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We've come a long way from tying strings around our fingers as reminders that we have something important to do.
You can get patient appointment reminders by text, email or automated phone calls. An e-pill medication reminder will help assure that you take your pills, tablets, vitamins and minerals at the right time.
There are apps that can make your computer or mobile device remind you to practice good work ergonomics and break bad habits.
A peeping sound in our cars when we sit down reminds us to put on our seat belts. Buzzes on our phones can remind us to relax and take a deep breath. And Google or Apple calendars can remind us about everything else in our schedule!
Our souls can also benefit from various kinds of reminders in the way of Jewish observance.
Jewish reminders, a.k.a. mitzvot (commandments), come in all shapes and sizes. Daily mitzvot can take literally a second or as long as you like.
But, in keeping with our fast-paced lives and the quick reminders modern technology and consumerism afford us, we'll mention just a few moment-taking mitzvot that can be done on a daily basis and will enhance our Jewish living.
Starting the morning with the short prayer expressing gratefulness for another day. The brief 12-word (In Hebrew) prayer is known as "Modeh Ani."
Putting a coin daily in a tzedaka box (except on Shabbat and Jewish holidays).
Touching or kissing the mezuza on your front door before leaving or entering your home.
Saying the Shema prayer before retiring at night.
Reciting a blessing before gulping down that coffee, juice, or water (The blessing is "Baruch Ata Ado-ni Elo-haynu Melech Haolam, Shehakol N'hiya Bidvaro - Blessed are You, L-rd our G-d, King of the Universe, by whose word everything came into being").
Listening to a Torah pod-cast, or watching a Jewish educational video. (You can visit the chabad.org media section for thousands of fascinating classes and lectures.)
Taking a moment to contemplate the blessings and good you have in your life and thanking G-d for them.
Doing a good deed or kind act specifically to bring the Redemption.
This week's portion, Chayei Sara, begins, "Sara's lifetime was 127 years, the years of Sara's life."
What do the words "the years of Sarah's life" add?
Also, why does the Torah tell us how long Sara lived? After all, the Torah doesn't mention the lifespan of the other matriarchs!
The Zohar comments that because Sara went down to and came up from Egypt, she merited to have an exalted state of living. This high spiritual state was a "gift" from Above. The Zohar further comments that "her life was hers," meaning that she was master over every aspect of her life, and even more, not only did she received the gift of an exalted state of living, but she internalized it, and mastered that as well.
The Rebbe Rashab (the fifth Rebbe of Chabad, Rabbi Shalom Dovber) explains the words of the Zohar, that the first part of the verse, "Sara's lifetime was 127 years," means that she merited to have an exalted state of living, and the second half of the verse, "the years of Sara's life," comes to teach us that her life was hers.
Not only do we learn this lesson from Sara, but because she was at such a high level, and she was able to internalized it, and take ownership of every aspect of her life, it means that we could as well. Because Sarah is our mother, and it is in our genes to be like her. Therefore, we have the ability to have all our years equally good and that our lives be ours, just like her.
You might think, "I am not holy enough or special enough to be the master over every aspect of my life." It is a mistake to think this way, as every Jew is holy and special, and every Jew can correct whatever in the past is standing in the way of "owning" his or her years. It is not the easy route, it will take work. But when you begin to understand that you can master your life, your love for G-d will start to grow and will lead you to do the necessary work out of love.
If you follow these steps, you will begin to see Judaism differently. Rather than feeling Judaism is a responsibility, you will begin to have a passion for it and do it with joy. And joy is the key to breaking all boundaries and reaching the greatest heights. You will become the master over your life, past, present and future, just like Sara our mother.
May our efforts to get closer to G-d, bring us to "serve G-d with joy." This joy will break all boundaries, especially the constraints of this dark and long exile, and usher in the coming of Moshiach. The time has come.
Adapted by Rabbi Yitzi Hurwitz from the Rebbe's teachings, yitzihurwitz.blogspot.com. Rabbi Hurwitz, who is battling ALS, and his wife Dina, are emissaries of the Rebbe in Temecula, Ca.
A Happy Place
by Miriam Zirdok
From Miriam's speech at a special gathering at the Machon L'Yahadus dormitory
I am so grateful to be standing here in front of you all. Machon L'Yahadus is the happiest place on earth and I will explain to you why through my life journey.
I was born and raised in Mexico City. I come from a beautiful, traditional Jewish family of Syrian background. I grew up with love above all. My amazing parents always nurtured us with patience, happiness and tenderness and showed us the importance of being Jewish as a way of life.
I grew up spending a lot of time in my grandparents' house, with all of my extended family around the table eating my grandmother's delicious Sephardic food. They are my inspiration and my guidance.
My sister and I went to Hebrew School and Talmud Torah. My family goes to synagogue on all of the Jewish holidays. We make kiddush every Friday night. Any time we travelled, we always visited the historic synagogues to see how Jews live in different parts of the world.
Our Tanya teacher at Machon L'Yahadus, Rabbi Dovid Sholom Pape, commented in class that we have to live Torah, look like Torah, be walking Torahs. My parents did all that in the way they raised us with eternal Jewish values.
Four years ago, I found how extraordinary Judaism and creating a strong bond with G-d. Together with my sister, I was on an airplane that was in danger of crashing. The pilot informed us that we would have to do an emergency landing. I promised G-d at that moment that if He saved my sister and me, I would keep Shabbat and eat only kosher.
I held on to my card that had the words of the special traveler's prayer, crying and praying. I remember there was a Jewish woman on the airplane behind me and when I asked her to pray too, she said to me: "Do you think your G-d is going to save you?" And in that moment I realized that yes, He is going to save me! I kept on praying and crying but filled with the certainty that we would land safely. And with G-d's help we did!
I decided to keep my promise and also to find ways to fill my life with Judaism in every way. It was a slow process, very slow.
While my hobby is dance, my degree is in journalism. I was writing for well-known publications like Seventeen Magazine (Seventeen en Español), National Geographic en Español and National Geographic Traveler Latinoamérica. But I realized that while I was advancing in my career I wasn't taking off time for Shabbat, or I was missing Jewish events because I was working so hard. I also wanted to be in a work environment that was more conducive to my new religious sensitivities. I didn't have an explanation for my friends and family, but I knew my neshama (soul) was crying.
One year ago I decided to pause my career. I started to study Torah and I made the decision to give Zumba classes to women only.
For the past month I have been studying full-time at Machon L'Yahadus. It has taken me four years to realize that I wanted to devote myself to studying Torah and living a fully Torah observant life.
One of our teachers told me recently that the Holy Land wasn't conquered in one day. She was urging me to take things slowly, one step at a time. I know that from experience everything takes time. For right now G-d has directed me to Machon L'Yahadus, a place where you can be the best version of yourself, study Torah, have a sisterhood and experience magic in every single detail.
Being a Jewish woman is the most amazing gift that G-d gave us, and as my friend Chavah said, to be Jewish is to have a superpower and sometimes we don't even see it.
We have the power to change the world, starting with ourselves and our future families. Machon L'Yahadus strengthens your soul and guides you to become the best person while still staying true to yourself.
To be a student here means to receive the right tools to share your light with the world. This environment is warm, loving and caring just as my home was growing up.
This is the perfect place to raise righteous Jewish women who will bring the redemption and Moshiach!
Thank you to Rabbi Shloma Majeski our devoted principal and Mrs. Shterna Rodal our loving dorm mother, and each and every one of the teachers in school for guiding us in our most important task in life: To change the world in our own, unique Jewish way.
To find out more about Machon L'Yahadus, including their upcoming Winter Program for college age women, visit womensyeshiva.org or call (71) 552-2422.
Rabbi Chaim and Menuchy Birnhack recently moved to Hong Kong from Israel. The Birnhacks will assist with all aspects of programming at Chabad of Hong Kong, which was founded in 1987 by Rabbi Mordechai and Goldie Avtzon. They will especially focus on programs for youth and young professionals in the area. Rabbi Menachem and Chana Caytak founded a new Chabad Center in Troy, Michigan. In the short time they have been in Troy they have hosted Shabbat and holiday programs, adult education.
Women on the Frontiers
Forty-five women emissaries who together with their husbands lead Jewish communities in places like Jackson Hole, Wyoming; Fargo, North Dakota; the Cayman Islands; Bridgetown, Barbados; Halifax, Nova Scotia met for a special networking and nurturing 5-day retreat in New Jersey. The retreat included workshops, lectures, and gourmet food that the rebbetzins didn't have to cook themselves. Where these shluchim (emissaries of the Rebbe) live there are no Jewish schools, no kosher caterers or restaurants and usually no serious kosher aisle in the local supermarket. With the success of this project, similar groups have been formed in Europe and South America for shluchim in remote communities.
25th of Shevat, 5735 
Greeting and Blessing:
Your letter reached me with considerable delay. In it you suggest ways and means to promote Lubavitch activities on the West Coast.
First of all, I want to thank you very much for your personal interest and desire to help these activities, as is evident from your letter.
Speaking generally, your suggestion that consideration be given to the possibility of operating a number of small businesses which, in addition to providing needed services, would provide financial sustenance for the Lubavitch activities - it would, of course, depend on the local conditions, as well as the availability of manpower, etc., if it is feasible to implement such a plan.
However, I wish to make some general observations, which are applicable to all places where there are Lubavitch activities. Even assuming that there was a surplus of manpower which could be put into such business activity, it would be incongruous if both spiritual activities and business activities were carried on by the same organization under the same roof. It would surely not enhance the inspiration and total devotion which one usually associates with the activities of Lubavitch for the spreading of Yiddishkeit [Judaism]. In any case, this would be an academic matter, inasmuch as we are unfortunately very limited in manpower, and it would not be right, of course, to take one away from spiritual activities into business activities.
There is a further general consideration. If one is to have the fullest impact and influence in matters of spreading Yiddishkeit, one must be entirely free from any possible suspicion, however far-fetched, that one has some material gain in mind. Such suspicion would be difficult to avoid if Lubavitch activities were related also to some financial activities, even for the purpose of funding the spiritual activities which are so vital. This point becomes more weighty in view of the fact that Lubavitch devotes so much time and effort to involve also Jews whose life in the past has been devoid of spiritual and religious activity. It would be hard to approach such a Jew and tell him that we are concerned only about his soul and spiritual life, while conducting business on the side. To be sure, there are many universities and colleges who do have business investments which provide a substantial part of their budgetary requirements. But universities have to do only with imparting knowledge to the students (at any rate, this is their present function, unfortunately, for one would have expected that these halls of knowledge would also be strongholds of morality, etc.), whereas our activities are entirely dedicated to matters of the spirit and character, etc.
The above sufficiently explains our attitude. However, it is possible to add a further point, although it might appear rather strange to a businessman. This is that one of the aims of Lubavitch is to involve the maximum number of Jews in its activities, and I mean to involve them as partners in such activities. Such partners can be of two kinds: Those that are qualified to teach and to influence others and work side by side with Lubavitcher activists, and those who are not so qualified, or who are too busy, etc., and instead are able to contribute financially towards the Lubavitch activities, making them equal partners with the activists. Indeed, this is the old partnership of the two ancient tribes of Zevulun and Yissochor, where the former were primarily businessmen supporting the latter who were primarily Torah scholars, as our Sages explain, noting that wherever the two are mentioned together in the Torah, Zevulun is significantly mentioned first.
I will conclude on this point, hoping that your participation in the work of Lubavitch is two-fold, including both the part of Yissochor as well as the part of Zevulun. May G-d grant that you should have Hatzlocho [success] and go from strength to strength in both these aspects.
CHAGAI means "my festival." Chagai was one of the last of the prophets (Chagai 1:1). Chagai was one of five people who hid the vessels and treasures of the first Holy Temple before it was destroyed. A later Chagai was a fourth-century Palestinian scholar. (Kidushin 3:2)
CHEDVA means "delight." The last of the seven blessings at the Wedding ceremony reads "Blessed are You...who created joy and happiness, bride and groom, gladness, jubilation, cheer and delight (chedva), love, friendship, harmony and fellowship..."
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
On this weekend each year, the Lubavitcher Rebbe's emissaries convene at World Lubavitch Headquarters. While the first International Shluchim Convention in 1984 was attended by 65 emissaries, today most of the nearly 5,000 emissaries attend, and the number continues to grow each year as more and more young couples join the Lubavitcher Rebbe's army.
The convention in 1990 was opened by the Rebbe at a Shabbat gathering of the emissaries and thousands of other Chasidim. The Rebbe explained the characteristics of an emissary and his mission:
"First and foremost, each emissary should feel strengthened and reinforced by this meeting. He should realize that no matter how far away he has been sent, the one who appointed him is with him. Indeed, 'a person's emissary is considered as he, himself.':
The deeds of the emissary are considered as having been performed by the one who appointed him; the shliach, and his powers, however, are considered as separated entities.
The emissary's power to act is considered as given over to the one who appointed him; his other powers, his thoughts and his feelings, are his own. All of the shliach's powers, his thoughts, his feelings, his will, and his pleasure, are given over to the one who appointed him.
The Rebbe then went on to explain the mission of each emissary, near or far, which is to spread Judaism and the teachings of Chasidism outward. The Rebbe continued: "These activities will lead to the realization in deed and action of the concept that the Hebrew word 'shliach' [emissary] together with the number ten (signifying the ten powers of the soul), is numerically equivalent to 'Moshiach.'
"Every single Jew has a spark of Moshiach within his soul which can be revealed through the service described above. The revelation of the spark of Moshiach on an individual level will lead to the revelation of Moshiach for the entire world and the coming of the ultimate Redemption. May it be in the immediate future."
And after this, Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Machpelah (Gen. 23:19)
Till today, Ishmael's descendants claim that the Cave of Machpelah (in Hebron) belongs to them, by virtue of their being the children of Abraham. Among the rejoinders: 1) Ishmael did not have the right of inheritance, as he was the son of a maidservant and not Abraham's wife. 2) Ishmael had no connection to Sarah, so obviously he has no entitlement to a property that was bought as her burial place. 3) In the modern era, the majority of Arabs living in the Middle East are not ethnical descendants of Ishmael.
And Abraham was old, and well advanced in age... (literally "along in days") (Gen. 24:1)
The physical manifestation of day is associated with light and illumination, as it states, "And G-d called the light day." In other words, Abraham's life was completely illuminated, as he did not squander any light of even one day of his existence.
...G-d had blessed Abraham in all things. (Gen. 24:1)
There are those righteous people whose main goal in life is to be whole and one with G-d. But this is not the way of the true tzadik. Indeed, the way of Abraham was to concern himself with "all things." He did not worry just about himself, but about others as well. And so he was blessed in a like manner.
(Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev)
The man took a gold earring, weighing a half-shekel and two bracelets. (Gen 24:22)
The commentator Rashi explains that the half-shekel alludes to the half-shekel that each Jew donated to the Holy Temple, while the two bracelets allude to the two Tablets containing the Ten Commandments. With these gifts, Eliezer implied that when establishing a Jewish home, Torah and the performance of mitzvot form its pillars. The half- shekel illustrates the mitzva of charity, while the two bracelets, symbolizing the two Tablets, allude to the Torah itself which is included in the Ten Commandments.
The Rebbe Rashab - the fifth Rebbe of Lubavitch - was at a health spa with a few of his Chasidim. On Shabbat, the Chasidim finished their prayers long before the Rebbe did. This wasn't unusual. They went and made kiddush, and made a few l'chaims.
When the Rebbe arrived, one of the Chasidim, Yosef Yitchak Horowitz, was already a little tipsy. He leaned in and asked the Rebbe a question. "Rebbe," he asked, "What's a Chasid?"
The Rebbe thought for a moment, then responded, "A Chasid is a lamp-lighter. He goes around this world, carrying a light at the end of his pole, and he knows the light isn't his, and he goes around lighting the lamps of the world."
"And what if the lamp is in the desert?" the Chasid asked.
"Then you have to go to the desert, and light the lamp. The barrenness of the desert will flee from before the light."
"And what if the lamp is under the ocean?"
"Then you have to take off you clothes, jump in the water, and light the lamp."
"And this is a Chasid?"
The Rebbe thought for a time, then responded, "Yes, this is a Chasid."
The Chasid cried, "Rebbe, what if I don't see the lamps?"
The Rebbe responded, "If you don't see the lamps, you have to start with yourself. If you are coarse, all you will see is coarseness in others. If you refine yourself, you will see the refinement in others."
Energized, the Chasid asked, "Do I grab the other by the throat?"
('The other' here, it would seem, is the internal force that opposes us when we try to accomplish our G-dly mission in this world.)
The Rebbe responded, "By the throat, no. By the lapels, yes."
After Rabbi Dovber, (known as the Mitteler Rebbe) was married, he was appointed by his father - Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidism - to guide the young men in the ways of Chasidim. The Mitteler Rebbe's approach to guiding his charges was with closeness and positive inspiration.
Once it happened that he was not well and the doctors prescribed a few weeks of rest. At that point the Rabbi Shneur Zalman appointed Rabbi Aharon Halevi of Starishela to guide these young men, until his son would regain his strength.
Now Reb Aharon was an extremely emotional person and quite demanding. He felt it was his duty to point out to the young men their shortcomings and he did so.
A week or two later into his temporary appointment, Reb Aharon felt that something was lacking in his own studies and especially in his prayers. As much as he tried, he couldn't change it. He no longer felt passionate as he had in the past. He requested a private audience with Rabbi Shneur Zalman and he bemoaned his new situation.
Rabbi Shneur Zalman placed his head upon his hands and after a few moments of deep contemplation, he picked up his head and said: "The way a person conducts himself with others is how G-d conducts Himself with that individual. Everything is measure for measure. Someone who pushes away a person, even if their intentions are that this should be a catalyst to ultimately bring him closer to G-d - even if his motivation is pure and holy - but being that he pushed him away, and closed doors on others the heavenly court does that to him also and closes the doors on him.
"However, one who brings people closer by being friendly and trying to uplift them, then the heavenly court also deals with him in a similar uplifting manner and opens up for him all the doors and gates, included the door of Torah and prayer."
When the Rebbe Rashab related this story to an individual who looked down at others and was shocked that the Rebbe Rashab spoke of their praise, he then said, "There are certain aspects in discipline that one should use only on themselves, and nullifying or negating someone's efforts is a prime example of that rule. It should never be done. And even on oneself it should be measured.
"The proper way of guidance is to uplift and strengthen them through love and friendship, for the truth is everything that your charge/student does, as insignificant as it may seem, in truth as it is seen through the lens of Chasidic teachings is extremely valuable."
This second story is from the weekly email of Rabbi Sholom DovBer Avtzon. Rabbi Avtzon is an educator and prolific writer. He can be reached at email@example.com Based on Igrot Kodesh of the Previous Rebbe vol. 4, pp 302-303.
This week we read: "Isaac brought her into his mother Sara's tent, and he married Rebecca" (Gen. 24:67) When Isaac took Rebecca as his wife, it says that he took her "ha'ohela - into the tent." "Ha'ohela" is written eight times in the Torah. These eight times allude to the eight places where the Divine Presence was destined to rest among the Jewish people. The seven places where the Divine Presence already rested were: the sanctuary in the desert; Gilgal; Shilo; Nov; Givon; the First Holy Temple; and the Second Holy Temple. The eighth place will be the Third Holy Temple which will be built in the Messianic Era.
(Baal HaTurim as quoted in Discover Moshiach)