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It Once Happened | Moshiach Matters
by Rabbi Mendy Herson
Emotions are a funny thing.
When something triggers emotion in me, I know that it matters. Emotions also form a bridge - or a barrier - between people. So emotions are a critically important part of the personality.
But emotions can also get away from you. Like when you 'fly off the handle.' Emotions are your psyche's fire. And, like fire, we need to treat them carefully and keep them under control.
Emotion even impacts our understanding. Unless I'm 'emotionally-available' to internalize and accept hear your words, I probably won't be able to appreciate their logic (i.e. if I don't like you, your opinion is probably wrong).
Sometimes, it can feel like our emotions control the joystick of our lives. But they don't have to. Because we also have intellect.
Intellect is the more sedate and controlled side of the human psyche. Logic is cool, calm and somewhat detached. It's soothing water to help you control your emotional fire.
I remember reading how a man sat on a subway in New York city, while a father with three young children sat next to him. The kids were unruly and really got under this fellow's skin. As his anger-quotient rose, the father noticed his discomfort. Apologizing for his children's behavior, he explained that they were on the way home from the hospital. The children's mother had just passed away and they were a bit overwhelmed with the confusion in their lives.
This subway traveler was totally transformed. Ashamed of his snap to judgment, his anger was immediately replaced by empathy and concern.
Why do you think his anger disappeared?
It's because his perspective changed. With new information, a new understanding, he revised his mental 'framing' of the situation, and his emotions immediately followed suit.
Too often we feel that our emotions 'run away with us.' They don't have to. When we reframe how we see the world, our emotions can come into line with our reasonable selves.
Much of Torah life, the mitzvot (commandments) and their mindset, guides us toward this goal of corralling human nature and bringing it into line with a purposeful life. Each Mitzvah is its own exercise, bringing us closer to our better selves.
G-d wants us to become optimally-functioning human beings, so G-d gave us a user's manual for life - the Torah - to help us achieve that goal.
Check out the program.
Rabbi Mendy Herson, together with his wife Malki, director Chabad of Somerset, Hunterdon & Union Counties in New Jersey. This is from Rabbi Herson's blog. To read more visitchabadcentral.org
In this week's Torah portion, Vayikra, we read about a person who transgressed against G-d, by being dishonest to another person. "When he realizes that he sinned and that he is guilty," first he must correct the wrong and only after can he go through the process to receive atonement.
Why does the Torah call it a transgression against G-d when a person is dishonest? What does "when he realizes that he sinned" mean; doesn't he know that he was dishonest?
When two people make a business deal without a contract and without witnesses, and one is dishonest and swindles his partner, he feels confident doing so because no one else was there. But in truth, G-d was there! His dishonesty is not only against his friend, but even more, it is a denial of G-d's existence.
There is a deeper level of dishonesty, being dishonest with yourself. This is when you knowingly underestimate your potential. Are you using all of your strengths? Are you maximizing your potential? You have the ability to make a difference, to change the world for the better. G-d has given you these gifts just for this purpose. Not using them is an affront to G-d.
Dishonesty finds its roots in selfishness - not being able to see anyone but yourself. When everything is about "me," it is impossible to use your potential for G-d, because your abilities are busy satisfying your selfishness. Whether your dishonesty is against a friend or yourself, it is very difficult to correct the situation. Being selfish means I am right, I deserve it, everyone owes me. Me me me.
The only way out of this situation is for the person to realize on his own, to acknowledge that he sinned, and to admit his guilt. Only then can he begin to make amends, first to his friends, and then to G-d.
For many of us, it is so difficult to admit that "I was wrong." On the other hand doing so and apologizing is freeing and endearing. When one partner is selfish there is no relationship. When you make room for the other to exist, the relationship begins, first with the other, and then with G-d.
We are now at the end of this dark exile That was brought on because of senseless hatred for one another. This hatred is also rooted in selfishness. We can find a way to overcome selfishness, make room for another and recognize G-d. Then we will be well on our way to healthy relationships, closeness to G-d, fulfilling our potential and bringing Moshiach.
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.
The Unconventional Family
by Rabbi Chaim Bruk
Sitting in the car outside the hospital, immediately after the medical procedure that determined our infertility and still somewhat anesthetized, a well-meaning and truly loving relative, sitting at our side, said to my wife Chavie and me: "What do the doctors know anyhow? You must have faith and G-d will help."
He was right that G-d would help, though not in the miraculous biological sense that he wished for. A few minutes later, we received a phone call from Chavie's dad, a respected Texas rabbi and a thoughtful soul, in which he said "I have no doubt that there are children in the world that G-d intends for you and Chavie to care for."
His words were a blur, but it undoubtedly planted a fruitful seed.
"G-dsent" is a commonly used term in the American vernacular, and it seems to me, that it's normally expressed when something goes the way we envisioned. It seems unanimously accepted that if G-d, in His infinite wisdom, agrees with our, finite, assessment of life and its layers of depth, then it's a "G-dsent." It's not often that people scream it's a "G-dsent" when experiencing intolerable challenges. In my last blog post, "G-d's infertility," I wrote about the hardship and pain of infertility, of being unable to experience the gift of biological children. Today, I'd like to focus on the gift of adoption:
At first, the idea of adoption seemed crazy. Growing up, Chavie and I knew of a handful of fellow Orthodox Jews who'd adopted, but the concept as a whole was unfamiliar. Many who suffered with biological childlessness, did so in silence and without alternative options. We asked ourselves a thousand questions: Do we even want to raise someone else's biological child? Would it really be a family or just a make-believe mechanism for us to play house and look like the rest of society? How does one even start to go about the process of adopting? How could we afford the small fortune it costs to adopt? The questions and doubts buzzed in our heads, while still trying to come to terms with the infertility diagnoses itself.
For 15 agonizing months, our minds churned and our hearts ached, giving us the much needed time to solidify our yearning to create a family. If it's a "G-dsent" indeed and He chooses to bless us through a different manner, who are we to challenge Him? If we believe, as Judaism teaches, that G-d is Omnipresent, Omniscient and Omnipotent, then it became obvious to us that He knows how painful it is for us and that He's guiding us to the proper result for us. We are students of the Torah, the Jewish testament, in which we read of Moses, the biological child of Amram and Yocheved, being raised by The Pharaohs' daughter, princess Bitya, who, in the Book of Chronicles, is recorded as Moses' mother. In the Scroll of Esther, we read about Esther's adoption by her cousin Mordechai and in Genesis, we read about Asher's daughter Serach. Serach was not Asher's biological daughter, but rather Asher adopted her as his daughter after marrying her mom. The Midrash teaches that Joseph, while exiled in Egypt, married Osnat who although is mentioned as daughter of Potifar and his wife, was actually the daughter of Dina and granddaughter of our patriarch Jacob, who was adopted by the royal Egyptian couple.
Biblical stories were coming alive in Montana.
One bright Tuesday morning, sitting in a New Jersey gas station, the long awaited call finally came: "Rabbi, you and your lovely wife can now come to the agency and pick up your beautiful baby." Our emotions at that moment are hard to articulate and the positive change that our baby, Chaya, had on our life is one we live with every moment. The pain, the brokenness, the hopelessness, the loneliness, all ended the moment G-d showed us, in the words of Paul Harvey, "Now you know the rest of the story." Now you know, Chaim and Chavie, that I always intended for you to be a "Mommy" and "Aba," but on my terms, not yours. We think we know it all, but G-d decides our life experiences and we'd live healthier lives if we surrendered ourselves to Him and allowed Him to guide us to our destiny.
So what's Chaya's story?
On August 28, 2009, 3.5 years after our marriage, in a third world country thousands of miles from Montana, a Yiddishe Mame (Jewish mother) gave birth to a baby 9 weeks prematurely. The baby weighed three pounds and her tiny life was hanging in the balance. Hospitalized with substandard medical care for over a month, hooked to a respirator and undergoing several preemie surgeries, she managed to survive and make it to the United States where she underwent further medical evaluation. Throughout the entire ordeal, the mom was scared and shocked, as this pregnancy was unexpected and was looking to give her baby a life she couldn't offer at the time. She called her Rabbi who called on us and a match decided in heaven was made on earth: the woman's deep desire for her child to have a physically and spiritually good life, and our longing for a family, met at the corner of faith and happiness.
The adoption process is full of mysteries. Minds change, emotions run high, confusion reigns, States and Countries differ in their laws and after overcoming so many challenges, you're bringing a child into your life that has a different genetic makeup and history than his/her parents. It's truly unconventional, but, as Chavie and I see it, "unconventional" and "exceptional" are interchangeable.
In Bozeman, where we reside, there are many adoptive families, and I think it reflects the healthy attitude to life that Bozemanites share. Living life while expecting G-d to follow our plans, instead of us following His, is foolish and, quite frankly, arrogant. G-d directs us to where He wants us and when He calls, it's our duty to answer. We still hope to one day experience the gift of a biological child, because it does seem kinda cool, but in the meantime, we celebrate every day with the gift of our family, one that G-d Himself created for us.
It's my family!
Rabbi Chaim and Chavie Bruk direct Chabad-Lubavitch of Montana in Bozeman. This article originally appeared in the Huffington Post.
Rabbi Israel and Estie Arnauve have moved to Tel Aviv, Israel, to open a new Chabad Center that will serve French speaking residents and tourists frequenting the Tel Aviv Port, the commercial and entertainment district along the Mediterranean Sea also known as Namal Tel Aviv.
Chabad of Clearwater, Florida, recently purchased a 1.25 acre property to facilitate the expansion of its headquarters at the Tabacinic Chabad Center. The new 2.5 acre campus, when completed, will include a synagogue with seating for 200, a mikvah, kosher restaurant, library, commercial kitchen, social hall, classrooms, offices, outdoor Sukkah and kiddush pavilion with seating for 150, and a playground.
Chabad Lubavitch of Northwest Bergen County, New Jersey, is adding another 15,000 square feet to its current center. The construction will add an education wing, administrative offices, a library, multi-purpose room, mikva and two apartments.
Rosh Chodesh Nissan, 5737 (1977)
Rosh Chodesh Nissan, the first day of the month of redemption, occurs on the same day of the week as the first day of Passover, two weeks later. It is the day when the Jews in Egypt were informed of the imminent departure and redemption from Egypt (on the 15th of the month), and thereupon received the mitzvos (commandments) of the Passover Sacrifice, the matza and maror, and all other directives and details pertaining to the redemption from Egypt.
Torah designated the day of Rosh Chodesh Nissan as the "New Year for Kings and Festivals."
This designation also suggests a connection with the fact that in this month the Jews were reborn as a nation and were ordained and promised by G-d to be a "Kingdom of Priests and a holy nation." Thus, royalty and holiness were linked together: Every Jew would be both a "priest" and a "royal servant" in the service of the Supreme King, by carrying out His commandments, (and "a royal servant is also royalty"), and infusing holiness into the secular world.
The Prophet Ezekiel compares the redemption of the Jewish people from Egypt to the birth of a child, in that the bodily and spiritual liberation from Egypt, and their development thereafter, parallels the birth of a child, whereupon it immediately begins its physical development, which lays the foundation for its entire life.
The birth of the Jewish nation was accompanied by extraordinary difficulties, inasmuch as Egypt was at that time the mightiest and most advanced country in terms of power, science, etc., yet, also the most depraved in terms of morality and religion.
After centuries of physical and spiritual enslavement in Egypt, the Jews had to undergo a complete transformation - and in quite a short period of time - and to move to the other extreme, in order to be ready and worthy to receive the Torah at Sinai.
There they would attain the highest level both in the realm of religion - the belief in One G-d (pure Monotheism) - as well as in relation to man, as expressed in the Ten Commandments, and all this to be implemented in the actual everyday life and conduct.
Yet, despite the extraordinary difficulties, the Jewish people succeeded in making the radical transition from abject slavery to sublime freedom. This they achieved by virtue of the fact that, while still in Egypt, they took a stance of "an upraised arm" in their resolute determination to carry out all the Divine imperatives pertaining to the Passover sacrifice.
This sacrifice called for public renunciation - at grave peril to their lives - of the idolatry of Egypt, which they did, after renewing their Eternal Covenant with G-d through circumcision, sealed in the flesh, thus sanctifying also the body to the service of G-d.
Thus, the birth of the Jewish nation was coupled with the highest degree of liberation and independence - while still in Egypt - both spiritually and physically.
One of the basic teachings and instructions that follow from the above is that what is true of the birth of the Jewish nation as a whole is also true of the birth of every Jewish child.
Jewish parents should realize that the upbringing of a Jewish child begins from the moment that the child is born. They must immediately begin preparing the child to be a rightful member of the "Kingdom of Priests and a holy nation."
Notwithstanding the fact that life in this world is replete with difficulties - though many of them are only imaginary - it is certain that when parents take the stance of "an upraised arm" in providing a Torah-true education for their children, they are bound to succeed, just as our ancestors in Egypt succeeded; all the more so since the road has already been paved.
Moreover: it is stated, "Every day a Jew should see himself as if he was liberated from Egypt."
Every Jewish man and woman, including parents and adults in general, must devote themselves also to their own education in Torah and mitzvos - and here, too, there is the assurance, "Make the effort, and you will succeed."
May G-d grant that every Jew exert himself (or herself) in all the above, in a manner of "an upraised arm," and this should bring closer the fulfillment of the promise, "Exalted will be the glory of the righteous (tzadik)," referring to all Jews, as it is written, "Your people are all tzadikim."
And also the fulfillment of the promise, "As in the days of your going out of Egypt, I will show you wonders" - with the true and complete Redemption through our righteous Moshiach.
What is the reason for dancing at a wedding?
Part of the mitzva (commandment) of "making the groom and bride happy" is to entertain them with dancing. By dancing around the bride and groom, the community expresses its support for the couple. The Talmud relates many instances when the greatest of our Sages set aside their uninterrupted study of Torah for the sake of entertaining the couple. In accordance with Jewish law, men and women dance separately with a mechitza (divider) separating them.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This past Wednesday, the second of the Jewish month of Nissan, we commemorated the anniversary of the passing in 1920 of the fifth Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Shalom Dovber, known as the Rebbe Rashab.
Before his passing, the Rebbe Rashab told his son and successor, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok (the sixth and previous Rebbe), "I am going up to heaven; my writings I am leaving for you."
A collection of the Rebbe Rashab's writings brings to light the following gems:
"A single act is better than a thousand groans. Our G-d lives, and Torah and its commandments are eternal; quit the groaning and work hard in actual spiritual work, and G-d will be gracious to you."
"Cherish criticism, for it will place you on the true heights."
"When Moshiach will come, then we will really long for the days of exile. Then we will truly feel distress at our having neglected our avoda (spiritual work); then will we indeed feel the deep pain caused by our lack of avoda. These days of exile are the days to prepare ourselves for the coming of Moshiach, speedily in our time, amen."
"And this is the main thing in these last moments before Moshiach, that we don't go according to our intellect and our reasoning. Rather, we should study Torah and perform mitzvot (commandments) above and beyond what reason dictates."
May we immediately merit the Final Redemption, when all righteous Jews (and all Jews are considered righteous!) will be resurrected with the Revival of the Dead.
If any one of you bring an offering (literally, an offering of himself) to G-d (Lev. 1:2)
In the times of the Holy Temple, a Jew who committed a sin brought an animal, an offering of his flock, in order to seek atonement. Nowadays, however, the sacrifices we offer G-d come from our very selves, i.e., minimizing the pleasures of the body, fasting, etc.
(Rabbi Chaim Vital)
And the sons of Aaron the priest shall put fire on the altar (Lev. 1:7)
Even though a heavenly fire descended from on High to consume the offerings, the priests were still required to bring ordinary fire as well, to the altar. We learn from this that one may not rely solely on the "fire that descends from on high"- the natural, innate love of G-d which is present in the soul of every Jew. Each of us must also bring an "ordinary fire," kindle that innate love of G-d by taking the initiative and contemplating His greatness, to further nurture that inner spark.
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)
A burnt-sacrifice, an offering made by fire, of a sweet savor to G-d (Lev. 1:9)
Obviously, explains Rashi, the foremost Torah commentator, the pleasure G-d derives from our sacrifices is not because of their smell. Rather, His pleasure ("nachat ruach," a play on the words "rei'ach nicho'ach" -- "sweet savor") is simply because His will is being fulfilled -- without question and without regard for personal benefit. In fact, there is no greater example of pure "acceptance of the yoke of heaven" than bringing a burnt-sacrifice that is entirely consumed by fire. For there is no rational reason to do so other than its being G-d's command.
(Likutei Sichot Vol. 32)
Whatever is leaven, and of any honey, you shall not sacrifice [it as] an offering made by fire (Lev.2:11)
"Leaven" and "honey" are opposite and contradictory tastes. All extremes, the Torah teaches, are dangerous and harmful; a person should always strive to walk the middle road, the "golden mean."
(Rabbi Yosef Shaul Nathanson)
Every one of your offerings you shall season with salt (Lev. 2:13)
Just as food which is not salted is tasteless and unpalatable, so too must the Jew's service of G-d and performance of the Torah's commandments be "well-seasoned" and filled with enthusiasm.
The disciples of the Baal Shem Tov stood in the field. They had just ended their devotions and they were watching as their master approached a gentile shepherd who was guarding his sheep. He stood amid a stand of trees playing a wooden flute.
"Here, my good man," said the Baal Shem Tov, as he handed the shepherd a coin. "Please, be so good as to play that tune once again." The shepherd raised the flute to his lips and the melody he played was the most beautiful, haunting tune the disciples had ever heard. The shepherd was about to continue his concert when he suddenly lowered his hand and said, "I don't know what happened. I just completely forgot the melody."
As the Baal Shem Tov and his students left the meadow, the Baal Shem Tov said, "It's a good thing that the shepherd forgot the tune. This melody which you just heard was one of the tunes played by the Levites in the Holy Temple. When the Holy Temple was destroyed that melody went into captivity amongst the nations, where it remained until it came to this shepherd. Just now, when the shepherd played it for us I was able to release it from its foreign exile and allow it return to its spiritual source."
Reb Zisel was down on his luck. It was not only one misfortune that had befallen him, but an entire legion which had attacked him with gusto. And so, he traveled to the famed rebbe, the Baal Shem Tov to beg for a blessing. But when he finally arrived, the Baal Shem Tov looked at the sad man and said, "I am very sorry. I would like to help you, but I can't for it seems that Heaven itself is preventing me."
The man was shocked. He begged and implored, but his importuning was of no avail. The tzadik had no power to intervene on his behalf. Suddenly, as if on impulse, the Baal Shem Tov rose and took a book from the shelf and opened it at random. It happened to be a volume of the Talmud, and he spotted the line "He who takes a penny from Iyov will be blessed."
Turning to Reb Zisel, the Baal Shem Tov said, "These words must be significant for you. The Talmud is teaching us that when a person is worthy, a blessing rests on the charity his gives, so that the recipient gains an added benefit from it." And the Baal Shem Tov began to think who he might know of that had this special ability to infuse his charity with blessing.
After some thought, the Baal Shem Tov recalled Reb Shabsai Meir of Brod. He was now quite wealthy, but he had not always been so. However, even when he had little money, he gave charity with an open hand, one might even say lavishly. His other distinguishing feature was the depth and earnestness of his prayer. And what did he ask for, but continuing and increasing wealth -- and not for himself, for he needed very little. No, he wanted wealth to be able to continue distributing charity to the needy. G-d heeded his prayers. Not only did he grow steadily wealthier, but the money he gave out had in it the blessing that it truly benefitted its recipients.
"Reb Zisel," said the Baal Shem Tov, "You must go to Reb Shabsai Meir in Brod and spend a Shabbat with him. When you leave, be sure that he gives you some charity money; this money has a special blessing in it."
Reb Zisel followed the advice he was given and went to Brod where Reb Shabsai Meir happily hosted him for a Shabbat. At the conclusion of the Shabbat Reb Zisel received money from the tzadik, and the unique blessing was indeed transferred to him. From that time forth, good fortune become a familiar companion, and his sorrows were only a memory.
Moshiach is called "Melech" - King. The word Melech can be an acronym for mo'ach (brain), lev (heart) and ca'ved (liver). These three parts of the body parallel the three areas that we must tackle to bring about our total return to G-d - the function of Moshiach. First, Moshiach masters the mind. He possesses the most spiritually sophisticated approach to life. He sees things with open eyes. Second, Moshiach has the greatest passion for and sensitivity to G-d and for His people. Third, Moshiach is one who has conquered his material desires (represented by the liver which is filled with blood, symbolizing physical pleasure). He has transformed his desire for the physical and for pleasure into the joy and bliss of spiritual delight.
(Rabbi Heschel Greenberg)