Thank G-d! | Living with the Rebbe | A Slice of Life | What's New
The Rebbe Writes | All Together | A Word from the Director | Thoughts that Count
It Once Happened | Moshiach Matters
What a lovely necklace!
Thank you. My children gave it to me. Aren't they wonderful?
That's a great set of golf clubs you've got there!
Yeah, I would never have gotten it for myself but my wife gave it to me for my birthday. Nice of her, wasn't it?
Hey, can I use your Apple MacBook Pro for this project I'm working on? I can't believe your grandparents gave it to you for graduating high school.
Sure you can use it. You're right, my parents really are generous.
The comment of a friend or acquaintance can trigger renewed appreciation for something that one might have long-since taken for granted or never appreciated to begin with. Whereas the purpose of the compliment is not to bring forth this appreciation, it is certainly a by-product of the compliment.
The Baal Shem Tov, whose every action was bursting with import, meaning and significant teaching, used to ask the simple Jews whom he purposefully sought out, "How are you today, dear brother?" "How are your little ones, my good woman?" "How have your egg sales gone this week?"
To each of these questions, the usual response was, Boruch Hashem - "Thank G-d, I am feeling well." "Through G-d's goodness, the children are healthy." "With G-d's help, the eggs are selling like hotcakes." In this manner, the Baal Shem Tov encouraged people to have praises for G-d, and gratitude and thankfulness to the Almighty, continually on their lips.
Once, the Baal Shem Tov heard that there was a Torah scholar who was so intent on his studies that he would not even take a moment to respond to the greeting of a fellow Jew.
The Baal Shem Tov decided to remedy the situation. "How are you doing?" the Baal Shem Tov asked the scholar. But no response was forthcoming.
"Are your studies going well today?" the Baal Shem Tov persisted. Still no acknowledgment of his presence.
"How is the family?" the Baal Shem Tov asked as he leaned closer to the scholar's ear.
Question after question the Baal Shem Tov rattled off, but no words were heard from the scholar's lips save those that were being read from the page in front of him.
"Why are you depriving G-d of His livelihood?" the Baal Shem Tov reproached the scholar. With this accusation the scholar lifted his head.
The Baal Shem Tov continued, "Doesn't the Psalmist state concerning G-d, 'And You, G-d, are enthroned on the praises of Israel.' G-d is, so to speak, dependent upon the praises of the Jewish people. You are denying G-d His sustenance by refusing to praise Him and thank Him for all He has done for you!"
So, the next time you're asked a question, try one of the following responses:
Wow, you're in great shape. How do you do it? Diet, exercise and G-d's kindness.
How's business? It has its ups and downs. G-d willing, it'll pick up soon.
It's wonderful that your grandchildren remember to send you birthday cards.
Yes, I'm a lucky person. G-d has been good to me.
This week we read the Torah portion of Ki Teitzei. The Haftora is a prophecy Yishayahu (Isaiah).
The Haftora has a double theme. First, when Moshiach comes, things will be so good that we will forget the hardships of the exile. Second, the redemption will be absolute, never to be followed by another exile.
The Haftora begins, "Sing, barren one, who has not given birth." Who is this barren one?
A simple explanation is that G-d is talking to the city of Jerusalem, which feels like a barren woman, who has never given birth, because she is desolate during this long exile. G-d tells her to sing, as now that Moshiach is here, her streets are once again filled with her children and she doesn't feel barren any more.
On a deeper level, G-d is talking to the Jews who claims that the Jewish people are barren and have not given birth to him. Meaning, he has totally disassociated himself from the Jewish nation. G-d is saying that even the person who is unaffiliated or disaffected will sing the song we will sing when Moshiach comes.
The revelation will be so great that we will break out in song, just as we did at the splitting of the sea. Every Jews will be included, even the "barren" one, who is in the darkest place. The revelation and transformation will be so great, that s/he too will break out in song.
The exile will then seem as a fleeting dream as the Haftora says, "For a brief moment I forsook you." This will be because, as the verse continues, "with great compassion I will gather you." The next verse continues, "With a little wrath, I hid my face from you for a moment, but with everlasting kindness, I will have compassion on you... "
What is clear from these verses, is that when Moshiach comes, it will be so good, that the exile will feel like we endured it only for a brief moment.
Now the Haftora says, "Like the waters of Noah, this is to Me, just as I swore to never again cover the earth with the waters of Noah, so have I sworn not to be wrathful with you and not to rebuke you (ever again)." G-d calls the flood "the waters of Noah" because the name "Noach" is like the word "nachat," - pleasure - indicating that the floor was positive and changed the world for good. The same is true about this exile. When Moshiach comes, we will see how everything we went through in this exile directly made the world ready for Moshiach. We will see the positive in it all.
Like beacons of light, this Haftora is read two times in the year - once with the portion of Noach at the beginning of the year and now at the end of the year - to remind us that though our work is difficult and the exile is dark, what we are accomplishing is tremendous and our reward is even greater.
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.
An Artist's Inspiration
by Sara Yitta Gopin
Each one of us is endowed with numerous gifts that are discovered throughout our lifetime. Upon meeting people with unique talents the Lubavitcher Rebbe has always given them tremendous encouragement to use their capabilities in order to bring goodness and refinement to this world. Sara Rivka Yona Frishberg (known as "Saryf") is an artist whose magnificent paintings reflect the true joy of a Jew who, despite her many struggles, has succeeded to enrich her life, inspired by the light of Chassidic teachings.
In her warm and friendly manner, Saryf shares memories of her childhood home. "As an only child born to parents after several years of anticipation, I have always felt a sense of responsibility to fulfill my potential and true purpose in this world. I grew up in a traditional Jewish home in Miami Beach, Florida, that emphasized the values of philanthropy and an idealistic love for Israel, the Holy Land."
Since she was a child Saryf's inborn talents were recognized. When she was only ten years old she wrote an entire play which was enacted by her classmates. Two years later her mother gave her a "paint by numbers" kit which introduced her to the artistic talent that enriched her life. Years later, when Saryf was finishing her bachelor's degree in special education, she took supplementary courses in art education with the strong belief that artistic skills foster and enhance intellectual capabilities.
Saryf continues her story: "Upon finishing my studies I met and married my dear husband, Moshe Chaim Halevi, o.b.m. He was an English professor, and we lived in various places, including a year of sabbatical abroad in Be'er Sheva. Yet the most significant "station" of our life's journey together was discovering Chabad. As academics both of us were fascinated by this approach which utilizes the intellectual faculties as the basis for emotional and spiritual growth.
"Several years later, after our parents had passed away, we decided to make aliya (move "up" to Israel) with our two little daughters. Just before we moved, my husband, who was a scholar and a book-lover, decided to purchase several books of Chassidic thought in English. For this reason we drove to Crown Heights, and I merited to receive a blessing from the Lubavitcher Rebbe in a totally unexpected way.
"I was standing on the corner of President street and waiting to cross the street when a car stopped beside me, and I saw that the Rebbe was sitting inside. The Rebbe opened the window and his kind, empathic eyes looked straight inside of mine. Suddenly the Rebbe's holy countenance broke into a wide smile, and I felt like a beam of light was flowing through my entire body. It was an awesome moment, that was not more than one second, but for me it is everlasting. The Rebbe was showing me that he cares about me and blessing me with the strength to build a new life in Israel, as well as to overcome the struggles that awaited me on my life's journey."
Forever grateful for the merit of living in the land of our ancestors, Saryf always maintained a positive outlook as she established new roots. "We lived in Jerusalem, Safed, Nachaliel....the list seems endless. We moved fifteen times! Every move is an upheaval, but as a 'wandering Jew,' I always felt that G-d was by my side, watching over me 24/7.
"My husband Moshe Chaim Halevi continued to work formally as an English professor, and offered spiritual guidance to everyone he met. Whether it was soldiers, tourists or students, they were all invited to experience warm Shabbat hospitality in our home. For 20 years my husband was passionately dedicated to spreading Kabalistic writings that explain the power inherent in every Jewish name. There is an individual code of "spiritual DNA" that is divinely implanted in one's name, as well as a corresponding verse in the Torah. Moshe Chaim Halevi helped many people to discover their particular verse and thereby gain new insight into their characteristics and their mission.
"In mid-life, after our daughters were married, my husband encouraged me to enroll in art classes, and a new world opened up for me. Art is a language that allows one to express deep emotions in a visual way, on the canvas. As I painted there was an outpouring of my soul that was stirred with a love of the Creator."
As they say, G-d prepares the cure before the onset of the illness, although a grieving heart is hard to heal. Saryf continues her story: "After 56 years of a marriage that was a true partnership, my dear husband passed away. Yet I was able to find strength as a widow by continuing his life's mission as my own. People commission me to paint the verse of the Torah that corresponds to their name, and every project begins with research of the name in Chasidic and Kabalistic writings. These individualized pictures have a powerful impact and vitality.
Saryf once again lives in Be'er Sheva, on the same street as the absorption center where she resided 47 years ago during the year of her husband's sabbatical. She shares her message: "Every creative talent is a gift from Above, intended to enrich our lives and our surroundings. Yet first and foremost my personal mission is to smile and to say a good word to everyone that will brighten up their day."
View more of Saryf's work at saryf-art.com.
Sara Gopin, originally from Riverdale, New York and now living in Rechovot, Israel, is an artist and freelance writer. View her art at saragopinart.com.
Brooklyn's northernmost neighborhood, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline just across the East River, now has its own Greenpoint Chabad House - Jewish Center. Rabbi Yisroel and Raizel Nissim have been serving the Greenpoint community for five years and Chabad of Greenpoint has purchased a 3,500 square foot, three-family home on India street. The finished center will include a mikva, commercial kosher kitchen, library and study lounge, hospitality suite and an art gallery for local Jewish artists to exhibit their work. Their outdoor space will incorporate a meditation garden and sukka plaza.
Rabbi Mordechai and Shoshana Morosow are opening Chabad of Shymkent, Kazakhstan. Six vibrant Chabad centers have been operating in the cities of Almaty, Nur- Sultan, Ust- Kamenagorsk, Karaganda, Kostanay and Pavlodar. The new Chabad House will be the seventh in the country.
Freely translated and adapted
18 Elul, 5744 
To the Sons and Daughters of Our People Israel, Everywhere
G-d bless you all!
Greeting and Blessing:
Bearing in mind that the last twelve days of Elul, beginning with Chai (18) Elul, are days of introspections relating to the months of the outgoing year, each day corresponding to its respective month -
It is especially appropriate to extend to each of you, in the midst of all our Jewish people, the traditional and all inclusive blessing of "a good and sweet year" both materially and spiritually.
All the more so, since the said introspection, although it is a personal one, made by every Jew for himself, it is at the same time also an introspection which everyone makes as part of the whole Jewish people.
The purpose of the said introspection, an honest self-appraisal, is that it should determine most resolutely one's correct behavior in the everyday life of the coming year. This is also indicated and emphasized in the name of the festival - Rosh Hashana - meaning that in addition to being the "beginning" of the year, it is also, and essentially, the "head" of the year: Just as the head directs all the organs of the body, and it is only in this way that each organ carries out its purpose in the fullest measure, also as an organ per se - so should Rosh Hashana direct and animate each and every day of the year, in all particulars of the daily life, in order that the person should attain his or her fulfillment according to the design of the Creator.
Through the fulfillment of the human being, also the entire created order in all its four divisions: domem (inanimate), tzomeyach (vegetable), chai (animal), and medabber (human, the "speaker") - attains its fulfillment, both individually and collectively.
This is also underscored by the fact that Rosh Hashana has been designated to take place not on the first day of Creation, but on the sixth - the day when the first man, Adam, was created; and with his creation, the entire created order was concluded and completed, and through man's fulfillment all of Creation is fulfilled.
Because the order and purpose of Creation is that the inanimate (mineral), in addition to its task of serving its own end, should sustain (and be absorbed into) plant life, and thereby be elevated to the "world" of the vegetable; and the latter should sustain, and thereby be elevated to, the animal world; and all three - animal, vegetable and mineral - should support and serve mankind, and thereby become part of, and be elevated to, the world of man, "the chosen one of all creatures."
And through man's serving the Creator, man and (through him) all the said four divisions of Creation, attain their complete and perfect fulfillment.
Indeed, as our Sages of blessed memory declare, this was attained in the very same day that the first man was created, when Adam immediately called upon all creatures, himself included: "Come, let us worship, bow down, and kneel, before G-d our Maker."
The said concept, namely, that the central point and original purpose of the whole created order is that it should attain perfect fulfillment - as it was attained when the Creator completed His creative work of the Six Days of Creation, in preparation for, and then by, the creation of man (Adam), and also that this fulfillment should be attained every day, year after year, through man's conduct in compliance with the teachings of the Torah -
Can be actualized in man's everyday service to his Creator:
After awakening from sleep, during which a person, with his intellect, abilities, knowledge, etc., is like an inanimate - yet it is the time when all forces of the soul and body should be refreshed and invigorated for serving G-d - one must rise from one's sleep, "immediately, with alacrity, to serve the Creator." Then one begins to grow ever higher through the fulfillment of the Creator's commandments, such as washing the hands, reciting the Morning blessings, etc., in preparation for the Morning Prayer; then one goes on to carry out the Divine edict, "and conquer (the world)," going about one's worldly affairs in the manner of "All your actions shall be for the sake of Heaven" - actions that involve all four categories of Creation (inanimate, vegetable, animal and man), the world all around, which one accomplishes with the aid of one's nefesh habehamis ("animal soul"). Thus, one attains the complete fulfillment expected of the "chosen creature" by "creating an abode for Him, blessed be He, in this lowest world," which is the ultimate purpose and fulfillment of the whole created order.
All this also brings closer the true and com-plete Redemption through Moshiach Tzidkeinu,
With esteem and blessing for success in all above, and that you be written and sealed for a good and sweet year, both materially and spiritually,
MISHAEL means "borrowed." Mishael was an uncle of Moses (Exodus 6:22). A later Mishael (Daniel 1:6) was a contemporary of Daniel the prophet. He was amongst the four young men brought into Nebuchadnezzer"s palace when the Jews were exiled to Babylon. According to the Talmud, Mishael was completely righteous.
MARA means bitterness. In the book of Ruth, Naomi said: "Do not call me Naomi [which means pleasant] but Mara [bitterness] for the L-rd has sent me a bitter lot." (Ruth 1:20)
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This coming Wednesday is Chai (the 18th of) Elul, the birthday of both the Baal Shem Tov (founder of the Chasidic movement) in 5458-1698 and the Alter Rebbe, Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidism in 5505-1745. In the same way that the Chasidic movement revitalized Jewish life and introduced a new path in the service of G-d, so too does Chai Elul ("chai" - from the Hebrew word meaning "life") introduce an element of liveliness and vitality into our Divine service in the month of Elul, the main theme of which is repentance.
A basic fundamental of Chasidut is the joyful service of G-d. As surprising as it may seem, Chasidic philosophy teaches that even the mitzva of teshuva (repentance) should be approached with happiness rather than trepidation. If all of the Torah's mitzvot should be fulfilled with joy, how much more so the mitzva of teshuva, which is so great it has the power to perfect all other commandments!
At first glance, the pairing of teshuva with joy appears unrealistic. Repentance is serious business: conducting an honest assessment of one's past behavior, feeling remorse for one's misdeeds, and begging G-d for forgiveness for transgressing His will. How are we to do this out of a sense of joy?
The answer is that joy, as defined by Chasidut, is not the opposite of seriousness. Joy does not mean frivolity, a life without responsibilities or mindless revelry. Rather, joy itself is serious business, a deep feeling created when a Jew contemplates the enormous merit he has to have been born Jewish, to be able to study G-d's Torah and to fulfill His commandments. When a Jew appreciates that he is never alone and that G-d is always with him, his joy becomes the impetus to draw even closer to the Infinite.
With Rosh Hashana approaching, what could make us happier than the knowledge that doing teshuva during Elul is easier than at any other time of year? For the gates of repentance are always open, and G-d always gives us the opportunity to return to Him.
When you go out to war with your enemies...you shall take captives (Deut. 21:10).
In the "war" against the evil inclination one cannot be satisfied with merely overcoming it. One must also "take captives," to press the inclination into Divine service. We see the haste and devotion with which the evil inclination fulfills its mission of tripping man and bringing him to error. We can use this same devotion in serving G-d.
(Baal Shem Tov)
You shall surely lift him up (Deut. 22:4)
When a person helps his fellow Jew, he himself is thereby elevated. Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidism, wrote that when one does a spiritual favor for another, "his mind and heart are purified one thousand-fold"; his grandson, the Tzemach Tzedek, added that this is no exaggeration!
You shall not wear a garment of different sorts (shaatnez), wool and linen together (Deut. 22:11)
According to Chasidut, wool and linen are symbolic of chesed and gevura, the opposite attributes of loving-kindness and severity. When a Jew observes a positive mitzva, a "do," he draws nearer to him the object or thing with which he performs the mitzva. When he observes one of the Torah's prohibitions, a "don't," he avoids something that is forbidden and pushes it away. The mitzva of shaatnez reminds us that the two opposing thrusts mustn't be confused or combined: that which is forbidden should be shunned, and that which is holy and positive should be encouraged.
(The Rebbe, Elul 5744)
The year before the birth of Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidic philosophy, the Baal Shem Tov knew that a new soul was soon to descend to this world. But who would be privileged to host it he did not know, so he searched for it in the heavenly palaces.
What a soul is in its pristine state Above - this the Baal Shem Tov knew. How a soul descends into this world and is garbed in materiality - this he also knew. How fares a new soul - this he dearly would love to know.
He knew that this new soul was due to descend to this world during that year; he did not know where, or in whom.
Rabbi Shneur Zalman's father, the saintly Reb Baruch, was one of the Baal Shem Tov's circle of hidden tzadikim (righteous individuals). But no one knew of Reb Baruch's righteousness - no one, that is, apart from his wife Rebbetzin Rivka.
When a year had passed since their marriage and they had not been blessed with a child, Reb Baruch and his wife set out during the month of Elul to visit the Baal Shem Tov in order to ask for his blessing. The Baal Shem Tov blessed them and promised them that in the forthcoming year, 5505 (1745), they would be granted a healthy son.
The fact that this child was connected to the new soul that was destined to descend that year was hidden even from the Baal Shem Tov.
On Rosh Hashana of that year, the disciples of the Baal Shem Tov observed a marked difference from his accustomed mode of divine service. His abounding joy could be perceived in his manner of prayer, in the especially cordial tone with which he blessed them, in the Torah teachings at the meal thereafter, in the next day's sounding of the shofar, and in the additional prayer service.
The conclusion of Yom Kippur that year found the Baal Shem Tov in a distinctive state of holy elation, which remained with him until after Simchat Torah. His disciples understood that something wonderful must have transpired that holiday month, something that had brought him such joy that he had departed from his accustomed mode of divine service during the Days of Awe, for joy was now its dominant theme. But eager as they were to discover the reason for this joy, they were left disappointed.
Before Reb Baruch and his wife left Medzibozh, they called on the Baal Shem Tov to receive his farewell blessings. Rebbetzin Rivka, bestirred by spiritual emotion, told the tzadik that when the Almighty fulfilled his blessing and granted her a healthy son, she would dedicate him to the study of Torah and to divine service in the spirit of the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov.
Seeing their state of spiritual arousal, the Baal Shem Tov gave them his blessing, and they left town with glad hearts.
On Wednesday morning, on the eighteenth of Elul, the Baal Shem Tov returned from his immersion in the mikva (ritual bath) in extraordinarily buoyant spirits. His disciples were mystified, but none of them ventured to breathe a question. Moreover, the tzadik personally led the prayers to the jovial rhythms of the festival melodies. And when he surprised them by omitting the penitential prayers, they realized that this must be a uniquely festive day.
He then invited them to share his visible joy at a festive meal, where he said: "On Wednesday, 'the day on which the luminaries were suspended in the heavens,' on the Wednesday of the week whose Haftora opens with the words, 'Arise and shine ,' on this day a new soul has come down, which will light up the world through the revealed levels of the Torah and through Chasidut. It will endure self-sacrifice for the sake of the spiritual path of Chasidut and will succeed in its mission until the coming of Moshiach."
When the Baal Shem Tov received Reb Baruch on Yom Kippur that year, he warned him that he should tell no one that he had had a son, nor should he tell anyone of the child's name. Later, when Reb Baruch was about to leave for home, the Baal Shem Tov gave him detailed instructions as to how the child should be attended to and how he should be taken out to the fields. He warned him solemnly, moreover, that the child should be kept out of public view, and in particular, out of the view of the local gossips.
And three times a day, the Baal Shem Tov remembered the newborn child in his prayers.
On the child's third birthday, Rebbetzin Rivka and her sister-in-law arrived in Medzibozh for the child's third birthday, when it is customary to give the first haircut. As soon as the Baal Shem Tov had given the child his first training in leaving his peyot (side-curls) uncut and had given him his blessing, he urged them to leave immediately and not to discuss between themselves where they had been. Finally, he wished them a good year and a safe journey home.
The little boy kept on asking who was this man who had cut his hair and left him with peyot, and who had blessed him.
"That was a grandfather," replied his mother. Thus, Rabbi Shneur Zalman referred to the Baal Shem Tov in the future, as his spiritual grandfather.
From Likutei Dibburim by the Previous Rebbe
This week's portion starts, "When you go forth to war against your enemies, and the L-rd your G-d will deliver him into your hand, and you have taken them captive" (Deut. 21:10) These words refer to the descent of the soul, "a veritable part of G-d Above," into the physical world. Its mission, enclothed within a physical body, is to wage war and conquer the material world by infusing it with holiness, learning Torah and observing its commandments. This conflict will reach its successful conclusion with the coming of Moshiach, when G-dliness will reign triumphant.