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More than 11,000 extra potholes will be filled across Staffordshire, England this year - following a £5 million investment from the county council.
New York City has a website dedicated solely to updating how many potholes have been repaired (125,877 as we go to print) this year.
What is it about potholes that makes it a news item?
Potholes aren't great for our cars, or for buses, trucks, motorcycles or bicycles, for that matter. Which is why these states are trying to clean up their pothole acts.
But what about the potholes of our lives - life's little (or big) ups and downs and jolting, gaping holes that make us notice that life isn't easy and effortless?
We are told that our ancestor Jacob "wanted to live in tranquility." And that's precisely when things started happening. Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers, a famine started in the entire area where Jacob lived, and his life was anything but peaceful. Instead of spending his old age pleasantly studying Torah and doing mitzvot, Jacob was involved in all kinds of trials and tribulations.
Was Jacob's desire to live tranquilly so terrible that he deserved such punishment?
That's what we grow up thinking life will be someday if we work hard enough and basically live moral, ethical, healthy lives. And Easy Street doesn't have any pot holes, no ups or downs, nothing that isn't pre-planned (by us) and scheduled into our itineraries.
But G-d has different plans for us. Because our purpose here in this world is to improve ourselves and the world around us, to help others and thereby ultimately help ourselves. To do good and to make the world good. And to accomplish all of this, life has potholes. Life has downs so that we can stretch ourselves and pull on reserves of strength, fortitude and energy that we never knew existed or could exist except for the fact that we were jarred by one of life's potholes and forced to call upon that energy.
Jewish teachings explain that life has its downs and ups. This doesn't mean life has ups and downs, that we must expect the "wheel of fortune" to change and if we have been on top we must eventually hit the bottom.
Downs and ups means "a descent for the purpose of an ascent" - that no down is meaningless, no pothole is put in our path unintentionally. The opposite is true. A descent or difficulty is put in our path not as an obstruction or obstacle but as a challenge to overcome and there by become stronger.
Jacob had reached a pinnacle in his Divine service, in his refinement of his self and his soul. But a Jew never rests. No matter how righteous or elevated, no matter how much we have stretched and extended ourselves, there's always more room for growth, another nook or cranny to clean, another character trait or attribute to further perfect.
Because with each up that has followed a down, we've reached a new level, we've moved from a dirt path to a paved single-lane street, to a two-way road and then on to a four or six or eight lane highway.
So, the next time you drive into a pothole, see it for what it really is.
This week, we read the Torah portion of Emor. The Haftora is the prophecy from Ezekiel about the Third Temple. It tells who will be the Kohanim (Priests) and laws pertaining to the Kohanim. It closes by saying that the Kohanim should be careful not to eat from a neveila (an animal that died without kosher slaughter), or from a treifa (an animal that wouldn't have lived through the year).
The connection to our portion is that Emor begins with many laws pertaining to the Kohanim.
The Haftora begins with, "And the Kohanim, the Levites..." Why are the Kohanim called Levites?
The simple explanation is that it is referring to the Kohanim, who are from the tribe of Levi. Another explanation comes from the Arizal, who says that today's Levites will become Kohanim when Moshiach comes.
However, our holiday liturgy states, "The Kohanim will return to their services, and the Levites to their singing and music playing." In addtion, Maimonides opines that the Torah will not change when Moshiach comes. So how can the Levites become Kohanim?
The answer is that the souls of Levites will be born to Kohanim. To understand this fully, we need to explain the difference between the nature of the Kohen and his soul, and a Levi and his soul.
The nature of a Kohen is kindness, to be giving. The idea of his Temple service was to draw down G-dliness to the people. Kohanim could do this because their souls came from the attribute of water. Just as water goes down from the highest to the lowest place and give its sustenance, so was the job of a Kohen, to draw G-dliness from above to the world below, filling the people with love and awe of G-d.
The nature of a Levi is one of yearning to go higher. Their service was singing and playing music, which created a yearning in others to want to get closer to G-d. Their souls are from the attribute of fire, always rising, yearning to go up and become one with its source.
The difference between these two types of service is that when you draw G-dliness down to the people, you inspire them, and for the moment they experience a closeness to G-d. However when the inspiration wears off, nothing has changed, the people go back to their old selves. On the other hand, when you create a yearning in the people from below, to want to get closer to G-d, you are creating a yearning in them to really change who they are. This kind of change is everlasting.
Now, the job of a Kohen is to draw G-dliness down to the people, but when Moshiach comes, that won't be necessary because the world will be full of G-dliness. The job of the Kohen will become to create a yearning in the people to become even closer to G-d. Being that it is not in their nature to do that, G-d will give them souls of Levites, souls of fire, so it will become their nature.
Adapted by Rabbi Yitzi Hurwitz from the Rebbe's teachings, yitzihurwitz.blogspot.com. Rabbi Hurwitz, who is battling ALS, and his wife Dina, are emissaries of the Rebbe in Temecula, Ca.
Music to the Ear
By Cleveland Jewish New/Ed Wittenberg
Rabbi Yossi Marozov, executive director of Friendship Circle of Cleveland in Pepper Pike, said it was a unique experience serving as Alan Vaytsman's bar mitzvah teacher.
"Usually I know more than the student on the bar mitzvah subject matter," Marozov said. "In this case, Alan at the controls of the piano knows far more than I do."
To say that Alan's bar mitzvah, attended by about 200 people who packed the main hall at Friendship Circle, was nontraditional would be an understatement.
A gifted pianist, Alan led the prayers of the Shacharit service by playing the piano. As Marozov sang the prayers, Alan sang along and accompanied him on piano.
Often smiling as he performed, Alan was clearly in his element as he played the piano flawlessly on 13 parts of the service - one for each year of his life. His parents, Inna and Igor Vaytsman of Moreland Hills, were beaming with pride as they sat in the front row with other family members.
"The celebration was a lot more powerful and moving than I had pictured in my mind," Inna Vaytsman said in her speech afterward. "Alan, you never cease to amaze us with your positive attitude and persistence and your musical ability that brings us much joy."
Alan, a seventh-grader at Brady Middle School in the Orange School District, has taken part in programs at Friendship Circle - which provides programs for children with special needs and their families with help from teen volunteers - for seven years. Inna Vaytsman said her son has visual impairment and is working on enhancing his social skills.
"A bar mitzvah is the Jewish traditional rite of passage into adulthood, and no Jewish boy should be deprived of a bar mitzvah, even if he can't perform in the traditional style," Marozov said. "For Alan to lead the service and read from the Torah was impractical, given his set of abilities, so the traditional way was not a good fit for Alan."
Inna Vaytsman said at age 12, Alan began taking lessons at Friendship Circle's Hebrew school in preparation of doing a traditional bar mitzvah but was having some difficulties.
"He was doing OK, but there was just no spark," she said. "His heart wasn't in it. I wanted him to have that (bar mitzvah) experience, but I also wanted it to be meaningful. I knew I wanted to have some element of music because that is his way of expressing himself."
In November, Marozov said his wife, Estie, reminded him that Friendship Circle's theme for the school year is "hands on."
"She suggested, why don't I also volunteer hands on with the children, like what the teenagers are doing at Friendship Circle," he said. "It's about rolling up your sleeves and getting involved in the actual work.
"Then this flash of inspiration came to me and I thought, 'If G-d gave Alan such a unique talent that he can play the piano so beautifully, shouldn't that be how Alan in turn leads the bar mitzvah prayers with this talent?'"
Marozov noted that in Psalm Chapter 150, King David, who played the harp and understood the power of music, suggests to give praise to G-d through an assortment of musical instruments.
"This became our inspiration and the central theme of this bar mitzvah, that it was quite appropriate for Alan to lead the service through his musical instrument," he said. "I took on the role to be his bar mitzvah teacher, and this has been the most unique and inspirational experience of bar mitzvah preparation that I've ever been involved with."
Inna Vaytsman said Alan started preparing in mid-January for this nontraditional bar mitzvah. She added she's grateful to Marozov and Friendship Circle for embracing her son's strength and love of music.
"He really enjoyed himself, and I was very proud," she said. "I was very nervous, but it was mostly about preparing all the details of the bar mitzvah, not about how Alan would do. He likes to be in front of people and the center of attention."
At the end of the service, Alan thanked those in attendance, especially his family, Marozov and Rabbi Shmuli Friedman, director of the Jewish Learning Institute of Cleveland, who served as cantor for the service.
"Celebrating with family and friends made me feel so special that I would love to be able to do it all over again - just kidding," Alan said with a smile. "I hope my bar mitzvah serves as a reminder that we are all part of the community, regardless of our differences."
"It was so inspirational, truly a mitzvah," said Laura Beytas of Beachwood, whose family has been involved with Friendship Circle for 10 years. "To me, this is what a bar mitzvah should be - full of love and support - and I was honored to be invited. I don't think there was a dry eye in the place."
Howard Kossoff of Solon, a Friendship Circle board member who attended with his wife, Susan, added, "It was a very moving and compassionate experience."
"Alan was able to express himself and his deep love of Judaism," Marozov said. "Isn't that what a bar mitzvah is all about?"
Alan has performed on piano at three of Friendship Circle's annual dinners.
"He's a very active participant in the programs they have, and he's developed lots of friendships there with kids from his school and others," Inna Vaytsman said. "The kids know him and people know him. He has a following; that's probably why a lot of the people showed up (at the bar mitzvah)."
Alan, who has played piano since age 3 and has taken lessons since age 8, has perfect pitch and plays entirely by ear, his mother said. His piano teacher is Victoria Shteyndler.
"He can read music; that's just not how he plays, and he kind of improvises along the way," she said. "He always gravitated toward music from a young age. He would hear a melody and just go to the piano and repeat it."
"I hope a career in music is in his future," Inna Vaytsman said. "He's good at it and I think he would enjoy it. I just want him to be happy and successful at what he does."
To watch a video about the Bar Mitzva visit Alan's Bar Mitzva - Friendship Circle Community on youtube.com
Chabad of Long Island celebrated the opening and dedication of the Patchogue Mikva. This brings to a total six mikvas (Coram, Dix Hills, Hamptons, Merrick, Port Washington) with another three under construction (Great Neck, Roslyn and Stonybrook). Some of the mikvas have been made possible by major funding from MikvahUSA.
Rabbi Eli and Faygie Goorevitch are opening the first Chabad Jewish Center in Dana Point, California. Their initial focus will be on Youth and Teen programming. Plans are underway for Shabbat services, holiday events, and adult education. In addition, one on one study sessions and Bar/Bat Mitzvah tutoring are just a few of the services that will be made available at Chabad.
Rosh Chodesh Sivan, 5735 
Blessing and Greeting:
This is in reply to your letter of the 17th of Iyar, in which you inquire about the significance of the dollar bill you received in connection with the Candle Lighting Campaign.
Actually there are many aspects involved, but I must limit myself here to one or two. But first few words leading up to the subject.
As you know, Jews are commanded to remember and do all the Mitzvoth of our Torah, Toras Chaim (the practical guide in our daily life). But there are certain Mitzvoth [commandments] which the Torah specifically emphasizes by the commandment - "Remember!" Such, to mention a familiar example, is one of the Ten Commandments: "Remember the Shabbos day to keep it holy." So also the commandment to remember Yetzias Mitzraim [Exodus from Egypt] every day of the year, and so other commandments. The most central of all such remembrances is to remember the day of our receiving the Torah at Mt. Sinai, which we are to celebrate soon on Shovuos: "Beware lest you forget the things which your eyes saw the day when you stood before G-d your G-d at Chorev (Sinai)."
It is self evident why the Torah commands us to remember those very important events, for a Jew lives in a world which hustles and bustles with all sorts of material things, which distract his attention from the truly important and eternal things. We are speaking, of course, even of "Kosher" things such as eating and drinking and doing business, etc. - all in accordance with the Shulchan Aruch [Code of Jewish Law]. Yet, inasmuch as a person is inevitably involved with such things for the most part of the day, day after day in routine manner, he may become too much absorbed in them so as to forget the very important and essential things which the Torah wants us to remember particularly.
It is also a matter of common experience that when people want to make sure they will not forget certain matters, they do all sorts of things to help them remember.
In light of the above, the Torah has given us certain Mitzvoth which, in addition to all other meanings, are notable "reminders." Again, to mention familiar example, the Mezuzo (in addition to everything else) reminds the Jew upon leaving and returning home that G-d Who is our very life and strength is One, etc., as [is inscribed] in the portion of Shema which the Mezuzo contains. Similarly upon arising from sleep in the morning, we recite prayer in which we declare that our soul, which G-d returns to us every morning, is pure, etc. And so there are many Mitzvoth which constantly help us to remember our real purpose in life - to serve G-d in all our ways. There are Mitzvoth which serve as reminders to all Jews, since all Jews are equal in regard to the observance of those Mitzvoth. But there are also Mitzvoth which apply to certain groups only, such as Kohanim. In each case there are specific reminders for those concerned.
A Jew lives in a world which hustles and bustles with all sorts of material things, which distract his attention from the truly important and eternal things...
This brings us to the subject matter of your letter.
One of the most important and most beautiful Mitzvoth is the lighting of the candles before Shabbos and Yom Tov [Jewish holidays], and it was given as special privilege to Jewish women, mothers and daughters, to do it not only for themselves, but also for the whole family and household. Obviously, everyone in the home enjoys the advantages of the light of the candles, illuminating the home as well as the table at which the members of the family sit down for the Shabbos and Yom Tov meal.
continued in next issue
YEHOSHUA (Joshua) means "the L-rd is my salvation." Yehoshua ben Nun (Exodus 16:9) was the leader of the Jews after Moses' death and led them in occupying the promised land. The great rabbi Yehoshua ben Perachyah (200 BCE) said: Provide yourself with a teacher; acquire for yourself a friend; and judge every person favorably. YAEL means "to ascend," and mountain goat. Yael (Judges 4:17) was a Kenite woman who killed Sisera, a Canaanite general who oppressed the Jewish people.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This past Thursday, we celebrated Lag B'Omer. Lag B'Omer. It is traditionally an auspicious time for fostering an increase in Ahavat Yisrael, the mitzva of "And you shall love your fellow as yourself."
The emphasis on loving our fellow Jews on Lag B'Omer goes back thousands of years, to the days of Rabbi Akiva. Although 24,000 of Rabbi Akiva's students passed away in the weeks between Passover and Shavuot (for failing to show each other the proper respect), no one died on the day of Lag B'Omer.
Yet we cannot say that Rabbi Akiva's disciples did not observe the mitzva of Ahavat Yisrael. These were not "regular" people; they were the disciples of a very great tzadik, who surely instilled in them the knowledge that Ahavat Yisrael "is a very important principle in the Torah." What happened, rather, was that they failed to show the proper degree of respect.
Each one of Rabbi Akiva's students was a great scholar in his own right. Accordingly, in addition to the usual measure of love every Jew must demonstrate for his fellow, an extra degree of deference and honor was required.
The story of Rabbi Akiva reminds us that it is not enough to love our fellow Jew merely to the extent that he is not insulted. We must take that extra step and demonstrate an additional degree of honor that makes all the difference.
In truth, every Jew is deserving of special respect, as every Jew is considered to be an entire world. G-d Himself stands above each and every Jew and scrutinizes his behavior at all times, setting aside all His other affairs, as it were, just to watch him and see what he is doing!
And if any Jew is worthy of such close attention, surely he deserves that extra degree of respect!
May the Jewish people immediately merit true unity with the ingathering of the exiles, with the coming of Moshiach and the Final Redemption.
Ben Zoma says: "Who is wise? He who learns from every person, as it is stated:'From all those who have taught me, I have gained wisdom, for Your testimonies are my conversation.' (Ethics 4:1)
A wise man sees other peoples' weaknesses. Thus it would be natural for him to regard those who are less developed than he with a condescending attitude. One who is truly wise, however, focuses his attention on the positive characteristics which every person possesses. He will surely be able to discover such positive traits, for every man was created in the image of G-d,5 and thus possesses innate virtue. By opening himself to learn from the virtues of others, a wise man expands his horizons and enhances his own wisdom.
(Sichot Kodesh, Korach and Balak, 5740)
He would say: "Do not regard anyone with contempt, and do not reject anything, for there is no man who does not have his hour, and nothing which does not have its place." (Ethics 4:3)
There is... nothing which does not have its place - Even a mortal architect strives to ensure that every part of the building he designs is functional. This tendency has its source in the creativity of G-d Himself. Every particle which He creates exists for a purpose; there is a specific divine intent which cannot be completed without it.
(Likkutei Sichot, Vol. XXI, p. 42)
He used to say: "Do not judge alone, for none may judge alone except One; and do not say [to your fellow judges], 'Accept my view,' for they [the majority] have that prerogative, not you." (Ethics 4:8)
Do not judge alone - This principle also applies when judging oneself. A person's self-interest blurs his perspective, so even with regard to one's own affairs, one should always seek the counsel of another.
(Likkutei Sichot, Vol. V, p. 21)
From In the Paths of Our Fathers, sie.org
Reb Berel of Tchenik was a Chasid of Rabbi Mordechai of Chernobyl. Whenever the Chernobler Rebbe visited Tchenik he lodged at Reb Berel's home. Reb Berel was one of the town's most respected citizens, and his house, though simply furnished, was large and spacious.
One time, when the Chernobler Rebbe was planning a visit, he insisted upon different accommodations and refused to stay with Reb Berel. Furthermore, he explicitly forbade Reb Berel from joining the other Chasidim who would be coming to see him. Not only would the Rebbe not receive him for a private audience, but Reb Berel would henceforth be persona non grata at the Rebbe's table. Under no circumstances was Reb Berel to appear before the Rebbe, unless he brought him 2000 rubles. This was the only condition under which the Rebbe would agree to see him.
The news quickly spread among the Jews of Tchenik. Reb Berel was utterly distraught. He and his family wept and carried on as if someone had, G-d forbid, passed away. What terrible sin had he committed for the Rebbe to treat him this way? Reb Berel decided he had no other recourse but to come up with the money. But how on earth would he ever amass 2000 rubles? Even if he sold his house and his field, which he was quite willing to do, and demanded payment from all his creditors, he would receive only 800 rubles, less than half of the required amount.
Meanwhile, the Chernobler Rebbe arrived in Tchenik. The entire town was swept up in the excitement of his visit, basking in the glow of the holy tzadik. Only Reb Berel was miserable, alone in his house. He begged his fellow Chasidim to intercede on his behalf with the Rebbe. But the Rebbe just brushed their pleas aside. Not even one penny of the full amount would he waive.
Furthermore, the Rebbe added, when the time came for him to leave, he did not want to see Reb Berel among the other Chasidim who came out to escort him on his way. Indeed, when the visit was over, everyone accompanied the Rebbe to the outskirts of Tchenik except for Reb Berel, who dutifully stayed at home, crushed and bewildered. Reb Berel poured out his heart to G-d in emotional and tearful prayer, beseeching the One Above to grant him the wealth that would enable him to be reunited with his Rebbe.
A short time later a battalion of soldiers passed through Tchenik and was quartered with the local citizenry. Each family received a certain number of soldiers according to the number of rooms they had.
Reb Berel, too, was required to host the troops. Unbeknownst to Reb Berel, the soldiers who stayed in his house happened to be the ones responsible for guarding and transporting the army's funds. (In those days, a chest containing the army's ready cash was moved from place to place as the army carried out its maneuvers.)
The command to move on was issued in the middle of the night. The troops, their sleep abruptly interrupted, hurriedly packed their belongings. Within minutes the entire battalion was on the road. In their haste to join their comrades, the soldiers stationed with Reb Berel forgot to take the chest of money with them. It was not until several hours later that their oversight was noticed. Soldiers were immediately sent back to Tchenik to recover the money, but for some reason, Reb Berel's house was overlooked. The houses on either side of Reb Berel's were searched, but the soldiers never thought to enter his.
Several months passed and Reb Berel happened upon the chest of money. Reb Berel realized that he had been granted a gift from Above. He opened the chest, and was amazed by the great wealth it contained. He immediately counted out 2,000 rubles and went straight to the Rebbe in Chernobyl.
The Rebbe explained the entire incident. "Great riches were ordained for you in heaven," the Rebbe said, "but in order to receive them it was necessary for you to ask. Because I know you well, and recognize that you are the type of person who is satisfied with very little, I had to find a way to get you to pray for wealth. It was only after your heartfelt prayers that the blessing was able to come down to you.
"And now," continued the Rebbe, "you must travel to the great city. There you shall engage in business, and G-d will grant you much success."
Indeed, Reb Berel of Tchenik lived to be the patriarch of the very wealthy Rappaport family, all of whom were followers of the Chernobler Rebbe.
The laws of agricultural charity seem out of place in the Torah portion, located between Passover and Shavuot on one side, and Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Sukkots on the other. They are placed in the middle of the holiday sacrifices to teach us that these laws - leaving the gleanings and the corner of the field - are equivalent to building the Temple. We must sweat and toil to produce the harvest, and yet leave the gleanings and corner simply because G-d commanded it. We must sweat and toil to build the Temple, without a thought of personal satisfaction. We must sweat and toil to change our natures, thus bringing Moshiach.
(From Reflections of Redemption based on Likutei Sichos 17, by Dovid Yisroel Ber Kaufmann o.b.m.)