spiritual Jewish leaders fled from that country, and my father-in-law remained to carry the banner of the Torah and Mitzvoth almost singlehanded. His work was not confined to the Chassidic community, as you know, but to all sections of Jewry, including, what you call "the other camp," supporting, materially and spiritually, rabbis, yeshivoth and religious institutions also of the other camp, and with the same selflessness and peril to his personal safety, as he worked for the Chassidic community. This he did from the profound conviction that there are no two camps in the Jewish people; that the Jewish people is one people, united by one Torah, under one G-d. This is a tradition that goes back to the founder of Chabad and the founder of Chassidus in general who emphasized that the Chassidic movement is not the property of one Chassidic group, but the heritage of all our people, and that there will come a day when this will be realized in the fullest measure.
It is remarkable that when one reads the letters and bans by the early opponents to the Baal Shem Tov and his teachings, and if one does so without prejudice and with an open mind, it should make everyone a Chosid. In fact, the greater the attachment to, and veneration of, the Gaon of Wilno, the chief opponent of Chassidim in those days, the greater and more loyal a Chosid one should become. The reason is plain, for those letters also state the reasons for opposing the Chassidim, namely, the fear that they may weaken the foundations of the Torah, and Mitzvoth. How wrong those apprehensions were is obvious. Stop any Jew in the street, even one of the most stalwart adherents to "the other camp," and ask him, "What is a Chosid and what is his way of life?" he will unhesitatingly reply something like this: "A Chosid is a bearded Jew with long sidelocks, dressed in an old-fashioned way, who puts on two pairs of Tefillin, prays much longer, boycotts the movies, careful to eat only Shemura on Pesach [Passover], etc., etc." Further commentary is unnecessary.
I trust this will suffice on the subject matter, since this is the first time we have directly touched upon this question.
With best wishes of the Day, the Day of Liberation of my father-in-law of saintly memory, may his merits stand us all in good stead, and
The essence of Hakhel (the gathering together of the Jewish people in the Holy Temple once every seven years on the holiday of Sukkot) is existent even while we still linger in galut (exile) without the Holy Temple standing and without our own king. Hakhel is about strengthening our commitment to Torah, a theme relevant whether or not we have a king, whether or not we have a Holy Temple, and whether or not we can observe the Shemita - Sabbatical year that precedes Hakhel.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
On Tuesday (December 1 this year) we will celebrate the auspicious day of Yud Tes Kislev (the 19th of Kislev).
This is the day on which the first Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, was released from his imprisonment in the infamous Spalerno prison.
Rabbi Shneur Zalman was informed of his release from prison while he was reading Psalms, at the precise moment that he was reading the verse, "He redeemed my soul in peace..." (Psalms 55:19).
Our Sages have interpreted the word "peace" in this verse to mean one who is occupied with Torah study, in deeds of kindness, and in prayer. Thus, one's soul is "redeemed in peace" by being involved with these "three pillars" upon which the world stands.
This year we have double the energy to expand and enhance our involvement in these mitzvot:
The 19th of Kislev falls this year on the third day of the week, Tuesday, the day on which, during Creation, the expression "And G-d saw that it was good" (Genesis 1:10, 1:12) was repeated. Thus, we should do it with twice as much enthusiasm and vigor.
The 19th of Kislev is known amongst Chasidim as Rosh HaShana of Chasidut. As the purpose for the dissemination of Chasidut in the world is to bring the revelation of Moshiach, it is appropriate, especially at this time of year, to re-dedicate ourselves to assuring that all of our actions help hasten Moshiach's revelation and the long-awaited Redemption.
We will end with the traditional greeting on the 19th of Kislev: May you be inscribed and may you be sealed for a good year in the study of Chasidut and in the Chasidic ways of conduct.
I lived - garti - with Laban (Gen. 22:5)
The letters of "garti" have the numerical value of 613. Jacob was explaining that though he lived with the wicked Laban, he observed all 613 of the commandments of the Torah.
The remaining camp which is left may escape (Gen. 32:9)
This episode of Jacob and Esau in the Torah hints to the future wanderings of the Jewish people in exile. "The remaining camp which is left may escape" - G-d will never allow Esau to destroy the entire Jewish nation. When one king issues a harsh decree against the Jews, another king, in a different part of the world, will open his country's doors and allow the Jews refuge.
Save me from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau (Gen. 32:12)
Jacob feared two things: The "hand of Esau" - Esau's sword, and "the hand of my brother" - the hand of friendship Esau would extend toward him. Fraternizing with Esau more than necessary worried Jacob even more than the physical threat he posed. Esau's might threatened Jacob's body, but the other put Jacob's soul in danger.
(Rabbi Yosef-Ber of Brisk)
And Jacob came whole to the city of Shechem (Gen. 33:18)
Rashi explains this to mean that Jacob was sound in body, his wealth was intact, and his Torah-observance was uncompromised. We learn from Jacob to always strive for excellence in all areas of our lives. Even a person whose primary path in the worship of G-d is through practical mitzvot (commandments) such as charity and good deeds - should also strive to be perfect in study.
When the government authorities came to the house of Rabbi Shneur Zalman (the Alter Rebbe), founder of Chabad Chasidut, to arrest him for the first time, he slipped out the back door and went deep in the fields, thus temporarily avoiding arrest. When the police did not find him at home, they left. A short while later, the Alter Rebbe returned home.
Reb Shmuel Munkes considered the situation and decided that he must speak with the Alter Rebbe. He knocked on the door of the Alter Rebbe's room and identified himself. The Alter Rebbe allowed him in and he asked Reb Shmuel if he was aware of the seriousness of the situation. Reb Shmuel began relating the following story:
Rebbe Menachem Mendel of Horodok had a Jewish wagon-driver whom he frequently employed. At one point, however, Rebbe Menachem Mendel did not travel for many months. The wagon-driver and his family suffered from this lack of income. Finally, the wagon driver sold his horse and carriage and bought a dairy cow with the money. With the proceeds from the sale of the milk, the former wagon-driver was able to eke out a living.
Time passed and Rebbe Menachem Mendel suddenly called the man. "I would like you to take me on a journey," he requested.
"I'm truly sorry, Rebbe," the man explained, "but I sold my horse and carriage and have bought a milking cow in order to provide for my family."
"Sell your cow and purchase a horse and carriage," Rebbe Menachem Mendel instructed him. "I need to set out as soon as possible."
Without any hesitation, the man did as the Rebbe requested. As they traveled, the Rebbe pressed the driver, "I am in a hurry, let us go faster."
The driver whipped the horses and the carriage sped onwards. Soon, they were going downhill very quickly, with the driver barely able to control the galloping horses. To his horror, he saw they were heading straight toward a palatial house at the bottom of the hill. His efforts to slow the horses were unsuccessful and the carriage went right through the yard and stopped only after it broke a window of the house.
The poritz who owned the mansion was enraged and stormed out toward the carriage, pointing his rifle at the driver. "You did this!" he shouted.
"No, no! Not me!" cried the terrified man. "It's not my fault, but his!" he said, pointing to Rebbe Menachem Mendel who was sitting behind him meditating, oblivious to the entire incident.
The poritz aimed his rifle at the Rebbe. As he was about to fire, he suddenly froze, unable to move a limb in his body. The other members of the household had also come running outside. When they saw the poritz paralyzed, they begged the Rebbe for forgiveness and asked him to remove his curse.
"If he will promise never to harm a Jew, he will be cured," answered the Rebbe.
The poritz indicated his consent by nodding his head slightly, and his ability to move was restored. Later, as they continued their journey, Rebbe Menachem Mendel turned to the driver and asked, "How could you do this! Why did you put the blame on me? The poritz almost killed me!"
"Rebbe," replied the driver in all sincerity and with utmost respect, "when you didn't travel for months, I accepted it. Then, when you instructed me to sell my cow, I immediately did so. Though my family was left without an income, I trusted that you were a Rebbe and had reasons for making the request. When you told me to go more quickly I did so, though no wagon-driver allows his horses to run downhill.
"So, when the poritz came out, I figured, if you are truly a Rebbe, he will not be able to harm you. And if you are not, then you would have deserved everything you would have gotten. For, how could you have left an entire family going hungry for bread?"
Concluding his story, Reb Shmuel said to the Alter Rebbe, "If you are a Rebbe, you have nothing to fear by being arrested. If you are not, what right did you have to deprive thousands of Chassidim from enjoying the pleasures of this world?!"
Reprinted from Early Chasidic Personalities by Rabbi Sholom Ber Avtzon
Just as now we grasp physical reality as something natural, in the time of Moshiach we will grasp Gdliness as something natural. Not like the revelation of Torah secrets now, which comes only to select individuals like the Rashbi (Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai) and his colleagues, as something astounding like an amazing wonder which stirs the heart of the one who sees it...but in the time of Moshiach there won't be in an astounding way at all, and the secrets of the Torah will not be called by the name "secrets" nor by the name "wonders."
(Rabbi Shalom Ber of Lubavitch, From Yalkut Moshiah U'Geulah al Hatorah complied by Rabbi Dovid Dubov)