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Money is a funny thing. It is part and parcel of our day-to-day living. Yet, most people would sooner tell you their age or weight than how much they have in their bank account.
Money is a very personal matter; the way we feel about it, the way we spend it, the way we earn it, differs from person to person.
It's not surprising that the commandment to give of one's money to tzedaka, charity, is considered a very great mitzva. In fact, the mitzva of giving charity is so great that in the Jerusalem Talmud it is called simply, "the commandment."
To translate the Hebrew word "tzedaka" as "charity" is actually not a correct translation, nor does it convey the spirit of the mitzva. A more accurate translation is "justice" or "righteousness." Thus, "tzedaka" conveys to us that sharing what we have is the just and right thing to do.
Giving tzedaka is the core of the mitzvot of action, even surpassing them all, because a person invests his entire self - feelings, mind, body - to acquire money. So when you give tzedaka, it is not only the hand that writes out the check or puts the coin in the pushka that is involved; your entire body is doing a mitzva as well.
Even if you didn't have to work hard to get the money - let's say you just happened upon an extra thousand or two - since it could have been used on yourself (for life's necessities or otherwise), giving part of this "found" money to charity is also of great merit.
Jewish teachings so strongly emphasize the virtues of charity that they say "It balances all the other commandments." And it also has the power to "tip the scales."
Jewish teachings explain that when a person gives charity, he is acting as the hand of G-d.
As everything truly belongs to G-d, we are but conduits for dispensing G-d's bounty and sustenance. So we should feel humbled that G-d has entrusted us with this job of giving away His money.
By the way, even one who is on the receiving end is supposed to give charity, even if only a few pennies.
We needn't think that only the multi-billionaires who can afford to have buildings named after them are required to give charity. Every single one of us, great or small, rich or poor, is expected to participate in this mitzva.
There's another benefit to consider concerning charity.
The Talmud states that charity brings the Redemption nearer. In addition, it states that the Jewish people will be redeemed through giving charity. So let's get giving, today. Figure out what you feel comfortable giving and then give a little more.
In the Torah portion of Vayeitzei, Jacob leaves the Land of Israel and descends to Charan. Before leaving Israel, the Torah tells us, "He met the place," which our Sages explains means Mount Moriah, the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The Torah continues by sharing that Jacob had to deal with the sly Laban, he got married and over the years fathered the 12 Tribes. And finally, it tells us that upon his return to Israel with his family, "The angels of G-d met him."
The Land of Israel is symbolic of our spiritual cocoon, the place of Torah. Charan is the physical world with all its struggles, as Rashi says about Charan, that it is "the place that angers (charon af) G-d in the world." Laban is symbolic of the corrupt notions of society, the pressure to follow the pack, to make a buck even though it might not be so honest, and the pressure to conform to the ways of the world, although it might not be the Torah way.
Our job is to leave our Israel, our spiritual cocoon, and go down to Charan, into the hustle bustle of the world, business, shopping and even leisure, and to stand up to Laban, to follow the Torah way. If we do this, we reveal the true G-dly essence of the world.
Laban had the complaint we struggle with to this very day, and "you are an old Jew, from the old country and the old ways, if you want to be religious, fine. But your children are growing up in a modern world, why do you want to ruin them, with the old ways of integrity, honesty, and to follow in the ways of G-d? How will that help them get ahead in the rat race?"
Laban continued, "The sheep are mine." Sheep were the main business of the time. He was saying, "if you want to make a living in this world, you have to be dishonest like me. How do you expect to make a living, following the rules of the Torah?"
This is true for our daily descent to Charan, into our jobs, into the daily grind. We should begin the day with a foundation of prayer and Torah study. And when our hearts and minds are filled with a strong connection to G-d and a sense of purpose, we are ready to take on the Charan we are given.
When we act this way, G-d makes us successful, as it says about Jacob, "And the man became exceedingly prosperous." We have nachas (pleasure) from our children, just as Jacob did, and we merit that angels greet us, just as they did Jacob.
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 Shneur Zalman Loewenthal
In a fast-paced world full of chaos and distraction, Ckids is spreading a Moment of Silence, a campaign dear to the Rebbe that teaches kids what happens when they quiet down.
Imagine a world that is full of goodness and kindness. A world where everyone looks out for each other, working together to make the world a better place. This world is not a dream.
It all begins with you, taking one moment, at the beginning of each day.
A moment to stop and think. Who created the world? What is important in life? Do my actions matter?
A moment of silence.
That's how the video opens at a new program launched at Hebrew schools around the world this past month. Exploring Silence is a Ckids club that helps kids discover what davening really means-in a totally fresh way. The theme? A Moment of Silence, the campaign spread urgently by the Rebbe as early as forty years ago.
"How often do kids quiet down?" Asks Rabbi Rabbi Zalmy Loewenthal, director of Ckids. "So often we're focused on keepings kids busy, entertained, stimulated." This club offered kids a chance to connect to a totally new idea: silence.
"Davening can feel foreign to your average public school kid," Loewenthal says "Here we gave them a chance to connect to Hashem in a way that feels natural." Kids personalized their own "My Moment" journal to help them bring a moment of silence into their everyday life. A sparkling mind jar craft taught kids how to calm their thoughts and focus on what matters.
Mrs. Tzippy Slavin from S. Clemente, CA shared the outcome of doing this club "A beautiful thing happened. A little girl, age 9 in our Hebrew School told me how she came to school the next day after we did Exploring Silence and suggested the idea to her class. She said the teacher and class agreed and they have a full minute every day. So sweet!
In today's world, full of distractions and ever-present technology, mindfulness is more important than ever. Children who take a moment to pause for introspection before jumping into a busy day at school are more focused, get better grades, and are overall happier. "My son came back from the event completely inspired-and oddly calm." says parent Gail Weinberg from Northern California. "I've never seen anything like it."
Daily time for quiet reflection is mandatory in public schools across 34 different states. As for the other 26? CKids clubs sat down together to write a letter to their local government stating the importance of encouraging the Moment of Silence.
The Exploring Silence event is made possible by CKids International, an initiative that inspires children to make a meaningful impact in their communities through educational programs.
"Our goal is to transform Jewish education," says Rabbi Mendy Kotlarsky, executive director of Merkos 302, "and this time, we did it quietly."
Ckids - The Chabad Children's network, enhances kids' Jewish involvement, experiences, and education. Hebrew Schools, Day Camps, After School Enrichment, Shabbat and Holiday programs and children's clubs. CKids focuses on children as a valuable community of their own. For more information about CKids programs in your area call your local Chabad-Lubavitch or visit www.ckids.net.
Chabad of Bradenton, Florida, directed by Rabbi Mendy and Chamie Bukiet, opened a state-of-the-art mikva. Named Mikva Esther after Rabbi Bukiet's mother, the project was partially funded by the international organization Mikvah USA.
Rabbi Avremi and Rivky Raichik moved to Chicago's Logan Square to open Chabad of Logan Square, in Illinois. The new center, along with two others founded this year in Glencoe and Norwood Park, brings the number of Chabad centers in the state of Illinois to 50.
Rabbi Mendy and Shaindy Karczag have moved to Woodstock, New York to establish a new Chabad Center in that city, servicing the 1,000 Jews who call Woodstock home.
Rabbi Mendel and Mushkie Krinsky now call Kaunas, Lithuania, home and have established a Chabad Center in the city that was known for generations to Jews as Kovno.
Rabbi Avremel and Shaindy Gluck are directing Chabad Tippecanoe County, in West Lafayette, Indiana, focusing on Purdue University.
Rosh Chodesh Kislev, 5739 
Greeting and Blessing:
I was pleased to be informed of the forthcoming Celebration and may it be with hatzlocho [success] in every respect.
In keeping with the time-honored custom to draw a timely lesson from the reading of the weekly Torah portion, it is well to reflect on the story of our Father Jacob which is related in the Sedra [portion] of Vayetze of the Shabbos immediately preceding the event and continued in the following Sedra Vayishlach.
The Sedra Vayetze begins with the Patriarch's [Abraham] leaving his parental home in Be'er Sheva and going into "exile." Understandably, his heart is filled with apprehension as to what the future holds for him and for the family he intended to raise. But, reassured by G-d's promise of protection and help, he proceeds on his way in the fullest confidence that he will succeed in his life's purpose to carry on and transmit the traditions of his ancestors, Abraham and Isaac, and return home safe and sound. Indeed, as we read on, Jacob succeeded beyond expectation and despite the adverse and alien surroundings, he was able ot raise his children in the finest tradition of his ancestors, to become the Divine Tribes of Israel, the progenitors of our people.
In the following Sedra, Vayislach, we read about Jacob's return with his blessed family, blessed not only spiritually but also with worldly goods. Confronted by his sworn enemy, his prayers were answered again. Foe turns friend and Father Jacob brings his family home - "complete, whole and perfect" in every respect, spiritually, physically and materially.
"The experiences of the Patriarchs are a 'sign' for the children," our Sages declare. The story of of our Father Jacob is an everlasting source of guidance and inspiration for every Jew, not to be disheartened by the fact that Jews are a small minority among the nations of the world, facing seemingly overwhelming difficulties and challenges. For, with the unshakable will and determination to carry on the traditions of our ancestors and to raise our children in the way of the Torah and mitzvos without compromise, we are assured of G-d's blessings, not only to overcome all adversity, but to come out of it all the stronger and more complete in every respect.
The spirit of our Father Jacob is very much alive in the Chabad-Lubavitch institutions and animates the Lubavitch activists with exemplary dedication to the cause of spreading and strengthening Yiddishkeit [Judaism]. They surely deserve not only the fullest support, but also personal involvement.
I extend to each and all of you prayerful wishes to go from strength to strength in your continued endeavors in behalf of this vital cause, which is also bound to widen the channels and vessels to receive G-d's blessings in all your personal needs, materially and spiritually.
With esteem and blessing,
Rosh Chodesh Kislev, 5735 
This is to acknowledge receipt of your letter of the 20th of Cheshvan, and enclosures, as well as your previous correspondence.
May G-d grant that all the activities about which you report should continue with great Hatzlocho, and in an ever-growing measure. And may this Hatzlocho be reflected also in the other Mitzvah campaigns, particularly the Candle Lighting Campaign where Jewish women and girls have a special opportunity, and therefore also a special Zechus [privilege], to accomplish a great deal. May you and all your co-workers carry on these activities with joy and gladness of heart.
Especially as we are now approaching the auspicious days of the 10th and 19th of Kislev, the significance of which you surely know. The Zechus of the Alter Rebbe, and of his son the Mitteler Rebbe [Rabbi Dov Ber, the second Chabad Rebbe], for whom the above days brought deliverance, will surely bring deliverance also to all those who follow in their footsteps to spread the Torah and Mitzvos with Chasidic dedication and inspiration. May this be so also in your case, and in a growing measure, as symbolized by the Chanukah lights which are kindled in growing numbers from day to day.
NACHMAN means "comforter." Rav Nachman bar Yaacov was a noted 4th century Babylonian scholar. Rabbi Nachman bar Yitzchak, a later Babylonia scholar and dean of Pumbadita, owed his greatness to his mother: An astrologer told her that he would grow up to be a thief. So she made sure that he always wore a head-covering (which serves as a reminder that G-d is above) and reminded him, "Cover your head so that you will fear G-d; always pray for His mercy that you should not be overcome by your evil impulses." Rabbi Nachman heeded his mother's advice and became one of the greatest Sages of his generation.
NAVA means beautiful or pleasant.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
The 9th of Kislev (which occurs this Shabbat) is the birthday and yartzeit of the Mitteler Rebbe, Rabbi Dov Ber of Lubavitch. Although he was only 54 years old at the time of his passing, it is considered auspicious when a righteous person passes away on his (Hebrew) birthday, in fulfillment of the verse "The number of your days I will fulfill." As is known, Moses was 120 when he passed away on his birthday, about which our Sages commented: "The Holy One, Blessed Be He, fills up the years of the righteous from day to day." When a righteous person departs this world on the same day he was born, it emphasizes that his service of G-d was "full" and complete on the material as well as the spiritual plane.
The following day, the 10th of Kislev, is also celebrated in Chabad circles, as it marks the date in 1826 when the Mitteler Rebbe was released from prison. Accused of illegally channeling funds to the Holy Land, the Mitteler Rebbe refuted all the charges against him (proving that all monies went directly to the poor) and demonstrated that the documents used to implicate him had been forged. Indeed, the Mitteler Rebbe so impressed the authorities that the informer who had slandered him was told to "stop barking like a dog."
It is said that on the Shabbat afternoon when word came that the Rebbe would be freed, he was in the midst of delivering a Chasidic discourse on the verse "You are One." (The Mitteler Rebbe was permitted to deliver Chasidic discourses to 50 of his Chasidim twice a week even while imprisoned as his doctor had informed the authorities that this was literally what kept him alive.)
May the Mitteler Rebbe's holiday of redemption lead to the ultimate holiday of Redemption of the entire Jewish people, with the immediate revelation of our Moshiach.
And he reached a certain place (Gen. 28:11)
Our Sages relate that as soon as Yaakov decided to return, a miracle occurred and he was immediately transported on his way. We learn from this that whenever a person sincerely decides to do teshuva, to return to G-d with a humble heart, he is immediately assisted from Above. "Open up for Me a breach the size of a needle's eye, and I will open for you an opening the size of a great hall."
He dreamed, and behold there was a ladder set on the earth (Gen. 28:12)
The function of a ladder is to connect top and bottom, to raise up whatever is below and bring down whatever is above. In spiritual terms, the ladder between the upper and lower realms is Torah and prayer, for they enable us to "touch" the very heavens. Prayer raises up and elevates us, whereas Torah study draws down Divine wisdom into the world. And just as one must ascend and descend a physical ladder by climbing its rungs, so too must spiritual progress be orderly and in successive steps.
(Sefer HaMaamarim 5708, "Vayachalom Vehinei Sulam")
It is said that, metaphorically, the angels "polish up" our prayers, removing dust and washing off any dirt that sullies them. What does this mean? "Removing dust" means that they inject vitality and life into words that were uttered by rote; "washing the dirt off" means cleansing them from extraneous thoughts.
(Sefer HaMaamarim 5708)
Behold, angels of G-d were ascending and descending on it (Gen. 28:12)
At first glance the order seems reversed. Wouldn't the heavenly angels have to descend the ladder before they could climb back up? However, whenever a Jew does a mitzva (commandment), he acquires for himself a "good" angel that rises up to plead on his behalf; only afterward does it come back down to protect him.
One of the chasidim of the Mitteler Rebbe (Rabbi DovBer, second Rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch) was known for studying and praying with great devotion, and displaying a kind, gentle manner to others. Yet, he still had a serious character flaw. He greatly admired his own virtues. Afraid that he was growing arrogant, the chasid decided to approach the Rebbe for guidance.
After hearing the chasid describe his predicament, Rabbi DovBer was silent for a moment, and then responded: When G-d created the world, He created both good and evil. After these two elements came into being, they came before G-d and asked for their respective missions. "Spread the light of goodness and kindness in the world," G-d instructed the Good Side. "This is achieved by making people aware of their Creator."
Evil asked, "But will I be able to do my job? Will people really listen to me?" G-d then instructed the Evil Side to combat the good, thereby giving people the choice and opportunity to overcome adversity. The Evil Side asked, "But will I be able to do my job? Will people really listen to me?" When the Creator responded in the affirmative, the Evil Side asked to be told its name. "You will be called the Serpent," said the Creator.
Upon hearing this, the Serpent became worried. He was afraid that his name alone would frighten people away and doom his mission. "Have no fear," reassured G-d, "you will succeed."
Indeed, the Serpent was successful in misleading Eve to sin, convincing her to eat from the forbidden fruit in the Gan Eden and to share her sin with Adam. After eating from the same fruit, G-d banished the pair from Eden, and thus began all of life's challenges.
However, when Adam and Eve realized their sin, they repented completely and managed to atone for their folly. Seeing the holiness that now permeated their lives, the Serpent came before the Creator again: "Destroy me," he implored. "I will never be able to succeed now!"
"Have no fear," responded the Creator. "I will change your name to Angel of Death. No one will recognize you."
The Evil Side - disguised as the Angel of Death - did his sinister work for generations, until our grandparents Abraham and Sara began spreading the knowledge of Hashem in their surroundings. Forlorn, the Angel of Death complained again that his job was too difficult, well-nigh impossible. "Fear not," said the Creator, "I will change your name again. From now on, you will be known as Satan. No one will recognize you."
So, Satan began his career. His work went well until Moses made his appearance. When he began teaching Torah, Satan was ready to throw in the towel for good. He appeared before the Creator asking for a merciful end; now he truly felt useless. Again, his name was changed. This time, he was renamed "Arrogance."
Arrogance now began his career. This time, his disguise was so good that he even penetrated houses of Torah learning. The more a true scholar studies, the more he realizes how little he really knows. However, under the influence of Arrogance, people would study and not be humbled by their knowledge.
Instead, they assumed airs of superiority and looked down with disdain at the unlearned. Of course, they sugarcoated these feelings by claiming to defend the dignity of their knowledge, not their own person.
This continued until Rabbi Yisrael Baal Shem Tov arrived in this world. He revealed the true unity of G d, before whom all are equal - no matter their level of scholarship.
Again the Evil Side came before the Creator, disguised as Arrogance, asking for a merciful end. Again his name was changed. This time instead of plain Arrogance, it would be known as "Fear of Arrogance." Being less bold than plain old Arrogance, Fear of Arrogance could do its work in peace.
"Now listen here," concluded the Mitteler Rebbe, "you should know that Fear of Arrogance is Arrogance, who is Satan, who is the Angel of Death, who is the Serpent himself! Quickly, throw him out of your house because your life is at risk!"
Translated by Yagdil Torah from Rshimos Dvorim, vol. 4, pp. 187-189
"Ufaratzta (you shall break through; spread out) to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south" (Gen. 28:14) At present, we must serve G-d in a manner of "ufaratzta," that is, without any restrictions or limitations. Thus we shall hasten the coming of Moshiach, of whom it is written in the Book of Micha, "The poretz (the one who breaks through, i.e., the one who clears all obstacles and barriers) is gone up before them."
(Living With Moshiach)