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A woman of very high professional standing and education came to my office for pastoral advice. Her dilemma related to marriage, family and her work. She related her inability to balance her life. Realizing that there was much more there, I asked if she had sought help from a therapist or psychiatrist. She said that she had, and indeed, had been seeing a psychiatrist on a weekly basis for the past two years. Yet her condition remained completely unchanged and, as a last resort, she was turning to religion.
I asked her three questions that I ask all those who are under care of a psychiatrist or other mental health worker. "Is your therapist married or divorced? Does your therapist believe in G-d and organized religion? Does your therapist have a love for children?"
She thought and slowly answered that in all three cases the answer was negative. Her psychiatrist had been married and remarried, and was now going through a second divorce. No, he did not believe in religion whatsoever, claiming that religion was repressive, and guilt-evoking. Last, but not least, he did not especially care for children, "as children," he said, "are selfish, and not everyone has the patience to care for them."
I then asked her if she wanted to remain married, and to this she answered, "yes." I continued, "Do you believe in G-d?" To this she immediately answered, "of course," and "I love my child."
I told her that her healer himself did not lead the kind of life she wished for. If anything, he represented a totally opposite lifestyle.
What comes to mind is the Ten Commandments. They teach us not to covet, but to love, share, respect and give honor. These ingredients help us love our children, care for our fellow man and be faithful to our spouses. That is something for which all of us strive. The Ten Commandments are the most therapeutic steps for reaching that goal.
Though the Ten Commandments are traditionally known to have been given to the Jewish nation--and the non-Jews were given the Seven Noachide Laws by G-d--there is no monopoly on good things. The world is free to borrow and obey these commandments.
Therapists, doctors, social workers and even spiritual healers are the ones to help those in need, but they carry the responsibility of first obeying the commandments and setting standards. Society learns and receives inspiration by examples of practicing healers.
by Rabbi Eli Hecht--spiritual leader of Chabad of the South Bay, California.
This week's Torah portion, Vayeira, introduces us to the second of our forefathers, Isaac. It also relates that Isaac was occupied with digging wells.
Abraham and Isaac achieved greatness by paving two distinct paths to spirituality. Abraham traveled from place to place, both within the borders of Israel and in other lands, and caused G-d's name to be known everywhere he went. Through his boundless hospitality, as well as through other means, he caused countless wayfarers to thank G-d for His bounty and goodness. Abraham's basic nature was kindness-- giving and favorably influencing his fellow man.
Isaac, on the other hand, had a totally different approach. He never left the Holy Land and his basic nature was the personification of gevura (strength). Isaac's way of bringing holiness into the world involved elevating the lowly and bringing it closer to G-dliness; Abraham's method was to bring G-dliness down into the lower realms.
This path to spirituality is even apparent in Isaac's preoccupation with digging wells. A well is made when one digs and uncovers the water that was always there, albeit in an unrevealed state. Isaac did not bring the water to the well from an outside source; he merely removed the soil and rocks so that the water could flow forth on its own.
Whereas his father Abraham was primarily occupied with bringing holiness down into this world, Isaac spent his life uncovering the inherent holiness that already existed in the world. Isaac taught others that through their own efforts they could uncover the good and arrive at Divine truth.
From Abraham we learn how to elevate the physical world through studying Torah and performing mitzvot, causing the Divine light to descend and illuminate our surroundings. We also learn from him the obligation to spread the knowledge and appreciation of G-d through our own example and influence on others.
But this in itself is not enough. We must also learn from Isaac how to "dig wells"--how to uncover and reveal that spark of goodness and spirituality which exists within ourselves and every Jew. It is not sufficient to merely teach others about G-dliness; we must also know how to dig under the surface and reveal the "pintele Yid"--the inherent faith in G-d and spark of holiness--which is our birthright.
Even if a Jew seems to be nothing but "dust, clay and stones," that is, his Jewish spark seems to be dormant and hidden underground, we can learn from Isaac not be discouraged--this appearance is merely a camouflage. Under the lifeless surface lies a rich source of running water, of goodness, faith and love of G-d. All we have to do is remove the superficial layer of "clay" to reveal the pure Jewish soul within.
And what can we answer a Jew who cries, "But I've tried! I've dug and I've dug, and I can't seem to uncover my Jewish spark!" We must direct him to the example of Isaac, who persevered in his digging and was not discouraged, even when his wells were deliberately stopped up by his enemies, time and time again. For we are promised success if we, too, persevere and are relentless in our quest for G-dliness.
Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
BULLISH ON FAMILY BONDS
by Curt Schleier
In June 1990, Morris Smith was named portfolio manager of the Fidelity Magellan Fund. Not only is it the largest equity mutual fund in the world--it has $15.7 billion in assets--it has been the most successful fund in the past decade.
With his thick glasses, kinky hair, and generally fatummeled look, Morris Smith doesn't fit the physical image of a button-down giant of the mutual fund industry. Nor does he fit the image "spiritually." Raised in an Orthodox family in Brooklyn, Smith has maintained religious observance despite the pressures of his career.
"You were," I say, "Orthodox."
"I am," he replies quickly. "Not was, I am." It is his most vociferous reaction of the afternoon.
So, I ask, what is a religious Jew doing in Brooks Brothers country?
"Brooks Brothers country?" He laughs. "Fidelity? That is such an improper perception of this place. It's kind of crazy, like the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Plus, the firm is eclectic; it has people with completely different backgrounds from all over the place."
Did his parents, Holocaust survivors both, push him and his sister to excel, as is the immigrants' wont?
"I didn't feel the pressure of being driven," he recalls. "It wasn't as if I came home with a 77, my parents would scream at me or anything like that. My parents always gave me the responsibility to do the best I could."
"He was a very good child, always very studious," his mother recalls. "A straight-A student."
Her son: attended yeshiva, went to Israel for a year, came back to Queens College (where he was a straight-A student, of course), graduated with a degree in accounting, worked briefly for an accounting firm and then got his MBA from the prestigious Wharton School (where he was a straight-A student, of course).
Smith interviewed with a number of companies as he approached his Wharton graduation in 1982. "It was important for me to find a place where I could feel comfortable being Orthodox, an environment where my religion wouldn't be held against me," he explains. "I wanted to be able to fulfill my religious needs and also be able to do what I wanted to do professionally, as well." He found what he wanted at Fidelity.
Does he ever go home at night and complain: "My mazel! I take over the fund and the economy goes into a recession and war breaks out in the Middle East"?
"I don't view it that way," Smith maintains. "I'm dealt a set of cards, and I have to do the best I can with the set of cards. I can't control the economy. All I can do is interpret and invest based on my interpretations."
Investing and interpreting take him about 70 hours a week. "Im lucky," he says with typical understatement. "I don't have to sleep that much." He's usually in the office at 7:30, perusing the day's newspapers.
"A good thing about this job is that I leave at 5:20 every night I'm in the office. The job is transportable so I can work at home." Leaving at 5:20 puts him home in time for dinner with his wife and four children, who range in age from less than a year to nine. "I put them to sleep every night, and that's a big deal for me."
Has being Orthodox made his professional life difficult? "No," he says, "I don't view it as difficult. I don't like to view my religion as a harness. It sounds, when you say the word difficult, as though you mean impediment."
No, he has not experienced even the hint of any anti-Semitism. He leaves work early on Fridays, but more than makes up for it by working as many as five or six hours on Saturday night.
"As far as taking off for holidays, everybody takes vacation days. So I may not have the 'extended vacation' like other people, but that's not an issue for me."
Do his long hours leave him any time for a social life? "Most of the fun I have is with my kids. I'm pretty active in the community. Of course, Saturday nights are always taken with work. We have a decent social life on Saturday, on Shabbos itself, and Sunday I'm very busy with the kids. I'm with the kids all the time basically.
"I've been very fortunate to have success in my professional life, but I view my personal life as where I hope to have my real success. The fact that I have a very stable household, four children I'm very proud of, a wife who's really terrific and a religious life I'm proud of, that's what's important."
Reprinted from the B'ni B'rith International Jewish Monthly.
CHILDREN OF CHERNOBYL ANNIVERSARY
Today, one year and five airlifts later, Chabad has succeeded in bringing more than 500 children to Israel from cities and towns near the site of the deadly Chernobyl reactor. For many Soviet families, the most important event of the year was reuniting with their children in Israel. Chabad in Israel has been successful in helping over 200 Chernobyl parents move to Israel.
JEWISH LAW & MODERN MEDICINE
Test tube babies, surrogate motherhood, and other ethical dilemmas will be discussed by Dr. Fred Rosner in two lectures in Broome County on October 30. The first lecture will be held at the SUNY Binghamton campus and the second at the Jewish Community Center. Both are sponsored by Chabad of Binghamton. For more information call (607) 797-0015.
Thousands attended the Grand Rambam Celebration at the Javits Convention Center in Manhattan marking the completion of the yearly study of Maimonides' Code of Jewish Law, known as the "Mishne Torah." Distinguished rabbis and scholars from around the world participated and offered words of inspiration and greetings. For the past seven years, similar ceremonies have taken place throughout the world especially in the countries where Maimonides--known also by the acronym Rambam--lived, Spain, Morocco and Egypt. A huge gathering will also take place in Israel where, in the past, tens of thousands have participated in dozens of celebrations.
A NEW LIGHT REVEALED
It is written in Tanya--the basic book of Chabad Chasidic philosophy: "Now, this ultimate perfection of the Messianic Era and [the time of] the resurrection of the dead, meaning the revelation of [the infinite] Ein Sof-light in this physical world, is dependent on our actions and [divine] service throughout the period of exile."
Let us consider: Why should this future revelation depend on the divine service that is carried out specifically in the time of exile?
Observing the Torah's commandments draws down divine energy in such a manner that it transforms the materiality of the world. (i.e. the world does not merely remain a static recipient, to which an increased measure of divine light is now added.) For, since the ultimate intent underlying the creation of the universe is that the Jewish people reveal the G-dliness within it by means of their Torah study and their observance of the commandments, this implies that from its innermost core, the universe itself demands, (so to speak), that its ultimate purpose be realized.
However, since this purpose is not perceived in the tangible reality of the world, it follows that from this perspective the G-dliness that is drawn down into the world comes to it as an addition. This is why Rabbi Shnuer Zalman, the author of Tanya, concludes the above quotation with the words, "throughout the period of exile."
As is known, the power of self-sacrifice shines forth more brightly now, during the obscurity of exile, than it did when the Holy Temple stood, because it is the very concealment of G-dliness that arouses it. But why, in fact, was the world created in such a way that it takes obscurity to bring about revelation? The explanation: In order that the underlying intent of creation should be realized by virtue of the nature of the universe itself, G-d created the universe in such a way that its ultimate purpose finds expression in it. This means that concealment was built into the universe, in order that it should give rise to a superior revelation, to "the superiority of light [that proceeds from] darkness." This is why the world was created in such a way that it takes obscurity to call forth a superior revelation.
And since this function of G-d's self-concealment in the world finds expression in the world itself, it is self-evident that the revelation of G-dliness here is bound up with the tangible reality of the world.
We can now understand why Rabbi Shnuer Zalman specified, "throughout the period of exile." For it is the power of self-sacrifice in the course of the exile that reveals, within the obscurity of the world, the intent underlying the creation of the world, viz., the manifestation of G-dliness.
This being so, it also follows that it is especially in the period of exile that this revelation of G-dliness, (brought about by the Jewish people's divine service), is enclothed in the tangible reality of the world.
From the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe translated by Uri Kaploun and published by Sichos in English.
Why the special name--challah--for the bread we eat on Shabbat?
Challah is the Hebrew word for the portion of dough given to the kohens (priests) in the times of the Holy Temple. Today, a small amount of dough is burnt in remembrance. By using the word "challah" we are reminded of this ancient obligation. Also, the word "challah" is almost identical with the Hebrew word "kallah"--bride. Since Shabbat is called our "bride," the bread that we eat on Shabbat is called challah.
On this coming Monday, the 20th of Cheshvan, we mark the birthday of Rabbi Sholom Ber of Lubavitch, (known as the Rebbe Rashab), the fifth Chabad Rebbe.
Rabbi Sholom Ber was a great tzadik and a person of tremendous insight. This can be illustrated by the following incident.
Rabbi Sholom Ber founded, in 1897, the Tomchei Temimim Yeshiva in the city of Lubavitch. The Rebbe Rashab was an honorary member of the council which was formed to help establish the new government's policy toward the Jews after the deposition of the Czar. In 1918 he traveled to Petersburg to participate in a council meeting. At one of the stops on the journey, he sent his attendant to buy a newspaper. Returning with the newspaper, the attendant read to the Rebbe Rashab: "The Communists have taken over, and the council has been abolished."
The Rebbe Rashab responded, "We must now establish yeshivos in every city. I do not see their [the Communists'] end, but ultimately, their end too, will come..."
In the (former) Soviet Union, as the Communist arm stretched forth with ever increasing strength, the yeshivos went underground. Today, there are hundreds of people living all over the world who were educated in those underground yeshivos. In the last few years, yeshivos have been started in 11 cities including Tbilisi, Moscow, Minsk, Dnepropetrovsk, Kishinev, and Kharkov.
Dozens of Tomchei Temimim Yeshivos continue to educate young Jews in Canada, Australia, Israel, Venezuela, and throughout the United States.
How visionary were the Rebbe Rashab's words concerning the ultimate demise of Communism.
Rabbi Shmuel Butman
In a small corner of the vast expanse of Russia there lived a Jewish innkeeper. In appearance, there was nothing special about him. He dressed like a peasant and spoke like a peasant. But this simple, earthy man was admired and respected by villagers all over his district. It was known to one and all that he was in reality a holy man, a miracle worker. Whomever he blessed, was sure that the blessing would be fulfilled.
So, after a time, the reputation of the innkeeper wonder-worker spread, until word of him reached the Rebbe of Apta, who then lived in Medzibuzh. The Rebbe became curious to meet this man and learn his secret. If the man was, indeed, as simple as they all said, then whence his mystical power?
The Apter Rebbe harnessed his horses and went to the tavern. When he arrived, he looked the tavern-keeper up and down, but could perceive no nuance of greatness in him. He studied his movements, but saw nothing remarkable in anything the innkeeper did. Finally, the Rebbe approached the man and questioned him, "Tell me, please, from where are your special powers? Why does Heaven grant all of Your blessings?"
The man smiled, and replied straightforwardly, "My powers come from my faith in G-d which is as strong as a mighty oak.
"Since my youth, I have always trusted in G-d, and no matter what ever happened to me I was always certain that it would be ultimately for the best, since it came from G-d. I never despaired and I always gave tzedaka generously, particularly when times were tough.
"As for guests, I have always kept an open house and treated passersby with the greatest hospitality."
The innkeeper paused and then continued. "One night, when I had a house full of guests, there came a knock at my door. It was a messenger from the poretz [landowner] saying that I was to appear before him at once or else he would have me thrown into prison.
"Now, I had a problem, for I had a lot of hungry people to feed. If I left at once, they would probably go to bed hungry.I stayed and took care of my guests, putting my trust in G-d that no harm would come to me.
"Only hours later, after my guests were comfortably in their rooms did I venture out to meet my landlord. When I arrived, he was brimming with goodwill; apparently he had had a change of heart. Not only didn't he throw me into jail, but he greeted me like an old friend. Everything worked out all right.
"Whenever I put my trust in G-d, I have nothing to worry about. Two years ago I lost all my money. I had no trouble maintaining my faith, but it was a different thing for my family. They were desperate and begged me to go and find a partner. They could see no other solution.
"This was against my own ideas. Why should I suddenly begin to rely on flesh and blood when all my life I had trusted only in G-d, and He had never let me down? In the end, I couldn't hold out against them, and so, I set out to find a business partner.
"I walked through the green countryside, bursting with G-d's goodness and bounty, red apples here, luscious grapes to the other side, contented cows grazing lazily, and I stopped in my tracks. My heart was almost bursting with my love of G-d, and my trust in Him had never been greater. Could not the One Who created all of the beautiful greenery and sustained it eternally also care for me and my little family? Why was I seeking out some human being to lift me up from all my troubles. I raised my eyes to the heavens and prayed, 'G-d, You are the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe, please grant my prayer. I have lost all my money, and I cannot operate my inn. My family tells me to get myself a partner, a mere mortal of flesh and blood. Why can't You become my partner? We'll split everything down the middle. Your half, I'll distribute to the poor, and my half, I'll use to support my family.
"No sooner had I finished, when I felt something in my pocket. I reached for it, and to my astonishment it was a silver coin of such value that I had never owned one like it. And I knew that G-d had accepted my proposition; we were partners, and this was the first profit.
"With this coin I replenished my stock and resumed my trade. When the first profits came in, I put one half aside for my 'partner' in a box which I keep behind the counter. I am scrupulously careful with these funds, even more so than with my own money. This is my whole story."
The Apter Rebbe, who had been listening with rapt attention, rose, thanked the tavern-keeper, and left. When he returned to his own shul in Medzibuzh he told the entire tale to his chasidim, and concluded "When one enters a partnership with G-d, and is completely honest in his business dealings, G-d enables him to perform wonders."
"For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him." (Gen. 18:19)
Rashi comments that the phrase "for I know him" implies love and affection for Abraham. G-d loved Abraham because He knew that Abraham would teach his children to follow in his footsteps. As great and impressive as Abraham's worship of G-d was, more worthy of merit was the fact that he could be counted on to instruct others.
To do righteousness and justice (Gen. 18:19)
When G-d bestows wealth and abundance on a Jew, he must honestly judge himself and ask: "Am I really worthy of all this goodness? What have I done to deserve these blessings?" When a person is thus honest with himself, it will cause him to realize that the sharing of his wealth with those less fortunate is truly tzedaka--righteousness.
And the two angels came to Sodom (Gen. 19:1)
When Abraham was paid a visit by angels, they appeared as human beings. Why, when they presented themselves to Lot, did they appear in their form as angels? Abraham, known as he was for his hospitality, treated everyone he came into contact with in the same equal manner; simple people were honored as much as those more "important." Had Lot, however, seen mere humans at his door, he would have never allowed them to cross the threshold of his home.
(Rabbi Leib Sarah's)
In all that Sarah may say to you--hearken unto her voice (Gen. 21:12)
The Talmud states: Three tzadikim were given a taste of the World to Come in this world--Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. In the World to Come, the prophecy--"the female will surround and encompass the male," and "a woman of valor is the crown of her husband" (Proverbs) will be fulfilled. Abraham was given a glimpse of this when G-d told him to heed the words of Sarah, who was an even greater prophet than he.
Though Moshiach will come first and foremost to Israel, all the nations will recognize his wisdom and sublimity and submit to his rule. He will guide and instruct them as well.
(Midrash Tehilim and Beraishit Rabba)