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Someone tells you emphatically, "You're right. You're absolutely right!"
Ahhh, it feels so good to hear those words: "They see it my way," you sigh, relieved that the battle is over even before it has begun.
At other times, though, being told that you're right is not what you want to hear: "I don't need you to tell me I'm right; I know I'm right. I didn't want to have to deal with this stuff to begin with!"
Whether or not we're interested in hearing that we're right, we always want to be right.
Most of the time, it is clear and straight-forward what is right and what is wrong is. Still, there are those times when we think "the right thing" is so obvious, but it really isn't.
A story is told of a great rabbi whose student had been a highly successful businessman. The student had given up his worldly and mundane pursuits in order to dedicate himself to Torah study. What could be wrong?
Then one day, the rabbi warned the student, "You are in great danger."
"Why?" asked the student.
"Surely you know," explained the rabbi, "that an army is composed of many units - regiments, platoons, and so forth. If a person decides on his own to move from one unit to another, he is liable to be punished as a deserter. You were blessed by G-d with wealth and you were supposed to belong to the brigade of philanthropists. But you have deserted your brigade and on your own initiative have joined the brigade of Torah scholars."
Jewish wisdom teaches that a person can be doing something that is right, but it might not be the right thing for that person or for that particular time in that person's life.
The great Chasidic master, Rabbi Zushe of Anipoli, was wont to say, "If they will ask me in the World of Truth, 'Why weren't you like Moses?' I will know what to answer. But if they will ask me, 'Why weren't you Zushe,' I will not have an answer."
Each one of us is "only" expected to be exactly who we are. And, we are expected to be all of what we can be.
In order to be everything we can be we need to know who we are. The path to self-discovery begins with Torah study. For, we cannot possibly know who we are and where we are going unless we know where we are coming from.
But we don't have to, nor should we, go it alone. Along the path to actualizing our potential, the Torah urges us to search for and find a mentor, a teacher, a guide - someone who can direct us on the journey to fulfilling our divinely ordained purpose.
With a mentor's help, we can work on doing the right thing, without worrying that we're not like Moses or Zushe.
In this week's Torah portion, Behaalotcha, we read about the Menora. First we read about how Aaron the Kohen (priest) was to light the Menora. "When you kindle (literally "raise") the lamps, the seven lights should be made to shine towards the center branch of the Menora." Then the Torah explains that the Menorah needed to be hammered out of one solid piece of gold.
The Torah previously told us how the Menora was to be made, why the repetition here? It seems that this section of the Torah is coming to teach us about the lighting of the Menora, so how does its construction fit in?
Though the Menora was complicated to make, the artisan was not permitted to weld it together from separate pieces, rather it had to be hammered from one piece of gold. Why? Because the Menora symbolized the Jewish people. The seven branches symbolized seven different spiritual pathways of our souls. It had to be hammered from one piece, because though we have different pathways, our souls are one at its source.
When the Kohen lit the lamps of the Menora, he was igniting the souls of the Jewish people. The Torah uses the word "raise" and not "kindle," to tell the Kohen that he is to kindle it until the flame rises on its own.
The problem is that while the Menora is made of one piece, the different branches gives the opposite impression. It seems divided which is the opposite of its purpose.
The job of the Kohen was to complete the Menora, by setting the wicks in a way that the flames faced the center branch, which tied the whole thing together. Now the Menora, once again, gave the impression of unity and oneness. So it is the kindling of the Menora that completed its construction.
G-d tells us that we will be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation to Him. Each of us has the ability to ignite the souls of the Jewish people. Here we are taught the right way to do it.
First, you have to know that we are essentially one. Then, you have to recognize that every Jew has a unique pathway, and you're not to force him down your path. Your job is to ignite the others soul, with light and love, until the soul is burning bright on its own. Last but not least, it should be done in a way of unity, that he feels that he is one with his people and that his people are one.
Each of us is in need of uplifting, of our souls being ignited. This dark exile has gone on long enough. We need to be Kohanim for each other and lift each other up.
I have found that there is nothing more important than lifting the spirit of another. Even from my bed, with only the use of my eyes, my heart and my smile, I try my best to lift the spirits of people. Every person has good and positive, and if you pay attention, you will see it. When you point out those qualities, you bring out who they are, and their spirit is lifted. Make a positive difference in a person's life and you will change the world.
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.
Western Wall Vignettes
by Reb Gutman Locks
There was a small group standing together near the Western Wall. I asked the younger boy who was the man standing next to him.
"That's my father."
I told the father to put his right hand on his son's head. Then I had him say out loud what he wanted G-d to give the boy. When he finished I asked the father who the other boy was.
"They're twins. He is 15 minutes older than his brother."
You surely couldn't tell it by looking at them. I encouraged the father bless the "older" son too. Then I asked who the other man was.
"That's my father."
I urged the grandfather to bless his son and say out loud what he wanted G-d to give his son.
When people bless their children it is a wonderful thing. It is not only a mitzva (commandment) but it opens the heart and engenders the feeling of love for their children at the Kotel (Western Wall). It can get quite emotional at times.
Then I urged the grandfather to put on tefilin but he refused,
"No, I haven't put them on for 70 years and I am not going to do it now either!"
"It's a mitzva! Come on, I'll help you."
I asked the grandfather where he was when he last put on tefillin.
"Shanghai. I was born in Austria and we fled to Shanghai. I had my Bar Mitzva in Shanghai and I put on tefilin for a while but then I told my Grandmother that I would never put on tefilin again and I haven't."
"It's a mitzva. You are at the Kotel with your family. Show your grandchildren the right thing to do." He acquiesced. I rolled up his sleeve and had him repeat the blessing.
He remembered some of the blessing from somewhere. Then I put tefilin on the boys and their father and had them all read the Shema.
The wives and daughters were standing on the women's side. I could see them smiling, and their cameras flashing. They loved it.
I explained how doing a mitzva anywhere in the world opens the door to heaven. This means that a spiritual opportunity comes, and all the more so does it open when you do a mitzva at the Kotel.
"Close your eyes and picture everyone you love one at a time with light on their faces and smiling, and ask G-d to bless them. Then thank Him for all the good that He has given you... ask Him to protect the Jews in danger.... Take a couple of minutes and talk to G-d in your heart."
That's what they did. When they were finished we took pictures and the grandfather didn't want to take the tefilin off. He walked around and waved at the women of his family; he was having a great time.
When they were leaving I said, "You did great."
The grandfather yelled back, "You did great," and they walked away with warm memories and great pictures of their visit to the Kotel.
Maybe I will never see them again, but they certainly are in the family photo album now.
One good deed leads to another. There was an IDF (Israel Defense Force) ceremony at the Kotel Plaza. Before the ceremony started an officer came into the prayer area carrying his small daughter close to his heart with one arm and holding the hand of his young son with his other hand. An older man walked with them.
"Did you put on tefilin today?" I asked
The officer nodded that he had already put them on. The older man ignored me. I asked him directly, "Did you put on tefillin today?"
He gave me a negative look as if telling me to leave him alone.
"Is this your son?" I pointed to the officer.
He nodded that he was.
"Give him a bracha (blessing). Put your right hand on his head."
I handed him a card that I keep in my pocket with the traditional wording of the blessing a parent gives to a child. He blessed his son with complete sincerity. The father held his eyes fast onto the words on the card while he read them out loud. The officer looked at his father's face with utmost respect. The two small children stared with wonder.
The father read the blessing saying each word carefully. When he finished he looked up from the card at his son. He was obviously very proud of him. You could see the love and prayers he was feeling for him. His son looked into his father's eyes with the small children watching in awe.
"Now add to that your own personal prayers of what you want G-d to give him."
"G-d protect you and give you and your family peace, health, and a livelihood all the days of your lives...."
"Now you can come put on tefilin," I urged
He was still reluctant but I brought him over ot the tefilin stand. He read the Shema quickly and started to take the tefilin off.
"No, not yet. This mitzva opened the door to Heaven. Talk to G-d. Ask Him to protect our soldiers and the Jews in danger...pray for your family...and say thank you."
He looked me in the eye as if he didn't know what to do. Should he listen to me or should he be his normal tough self? He closed his eyes and put his hand over them. He stayed like that intently talking inside his heart to G-d.
I continued putting tefilin on other men and more or less forgot about him.
After five minutes, while I was putting tefilin on someone, I felt a hand go into my coat pocket. It was him putting some tzedaka (charity) in my pocket which I later gave to the tefilin stand. It was his way of saying thank you.
I ignored his normal tough-guy refusal and his inner heart opened for a long time and he appreciated it.
Gutman Locks has been a fixture in the Old City of Jerusalem for three decades. He is the author of several books, has produced musical tapes and short videos, and writes regularly on www.mpaths.com.
Site plans for a 25,000 square foot state-of-the-art Jewish Youth Network campus in Toronto, Canada, have been approved and work is beginning soon. The facility will include classrooms, offices, full-sized basketball court, sports lounge, cafe, rooftop lounge, and resource room. There's something for everyone - as long as you're under 25. There are currently 500 students who earn high school credits through after-school Torah classes. Other teens volunteer at a variety of teen-directed initiatives, participate in trips and retreats, and hang out in a fun and safe environment. Over 3,000 youth are engaged in JYN's programs annually.
Positively Sixth Street is the newest center for Chabad of S. Francisco, California. Located in the part of downtown known as SoMa, the 4,500-square-foot Chabad Center recently completed a major remodel, but more work is on the way. Presently, there is a space for services, which doubles as an event space; a kosher kitchen; and a lounge.
21st of Sivan, 5725 
You have undoubtedly received my regards through Rabbi -, who had also brought me your regards...
I acknowledge with thanks receipt of your letter of May 9th, also your works on your scientific research. I appreciate your thoughtfulness and trouble in sending me this material. Although the subject matter is entirely beyond my province, I trust that I will be able to glean some general ideas from your writings, and perhaps also some specific ones.
At the risk of not sounding very "scientific" to you, I nevertheless wish to express my hope that you will also apply your research work to good advantage in the service of G-d, in accordance with the principle, "Know Him in all thy ways." Indeed, the discoveries in the natural sciences have thrown new light on the wonders of Creation, and the modern trend has consequently been towards the recognition of the unity pervading Nature. In fact, with every advancement in science, the underlying unity in the physical world has become more clearly discernible; so much so, that science is now searching for the ideal formula which would comprise all the phenomena of the physical world in one comprehensive equation. With a little further insight it can be seen that the unity in Nature is the reflection of true monotheism in its Jewish concept. For, as we Jews conceive of monotheism, it is not merely the belief that there is only One G-d, but that G-d's unity transcends also the physical world, so that there is only one reality, namely G-d. However, inasmuch as Creation included all the souls, etc., there has been created a multiplicity and diversity in Nature - insofar as the created beings themselves are concerned, without, however, effecting any change in the Creator, as explained at length in Chasidus.
You ask me about my reference to the Rambam and where it contains in substance, though in different terms, the concept of the conscious and subconscious of modern psychology. I had in mind a passage in Hilchos Gerushin [Laws of Divorce] (end of chapter 2), in the Rambam's magnum opus, Yad Hachazakah. The gist of that passage is as follows: There are certain matters in Jewish Law, the performance of which requires free volition, not coercion. However, where the Jewish Law requires specific performance, it is permitted to use coercive measures until the reluctant party declares "I am willing," and his performance is valid and considered voluntary. There seems here an obvious contradiction: If it is permitted to compel performance, why is it necessary that the person should declare himself "willing"? And if compulsory performance is not valid, what good is it if the person declares himself "willing" under compulsion?
And here comes the essential point of the Rambam's explanation:
Every Jew, regardless of his status and station, is essentially willing to do all that he is commanded to do by our Torah. However, sometimes the yetzer (hara) [evil inclination] prevails over his better judgment and prevents him from doing what he has to do in accordance with the Torah. When, therefore, beis din [Rabbinical court] compels a Jew to do something, it is not with a view to creating in him a new desire, but rather to release him from the compulsion which had paralyzed his desire, thus enabling him to express his true self. Under these circumstances, when he declares "I am willing," it is an authentic declaration.
To put the above in contemporary terminology: The conscious state of a Jew can be affected by external pressures that induce states of mind and even behavior which are contrary to his subconscious, which is the Jew's essential nature. When the external pressures are removed, it does not constitute a change or transformation of his essential nature, but, on the contrary, is merely the reassertion of his innate and true character.
To a person of your background it is unnecessary to point out that nothing in the above can be construed as a confirmation of other aspects of the Freudian theory to the effect that man's psyche is primarily governed by libido, etc. For these ideas are contrary to those of the Torah, whose view is that the human being is essentially good (as the Rambam, above). The only similarity is in the general idea that human nature is a composite of a substratum and various layers, especially insofar as the Jew is concerned, as above.
I will conclude with the traditional blessing which I have already conveyed to you through Rabbi-: to receive the Torah with joy and inwardness, as a daily experience through the year.
What is kabala?
Kabala is from the word meaning "receive." Kabala is the Jewish mystical teachings received by Moses from G-d, passed on from teacher to student throughout the ages. The basic book of kabala is the Zohar (meaning "brightness"), written by Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai. A famous 16th century Kabalist was Rabbi Yitzchak Luria (known as the Arizal), whose teachings were written down by Rabbi Chaim Vital. Chabad Chasidic philosophy is based in large part on the teachings of the Arizal.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
We find the following difference of opinion between the Babylonian Talmud and the Jerusalem Talmud concerning Shabbat.
The Babylonian Talmud states that if the Jews keep two Sabbaths, we will be immediately redeemed. In the Jerusalem Talmud it states that if the Jewish people keeps one Sabbath we will immediately be redeemed.
Which one is it? How can these two opinions be reconciled?
The Messianic Era is likened to the Sabbath, and is, in fact, called, "The day which is entirely Shabbat and rest for eternity."
There are various forms of rest.
We can refrain from heavy physical labor, thereby giving our bodies their much needed rest.
We can also have a less physical, but more spiritual type of rest which also rejuvenates the body, a rest which includes the cessation of the worries and cares of the mundane world and the intensified immersion into spiritual matters.
Thus, when we observe Shabbat, we are actually observing both physical and spiritual rest.
With this in mind, we can reconcile the seeming difference of opinion between the Jerusalem Talmud and the Babylonian Talmud. If the entire Jewish nation keeps both aspects of Shabbat on one Sabbath, we will immediately be redeemed.
Let us all join together with one common goal - to bring the Redemption for all humankind.
We can hasten the attainment of this goal by experiencing Shabbat this very week.
Indulge yourself this Shabbat in a truly restful and rejuvenating (and re-Jewvenating) experience. Observe and celebrate Shabbat in all its beauty and simplicity.
Rebbi would say, "..Be as careful in [the performance of a seemingly] minor mitzva as of a major one, for you do not know the reward given for the mitzvot. (Ethics 2:1)
The Hebrew word "zahir," translated as "careful" also means "shine." All the mitzvot (commandments) share a fundamental quality; each of them enables one's soul to shine forth.
Reflect upon three things and you will never come to sin: Know what is above you... (Ethics 2:1)
The Maggid of Mezritch would say: "Know that everything above" - all that transpires in the spiritual realms - is "from you" - dependent on your conduct. Each of us has the potential to influence the most elevated spiritual realms.
(Or HaTorah al Aggadot Chazal)
Rabban Gamliel, son of Rabbi Yehudah Hanasi, said..., "Be wary of those in power, for they befriend a person only for their own benefit... (Ethics 2:2)
Non-literally, "those in power" refers to our egos, thoughts, and feelings. Although we rely on these in order to function, we must be aware of their fundamental self-interest, and that they are only concerned with their own benefit. However, the soul - the essential self - is concerned only with being closer to G-d and observing His Torah and mitzvot.
(The Rebbe, Tazria-Metzora, 5739)
Hillel used to say, "...nor can an ignorant person be pious" (Ethics 2:5).
Just as a fire will not burn unless it has the proper channel - wick and oil - so, too, will love of G-d not take hold unless it is contained in the proper vessel. The mitzvot (commandments) a Jew observes and the Torah he learns define his capacity to love and fear G-d and form the vessel with which this is accomplished. An ignorant person has not spent sufficient time creating that vessel and, thus, cannot be truly pious.
(Torah Ohr; Sefer Hamaamarim)
It was Friday afternoon and Reb Yossele was on his way home after a long day's work. He was a peddler who made his living selling new pots and repairing old ones throughout the little villages of White Russia.
Some days business was good. Other times he had barely enough to live on. Today had been a good day, but Shabbat was approaching and he was anxious to get home.
The sun shone brilliantly and the wind shuffled the leaves just enough to feel pleasant against the skin. Suddenly, the wagon stopped and tilted to one side.
Yossele couldn't believe it, but a glimpse confirmed his worst suspicion: the axle had broken With the tools he kept in his wagon he set about fixing it, but the sun had risen high by the time the repair was completed. Reb Yossele was nervous. He had unexpectedly lost a lot of time, and his village was still quite a distance. What could he do but continue on and hope for the best?
The sun had set when Reb Yossele slunk into the back road of the little village. All the Jewish men were in the shul praying the evening service, but Reb Yossele didn't go; he was too ashamed and horrified at what he had done. For Yossele had never violated Shabbat before in his life.
His shame and guilt plagued him all through Shabbat, and when the first few stars lit the evening sky he made his way to the home of his rebbe in the hopes of receiving advice on how to purify his soul of the transgression. He reluctantly and with great difficulty told the whole story to the tzadik.
"Indeed, this is a difficult thing," the rebbe said.
"Your atonement must fit the seriousness of the transgression. You must afflict your body by lying in the snow and immersing in the frozen river. This will cleanse your soul and bring you to complete repentance."
Reb Yossele listened with wide eyes to this prescription for teshuva. He sighed and a tremor ran through him. He thanked the tzadik for his help; he was willing to do anything to erase this miserable blot from his soul.
One early frigid morning, after an attempt at immersing in the river, he sat in his cottage despondently wondering what he should do. How he longed to repent in a way that would cleanse his soul from the transgression which overcame him accidentally, and yet was devastating him. Reb Yossele roused himself and walked to shul for the morning prayers. This morning the room buzzed with news of the impending visit to a neighboring town of the famous tzadik, Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov. Reb Yossele suddenly felt less tired. He even smiled. The Baal Shem Tov would surely help.
Two days later, Yossele set off to visit the Baal Shem Tov.
He related the entire episode of the Shabbat desecration and the penance prescribed by his rebbe. The Baal Shem Tov listened and then said, "Buy candles and set them in the study hall this Friday."
Yossele could hardly believe his ears. Could it be so simple? But, the Baal Shem Tov was unquestionably a great tzadik, and Reb Yossele trusted his words completely. He went straight to the store and purchased the candles.
That Friday Reb Yossele joyfully brought the candles to the study hall, set them in the candlestick holders and lit them.
But suddenly, to his shock and horror, a large dog ran into the room, grabbed the candles in his terrifying jaws and ground them into crumbs. Reb Yossele's eyes brimmed with tears. G-d did not want his repentance!
Reb Yossele sadly returned to the Baal Shem Tov and told him about the dog. "It seems that your rebbe isn't pleased with my advice, but it will be all right. Go and buy more candles and place them in the study hall just as before. You have my promise that this time it will be just fine. And when you return home, please tell your rebbe that I would like him to be my guest next Shabbat."
Reb Yossele relayed the message to his rebbe who was very happy to receive an invitation from the Baal Shem Tov.
On Friday morning the rebbe harnessed his horses and set out for the town where the Besht was staying, a short distance away. But things didn't go right. He made a right turn at the junction, but it brought him down the wrong road. Then he turned back, but got lost in a thicket.
Each wrong turn led to another, and he became hopelessly lost. As the sun began to set, he had no choice but to walk toward his destination. With each step he berated himself. How could he have been so careless? How did he lose his way?
When the rebbe arrived at the door of the Baal Shem Tov his host was standing with kiddush cup in hand, waiting to recite kiddush over the wine.
"Now you know exactly how Reb Yossele felt when he desecrated the Shabbat. Before this evening you had never transgressed, and therefore, you couldn't understand the pain that a person feels when he sins. You thought that penance must be painful and difficult, but really, all that a person needs to atone is a truly broken heart."
Two joyous Shabbat meals occurred simultaneously -- one in the home of a sinless Reb Yossele, and the other at the table of the two tzadikim.
Since int he times of Moshiach, all Jews will be as prophets, now, in the days preceding Redemption, we must prepare ourselves by learning what Torah has to say about prophecy. May our study of and preparation for the state of prophecy lead us immediately to the final Redemption, and the day when "the earth will be full of knoweldge of G-d as the wateres cover the ocean bed.
(Based on Likutei Sicht 23, From Reflections of Redemption by Dovid Yisroel Ber Kaufmann o.b.m., to whom this column is dedicated)