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by Dovid Y.B. Kaufmann a'h
Anyone who's spent time surfing the web knows about hypertext. Hypertext is text that contains links to other texts, graphics, video and sound.
It refers to the unique way websites present information: they go beyond a textual or linear approach. They do so by internally linking pages. For example, a site about Shabbat may have a picture of a woman lighting candles and a description of the mitzva (commandment). In the paragraph, the word "blessing" is in a different color. Click on the word and you're linked to another page, say one that has the blessing in Hebrew and transliterated with a recording of someone reciting the blessings. When you're finished listening, you click another link to go back to the beginning or go to another page.
Through links, websites also connect to each other. You can go from one site to another ad infinitum, if you like. This is known as "surfing the web." You can end up very far from where you started. What makes the web so versatile, so useful, so fascinating and so informative are the links - the intra and inter-connectedness. No longer does one thing lead to another, but everything leads to everything else.
Of course, that's also why the web can be a very dangerous place. The links don't always go where we expect them to - or where we want to be taken. Even innocent detours can prove detrimental. We can get sidetracked into irrelevancies. Five hours later, we still haven't read that article from L'Chaim. We wasted it playing games or going hither and yon (virtually speaking) looking and listening to trivia (or worse!).
Hypertext provides a metaphor for the concept "All Israel is responsible one for another." In the world of the world wide web, everything links to everything else in some way. Eventually, each web site connects to and interacts with every other website. So, too, every Jew connects to, interacts with and affects every other Jew. Positively or (G-d forbid) the opposite.
That's because every Jew has a Divine soul, an "actual part of G-d above," as it says in Tanya. (Tanya, chapter 2.) There's a unity between the souls. Recognizing this also leads (links us to) an easy way to fulfill the mitzva, "Love your fellow as yourself." Since, spiritually speaking, we are "all of a kind and all have one Father - therefore all Israelites are called real brethren by virtue of the source of the their souls in the One G-d."
We have to be careful not to damage another "website" by imbedding broken, bad or misleading links in our own. For, to continue the analogy, our actions link us. When we violate a mitzva, do something we shouldn't or don't do something we should, we not only break an internal link, we disconnect other Jews. For, if we're linked together, who know whose soul goes through our actions?
But when we do a mitzva we not only strengthen our spiritual connections, intra with G-d, we also create links and connections, inter with other Jews. So affixing a mezuza, putting on tefillin, giving charity, learning Torah - all this (and more) creates links and gives strength to Jews far away in physical space, but very close in spiritual space.
The Haftora for this week's Torah portion of Shemot has one theme, divided into three parts. The theme is the blossoming of redemption. First, we go down into exile for a reason. Second, in the darkness of the exile is where we are able to accomplish the most, developing ourselves and the world for the ultimate redemption. Third, the gathering of the exiles and how when Moshiach comes, we will reap the fruits of our labor in exile.
There are also hints of how to bring Moshiach - through showing love to our fellow Jews.
The connection to our Torah portion, is that the portion begins with the descent of the Jewish people into Egypt. Then it tells of the hard labor and the amazing growth of the Jewish nation. And finally the beginning of our redemption from Egypt, when G-d sent Moshe to start the process of the Exodus.
Another connection to our portion is the first verse of the Haftora. The portion begins, "And these are the names of the Children of Israel who came to Egypt." The Haftora also begins, "Those who came," and continues, "whom Jacob caused to take root, Israel budded and blossomed and they filled the face of the Earth with fruit." Just as the parsha tells us, how the Jewish people multiplied.
Both Jacob and Israel are names of the Jewish people. When it comes to taking root it says Jacob, but by budding and blossoming it says Israel. Why the difference?
Jacob, refers to the Jewish people when they interact with the physical world, which in the time of exile, is a very dark place. Jacob is symbolic of serving G-d out of accepting the yoke of His will, which is our main service to G-d in exile. This form of service is not necessarily very meaningful, but it is the most powerful. It is compared to planting which is hard work. Planting a small tasteless seed in the ground, where it is dark and cold. But it is there where this small tasteless seed takes root, and grows into a great tree. The transformation from a small seed to a large tree, is exponentially great. The same is true about our service in exile. It is hard work, tasteless, it is cold and dark, but here is where our work takes root and the transformation is well beyond our efforts.
Israel refers to the Jewish people's interaction with the spiritual and G-dly, which is mainly in the time of Moshiach. Israel is symbolic of serving G-d out of understanding. It is compared to budding and blossoming, and the growth of fruit. Above ground, in the light and warmth, the budding and blossoming is visible and beautiful, and the fruit is tasty and enjoyable. Because in the light and revelation of G-d in the era of Moshiach, we will have the pleasure of seeing the accomplishments of our actions and the fruit of our labor.
All this will be possible, only because of the seeds we planted in the exile. So our work now as Jacob, in the darkness of the exile, is what gives us the great pleasure as Israel, in the time of 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.
Life of Art
by Estee Klein
Why do I choose to be an artist; a profession fraught with uncertainty?
As any creative person knows, the need to create and express oneself is innate and essential. Creativity is a flame that never dies out completely and requires continuous refueling to burn brightly and productively.
The real decision was taking something I knew I needed to do, and turning it into a full-time career. I think every person needs to express themselves in some way.
As a young girl, I realized, that art was my way of expressing myself. Once I discovered how drawing and painting made me feel, I never stopped! I feel blessed to be able work with my art every single day. As Marc Anthony said, "If you do what you love, you never work a day in your life."
As a Torah observant woman, I made the decision to avoid the secular world of art school and spent years studying and discovering art on my own.
I read everything I could get my hands on. I pored over volumes of books, delving into the techniques, the methodology and the history of art through the ages. I was enthralled with Rembrandt's portraits, Caravaggio's use of shadow and light, Renoir's use of color, Van Gogh's brushwork; contemporary artists, Vladimir Volegov, David Kassan, Susan Lyon.
The list goes on and on because I found something to learn from every artist. Each viewing brought new insight, understanding and appreciation.
I am a starving artist, in the sense that I am constantly hungering for more... more knowledge, more skill and more inspiration.
One may think that inspiration is awakened only by the monumental moments of our lives. However, as an artist, seeking the beauty in everything - allows everything to become beautiful, and generates an excitement that provides a wellspring of artistic creativity.
My growth mindset, has always helped me push through the challenges that arose. Instead of feeling discouraged when I gazed at artists, more skilled than I, I felt motivated, energized and invigorated! I knew that I could enhance my skills if I just worked harder, practiced more.
Motivation keeps my passion alive, as I anticipate all I have yet to accomplish and achieve! I know I am moving in the right direction when I look back at work completed, and see the growth and improvement I have attained! This motivates me even more.
I am endlessly fascinated by the diversity of people. The figures exhibited in my paintings are the central focus of my work. I find nothing more intriguing than that small furrow in the brow, the slight tilt of a mouth about to smile, that twinkle in the eyes; the unique shapes and myriad colors that comprise the human face, enthrall me.
I have always been drawn to figurative art, particularly portraits. Looking back at my school years, pretty much every textbook, notepad and surface was covered in roughly drawn portraits.
Sketches of eyes, mouths... repeatedly drawn, attempting to bring life to my paper, with whatever tools were at hand. That excitement still remains. My ability to render the human face and figure has dramatically improved since those early years.
My subjects are no longer teachers and classmates. My career as an artist began with custom commissions, that included a mix of grandparents, weddings, upsherin celebrations and a variety of different portraits. As much as I enjoyed being able to do what I love, I felt the drain of working at the request of someone else; acquiescing to their vision rather than my own.
My creativity was stunted and I realized I had to balance this with work that was completely my own. Eventually, I made the decision to paint a series that came from my heart. The work displayed here today is the result.
One of the things that I am privileged to do as an artist is to draw the Lubavitcher Rebbe, and his wife, Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka. Having no personal memories of the Rebbe, this was my unique way to create a connection to my Rebbe.
Working from photographs is not ideal, but after drawing the Rebbe so frequently, from a variety of angles and poses, I reached a point where every wrinkle, feature and uniquely beautiful characteristic, became second nature for me to draw.
My fingers seem to have a life of their own as the images come to life on my canvas. Some of my most treasured portraits are the ones I have done of the Rebbe and the Rebbetzin.
The figures I choose to paint are of the people nearest and dearest to my heart, my family. My art is inspired by precious moments gleaned from my childhood memories. Moments that open a nostalgic window into events that impacted my life. My work is based on my heritage. My identity as a Jewish woman is a crucial element, expressed in my art. I want the viewer to feel as though they are catching an intimate glimpse of a beautiful moment, celebrating the traditions of life.
One of the most important things to me, when choosing to create a piece, is authenticity. Being true to myself as an artist and a human being. To me, painting should not be a selfish endeavor, focused solely on what the artist wishes to express.
I want my work to resonate with others. I want it to touch their heart and their soul. The work that I do is as much for others, as it is for myself. What each person feels, gazing at one of my paintings, will vary, and that is what truly makes art special, so unique and yet so universal.
The mystery of what will be, and how I will evolve as an artist, is probably the most exhilarating part of what I do.
View Estee's work at brushstrokesbyestee.com
Rabbi Mendy and Mushka Krasnjansky have recently moved to the island of Maui, Hawaii, to run continue the work of Chabad of Maui., Hawaii. Maui is home to an estimated 5,000 Jews, along with thousands of Jewish tourists, annually. Local born Hawaiians are called "kama'aina" in Hawaiian. Mendy was born in Hawaii to his parents who established Chabad of Hawaii. He is the first kama'aina in recorded history to be ordained as a rabbi.
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21st of Teves, 5720 
To all Participants in the Annual Dinner of the United Lubavitcher Yeshivoth "Tomchei-Tmimim"
G-d bless you all,
Greeting and Blessing:
This year's Annual Dinner of the United Lubavitcher Yeshivoth "Tomchei-Tmimim" takes place on the auspicious day of the 24th of Teves, the yahrzeit [anniversary of the passing] of the Old Rebbe, author of the Tanya and Shulchan Aruch, founder of Chassidus-Chabad. [Rabbi Shneur Zalman is referred to as the Alter Rebbe, Yiddish for the Elder or Old Rebbe].
Yahrzeit is the annual remembrance of the last day of life on this earth of a Jewish neshama (soul), and of its return to its Creator. This day marks the summation of the whole span of life, the conclusion of the soul's mission on earth.
Like all remembrances in Jewish life to which the Torah calls attention, yahrzeit is not just a reminder which is to remain in the realm of memory.
It recalls and demands practical deeds in the spirit of the soul's mission of the person whose yahrzeit is commemorated, and by means of such practical deeds in that spirit one becomes part and parcel of the creativity and eternity of that yahrzeit-person.
According to the explanation of my venerated father-in-law and of his father, of saintly memory, the inner aspect of the soul's mission and of the life and work of the Old Rebbe - as reflected also in his name - Schneur, "two lights" (shnei-or) united (in one word) - was to fuse together the two Divine Lights: the revealed light of the Torah (Nigleh she'b'Torah) and the hidden inner light of the Torah (Nistar she'b'Torah), in such a way that the innermost should permeate, irradiate and shine forth through the outer (revealed) light, resulting in a whole and complete Torah - Torah Tmimah.
And, as explained in the Zohar, this is also the means whereby, in the same way, the innermost aspect of the soul is merged with its outer aspect - the revealed part of the Jewish soul with its inner Nekudas HaYahadus (Divine spark).
Such is also the inner purpose of the Yeshivoth "Tomchei-Tmimim" Lubavitch, namely, that the students should become Tmimim (whole and complete), in the spirit of Torah Tmimah, as defined and expounded by the Old Rebbe, whose Yahrzeit is commemorated today.
Like all remembrances in Jewish life to which the Torah calls attention, yahrzeit is not just a reminder which is to remain in the realm of memory.
All those who adequately participate in the Annual Dinner of the United Yeshivoth Tomchei-Tmimim on this auspicious day of the 24th of Teves, including those who were unable to participate in person but take an adequate share in the supporting, strengthening and expanding of the Lubavitcher Yeshivoth, thereby contribute to, and become an integral part of, the creative deeds and accomplishments of the Baal-hayahrzeit [one whose yahrzeit we are observing].
May G-d grant that such participation be in a growing measure, with a steadily rising vitality and devotion.
And the zechus [merit] of the Baal-hayahrzeit, the Old Rebbe, will surely stand you all in good stead, men and women, who take an active share in the support and expansion of the Yeshivoth Tomchei-Tmimim which are conducted in his spirit and in his system, and it will bring you the Divine blessings in all your needs, both material and spiritual, which go hand in hand together.
With esteem and blessing,
What are customs of a Yahrtzeit?
The Yiddish word "Yahrtzeit" means "time of year." It commonly refers to the yearly anniversary of passing of a person. It is customary on the Yahrtzeit of certain close relatives to light a candle that will burn for the entire 24 hours of the day, as well as to study Torah, give extra charity, visit the cemetery, and recite Kaddish. All of these customs have the common goal of bringing an elevation to the soul of the person who passed on as well as comfort to those left behind.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
The 20th of Tevet, this coming Sunday, is the yartzeit (anniversary of the passing) of Rabbi Moses Maimonides, otherwise known as the Rambam.
In his major work, the Mishne Torah, the Rambam enumerates and details all the 613 laws of the Torah. He places the laws relating to the Jewish king, and Moshiach, at the very end of his work. The Rambam defines Moshiach as a king, who will not only redeem the Jews from exile, but also restore the observance of the Torah and the mitzvot to its complete state.
For many, this would seem a rather novel approach. Yet, the Talmud states that "the world was created solely for Moshiach." This being the case, we certainly must do everything in our power to hasten his arrival.
The 24th of Tevet (Thursday, January 11 this year) is the yartzeit of Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidism.
Rabbi Shneur Zalman opened a new path which allowed the teaching of the previously hidden aspects of the Torah - Pnimiyut HaTorah - to be comprehended through the intellect and thus reveal additional G-dliness within the world.
In Rabbi Shneur Zalman's magnum opus, Tanya, he writes: "The Messianic Era... is the fulfillment and culmination of the creation of the world, for which purpose it was originally created." This means that our spiritual service will reach its full completion only with the arrival of Moshiach. Thus, the fulfillment and culmination of the entire creation will take place when Moshiach is revealed.
The entire purpose, in fact, of the revelation of Chasidic philosophy was to hasten and prepare the world for the Messianic Era.
In the merit of these two great luminaries and in our own merit as well, may we be privileged to greet Moshiach NOW!
And depart (lit. "go up") out of the land (Ex. 1:10)
It is only when the Jewish people reach their lowest level that their ascendancy begins, alluded to in this verse: The Jews will "go up" when they have fallen to the level of "land," the earth, upon which everyone treads. King David voiced a similar sentiment in the Psalms when he said, "For our soul is as low as the dust, our bellies have cleaved to the earth," only to immediately declare, "Rise up and help us, and redeem us for the sake of Your graciousness."
He saw an Egyptian man smiting a Hebrew man (Ex. 2:11)
Every word in the Bible has an eternal, spiritual meaning as well as a literal significance. The word "Egypt" (Mitzrayim) is linguistically related to the word for limitations and boundaries; the "Egyptian man" therefore, symbolizes the physical body, which does all in its power to gain control over the soul, the "Hebrew man." Moses' actions teach us that when one sees a Jew in danger of losing the battle between body and soul to his lower, physical nature, one must not remain silent. The Moses in every generation gives us the strength to overcome all obstacles and save the Jewish soul.
(Rabbi Yaakov Yosef of Polnoye)
G-d heard their groaning, and G-d remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob (Ex. 2:24)
When the Israelites were unable to endure the harsh exile in Egypt, they cried out to G-d. Indeed, G-d heard their cry and sent Moses to redeem them. So it is with us in our present exile. When we cry out, "Take us out of exile and bring Moshiach!" G-d will certainly hear our cry and send the Redeemer. Moreover, our state of readiness to call upon G-d is already enough for Him to respond, as it states in Isaiah, "Before they call, I will answer, and while yet they speak I will hear."
(The Rebbe, Parshat Tavo, 5751)
After the passing of the Maggid of Mezritch, when the spheres of influence in spreading the teachings of Chasidism were divided up, Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidism, was allotted Lithuania and White Russia. However, being as Reb Shlomo of Karlin had followers in the towns of Beshenkovitz, Tzeshnik and Liepli, he was allowed to continue visiting there.
When Reb Shlomo decided that he wanted to permanently move to Beshenkovitz, he first asked permission of Rabbi Shneur Zalman. Rabbi Shneur Zalman agreed under the following conditions: 1) Reb Shlomo would not demean those who devoted themselves seriously to the study of Torah that is not connected to Chasidism; 2) Reb Shlomo would not disparage those who had an innate fear of Heaven; 3) Reb Shlomo would teach his own Chasidim that faith alone in the tzadik (righteous person) is not sufficient to enable one to ascend to higher spiritual levels but that one must personally toil in one's G-dly service.
Reb Shlomo was willing to agree to the first two conditions but could not come to terms with the third, for he taught his Chasidim that those who are bound to the tzadik are elevated by his service; the mission of their Divine service is simply to be enthusiastic about the study of Torah and the observance of its commandments. His teachings conflicted with the school of thought, known as Chabad Chasidism, established by Rabbi Shneur Zalman. Rabbi Shneur Zalman taught that each individual must personally exert effort in understanding G-d and His world and in one's Divine service.
Thus, Reb Shlomo did not move to Beshenkovitz, though he continued to visit there periodically.
Despite their disagreements and differences, a number of years later when Reb Shlomo visited Rabbi Shneur Zalman on a communal matter, Rabbi Shneur Zalman treated him with utmost respect and deference. When Reb Shlomo left to travel to Beshenkovitz for one of his visits, Rabbi Shneur Zalman sent a number of young scholarly Chasidim to accompany him, among them Reb Binyamin of Kotsk. Along the way, Reb Shlomo and Rabbi Shneur Zalman's Chasidim engaged in deep discussions of all areas of Torah. Reb Shlomo was very impressed with the depth of knowledge of his escorts. Upon their arrival in Vitebsk, Rabbi Shneur Zalman's Chasidim got ready to return to Liozna but Reb Shlomo asked Reb Binyamin to travel with him to Beshenkovitz. Reb Binyamin agreed.
When it was time for the afternoon prayer, Reb Shlomo asked his wagon driver to stop the coach so that he could pray. Reb Shlomo climbed down and looked for a stream to wash his hands but there was none nearby. He climbed back up into the coach and sat there for many moments in meditation. Suddenly the horses started to gallop undirected. Before long they stopped near a stream, whereupon Reb Shlomo descended and washed his hands. He prayed the afternoon service with his usual fiery devotion and then alighted upon the wagon.
When the wagon driver informed Reb Shlomo that he had no idea where they were, Reb Shlomo told him to allow the horses to proceed on their own. The horses galloped along until they came to a highway. From there they traveled until they arrived at an inn. Reb Shlomo told the wagon driver to stop at the inn. He and Reb Binyamin prayed the evening service followed by Tikun Chatzot in remembrance of the destruction of the Holy Temple. At dawn they prayed the morning service and then continued on their way. They arrived in Beshenkovitz on Thursday afternoon, in time for the afternoon prayer.
At this point it was impossible for Reb Binyamin to return to Liozna in time for the Sabbath and so, he decided to stay in Beshenkovitz for Shabbat. Throughout Shabbat, Reb Binyamin met many of his fellow Chasidim. They were amazed that Rabbi Shneur Zalman had accorded Reb Shlomo so much honor as to send such a scholar as Reb Binyamin to accompany him. Thereafter, they accorded Reb Shlomo much more honor than they had previously.
Reb Binyamin remained in Beshenkovitz for another two days, walking around as if in a daze from everything he had learned from Reb Shlomo and from everything he had seen in Reb Shlomo's prayers and Divine service. He had even had a fleeting thought to stay on in Beshenkovitz to spend more time in Reb Shlomo's company. Reb Binyamin decided against staying and called on Reb Shlomo to take his leave.
Reb Shlomo spoke to Reb Binyamin for many hours, entreating him to stay and become one of his Chasidim. Reb Shlomo promised that he would share with him wondrous secrets of the Torah and he would hand pick a group of students for Reb Binyamin to teach would be worthy of his keen intellect.
Reb Binyamin listened and responded by quoting a Ukrainian rhyme (for Reb Shlomo would often spice his conversation with Ukrainian sayings):
The master's a master - but he's not mine; The lad's a lad - but he's not thine." And he returned to Rabbi Shneur Zalman in Liozna.
When Moses encounters G-d at the burning bush, an extended conversation ensues. G-d wants Moses to redeem the Jewish people, to take them out of Egypt. Moses demurs, finding several excuses why he should not be the Redeemer. At one point, he tells G-d, "Please send the one You will send." Moses was asking G-d to send someone else, namely, Moshiach. Since G-d was going to send Moshiach in the future anyway, Moses asked G-d to send Moshiach immediately. Moses wanted the first redemption to also be the last.
(From Reflections of Redemption, by Dovid Yisroel Ber Kaufmann o.b.m., to whom this column is dedicated)