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It Once Happened | Moshiach Matters
Jewish mystical teachings explain that evil has no permanence. Only good exists eternally and every good deed endures forever.
The way to fight evil, then, is with good, with everlasting and incessant good.
How much can you or I do to eradicate evil from the face of the earth, to wipe out terror, eliminate violence, eradicate racism and prejudice? Realistically speaking, how much of an impact can any one, single individual have on the entire world?
The Rebbe addressed precisely this question in a letter addressed to Jews around the world.
"One single individual has the capacity to bring the whole of creation to fulfillment, as was the case with the first person, Adam....
"Our Sages teach us that the first person, Adam, was the prototype and example for each and every individual to follow: 'For this reason was man created as an individual in order to each you "one person equals a whole world,"' our Sages declared in the Mishna.
"This means that every Jew, regardless of time and place and personal status, has the fullest capacity, hence also duty, to rise and attain the highest degree of fulfillment, and accomplish the same for the creation as a whole.
"This disproves the contentions of those who do not fulfill their duty with the excuse that it is impossible to change the world; of that their parents had not given them the necessary education and preparation; or that the world is so huge, and one is so puny-how can one hope to accomplish anything?
"There were times when the aforesaid idea, namely, the ability of a single individual to 'transform' the world, met with skepticism, and demanded proof.
"However, precisely in our generation, we unfortunately do not have to seek far to be convinced that one person could have such impact. We have seen how one individual brought the world to the brink of destruction, but for the mercies of the King of the Universe, Who ordained that 'the earth shall stand firm; shall not fall.'
"If such is the case in the realm of evil, surely one's potential is much greater in the realm of good. For, in truth, creation is essentially good, and therefore more inclined toward the good than its opposite."
So what can I do to fight evil? What contribution can I make in the war against terrorism? What is my memorial to the thousands who perished last month and the millions before them? I can be good, I can do good, I can think good. And so can you.
In this week's Torah portion, Chayei Sarah, we read that Abraham purchased the double cave where Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sara, Isaac and Rebecca, and Jacob and Leah are buried. He purchased the cave, known as "Mearat Hamachpela" and the field it is in, located in our holy city Hebron.
Abraham starts his purchase request to the Hittites for the burial property, "I am a foreigner and a resident among you." Abraham goes on to purchase the property for 400 silver shekel.
Why does Abraham say that he is a foreigner and a resident? What lesson can we take from Abraham's attitude?
The foremost commentator, Rashi, sites a Midrash explaining Abraham's words: "If you like, I'm a stranger, if not I will soon be a resident and take it legally, since G-d said to me, 'I will give this land to your progeny.' "
Hearing Abraham's sure attitude, the Hittites respected him and offered him the land for free. But Abraham insisted on buying it.
Abraham knew who he was, he never flinched, knowing that G-d was with him. He made his case: sell it to me or lose your right to control the land.
Sometimes we forget who we are, what is rightfully ours and Who our only true ally is.
Who are you? You are a Jew, chosen to share G-d's truth with the world. We are respected as "the" people of the book. When we teach truth the world listens.
What is rightfully ours? The whole Torah and the entire Land of Israel, as promised to Abraham.
Our only true ally is G-d, and when we put our trust in Him, instead of the false promises of those who ultimately do what is their best interest, we succeed and the world respects us.
Don't be afraid to be who you are, you will be respected by your neighbors and those you come in contact you. It is time to turn to G-d as you come to realize that He alone can be trusted.
Whether you see yourself as a stranger or a resident makes no difference, only your attitude matters. When you are sure of yourself because you have G-d and His Torah, the Hittites of the world respect and follow your lead.
May we soon merit the coming of Moshiach, who will lead us all to our Holy Land and rebuild our Holy Temple. Until that day, may our brothers and sisters who live in the holy city of Hebron be safe. May G-d bless them and reward them for their self sacrifice.
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.
Man Plans and G-d Laughs
by Risa Mond
There is a famous Jewish saying: "Man plans and G-d laughs." I've always found that quote to be equally funny and unnerving. We think we're in control; we think we know where we're going. But, G-d sometimes has plans for us that are different than the ones we make for ourselves.
Though my parents instilled in my brother and me a strong Jewish pride, I was a non-practicing Jew who grudgingly went to synagogue for Rosh Hashana and fasted on Yom Kippur. I didn't dislike being Jewish, I just felt disconnected from my Judaism.
During the summer after seventh grade, I worked as a junior counselor in a Jewish day camp directed by my aunt, the local Gan Izzy (Israel) in Plano, Texas. After that first encounter with Chabad, I knew I found something special. I was introduced to my shluchim (emissaries of the Rebbe), Rabbi Yudi and Esther Horowitz, became friends with many Chabad girls who came to run the camp.
After two summers working in Gan Izzy, those friends convinced me to go to a Jewish school and began to attend Yavneh Academy in Dallas. Being the active person that I am, I became very involved in various extra-curricular activities in school. I was a good student, successful athlete, and engaged leader.
People looked at me and said I had the "perfect life", and as clich้ this might sound, something was missing.
In my sophomore year of high school, the Horowitzs encouraged me to go to the CTeen Shabbaton in New York. The Shabbaton had a huge impact on me. The energy was palpable; I wanted to explore my Judaism even more. My enthusiasm for all things Jewish grew, and step-by-step I started observing more mitzvot.
I started to eat only kosher inside and outside of my home. Eventually, I decided I wanted to observe Shabbat and began staying at the Horowitzs each week.
In the beginning of my senior year, I realized that I had grown out of the Jewish learning experiences that Plano had to offer. I spoke to friends, Esther Horowitz, my parents, my school. And it became apparent that the place for me to be was studying full-time at Machon L'Yahadus yeshiva for women. Although I would need to graduate high school early to realize my dream, I decided to go for it. Thank G-d my parents were and are supportive of my decision.
I am currently in my second year at Machon L'Yahadus. In addition, I have the privilege to work at CTeen headquarters here in New York. CTeen is the exact place where I started my journey and a huge enabler in my discoveries. And when I look at what I'm accomplishing at CTeen, I realize I'm only able to do these things because of everything I'm learning and doing at Machon L'Yahadus.
I had thought that my semester of study here would be a stepping stone. Truthfully, my dream was to study in Israel for a year. But once I came, I found my place, and I couldn't leave.
Going in a different direction than your friends and family is challenging. Without a support system, or even guidance, it could seem treacherous. But at here, I've found a tremendous place filled with only.
It's more than a "school to learn"; it's a school of life. A place where teachers answer every little question you have or are simply an ear to listen. A place where every student's voice matters. A place filled with respect for every student to grow at her own pace. Because we all come from different places, and right now we're all on our own levels and discoveries. But Machon L'Yahadus has this magical power that bonds us together. And I can't thank Rabbi Majeski and the entire staff for me and the myriad of other students who have come through these doors.
To anyone on a journey, whatever your goals are, however you mean to make Judaism a part of your life: embrace the challenge and the change! Take on something new; explore, be curious, find the answers to the burning questions. Find your purpose. Because of Machon L'Yahadus I got my opportunity to that, and I have never been happier.
Ask anyone who knows me, none of them would have predicted this life for me five years ago. But, like we know: Man plans, and G-d laughs.
For more info about Machon L'Yahadus, including their upcoming 10-day Winter Program for college students and recent grads, visit womensyeshiva.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 718-552-2422.
Sea Traveler: A Practical Step-by-Step Guide to Prayer and Chassidic Meditation by Rabbi Dov Ber Klein enables the reader to set off on a journey of self-discovery through prayer. Translating the deepest concepts of Jewish mystical thought into a language everybody can understand, this book will help you develop a feeling of calm mindfulness, faith and joyful attachment to the Almighty each morning.
New Mikvas on Sprawling Campus
Chabad of Arkansas, in Little Rock, Arkansas, recently dedicated a beautiful new mikva on their seven acre campus. Chabad operates the state's only Jewish Day School. On the campus there is also a synagogue where daily services are held, as well as classrooms for elementary, high school, adult education classes.
This letter of the Rebbe is part of a correspondence between the Rebbe and Mr. Herman Wouk
15th of Av, 5745 
Shalom u'Brocho [Peace and Blessing]:
Your letter reached me with considerable delay. Thus, by hashgocho protis, your letter, dated on the day of the Chag haGeula [holiday of release from communist imprisonment] of my father-in-law the Rebbe, of saintly memory, is fittingly acknowledged on the auspicious day of the 15th of Av. Both these dates are connected with the dissemination of Torah. It was the cause of the arrest and eventual liberation of my saintly father-in-law under the Stalin regime (1927); while increased Torah study is the main feature of the 15th of Av, as explained at some length at the end of Mesachta Taanis.
This brings me to the paragraph in your letter wherein you refer to "very modest acts" on your part in the field of Torah education. I must challenge this self-assessment on the ground that the record speaks for itself. Moreover, in wide segments of Jewry, especially among American Jews, the impact of your "modest acts" strikes deeper and wider than similar acts of a Rabbi or Rebbe (myself included) could attain, for obvious reasons.
Incidentally, it is well to remember an admonition by my father-in-law to the effect that a person should not underestimate one's achievements, since only then will one generate the inner incentive and drive to achieve the fullest utilization of one's total capacities.
For the sake of a mutual consensus, I am prepared to accept your claim of "very modest acts" - in a relative sense, in terms of your potential and future acts, which will dwarf your past accomplishments by comparison. Indeed, this is a natural human aspiration, as our Sages assure us in the well-known adage: "Whoever has 100 desires 200; and, (attaining) 200 (will not be satisfied with the increment of another 100, but desires double) - 400. And so forth in geometric-progression.
Me'inyan l'inyan. [From one subject to the next] Some time ago I noticed in the JTA Bulletin an item about another "modest act" of yours, namely your involvement in a project to publish the Chumash [Five Books of Moses] in Braille. I do not have it on hand, so I am relying on memory. Needless to say, it's a great zechus [privilege].
In light of the famous teaching of the Baal Shem Tov that anything that comes to the eyes or ears of an individual contains some personal message to the beholder or listener, I take the liberty - though I do not usually take such liberties - of volunteering a suggestion. I feel certain that whether you take it or leave it, you will surely accept it in the proper spirit.
The impact of your "modest acts" strikes deeper and wider than similar acts of a Rabbi or Rebbe (myself included) could attain, for obvious reasons.
My suggestion - that is all it is - is that you consider including in the said project the publication in Braille of the section of the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch [Code of Jewish Law] in English that deals with the month of Tishrei, with the preparations for it in the latter part of Elul. The need for it requires no elaboration to you, and if it is to be implemented without undue delay, there is time, I believe to have it done in good time before Rosh Hashanah
Should this suggestion be approved and acted upon, then - in keeping with Ps. 119:63 - I would like to participate in it with a financial contribution which I leave to your assessment, since I am not familiar with the actual costs involved in the publication and distribution of such an item in Braille. I will look forward to your response on this matter.
To conclude on the auspicious note of the 15th of Av, may Hashem grant the fulfillment, for you and all of us in the midst of Klal Yisrael, of the assurance of our Sages z'l
With esteem and blessing,
Are there any special customs associated with traveling?
A special "Prayer for Travelers" (Tefilat HaDerech) is said upon reaching the outskirts of the city from which you are traveling. In this prayer, we ask G-d to protect us and enable us to arrive at our destination in safety. If one will be away for more than one day, the prayer is said - without using G-d's name - each subsequent day after the morning prayers. For a more extensive guide to Jewish customs when travelling visit chabad.org.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
On this weekend each year, the Lubavitcher Rebbe's emissaries convene at World Lubavitch Headquarters. While the first International Shluchim Convention was attended by 65 emissaries, today over 3,000 emissaries attend, and the number continues to grow each year as more and more young couples join the Lubavitcher Rebbe's army.
The convention in 1990 was opened by the Rebbe at a gathering on Shabbat attended by the emissaries and thousands of other Chasidim. At that gathering the Rebbe explained the characteristics of an emissary and his mission:
"First and foremost, each shliach [emissary] should feel strengthened and reinforced by this meeting. He should realize that no matter how far away he has been sent, the one who appointed him is with him. Indeed, 'a person's shliach is considered as he, himself.':
The deeds of the shliach are considered as having been performed by the one who appointed him; the shliach, and his powers, however, are considered as separated entities.
The shliach's power to act is considered as given over to the one who appointed him; his other powers, his thoughts and his feelings, are his own. All of the shliach's powers, his thoughts, his feelings, his will, and his pleasure, are given over to the one who appointed him.
The Rebbe then went on to explain the mission of each shliach, near or far, which is to spread Judaism and the teachings of Chasidism outward. The Rebbe continued: "These activities will lead to the realization in deed and action of the concept that the Hebrew word 'shliach' together with the number ten (signifying the ten powers of the soul), is numerically equivalent to 'Moshiach.'
"Each Jew has a spark of Moshiach within his soul which can be revealed through the service described above. The revelation of the spark of Moshiach on an individual level will lead to the revelation of Moshiach for the entire world and the coming of the ultimate Redemption. May it be in the immediate future."
Hear us, my lord (Gen. 23:6)
As a token of their respect, the sons of Chet addressed Abraham as "my lord." Abraham, however, refused to reciprocate, even in his business dealings. Abraham, the first Jew, reserved the term solely for G-d, despite social convention.
(Rabbi Yosef Horowitz)
And the servant ran to meet her (Gen. 24:17)
According to the commentator Rashi, it was only when Eliezer saw the well water miraculously rising toward Rebecca that he decided she would make the perfect wife for Isaac. Yet only the water Rebecca drew for her own use rose up by itself; the water she drew for Eliezer and his camels had to be brought up by hand. We learn from this that although G-d may perform miracles to assist a righteous person, when it comes to doing mitzvot, it is preferable to perform them oneself in a natural manner and not to rely on miracles.
(Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev)
And Abraham gave all that he had to Isaac, but to the sons of the concubines...he gave gifts (Gen. 25:5-6)
Isaac is symbolic of holiness and the spiritual realm; the "sons of the concubines" stand for the physical and corporeal world. The Torah teaches that we must give "all" of ourselves - the lion's share of our time, energy and talents - to spiritual matters. Worldly matters, however, can be placated with "gifts."
Then Abraham expired, and died in a good old age (Gen. 25:8)
On the day that Abraham passed away, the greatest of the nations cried, "Woe to the world that has lost its leader; woe to the ship that has lost its captain."
(Talmud, Baba Batra)
Among all of his [Ishmael's] brethren he settled (lit. "fell") (Gen. 25:18)
With these words the Torah portion of Chayei Sarah concludes, to be followed immediately by, "And these are the generations of Isaac, the son of Abraham," the beginning of the Torah portion of Toldot. This alludes to the ultimate fall of Ishmael in the End of Days and the subsequent triumph of Moshiach, the son of David, who is descended from Isaac.
One time, a chasid who was a simple merchant came to the Maggid of Mezritch, the successor of the Baal Shem Tov. "I am not able to concentrate during prayer and study," he complained to the Maggid. "Often, my mind begins to wander and I start to think about work, or my family, or even the latest news in town. And, what is even worse," he continued, "I sometimes have improper thoughts at these times."
"I am unable to help you," the Maggid told the visitor sadly. "But, go to my disciple, Rabbi Zev of Zhitomir. He will be able to advise you what to do."
The visitor took the Maggid's suggestion to heart. He immediately set out for the village in which Rabbi Zev lived. He arrived at the village later that evening. Without much difficulty, he was able to locate the inn that Rabbi Zev managed. The hour was late, though, and the inn closed.
Because he had come at the Maggid's suggestion, the merchant was certain it was permitted for him to knock on Rabbi Zev's private door and gain entrance in this manner. He knocked on the door, but there was no reply.
The visitor knocked again on the door, this time a little louder. Again, no one seemed to hear - no one answered the door. Again and again the visitor knocked, pounded, banged, and even kicked the door, all to no avail. Despite the commotion, the door was not opened.
The winter night was cold and the merchant was uncomfortable. He had traveled a long distance to arrive at Rabbi Zev's inn. He was tired and hungry. But, the Maggid had sent him to Rabbi Zev, and so he persisted in trying to gain entrance to Rabbi Zev's private dwelling or at least the inn rather than staying some place else for the evening. He kept knocking and finally began shouting in anger and frustration. "How can you be so merciless to leave me standing out here in the cold?" he cried loudly. Still, through everything, the door remained closed.
As daylight broke, the door was opened. The visitor entered and made arrangements to stay at the inn for a few days. Throughout the entire time, Rabbi Zev practically ignored his guest.
The man began to wonder why the Maggid had sent him here. How was he to learn from Rabbi Zev, who would not even give him the time of day? He resigned himself to the futility of his trip and began preparing to leave. Up until now, Rabbi Zev had rebuffed the merchant's attempts at communicating.
He decided to try once more before he left. "I cannot understand why the Maggid sent me to you!" he told the innkeeper. "I told the Maggid that I could not concentrate during prayer and study because my mind wandered off in all directions. He told me that he could not help me but that you could. I think my trip was in vain," he exclaimed sullenly.
To this Rabbi Zev replied, "I will tell you why the Maggid sent you to me. You have seen that I have acted like a true 'master of the house.' When I did not want you to enter my house, you were compelled to remain outside. So too, with your complaint. If you do not wish to have extraneous thoughts or, worse yet, improper thoughts, enter your mind during prayer, Torah study or at any other time, do not let them in! Fill your mind with words of Torah. You, as the 'master of the house' of your mind, can let in whatever you wish and refuse entrance to those thoughts that you chose not to let enter."
Rabbi Zev's words made a strong impression on the chasid. He returned home knowing full well that he could be in control of his thoughts if he so desired. True, it would require effort and work, but ultimately he would be the one to determine which thoughts were "welcome" and which were not.
The Talmud states: Three tzadikim (righteous people) were given a taste of the World to Come in this world - Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. In the World to Come, the prophecy - "the female will surround and encompass the male," and "a woman of valor is the crown of her husband" (Proverbs) will be fulfilled. Abraham was given a glimpse of this when G-d told him to heed the words of Sara, who was an even greater prophet than he (Gen. 21:12): "In all that Sara may say to you - hearken unto her voice"