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Family, colleagues, neighbors, salespeople. The list of people with whom we interact daily goes on and on.
When you're in a good mood, the sun is shining and the stock market is up, it's easy to establish and sustain positive interactions. But how do you have a positive attitude when you encounter someone with an "attitude?"
Think of the other person (and yourself) as a "work in progress." None of us are finished products. We are all at some point on our life's journey. And the person with whom you are dealing right now might deserve not only tolerance, but respect, for getting to where he is from where he came.
Cultivating such an approach to others will turn the mitzvas of judging others favorably and loving one's fellow Jew into second nature.
Remember, what we see is only part of the person and not the complete individual.
This can be illustrated as follows: You are on the street and see someone walking past you with a limp and a cane. You could focus on the cane and the clumsy gait. Or, you could imagine that weeks earlier the person was hardly able to hobble along on crutches, but now is mobile and independent.
The same is true for everyone. From the time we are born we all have different qualities, challenges, life experiences; some more positive and some more negative. Through guidance by good role models, and above all through self-improvement if done correctly, the bad traits become weaker. The crutches become unnecessary.
A person must grow throughout his entire life. So it's no wonder that we can meet a person in the middle of his work and still be able to see some of his negative qualities. This is not necessarily because he isn't progressing. Rather, by every measure he has weakened and reduced his negative traits compared to how he was earlier.
The above analogy is based on an answer from the Rebbe about how to achieve the goal which G-d has set up for every person, "that he should be truly happy with his family." The Rebbe explains that we can reach this objective through Torah living. However, we must beware of the nagging voice that might point out to us a person who people believe lives according to Torah yet has many deficiencies. The voice argues that since this is a person who conducts himself according to Torah and has these negative points then it must be that the Torah is not good, G-d forbid.
The Rebbe answers with a story: If a person is walking in the street and meets someone on crutches leaving a medical specialist's office, the passer-by could think that the specialist is not good. After all, this person came to the specialist and is obeying all the doctor's instructions. Yet, he still needs crutches!
Now imagine that it was explained to the passer-by that, before the patient was in the doctor's care, he couldn't move his feet altogether and was completely paralyzed. The doctor reduced the paralysis and strengthened the patient to the point where he is able to use his feet and even to walk. As time goes on, things are improving and it's getting easier to walk. Even though he still needs crutches, there may come a time - if he follows the doctor's advice - that he will get rid of the crutches and be completely healed.
If a person who lives according to the blueprint of the Torah still has negative traits, it is not necessarily because he isn't following the instructions of the "specialist," i.e., the Torah. Rather, like the rest of us, he is a "work in progress."
In this week's Torah portion, Pekudei, we read that both men and woman donated for the construction of the Mishkan, the travelling sanctuary in the desert. Both men and women participated in its construction. It didn't matter if they were rich or poor. It didn't matter which tribe they were from. Each gave according to their ability and each participated with their talents that G-d gave them.
They were careful to do everything the way G-d wanted them to, down to the smallest detail. When it was completed, G-d's presence filled the Mishkan, dwelling amongst them once again.
After 210 years of exile in Egypt, 87 of which were fraught with terrible suffering and slavery, it must have been so satisfying and so exciting to see G-d's Divine Prescense fill the Mishkan.
What lessons can we learn from this?
We are here for a reason, to fashion the entire world into a dwelling place for G-d. Each one of us is necessary to ensure success. We are all different. We have different means, different talents and different circumstances.
Yet, we know we can be successful because we've done it once before. The main thing is that we work together and that we do it right. Small details matter. As in every project, it is not complete until each person does his or her part and until the finishing touches have been completed.
How about us, the Jewish people as a whole and individual Jews? Haven't we done enough? Haven't we suffered enough? Hasn't the time come for all of the bad news and anguish to end?
Chassidic teachings explain that the level of G-d's presence that we will experience in the Messianic Era will be based on our exile experience and our effort in accomplishing G-d's will.
Perhaps G-d is holding out for just a bit longer because He wants something more, something deeper that He knows we can attain. Imagine how amazing it will be when Moshiach will come. Nevertheless we need Moshiach to come already.
Until then, we can be there for each other. As we proclaim out loud when we finish reading this week's Torah portion in the synagogue on Shabbat, thereby completing reading the book of Exodus: "Chazak chazak v'nitchazeik. Be strong! Be strong! And let us strengthen each other!"
By Rabbi Yitzi Hurwitz. Rabbi Hurwitz and his wife Dina are the founders and spiritual leaders at Chabad Jewish Center in Temecula, California.
by Risa Mond
AHA! moments. We're all familiar with them. It's the moment when the answers you've been looking for travel from your heart to your head and say, "This is it." No questions, no interruptions, just a silent recognition of a desired answer asking for your trust, to listen and follow.
I was recently asked what was my "aha moment" with CTeen. When did I realize that this youth group was my "This is it."
I thought, and thought, and thought. And the answer finally came to me.
Nothing. There was no "aha moment." I didn't need an "aha moment" to tell me that CTeen was the place for me. It happened automatically.
Let's state the facts: CTeen - the Chabad Teen Network - offers a second home to over 10,000 teens in 256 cities in five continents worldwide, but beyond the numbers and statistics of this incredible club is the heart and soul of the Shluchim (emissaries of the Rebbe) and mentors that make this program what it is. For me, my CTeen journey began in Plano, Texas, where I found my second home at Chabad of Plano at the beginning of high school.
Truth be told, before becoming involved with Chabad, I had never been so fond of my religion. I never understood all the rules and regulations. I was a non-practicing Jew who grudgingly went to shul for Rosh Hashana and fasted on Yom Kippur.
But after being recruited as a counselor for Camp Gan Izzy, I gained knowledge about the teachings of Judaism, and it ignited an inspiration that pushed me to strengthen my Jewish identity.
About a year after, my shluchim Rabbi Yudi and Esther Horowitz started a CTeen in North Texas. I was recruited to go to the CTeen International Shabbaton in 2014, and the rest is history.
After the Shabbaton I started to attend more; Shabbat dinners, holiday parties, and fundraisers.
Finally I decided to join CTeen's first ever Girls CTeen Xtreme summer. From Colorado to California, I gained a new appreciation for my heritage. My Jewish pride was re-instilled and I found how to be a better Jew.
When I look back on Xtreme, the memories of bonding with my fellow CTeeners are what stand out the most. On the bus on the way to camping for the night we were told instead of ATVing we would be UTVing because of problems caused by the boys who went before us... now trust me, there's a difference between UTVing and ATVing.
So, just picture this, a group of 33 teenage girls in a bus, furious. We decided to protest. By refusing to get off the bus, a joke turned into our bonding moment. We proceeded to climb up the seats to reach the emergency exit at the top of the bus. And after everyone helped each other up, arm and arm we sat on top chanting over and over, we want ATVs. As we looked around, smiles and laughter emerged as our chant changed to the CTeen anthem. "So shout out loud my CTeen crowd, a family forever we'll be." On top of that bus I felt unstoppable with the girls next to me, I felt like I had a place.
After Xtreme I attended the first ever Leadership retreat and this past summer, the second annual Leadership retreat. Through all these events, I met amazing teens all over the country with the same passion as me - CTeen. They showed me that CTeen is much bigger than just North Texas, or even America. We are a worldwide force to be reckoned with, contributing as much as we possibly can to not just our Jewish communities, but worldwide.
As I started to grow in my Jewish observance, Rabbi and Esther were their every step of the way. From opening their house to me and others interested EVERY Shabbat, and to answering every single question I had or even my parents had, to getting me to where I am now, a student at Machon Chana immersing myself in Torah and Chasidic teachings every day with girls similar to me. Rabbi and Esther didn't stop at CTeen events to make a relationship with me and others.
This is where I think CTeen is set apart from other youth groups. I personally was a leader in BBYO and CTeen simultaneously. Both are amazing Jewish youth organizations that offer a lot to teens. Instead of looking at other youth groups as a challenge, look at it as a blessing. Teens can get so much out of multiple youth group. But what CTeen offers is something no one else can. All of the Shluchos. We aren't just a group of teens. We're not just a number. We are a family. The love, care, and comfort that CTeen provides are what makes a difference.
From a talk Risa gave at a CTeen session at the International Shluchos Convention. For more about CTeen visit CTeen.org. For more about Machon Chana visit MachonChanaYeshiva.org.
New in Florida
Chabad of the Grove, in Coconut Grove, Florida, is expanding and renovating its iconic Chabad House, with plans to restore the historic, 90 year old building as well as to expand to include a school, mikva, social hall, and Holocaust memorial. Coconut Grove is one of the fastest growing areas in South Florida and the expanded facilities will allow Chabad to meet the needs of the new families moving into the area.
Chabad Chayil, in Highland Lakes, North Miami Beach, Florida, will be breaking ground soon for a 30,000 square feet center. The new center will include 16 classrooms, one adult and one children's library, an indoor playground, a social hall and an 8,000 square feet rooftop park. In addition to Chabad Chayil's highly successful after-school care programs, children, teen and adult programs, the new building will enable Chabad to open a pre-school program.
Greeting and Blessing:
I am in receipt of your letter, following on the personal conversation we had when you were here. Although it is not my custom to repeat in writing things already discussed orally, I will, at any rate, put down in writing several points, since you have urgently requested it.
- With regard to most of the problems about which you write, there is the promise of our Sages, of blessed memory, "Try hard and you will succeed."In other words, if you are truly and wholeheartedly determined to resolve the problems, you will find the proper way to do so.
- On the question of how to achieve an easier adjustment in the family life of husband and wife, it should be remembered first of all that indeed it happens very often that such an adjustment is required, inasmuch as there are two people involved, who come from two different families, etc. It should also be remembered that there is no such thing as human perfection and that one person must make allowances for the other, in the same way that one expects the other to make such allowances.
- With regard to the question of temper, and especially where we are speaking of anger, this weakness can be controlled by reflecting on the verse, "I visualize G-d before me always,"which is also the introduction to the first part of the Shulchan Aruch [Code of Jewish Law], and thus an introduction to the entire code regulating Jewish behavior in the daily life. By reflecting upon the fact that one is always - at every moment - in the presence of G-d, how is it possible for him to sink so far as to display any kind of temper?
- So that the shared intimate life may be wholesome to the utmost, it is necessary to observe strictly the laws and regulations of taharat hamishpachah [Jewish marriage laws]. For, although these laws require separation for a certain period of time, this distancing has the effect of bringing the couple closer together in the period that follows, while closeness during the time that requires separateness results in separateness when there should be closeness. Thus, in the majority of cases, true harmony and peace in married life are directly related to the observance of the laws and regulations of taharat hamishpachah.
It should also be remembered that there is no such thing as human perfection and that one person must make allowances for the other
- With regard to exercising influence on relatives and friends with a view to bringing them closer to Torah and mitzvot [commandments]- needless to say, it depends on the psychological makeup of the persons so to be influenced, as well as their knowledge, intellectual level, etc., these being factors which must be taken into consideration in each case. However, there is one general point that should be applied in all cases, and that is that the approach, while it must be firm, must also be a friendly one. Do not be discouraged if first efforts do not immediately bring the desired response; we have the assurance that words coming from the heart penetrate the heart and do eventually have an effect, especially when coupled with a living example. If, for some reason, the efforts seem to be unsuccessful, the fault will probably lie with the person making the effort, whose approach, apparently, is not the right one, well-intentioned though it may be.
In connection with the happy expectation, may G-d grant a normal and complete pregnancy, and the normal delivery of a healthy child in a happy and auspicious hour.
Invitations go out. Men, women, and children come to the Holy Temple. The King will address the nation for the first time in seven years. The stage is built. The trumpets blow. All stand in silence to hear what the King will say. Will he make a new decree? Will he review the state of the nation? He opens up a Torah, reads from the book of Deuteronomy, receites special blessings and the event is over. Disappointment? Not at all. The Torah IS the state of the nation, the essence of our existence, our pride, and our glory. Traditionally any gathering of Jews for any reason or topic should be opened with words of Torah because that is what counts.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
As this year is a leap year, there are two months of Adar, the first being Adar I and the second being Adar II. We have just entered the month of Adar II. Adar is associated with an increase in joy. The Talmud explains that during the month of Adar, Jewish "mazal" (colloquially translated as fortune) is very potent. The mazal (or source of influence) of a Jew refers to the higher levels of his soul, which are connected to the essence of G-d at all times. In Adar, we have the opportu-nity to draw down an abundance of holy energy through good deeds that are imbued with joy.
Interestingly, our Sages taught that "Israel has no mazal" ("ein mazal l'Yisrael"), meaning that Jews are above being influenced by the stars and planets, which are known as "mazalot."
By changing the vowels under the Hebrew letters slightly, "ein mazal l'Yisrael" can be read "Ayin - the Infinite - is the mazal of Israel." The Jewish people receive their influence from G-d from a transcendent level, the transmission of which is particularly powerful in the month of Adar.
The name Adar has several meanings, one of which is cloak or mantel. This is a reference to G-d's compassion for the His people, the Jews. The purpose of a garment is to provide us with warmth. In Adar (and Adar II in a leap year), when the holiday of Purim occurs, we experience the warmth and comfort of G-d. A garment also conceals the body of the person who wears is. Similarly, the miracle of Purim was "dressed" in a series of natural events.
The word Adar is a combination of the Hebrew letter "alef" and the word "dar," meaning "G-d dwells." (Just as alef is the initial letter in the alphabet, so too is G-d the "first.") G-d created the earth in order to have a dwelling place in the physical world. Through the study of Torah and the performance of mitzvot, we create an abode for Almighty G-d.
May the positive influence of Adar be expressed in the advent of the true and complete Redemption with Moshiach in the immediate future.
These are the accounts of the Sanctuary (Mishkan), the Sanctuary of the testimony (Ex. 38:21)
Our Sages said that G-d did not take the Holy Temple from the Jewish people permanently, but is holding it as a "mashkon" (collateral - a play on words) which will one day be returned. Furthermore, the repetition of the word "Sanctuary" in the verse alludes to the two Temples that would be destroyed before Moshiach establishes the third, eternal Holy Temple, speedily in our day.
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Shabbat Mishpatim, 5752)
And they beat the gold into thin plates, and cut it into threads, to work in the blue and the purple yarn (Ex. 39:3)
Rashi explains how this was done: "They would spin the gold together with the threads, beating the foils thin and cutting from them threads along the length of the foil, making the threads intertwined with every kind of material on the breastplate and ephod." From this we learn that people whom G-d has blessed with wealth must not consider themselves superior to others. Rather, they should act humbly and mingle with those people who have not been similarly blessed, like the thread of gold that was interwoven with the other components.
And the Children of Israel did according to everything that G-d had commanded to Moses, they did it. (Ex. 39:32)
The Sanctuary, about which G-d commanded Moses, is described in the Torah portions Teruma and Tetzave. The Sanctuary which the Children of Israel actually built is discussed in the portions Vayakhel and Pekudei. The first two portions refer to, in actuality, a spiritual sanctuary, while the second two portions a physical sanctuary. For this reason, every detail concerning the Sanctuary was given twice. In essence, it was about two totally different Sanctuaries that these portions speak.
It is known that the Prophet Elijah is sometimes permitted to descend to this world to help Jews in need. Once three men - a poor man, a simpleton, and a bachelor who was both poor and simple - came to Elijah to ask for his blessing.
The first man came to the prophet and said, "I'm so poor that I can't even feed and clothe my family. Please, take pity on me, and give me your blessing that I may become wealthy."
Elijah agreed to help, but on one condition: "When you become rich, and you certainly will, you must promise to give tzedaka [charity] and share your wealth with others." The man promised, and Elijah handed him a coin. "This coin will make you rich," assured the prophet. "Don't forget your promise."
The second man came and made his request: "Elijah, the thing I desire most in this world is to become a Torah scholar. Please, help me."
Elijah considered his request worthy, but made one condition: "When you become a Torah scholar, and you will, you must promise to instruct simple folk who want to learn Torah."
"Of course, I promise," said the man. "It would be my honor and privilege to teach my fellow Jews."
Elijah took a sheet of paper on which was written the Hebrew alphabet and handed it to the man, saying, "If you study from this piece of paper, you will certainly become a great scholar. Don't forget your promise." The man parted from the prophet happily clutching the paper to his chest.
Then the third man approached the prophet. "Elijah, please take pity on me. I am no longer young; I am very poor and not so bright; and worst of all I'm all alone in the world without a wife. But I won't take just any wife -- I will marry only a woman with good sense."
Elijah took pity on the man. "I have the perfect wife for you. But, you must promise to listen to her in every matter, all the days of your life." The man agreed and Elijah led him into the depths of the forest. They entered a small hut in the forest where an old woman and her daughter were sitting. "This woman is the perfect wife for you," said the prophet, nodding towards the daughter. Both parties agreed to the marriage which was held without delay.
Two years passed and Elijah returned to see if the three had kept their promises. First, he visited the opulent home of the formerly poor man. Approaching the door, he saw a sign which said in large letters: "Beggars and Deliveries to the Rear." Elijah went to the back door and was given a small coin. "I wish to speak with your employer," demanded the prophet. "Not permitted. You can have a coin and a loaf of bread."
"No," insisted Elijah. "I want to see the owner of this house."
"Take two coins and be off with you!" Still, Elijah stood his ground. In fact, he created such a fuss that the servants had to call the wealthy owner.
Elijah asked the man for a more substantial sum, but he just scoffed, "A coin should be enough for you.!" Each time he asked, Elijah was rebuffed more violently.
"I see that you don't recognize me and you have forgotten your promise. I am Elijah the Prophet and you must return my coin" Elijah told the ungrateful man.
"Ha! Do you think that silly coin did anything for me? You can gladly have it back. It's worthless!" He returned the coin, laughing. Needless to say, in no time the man was poor again.
Next, Elijah visited the great yeshiva where the would-be scholar was now a famous Head of the Academy. "Pardon me, Rabbi, but I would like to learn Torah," the prophet said to the great man.
"Have you studied the entire Talmud with all of its commentaries?" "No, I haven't had the chance to learn, but I want to very much." "I'm sorry, I don't have time to instruct low-level students. You see, I am the Head of the Yeshiva, and I have more important things to do!"
Elijah begged three times, but to no avail. Then he said, "I see you don't recognize me and you haven't kept your promise. You must return my paper!"
"The paper is worthless," the scholar laughed. "Here, take it!" No sooner had the prophet departed when the Head of the Academy forgot all of his learning and was an ignoramus again.
Elijah trudged to the poor hut of the couple. The wife saw Elijah from afar and said to her husband, "We have never been privileged to have a guest, and here is a distinguished-looking man approaching. Let's slaughter our cow and serve him properly."
The husband couldn't imagine life without the cow, from which they eked out a bare subsistence, but he agreed. "If you feel that we should, let's prepare the cow."
Elijah ate, and when he finished he said to the couple, "I see that you have lived according to your promise, and so, I have two more gifts for you - a coin and a paper."
Through the activities of the Jewish people in constructing the Holy Temple in this world, the supernal Holy Temple is built. For that reason, even after its destruction, the site of the Holy Temple remains holy - for the supernal Temple still exists. In the final redemption, the supernal Temple will be revealed here in this world. All will then see how the Jewish people had worked in full partnership with G-d, and that it was specifically through the efforts to build a material Temple that the supernal Temple was built.
(Kli Chemda//Yalkut Moshiach uGeula al HaTorah)