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A couple of decades ago those words expressed the auditory experience of someone who left the constant noise of city life for a place "in the middle of nowhere." It can take days before people can "tune in" to the subtle sounds of nature around them.
Today, silence syndrome is being used to describe when political leaders or lesser humans choose to be non-communicative.
Whichever way you define it today, silence syndrome means going from a state of noise to a state of noiselessness.
What does Judaism have to say about sounds and silence?
It would seem that our souls need at least moderate doses of sound. For, even our "souls" need the sounds of the shofar blasted, Jewish teachings verbalized, prayers whispered, the Torah reading chanted.
But what of our bodies? Do they need the white space of stillness to function properly?
The great Jewish leader Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel taught, "All my days I grew up among the Sages and did not find anything better for a person ('laguf') than silence." Although "laguf" is generally translated as "for a person," the literal translation is "for the body." The Midrash explains that even in matters concerning the physical body and its needs, silence is preferable to speech.
So, now that we know that for our minds, souls, and even bodies, silence is a great thing, what of our emotions? What of our need to express ourselves with words?
Looking in a book of famous quotations under the word "silence" uncovers dozens of eloquent and powerful entries, not the least of which is a quote from the Bible (Ecclesiastics) which reads: "To everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven... A time to keep silent and a time to speak..."
Why not take some time to silently read a few lesser known, but equally eloquent and powerful, teachings on silence from some of the Chasidic masters:
"Learn to be silent so that you should know how to speak." Rabbi Mendel of Vorki.
"The voices of silence are more elevated than those of speech." The Baal Shem Tov.
"In our youth we learn to speak. When we are mature we learn to be silent. This is one of the great deficiencies of a person. He learns to speak before he knows how to be silent." Rabbi Nachman of Breslov.
"Alacrity is a great and precious character trait for every limb of the body except the mouth and tongue." The Maggid of Mezritch.
"One can shout with a silent voice." Rabbi Nachman of Breslov.
"When a person has what to shout about and wants to shout but is unable, that is the greatest cry there is." Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk.
"Through silence a person expresses the ultimate degree of self- nullification which characterizes the most elevated aspect of his soul, called yechida." Rabbi Sholom Dov Ber of Lubavitch.
This week's Torah portion, Noach, tells of the great flood, the powerful waters that submerged the world for 40 days and night.
In Song of Songs we read, "Many waters cannot extinguish the love and rivers cannot flood it." This is talking about the deep, essential love we have for G-d.
What are these "many waters," that fail to extinguish the inner love? And what are these "rivers," that fail to flood it?
One explanation is that "many waters" refers to the typical hardships that we incur making a living. The rivers are when these worries and pressures don't let up, like the strong current of a river.
While these worries and hardships are constant, they can't extinguish the hidden love found in the depths of our souls.
Our souls, before they entered this world, were in a pristine holy state. What gain is there for the soul to come down here and be involved in this mundane and sometimes troublesome place?
The struggles we contend with help us attain the purpose of our descent into this world. And when we realize that, we start looking at our struggles differently, we begin to see them in a positive light.
Knowing this, you realize, that being that the "many waters" are here for our benefit, they could never extinguish the love we have for G-d, because that is the opposite of their purpose.
By coming down to this world, the soul fulfills G-d's will, which causes a great elevation in the soul.
Prior to its descent into the world, the soul is righteous. By descending into this turbulent world and doing G-d's will, it attains the status of a Baal Teshuva (returnee to G-d). The Talmud says that "in the place where a Baal Teshuva stands, even a complete Tzadik cannot stand," because through his struggle he attains a level of holiness far greater than that of a Tzadik, so great that the Tzadik isn't even able to stand there.
With this in mind, we start to take our struggles in stride. We begin to see them as the path to our goals and not as the enemy. It is the struggles that make us stronger and refine us. It is the struggles that bring us closer to Hashem. He put us here specifically to contend with this world and this world is a world of struggles. But when you understand that it is all from Hashem and it is all purposeful, it is no more a struggle. You will embrace it with joy and with a spring in your step, knowing that on the other side of this struggle is the goal you were created to achieve.
The story of the flood is read right after the holidays because the holidays are like heaven, as we celebrate with G-d and enjoy the holiness of the time. With the holidays behind us, we reenter the world of chaos. It is now that we need a reminder that the turbulent waters of making a living and dealing with the challenges of life are there to help us accomplish our purpose.
May our efforts to do G-d's will be successful, and may we usher in the coming of Moshiach 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.
by Sara Yitta Gopin
When I think of Chaya Pollak's journey a Chasidic expression comes to mind: "Every descent is for the sake of the ascent that comes thereafter." The upheavals of her own childhood were the catalysts for her future determination to provide urgent assistance to youth in crisis. As we sat together Chaya shared her life story, in between responding to numerous phone calls that necessitated her immediate intervention.
"My parents divorced when I was a baby, and I lived with my mother until I was four years old. My mother was seriously wounded in an attack by Arab terrorists who hurled rocks at a bus near the settlement of Efrat. My mother survived, but sustained head injuries from the shards of glass and was in a comatose state for one year. On that fateful day in 1988, not only did the windows of the bus crack and shatter, but every semblance of stability in my life was destroyed.
"I hadn't even begun first grade when I was placed in a series of foster homes, and later sent to boarding schools. The bed of a child is his place of security, yet I was helplessly rolling from bed to bed and trying desperately to stay warm as I covered myself with an unfamiliar blanket.
"When I was 15 I began to hang out in the central area of Jerusalem which is a popular spot for youth, among them many teenagers who are seeking guidance. In a desperate attempt to find support, I contacted a childhood friend of my mother, Mrs. Bracha Mark. She is part of a Chasidic sect known as Karlin, and lives in Meah Shearim, the ultraorthodox neighborhood of Jerusalem. She always graciously accepted me when I came to her home, despite the fact that I was dressed in a way that was quite different than the traditional dress code, and dealing with questions of faith.
"Every time that I visited Mrs. Mark would serve me a hot and tasty meal, and would listen to me in a non-judgemental way. My broken heart melted from her unconditional love.
"The support that I received inspired a renewed sense of purpose in my life and a desire to help others. My traumatic childhood and inborn trait of nurturance have always driven me to aid those who are wounded. Thus at the age of 16 I trained to become a paramedic. Afterwards I was in the Air Force of the Israeli Defence Forces, and later I was placed in a high rank security division. When my army service ended, I became involved in urgent rescue missions of all kinds.
"I was blessed to marry Ariel, who had been my commander in the army. We rented an apartment close in Rishon Letziyon, and afterwards realized that we were living near a Chabad synagogue.
"As Rosh Hashana was approaching we both felt a yearning to hear the sound of the shofar, which awakened our souls. We began to keep the Laws of the Torah and to study Chasidic teachings that added a deeper dimension to our religious observance. A few years later we moved to Rechovot in order to enroll our children in Chabad schools and to be part of the Lubavitch community.
"Especially since my background had been totally void of emotional support, the overflowing love of the Lubavitcher Rebbe to every single human being has never ceased to amaze me. People of all kinds have asked for blessings from the Rebbe, who in his wisdom has always been able to look 'beyond' their present situation and to encourage them to see the great heights that they can attain. As I felt my closeness with the Rebbe growing and internalized his teachings, the belief in my inborn capabilities and inherent worth was revitalized.
"The time came to fulfill my childhood dream. As the founder and director of the Emergency Medical Association (E.M.A.), my life is dedicated to crisis intervention. Run by professionally trained volunteers, our organization is non-sectorial and provides immediate help with locating runaway children, domestic violence, substance abuse and other urgent situations. Since the focus must be on prevention, we also offer courses on identifying early signs of unhealthy adolescent behavior and intervention strategies. Especially regarding youth, the ability to listen in a manner that is non-judgemental is the best method of safeguarding them from taking risks and dangers. A smile and a kind word can do wonders in changing the course of one's life, as it did for me.
"Since I was young, every time that I felt helpless I would recite the verse, "Though my father and my mother have forsaken me, G-d has gathered me up" (Psalms 27:10). This particular chapter is added to the prayer service in the month of Elul and throughout the holiday period. The awareness that G-d embraces us lovingly as 'orphans' should not make us feel 'needy,' rather that we are cherished by our loving Father, our eternal source of strength."
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.
Chaya Pollak can be reached in Israel at (972)524079921
Rabbi Shlomo and Mushky Deitsch arrived in Sofia, Bulgaria as the newest emissaries of the Rebbe to that country. They will be serving the Hebrew speaking community in Sofia.
Boruch and Adeli Zimmerman have arrived in Oro Valley, Arizona to bolster the work of Chabad Oro Valley. They will focus on youth programming in SaddleBrooke, Marana and Oro Valley.
Rabbi Yishai and Bluman Dinerman have moved to Winchester, Virginia to to establish Chabad of Shenandoah Valley. The center is a space for religious services, educational programs, Sabbath and holiday meals, and social programs for Jewish community members and Jewish students attending nearby Shenandoah University.
Rabbi Mendy and Chani Zayants are the new emissaries of the Rebbe in Pai, Thailand. Pai, in the Mae Hong Soon Province located in Northern Thailand, has become poplular with Israelis backpackers.
Freely translated and adapted
Erev Shabbos Kodesh Sedra Noach
30th day of Tishrei
Rosh Chodesh Marcheshvan, 5744 (1983)
Greeting and Blessing:
At this time, at the conclusion of the month of Tishrei, and in light of the adage in our sacred sources to the effect that the Hebrew letters of the name of this month - Tishrei - also spell the word "reishis" - meaning beginning and head (rosh) of the year, indicating that just as the head conducts all the affairs of the body, so the month "Reishis" determines the Jew's conduct throughout the year, and the remembrance of the resolutions made in Tishrei during each and all days ahead "vitalizes" the particular day with all its activities, including words and thoughts, and inspires new enthusiasm, light and holiness flowings from the month of Tishrei - the head;
It is timely and auspicious to recall and emphasize, at least in summary, the significance of this month and of its outstanding festive days.
Each of Tishrei's special days is in its own domain a "head" and a source of instructive teachings, while being also a source of strength and inspiration, for all the following days throughout the year.
These are: the acceptance of the rule of Heaven's Sovereignty, with Yiras Shamayim (awe of G-d) - the basic point of Rosh Hashanah; Teshuvah - (Return) - the central aspect of Yom Kippur; performance of Mitzvos (commandments) with joy and alacrity, to the point of highest expression of joy with the Torah - the main points of Succos, Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah -
All the above with strong, genuine emphasis to ensure that all the instructive teachings and resolutions will be carried out in the fullest measure, both quantitatively and qualitatively, in actual practice, since "action is the essential thing.' "
Thus every day of the year, from the moment of awakening, begins with saying "Modeh Ani" ("I give thanks to You, O King etc.), reflecting the"Crowning" of G-d on Rosh Hashanah and accepting His Kingship;
Saying it with such profound sincerity that will inspire and ensure Yiras HaShem (awe of G-d) the whole day, as well as Teshuvah, and to be expressed in joyous performance of Mitzvos (the King's commands), particularly Torah study, and all that with the greatest measure of joy, which are the central themes of Yom Kippur, Succos (and the "Four Kinds") Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah, as mentioned above.
Striving for perfection in all above will add strength to every Jew and unite all Jews through the one Torah given to all by the one G-d, and elevate them to be truly an G-d's community and people, and will reveal, that G-d "stands" (with the authority of a King) within His community; and indeed, He preeedes them with, giving them the strength and blessing to carry it all out with joy and in the fullest measure....
A festival extends in some aspects for a certain period after the festival...
All this will surely hasten still more and bring closer the true and complete Redemption through Moshiach, with ease and serenity, with perfect peace and perfect serenity,
In our own days, very soon indeed.
With esteem and blessing of success
P.S. If for some reason one has not yet put into effect all the above instructive lessons of Tishrei - it has been explained in various sources, also in regard to actual practice and Jewish law, that a festival extends in some aspects for a certain period after the festival. In our case and in regard to these lessons - from Shemini Atzeres (and Simchas Torah) to the seventh of MarCheshvan
It may be added that although, generally, Cheshbon-Hanefesh (self-appraisal) and the like is best done in private, it is very advisable in the present case to do it also at a get-together. For then the occasion offers the force of a communal resolve, and there is also the combined merit of the many...
FEIVEL is a Yiddish form of the ancient Jewish name FEIVUSH whose origin was the Latin vivus, meaning "life." Feivush was erroneously considered to be a derivation from the Greek phoeubus, "bright," which is why it is often appended to Uri (Hebrew for "fire") and Shraga (Aramaic for "lamp").
FEIGEL or FEIGE is the Yiddish form of TZIPORA, "bird" in Hebrew. Tzipora was the wife of Moses.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This week's Torah portion is Noach. Therefore, this is the perfect opportunity to consider the implications of the Rebbe's campaign to disseminate, among non-Jews, the knowledge and observance of the Seven Noachide Laws.
The nations of the world were given a Divine code of conduct, the Seven Noachide Laws, which consist of six prohibitions against murder, robbery, idolatry, adultery, blasphemy, cruelty to animals - and one positive command, to establish a judicial system.
The Rebbe has encouraged his emissaries around the world to meet with government officials and heads of state to sign proclamations encouraging the study and observance of the Seven Noachide laws.
The Rambam (Rabbi Moses Maimonides) states that an important part of the Jew's task is to see to it that all people, not just Jews, acknowledge G-d as Creator and Ruler of the world and to therefore conduct themselves according to the Seven Noachide Laws. Each and every Jew has an important role to play in this task. But how can this be accomplished?
When a Jew conducts himself properly in all areas of his life - business, recreation, family, and religious - he will automatically influence the people around him. When the nations of the world see Jews acknowledging G-d as Ruler of the world, through prayer and by following His commandments, they, too, will come to realize the importance and truth of G-d's omnipotence.
The earth was corrupt before G-d, and the earth was filled with violence. (Gen. 6:11)
People are mistaken to think that without belief in G-d they will still perform the mitzvot that are between one person and another (i.e. charity, hospitality, not stealing, etc.). For, when the world becomes "corrupt before G-d" - when people throw off the yoke of belief and sin toward G-d - the outcome will be "and the earth was filled with violence."
G-d said to Noah, "The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with violence through them" (Gen. 6:13)
Noah lived before the giving of the Torah. Accordingly, he was not strictly obligated to feel a responsibility toward his fellow man. Nonetheless, because he didn't pray for mercy or try to convince his generation to repent, the Flood is known as "the waters of Noah." We, however, live after the Torah was given, when all Jews have became guarantors for one another. How much more so is it therefore necessary that we help others!
A window shall you make for the ark (Gen. 6:16)
The Hebrew word for "ark" is "tayva," which also has the meaning of "word." A Jew's job is to make a "window," as it were, for the words he utters in prayer or in the study of Torah, and to let them illuminate, as the sun shines at midday.
(The Baal Shem Tov)
And only Noach was left (7:23)
Despite the fact that Noach was a righteous person, he was still required to tend to all the animals in the ark and take care of their needs. This was a physically demanding and sometimes dangerous job. Similarly, no matter how high a spiritual level one reaches, he is still obligated to take care of those around him who may need his guidance.
When the tailor died at a ripe old age, his passing didn't attract any special attention. Yet his funeral was most unusual for an ordinary tailor, for the Chief Rabbi of Lemberg himself led the funeral procession all the way to the cemetery. And of course, as the Chief Rabbi led the procession all the Jews of the town joined in giving the final honors to the deceased. The result was a funeral the likes of which is normally reserved for great rabbis or extremely righteous people.
The Jews of Lemberg had no doubt that the tailor had been a person of extraordinary merit, and they waited anxiously to hear what a wonderful eulogy the Chief Rabbi would give at the funeral. They were not disappointed when the rabbi told them the following tale:
Many years before, the rabbi had spent Shabbat at a village inn. The innkeeper related a story about a Jewish jester who lived in the mansion of the local poretz, the landowner of all the surrounding area. This jester had once been a simple, but G-d-fearing Jew, who by profession was a tailor. On a number of occasions he had done work for the poretz, and as he was an entertaining man with a beautiful singing voice, and very funny, the poretz and his family became very fond of his company. They finally asked him to join their household in the capacity of a jester, which was common in those days. He accepted, and slowly began to neglect his Jewish observance, until he no longer conducted himself as a Jew at all. The innkeeper felt very sorry for this Jew, and both he and the rabbi expressed their deep wishes for his return to the fold.
That Friday afternoon, just before Shabbat a man came galloping up to the inn and requested to spend Shabbat there. To their surprise the horseman was none other than the Jewish jester, who explained that he had come in order to gather material for his jokes and spoofs.
The innkeeper was afraid to refuse, and so agreed to have the jester as a guest. At the Shabbat table the rabbi spoke about the Torah portion and described how both Terach, Abraham's idol-worshipping father, and Ishmael, Abraham's unruly son, repented and were forgiven by G-d.
"Words that come from the heart penetrate the heart," is the saying, and the words of the rabbi affected the Jewish jester, who became more and more thoughtful as Shabbat progressed. By Saturday night the jester so deeply regretted his life, that he approached the rabbi, and asked how he could do penance. The rabbi told him to leave his position with the poretz and withdraw for a time into a life of prayer, meditation and fasting. He should maintain this regimen until such time when he would receive a sign from heaven that his repentance was accepted.
The jester accepted this advice wholeheartedly. He went to Lemberg where he entered a large synagogue and made an arrangement with the caretaker. According to their deal he would be locked in a small room where he would spend the entire day in prayer. At night before locking up, the caretaker would release him so that he might eat a little and stretch out for the night on a bench. Only on Friday night in honor of the Shabbat would he leave the synagogue to spend the day more comfortably.
This routine continued for many weeks until one Friday night the caretaker forgot to release him. The heartbroken tailor was now sure that G-d had forsaken him, and he wept bitterly. Hungry and tired, he fell into a deep sleep and dreamt. In the dream an old man appeared to him, and told him, "I am Elijah the Prophet, and I came to tell you that your repentance has been accepted. Fast no longer. Every night I will come and teach you Torah, Torah such as only the righteous merit to learn."
The tailor opened a small shop and made a modest living. Late one night the Chief Rabbi passed his home and saw a bright light coming from the window. But when he entered, he saw only the tailor working by the light of a small candle. This happened two more times, and each time the rabbi found only a small candle illuminating the tailor's room.
The third time the rabbi pressed the tailor for an explanation, and was told all that had transpired since they had met at the village inn. The tailor also related that the prophet had told him that no inhabitant of the village would die as long as he lived.
The following day the rabbi instructed the local burial society to inform him every time there was a death in the city. True to the prophesy, each time there was a death, the deceased was not a resident, but someone who happened to be passing through. The rabbi concluded his strange tale, sharing with the townspeople that the power of repentance is unlimited, and no matter what, G-d is always waiting for His children to return.
Adapted from the Storyteller, by Nissen Mindel
"And they went to Noah into the ark...of all flesh where there is the breath of life" (Gen. 7:15) The G-dly revelation that was manifested in the ark had a profound effect on all the animals, causing them to live together amicably and harmoniously for an entire year. Thus the conditions in the ark were the prototype and forerunner of the Messianic era, when according to many commentators, the Biblical prophecy of "and the wolf shall live with the lamb" will be fulfilled in the literal sense.