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Though published over two decades ago, Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus is still garnering pop-culture references in all forms of media. Well, long before John Gray's book ever hit the best-sellers list, Judaism always opined that men and women are different!
In the Talmud, our Sages say it clearly and succinctly: "Women are a people unto themselves."
Since men and women are different and Judaism acknowledges these differences, the Torah has much to say about the relationship between husband and wife.
The Talmud advises husbands, "Love your wife as much as yourself and honor her more than yourself."
Maimonides suggests to wives, "Honor your husband more than is necessary."
Honor, esteem, and respect - these are fundamental aspects of a Jewish marriage.
But what about love? Isn't love an integral component of a Torah marriage?
Let's look at the Jewish concept of love.
The word for love in Hebrew is "ahava" which comes from the word "hav," meaning "give."
The world says, "What can I get out of this marriage? What can I gain? What's in it for me?"
The Torah says, "What can I put into this relationship? What can I give?" The Torah teaches us that the way to foster love is not by taking but rather by giving, and being a willing and active recipient.
Just for a minute, think about that cute little baby - your own child, the neighbor's, your niece or nephew, or grandchild.
A natural reaction when around an infant is to pick it up, and cuddle it. Before you know it, you'll find yourself saying "I love you" to the baby. What has the baby given to you? Nothing. But you are giving to the baby - hugs, cuddles, kisses, coos - and this giving evokes in you a love for the baby.
Society teaches that each of us is the center of the world.
The Torah, however, teaches that G-d is the center of the world.
If we make room in our lives, and especially in our marriages, not only for our partner, but also for G-d, we have a tested formula for a stable marriage.
This is beautifully expressed by our Sages in their discussion of husband and wife.
"Man" in Hebrew is "ish"; woman is "isha."
Both words have two letters in common, "alef" and "shin," which spell "fire."
The two disparate letters are "yud" and "hei."
When yud and hei are combined they spell one of G-d's names. When husband and wife live without G-d in their midst, all that is left is "aish" - an all-consuming fire.
The Torah calls the wedding ceremony "kidushin," meaning "sanctification."
And the word for marriage comes from the Hebrew "to lift up."
If husband and wife devote themselves to lifting each other up throughout the ups and downs of marriage by following the guidelines of the Torah, they will be truly sanctified and their marriage will be holy.
In honor of the anniversary of the Rebbe and Rebbetzin on 14 Kislev.
In this week's Torah portion, Vayeitzei, we read about Jacob's life in Haran. Jacob's life was fraught with difficulty. Laban, a corrupt, lying, immoral person, tried to swindle Jacob in every way possible. (And what's more, Laban was Jacob's father-in-law!) Yet through it all, Jacob succeeded in building a beautiful family, and amassing great wealth.
Why is it important to tell us all these details, a whole portion of Jacob's difficulties, and victories?
What are we meant to take from this portion for our personal lives and as a people?
The portion starts with Jacob's dream, where he saw a ladder whose base was on earth and its top was in heaven.
We are Jacob. Jacob's leaving to Haran is us going into exile. Many lessons are to be taken to deal with our nation's struggles, and our personal suffering.
To accomplish great things is fraught with difficulties. Jacob starting the Jewish nation is challenged with suffering, but he knows that these difficulties are the motions necessary to accomplish the purpose at hand.
Ultimately, Jacob succeeds and returns to the Land of Israel with a beautiful family and great wealth. His suffering is not for naught, rather it is the foundation of his greatest accomplishments.
All this is related in Jacob's dream. The ladder is standing on the ground, symbolizing the physical world with all the difficulties and suffering. Its top reaches heaven, teaching that our interaction with the physical world can be holy and reach the heaven.
The suffering and difficulties we endure are accomplishing amazing things, and in the end, when Moshiach comes we will see the fruits of our labor. Even more, we create the ladder that connects heaven and earth, fusing the two. This fusion is the essential purpose of creation, it is the Jewish mission, making this world a dwelling for G-d.
I'm not sure why, but this fusion is accomplished through our suffering. I think we have suffered enough. Let Moshiach come.
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.
Out of the Box
by Rabbi Yechiel Baitelman
A friend of mine, a young man who lives in Richmond, Canada, told me the following story:
He was packing his bags in New Orleans for his trip home to Vancouver and debated whether to put his Tefillin in his carry on or in his checked luggage. The flight left at night and he would be home by morning. His itinerary called for a two- hour layover in Houston and a quick connection to Vancouver. The trip was short enough that he wouldn't need the Tefilin on the flight or at the airport, but he decided to keep them with him in his carry-on bag.
After getting to the airport and checking his bags, he learned the flight was delayed because of bad weather in Houston. The flight didn't end up leaving for over three hours and he missed his connection home to Vancouver. He was booked on the next available flight but that wasn't for a very long 14 hours. He stopped counting at about 12.
This was definitely an unexpected turn. He didn't bring much along in terms of food or entertainment, but he did have his Tefillin.
Actually, the unexpected turned good - he got to know a lot of the nice people who worked at the stores in the airport. The best part was that while he was tefillin taking off his Tefillin after finishing his mitzvah, someone was calling out his name in Hebrew!! He didn't know too many people in Houston, and hardly anybody calls him by his Hebrew name.
A fellow came up to him and excitedly told him, "I was on that same flight, and I too am going to Vancouver. Unfortunately I checked my Tefilin. Can I use yours"?
My Richmond friend was of course happy to do this mitzvah and glad to be able to help! But how did the fellow know his name?!? Then he remembered ... his name was stitched onto his Tefilin bag that I had given him as a gift.
So, the other fellow checked his Tefilin, but my friend didn't. He did end up needing them, but for something completely different. He was able to do a mitzvah and help someone else do a mitzvah as well.
These seemingly random encounters sometimes make the trip better than we could ever imagine. Perhaps these encounters are not random after all. As we get ready to travel this summer, let's remember the unexpected can give us the chance to do a good turn.
Something needed, something given, something lost or found - do you have a story of travel good turns?
Turn your travels into a meaningful experience.
When Josh Kositsky walked into my classroom on the first day of Hebrew school several years ago, he was very nervous - not nervous - excited as so many new students are, just plain worried.
I soon realized the reason for his unease was that he was having trouble reading my lips as I spoke. You see, Josh is deaf.
When he was born, his parents were told he would never speak because of his "disability." His potential was put in a box and given a label "You won't speak."
At some point in Josh's life he chose not to accept that label he decided to break out of that box that was labelled, "You won't speak" and he decided to speak. I don't know what made him choose to move forward and learn to speak, but he did and he has never looked back.
Thirteen years ago Josh celebrated his Bar Mitzva at Chabad in a loud and proud voice. This was a day that not only did Josh prove to the world he was becoming a Jewish man, but he shouted to the world "I will not be put in a box, I will not be labelled." That was a day I also learned the power of choice.
And what fills my heart with joy is that every year since, Josh has come back to do more of the reading of his Torah portion. In fact, a couple of weeks ago, he chose to read more than ever before. Again Josh chose to push himself and accomplish just a bit more.
Josh doesn't define himself by the things he was told he could not do or by the things others labelled him with. Josh defines himself with what he wants and on his terms and by his own choices. This is a gift that G-d has given all of us, and I wonder if we maybe do not use this gift enough.
Josh continues to outdo what others ever expect of him, but that is not what is ultimately important to Josh, Josh refuses to stay in a box with a label that is what drives Josh. I believe Josh will do many great things in his life, and I know what ever those great things are they will be Joshes choices.
Do you know someone who has broken out of a box and ripped of the label, exceeded expectations? Have you ever amazed yourself with something you thought you couldn't do, only to find out you could and much more?
Use the upcoming Shabbat to allow yourself to think outside of the box, it is a gift we all have and no one can take it away.
Rabbi Yechiel and Chanie Baitelman direct Chabad of Richmond, in British Columbia, Canada. These stories are from his blog.
Thousands of teens from across the globe gathered in November for a Shabbat of inspiration, learning, and unity organized by CTeen International. Nine countries and over 125 CTeen chapters participated in T.G.I.S: Thank G-d It's Shabbat. Some CTeen chapters took T.G.I.S to the next level, inviting nearby CTeen groups to spend Shabbat together for a joint weekend. Plans for the International CTeen Shabbaton in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, in February are well underway. To get involved see CTeen.com and on Facebook @JewishTeens.
Moscow Jewish Museum
The Tolerance Center at the Moscow Jewish Museum has been awarded the Madanjit Singh Prize for the promotion of tolerance and non-violence. The award ceremony was held at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris. The center was recognized for its wide range of activities, including research and educational programs promoting dialogue between religions and world-views, with a particular focus on youth.
10th of Kislev, 5714 
To my brethren, everywhere G-d bless you all!
Sholom uBrocho [Peace and Blessing]:
In connection with the Day of Liberation (19th of Kislev) of the Founder of Chabad, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, author of the Tanya, whose release from imprisonment for the dissemination of Chabad established freedom of though and practice of the ideology and way of life of Chabad Chassidism in particular, and of General Chassidism as a whole,
I wish to express herewith my inner wish, that every one of us be liberated, with G-d's help and by determined personal effort, from all handicaps which arrest the good and noble in everyone's nature, so that this part of one's nature reign supreme, giving fullest expression of the three-fold love: love of our people Israel, love of our Torah, and love of G-d, which are all one.
Our Sages said that "Each and every soul was in the presence of His Divine Majesty before coming down to this earth," and that "The souls are hewn from under the Seat of Glory."
These sayings emphasize the essential nature of the soul, its holiness and purity, and its being completely divorced from anything material and physical; the soul itself, by its very nature, is not subject to any material desires or temptations, which arise only from the physical body and "animal soul."
Nevertheless, it was the Creator's Will that the soul - which is "truly a 'part' of the Divine Above," should descend into the physical and coarse world and be confined within, and united with, a physical body for scores of years, in a state which is absolutely abhorrent of its very nature. All this, for the purpose of a Divine mission which the soul has to fulfill: to purify and "spiritualize" the physical body and the related physical environment by permeating them with the Light of G-d, so as to make this world an abode for the Shechina [the Divine Presence]. This can be done only through a life of Torah and Mitsvoth [commandments].
When the soul fulfills this mission, all the transient pain and suffering connected with the soul's descent and life on this earth are not only justified, but infinitely outweighed by the great reward and everlasting bliss which the soul enjoys thereafter.
From the above one can easily appreciate the extent of the tragedy of disregarding the soul's mission on earth. For in doing so one condemns the soul to a term of useless suffering not compensated for, nor nullified by that everlasting happiness which G-d had intended for it. Even when there are moments of religious activity in the study of the Torah and the practice of the Mitsvoth, it is sad to contemplate how often such activity is tinted by the lack of real enthusiasm and inner joy, not realizing that these are the activities which justify existence.
Aside from missing the vital point through failure of taking advantage of the opportunity to fulfill G-d's Will, thus forfeiting the everlasting benefits to be derived therefrom, it is contrary to sound reason to choose that side of life which accentuates the enslavement and degradation of the soul, while rejecting the good that is inherent in it, namely, the great ascent that is to come from the soul's descent.
It will now become eminently clear what our Sages meant when they said, "No man commits a sin unless he was stricken with temporary insanity." No profound thinking is required to realize that since " life is compulsory," and since the soul which is a "part" of the Divine Above is compelled to descend into "a frame of dust and ashes," the proper thing to do is to make the most of the soul's sojourn on earth; only a life, in which every aspect is permeated by the Torah and Mitsvoth, makes this possible.
continued in next issue
What is the "Shemona Esrei" prayer?
The Shemona Esrei prayer is the central prayer in the three daily services. "Shemona Esrei"means eighteen and the prayer was called thus, because when it was compiled by the Men of the Great Assembly (around 428 b.c.e.) it had 18 blessings. An additional nineteenth blessing concerning slanderers was added by Rabbi Gamliel II toward the end of the first century. The Shemona Esrei is also referred to as the Amida - meaning "standing," because it is recited while Standing
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
The ninth of Kislev (this year Friday, December 9) is the birth and passing of the Mitteler Rebbe, Rabbi Dov Ber (the second Lubavitcher Rebbe).
In the summer of 1827 (5587) Rabbi Dov Ber made the journey to the village of Haditch, the resting place of his father, Rabbi Shneur Zalman. Although Chasidic insights usually flowed from his lips, on this occasion he was silent and meditative.
He had been heard to express certain apprehension concerning the year 5588 (1827): "My father passed on at the age of fifty-four. He had been presented from heaven with a choice: either death or severe suffering. He chose the second [he was subsequently imprisoned]; it seems that he left the first to me." All of this presaged unhappy events.
The High Holidays had arrived by the time Rabbi Dov Ber arrived in Haditch. Soon it would be 5588. Chasidim arrived in droves and assembled in the House of Study that Rabbi Dov Ber had built near the grave of his father to hear his Chasidic discourses. After one session, the Rebbe remained at the grave to pray and meditate. When he had finished, he emerged with a radiant appearance and announced to his startled Chasidim, "I have persuaded my father to promise that I will be relieved of my position of Rebbe."
The Chasidim didn't know what to make of this announcement, but it was assumed that the Rebbe was indicating to them his intention to fulfill his long-held desire to travel to the Holy Land. They were completely distraught, and asked one another, "How could the Rebbe leave us like this, a flock without a shepherd?"
But when they voiced their fears to the Rebbe himself, he replied, "But you will have my son-in-law Mendel, who will be a faithful shepherd," referring to the Tzemach Tzedek.
The Rebbe continued his journey going by way of the town of Niezhin, where he became ill. His illness progressed and finally he passed away there. It was 9 Kislev, 5588 (1827) the Rebbe's 54th birthday.
And Esau said to Jacob: "Let me swallow now some of this very red stuff" (Gen. 25:30).
Jacob cooked a stew of red lentils to provide the first, traditional meal for his mourning father, Isaac. On that very day, Abraham had died so that he wouldn't witness the wickedness of his grandson, Esau. Why lentils? They resemble a wheel whose every part touches the ground. Mourning is like a wheel, sooner or later it touches everyone.
Jacob went out from Beersheba and went toward Charan (Gen. 28:10)
Rabbi Pinchas said, in the name of Rabbi Abahu: According to the Torah, whomever a person marries is predestined by G-d. Some people must go out to meet their mate; others have their mate come to them. Isaac's wife, Rivka, came to him: "And Isaac went out to meditate in the field...and he lifted up his eyes and saw, behold, there were camels coming. And Rivka lifted up her eyes, and she saw Isaac." Jacob, however, had to travel to Charan to meet his future wives.
And he reached (vayifga) a certain place... (Gen. 28:11)
The Hebrew word "vayifga," "and he reached," implies prayer. It was especially necessary for Jacob to pray for guidance as he set out for Charan, for he knew that the challenges he would find there would be far more trying than those he had experienced in the rarefied atmosphere of the yeshiva. He therefore prayed for the strength to withstand the difficult trials he would encounter.
...And he took one of the stones of the place, and put it under his head (Gen. 28:11)
Why didn't Jacob choose something softer to use as a pillow? Jacob said, "A stone of Eretz Yisrael is more precious than all the pillows and cushions I will ever use in the Diaspora."
Behold, a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reaching to heaven. (Gen. 28:12)
The Tzemach Tzedek, third Chabad Rebbe, explained that "earth" hints to that part of the soul which is enclothed in the body. "Heavens" is symbolic of the essence and basis of the soul, which is too high to be related to the body. The "ladder" is prayer, which joins and connects these two aspects of the soul.
Rabbi Peretz Chein was a great Torah scholar and a Chasid of Rabbi Dov Ber Shneuri, the second Rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch known as the Mitteler Rebbe. Reb Peretz was sent by the Mitteler Rebbe to be the rabbi in the city of Beshenkowitz.
Reb Peretz was very uneasy about taking on the position in Beshenkowitz; a man by the name of Reb Aharon had caused grief to all the previous Chasidic rabbis of the town. Reb Aharon was a great scholar in his own right and was vehemently opposed to Chasidism. He used his genius to confound the rabbis and ultimately to get rid of them.
Reb Aharon's way of operating was as follows: He would present all manner of difficult questions to the rabbi upon his arrival in Beshenkowitz. After the rabbi would render his decision, Reb Aharon and his friends would present a strong case for an opposing position. If at any time, a rabbi conceded that he had erred, he was ridiculed by Reb Aharon and his cronies until he left the town in disgrace.
Therefore, when the Mitteler Rebbe assigned Rabbi Peretz to become the rabbi of this town, it was no wonder that the latter was nervous. He told the Rebbe his concerns, saying that under the circumstances he did not think he could go there. The Rebbe told him that "they had approved of this in Heaven," but Rabbi Peretz was still apprehensive. The Rebbe finally told him to go there, "oif meina pleitzes" (on my shoulders). Hearing this, Rabbi Peretz rejoiced and said, "Rebbe, I'm going! If it's on the Rebbe's shoulders, I have nothing to fear."
Rabbi Peretz arrived at Beshenkowitz and began leading the town as its rabbi. Reb Aharon, of course, began sending all sorts of questions his way through his various emissaries, but Rabbi Peretz always managed to prove the validity of his legal decisions.
Reb Aharon once sent him a particularly complicated question. Rabbi Peretz scrutinized the item in question and pronounced it kosher. Reb Aharon immediately galvanized his friends into action. They attacked the rabbi's decision with strong, convincing proofs. Rabbi Peretz worked arduously to justify his position.
At the height of the debate, the antagonists repeatedly demanded, "What's your source? From where did you derive your decision?" Finally, Rabbi Peretz pointed towards a packed bookcase and said, "From there."
Rabbi Peretz had meant that, in general, his decision had been based on the holy books housed in the bookcase, but evidently one of his opponents understood him to be referring to a particular book. So he took the book out and opened it up to see what it said.
Lo and behold, this was a book of Jewish legal responsa, and by an incredible instance of Divine Providence, the place he opened to was precisely the topic they were discussing! There the author referred to the sources the antagonists were quoting in attempt to disprove Rabbi Peretz, and it went on to explain how each point was taken out of context. In the book of responsa, the final ruling was in accordance with the opinion that had been derived by Rabbi Peretz.
When Reb Aharon and his cohorts saw the proof in black and white with their very eyes, they meekly left the house. From then on, they no longer persecuted Rabbi Peretz.
"That's when I saw," said Rabbi Peretz afterwards, "that the Rebbe had indeed taken me on his holy shoulders."
Adapted from a story in Beis Moshiach Magazine.
"He (Jacob) came to the place and spent the night there because the sun went down, he took some stones from the place and put them at his head, and he lay down on that place "(Gen. 28:10) The place thrice referred to in this verse is Mt. Moriah, later to be the site of the Holy Temples. It is written three times to represent the three Holy Temples. The first time, "the sun went down," corresponds to the destruction of the first Temple. The second time, "he took some of the stones," reveals the Second Temple had only some of the holiness of the first one. The third time it says "and he lay down in that place," referring to the Third Temple to be built when Moshiach comes, for then we will be able to rest and serve G-d in peace.