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The executive walks across the room to his file cabinet for the twentieth time that day. As he walks back to his desk a thought flashes through his brain. He looks at the second hand on his watch and walks over to the file cabinet once again and then back to his desk. It took him 20 seconds.
"Twenty seconds multiplied by 20 times a day is six minutes and forty seconds. Multiply that by five days and you have 33 minutes and 20 seconds. Multiply that by 50 weeks and you have almost 28 hours--more than a day. I'm spending a whole day walking back and forth to my file cabinet when I could just as easily rearrange the furniture a little, put the file cabinet next to my desk and save all that time!"
The executive moved the file cabinet. His mental gymnastics were precipitated by a tool presently being utilized in the business world today. "TQM" (Total Quality Management) and "CI" (Constant Improvement), in American terminology, have long been the reason behind the efficiency, success and competitive edge of Japanese enterprise.
Today, corporations small and large alike are making concerted efforts to understand their customers, employees and products better, in order to utilize time and talent most efficiently and create optimal goods.
Our Sages have long used the metaphor of "business" when speaking about acquiring Jewish knowledge, the performance of mitzvot, prayer, and our overall responsibilities as Jews. In a very practical way, we can integrate these darlings of the business world into our own lives.
Constant improvement in the realm of enhancing your Jewish education can be accomplished more easily than you might think. To use your time more effectively, you can listen to a Torah tape while commuting to work, doing the dishes or speed walking.
Sitting down and looking at our day, week or month, in the general scheme of things, we might just find that we have time to learn about and practice a new mitzva that we've always been interested in. By implementing TQM into the way we think about our daily tasks and trying to constantly improve ourselves, our relationships with others and with G-d, we will make ourselves into the best product possible.
By looking at how we perform the mitzvot that we're already involved in, with an eye for improvement and quality management, we can become the leaders in our field.
In this week's Torah portion, Korach, Korach and his band of rebels sought to undermine Moses' authority. According to the Midrash, one of the taunts with which they challenged him was the following question, which they assumed was merely rhetorical: "Is a house full of Torah scrolls exempt from the requirement of affixing a mezuza to the door post?" A house full of Torah scrolls would obviously contain many repetitions of the required chapters--the "Shema" and the "And it will be, if you will obey My commandments"--that are written on a mezuza. Much to his surprise, however, Korach was informed by Moses that even this house would need a mezuza.
"How can two small paragraphs on a mezuza be more important than the entire Torah?" Korach sneered. Korach fully expected Moses to answer that a house full of Torahs is exempt. His complaint against Moses was that every Jew is a "Torah"--as inherently holy as a house full of scrolls. Why then, do we need a "mezuza"--the office of the priesthood, with the extra authority it affords Aaron, the high priest, and his sons?
Although Korach's argument, that every Jew is holy, is certainly correct, G-d also wanted priests, symbolized by the mezuza, who would serve Him in the Holy Temple. The mezuza is attached to the door post at the entrance of the home and faces outward, into the street. Its holiness radiates and protects the dwelling's inhabitants, not only when they are at home, but also, when they go outside. The holiness of a house full of Torah scrolls which does not have a mezuza is liable to remain inside, removed from the mundane details of daily life. When a Jew, however, affixes a mezuza to his door, he makes a public statement that his is a Jewish home, subservient to "the L-rd is our G-d, the L-rd is One." Its inhabitants recognize that G-d's Torah and mitzvot apply equally in the home and in the street.
This is also symbolic of the role of the priests. Their task is to help the inherent holiness of every Jew reveal itself and have lasting influence in the physical world. The priests, through their service in the Temple, assist the entire Jewish nation in its task of transforming the world into a dwelling place for G-d.
Korach insisted that the measure of holiness within every Jew was sufficient, but Moses corrected him. The holiness within must be carried outside, into the street, as well.
This principle may also be applied to our daily lives. It is not enough for a Jew to feel a special connection to G-d at certain times--during prayers, while learning Torah or on Shabbat. The Jew must nurture that special relationship with G-d until he is aware of it every minute of the day, even when occupied with more mundane tasks. We must therefore affix a mezuza in the spiritual sense as well, setting before ourselves the constant knowledge that "the L-rd is our G-d, the L-rd is One," which will bring down G-d's blessing and constant protection.
Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe
Dear Rabbi Shemtov [Tucson Arizona -Ed.],
I want to thank you. When we asked you many years ago if you'd commence the Jewish education of our two younger children, your response was "sure." You glanced at then 6-year-old Sanders and said, "So what if he has Down syndrome: Does that make him any less a Jew? It's his birthright to learn."
Both Sanders and Rachel still talk about their classes with you. They credit you with teaching them the aleph-bais, many of the prayers we sing each Shabbos, and about the holidays.
I never told you about the day Sanders was born. I woke up on the morning of Simchas Torah excited that something special was going to happen, and my labor began. It was one of those beautiful October days with a clear, bright sky contrasting the changing leaves. Throughout my labor and delivery I entertained a delightful mental picture of men dancing and singing with the Torah, and this made me smile through my own exertions. The midwives teased me, and Sanders was born into a room full of laughter. Nothing could negate such a joyous beginning.
I have since learned that it is very common for parents of handicapped infants to be depressed, to mourn for the perfect child they had expected, and to feel G-d is punishing them for some reason. When the doctor told me he suspected Sanders had Down Syndrome, my reaction was quite different. First of all, my two older children had taught me to view the concept of newborn "perfection" as an illusion, because, though Jacob and Hannah were wonderful, they were far from flawless. Surely, I've never met anyone who's made it to adulthood without developing some irregularities!
But I was more impressed with the significance of Sanders being born on Simchas Torah. On this day we rejoiced while shouldering the weight of G-d's Law; we are honored G-d has chosen us above all other people to serve Him and keep His mitzvot. In the same way, I was secretly very flattered G-d entrusted us with the entire burden of a special-needs child. This is not something I often mention, just as it's unwise for Jews to brag to non-Jews about our singular relationship with G-d. But I do feel David and I have a particular mission with Sanders, and I endeavor to be worthy of G-d's trust.
Sanders, of course, has always exhibited that he is truly a Simchas Torah child. As soon as he could crawl, he made his way to the Ark, and he is there regularly every Shabbos.
And while I'm on the subject of Sanders' birth, let me also thank you for giving Sanders his favorite gift of all time. When you presented him with a small Sefer Torah during Simchas Torah services on his eighth birthday, you gave him a tangible manifestation of all the goodness you were teaching him. You gave him something he still--literally--embraces. He loves his Torah, in all senses of the word.
We miss you, Rabbi. Fortunately, when we moved to Portland, Devorah Wilhelm, the Chabad rebbetzin, shared your conviction that all Jewish children deserve a Jewish education and accepted Sanders into her full-time school. He is now in his third year in the Aleph Bais School, where he has continued to build on the good foundation you gave him.
Sanders has been slow in his studies, but his good memory has served him well. He knows all his davening and recognizes the prayers in his siddur. He participates actively in synagogue services, not only opening the Ark and following the Torah around the shul, but also helping to lead some of the prayers. He looks forward to his Bar Mitzva, less than two years away.
Although Sanders is retarded, finding it difficult to learn and almost impossible to grasp abstractions, he understands his responsibilities as a Jew. He knows the laws of kashrus and keeping the Shabbos.
Sanders hasn't always been the model student. This past September, Rabbi Chaiton had a hard time with him. In the middle of his afternoon class, Sanders would stand up or throw erasers or color when he was supposed to listen. By the time the school van drove him home, he was contrite, hugging Rabbi Chaiton and promising to be a good boy the next day. We couldn't understand why he was misbehaving. Then Hannah asked, "Are you tired?" After running free all summer, he was finding it hard to sit through the long school day. We told him that instead of acting silly, he should just tell the rabbi he needed a break. He did this the next day and Rabbi Chaiton told him to lay his head down on his desk. Every day for the next week, Sanders took a short rest until his ability to concentrate increased.
Though he requires a little more patience and understanding than the other children in his class, both his secular and religious teachers insist he's no bother, and in a subtle way, he's a great asset: he brings out the tolerance and chesed [kindness] in his classmates. His presence teaches the other children to value something beyond being smart. Sanders may never be a great Talmud scholar, but his love for Judaism is an inspiration to everyone he meets.
You see, you set him off to a good start!
All the best to you and your family,
Reprinted from the N'Shei Chabad Newsletter.
MOSHIACH & REDEMPTION ON VIDEO
The new Moshiach & Redemption series is a new video package. Aired this spring via international satellite hook-up, the three part series covers: "Why now?" "What is the meaning of Moshiach?" and "Moshiach, yes! But who?" Available through local Jewish bookstores or by calling (514) 385-9514.
Last weekend, Machon Chana Women's Yeshiva held its 20-year reunion. With hundreds of women attending from all over the world it was a fitting tribute to an institution whose students have made an international impact on the Jewish scene. Alumni who would like to keep in touch can Machon Chana at 718-735-0217 or 825 Eastern Parkway, Bklyn, NY 11213.
Israel Express is one of the most innovative Israel programs on the market. Live in the Old City of Jerusalem. Canoe down the Jordon River. Ride horseback along the Mediterranean. Meditate on top of a mountain. Explore the depths of Jewish thought. Challenge your mind, heart and spirit. Discover your potential and push yourself to the limits of Jewish experience. Program dates are July 1 - August 1. For more info call Rabbi S. Gestetner in Israel at 02-283-955 or Colel Chabad at 718-774-5446.
From a letter of the Lubavitcher Rebbe to schoolchildren
Summer vacation is approaching, and no doubt, you are all looking forward to making the most of it. I would like to make a suggestion to you in this connection.
The summer recess is meant to give you an opportunity to strengthen the health of your body and soul, which, of course, go hand in hand. For Jewish boys and girls to be truly healthy means, first of all, to have healthy neshamas (souls). A Jewish soul derives its health from the Torah and mitzvot, which are "our life and the length of our days," as we say in our prayers.
Needless to say, life and health must be continuous, and one cannot take a "vacation" from them.
The Torah and mitzvot are to the Jewish soul what breathing and nourishment are to the body. A healthy person seldom thinks about the vital necessity of breathing and food. However, on certain occasions one becomes acutely aware of these things. For example, when one swims under water and holds his breath, then comes up, he feels the urge to fill his lungs with fresh air. Or, after a fast-day, when the body has been temporarily weakened from lack of food and drink--one immediately feels the invigorating effect of food and drink.
Now, during the school year, when a great deal of time that could be spent in studying the Torah and doing mitzvot is taken up with other unavoidable occupations, such as the study of English and arithmetic, etc., the soul becomes somewhat undernourished. At such times, your soul "holds its breath," so to speak, which makes it more eager to get back to Torah and mitzvot whenever time is available.
With the advent of the summer recess, your soul can breathe more freely and more fully, for you are released from those other unavoidable studies and occupations.
Thus, the summer vacation gives you an opportunity to apply yourselves to Torah study and Torah activities with the utmost eagerness and enthusiasm--not only to make good use of your free time, but also to make up for lost time during the past school period, and, what is not less important, to give your soul a chance to fortify itself and "take a deep breath" for the school period ahead.
As a matter of fact, the summer vacation seems to be very well planned for this purpose, for it is a time when you can devote yourselves to Torah study and Torah activities in particularly agreeable circumstances, in a relaxed frame of mind and in pleasant natural surroundings of sunshine and fresh air.
Moreover, summer vacation comes soon after the Festival of Shavuot, the Season of Receiving Our Torah at Sinai. As you know, this Festival comes after the days and weeks of Counting the Omer, in memory of the eager anticipation of our ancestors, from the day after they left Egypt until receiving this greatest Divine gift--the Torah and mitzvot--seven weeks later. This should provide an added measure of inspiration to last through each and every day of the summer vacation and, indeed, throughout the year.
I urge you, dear children, to make the most of your summer vacation in light of all that has been said above. Think about it, and put it into effect--in the fullest measure, and G-d will surely bless you with a happy and healthy summer, happy and healthy both spiritually and physically.
The prophet Daniel was a young man when he was brought as a captive to the court of King Nebuchadnezzar in Babylonia. As a member of a princely family, he was held in high esteem by Nebuchadnezzar for his unusual intelligence. After Daniel interpreted the King's dream, he was appointed to a high ministerial post. The Book of Daniel describes the fall of the Babylonian Empire to the Persians. After Babylonia was defeated by the Persians, Daniel remained a distinguished advisor to the new Persian rulers.
This Friday, the 29th of Sivan, is an anniversary of sorts. On this date nearly 2,500 years ago, at the request of the Jews, Moses sent spies to traverse the Land of Canaan which had been promised to the Jewish nation by G-d. The spies spent 40 days exploring the Land; ten of the spies returned, spreading doubt as to whether they could conquer the Land and its mighty people.
Though G-d had promised the Jews that they would be successful in conquering all the nations of the Land of Canaan, the people believed the report of the spies. The entire generation remained in the desert for 40 years to expunge the slave mentality--the "exile" mentality--that had allowed the people to trust the spies' words over G-d's promise.
According to Chasidic teachings, the spies exaggerated the perils of the Land of Canaan for a seemingly commendable reason: They wanted to remain in the desert where all of their material needs were taken care of through daily miracles. They were able to devote themselves totally to Torah study and performance of mitz-vot without being "bothered" by such mundane pursuits as farming, trading, or building.
But there was a fundamental flaw in their thinking. G-d's purpose in creating this world was to make a dwelling place for Him in the physical world, to permeate the material with spiritual, to infuse mundane deeds with holiness.
It is said, "More difficult than it will be to take the Jews out of exile, it will be to take 'exile' out of the Jews." Like our ancestors in the desert, who failed to see the holy purpose in the creation of the physical, we, too, often fail to understand how this mundane, physical world can become a receptacle for G-dliness, as it will be in the Era of the Redemption.
Maimonides says that Moshiach does not have to perform wonders, yet we expect there to be miracles heralding the Redemption. We cannot conceive of something so spiritual coming about in so natural a mannner.
But that is precisely what the Redemption will be, a total and revealed fusion of the material and spiritual. The Rebbe put it so succinctly when he said: "The only difference between our lives now and in the Era of the Redemption is that the G-dliness inherently within everything will be revealed for our eyes to behold."
Let us take the exile out of ourselves, ourselves out of exile, and stand ready to behold the magnificent sight of the revelation of G-d's presence in the entire world.
Rabbi Akiva began his study of Torah late in life, after his marriage to Rachel. One of his first teachers was the great scholar, Rabbi Tarfon. Years later when Rabbi Akiva himself became a great scholar, teacher and leader, Rabbi Tarfon became one of his colleagues. Their friendship remained a close one, and although Rabbi Akiva had been his student, Rabbi Tarfon now recognized the greatness of his former pupil and considered him an equal.
Rabbi Akiva devoted much of his energy to the mitzva of tzedaka, (charity) and the needs of the community were always on his mind. Rabbi Tarfon, however, was a very wealthy man, and although he gave the required amount to tzedaka, it bothered Rabbi Akiva that he didn't contribute an extra large amount, in keeping with his considerable wealth.
Rabbi Akiva didn't want to embarrass his friend and former teacher, and he couldn't say anything directly to such a respected Torah scholar, but he really wanted to show Rabbi Tarfon the way to increase in this great mitzva. So Rabbi Akiva thought and thought about how he could influence Rabbi Tarfon in a gentle and indirect way to give more money to the poor. Finally he came up with a plan.
Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Tarfon often studied Torah together, basking in each other's vast erudition and profound thoughts. One day, after their study session, Rabbi Akiva said to Rabbi Tarfon, "I have just heard of an excellent offering which is available now. If you would like, I can purchase for you one or two townships and their surrounding fields which have become available."
Rabbi Tarfon was pleased to hear about such a good investment, and he authorized Rabbi Akiva to be his agent in the purchase. "Why, that would be a wonderful investment. If I have an easy, regular income I will be able to devote even more of my precious time to the study of Torah. Yes, please, see to this deal for me." Rabbi Tarfon gave Rabbi Akiva four thousand gold dinars to buy one of the townships.
Rabbi Akiva was overjoyed with this windfall. He immediately distributed the money to many poor people. He was especially anxious to pay the poor teachers who taught the children of their equally poor fellow Jews. These dedicated teachers often went for long months, suffering great deprivation, while refusing to forsake their young pupils. Rabbi Tarfon's gold went far in alleviating the terrible want amongst the poor, and their Torah study flourished like a parched plant after a summer rain.
Some time later Rabbi Tarfon met with Rabbi Akiva and asked him, "Did you ever purchase that township we spoke of?"
"Yes, I bought it," replied Rabbi Akiva.
"I'm anxious to know about it. Was it as good a deal as you had thought? Was it worth the four thousand dinars?" asked Rabbi Tarfon.
"It was a great bargain. I'm more than pleased at the value. If you like, I can take you around and show it to you," offered Rabbi Akiva.
Rabbi Tarfon was very interested in inspecting his new property, and the two men left together. But instead of taking him to a distant township, Rabbi Akiva led Rabbi Tarfon to one of the local study halls which dotted the town. "Why have you brought me here?" asked Rabbi Tarfon in surprise. "I want to go now and inspect the town you purchased for me."
"Rabbi, your 'town' is here. This is your 'town,'" said Rabbi Akiva, pointing to a Book of Psalms which was held by a small boy. He asked the child to read from the Psalms and he chose the line, "He has given freely; he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever...".
Rabbi Tarfon looked at his friend and colleague, his former pupil, and he understood that Akiva had taught him an invaluable lesson. Rabbi Tarfon was a humble man and was willing to accept Rabbi Akiva's reproof. And he understood the sensitivity and gentleness with which Akiva had delivered the rebuke.
Rabbi Tarfon put his arms around Rabbi Akiva in a warm embrace. "You are my teacher and my master. You are my teacher in wisdom, for you have shown yourself to be wiser than I; and you are my master in the art of instruction, for you have taught me the proper way to rebuke another without shaming him." Rabbi Tarfon learned his lesson well, and from that day forth, he hand was wide open to the needs of the poor.
Who is strong? He who subdues his inclination (Ethics 4:1)
Rabbi Nachman of Breslov used to say: The Good Inclination is the same in every individual, but the Evil Inclination is different in everyone, according to a person's stature. The greater he is, the stronger will be his desire to sin.
This Mishna may also be applied to the Good Inclination, explained Rabbi Berenyu Leviyer. One must take care to avoid flaunting one's Good Inclination to others, or taking pride in how pious he is!
Rabbi Shimon said there are three crowns: the crown of Torah, the crown of the priesthood, and the crown of kingship. But the crown of a good name surpasses them all (Ethics 4:13)
Why does Rabbi Shimon say there are three crowns, and then enumerate four?
A crown is a mark of recognition which someone earns due to certain accomplishments. When one wears a crown, he receives honor and respect from other people. However, one may be a scholar or active in communal life, but if his behavior is lacking he will have a bad reputation.
In reality, Rabbi Shimon says, there are only three crowns, but we must remember that a crown beautifies a person only if, on top of it, he also enjoys a good name.
(Lubavitcher Rebbe, shlita)
The "crown of a good name" seems to refer to something external, not reflective of a person's true essence, for we see that an individual may enjoy a good reputation without it being deserved. Why then is it considered even greater, literally "over and above" the first three?
The "crown of a good name" only applies when someone is truly worthy of the other three crowns. It is therefore not considered a "crown" in its own right.
Every experience of personal redemption hastens the coming of the Final Redemption. Living in the spirit of the redemption and infusing that spirit into all the dimensions of our life experience, is not merely an individual matter, but affects the world in its totality, bringing the universal Redemption even closer.
(the Lubavitcher Rebbe)