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by Dovid YB Kaufmann a"h
Lullaby and good night...
For most of us, feeling sleep-deprived is a regular habit. Whether we've stayed up to balance the checkbook, or to catch up on the latest developments in our field of expertise, or even because we just couldn't put down that book, inevitably the alarm clock rings long before we've gotten enough sleep to feel properly rested.
Even if we do get to sleep at a decent hour, there often seems to be a conspiracy to make sure we don't get a good night's sleep: the telephone ("Sorry, wrong number); a crying baby; the garbage truck clanging at 3 a.m. (or is that only in Manhattan?); the teenager still out with the car.
Sleep researchers will rattle off the pros and cons of valerian, melatonin, exercise, hot baths, warm milk or a solid meal. They'll also tell you that the older you get (over 30!) the more you're likely to complain about your sleeping. A good night's sleep truly seems to be elusive.
Though they don't necessarily offer advice on how to fall asleep or stay asleep, Jewish teachings do have what to say about how to help make the night's sleep as pleasant and sweet as possible.
The first step toward a good night's sleep is to do a mitzva commandment). Actually, the last mitzva of the day is to say the "Shema Before Retiring."
Many prayer books also contain a short but amazingly powerful paragraph as part of the bedtime prayers in which we declare that we forgive anyone who has angered us or sinned against us, and we ask for G-d's assistance to not repeat our failings of the previous day. Said sincerely, this prayer is sure to help you get a good night's sleep.
And, perhaps, this is why King David, the composer of the Psalms wrote (4:9), "In peace, at one with all, I will lie down and sleep, for You O L-rd will make me dwell alone and in security." When we are truly at one with all, when we've not only let go of but buried the day's baggage, we can not only lie down but actually fall asleep.
Studying Torah during the day and at night will also help you sleep well. In Proverbs (3:24) we read of the benefit of Torah study: "When you lie down, you shall not be afraid; indeed, you shall lie down, and your sleep shall be sweet."
A few chapters later in Proverbs (6:20, 22) we are advised to "keep your father's commandment, and forsake not the Torah of your mother" for "when you sleep, it shall keep you." This alludes to the fact that doing mitzvot and studying Torah guards us in our sleep. Knowing that we're safe can surely help us get a better night's sleep.
When we take these Jewish teachings to heart, we will surely awaken refreshed and ready to tackle another day. Ultimately, the increase in Torah study and mitzvot will hasten the dawning of the great day and era of the Messianic Redemption, when all of those who are asleep, including those who "sleep in the dust" will awaken and be revived, may it happen now.
This week's portion, Ki Tisa, contains one of the most misunderstood occurrences in the Torah - the sin of the golden calf. This sin was so great that its consequences are still being felt today. For, as a result of the sin, G-d promised that every punishment that would ever befall the Jewish people would contain an element of chastisement for this grievous transgression.
And yet, as it appears in the Written Torah (without the accompanying commentary), the entire account is difficult to understand. How could the same people who had just left Egypt under miraculous circumstances, received the Torah at Mount Sinai amidst open miracles and heard the voice of G-d, actually worship a molten image?
Closer study reveals, however, that the Jewish people were not seeking a substitute for G-d in the Golden Calf; what they desired was a substitute for Moses, as expressed in the verse, "And the people saw that Moses was delayed in coming down ...and they said [to Aaron]: Get up, make us a god...for this man, Moses, who has taken us out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him."
Without Moses, the Jewish people felt lost. Moses was the intermediary that connected them to G-d, as it states, "I stand between you and G-d." Moses was the medium through which the Children of Israel were freed from Egypt and through whom they received the Torah, to the point where "the Divine Presence spoke from his throat."
Moses is referred to as "a man of G-d," for despite the fact that he was mortal, Moses existed on a spiritual plane on which he was totally united with the Divine. His function as intermediary between man and G-d served to strengthen the Jews' belief in the Creator, for it is difficult to believe in a G-d one cannot see. When the Jews beheld a human being on such a G-dly level, it strengthened their faith in G-d and connected them to Him in a tangible manner.
In this light, the mistake they made is easier to comprehend. When Moses did not reappear as they expected, the Jewish people feared they had lost their means of connecting with the Infinite.
They rightly understood that such an intermediary needs to be completely united with G-d; having just witnessed the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai, at which G-d descended in a "supernal chariot" bearing the face of an ox, they decided to forge a calf of gold that would closely resemble it.
The Jewish people were correct in their recognition of the need for an intermediary between man and G-d in the form of a G-dly human being; there was also nothing wrong with their choice of an inanimate object to draw holiness down into this world (G-d's voice would later issue forth from between the cherubim - fashioned in the form of two angels - above the holy ark in the Sanctuary).
Rather, their error was taking into their own hands a matter that can only be determined by G-d. Only G-d can decide how His holiness will be transmitted.
Julio, Mustafa and Chaim
by Rabbi Chaim Bruk
It sounds like the start of a good joke, but it isn't. It's the one line that best describes my insightful realization on a recent family trip to Europe and Africa.
About a year ago, I received a posthumous gift from my maternal grandparents, giving our family of seven the opportunity to travel and see a bit of the world. Yes, I've been to many countries before, from Israel to South Africa, Russia to Italy, Norway to Ukraine, but there was something about this journey that really changed me for the better. Perhaps it was shaped by my age (I'm now 36), perhaps by chaotic world events or maybe, just maybe, by my deliberate decision to put aside any preconceived notions and experience these countries and peoples with a sense of curiosity and openness. I was raised on the timeless teaching of the Torah (Bible) in Genesis that G-d created all human beings in "His image" and that truth isn't dependent on which anthem you sing or flag you carry.
On December 24th, just after our joyous eight days of Chanukah, we departed Bozeman for a ten day visit to Paris, France, Malaga, Spain, Tangier, Morocco and Gibraltar. My wife Chavie and I have always enjoyed traveling, but doing it with our five kids (ages 4 months - 13) is no easy task, but well worth it.
We stood at the Eiffel Tower in Paris, overlooked Puente Nuevo in Ronda, Spain, stood at the top of the monkey swarming Rock of Gibraltar and rode camels in Tangier, Morocco. Our apartment manager in Marbella was a local Spaniard, Julio, who was one of the most polite, helpful and kind people I've ever met. When our Air B&B experienced power outages, he went above and beyond to ensure that we were cared for. In Tangier, our guide Mustafa and our driver Mahmud, were delightful. Despite being in a predominantly Muslim country, I felt at home and they made sure of it. We strolled through the market place, bought way too many souvenirs, all while being warmly welcomed.
America is a beacon of hope, a bastion of freedom and a place that I am grateful and honored to call home. I unashamedly love these United States, which have been remarkably kind to my people and allows me to be me, without worry, wherever in the union I choose to sojourn. Yet, I believe, we should not isolate ourselves, and, if possible, all kids, like mine, should have the opportunity to experience "other" places and cultures. They should learn how life is elsewhere and what "others" have contributed to society. How many American kids know that coffee was first brewed in Yemen, that the original alarm clock was invented in ancient Greece and that it was Israelis who developed the drip irrigation system?
We need to bring our world together.
I am not naïve; far from it. I know that the political leaders of the countries we visited have consistently raised their voices at the UN against my homeland Israel. Yet, it's clear to me, that, coerced political decisions aside, the average citizen on the street, is a lover of humanity, and once they interact with "others", Jews included, they too gain respect for them. Mustafa and I disagreed wholeheartedly about Israel, Jerusalem and what awaits good people in heaven, but there's way more that we did agree on: Praying a few times each day, fasting as a form of repentance, following a set of dietary laws, believing in only One G-d, Moses being an important figure in our lives, dressing modestly and so much more.
Wake up to the day's most important news.
I - along with my Yarmulke wearing son Menny - am identifiably Jewish. I didn't change my "song" to accommodate my travels, as I told everybody that seemed even slightly interested that I am a "Yahud", "Judío" or "Juif". Yet, I believe that while being authentic to ourselves, we can change the misconceptions, one individual at a time.
I don't have to agree with you to respect you.
Julio, the Spanish caretaker who is Catholic, offered that he had once worked with a Kosher caterer and therefore knows a bit about the intricate rules of a Kosher kitchen. The store owner in Tangier's' old city enjoyed our Menny referring to his Tarbush as "my Muslim hat". Shoshana, Chaya and Zeesy loved learning some of the history of the inquisition, expulsion and rebirth of Spain. Chavie and I enjoyed floating by the Louvre while on the Seine river in Paris. Yet, above all, we experienced first-hand that G-d created a big world, with many nations and ways of life and we need to appreciate the positivity they each offer our universe.
Do I think that I can single-handedly change societal divisions overnight? No, I don't. Yet, I do believe that if each of you reading, will give one other person, who is different than you are, the benefit of the doubt, we can slowly change the tide and bring more of humanity together. We breathlessly await the Messianic utopia that will bring about the healing of our fragmented world, but until that time, we can start the process, one Mustafa at a time.
We're all in this together!
Rabbi Chaim and Chavie Bruk are the Rebbe's emissaries in Boseman, Montana.
The Practical Tanya
The Practical Tanya - Volume Two is an astoundingly clear adaptation of Tanya, one of the most influential works of Jewish spiritual thought ever written, penned by Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, founder of Chabad Chasidism. This second volume coverrs the Gateway to Unity and Faith (Sha'ar Ha-Yichud Ve-Ha-Emunah), one of the clearest and most enduring works on the meaning of "G-d is one" from a Chasidic point of view. Through carefully reading traditional texts, the author radically re-imagines the meaning of Jewish Monotheism, and imparts a sense of nearness and direct accessibility to G-d, beyond the confines of religious practice. Volume two is a complete and independent work which stands on its own and does not require the prior study of volume one. This new translation and commentary, by Rabbi Chaim Miller, renders the text relevant for the contemporary reader with elegant simplicity. Published by Kol Menachem.
24 Adar, 5737 
Greeting and Blessing:
Thank you very much for your letter of March 7, in which you write in detail about the visit of our Lubavitch emissaries to the Jewish community of Wiesbaden, Germany, in connection with Purim. I was most gratified to read about the highly inspiring and lasting impression which they made on both the American Jewish personnel and the civilian Jewish community, not least their impact on the children.
Since "the essential thing is the deed," I am confident that the impressions you describe will be translated into actual deeds, in terms of Torah and Mitzvos (commandments) in the daily life of each and all who shared in this experience.
I have had occasion to share some thoughts with Jewish chaplains, and these may not be new to you, but they are always timely and worth repeating. For the mitzvah of "ve'ahavta l'rei'acha kamocha" [loving one's neighbor as oneself] makes it the constant duty and privilege of every Jew to promote Torah and Mitzvos to the fullest extent of one's ability This includes, moreover, the duty also to promote the observance of the so-called Seven Precepts [known also as the "Seven Laws of Noah"] (with all their ramifications) which are incumbent upon all mankind, in accordance with the Torah, "Toras Chaim" [the Torah of life].
A military chaplain is in an especially favorable position to achieve a great deal in the above area, because of the conducive conditions prevailing in military life.
What makes servicemen particularly receptive to the basic approach of Torah-true Judaism is, first of all, the very basic principle on which the military depends, namely obedience and discipline in the execution of an order by his commanding officer. Even though in civilian life a private may be superior to his c.o., the order must be executed promptly, whether or not the soldier understands its significance. This, of course, corresponds to the principle of na'aseh v'nishma [first we will do, then we will understand], the condition on which Jews accepted the Torah and Mitzvos from the Supreme Commander, the Giver of the Torah and Mitzvos.
A further basic point in military life is the fact that a soldier cannot argue about his personal conduct and whether or not he obeys an order is his private affair, and he is prepared to suffer the consequences, etc. Whether he realizes it or not, his conduct may have implications for his entire unit and all the military. In case of an emergency or war, the personal conduct of a single soldier could very seriously affect his platoon and brigade and division and the entire military operation, the whole army and country. Thus it is not just a question of one soldier's personal moral attitude; it is of vital importance to the whole army, sometimes even in time of peace.
Applying the analogy to Jewish life, it becomes quite evident how vitally important is every Jew's commitment to Torah and Mitzvos in his personal life and in spreading Yiddishkeit [Judaism] to the fullest extent of his influence. It may be added that our people live in a state of emergency, what with the general atmosphere of trends and idea which are inimical to the Torah way, and a Jew having to fight to overcome all and sundry alien forces which tend to undermine his spiritual, hence also also physical existence.
In other words, every Jew must consider himself a "soldier" in G-d's Army (Tzivos HaShem) and be on a constant alert to spread the Light of the Torah and Mitzvos, until the time when "G-d's Glory will be revealed, and all flesh shall see," and "all the earth will be full of the knowledge of G-d as the waters cover the sea" - which will come to pass with the appearance of Moshiach-tzidkeinu - our righteous Moshiach, may he come speedily in our time.
Wishing you hatzlocho [success] in all above,
With esteem and blessing,
GAVRIEL (Gabriel) is from the Hebrew, meaning "G-d is my strength." The angel, Gavriel, is mentioned only once, in the book of Daniel (8:16). The Midrash relates that he rescued Abraham from the fiery furnace and saved Moses from certain death, as a child, by not allowing him to take the glittering jewels in Pharaoh's test.
GILA The name Gila is from the Hebrew meaning "gladness." It is found, among other places, in the last of the seven blessings for the bride and groom.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
The day after the merry festival of Purim is known as Shushan Purim (this year, Friday, March 2). Let us take a moment to understand the significance of Shushan Purim.
The celebration of this holiday was instituted in connection with the Land of Israel. Our Sages decreed that Shushan Purim be celebrated in those cities that were surrounded by walls at the time of Joshua's conquest of the Land of Israel. In this manner, they paid respect to the Holy Land, giving its walled cities the honor given to Shushan even though they had been destroyed by the time of the Purim miracle.
However, the holiday's name is connected with a city in the Diaspora - the capital city of Ahasuerus, king of Persia (and thus the capital of the entire civilized world at that time).
The use of the name Shushan expresses the completion of the Jews' mission to refine the material environment of the world. There are several levels in the fulfillment of this task; for example, the transformation of mundane objects into articles of holiness. On a deeper level, this involves the transformation into holiness of precisely those elements which previously opposed holiness.
Shushan Purim shows how Ahasuerus,'s capital city was transformed into a positive influence, indeed, an influence so great that it is connected with the celebration of Purim in the walled cities of Israel.
May we use all of the extra spiritual energy given to us on Shushan Purim to transform the mundane into the holy and that which opposes holiness into holiness, until the whole world is transformed into a dwelling place for G-d in the Messianic Era.
This they shall give...half a shekel (machatzit) of the shekel of the Sanctuary (Ex. 30:13)
The Hebrew word "machatzit" is spelled mem-chet-tzadik-yud-tav. The letter tzadik, which also means a righteous person, is exactly in the center. The two letters nearest to the tzadik are chet and yud, which spell "chai," meaning alive. The two letters furthest from the tzadik are mem and tav, which spell "meit," or dead. From this we learn that being close to a tzadik imbues us with life, and that giving tzedaka (charity, symbolized by the half-shekel) saves us from death.
Moses stood at the gate of the camp and said, "Whoever is on G-d's side, let him come to me." And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together to him (Ex. 32:26)
The members of the tribe of Levi were not the only Jews who refused to worship the Golden Calf. This is obvious from the fact that only 3000 people were punished. Nonetheless, when Moses declared, "Whoever is on G-d's side, let him come to me," the Levites were the only ones who responded. Only the Levites were willing to pick up their swords and wage battle against idolatry, while everyone else stood by and refused to become involved in "controversy."
You shall see My back, but My face shall not be seen (Ex. 33:23)
According to Rashi's commentary, G-d showed Moses the "knot of the tefilin (phylacteries)." What are we to learn from this? Tefilin consist of two parts - one placed on the hand, and the other on the head. The hand represents interpersonal relationships, for it is with our hands that we extend aid and assistance to others, whereas the head, the seat of our intellect, is the medium through which we connect ourselves to G-d by learning His Torah. In order to serve G-d properly, the Jew must excel in both areas. Moses asked to see G-d's glory so that he would have a better understanding of what is required of the Jewish people. The knot of the tefilin symbolizes G-d's desire that every Jew bind these two aspects of our worship together - doing our utmost for our fellow Jews and at the same time devoting ourselves to Torah study.
From the Memoirs of the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe.
When I was five years old, in the winter of 5646 (1886), I spent some time with my parents at Yalta, in Crimea. When we used to stroll among the mountains I used to play near my father. He often asked me what I remembered having seen when I was very little. I would tell him, and he would explain to me what I had seen. In this manner various sights became engraved in my childish mind, and these proved to be most useful when I grew older. Thus trained by my father to recollect early sights, I was enabled to recall the saintly appearance of my grandfather, the Rebbe Maharash, whom I had seen when I was two years and three months old.
The year 5650 (1890) was almost the first that my father spent entirely at home, the greater part of the previous years having been spent abroad. During that year he often got me to tell him of sights that I recalled from my early childhood. So it was that it became part of my very nature to preserve various memories precisely, especially farbrengens, and from time to time I enjoyed reflecting over old recollections. Now too, when we have (thank G-d) been through so much in the course of these almost 20 years of exile and wandering, these old recollections of Chasidic gatherings and talks at different times and places are one's life-giving waters, the cool waters that lend one vigor.
In the winter of 5672 (1912) my father was in Menton [a health spa on the southern coast of France, for the Rebbe Rashab suffered from health problems]. He rested well during his first few weeks there, and his health improved significantly. As I accompanied him on the journey from Lubavitch to Warsaw he said that he hoped he would have enough time in Menton to think out a certain new and profound subject in Chasidut.
The whole of the learned Chasidic world esteemed my father as the gaon [great genius] of the scholastic dimension of Chasidut.
When we were at the resort in Bolivka in the summer of 5658 (1898), I used to be overawed by the way my father was wrapped in thought. He would sit thus in the garden for hours on end. As he later told me, it was during those hours in the garden that he thought out a famous Chasidic discourse as well as all the series of Chasidic discourses that he delivered the following year.
With my father, every teaching discourse that he delivered or wrote was something that he had experienced.
In my childhood, in the years 5649-5651 (1889-1891), I used to love observing him as he sat in deep reflection in his study, or at the resting place of my grandfather. His absorbed thoughtfulness fascinated me.
Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak related that when he was a young boy his father, the Rebbe Rashab (an acronym of his name, Rabbi Shalom Ber), proscribed for him a course of study on the topic of a humble and broken heart. The young Yosef Yitzchak studied the required texts for some three weeks. During that time his uncle Reb Nachum Dov visited the family and stayed over the Shabbat.
The Rebbe said to his young son, "Your uncle is truly a man of broken heart," meaning that he was a sincerely humble person. "Once I was going home for lunch after the morning classes at school and I stopped by the local shul. I was amazed to see Reb Dov, the father of our servant, leaning on a table and reciting in a quiet voice, the Psalms from a book. My uncle, Reb Nachum Dov, was standing against a wall at the side intently watching this simple man pray. His face bore a deeply pained expression and tears flowed down his cheeks."
The Rebbe continued: "When I came home I told my father about what I had seen and asked him what it meant. My father explained that my uncle in his tremendous humility envied the simple villager. This is truly a man with a broken heart."
We can sometimes lose enthusiasm for good and holy acts. At such a time, the Moses within us - the wisdom of our soul - becomes confused and disoriented. But when we realize that we have become desensitized, indifferent to G-d's Will, the realization itself arouses G-d's help and He shows us the coin of fire. The essence of the soul is transformed and revealed. Even a mundane act is atonement; the simple mitzvah rectifies the transgression and brings Moshiach. By giving our half-shekel, by devoting our very essence to G-d's Will, we hasten the coming of Moshiach.
(From Reflections of Redemption, by Rabbi Dovid Yisroel Ber Kaufmann, based on Likutei Sichot, 16)