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January, Labor Day, Presidents' Day, Memorial Day. In the U.S. certain times of the year are traditionally the best time to find real bargains. If you're not desperate and your purchase can wait, you can save a bundle if you take advantage of the "sales."
Shopping for some is almost like a science, or at least a hobby. Once you get used to the routine, you know exactly when and where to shop for your needs, whether they are furniture, linens, clothing or even major appliances.
It may not be possible to avoid all the crowds of shoppers, long lines, barely helpful sales people, and high rate of returns, but at least the price is right.
Sales are great in shopping. In our lives as Jews, too, some days are more auspicious than others to acquire or solidify the various aspects of our commitment to the teachings of the Torah. Rosh Hashana is the time for introspection and return to G-d. Sukkot and Simchat Torah remind us that "Joy breaks all boundaries." Passover helps us with freedom and breaking out of our limited view of our own capabilities. Shavuot reinforces our commitment to study and to Jewish education.
Nevertheless we don't need to wait for a "sale day" to grow as Jews. Every day of our lives there are "bargains" to be found - treasures of personal growth which we can acquire as our own with a little skill and a good deal of commitment.
We don't have to wait for Rosh Hashana to be introspective or pray; King David tells us in Psalms: "G-d is close to all who call Him."
Joy and happiness are good any moment of the day and any day of the year. Just try smiling at someone on the street and you'll see how far "spreading a little joy" can get you!
Freedom is a state of mind which we can generate without leaning at the seder table. In fact, that is the message of the Shema, said daily in the morning and evening.
Torah study is likewise a daily requirement, and a wasted opportunity to learn something new is considered a grave failing.
Above all, the "price" is right. All we have to do is invest a little energy in the right direction and the return is immense. "Open for Me a space like the eye of a needle, and I will open for you the great doors of the entrance to the Temple sanctuary," says the Talmud. Now if that isn't a real bargain, what is?
In the Torah portion Behar we are commanded that when giving a loan to a fellow Jew, one may not charge interest. Our Sages explain that whoever doesn't take interest accepts the yoke of Heaven, and whoever takes interest removes the yoke of Heaven.
Isn't it strange to equate the taking of interest with rejecting the "yoke of Heaven" - G-d's Will? Going against the command to not take interest seems more a symptom of a lack of trust in G-d; the person is afraid that if he doesn't make money at every opportunity he won't have enough. On the other hand, one who lends money to another Jew without any gain, displays a great trust in G-d!
Accepting the yoke of Heaven expresses itself mostly in the performance of commandments. Why do a mitzva? Because G-d said so. That is the simple definition of accepting the yoke of Heaven. When you do a mitzva this way, G-d "participates" in your mitzva and your mitzva affects the world.
But, why does G-d want our mitzvot to have an effect above? And why does G-d want us to do mitzvot at all?
One of the reasons G-d created the world is "to do good to His creations," because it is "His nature to do good." But that raises another question: Why doesn't G-d just fill our needs without us having to do anything?
Because of G-d's nature to do good, He wants us to feel good about what we receive from Him, to feel like we earned it; no one feels satisfied with a hand-out. When you get something that is not earned, it is called "bread of shame." G-d has us serve Him so that we earn what we receive from Him.
When we work, if it is meaningful and actually accomplishes something we feel fulfilled. If someone were to give you useless busy-work just to give you a paycheck, it wouldn't feel good. It is still bread of shame, because you know that it is a hand-out. G-d enabled our mitzvot to make a real difference Above, so that it would be truly satisfying and meaningful to fulfill mitzvot. Therefore, G-d set things up in a way that our mitzvot have an effect. This makes our service more enjoyable and gratifying.
And this relates to the mitzva of taking or not taking interest. What is interest? Interest is when you make a profit off money that you once had and it is now in the borrower's possession. You are not involved at all, but you are taking the profit. A "free loan" is different than an investment where one risks his capital, and gains and loses with the success of the venture.
G-d treats us as we treat others. If we try to "turn a profit" without actually doing any work, G-d will not participate in our mitzvot.
This is a lesson for us. You can't expect to "live off" things you've done in the past. You have to continuously be an active participant in the world around you, in your relationships, and in the good things you have established already. The reward for this is that G-d will be your partner and your life will be filled with blessing.
Our continuing involvement in Torah and mitzvot will surely hastening the coming of Moshiach, may he come now.
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.
We are now marking the shloshim, 30 days since Lori Kaye was murdered. She was killed on Shabbat during Passover services at Chabad of Poway because she was a Jew. We can all learn so much from her 60 years of life, love and light.
Meira Renzoni moved with her family from Poway, California, to Monsey about 21 years ago. She had met Lori Gilbert-Kaye when they were sorority sisters at Alpha Epsilon Phi at UCLA. When Meira lived in Poway, she would often go on walks with her friend, who set a brisk pace.
"She was a fast walker and very hard to keep up with," Renzoni said. "She was like the Energizer Bunny. Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein said something brilliant. He said because she slept so little and did so much in the hours of her day, really, her 60 years of life was really like 120 years."
Lori was known to drive hours to visit a sick friend. She bought six months' worth of medication for someone without insurance. She left her freshly baked challah in mail boxes and on doorsteps all over town and was known to buy extra bagels and coffee during her morning routine to be able to give them away, her family and friends said.
Lori loved greeting cards; she had one for nearly any occasion. Whether a birthday, anniversary or condolence, someone leaving on a trip or returning from one, Lori pulled one out from her vast collection, wrote a message and delivered the card.
"She knew what everyone was up to, what was happening in their lives, and she cared to make them feel special," shares her longtime friend, Teresa Lampert. "She was an incredible person.She had such little time to rest; she was always doing good, making people happy, that's who she was," says Lampert. "Nobody could keep up with her."
Shabbat at the Kaye home was a thing to behold, with Lori's table intricately set up for a large number of guests. Her freshly baked challah was famous in Poway, as was her matzah-ball soup and chicken.
"It was always incredible," says Lampert of those meals. "And somehow, even when she had all of these guests, if she heard that someone wasn't feeling well or for any other reason, she found time to deliver challah or a bouquet of flowers to several homes each week."
"Everyone knew her, and she knew everyone," says Lampert. "She was a huge part of this community; she participated in all events and was loved by everyone."
She notes that Lori's generosity extended well beyond her own community. Lori was active with the Hadassah Foundation, Chai Lifeline and other organizations. And, like the little details she always remembered, she was always on the lookout to give more. Lampert is a tour group manager and travels for business. Whenever she would go to a foreign location, Lori would make sure to send along a check with Lampert to be donated locally.
"I would go to South America, Spain, Portugal, Alaska, and she would always send a check along with me for the Chabad House there."
At Lori's funeral, her sister Randi Grossman, shared: "Lori, Your act of bravery showed the world the essence of who you are, and you have become a hero to the Jewish people. But Lori, you have always been my hero. From a young age you were always showing confidence in your sense of right and wrong, and you were never afraid to voice it. You were always outgoing; I always marveled at how you could connect to people of all ages wherever you went. You knew their life history in ten minutes. Your teachers became your friends. You were bold and strong. You never let anything stop you from achieving your dreams. You brought light and goodness to everyone."
"Her light has reached all crevices of this planet," Hannah Kaye, Lori's daughter said. "Everyone was her sister, everyone was her trusted confidante, everyone was her friend."
Dr. Howard Kaye, Lori's husband shared: "My wife always did good and it always turned out good. What I did, if it wasn't good she repaired it. Lori had a pole installed in the front of our house. It said in five different languages - English, Spanish, Hebrew, Yiddish and Hopi - 'May peace prevail on earth.' That is who she was. And she wanted the world to know it.
At Lori's funeral Dr. Kaye said that the Torah portion that was connected with Lori's passing was Acharei. In fact, that portion was read and studied a total of five times before and after the Shabbat that she was killed. "Acharei Mot, after the death of Aron's two sons, Nadav and Avihu.... And the Midrash explains that Nadav and Avihu died because they were greater than Moses and Aron. Like them, Lori had a soul that was greater than any of us had."
Dr. Kaye ended with a message for those who, like Lori's killer, are going down the slippery slope of hate and evil. "Get out while you can. Turn your life around," he said. "Come back into the real world. The world of Lori which is peace and love on Earth."
The flight attendant on the plane that carried Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein from New York back to Poway for the first Shabbat back with his community announced over the speaker system: "I would like to recognize Rabbi Goldstein's courage as he is using this as a platform to reach out to all of us, to speak to us, all religions, races, ethnicities, encouraging us to practice random acts of kindness to be more respectful and more loving towards one another. We shouldn't focus on what's not here any longer but in any small way we should try to make a positive impact on the lives that are here. Random acts of kindness. Thank you, thank you Rabbi Goldstein"
Four couples recently moved as emissaries of the Rebbe to start Chabad-Lubavitch Centers or to bolster existing activities. They are: Rabbi Uri and Mushki Blau to help expand the Chabad Center in Mumbai, India; Rabbi Shalom and Chana Sara Zana in Le Bourget, France to open a new Chabad Center; Shalom Dovber and Rachel Journo in Neuilly-Plaisance, France to open a new Chabad Center; Rabbi Yosef and Goldie Sharfstein who are opening a new Chabad Center in Bushey, England.
Prizes and presents don't need to be expensive to be valuable. When Benny wishes he could give beautiful gifts to his family and friends, Tzvi shows him that the very best gift is one that doesn't cost a cent! Join the two friends as Benny figures out what this mysterious gift could be... "A gift you can give any time, any place, and all that you need is your bright, shining face." By Chani Altein and Marc Lumer, HaChai Publishing
Shushan Purim, 5712 
Greeting and Blessing
In reply to your letter, briefly:
You ask how can we reconcile the attributes of G-d of mercifulness and kindness with cosmic catastrophes such as volcanic eruptions and the like, involving the loss of human life, etc.?
There are many circumstances involved in each event, in addition to time and location. However, there is one general answer to such apparently inexplicable occurrences, which will become clearer through the following illustration: Suppose one encounters an individual for a brief period of time, finding him asleep, or engaged in some arduous toil. Now if the observer should want to conclude from what he sees during that brief period of time as to the nature of the individual he had observed. He would then conclude that the individual has an unproductive existence - in the first instance; or leads a life of torture - in the second instance. Obviously, both conclusions are erroneous, inasmuch as what he saw was only a fraction of the individual's life, and the state of sleep was only a period of rest and preparation for activity, and - in the second instance - the toil was a means of remuneration or other satisfaction which by far outweighs the effort involved. The truth is that any shortsighted observation, covering only fraction of time or of the subject, is bound to be erroneous, and what may appear as negative will assume quite a different appearance if the full truth of the before and after were known.
Similarly in the case of any human observation of a world event. The subject of such an observation is thus taken out of its frame of eternity, of a chain of events that occurred before and will occur afterwards. Obviously we cannot expect to judge about the nature of such an event with any degree of accuracy. A volcanic eruption or an earthquake and the like are but one link in an long chain of events that began with the creation of the world and will continue to the end of times, and we have no way of interpreting a single event by isolating it from the rest.
2) The difference between 'G-d is All,' and "All is G-d,' is in the approach and deduction. In the first instance, our starting point is G-d, and through study and research we can deduce that G-d's Being is revealed in material and natural things. Our study of the Unity of G-d and His other attributes will lead us to recognizing the same attributes in nature and the world around us, the practical results of which find expression of unity among mankind and the practice of G-d's precepts as the proper application of G-d's attributes in our own life, etc. One who sets out on this path dedicates himself wholly to communion with G-d. He is averse to all material aspects of life, including even the bare necessities connected with his physical wellbeing, and tries to avoid them as much as possible. Being engaged in spiritual communion with G-d, he considers all material and physical necessities, even those permitted by the Torah, as a hindrance in his consecrated life. However, his intelligence convinces him that the material and physical world is but an expression of the Divine Being, and that in them, too, G-d is to be found. Hence he serves G-d even while engaged in the unavoidable material aspects of life, and does so with joy, inasmuch as it is in them and through them that he recognizes the greatness of the Creator and they help strengthen his unity with G-d.
In the second part of the statement 'All is G-d,' the starting point is the outer shell of the universe and all material things in it, a study of which will lead to the conclusion that there is cosmic unity in the whole world and that there is a Divine 'spark' vitalizing everything, and consequently One creator.
Thus we have two ways in the service of G-d, of which the first is the easier one, while the second leads to better fulfillment of the objective - to make this lowest physical world an abode for G-d.
3) An observation of my own: It seems a novel way of trying to learn Chassidus by correspondence. Even where there is no other choice, it is difficult to cover such a subject in the course of a letter. But in your case, you are within personal reach of receiving oral and fuller explanations, in the normal course of study under the teachers of Chassidus in Tomchei Tmimim and with the aid of the senior students who have been learning Chassidus for years. Why not use this better method?
With all good wishes,
YEHUDI comes from the word "odeh" which means "praise." In Jeremiah (36:14) Yehudi was the name of a man who served King Jehoikim. Yehudi was used as a generic name to refer to a person from the part of Israel known as "Yehuda" - Judah. More recently, it has become the modern Hebrew word for Jew. YAACOVA is the feminine form of Yaacov (Jacob). In I Chronicles (4:36) Yaacova was a male member of the tribe of Shimon. Today, however, it is used exclusively as a feminine name.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This week we study the fourth chapter of Ethics of the Fathers, a collection of practical advice and counsel from our Sages. One pearl of wisdom reads as follows:
"Rabbi Yonatan said: Whoever fulfills the Torah in poverty will ultimately fulfill it in wealth. But whoever neglects the Torah in wealth will ultimately neglect it in poverty."
On the simplest, most literal level this teaches that G-d repays us according to our deeds measure for measure. A poor person who works long and hard to make a meager living, yet takes time out every day to learn Torah, will be rewarded with material riches. A wealthy man who neglects his Torah study to spend his days eating, drinking and lounging about will eventually lose his money.
On a deeper level, poverty and wealth refer to a person's understanding of Torah. A Jew who is not so knowledgeable about Judaism yet zealously observes the little he does know will eventually "fulfill it in wealth," as G-d will bestow him with wisdom. Conversely, a person who is knowledgeable about Judaism but doesn't bring it down into practice will eventually forget what he once knew.
Poverty and wealth can also refer to a Jew's level of faith, the very foundation of our relationship with G-d. A Jew's belief in G-d is an innate part of him, an integral component of his nature. Yet no matter how neglected that Divine spark may be, the Torah promises that it will flourish and grow into wealth if properly stimulated and nurtured.
Our Prophets have told us that when Moshiach comes and ushers in the Messianic era, material riches will be as abundant as the dust of the earth, reflective of the spiritual wealth of Divine knowledge that will permeate all of creation.
May it happen immediately.
And if your brother becomes poor...do not take from him any usury or increase (Lev. 25:35, 36)
Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar said: "The Psalms say about one who lends money without interest, 'His money was not given to extract usury, and a bribe was never taken against the innocent.' He who does these will never stumble." Conversely, one who lends money with interest is fore-warned that his wealth will eventually dissipate.
(Talmud, Baba Metzia)
And you shall not deceive one another (Lev. 25:17)
Can a person really deceive another, especially in spiritual matters? Even if he succeeds in his deception, the victory is only temporary and the deceit is always eventually revealed. The only person, therefore, who has been effectively deceived is the deceiver himself. And is it so difficult to fool a fool?
(Rabbi Shmuel of Lubavitch)
And you shall return, every man, unto his family (Lev. 25:10)
In the fiftieth, or Jubilee year, the person who willingly sold himself into slavery returns to his family, but not, as brought down in the name of Rabbi Yehuda, to his former stature. Everything can be restored to a slave-his freedom, his inheritance, and his family-but the status and honor afforded him before he sold himself into slavery can never be returned. This was forfeited the moment he indentured himself.
For strangers and sojourners are you with Me (Lev. 25:23)
The more a person considers himself only a sojourner and a temporary resident of this world, the closer he is to G-d. And, unfortunately, the opposite is also true...
(Rabbi Boruch of Mezhibozh)
One day there was excitement in the study hall of Zaslov: two emissaries of the Baal Shem Tov - the tzadikim Reb Nachman Horodenker and Reb David Furkas - arrived on a mission from the Baal Shem Tov (known also as the Besht). The Besht had instructed them to raise the sum of sixty gold florins that very day. This money was needed for pidyon sh'vuyim [redemption of captives]; the entire 60 florins had to be delivered immediately by special messenger, for time was short.
The emissaries arrived just as the people were finishing the recitation of Psalms. As soon as the emissaries finished speaking, a list was drawn up of all residents of the town who were the Baal Shem Tov's Chasidim. A Rabbinical Court was constituted to assess how much each citizen could afford to contribute. This court appointed collectors to go to peoples' homes immediately and collect the imposed tax. If there was anyone who did not have sufficient cash on hand, they could take from him some article of value as collateral until the sum was paid in cash.
Within less than three hours, the collectors returned to the study hall with the full amount of 60 gold florins. They had also drawn up a ledger in which they had recorded the names of those who had paid their assessment in cash, those who had made pledges and given collateral, and those who had given loans guaranteed by the collateral taken from those who had not yet paid.
Just then, wailing was heard in the antechamber of the study hall. Several women whose husbands were not at home had arrived: one was a tailor who worked somewhere in the country; one was a peddler who went from place to place with a pack full of merchandise; one was a teacher at an inn.
These women had heard that the Besht had sent emissaries to collect contributions for a great mitzva. Since no one had approached them to ask for a contribution, they had come themselves, bringing pledges (for they had not cash on hand). One had brought her candlesticks, one had brought a kiddush goblet, another had brought a down-stuffed pillow.
The collectors, in turn, declared that their mission was to demand cash or pledges from those whose names appeared on the assessment list given to them by the court. From people whose names did not appear on the list, they had no authority to accept cash or pledges. Upon hearing that their husbands' names were not even mentioned on the list, the women raised such a cry that even Reb Nachman and Reb David heard it, and became very frightened.
When the members of the Rabbinical court learned that the collectors had returned with their mission accomplished, they hurried through the rest of their prayers. Against their better judgment (for the husbands were very impoverished Chasidim), they accepted the pledges from the women. The special messenger was dispatched to bring the sixty gold florins to the Besht.
When the Besht's emissaries finished praying, a feast was prepared in honor of the great privilege the Besht had bestowed upon them. For the Besht loved them so much that the had given them the privilege of participating in the mitzva of pidyon sh'vuyim; he was so devoted to the Chasidim in Zaslov that the had sent to them the two famous tzadikim. All the Chasidim were in such a joyful mood: you can't imagine how great their delight was.
When the feast was finished, Reb Nachman spoke about the women who had wept while begging the collectors to accept their contributions toward the sum the Besht had assessed the Chasidim of Zaslov. "The Rebbe," said Reb Nachman, "is very fond of simple Jews. He says that a simple Jew who recites a chapter of Psalms with his whole heart and sincerely loves his fellow Jew is favored by the Supreme King more than great tzadikim.
"How profoundly genuine those women's tears were! Their sole desire was for their husband's names to be included in the list of those assessed to contribute money for the great mitzva of pidyon sh'vuyim. A mitzva is so precious, and the Besht so sacred to them, that when their husbands' names were omitted from the list their poor hearts broke and they burst out weeping. How precious such tears are to the Master of the World; how sweet and delightful they are to the Angel Michael and his 180 thousands legions of defending angels! Such genuine heartfelt tears can annul all evil decrees."
Reb Nachman then related an awe-inspiring story about an evil decree against an entire Jewish community. When a certain woman uttered a few truly sincere words that came from the depth of her heart while she wept profusely, the decree was annulled. "If only we would weep on the holy Yom Kippur with the same sort of tears with which our own women wept!" he concluded.
Translated by Shimon Neubort and published by Sichos In English in The Making of Chasidim.
The Redemption comes about through the exile. We know this because Redemption (geula) is the same as exile (gola) except that it has the additional Hebrew letter "-alef." There are several levels of meaning to the letter alef: 1) Alufo shel olam, which, as discussed previously, refers to G-dliness revealed within the world. 2) From the expression a'alefcho chochma, which refers to Torah, which is higher than the world, but still close enough that it is somewhat related to it, and can be compared with it. 3) The three letters which make up the letter alef () are alef, lamed, and fei. These same letters can be rearranged to form the word peleh (), or "wonder." This represents a level of G-dliness which is completely beyond comparison with the world.
(The Rebbe, 20 Iyar, 5751-1991)
The letter Alef therefore contains three levels or stages in the G-dly revelation necessary to completely transform galus.