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Who can repress a smile when seeing the joy of a small child shrieking in delight as he glides down a slide in a park? Whose gait isn't emboldened as he passes a newsstand and the headlines report good news? Or what about when you're at a wedding and the stomp of the foot on the breaking glass elicits resounding cries of "mazel tov"; the surge of simcha, or joy, is electric.
"Serve G-d with joy," King David demands. And since we are in the employ of our Boss 24-7 we must be in a continual state of joyousness.
"That's easier said than done," you might be thinking. Perhaps in the above-mentioned scenarios joy is intrinsic, but what of other times, those regular, run-of-the-mill days when there's no particular reason to rejoice? Or worse yet, those gray periods when we see everything around us through cheerless lenses? How can we sustain an upbeat feeling, an optimistic outlook?
By not thinking too much about ourselves. When a person focuses on himself, it's natural that he should start thinking about what he lacks materially or his failings in regard to self-growth and actualization. Obviously, these thoughts aren't conducive to inspiring a cheerful attitude.
Also, by not thinking too much of ourselves. When a person has an inflated sense of self, he is often hurt or angered by slights real and imagined.
If a person really wants to be in a joyous frame of mind, he has to rise above self-concern. He needs to spend time reflecting on the idea that there is something deeper and great beyond him, G-d. And when a person thinks more about G-d and less about/of himself (especially if those reflections are based on the Jewish mystical teachings found in Chasidism), he will find it easier to maintain a positive and even joyous attitude in life.
And there's something in it for us, as well. When a person is joyous, he generates a new-found energy that he would not otherwise be able to muster. This doesn't mean that real problems miraculously cease to exist (though sometimes they do disappear), but rather that we are able to view them and even solve them from our new, energized positive perspective.
When we're so happy that we're "bursting" with joy, it's natural to want to share it with others. An instinctive part of being happy is wanting those around us to be happy as well. And share it we should, especially now that we are in the Jewish month of Adar and so close to Purim! The Talmud teaches, "From the beginning of Adar we increase in joyousness." Take advantage of the fact that this Jewish year is a leap year and contains two months of Adar. That means we get double the opportunities to practice being happy! And as the old saying goes, "Practice makes good enough!"
One more thought about simcha: In Hebrew it shares the same root letters as the word "Moshiach." This teaches us that by actually working on ourselves to be happy, we actually hasten the time when the whole world will be happy - the time of Moshiach.
In this week's Torah portion, Teruma, we read about the Shulchan, the intricate table that was in the Temple. The Shulchan was made of many different pieces. It was made of wood overlaid with gold, and the rest of its parts were made of pure gold. On the Shulchan was a golden trim like a crown around the table. It had a golden framework, with golden trays, that held 12 loaves of bread, called "Show bread." This unleavened bread had ends that turned up, and then turned again, so that the two ends faced each other. On the table were two golden spoons filled with Frankincense.
What is the symbolism of the Shulchan? How do we experience the Shulchan in our lives today? According to the Zohar the Shulchan brought blessings of sustenance to the tables of the whole world. The Talmud explains that the crown around the Shulchan is symbolic of royal wealth.
So the Shulchan brought blessings of sustenance to all and wealth to those who deserved it. How can we harness these blessings in our own lives? By taking a deeper look at the Shulchan and its parts, we find hints that guide us.
First there is a table; the table is the center of the home and therefore is symbolic of the home, the center of Jewish life. Laden with pure gold and surrounded with a royal crown alludes to our dress and sense of dignity. How do we act? Do we see ourselves as ordinary, and dress and act that way? Or do we see ourselves as the royalty we are, the children of the King of Kings, and act accordingly. The way we see ourselves affects the way we act. The way we act, controls the flow of blessings to our homes.
On the table was the unleavened Show Bread. Bread is symbolic of livelihood. Unleavened symbolizes humility, recognizing that our wealth is from G-d and not arrogantly thinking that it is merely our personal accomplishment. The breads' ends faced each other, symbolizing love for one's fellow. The fact that it is one loaf, shows that we are essentially one at our core.
Frankincense is a pleasant-smelling spice, a white resin from a growing tree. A good scent is symbolic of someone who does mitzvot. The white color connotes doing without an ulterior motive. From a growing tree alludes to the need to be constantly growing, in mitzvot.
Finally, the Shulchan was placed on the north side, the left side, because in Kabalistic teachings, the Shulchan is connected to the cognitive faculty of Bina, which is on the left. Bina is the ability to take an abstract concept, and develop it into a concrete, understandable and meaningful idea. This is done by breaking down the many parts of the concept and understanding them thoroughly. This refers to the study of Torah. Learning, digesting, developing and finally bringing it down into the concrete, making it accessible to all.
This, in essence, is the Jewish home. A royal abode, a place of dignity, humility, and love. A place of Torah and mitzvot. A place where G-d wants to be and gives His blessings.
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.
Lost and Found
by Rabbi Meir Kaplan
I would like to share with you a story, one of the most moving and empowering incidents I have experienced in our fourteen years on the Island. It left me in awe and its lessons, please G-d, will remain with me for the rest of my life.
In the weeks leading up to Chanukah, we were preoccupied with the planning of the various holiday events, including the public Lighting of the first candle on the front steps of the Legislature.
This year, we were very excited about the confirmed participation of the Premier and were working hard on all the details to ensure the event's success. One of the logistical challenges that we experience every Chanukah is the transportation of Chanukah doughnuts (sufganiyot) from the Garden City Bakery on the mainland. Every year we need to come up with a new solution for delivering a couple hundred fresh doughnuts to Victoria.
I was therefore thrilled to hear from a member of the community that he was planning to come over from Vancouver on the day of the event and could transport the doughnuts. On Monday night however, less than 24 hours before the event, he informed me that circumstances had changed and he would not be coming over that day.
Without much time to make alternative plans, I decided to take the last ferry to Vancouver, spend the night at my colleague's home in Richmond and catch the early morning ferry back with the fresh doughnuts. I didn't mind the ferry sailing, as I would have an opportunity to sit quietly, relax, read and study...
By the time I arrived at my friend's house it was close to midnight. We had a nice schmooze and before I knew it there wasn't much time left to sleep... At 6:00am I got up and made my way to the bakery. I loaded the car with 300 doughnuts and rushed to catch the 9am ferry.
After a quick coffee at the BC Ferries terminal, I was ready to daven shachrit (the Morning Prayer) so I opened the trunk to get my Talit and Tefillin. I was stunned. My bag wasn't there...
Thinking quickly about my movements that morning, I realized what happened. When loading the sufganiyot, I took out the bag containing my Talit and Tefillin to make more room in the trunk and left it on the sidewalk outside the bakery.
I immediately called the bakery. "Let me check", said the lady on the other side of the line. After a few difficult minutes of waiting she returned and said: "It was here earlier but I don't see it anymore!"
I began to worry. Did someone steal the bag with my Talit and Tefillin? I asked the bakery for the names and numbers of all the stores in the mall, hoping that an honest person might have picked up the bag and left it in one of the stores. I called every store, only to hear that they had nothing to report. I then called the mall management office and the only information they had was that the outdoor cameras weren't working that morning! As a last resort, I filed a lost item police report and resigned myself to the fact that I have done everything in my power to retrieve my bag and the matter was now out of my hands.
As soon as I arrived home I used my son's Tefillin (purchased in anticipation of his upcoming Bar Mitzvah). You can imagine what I was praying for...
The day was filled with countless preparations for the event and I tried (not always successfully) to keep my mind off of the lost precious items. After the event which, thank G-d, was a great success, the realization that I will not see my Tefillin again started to sink in. While falling asleep that night I struggled to forgive myself for being so irresponsible. How could I have left behind my bag with the Talit and Tefillin?
Early the following morning my phone rang and the ring sounded promising. I leaped to pick up the call "Is this Meir Kaplan?" said the voice on the other side. "This is Juan. I have your briefcase; I found it next to the bakery in Richmond..." I literally jumped for joy "This is amazing! Thank you so much!" I responded with great excitement. "This bag is so important to me. You wouldn't believe how relieved I am. I can't thank you enough!"
Juan was very happy to hear that he found the bag's owner. "Can you please courier it over to my home in Victoria?" I asked. "I'll cover the costs". "I'm actually here on a tour of British Columbia and plan to visit Victoria on Sunday. I'll be happy to meet you and personally hand you your lost item" he said.
On Sunday at 11:30am Juan, a young Mexican man, pulled up in a pick-up truck in front of the Chabad Centre. "Juan", I said, while offloading the suitcase, "You must understand. Inside this bag I have an item that I can't really buy here. It's a Jewish religious article called Tefillin that we use every day when we pray. It's irreplaceable!"
Juan looked at me "I know what Tefillin is, and I know how important it is for you. In fact, my great grandmother was Jewish" he tells me while watching my jaw drop. "My great grandmother immigrated to Mexico and married a catholic man and since then our family has been Christian but I was always interested in her story and background". When I heard that Juan was talking about his maternal great grandmother I almost fell backwards. "This means that you are Jewish!" I told Juan. "What unbelievable Divine providence brought us together!"
"Yes", Juan said "for quite some time now I have been wanting to learn more about my family's heritage and when I saw on the bag's tag that you were a Rabbi I was very excited".
Juan followed me into the Centre, where I opened my bag. "Would you like to put on Tefillin?' I asked. "I would be honoured" he answered.
Juan was standing in a synagogue wearing Tefilin for the first time in his life, his eyes closed and a big smile on his face as he recited after me "Shema Yisrael"...
Chani who knew that I was awaiting this delivery walked into the Centre and through the glass doors of the Shul saw me, the bag and the Mexican man wearing Tefillin and her eyes were filled with tears...
I have no idea why I had the merit to ignite that soul, but on that morning, it was clearer to me than ever before, that G-d works great wonders through us, even with our mistakes.
Rabbi Meir and Chani Kaplan are the directors of Chabad Vancouver Island in Canada.
Yes, I Can
Children are so curious and excited about the grown up world. They love to see firefighters, police officers, teachers and doctors at work! In a lively new picture book, "Yes, I Can!" a young brother and sister discover what they can learn from everyone, and how to accomplish great things right away. Yes, I Can! is designed to build self esteem and help children's good character traits grow. Written by Hindy Kviat and Chaya Leah Lefkowitz, illustrated by Len Epstein, from HaChai Publications.
Purim Guess Who
It's exciting and interactive for children to guess the rhyming Purim riddles, then open the flap to reveal the answers. Cleverly designed so the very young will learn as they go... all about the megillah, the special holiday foods and customs, the heroic figures in the Purim story, and more! Writren by Ariella Stern, illustrated by Patti Argoff, HaChai Publications.
Continued from last week's letter of Erev Shabbos Nachamu, 1979
Clearly, therefore, it is the Torah and mitzvos as an everyday experience and way of life that has always been the true and eternal link that unifies and preserves our Jewish people, in good times and in emergencies.
If further proof be needed, our history has shown that those groups or individuals who deviated from this vital link (and we have them since the worshippers of the Golden Calf and thereafter), sooner or later ended up in one of two ways: either they returned to the fold or were completely lost to our people through assimilation, etc.
As a matter of fact (which I had occasion to point out before) our contemporary generation is more privileged than the early generations who received the Torah from Moshe Rabbeinu and his successors in that those early generations had yet to rely largely on faith as to the vital correlation between the everyday observance of the mitzvos and our survival as a nation and as members of this Holy Nation; whereas for us this is a matter of self-evident truth, reinforced by the facts and experience of our Jewish history.
This is also why Jewish parents never found any sacrifice too great in insuring their children's Torah-true education, knowing how vital it is for their personal wellbeing as well as for the continuity and wellbeing of our Jewish people as a whole.
Once again, with prayerful wishes and
From The Letter and the Spirit by Nissan Mindel Publications (NMP).
15th of Shevat, 5734 
To All Participants in the
First European Convention of the Neshei uBnos Chabad [Lubavitch Women's Organization],
Blessings and Greeting:
I was pleased to be informed about your forthcoming Convention. May G-d grant that it should be with the utmost Hatzlocho [success] in every respect.
In accordance with the well known adage of the Alter Rebbe [Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidism], to the effect that "a Jew should live with the times," that is to say, in the spirit of the current weekly Sidra [Torah portion], it is to be hoped that the Convention will be inspired by the Sidra Terumah, with which it coincides.
The word Terumah has two meanings; in the plain sense it means a contribution to a sacred cause, as in the case of the Sidra - the building of the Mishkon (Sanctuary) in the desert.
In a deeper sense, Terumah means "elevating." Both meanings go hand in hand together, because by making a contribution to a sacred cause connected with Torah and Mitzvos [commanmdents], the donor "elevates" not only the money from its material state to a higher spiritual plain, but thereby also elevates his whole being, with all the energy and effort that went into earning the money contributed to the sacred cause.
It is well known that in connection with the building of the Mishkon - the first great undertaking after Mattan Torah [the giving of the Torah], designed to make a Sanctuary for the Divine Presence in the midst of the Jewish people - the women excelled themselves above the men, as indicated in the verse, "And the men came (following) upon the women (Exodus 35:22)."
It has often been emphasized that the Torah, Toras Chaim, meaning instruction and guide in life, provides practical instruction in every detail of its narratives, and being eternal, its teachings are eternal for all times and places. Thus, the above mentioned vignette in the story of the building of the Mishkon provides a significant instruction that whenever a great Mitzvah or sacred task is to be undertaken, Jewish women have been given special capacities to be first and foremost in carrying it out with dedication and enthusiasm.
The greatest task in the present day and age is to revitalize Yiddishkeit [Judaism] and spread it among those of our brethren, men and women, who are not as yet fully committed to Torah and Mitzvos.
And in this task there is much that each and every Jewish woman can accomplish, and even much more can be accomplished by a concerted effort, such as your forthcoming Convention.
I therefore hope and pray that the Convention, the first of Neshei uBnos Chabad in the United Kingdom, will fulfill all its expectations, and will set in motion a veritable chain reaction of continued and growing accomplishments in the way of strengthening and spreading Yiddishkeit. May each and all of you make the most of your opportunities and capacities, and carry out all your activities in accordance with Chassidic teaching - with vitality and enthusiasm, with joy and gladness of heart.
AHARON: Aharon (Aaron) was Moses's elder brother. He was the high priest and father to all future priests. One opinion as to the meaning of the name is that Aharon's mother, lamenting her pregnancy (as Pharaoh had decreed all Jewish males were to be thrown into the Nile), said: "I'herayon" ("Woe unto this pregnancy").
ELISHEVA: Elisheva is first mentioned in Exodus 6:23. Elisheva was Aharon's wife and sister of Nachshon. She raised four outstanding sons, Nadav, Avihu, Elazar and Itamar. Elisheva means "G-d is my oath."
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This Friday begins the new month, Adar. Our Sages tell us, "With the beginning of Adar, rejoicing is increased." Every day we are enjoined to serve G-d with joy. But when the month of Adar begins, we are told to increase that joy.
In fact, for the entire month we are expected to behave in a more joyful manner for, just as we read in the Megilla on Purim, "the month was changed for them from sorrow to joy."
What was so special about the joy of Purim that we should be expected to be joyful for an entire month? By way of analogy, light always seems brighter when it comes after darkness. In a room full of light, the flame of one candle seems insignificant. But, in a pitch-black room, even the light from one small candle can help to illuminate the entire room. Imagine, then, the impact of a spotlight in a lightless room.
Joy is similar to light. The sorrow, fear and mourning of the Jews when they thought that Haman would be able to carry out his evil plan was immense. They were in a state of total darkness. The joy that they experienced when Haman's plan was foiled was phenomenal. But is was all the more incredible for having been preceded by such darkness.
On the holiday of Purim, we recite the blessing "Sheh-asa nisim" - Who has performed miracles for us. In this season of miracles, in this year of miracles, may we experience the ultimate miracle, which will be to us like the brightest spotlight in Jewish history, the arrival of Moshiach, NOW!
Speak to the Children of Israel that they may bring Me a contribution... gold (zahav) and silver (kesef) and copper (nechoshet) (Exodus 25:2,3)
Our Sages explain that each of these metals is an acronym for a phrase that refers to a specific level of giving charity: Zahav: "Ze hanotein bari" - "A healthy person who gives." On this highest level, a person gives tzedaka solely to fulfill G-d's commandment. Kesef: "K'sheyesh sakanat pachad" - "When there's danger or fear." On this level, a person gives tzedaka for his own personal gain, i.e., so that his merit will ward off an impending threat. Nechoshet: "Netinat choleh she'omer tnu" - "The giving of a sick person who says to give." This is the lowest level, for the person gives tzedaka only as a last resort, when he himself is suffering.
They shall make Me a sanctuary, and I will dwell in their midst (Exodus 25:8)
It is taught in the name of Rabbi Tarfon: How great is the significance of human labor [and practical action]! From the above verse we see G-d did not cause his Divine Presence to rest in the Sanctuary until Israel had performed the tasks to erect it.
(Avot D'Rabbi Natan)
And they shall make an ark of shittim wood, two-and-a-half cubits its length, one-and-a-half cubits its breadth, and one-and-a-half cubits its height (Exodus 25:10)
The dimensions of the ark were measured in "halves" to teach us that a Jew must be humble and "brokenhearted" when learning Torah, as the Talmud states (Sukka): "Words of Torah endure only in one who makes himself as if he does not exist."
(The Admor of Sasov)
And you shall make a candlestick of pure gold...its cups, its knobs, and its flowers (Exodus 25:31)
Symbolic of the entire Torah, each element of the menora represents a different part of the Torah's teachings. The six branches of the menora stand for the sixty tractates of the Talmud. The knobs and flowers represent the baraitot and meimrot (teachings of the Sages outside the Mishna). The cups allude to the esoteric teachings of the Torah, for cups are used to hold wine - wine being the inner part of Torah, referred to as the "wine of Torah" (also alluded to in the saying, "When wine enters, secrets emerge."
Reb Zusha of Hanipoli sat in his home immersed in his Torah learning, when the sounds wafting caused him to glance out the open window. Passing in front of his house was a wedding procession leading the bride and groom on their way. Reb Zusha immediately stood up and went out into the street where abandoning constraint he danced with unbounded joy. He circled the young couple and the other celebrants for a few minutes of great simcha (joy) and then returned to his home and his study.
His family members watched his actions with great interest. They suggested to him that his dancing before a wedding procession was unbefitting a person of his stature in the community.
To their comment he replied, "Let me tell you a story. When I was young I studied under the famous Maggid of Zlotchov, Reb Yechiel Michel. One day I did something against his wishes and he rebuked me severely. I was terribly hurt by his reaction, and he, sensing anguish, soon came over to me and apologized for the harshness of his response, saying, 'Reb Zusha, please forgive me for my angry words.'
"I was very comforted by his apology and replied, 'Of course, I forgive you, Rebbe.'"
"The same night before I went to sleep, he again came to me and asked my forgiveness. I was surprised, and repeated that I forgave him totally.
"I lay in bed for a while thinking about the incident, when the father of my Rebbe, Reb Yitzhak of Drohovitch, appeared to me from the Next World. He said to me, 'I had the merit to leave behind me in the world below my only son, and you want to destroy him because he insulted you?'
"'Please, Rebbe, don't say such a thing! I don't want to hurt him and I have certainly forgiven him completely and wholeheartedly! What more can I do than I have already done?'
"'What you have done is still not complete forgiveness. Follow me and I will show you the real meaning of complete forgiveness.'
"So, I got out of my bed and followed him until we reached the local mikva. Reb Yitzhak told me to immerse myself three times, each time saying and feeling that I forgave his son. I obeyed his wishes and immersed three times, each time with the intention of forgiving my Rebbe.
"When I emerged from the mikva I looked at Reb Yitzchak and saw that his face was so radiant that I was unable to gaze upon it. I asked him where that light came from and he replied: 'All my life I have carefully observed three things to which the Sage Rabbi Nechunya ben HaKana attributed his long life: he never sought honor at the expense of the degradation of his fellow; he never went to sleep without forgiving anyone who might have offended or injured him that day; he was always generous with his money. Reb Yitzchak then told me that the very same level which can be achieved through these things can also be reached through joy.
"And that is why when I saw the wedding procession passing in front of our house, I ran outside to partake of the festivities and to add to the simcha of the bride and groom."
Once Rabbi Shmelke of Nikolsburg came to his Rebbe, Reb Dov Ber of Mezerich, with an inquiry: "How is it possible to fulfill the teaching of our rabbis that one is obligated to say a blessing on bad news just as one would on good news?"
The Maggid answered him by instructing him to go to the shul. "When you get there ask for Reb Zusha of Hanipoli and ask him to explain that dictum to you."
Reb Shmelke did as his Rebbe told him, and when he found Reb Zusha he asked him the question. Reb Zusha was a man who had endured great hardship throughout his entire life. He replied to Reb Shmelke as follows: "I am very surprised that my Rebbe sent you to me, of all people. A question like yours should be addressed to a person who has, G-d- forbid actually experienced something terrible in life. I, thank G-d, know nothing about those frightful things. You see, I have experienced nothing but good all my life. I'm sorry, but I cannot answer your question since I know nothing about evil occurrences."
Reb Shmelke returned to the Maggid with his question answered. He now understood the meaning of the teaching that one is obliged to bless the evil that occurs in life as well as the good, for when man accepts a Divine edict with complete faith and trust, there is no longer a perception of evil inherent in the experiences.
One of the accomplishments of Moshiach will be the rebuilding of the Temple. Indeed, this is one of the final proofs of Moshiach's identity. Obviously, then, anything connected with the Temple is perforce connected with Moshiach. The laws of the Sanctuary, its building and maintenance, should not be viewed as a theoretical exercise, but as something of immediate relevance. The lessons and morals are more than associated analogies; they are the blueprint for our inner Sanctuary, a structure as solid and physical as even the holiest building..
(From Reflections of Redemption based on Likutei Sichos 36, by Dovid Yisroel Ber Kaufmann o.b.m.)