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Who doesn't want to be a millionaire?
Game show hype aside, most of us have probably daydreamed about what it would be like to have oodles of money. We all make our mental lists of just how we would spend that elusive lottery jackpot or fantasy stock market windfall.
Surely somewhere on the list we all write the name of a relative who could use a little financial assistance, a favorite charity to which we've always wanted to be a major donor, or an institution bursting at its seams that could use a new wing built in memory of a loved one. Somehow, with some of the money, we just know we could make a difference.
Perhaps your dream is not to be a millionaire, but to be a best-selling author. And what a bonus it would be if your book creates a grass-roots revolution to improve some small aspect of the quality of life somewhere in the world.
Or maybe you've always hoped to be in the spotlight. In addition to the accolades, you know that somewhere down the road you could become an advocate for a special cause and have an impact.
Whether it's a mere "fifteen minutes of fame" or a lifetime of distinction, every person wants and has his "hour." For this reason, the great Jewish teacher Ben Azzai stated (Ethics 4:3): "There is no person who does not have his hour, and nothing which does not have its place."
According to Jewish mystical teachings, each one of us has his own "hour" which he will ultimately fill with positive activities. These activities will have a lasting effect on the person and ultimately a beneficial impact on the world.
That each one of us has an "hour" obligates us to seek out worthwhile pursuits in order to make sure the hour is used to its fullest potential. And would it be so terrible if we filled not only one hour but many hours with good deeds, acts of kindness, Torah classes, etc.?
In addition, the knowledge that every person has "his" hour will help us interact appropriately with every individual. In fact, Ben Azzai prefaced his statement by enjoining us: "Do not regard anyone with contempt, and do not reject anything, for there is no person who does not have his hour, and nothing which does not have its place."
Our appreciation of the worth and value of everyone and everything is bolstered by our realization that each creature and creation makes a positive contribution to our world.
In this week's Torah portion Eikev, we read, "I will give your land's rain in its time." The foremost Torah commentator Rashi explains the words, "I will give your land's rain," that G-d is saying to the Jewish people, "You did what was upon you, I will also do what is upon Me." In other words, because we do what G-d wants, He will do His part by giving us the rain we need.
A dozen portions earlier, in Bechukotai, G-d says, "I will give your rains in their time," and the verse continues, "the Land will yield its produce, and the tree of the field will give its fruit." Although the two blessings seem similar, there is much to learn from the subtle differences in wording between the blessing of rain in Bechukotai and that in Eikev.
Rashi's explanation in our portion, "You did what was upon you, I will also do what is upon Me," implies that we did only what was asked of us, and that G-d's response is just to keep His end of the bargain, by sending only the natural rain that we need. This explanation is derived from the wording of the verse "I will give your land's rain." The rain is the land's, and land is within nature.
However, in Bechukotai, the blessing is beyond the natural, "I will give your rain," meaning, the Jewish People's rain, and as we are above nature, so the rain is also above nature. And as we see in the continuation of the blessing, "the Land will yield its produce, and the tree of the field will give its fruit," including plain trees that don't normally give fruit. In the future they too will give fruit, which is not natural, rather above the natural.
Why is the blessing in Bechukotai greater? Because as Rashi explains that the words found there, "...if you will go in My statues," means, that you should toil in Torah. "Toil" means going beyond your norm, putting in effort beyond your nature. So the blessing G-d gives is also beyond nature.
How does this blessing of rain manifest itself? In Eikev Rashi explains "in its time" as "night," i.e., so you won't be bothered. In other words, you won't be bothered by the rain during the day when you are working in the field, but it will rain the natural amount necessary for the fields to produce its crop.
In Bechukotai Rashi explains "in their time," to mean at the time that it is uncommon for people to go out, like on the night of Shabbat. Meaning that it will rain one night a week, and with that small amount of rain the fields will yield their full potential, which is beyond the natural. So the blessing in Bechukotai is greater, because our effort is greater.
We learn from the contrast between these two verses that it is not enough for us to get by with what comes naturally. G-d expects more from us, to go beyond our nature, to toil in Torah and mitzvot, to go the extra mile. We should strive for the greater blessing. When we do that, G-d showers us with blessings beyond the natural.
May our efforts and toil, going beyond the natural bring the greatest blessing of all, the coming of Moshiach. May he come soon.
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.
I am a foodstuffs engineer by profession, but once I became a refusenik, I was fired and began working as a maintenance man in Moscow.
In the summer of 1984, Rabbi Gershon Grossbaum, an emissary of the Rebbe in Minnesota who is an expert on mikvaot, knocked at my door. Rabbi Grossbaum said, "The Rebbe sent me here to build a mikva in the Marina Roscha Synagogue and the Rebbe said to start the work immediately." Ezras Achim, the organization under whose auspices he came, also sent along expensive electronics for me to sell on the black market so I could use the money for the expenses of construction.
I was flabbergasted. Building a new mikva in Moscow in 1984 was an act of open rebellion against the government.
We sat together and came up with a basic plan about how to build a mikva that would be hidden. When I started thinking practically, I wondered from where would I get the materials that were unobtainable even on the black market? Where would I get a team of professional workers?
After we finished the plans, Rabbi Grossbaum said we would meet again tomorrow, then he left. I stood in a corner of the shul and poured out my heart to G-d that He should help me.
At 4 p.m. I left to go home. Outside of the shul, there were Russians hanging around, waiting for a liquor store to open. I noticed someone dressed like a construction worker. I asked him, "Would you like to earn a lot of money?" Of course, he said "yes."
I explained that I had to quickly build a certain room and I made him an enticing offer. Within half an hour I had ten workers with tools. All night we dug a pit in the floor of one of the rooms of the shul. The following morning, Rabbi Grossbaum came and he was astounded at what we had accomplished.
Right across from the shul was a large KGB center, and a special division frequently checked on the shul. We knew that the minute they noticed construction going on, they would stop it.
In retrospect, it became clear how far-reaching was the Rebbe's vision. The Rebbe had said the construction had to begin immediately; on that very day all the people in that KGB division went on vacation for a few weeks. And the government-appointed gabbai of the shul, whose job it was to report to the authorities what went on in the shul, also went on vacation!
But now we had another problem: how to get enough construction material within a few days. Again, help came from an unexpected source. A personal friend of mine, by the name of Sholom Yanatovsky, was one of the people who davened in the shul. He was a disabled war veteran and had special privileges which included a shorter wait time for building permits. Sholom endangered himself and gave me all his papers.
I went to the company that sold construction materials. The boss was on vacation. His substitute was a person I could work with on the quiet. Aside for paying for the materials, I gave him a nice bribe and he immediately signed the documents to release the bricks. Only two hours later, I loaded a semitrailer with bricks, with two additional hook-up trailers. The truck parked opposite the shul and blocked the street. (Could the KGB on the other side of the street not notice what was going on?) I mobilized all the workers and arranged another group of Jewish workers, and the two groups unloaded the bricks.
The ten workers that we had arranged immediately got to work. I quickly prepared the molds for the pouring of the cement and the metal supports, inserted the pipe into the mold, and poured the cement floor and the walls for the pit of the mikva. The work progressed. We did not skimp to make the place beautiful. In the end, we had a magnificent mikva. The entire process of the building of the mikva took just 16 days of work. Incredible!
One day, KGB agents showed up to see what was going on in the shul. Unfortunately, they found the new mikva. That same day, I was called in for interrogation. I was informed that the entire shul would be shut down Thursday night and they would only open it for "regulars" for Shabbat.
When I went to the shul before Shabbat, I saw two locks on the mikva door; one was ours and the other was theirs. As soon as Shabbat was over, I broke one of the windows and went into what was the mikva. There was no mikva! They had filled it up with sand, poured over it a cement floor five centimeters thick, and covered the cement with a strong and high quality wooden floor that covered the entire room. (Then and there, I resolved that this beautiful wood would eventually be the paneling for the Torah reading bima in the shul.)
There was no limit to my heartache. I called Rabbi Moshe Levertov in New York, the director of Ezras Achim, and told him everything. He promised to ask the Rebbe what to do.
A while later, I received a call from Rabbi Levertov, who told me that the Rebbe said not to publicize this story in the media; such publicity could be harmful. The only thing I could do from that point onward was to show the sealed pit to all the representatives of world Jewry who came to visit.
Although the Rebbe had instructed not to make a tumult about what happened, the members of Ezras Achim in New York worked behind the scenes in order to exert diplomatic pressure on the Russians. They reached out to their contacts in the US government and presented the matter to them. At that time, there were talks between the Russian and American governments about nuclear arms reduction. During the meeting that took place in Geneva, the American representatives asked their Russian counterparts why they should be trusted if they are fighting the Jewish community in such a childish manner and closing down their mikva.
Eight months later, we were informed that we have permission to refurbish the mikva, along with an apology. When they informed me about the permit to open the mikva, I insisted that they should do the work necessary to reopen the mikva.
In order to minimize their embarrassment, they did the work under cover of darkness. To us, this was a complete victory. And I did, in fact, use the high quality wood flooring as paneling for the bima in the shul. I saw with my own eyes how the blessing of the Rebbe does not fall short, and if the Rebbe asked to establish a mikva, then the mikva will prevail against all odds.
From Beis Moshiach Magazine.
Rabbi Josh and Chavie Zebberman are joining the Rebbe's emissaries of California's Tri-Valley - a triangle-shaped region of the eastern San Francisco Bay Area in Northern California - to expand adult education and establish a Gan Israel day camp.
Rabbi Yerah and Deovrah Leah Bensaid will establish Chabad of Ivory Coast, West Africa in Abidjan. Mrs. Bensaid grew up in Kinshasa, Congo, as an emissary of the Rebbe together with her parents founders of Chabad of Central Africa Rabbi Shlomo and Miriam Bentolila.
Rabbi Levi and Hindy Wilansky are joining Chabad of Maine in Portland to expand the activities there. They will serve as directors of youth programs, including Ckids and CTeens, as well as expand the adult education classes.
26th of Tishrei, 5718 
Blessing and Greeting:
I received your letter of the beginning of September. My reply was delayed on account of the intervening Holy Days.
Inasmuch as you do not mention anything about your health, I trust that everything is in order, and I shall always be glad to hear good news from you.
In reference to what you write about the two schools of medical thought, namely, one that favors artificial means and external treatment, and the other favoring natural recovery, seeking to bring about an improvement in health through the internal strengthening of the natural powers of the organism itself; and for some reason you think that the Jewish religion prefers the first method --
In general, you are mistaken in this view, inasmuch as our religion has expressed no specific preference for one or the other. On the other hand, one of the greatest adherent[s] of the naturalistic school was none other than the great Maimonides, who was both the outstanding Talmudist and Codifier, as well as one of the greatest physicians of his age, whose influence in medical science is felt to this day. At the same time, he is also one of the greatest authorities on Jewish law to this day. In his famous Code of Jewish Law, he strongly defends the naturalistic approach (cf. Hilechoth Deoth).
Your defense of the naturalistic school does not entirely hold good, as can also be seen from Maimonides, quoted above. Your arguments that there should be no interference with the course of nature and the Divine order, and to permit the organism itself to recover without outside interference, etc., would be valid if we were dealing with a perfect organism in its perfect natural state. Unfortunately, such a thing hardly exists, for there is no perfection in this physical world, largely due to the fact that extraneous factors come into play, such as accidents, war, and the like, or an unnatural way of life, such as over-indulgence in food and material pleasures. In a case of an organism thus affected, it cannot be argued that no extraneous methods be used to correct that which has been caused by extraneous forces, and that nature itself will do the job. Moreover, the maladies of present day are often the result of cumulative effect, not only of the individual himself, but of generations that sinned against the Divine order.
Needless to say, it is not my intention to convey the idea that I leave no room at all for the naturalistic method of treatment. My only intention is to exclude the extreme form of application of this method, as the best method is the combination of both, in the proper ratio, which depends in each case on its own merit.
Finally, I would also mention that here too we find an analogy between the physical and spiritual, especially in the life of the Jew. I mean to say that the spiritual health of the Jew is determined by his daily conduct, in accordance with the Torah and Mitzvoth, and, similarly, his physical health is dependent upon his spiritual health, which is the natural way of life for the Jew. Hence, the observant Jew, who has led as nearly perfect a life as possible, requires no special precautions to guard himself against temptation, etc., whereas the one who is not so well equipped, must take precaution upon precaution, and set a fence around a fence to protect himself through doing even a little better than the minimum required by the Torah. It is surely unnecessary to elaborate on this.
With prayerful wishes to hear good news from you, and
The enclosed message, which is of timely interest throughout the year will, I trust, be of interest to you, and you will make good use of it.
NACHUM means "comfort." Nachum was a minor prophet who foretold the fall of Nineveh (Nachum 1:1). Nachum Ish Gamzu was a 2nd century scholar and teacher of Rabbi Akiva. He was named Ish Gamzu - the man of "this too" - for no matter what the situation he always said, "This too is for the good."
NECHAMA means "comfort." A pet form is Neche. It is the feminine of Nachum.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This Shabbat we bless the month of Elul, the final month of the year before Rosh Hashana. One of the most fundamental principles in Judaism is that a person can always change for the good. Regardless of one's past actions, the only requirements are remorse for misdeeds, the resolve not to repeat them, and a sincere desire to draw closer to G-d. This process of returning to one's true, inner nature (which is essentially good in the Jew) is known as teshuva, to which the entire month of Elul is dedicated.
Unfortunately, the concept of teshuva is sometimes misconstrued. "Becoming a baal teshuva" is not just for Jews who were never exposed to Torah and never had a chance to learn the basics. The greatest rabbis and scholars are also obligated to "do teshuva," for when it comes to levels of holiness and purity, there is no end to up. Only G-d can assess what is in a person's heart, ignoring the externals. On the contrary, a person who was raised in a religious home is better equipped to "do teshuva," armed with the benefit of a Jewish education to guide him.
The story is told of a teacher in a "baal teshuva" yeshiva who, in the course of a meeting with a renown rabbi in Israel, described how wonderful his school was. In the midst of the conversation, he felt a sudden need to clarify that he himself "was not a baal teshuva."
"And why aren't you a baal teshuva?" the rabbi gently chided him.
"Doing teshuva" is not a one-shot deal. A Jew doesn't become a "baal teshuva" by beginning to perform mitzvot and assuming that he's made it. The initial turning toward G-d may be revolutionary, but teshuva is an ongoing process.
Every day we are faced with choices; every day is a new opportunity to elevate and refine ourselves.
And the coming month of Elul is a particularly good time to renew our resolve...
Rabbi Yaakov said: "This world is like an ante-room before the World to Come; prepare yourself in the ante-room so that you may enter the banquet hall." (Ethics 4:16)
The World to Come - the Era of the Redemption - reflects the ultimate purpose of creation, when it will be revealed that this world is G-d's dwelling. To explain the analogy: A person reveals his essence more easily in his own home. When we're at home social conventions, personal reservations, and the like do not apply, and our true nature is revealed. In the analogue, our world is G-d's home, the place where His essence and the truth of His Being is manifest. G-d nevertheless desired that we should fashion His dwelling, for people have a natural tendency to appreciate the fruit of his own labors. And so, in the present era, our efforts are directed towards transforming the world into a dwelling for G-d. For this reason, the present era is referred to as an ante-room, a preparatory phase through which we must pass.
Rabbi Elazar HaKappar said: "Envy, desire, and honor-seeking drive a man from the world." (Ethics 4:21)
The mindless drive to satisfy physical desires generally prevents a person from living a well-balanced life. On the other hand, although a person may think he wants material objects as ends in themselves, his desire may actually be rooted in the depths of his soul. Everything in the world contains sparks of G-dliness. Mankind has been given the task of refining the material and revealing its innate G-dliness. Every individual is destined to elevate certain sparks, and this divine service is necessary for his personal growth. We may be unaware of the spiritual motivation underlying our physical desires however, a deeper force motivates our will. Therefore, when a person feels a desire for a material entity, he need not deem it bad and reject it entirely. He must, however, determine whether this desire stems from selfish motives, or is an expression of his soul's longing.
(Likkutei Sichot, Vol. XIX, p. 291ff)
From In the Paths of Our Fathers, sie.org
It was already the middle of the night when the stranger appeared in the doorway, a thin figure dressed in rags. Obviously exhausted, the traveler looked ready to tumble to the ground. The innkeeper, a warm-hearted, G-d-fearing Jew, immediately invited him in and sat him down. After bringing the stranger a warm drink to revive him, he served him an entire meal and sent him off to bed.
The next morning the traveler was much revived from the food and the good night's sleep. After praying the morning service and eating breakfast, he packed his meager belongings into his knapsack, thanked his host for his hospitality and prepared to leave.
The innkeeper, sizing up the man's outward appearance, stuck his hand into his pocket and offered him a handful of change. To his surprise, the stranger politely refused. Thinking that perhaps he had offended him by offering too little, the innkeeper added another few coins, but the man was adamant. "Thank you anyway," he said, "but I really don't need it."
The innkeeper was at a loss for words. "What do you mean you don't need it?" he asked after a few seconds.
"I'm not your usual door to door beggar," the man explained. "You may not believe it, but I'm actually very wealthy. In my hometown I own many properties, fine houses, fertile fields and abundant orchards."
By this time the innkeeper was completely confused. He demanded that the stranger give him a more detailed explanation:
"The whole thing started a little over two years ago," the stranger began, "when a large sum of money was stolen from my home. After the initial investigation, suspicion fell on one of the servants, a young orphan girl who was in my employ. I insisted that she be taken to the town magistrate, who would soon get to the bottom of the matter. But the policemen who led her away were very cruel, and they struck her repeatedly. As a result of the beating, she passed away a few days later. Till the very end she maintained her innocence.
"A few weeks after this happened, the real thieves were apprehended and the money was recovered. I became almost insane with remorse. My conscience would not allow me to live. Not only had I shamed the poor girl, but I had inadvertently caused her death. How could I ever expiate my sin? In my sorrow I turned to the tzadik Rabbi Meir of Premishlan for help.
"The tzadik's face turned grave when he heard my story. He looked deep into my eyes - into my soul - before speaking. 'You must choose one of three ways of doing teshuva [repentance],' he said. 'The first choice is death. This will save your portion in the World to Come. The second choice is illness, in which case you will need to suffer for three years as atonement. Or, you can choose to go into exile for three years. This is the punishment for taking a person's life accidentally.'
"I asked the tzadik for several days to make up my mind. Each one of the alternatives seemed too much to bear. I just couldn't decide. A few days later I started to feel terrible pains all over my body. A doctor was summoned, and he diagnosed me as having an incurable illness. I understood that the first option - death - had been chosen for me, as I seemed incapable of making a decision.
"With my last ounce of strength I went back to Rabbi Meir and asked him to pray for my recovery. I was ready to accept exile.
"The tzadik set several conditions. 'The first stipulation is that you must leave all your personal belongings with me,' he said. 'From now on you must only wear clothing that is old and torn. You must never spend more than one night in the same place. And when you are hungry, you mustn't ask for food but wait until it is offered. For three years you are forbidden to return home, but once a year you may stand at the entrance to your city and send word for your wife to bring you your accounting books. Come back to me when the three years of exile are over, and I will return all your possessions.'
"I accepted my fate and set out, and for the past two years I have obeyed the tzadik's words to the letter. Just recently, however, I learned that Rabbi Meir passed away, and I don't know what to do. How can I go back to him if he is no longer alive? I've decided to go to Rabbi Chaim of Sanz for guidance." With that, the stranger concluded his tale.
The innkeeper, who was a follower of Rabbi Chaim of Sanz, insisted on accompanying him. When they entered the tzadik's chamber, Rabbi Chaim began to speak before they could even state why they had come. "Go home," he instructed the weary traveler, "but make sure you pass through Premishlan. Go to Rabbi Meir's grave and tell him that the Rabbi of Sanz has ruled that two years of exile are enough, for you have fulfilled them with true self-sacrifice."
Moses told the Jews, "You were shown in order to know that G d is the only deity. There is nothing other than Him." (Deut 4:35) By revealing G-d's essence, which is beyond Creation, G-d enabled us to transcend the limits of nature, as well. In order to overcome life's challenges, we need only remind ourselves that "there is nothing other than Him," i.e., that nothing can constitute a real obstacle to fulfilling G-d's intentions, since everything is part of G-d's essence. Evoking this awareness elevates our Divine consciousness to the level of truly perceiving G-d's essence everywhere. This, in turn, serves to hasten the Redemption, when "the glory of G-d will be revealed and all flesh will see it together."
(From Daily Wisdom, by Moshe Wisnefsky from the teachings of the Rebbe)