Pokemon Go | 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
by Rabbi Uriel Vigler
At this point, most of us have at least heard all about the new game, Pokémon Go, which has taken the world by storm. It was downloaded more than 10 million times in just its first week!
The game is based on augmented reality, but unlike other games which are usually played while sedentary, Pokémon Go requires the player to physically move around, exploring different locations in an attempt to find and capture virtual creatures called Pokémon. The hunt is on!
To me, the game is nothing new. As Jews, we have been playing a version of Pokémon Go for thousands of years.
According to Kabbalah, the world that we live in is "augmented." The world that we see is not the real world. There is a deeper spiritual reality hidden in the world, which will only be revealed with the coming of Moshiach.
For example, we see a delicious steak sitting on a plate, just waiting for us to bite into and enjoy. But in that steak is a spark of G-dliness for us to "capture". How can we do that? By making a blessing before we eat it, and then using the energy the steak gives us to do something holy.
Likewise, when we see a $100 bill, what we don't see is the powerful spark of G-dliness hidden within that will be "captured" as soon as we give 10% to charity.
The same way virtual Pokémon are all around you, so are these Divine sparks. And just like Pokémon Go requires the player to go outside and visit different locations, our job is to go outside, find and capture these Divine sparks wherever they may be.
Pokémon Go brings people together - it directs people to communal "Pokéstops" and makes strangers team up and talk to each other. So does Torah. Our "Pokéstops" are shuls, Chabad houses, and learning centers where we gather to study and better ourselves.
In Pokémon Go, players can climb the ranks and become trainers by catching more Pokémons. Likewise, we are all trainers. The Lubavitcher Rebbe taught, "If you know an aleph, teach an aleph." It's our job to teach others any Torah we study, or mitzvos we know, even if we don't feel like experts.
Pokémon Go continues to play as long as your battery is running. It's constant. Likewise, from the moment a girl turns 12 and a boy turns 13, we are on the go, searching out Divine sparks to capture and elevate. And like the game's slogan, our goal is to "Catch 'em all!"
The game only ends when the player "dies" and that's when the score card is revealed. When we die, and our souls return to Heaven, we will finally be able to see how many Divine sparks we caught during our lifetime. As long as we're here, in the physical world, our job is to go out and accumulate as many as possible.
A large part of the Pokémon Go thrill is the social media sharing and competitiveness. It's something to post about, tweet about, share and compare with others. Players feed off one another, trying to outdo each other.
While we are not in competition with each other, by posting and sharing when we do a mitzvah, perhaps we can inspire and motivate others to spread Torah, do more mitzvos and help one another. By working together, we can collect more sparks and hasten the coming of Moshiach.
Rabbi Vigler and his wife Shevy direct Chabad Israel Center of the Upper East Side in New York. From Rabbi Vigler's blog at www.chabadic.com
In this week's Torah portion Eikev, the word eikev is used atypically to mean "because." Foremost Torah commentator Rashi explains that the choice of this word is to emphasize the seemingly less important mitzvot (commandments) that would get trampled under the eikev - heel.
Thus, "because" we will listen and do those mitzvot that might be considered unimportant, we will be blessed with multifold blessings, including miraculous victories over those whom we fear.
Regarding mitzvot, the ones we see as important we typically focus our energy on. Our yetzer hara, evil inclination, convinces us that it makes sense to focus on the "important" ones, while pushing off the others, thereby trampling them under our "heel."
Eikev encourages us to take a a different approach to mitzvot. To defy our yetzer hara and simply do the mitzva because it is G-d's will. Then all mitzvot are seen as equal. We do the mitzvot in a manner that is beyond our mind's understanding.
When we take this approach toward G-d and His commandments, going beyond our understanding and doing His will, He in turn goes beyond the natural order and shows us miracles.
Our portion also contains the verse, "And now Israel, what is Hashem your G-d asking of you? Only to revere Him, to walk in His ways, to love Him..."
What is G-d asking of us? How does one revere and love Him? When G-d created this world, He hid His presence. Had His presence not been hidden, it would have been so imposing, that we would only be able to do His will; we would not have a choice. So G-d's "hiddenness" enables freedom of choice.
Being that G-d can't be seen, it is possible to forget for moments, that He is here. But G-d wants us to make Him a real part of our lives. He wants us to develop such a close relationship with Him that His presence feels as if we could see Him.
Like in any close, meaningful relationship, it requires a strong commitment to get ot know G-d. We do that through the study of His Torah and prayer. When we freely refer to G-d in our casual conversation: "thank G-d" "with G-d's help" "G-d willing," we develop our relationship with Him. If, when making an important decision, we ask, "What does G-d want?" we strengthen that relationship.
When we feel G-d in our homes and in our lives, we can't help but follow in His ways. Make G-d's presence important in our homes is true reverence. The more we develop our relationship with G-d, the the more our lives becomes an expression of our love for Him.
Adapted by Rabbi Yitzi Hurwitz from the teachings of the Rebbe, yitzihurwitz.blogspot.com. Rabbi Hurwitz, who is battling ALS, and his wife Dina, are emissaries of the Rebbe in Temecula, Ca.
By Shelli Liebman Dorfman
Ask Rabbi Herschel Finman why bringing Jewish programming to Ferndale is a top priority, and he'll offer a simple, two-part response.
"There are no other Jewish 'anythings' in Ferndale," he said. "But there are Jews."
After a year and a half of arranging events within the city under the name Jewish Ferndale, it became time to establish a physical base.
"We have held classes and lectures, public Chanukah menorah lightings, Megillah readings and Purim parties, Lag b'Omer barbecues and a host of other programs," Finman said.
In May, Jewish Ferndale - welcoming Jews of all denominations - found a home in a former dentist office on the western edge of the city's downtown.
With a grand opening set for the fall, the 3,700-square-foot building is currently undergoing renovations. An industrial kitchen and ADA-compliant bathrooms will be installed.
"The upstairs of the residence consists of four bedrooms and two full baths, which will be used for offices and rabbi's living quarters," Finman said of the project being funded by private donors. "The basement is ideal for a game room featuring a ping-pong or pool table and couches.
A living room with a fireplace will remain, and a cabana behind the garage may be made into a mikvah [ritual bath]."
The building's two-car garage will become the Art Studio of Ferndale, for art to be created and artists' work to be displayed.
Finman's wife, Chana, co-director of Jewish Ferndale, looks for it to be a continuation of the Oak Park-based art studio she has run for many years.
"I also hope other instructors will be attracted to teach what they are passionate about," she said. "I hope we can infuse a Jewishness in all these projects. Perhaps we will have trips to local studios, museums and even plein air [in the open air] painting. Commitment to Judaism, artistic development, friendship, support to artists and a safe place to learn is the goal."
According to Rabbi Finman, "The city of Ferndale is doing everything in its power to facilitate our being there. They recognize a Jewish presence as being a great anchor for the neighborhood and a tremendous asset."
Finman was awarded the Citizens for a Fair Ferndale 2016 Good Neighbor Award for his efforts in making Ferndale a welcoming and inclusive community and a better place to live.
"We already have a slew of programs ready to go once the building is finished, including being the site of 12-step program meetings," said Finman, who is on-air facilitator and founder of the Jewish Hour, Michigan's only Jewish radio show on WLQV 1500 AM and faithtalk1500.com, for which Chana Finman is the arts and culture representative.
The rabbi is also an adult education Judaic teacher and provides Jewish-based learning - on video and in written word - through an email Listserv.
Upcoming uses of the facility include game/adult coloring book night, a pop-up kosher restaurant night, classes and lectures, a welcome center, a library and Jewish movie and popcorn night.
For Samm Wunderlich, the more the better. "I've attended menorah lightings and classes as well as helped plan last year's Sukkah in the 'Dale' event at a local bar," said Wunderlich, 28, who lives in Ferndale. "The Lag b'Omer event this year was wonderful, and I loved that the crowd was very diverse, not just young professionals and not just older community members. Different ages and different religious levels. Very welcoming and accepting."
Plans have begun for the care of the three-quarters of an acre of land surrounding the building, with some classes meeting outside this summer.
"We have planted fruit trees along the property line in an area we will call "chakal tapuchin kadishin," the holy apple orchard, that will provide a meditative reflection space," Rabbi Finman said.
"We have also been in contact with the Detroit Chapter of Hazon: Jewish Movement for Sustainable Communities. Its members are on board to provide volunteers to maintain the grounds by turning it into an urban farm. Jewish Ferndale would also provide an avenue for schoolchildren and concerned adults to learn about sustainable food and nutrition."
An enclosed porch area will be used as a green house. "We are also investigating wind power and vertical gardens on the walls of the building," he added.
"In addition, Solar Cascade, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supplying solar energy, has pledged to donate solar panels to help with energy costs. A well is in the plans to help lower the water bill for the farm and mikvah.
"Jewish Ferndale will act as a centralized clearinghouse for all things Jewish in Ferndale, including being a liaison with the community at large, city government, nursing homes and public safety," said Finman, who is the official chaplain of the police and fire department and volunteer chaplain at both the city's only nursing home and Kingswood Psychiatric Hospital.
"I also provide education and dialogue to assist in an understanding among the communities in Ferndale," he said.
"Ferndale welcomes diversity. It's a cool city with a vibrant downtown, and its central location makes it easily accessible to almost anywhere."
For Wunderlich, "Having a Jewish presence in Ferndale is wonderful. Growing up here, the city has a strong sense of community and camaraderie, things I've also grown to love now with my increased involvement in the Jewish community," she said. "I am also excited to see Jews living in Ferndale who may not be active in the community currently get more involved now that there is something here. I am just very excited to see this grow."
Reprinted from the Detroit Jewish News. Rabbi Herschel and Chana Finman have been emissaries of the Rebbe in Michigan for 30 years.
From 35 to 500
When Chabad of Greater South Bay in Palo Alto, California started their Gan Israel Day Camp 35 years ago, they had 35 campers enrolled. This summer, Gan Israel Day Camp campers from throughout the Bay Area gathered for a day of Hakhel Unity at the Palo Alto Gan Israel Camp Site and they were 500 strong!
Since the writing of the first Childrens Torah Scroll in 1981, five Torahs have been completed. The sixth Children's Torah Scroll will be concluded this Fall at the Tzemach Tzedek Shul in Jerusalem and at the Wall. Over 1.5 million children under the age of Bar and Bat Mitzva world-wide have acquired a letter in these special Torahs for Jewish unity. To acquire a letter in the Sixth Children's Torah visit kidstorah.org, or write to Children's Sefer Torah, P.O.Box 8, Kfar Chabad, 60840 Israel or call 972-3-9607-358
20th of Elul, 5735
Blessing and Greeting:
...You write that you find it difficult to fully understand why the Jewish people seem to feel so strongly that the Gentiles are not well disposed toward them, especially since you personally do not feel this way about the Jews.
May I say, first of all, that I am gratified to hear about your good feelings and I do hope that you avail yourself of every suitable opportunity to let people know how you feel in this matter, so they emulate you.
As for your question, what basis, if any, there may be for Jews to feel suspicion - or even frightened, as it seems to you - about the Gentiles' feelings towards them - surely there is an obvious explanation of that in what happened in our time, and before our own eyes, obvious at any rate, to those who survived the holocaust in Europe and found a haven in this country.
Considering that one third of the Jewish people was callously decimated by a Gentile nation and its collaborators, while the rest of the Gentile world looked (and sometimes not even as indifferent observers) - a subject too painful to dwell on, particularly in this letter, in view of your personal feelings. I mention it only by way of reply to your question - the explanation is fairly obvious, and it is surprising that it had eluded you. Moreover, seeing the attitude of the vast majority of the members of the United Nations toward the remnants of the Jewish people, it clearly reinforces the suspicion that the attitude of the Gentiles - generally speaking, for there have always been exceptions - has not changed radically.
By way of contrast, it is noteworthy that Jews on their part have a duty to encourage and help every Gentile to abide by the Divine commandments which have been given to all mankind, namely, the so-called Seven Precepts given to the Children of Noah, which are the minimum standards of universal ethics and morality, law and order, without which no human society can long survive. This is expected of the Jew regardless of the Gentiles' attitude toward Jews. Similarly Jews are commanded to practice charity and benevolence towards Gentiles along with Jews.
No doubt you also know the Jewish contributions to the concepts of liberty and humanitarianism and others. Even the motto of the United Nations, "Nation shall not lift up a sword against nation," is an ideal Divinely inspired to a Jewish prophet for Jews and, through them, for Gentiles. This too, incidentally, pointedly underscores the contrast between the said ideal displayed there on the wall with what is going on there between the walls. Again, there is no need to dwell on this, as noted earlier.
25th of Shevat, 5732
Greeting and Blessing,
I was sorry to hear that you were not feeling too well, but I trust that by the time this letter reaches you, your health will have improved satisfactorily. In as much as there is always room for improvement in all things, I wish you further improvement and a refuo shlemo [complete recovery].
Not knowing what sort of a patient you are, I take the liberty of expressing my confident hope that you follow your doctors' instructions. Even if this may entail an enforced period of rest and interruption in your work, which no doubt you would be inclined to militate against, nevertheless I am confident that you will overcome this, so as to expedite your complete recuperation.
...Significantly, we read in this week's Sedra [portion] (rapo ye'rape), which our sages explain to be the mandate of physicians to heal and cure. Moreover, our illustrious teacher the Rambam, who was a famous physician in the plain sense, as well as a great spiritual healer, made it a point in his great Code....
To paraphrase the Rambam, and apply it in the area which we had occasion to discuss, we may say that what the Rambam is expressing here is that in order that the physical body be fit to serve G-d, that is to say to elevate and sublimate the physical into the spiritual, or to bring out the spirituality of the material, which is the key to the all-embracing Divine Unity - it is necessary that the physical body be in a good state and healthy. I might add that in your own sphere of sculpture, this is also self evident. For, in order to create an idea out of a piece of inert matter, whether metal, wood or stone, it is of course necessary that the material be in a good state.
I trust you will not consider me presumptuous in trespassing upon your domain. However, I only wish to impress upon you the essential thing, namely the need to follow your doctors' instructions.
Wishing you a refuo shlemo, and with kindest regards to you and your family,
Experience has borne out that people are enthusiastic and excited when they are told the history of Hakhel, that in the time of the temple this year would be a Hakhel year when the people and the king would gather in the temple. Furthermore, in the spiritual sense the mitzva (commandment) may be fulfilled now, too, by attending a Hakhel gathering which will effect more fear of G-d and greater Jewish unity.
(From a letter of the Rebbe to Lubavitch Yeshiva of Manchester, 5748)
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
In this week's Torah portion we read: "...And He fed you the Manna which you did not know, neither did your fathers know, etc..."
What was the difference between the "bread from heaven" - the manna that fell from above for the Jews during their 40 years in the desert - and ordinary bread "from the earth"? To produce bread, great effort and hard labor is required - ploughing, sowing, reaping, grinding, kneading, baking, etc. And the finished product, in common with all other physical foods, cannot be totally absorbed and utilized by the human body; part of it is rejected by the body as waste. But manna, the "bread from heaven," did not require any labor for preparation and contained no waste whatsoever.
Who was able to eat this noble, almost spiritual food? All Israel - the righteous, the average and even the wicked. Moreover, the manna did not become debased and lose its special qualities when digested by an evil person; even within their bodies it had no waste. On the contrary, it had a refining, elevating effect on them.
Torah is called "bread," and within Torah wisdom we may also discern two kinds of "bread." The revealed parts of Torah - the Oral Law, the Bible, Mishna, Talmud, etc - is called "bread from the earth" because of the toil and labor associated with the question-answer, challenge-refutation method of study. The inner aspect of Torah - Kabbala, chasidic philosophy, the mystical teaching, etc.- is called "bread from heaven."
Who may partake of this noble food? Who may study this refined and esoteric wisdom of Torah? The inner aspect of Torah, the "bread from heaven," is for all and may be ingested, like the manna, by every Jew no matter what level he or she finds himself. Like the manna, it has a refining effect and brings us all closer to returning to our Source.
And you shall eat and be sated. (Deut. 8:10)
The Maggid of Mezritch once asked a wealthy man what he eats every day. "Bread and salt, Rebbe, like a poor man," was his reply. The Maggid rebuked him and told him to eat meat and drink wine every day as wealthy men were accustomed to do. Later, when the Maggid's disciples asked for an explanation, he said: "If a rich man eats meat and drinks wine every day, then he will realize that a poor person needs at least bread and salt. If, however, he eats bread and salt, he will think that his poor neighbor can make do with stones!"
Now Israel, what does the L-rd your G-d ask of you except to revere G-d (Deut. 10:12)
"People are strange," Rabbi Chanoch of Alexander used to say. "They beg and plead that G-d should give them 'fear of heaven,' when this is something that is entirely in the individual's control. Yet when it comes to livelihood, they imagine that they are in charge."
There are many mitzvot (commandments) that require physical "objects" in order to observe them. For example, a person cannot fulfill the mitzva of tzitzit without a garment to put them on, nor can one affix a mezuza without a dwelling place and door post. An incarcerated person is also severely limited as to what he can do. "Revering G-d," however, is dependent on nothing. A Jew can fulfill this mitzva anywhere, and at any time.
And to serve Him with all your heart (Deut. 11:13)
Rashi explains that this verse refers to the service of the heart, namely prayer. Reb Yisroel of Ruzhin used to take a long time over his prayers; Reb Shalom of Belz would recite his prayers hastily. On this, one of their contemporaries commented that both of them cherished every word of the prayers: the former loved them so much that he could not bring himself to part with them, while the latter--for the same reason - could not restrain his eagerness to make them his.
(A Treasury of Chasidic Tales)
Once, two young men traveled to visit Rabbi Shmuel of Lubavitch, the Rebbe Maharash. They both wished to speak with him on the subject of how better to serve G-d. One young man was very learned, and the other, while not a very learned man, possessed a simple, yet pure faith in G-d.
The first man entered the study of the Rebbe for a private audience. He approached the Rebbe and asked him how he could improve his G-dly service, especially in the area of prayer. The Rebbe Maharash told the man to always hold a prayer book when he prayed, and that he should look at every word while praying. The young man told the Rebbe that he felt he could concentrate better when he pulled his tallit over his head, closed his eyes and prayed.
The Rebbe exclaimed, "Fool! Are you going to say 'Haleluka' (a portion of the morning prayers) on a beam?" The young man left the Rebbe thoroughly confused. What could the Rebbe have meant by suggestion that he prayed "on a beam?"
The young man asked some of the elder chasidim if they could decipher the meaning of the words, but they were unable to help him. After pondering the matter for a few hours, the young man suddenly realized to what the Rebbe had been referring. He remembered that once, while praying, he noticed a beam that ran the entire length of the synagogue. The young man decided to walk the entire length of the beam while saying the "Haleluka" prayer. He wanted to see if he could begin the prayer at the beginning of the beam, and reach the end of the beam at the conclusion of the prayer. Now he understood what the Rebbe meant; his concentration during prayer would be greatly improved by using a prayer book for every word.
Then the second man came to the Rebbe, and the Rebbe told him that at every opportunity he should learn the complete Tanach (the books of the Torah, Prophets, and Writings). He should study it in Yiddish translation, in order that he should be able to comprehend fully what he was reading. The Rebbe emphasized that he should utilize as much free time as possible in learning Tanach, while journeying on business trips and even between customers. The man took this upon himself, and devoted as much free time as possible learning Tanach in Yiddish.
During one winter, the man went away on a business trip, and as usual, spent every free moment studying the Tanach. He returned home a few days later after his business had been completed. After greeting his wife, he looked in on his child peacefully sleeping in his bed. Begin that it was a freezing, cold night, the father placed his heavy cloak which he had just removed on the sleeping form of his child, in order to keep the child warm. He then proceeded to discuss the various details of his trip with his wife. After they finished their conversation, they went to check on the baby. Upon doing so, they realized that the child was not breathing. He had suffocated under the heavy cloak!
The father shook the child back and forth, hoping to start the child breathing again, but to no avail. The wife ran to get a doctor. When she returned home, an amazing sight met her eyes. There was her husband sitting and playing with their child, as if nothing had happened. How could her husband, who was by no means a doctor, revive their child? When she inquired as to how he had done this, he told her about a portion of Tanach that he had learned while on his trip. The portion dealt with the prophet Elisha, and it documents how Elisha revived a dead child by laying atop the child and breathing into his mouth. So this man, with his pure and complete faith, figured that if this worked for Elisha it would work for him, too.
All those who knew the man and knew of his conversation with the Rebbe Maharash, realized the meaning of the Rebbe's instructions. It became clear that this miracle came about in the merit of his following the Rebbe's directive to constantly study Tanach, and also in the merit of his unwavering faith in G-d.
This week's Torah portion begins, "And it shall come to pass - eikev - because you will listen to these ordinances, and keep, and do them (Deut. 7:12) Eikev, literally means "heel." The time immediately preceding the Final Redemption is often referred to as "the heel of Moshiach." That is to say, at the end of time, "you will listen" - in the end we will have no choice but to obey G-d.
(Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotsk)