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Is your refrigerator covered with notes being held on by magnets of various shapes and sizes? Perhaps your fridge is the home of shiny, plastic ABCs with little magnets wedged into the grooves? Or do you have an eclectic collection of colorful magnetic advertisements from your local stores?
Magnets are utilized by the medical profession for MRIs (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) and for magnetic therapy.
Magnets enable maglev (magnetic levitation) trains to travel as fast as 275-300 mph/435-475 kph along specially designed guide-ways.
And, of course, kids find magnets fun, especially in Magna-Tiles and Super Magformers!
Magnetism, by definition, is the force of attraction or repulsion between various substances. Any object that exhibits magnetic properties is called a magnet.
A very wise person currently involved in Jewish communal work said, "Judaism is like a magnetic force in our lives - we can either be pulled to it or repelled from it. And like magnets, all that's needed to turn from being repelled to being pulled, is to be turned around."
Today, some Jews are pulled to Judaism while others are no attracted to it. These two opposite sentiments exist across the board: At times, even the most committed Jew may feel a resistance and an estranged Jew will have yearnings toward Judaism.
In magnetism there are two poles where the magnetic forces are the strongest (a north-seeking pole and a south-seeking pole).
What does an object need to turn? It must have space. It must be free, at least temporarily, from limits and obstacles in order to move. And there must be a force that powers its movement.
A person must also go beyond his boundaries and remove restraints, giving himself space and even a momentary void, to allow himself to be pulled to Judaism. But he needn't wait for a force outside of himself to motivate him to move. For within every Jew there is a soul, an actual part of G-d (as Chasidism describes it) which has the power to propel the person.
This means that we don't need to wait for someone or something to help attract us to Judaism. It is within every Jew's power, if we only make space, to turn ourselves around and become interested and drawn to living more Jewishly.
One considerable difference exists, however, between conventional magnetism and Jewish magnetism. In Judaism, there is only one pole. Jewish teachings explain that the Jewish people, the Torah and G-d are totally one. By definition of our very existence, all Jews are connected to G-d, the Torah and each other.
Thus, in terms of absolutes, there is no polarity amongst the Jewish people, we are intrinsically and eternally one. And even though when we look with our corporeal eyes at the state of the Jewish nation it would seem like nothing could be further from the truth, this doesn't change the fact of the essential unity of the Jewish people.
In the Messianic Era, when the entire world will be attracted to the powerful magnets of G-dliness, truth, morality, this essential unity of the Jewish people, and our connection to G-d, the Torah and each other will be easily discernable.
In this week's Torah portion, Vayishlach, Jacob is given the name Israel: "Your name will no longer be called Yaakov, but Yisrael will be your name."
And yet, the Torah continues to refer to our patriarch by both names - Jacob and Israel, and we do as well.
Jacob and Israel represent two different modes of service to G-d that is required of every Jew.
Jacob represents getting Isaac's blessings through wisdom and cunning. Israel represents getting Isaac's blessings outright, and with our heads held up high.
Isaac's blessings were material blessings, "from the dew of the heavens and the fat of the land." But in order to get them, Rebbeca went to great lengths to plan and together with Jacob execute a whole undercover operation, to get what was rightfully his. There was a disguise - Jacob put fur on his arms to feel like his brother Esau. There was a costume, he put on Esau's hunting clothes. Then Jacob carefully chose his words to convince his father that he was Esau.
What is our approach to the physical needs and material desires? The true purpose of the physical, is to reveal and extract the G-dliness that is hidden in the physical object or place. In order to do that, we must use the object or place for a G-dly purpose. For example, you can eat, sleep, exercise, etc., to be healthy, for your own selfish reasons, or you can do it, so that you are healthy to serve G-d.
This story teaches us that in order to be able to affect the physical, we have to go undercover, and use some tactics to uncover the G-dliness that is hidden in the physical. First you seem to want these things in order to have the pleasure that comes along with them, and because of that, the evil inclination is willing to go along with you. But you have a hidden agenda that only comes through at the end of the undercover operation, that it is really for G-d.
Then there is the name Israel, which is our service to G-d in an open way, without cunning and hiding. Like on Shabbat, when eating itself is a mitzva. There is no need for guile, every bite is a mitzva and enjoying it is also a mitzva. Like the name Israel, which is related to the word sherara, to rule, we can do G-d's wishes outright.
May we be both like Jacob and Israel, each one in its right time. This way, we will surely merit to see the coming of Moshiach, when it will be "the day (time) that is totally Shabbat," and like the name Israel, we will be able to serve G-d openly, and with our heads held up high. May he come soon. The time has come.
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.
Tranquility and Hebron
Rebbetzin Menucha Rochel Slonim was born in 1798, on the 19th day of Kislev. It was the same day her grandfather, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi (the first Rebbe and founder of Chabad-Lubavitch) was released from imprisonment in S. Petersburg, Russia.
Her father, Rabbi Dovber (who became the second Rebbe) chose the name Menucha because in Hebrew it means "tranquility." He said, "henceforth we shall have a little Menucha."
In 1815, her father, already the successor and Rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch, sought to strengthen the Jewish community in Hebron which had now fallen into neglect. He dispatched groups of followers who established the Chabad community in the city. He bought the small synagogue near the historic Avraham Avinu synagogue along with additional parcels of land.
In 1845, with the blessing of the third Rebbe, known as the Tzemach Tzedek (who was also her brother-in-law as he had married her sister Chaya Mushka), Rebbetzin Menucha Rochel together with her husband Rabbi Yaakov Kuli Slonim, and her family, emigrated to Hebron.
Rebbetzin Menucha Rochel was a pillar of the community, taking part in every day life and decisions. She was also looked upon as a spiritual leader. She was famed for her wisdom, piety and erudition, honored and esteemed by famous rabbis of her time a well as the non-Jewish population of Hebron who sought her advice. New brides and barren women would request blessings from her.
There was an Ottoman official who was particularly heavy-handed in taxing the Jewish community of Hebron. One day, his daughter became ill, and no doctors or experts could seem to help her. Someone suggested that he seek the blessing of the venerated Rebbetzin Menucha Rochel.
Rebbetzin Menucha Rochel made her blessing conditional on his lifting the unfair persecution he had imposed on the community. When he agreed, she gave her blessing. His daughter regained her health, and the Jewish community rejoiced.
Another story is told of a group of bandits in Hebron known as "The Black Hand." They were daring and did not hesitate even in broad daylight to bother and threaten people and even rob them. The situation deteriorated until a common refrain became, "Ten measures of suffering descended to the world and nine of them are suffered by the Jews of Hebron."
One day the group leader's wife was having difficulty giving birth and both she and the baby where in grave danger. Having no other choice, the chief bandit sent a message to Rebbetzin Menucha Rochel pleading for a blessing. She responded with a message that if he would stop his terrible deeds and neither he nor his men would touch a Jew's property, then she promised that all would be well. The man swore and when he entered his home the midwife told him that his wife had just given birth to a son.
Rebbetzin Menucha Rochel attributed great importance to cleanliness and purity; the word "purity" was the word most often carried on her lips. There was never a stain seen on her clothing. Even in her later years, when she was quite old and bedridden, she maintained a pristine presence.
This was also the way she educated her children and descendants; whenever she met them she would bring this important virtue to the forefront of their minds.
Following the passing of the Tzemech Tzedek's wife, and the passing of Rebbetzin Menucha Rochel's husband, the Tzemach Tzedek wrote to Rebbetzin Menucha Rochel asking her to marry him. She responded, "I am an emissary here in Hebron. If you want to marry me, you'll have to come here." They did not marry.
Before she passed away on 24 Shevat, 1888, she sent a letter to the Rebbe at that time, Rabbi Sholom Dovber, the Rebbe Rashab - the fifth Rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch, to inform him of her imminent passing.
On the night of her passing, in the middle of the night the Rebbetzin woke up and asked her aide to boil water so she could bathe and change her clothes. Then she had her family called for, her children and descendants. She even sent someone to Jerusalem to get her son, Rabbi Levi Yitzchok Slonim. As she waited for him, her lips murmured chapters of Psalms and prayers. She said, "My holy ancestors are here with me."
As soon as her son, Rabbi Levi Yitzchok walked into the room, she gave him her final instructions and passed away. She was buried in the ancient Jewish cemetery in Hebron. (Ishtori Haparchi, the well-known Jewish physician and traveler reported visiting the cemetery around the year 1322.)
The Rebbetzin's grave was one of those destroyed during the murderous Arab riots of 1929. In 1929, after years of "relatively" peaceful existence, the Arabs of Hebron slaughtered the Jews in their midst. Many members of the Slonim family were murdered. Great, great, great grandson of Rebbetzin Menucha Rochel, Shlomo Slonim (1928 - 2014), was one of the sole survivors of his family in Hebron at that time. One year old Shlomo was hacked in the head with an ax and left for dead. He was later found in the arms of his dead mother by a survivor who sifted through the home.
In all, 24 of the 67 Jews butchered in Hebron died in the Slonim household. People hid there because Shlomo's father had close relations with the Arab neighbors who had promised him protection. But none were spared.
In the 1970s, Prof. Ben-Zion Tavger - who was instrumental in excavating historic areas such as the Avraham Avinu synagogue which had been used as a sheep pen - rediscovered Rebbetzin Menucha Rochel's gravesite. In 1982, with the encouragement of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, a memorial ceremony on the anniversary of Rebbetzin Menucha Rochel's passing was initiated and continues every year at Rebbetzin Menucha Rochel's gravesite in Hebron.
Today, countless people come to visit Rebbetzin Menucha Rochel's gravesite when they visit the Tomb of Machpela, as well as Beit Shneerson, Beit Hadassah, Avraham Avinu shul, and other sites where the Slonim family lived, worked, taught and raised their families.
Lubavitch of Scotland Celebrates 50
Lubavitch of Scotland celebrated their 50th Anniversary Golden Jubilee. Rabbi Chaim and Sora Jacobs arrived in Scotland in 1970 as emisaries of the Rebbe, they were one of the first 50 emissaries to set up a Chabad House presence in a city sent by the Rebbe As the Jewish Telegraph reported, the Jacobs have at times overcome almost impossible odds to carry on their work.
New Torah Dedication
A Torah was dedicated in the Western Russian city of Karsnodor. The dedication marks the Jewish renaissance of the city under emissaries Rabbi Menachem Mendel and Chana Tzivia Lazar. In attendance were the fathers of Krasnodor's rabbinic couple, Chief Rabbi of Russia Rabbi Berel Lazar and Chief Rabbi of Berlin, Germany, Rabbi Rabbi Yehuda Teichtel.
Translated from a telegram of the Rebbe
17 Kislev, 5752 (1991):
To all those participating in the major gatherings of Yud Tes Kislev,
L'Chaim, L'Chaim Velivracha - "To life, to life and blessing."
Beginning today, the 17th of Kislev (whose numerical equivalent in Hebrew, tov, means "good"); continuing on the 18th of Kislev (whose numerical equivalent in Hebrew, chai, means "live"); and on the 19th of the month, Yud Tes Kislev itself; may you be inscribed - and may that inscription be sealed - for a good year in the study of Chasidut and in the Chasidic ways of conduct.
May it be G-d's will that the verse, "He redeemed my soul in peace" [the verse of Psalms which the Alter Rebbe was reciting when he was informed of his release] come to complete fruition for each and every one of you.
May you succeed in making vessels for this blessing, as reflected in our Sages' interpretation of the above verse as referring to one who is occupied in Torah study (both the revealed dimension of Torah law and the Torah's mystic dimension), in deeds of kindness, and in prayer.
Additional emphasis on the above is granted this year, for Yud Tes Kislev falls on a Tuesday, the day on which the expression "And G-d saw that it was good" was repeated. And as our Sages explain, this refers to a twofold good, "Good for the heavens" and "Good for the created beings."
The above activities should all be brought to fruition energetically, in a manner of Ufaratzta: "And you shall spread forth westward, eastward, north-ward, and southward," beginning with each of the mitzva campaigns....
And from these days, we will proceed to the days of preparation for Chanuka and to Chanuka itself, whose message is, which indeed, grants the potential for it to be actualized, for each and every person to kindle "the lamp of mitzva and the light of Torah," "at the outside of the entrance to his home," and to increase the light shining at the entrance to his home from day to day, causing it to shine outward throughout the entire year...
May this be realized in the building of the Third Holy Temple - speedily in our days, in the true and complete Redemption led by Moshiach. May this take place in the immediate future.
20 Kislev, 5719 (1959)
Yesterday we celebrated Yud Tes [the 19th of] Kislev, the Redemption of the Alter Rebbe, the founder of Chabad, and together with him the triumph of all matters connected with Chabad.
The day inspires every one of us to greater efforts in living up to the concepts of Chabad, the basis of which is the love of G-d, love of the Torah, and love of our fellow-Jews, all of which is truly one.
This is connected with the basic teachings of Chabad, requiring everyone of us to do our utmost to bring our fellow-Jews closer to G-d and to Torah and Mitzvoth [commandments], in their purest form, without compromise or concession, though the approach to each individual may differ in accordance with his spiritual state and background.
One cannot expect a Jew who has drifted from the Jewish way of life to transform himself suddenly, and it is necessary to bring him closer to G-d by stages, yet we have to present to him the true aspects of our Torah and mitzvot, not in any diluted form.
It is only then that the Jew is responsive to the truth, as is expressed the well-known saying of the Alter Rebbe that "No Jew wishes, nor can he, sever himself from G-d."
The 19th of Kislev, therefore, reminds us every year of these basic principles, and inspires us towards their fulfillment.
I know your late father of blessed memory, and I also had the opportunity to meet with you and your wife when you visited here.
My personal knowledge of the members of your family gives me every confidence that every one of you will do your utmost to work for the spreading of Torah and Mitzvoth in your community, in the spirit of the founder of Chabad, and his teachings.
The work of Chabad in every field of Jewish endeavor has always been on a non-sectarian basis and not confined to any particular group, but embraces all our fellow Jews.
It is because of this that it has remained free from outside influences and pressures, and it is because of this that it has succeeded so well, with the help of G-d.
RACHAMIM means "compassion, mercy." The name is most common among Sefardic and Oriental Jews.
RUCHAMA means "comfort, compassion." G-d told the prophet Hosea to call his daughter Lo-Ruchama: "For I will have no more mercy on the House of Israel." (Hosea 1:6)
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This coming Tuesday, Jews the world-over - Chasidim and non-Chasidim alike - will celebrate the Yud Tet Kislev, the Rosh Hashana of Chasidut.
Yud Tet (19) Kislev is the anniversary of the release from prison of the founder of Chabad, Rabbi Shneur Zalman, known as the Alter Rebbe. Because the entire future of Chasidut was at stake, his liberation was not only a personal redemption, but the redemption of the entire movement.
Nothing happens down here in this world without a spiritual counterpart. In fact, the reason things happen in this world is because of what is going on "up above" in the higher celestial spheres. When the Alter Rebbe was freed from prison it was a vindication of his teachings - and a "green light" from Above to continue their dissemination full speed ahead.
The underlying purpose of Chasidut is to prepare the world for the Messianic era, when the knowledge of G-d will be commonplace. Maimonides explains that King Moshiach "will restore the entire world to serve G-d together, as it states, 'For then I will transform the nations...that they all call in the Name of G-d.'"
This point - that Moshiach is for everyone, Jew and non-Jew alike - was emphasized in a letter the Alter Rebbe sent to the famous Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev upon his release. Rather than stressing the joy that was felt over the liberation of Chasidut from its bondage, the Alter Rebbe wrote that "G-d's Name was made great and publicly sanctified, particularly in the eyes of the officials...who also considered it a great wonder...and declared, 'It is from G-d that such a thing has happened.'"
May the holy day of Yud Tet Kislev, the preparatory redemption of Chasidut, lead to the ultimate Redemption of all mankind with the coming of Moshiach immediately.
Jacob came in peace to the city of Shechem... (Gen. 33:18)
The great sage Rashi explains that "in peace"- shalem - is to be interpreted as whole. Jacob came to Shechem whole: in body because he was healed of his limp; in wealth since, though he gave a large gift to appease Esau, he lacked nothing; and in his Torah [knowledge] because he did not forget any of his learning during his stay in Laban's house. Rashi explains this to mean that Jacob was sound in body, his wealth was intact, and his Torah-observance was uncompromised. We learn from Jacob to always strive for excellence in all areas of our lives. Even a person whose primary path in the worship of G-d is through practical mitzvot - charity and good deeds - should also strive to be perfect in study.
Now, let my master go ahead before his servant, and I will move at my own slow pace, according to the pace of the work that is before me and according to the pace of the children, until I come to my master, to Seir. (Gen. 33:14)
Jacob promised to visit Esau at his home in Seir. However, he never went to Seir. Did Jacob lie? No. For he will go in the days of Moshiach, as it is says (Obadiah 1:21): "And saviors shall ascend Mt. Zion to judge the mountain of Esau."
And You said, "I will surely do good with you" (Gen. 32:13)
Rabbi Moshe Leib of Sassov used to say: "Master of the Universe! Everything You do is most assuredly good, but there is a good which is immediately apparent, and a good which does not seem to be so at first. May it be Your will to bestow upon us only that type of good which is immediately revealed!"
In the early years of his leadership, the founder of Chabad Chasidism, Rabbi Shneur Zalman, would expound his teachings in the form of short, homiletic sayings. One of these early "short discourses" was based on the Talmudic passage, "All bearers of collars go out with a collar and are drawn by a collar." The Talmud is discussing the laws of Shabbat, on which it is forbidden for a Jew to allow his animal to carry anything out from a private domain to a public domain; however, it is permitted to allow one's animal to go out with its collar around its neck, and even to draw it along by means of its collar. But the Hebrew word the Talmud uses for "collar," shir, also means "song." Thus Rabbi Shneur Zalman interpreted the Talmud's words to say that, "The masters of song - the souls and the angels - go out in song and are drawn by song. Their `going out' in yearning for G-d, and their drawing back into their own existence in order to fulfill the purpose of their creation, are by means of song and melody."
This latest teaching by Rabbi Shneur Zalman, which quickly spread among his followers throughout White Russia and Lithuania, elicited a strong reaction from his opponents, who complained that the chasidim have, yet again, employed homiletic word play and outright distortion of the holy Torah to support innovations to Jewish tradition. The Talmud, said they, is talking about collars worn by animals, not about the singing of souls and angels!
Rabbi Shneur Zalman's words caused a particular uproar in the city of Shklov. Shklov was a town full of Torah scholars and a bastion of opposition to chasidism. There were chasidim in Shklov, but they were a small and much persecuted minority, and this latest controversy inflamed the ardor of their detractors. While the chasidim of Shklov did not doubt the Rebbe's words, they were hard-pressed to defend them in the face of the onslaught of outrage and ridicule this latest saying had evoked.
A while later, Rabbi Shneur Zalman passed through Shklov on one of his journeys. Among those who visited the Rebbe at his lodgings were many of the town's greatest scholars, who presented him with the questions and difficulties they had accumulated in the course of their studies. For even the Rebbe's most vehement opponents acknowledged his genius and greatness in Torah. The Rebbe listened attentively to all the questions put to him but did not reply to any of them. However, when the scholars of Shklov invited him to lecture in the central study hall, the Rebbe accepted the invitation.
When Rabbi Shneur Zalman ascended the podium at the central study hall of Shklov, the large room was filled to overflowing. Virtually all the town's scholars were there. Some had come to hear the Rebbe speak, but most were there for what was to follow the lecture, when the town's scholars would have the opportunity to pose their questions to the visiting scholar. All had heard of Rabbi Shneur Zalman's strange behavior earlier that day, when all the questions put to him were met with silence. Many hoped to humiliate the chasidic leader by publicly demonstrating his inability to answer their questions. In the background, of course, loomed the recent controversy over the Rebbe's unconventional interpretation of the Talmudic passage about animals' collars on Shabbat.
Rabbi Shneur Zalman began to speak. "All those of shir go out with shir and are drawn by shir. The masters of song," explained the Rebbe, "the souls and the angels, all go out in song and are drawn by song. Their yearning for G-d, and their drawing back to fulfill the purpose of their creation, are by means of song and melody." And the Rebbe began to sing.
The room fell utterly silent as the Rebbe's melodious voice enveloped the scholars of Shklov. All were caught in the thrall of the melody, a melody of yearning and resolve, of ascent and retreat. As the Rebbe sang, every man in the room felt himself transported from the crowded hall to the innermost recesses of his own mind, where a person is alone with the confusion of his thoughts, alone with his questions and doubts. Only the confusion was gradually being dispelled, the doubts resolved. By the time the Rebbe finished singing, all the questions in the room had been answered.
Among those present in the Shklov study hall that day was one of town's foremost prodigies, Rabbi Yosef Kolbo. Many years later, Rabbi Yosef related his experience to the chasid, Rabbi Avraham Sheines. "I came to the study hall that day with four extremely difficult questions - questions I had put forth to the leading scholars of Vilna and Slutzk, to no avail. When the Rebbe began to sing, the knots in my mind began to unravel, the concepts began to crystalize and fall into place. One by one, my questions fell away. When the Rebbe finished singing, everything was clear. I felt like a newly born child beholding the world for the first time.
"That was the day I became a chasid," concluded Rabbi Yosef.
Reprinted from The Week in Review, published by V.H.H.
We read in our portion, "Jacob sent messengers to Esau his brother" (Gen. 32:4) At that time, Jacob was fully ready for the ultimate Messianic Redemption. He had learned a great deal of Torah, served G-d with all his heart, and had observed the 613 mitzvot despite the many obstacles encountered in Lavan's house. For his part, he was ready and prepared. Jacob sent messengers to check out the spiritual status of his brother Esau, to see if he was also ready for Moshiach. Unfortunately, they found that he was still wicked and had not repented of his evil ways. The Redemption was therefore delayed for thousands of years until our generation, when the nations of the world are now finally ready.
(The Rebbe, Parshat Vayishlach, 5752)