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by Rabbi David Y.B. Kaufmann
What's the difference between a routine and a rut? We don't say about a car, for example, that it needs a rut maintenance. It needs a routine maintenance. The same thing applies to things we do on a daily basis, like brushing our teeth or eating breakfast. It's a routine, not a rut.
But if we ask for a definition, we'll get something similar. A rut is being stuck and not going anywhere. A routine is doing the same thing over and over again. But being in a rut can involve 'going through the motions' - doing something over and over again.
Of course, we recognize the difference. A routine has a purpose. We don't take the car in for routine maintenance just because. We do it because we want the car to function properly. The same is true for daily activities. We brush our teeth so they will be healthy. We eat breakfast so we can have energy to do what we need to during the day.
We have routines at work to maintain efficiency and to make sure things get done properly. Athletes have routines - certain things they do when practicing - so that they can perform during the game.
Routines also have what we can call intention. Even if we're going through a routine automatically, we do it with intention. There's a conscious effort, a will, behind a routine. We gear ourselves up: now I am going to do this, now I am going to do that.
The intention that drives a routine may be only semi-conscious at some points. But there is an awareness that we're doing this repetitive activity for a purpose. We have a goal in mind.
When dealing with a bureaucracy or a company that has to go through its process, its routine, we can get annoyed at the length of time and the layers we have to go through, but sometimes (not always) that routine is a safeguard, not just for them, but for us. And we go through the process because, again, we have a purpose.
Routines can be annoying and it often takes an effort to get into one, to get started. But they're important for organizing our lives.
A rut, on the other hand, is a repetitive process without intention. We do it because we have to. There's a sense of purposelessness, of why bother. This occurs not only before we start doing the activity, but continues while we're doing it. When we're in a rut, we don't act with intention. We have a feeling of helplessness, even despair.
The thing is, the same activity can be a routine or a rut. When we pray, for example, it can be an important part of our daily routine. Or it can be a 'going through the motions,' an activity we do but without any sense of purpose, any real intention behind the words.
It's easy to slip from routine into rut. It's hard to go from rut to routine. Both are repetitive activities, so maintaining a sense of purpose, maintaining intention, becomes the difference maker. And that's hard to do, because it requires a conscious effort.
But to accomplish something, to create significance, we need routines. Routines help build dedication. Ruts, on the other hand, keep us from achievements.
However, since the same activity can be a routine or a rut, clearly the difference is in our minds. Because routines have a purpose, because they exist to take us elsewhere, they let us perform. Therefore, routines lead us outward, towards others, and a significance greater than ourselves. Ruts lead us inward, to self-absorption and an inability to get beyond the ego. How we think about something, how we approach it, can make all the difference in the world.
This week's Torah portion, Teruma, communicates the command to build a Sanctuary. G-d told the Jewish people: "Make Me a Sanctuary and I will dwell within...." The Sanctuary, and later the Holy Temple in Jerusalem was "the place which G-d... chose... to place His name there." This was His home on earth, as it were. Just like a person can relax and express himself without inhibitions in his own home, so too, the Temple was - and will be - the place where G-dliness was revealed without restrictions.
In every person's individual world, his soul rests in his mind, and that makes his entire body human. Similarly, in the world at large, G-d's presence rested in the Temple, and that made it possible for us to appreciate G-dliness in every element of existence. The existence of the Temple makes the entire world His home.
Our Rabbis teach us that the Hebrew word for "within" b'tocham, literally means "within them," not "within it." Building a Sanctuary for G-d did not mean merely erecting a structure where His presence would be manifest. Instead, the intent was that every single person would become "a sanctuary in microcosm," for G-d would dwell "within them," within each and every individual.
All the details about which the Torah portion speaks have parallels in our relationship to G-d. They are not just particulars that existed in the Sanctuary long ago, but are instead ongoing motifs relevant to our bond with G-d. The ark in the Holy of Holies where the Divine Presence rested refers to the inner reaches that exist within our heart. For in each of us, there is a resting place for the Divine.
Similarly, the Sanctuary and the Temple contained:
the Menora, the golden candelabra; this points to the potential we all possess to shine forth G-dly light and illuminate our surroundings;
the table, on which the showbread was placed; this points to our potential to earn a livelihood; this is also a holy endeavor deserving of a place in the Sanctuary; and
the altar, where sacrifices were brought. Korban, Hebrew for sacrifice, relates to the word karov, meaning "close"; through the sacrifices, we draw close to G-d.
Although we no longer have the Sanctuary built by Moses, nor the Temple in Jerusalem, the sanctuary in every Jewish heart remains. The home for G-d within us is an inseparable element of our existence.
From Keeping In Touch by Rabbi Eliyahu Touger
Western Wall Vignettes
by Gutman Locks
Sometimes you have to work hard to convince people to have a good time. I met an American tourist who is a retired anesthesiologist. He had put on tefillin only once before; it was for his son's bar mitzva at the Kotel (Western Wall) 39 years earlier.
When I first tried to help him put on tefillin he strongly refused. I tried a number of different approaches and he finally let me help him.
After he read the Shema, I urged him to go closer to the Kotel to pray for his family and the Jews in danger due to this recent wave of terrorism. He stayed close to the Kotel for a long time. Then, when he finished praying he walked around, back and forth smiling for another ten or fifteen minutes while still wearing the tefillin. You could see from his face that he was enjoying himself.
He left the Kotel, and ten minutes later he returned, smiling. He walked around the Kotel area for some ten or fifteen minutes. Then he left again, and ten minutes later he returned. He walked back and forth all around the Kotel area smiling. He said, "I love it here."
I met a father and son at the Kotel. I put tefillin on the father and he read the "Shema." When he finished I placed his hand on his son's head and urged him to say the traditional blessing that fathers say when blessing their children but he couldn't do it.
As soon as I had put his hand on the boy's head he had to struggle to hold back the tears. His voice quivered. The boy picked up on the emotion right away and quickly put his head on his father's chest. That did it. The father broke down crying.
He cried and he cried and the boy cried, too. I waited but he couldn't stop. Every time he tried to say a word he broke down crying again. Finally, still crying, I helped him to take off the tefillin. They walked away with the father's arm tightly hugging the boy. Okay, so he didn't get to say the words, but the son definitely got the blessing.
Late Shabbat afternoon, a father sat his seven-year-old son next to me at the Kotel and said, "Okay, ask him your question."
The boy had a tiny voice, "If G-d renews the world every day, then what about Shabbat when He stops creating?"
I love it. Here is a question that most adults never dreamed of asking and a seven-year-old really wanted to know, "Then, what about Shabbat?"
Do you understand his question? In one place we are told that G-d ceased creating at the end of the sixth day, and rested from creating on Shabbat, and in another place we are told that G-d renews the world everyday! How do we reconcile these two apparently contradictory statements? Does G-d renew His creation on Shabbat, or does He "rest"?
Before answering his question I told the boy how wonderful it is that he asks questions like this. "Always ask questions. It is the best way to learn. On everything that you do not understand, ask."
Then I explained, actually, G-d renews the world every second. He holds everything in its form all the time, because if He didn't, everything would disappear. It would just stop being. G-d is forming everything right now out of nothing!
Then, what about Shabbat when G-d rests from creating? What this really means is that from that first Shabbat on G-d rested from creating any new things, and from then on everything new that comes in the world comes from something else that was already here."
I explained that this means that during the first week everything was first created solely from G-d's "words." But now, things come from other things. For instance, a baby is made from the mother and father, and the table is made from the tree, and on and on, but during the first week everything was brought into being without there having been any preexisting matter for it to come from. It was from this type of creating that G-d rested, (ceased).
The boy seemed to understand. His father asked me to give the boy a blessing. I said, "When you grow up, may G-d make you even better than your Mommy and Daddy." The boy beamed at his father, and smiled at the idea.
I asked him his name. He said, "Ezra Yehudah". I told him that before a baby is born G-d whispers to the baby's mother and father what name the new baby should have, and that name shows what that child is coming into the world to do. I told him to learn all about the great deeds of the first men to be called Ezra and Yehudah and those were the things that he should try to do in his life.
They walked away very happy. I was surprised that I had never heard that question before, and amazed that it came from such a young boy.
Reprinted with permission from www.thereisone.com. Gutman Locks is well-known at the Western Wall's Chabad Tefillin Booth for two decades. With humor, warmth and love, he helps thousands of Jews try this mitzva. He is the author of several books and musical tapes.
Curiosity and the Desire for Truth
In Curiosity and the Desire for Truth, Dr. Velvl Greene, a Nasa scientist recounts his search for higher meaning and deeper understanding of purpose. Presented as a series of flashbacks, and written as if Dr Greene was speaking directly to you, one is left with the feeling as though they'd just enjoyed a highly stimulating and entertaining conversation with this unique individual. Dr. Greene manages to derive profound life lessons from the world around him; a world that reached from the laboratories of NASA, to the study of the most sought after spiritual leader in recent history; from the front line of the civil rights movement, to smuggling contraband into Communist Russia. While his ability to find depth in seemingly simple ideas might rightly encourage you to slow down to focus on the little things, the man you meet in these pages is quick witted, sharp tongued, with a generous dose of chutzpah. The wise and heart-warming stories are sugar coated with gentle humour, drawing a smile that stays until the last page. Arthur Kurzweil Publishers
Rosh Chodesh Adar 1, 5730 (1970)
This year's conference, taking place in the month of Adar I, brings to mind the significance of our leap year, and its relevance to our daily life. For, although our Jewish calendar year has a basic logic of its own, it, too, like everything else in Jewish life, must be related in a practical and tangible way to our personal lives and responsibilities.
The fundamental reason for adding an extra month in our leap year is, of course, the fact that the Torah requires our calendar to be based on the lunar year, which is shorter than the solar year by approximately eleven days. At the same time it requires that our festivals take place in their due season (Passover in the spring, Sukkoth in the autumn, etc.). This necessitates an adjustment once in two or three years, in order to make up the deficiency of the lunar year in relation to the solar year.
The lesson contained in this calendar arrangement is that a person can in one year make up for deficiencies in past years.
Furthermore, just as the leap year not only makes up the deficiency, but also provides an "advance" on the future, so must the individual from time to time not only make up what he has failed to accomplish, in the past, but also make a special and extra effort to go a step forward as a reserve for the future.
In addition, the Jewish leap year has a special relevance to Jewish women, mothers and daughters. The sun and the moon were created as "the two great luminaries," but each has been given its own place and function. The moon acts as a reflector and transmitter of the sun's light. In this way it has a special quality in that it transmits the solar light and energy to those areas in nature where direct sunlight would be too intense to be beneficial.
Similarly, the Jewish wife, in many respects, must reflect and transmit the Torah way of life to the entire household, and it is in this way that she fulfills her great responsibility and privilege of being the Akeres HaBayis - foundation of the home.
In taking stock of your accomplishments in the past, you will find much to be gratified with, but these very accomplishments will also reveal that with a little more effort, a great deal more could have been accomplished. It is, therefore, to be hoped that you will resolve not only to make up the "deficiency," but in keeping with the spirit of the leap year, also make an advance on the future. After all, true progress cannot be limited to making up deficiencies. It is necessary to forge ahead steadily, and from time to time, to also advance by leaps and bounds.
It is necessary to forge ahead steadily, and from time to time, to also advance by leaps and bounds.
In accordance with the teaching of the Baal Shem Tov, to the effect that every experience should serve as a lesson toward better service of G-d, the leap year serves to remind us that everyone has an opportunity to make up for any deficiency in the past, and sometimes even to accumulate a little reserve for the future, as in the case of our leap year.
Chabad Chassidus emphasizes this point in a very basic manner, since by very definition Chassidus is a way of life that demands a little more effort than called for in the line of duty - a little more dedication, a little more depth, a little more enthusiasm; and enthusiasm itself provides a breakthrough in overcoming limitations.
- (Back to text) The lunar month is 29 or 30 days. One lunar cycle is 354 days, while one solar cycle is 365 days. An extra month is inserted seven times in 19 years in order to make the holidays in their correct seasons.
- (Back to text) At times the additional month actually makes the year longer than 354 days thereby giving an "advance" toward the upcoming year.
Rav Avrohom Gurwitz, head of the Gateshead Yeshiva, points out that the mitzva (commandment) of Hakhel involves the confluence of three mitzvot (commandments): the end of the Shemitta (Sabbatical) year, the festival of Sukkot, and Aliya L'regel (ascending to the Temple thrice annually for the festival pilgrimage). He suggests that all three of these mitzvot have a common theme: strengthening our emuna and bitachon (faith and trust) in G-d.
(Parsha Potpourri by Rabbi Oizer Alport)
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This Tuesday is the 7th of Adar I, the birthday and yartzeit of Moses. (In a leap year, such as our current year, there is a difference of opinion as to whether we commemorate this date in the first or second month of Adar. Since both opinions are "the words of the Living G-d" it is appropriate to commemorate the date in both months.)
Our Sages compare the conduct of three righteous men: Noah, Abraham and Moses. Noah was completely righteous, yet did little to influence the behavior of the people around him. Abraham, by contrast, was focused outward and spread the knowledge of G-d wherever he went. But Moses embodied the true paradigm of Jewish leadership, going beyond all others in his commitment and bond with the Jewish people.
As Rashi notes, "Moses is Israel, and Israel is Moses." Moses was so thoroughly identified with the Jewish people that however deep his connection was with the Torah, his connection to the Jewish people was deeper. When G-d told Moses He wanted to destroy the Jews because of the sin of the Golden Calf, Moses was willing to sacrifice his very soul. "If you would, forgive their sin," he replied to G-d. "And if not, please obliterate me from the book You have written." Moses' connection to all Jews, regardless of their conduct, stemmed from the essence of his being, and connected with the innermost being of every single individual. By serving as a "shepherd of faith," Moses sustained and nurtured the Jewish people's faith in G-d, prompting the expression of the essential bond all Jews share with the Infinite.
In the thousands of years since, every generation has had its own "Moses," whose role is to act as an "extension of Moshe Rabbeinu" by infusing the Jewish people with a yearning for the Redemption and a sincere longing for Moshiach. When the essential connection we share with G-d and with each other is aroused, Redemption is the natural result. May each and every one of us live up to our potential, and together reach that ultimate goal immediately.
From the cover (itself) shall you make the cherubim (Ex. 25:19)
The cherubim were made with the faces of small children, one a boy and one a girl. From this we learn that providing the proper Jewish education for even our tiny children is a basic principle necessary for our keeping the Torah.
(Rabbi Yosef Ber of Brisk)
Within and without shall you overlay it (Ex. 25:11)
A true Torah scholar is one whose "inside" matches his "outside." Merely learning the lofty principles contained in the Torah is not enough - its lessons must also be internalized. That is why we say in Psalms (45:14), "All the glory of the king's daughter is within." The splendor and glory of the Torah is the internal purity it leads to.
The menora shall be made (Ex. 25:31)
Rashi explains that the words "shall be made" are passive, indicating that the menora would be made by itself, and not by Moses, who was in the midst of receiving instructions from G-d how to fashion all the other utensils to be used in the Sanctuary. Rashi states that Moses did not fully understand how the menora was to be formed, so G-d told him to throw the gold into the fire, and He would make the menora Himself. Why was Moses so perplexed by the menora, but not by any other command even more complex? Our Sages said that the purpose of the menora was to serve as a testimony to all who saw it that the Divine Presence rested among the Jewish People. Moses, for his part, had difficulty understanding how it was possible for one small menorah to light up the entire physical world. G-d answered him: You are right--this is beyond the power of mere flesh and blood. Therefore, throw the gold into the fire and I Myself will make the menora.
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)
One day there was excitement in the study hall of Zaslov: two emissaries of the Baal Shem Tov - the tzadikim (righteous) Reb Nachman Horodenker and Reb David Furkas - arrived on a mission from the Baal Shem Tov. The Baal Shem Tov had instructed them to raise the sum of sixty gold florins that very day. This money was needed for pidyon sh'vuyim (redemption of captives); the entire sixty florins had to be delivered immediately by special messenger, for time was short.
The emissaries arrived just as the people were finishing the recitation of Psalms. As soon as the emissaries finished speaking, a list was drawn up of all residents of the town who were the Baal Shem Tov's Chasidim. A Rabbinical Court was constituted to assess how much each citizen could afford to contribute. This court appointed collectors to go to peoples' homes immediately and collect the imposed tax. If there was anyone who did not have sufficient cash on hand, they could take from him some article of value as collateral until the sum was paid in cash.
Within less than three hours, the collectors returned to the study hall with the full amount of sixty gold florins. They had also drawn up a ledger in which they had recorded the names of those who had paid their assessment in cash, those who had made pledges and given collateral, and those who had given loans guaranteed by the collateral taken from those who had not yet paid.
Just then, wailing was heard in the antechamber of the study hall. Several women whose husbands were not at home had arrived: one was a tailor who worked somewhere in the country; one was a peddler who went from place to place with a pack full of merchandise; one was a teacher at an inn.
These women had heard that the Besht had sent emissaries to collect contributions for a great mitzva (commandment). Since no one had approached them to ask for a contribution, they had come themselves, bringing pledges (for they had not cash on hand). One had brought her candlesticks, one had brought a wine goblet, another had brought a down-stuffed pillow.
The collectors, in turn, declared that their mission was to demand cash or pledges from those whose names appeared on the assessment list given to them by the court. From people whose names did not appear on the list, they had no authority to accept cash or pledges. Upon hearing that their husbands' names were not even mentioned on the list, the women raised such a cry that even Reb Nachman and Reb David heard it, and became very frightened.
When the members of the Rabbinical court learned that the collectors had returned with their mission accomplished, they hurried through the rest of their prayers. Against their better judgment (for the husbands were very impoverished Chasidim), they accepted the pledges from the women. The special messenger was dispatched to bring the sixty gold florins to the Baal Shem Tov.
When the Baal Shem Tov's emissaries finished praying, a feast was prepared in honor of the great privilege the Baal Shem Tov had bestowed upon them. For the Baal Shem Tov loved them so much that he had given them the privilege of participating in the mitzva of pidyon sh'vuyim; he was so devoted to the Chasidim in Zaslov that the had sent to them the two famous tzadikim. All the Chasidim were in such a joyful mood: you can't imagine how great their delight was.
When the feast was finished, Reb Nachman spoke about the women who had wept while begging the collectors to accept their contributions toward the sum the Baal Shem Tov had assessed the Chasidim of Zaslov. "The Rebbe," said Reb Nachman, "is very fond of simple Jews. He says that a simple Jew who recites a chapter of Psalms with his whole heart and sincerely loves his fellow Jew is favored by the Supreme King more than great tzadikim.
"How profoundly genuine those women's tears were! Their sole desire was for their husband's names to be included in the list of those assessed to contribute money for the great mitzva of pidyon sh'vuyim. A mitzva is so precious, and the Baal Shem Tov so sacred to them, that when their husbands' names were omitted from the list their poor hearts broke and they burst out weeping. How precious such tears are to the Master of the World; how sweet and delightful they are to the Angel Michael and his 180 thousands legions of defending angels! Such genuine heartfelt tears can annul all evil decrees."
Reb Nachman then related an awe-inspiring story about an evil decree against an entire Jewish community. When a certain woman uttered a few truly sincere words that came from the depth of her heart while she wept profusely, the decree was annulled. "If only we would weep on the holy Yom Kippur with the same sort of tears with which our own women wept!" he concluded.
Translated by Shimon Neubort, published by Sichos In English in The Making of Chasidim.
This week's Torah portion states, "You shall also make a table ("shulchan") (Ex. 25:23) The numerical equivalent of the Hebrew word "shulchan" is 388, the same as the phrase "l'Moshiach," "for [the era of] Moshiach." In the Messianic era, all of the Temple's vessels and implements that have been plundered or hidden away will be restored for use in the Divine service.