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"Don't get so upset!" "Put a smile on your face." "Sha, sha. Don't cry. Everything will be okay."
It's hard to keep track of what the latest trend is in expressing or suppressing one's feelings or how deep one should (or must) dig in order to get to the essence of what one truly feels.
So what's a Jew to do when the Jewish month of Adar begins and we're told that the standard "Serve G-d with joy" and "It is a great mitzva to be continually joyous" is supposed to be intensified?
Yes, you read correctly, pretend as if you are really happy. You'll be amazed at the results.
A Chasid wrote to the Tzemach Tzedak (the third Rebbe of Chabad) and told him that it was difficult for him to attain a level of "joy."
The Rebbe answered: "Thought, speech and actions (the three 'garments of the soul') are the three main parts of a person's behavior, and he was given control over what he thinks, speaks and does according to his desire.
"A person must guard what he thinks, thinking only thoughts that cause joy; he must keep away from speaking about matters that are sad and depressing; and he must act as if he has a full and joyous heart, to show joyous mannerisms even if that is not how he feels at the moment. Ultimately it will be this way in actuality."
In a similar vein, a Chasid came to the Alter Rebbe asking how he could help a fellow Jew who made out as if he were pious but was actually quite a sinner.
The Alter Rebbe declared: May the words of the Mishnah be fulfilled upon him!"
The Chasid was taken aback. He had hoped for some practical and pleasant advice. Not what seemed to be a curse!
Then the Alter Rebbe explained: "The Mishna says that a person who pretends to be a pauper but is not will ultimately become a pauper. So, too, this man who pretends to be pious but is not should ultimately become pious!"
As indicated in both of these stories, the initial step to being happy is even to go so far as to pretend we are happy even if we are not. Eventually, the play-acting will no longer be acting but actual.
This "put on a happy face" attitude encompasses our religious duties but extends to our interaction with others, as well.
Judaism teaches "Receive all people happily" and "Receive all people with a cheerful countenance." Receiving people happily is an inward expression of one's feelings. Even if we aren't inwardly, genuinely happy to see someone, at least we should greet them with a cheerful countenance, an external expression of joy.
"Even if your heart does not rejoice when someone visits you, pretend to be cheerful when he arrives," a great Sage once taught.
So, be happy, it's Adar. And even if you don't feel happy, fake it until you do!
As we read in this week's Torah portion, Teruma, the commandment to erect a Sanctuary to G-d was given to the Jewish people as a whole -- men, women, and, as explained in the Midrash, even young children -- regardless of their stature or level of knowledge.
"All Jews," Maimonides wrote, "are obligated to build and support it...both physically and through contributions; men and women, as they were required in the desert."
Upon reflection, this is an astounding requirement, taking into consideration the significance of the Sanctuary and the function it performed.
The erection of the Sanctuary marked a truly unique innovation, the institution of a phenomenon that had never existed before. For the first time in history, G-d's Divine Presence would dwell in a physical structure. But how could such a thing be possible? Or, as the prophet phrased it, "The highest heavens cannot contain You; how can this house?" Our astonishment is even greater when one considers that even the simplest Jew was called upon to effect this.
Furthermore, we learn from the verse, "And they shall bring to Me a contribution," that the contributions to the Sanctuary had to be made with a pure intent, solely for the glory of G-d's name. This highest level of service of G-d, on which a person "does the truth because it is true," is not something which is attained by all; in fact, our Sages commented that "not every wise man can merit it." How then could G-d have expected this level of service from each and every individual, without exception?
The answer lies in the essential change that took place in the nature of the Jewish people when the Torah was revealed on Mount Sinai.
At Sinai, G-d took the Jews, a "regular" people like any other, and transformed them into "a kingdom of priests and a holy nation."
Forever after, every Jew would be connected to G-d by virtue of his "pintele Yid," the essential spark of Jewishness that can never be obliterated.
Since Sinai, no Jew can cut himself off from G-d, no matter how hard he/she may try. The inner desire of every Jew is to fulfill G-d's command; if this basic truth is not reflected in his outward behavior, it is only because he has allowed himself to be influenced by the Yetzer Horah (Evil Inclination).
Moreover, we are promised that "A person who serves G-d with an ulterior motive will eventually come to serve Him for the sake of His name." For, in truth, there are no ulterior motives, as the Jew's inner desire is solely to serve The Creator and carry out His will.
Thus every Jew, even the most untutored, has been given the power to build a Sanctuary in which G-d can dwell in the physical world. For the mere fact that he possesses a Jewish soul places him on the highest of all possible spiritual levels.
Adapted from Sefer HaSichot of the Rebbe, 5752, Vol. 2
by Chaya Blitzer
Perhaps Shabbat should carry a warning label (to comply with "truth in packaging" laws) "WARNING! Following this commandment may be habit forming!" Well, Shabbat has turned out to be "habit forming" for me (as I'm certain it has for many others).
Following Shabbat "rules and regulations" was not something I plunged into all at once. First, I got my toes wet: not having been Shabbat observant at all, I first made a commitment not to do any shopping on Shabbat or handle money.
I also decided, whenever possible, to take a Shabbat walk, admiring the beauty of G-d's creations. In the fall, the loveliness of the gold and crimson leaves carpeted the streets. Winter brought the white landscape. Spring held the wonder of green and flowers returning, and summer Shabbat walks brought the marvelous summer warmth and the sun's radiance.
I could see and feel the impact of G-d everywhere -- in the face of a child, in the smile of an old person. So I got my "feet wet" and it felt good.
Having this success, I decided to move on to make Shabbat a day of reflection and study. Besides studying the readings traditionally read on Shabbat, I took delight in specific readings such as talks of the Rebbe -- a fascinating wide range of discourses on a myriad of religious topics. Or I would study the Ethics of the Fathers, the Book of Proverbs, or Psalms.
It felt so calm and peaceful, this regeneration of my soul and spirit, that I looked forward to Shabbat more and more.
I remember one particularly trying, nerve-wracking week, filled with a great amount of aggravation and tension. Several days before Shabbat, I found myself craving its utter peace and tranquillity. I could not wait for Shabbat to arrive. As the tension of the week increased, I began visualizing Shabbat's arrival, how I would light the glowing candles, and the deep peace I would feel. That seemed to get me through Thursday and Friday.
What kept me calm was the wonderful thought that once Shabbat would (G-d willing) arrive, it would be like a protective fortress through which no troubling thoughts, phone calls or mail could penetrate to touch that wonderful tranquillity.
That Friday, I rushed home to prepare for Shabbat. I could almost feel the peace and calmness as soon as I entered my home. After preparation, saying the prayer and lighting the candles, I greeted Shabbat and Shabbat "greeted me" with comforting arms. The "fortress" was completed, and I found the deepest peace I had ever felt.
G-d had provided a haven for me in my own home. Even more, I actually believe that G-d had given me that very upsetting week just so I would come to appreciate the wonderful peace and tranquillity that is provided by Shabbat. G-d created night so that we could appreciate the light. Sometimes we need contrasts so that we will learn to cherish the important things in life.
At a wonderful talk I attended given by the internationally acclaimed make-up artist, Ilana Harkavy, I learned that as a Baalat Teshuva, she had also learned to appreciate Shabbat. She told us that it "recharged her batteries," and during a hectic week, she can stand any amount of fatigue, as long as she can look forward to Shabbat.
My tension-filled week was a turning point for me, for I had truly become a "Shabbat Junkie." I looked forward to Shabbat more and more, and could comfortably withstand a lot more during the week knowing what was in store.
I soon "graduated": I decided if getting my "toes wet" felt so good, why not take more of a "plunge"? So, I made the commitment not to put lights on or off on Shabbat. The first time I tried this, I was not aware of how strong basic reflexes are. I found myself automatically reaching for a light switch and, several times, before I was fully aware of it, I had flipped on the light. I was upset about this, but my Rebbetzin gave me good advice -- to affix pieces of cardboard over the light switches on Friday afternoons.
I had fun doing this, as I drew some Jewish stars on the various pieces of cardboard with other embellishments. On Friday afternoons I put up the "Shabbat guards." It worked!
Yes, I have learned that Shabbat is indeed habit forming. But it is such a wonderful habit, I do not ever wish to be cured of it. I am proud to be a "Shabbat Junkie," who needs a "fix" once a week to keep me going!
Reprinted from the N'Shei Chabad Newsletter.
Increase in Joy!
This joy will be increased by our fulfillment of the special directives for the month of Adar, to help our fellow Jews in both spiritual and material affairs: to teach a new Torah concept that they had not previously known (or to reveal additional depth in a concept with which they were already familiar), and to afford them material assistance. Fulfilling these directives will increase their happiness and thus, increase G-d's happiness, as it were.
From letters of the Lubavitcher Rebbe
15 Cheshvan, 5733
This is to acknowledge receipt of your correspondence.
You write that you would love to learn what it means to walk in the presence of G-d, etc. I trust that you know of the so-called Seven Commandments given by G-d to Noah and his children.
- the establishment of courts of justice;
- the prohibition of blasphemy;
- of idolatry;
- of incest;
- of bloodshed;
- of robbery;
- of eating flesh cut from a living animal.
These Seven Commandments which G-d gave to the children of Noah, i.e. to all mankind, are the basic laws, with far-reaching ramifications, which embrace the whole life of society as well as of the individual, to ensure that the human race will be guided by these Divine laws of morality and ethics, and that human society will indeed be human, and not a jungle.
To be sure, Jews, the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, were later given many more Divine commandments which obligate them, but not the rest of mankind.
However, this in no way diminishes the fact that gentiles can and must attain complete fulfillment through the observance of the above- mentioned Seven Commandments of man, with all their ramifications, for, inasmuch as they are G-d-given, they provide the vehicle whereby to attain communion with G-d, and thus "walk ever in the presence of G-d," as you write in your letter.
I would like to make an additional essential point.
If there was a time when some intellectuals thought that there was no need to connect the laws of ethics and morality with Divine authority, inasmuch as these are rational principles, the fallacy of this thinking is now abundantly clear.
For we have seen, in our own day and age, a whole nation which had boasted of great philosophic advancement and ethical systems sink to the lowest depth of inhuman depravity and unprecedented barbarism.
And the reason for this was that they thought that they could establish a morality and ethics based on human reason, not subject to the authority of a Supreme Being, having themselves become a super race, as they thought. There is surely no need to elaborate on the obvious.
From what has been said above, it is clear that no individual can rest content with his own observance of the Divine Commandments, but it is his responsibility to his friends and neighbors, and society at large, to involve them in the observance of the Divine Commandants in daily life and conduct.
21 Kislev, 5733
I am in receipt of your letters of November 17th, etc, and may G-d grant the fulfillment of your heart's desire for good.
As for the matter of feeling depressed, etc., as you write, surely you know that one of the basic tenets of our faith and our Torah -- called Torat Emet, the Law of Truth -- is to have complete trust (bitachon) in G-d, Whose benevolent Providence extends to each and every one individually.
It is necessary to reflect on this frequently, for then, one can see that, being under G-d's benevolent care, there is no room for anxiety, or worry. This is why the Torah is called Torat Chayim, the Law of Life, for it is the Jew's guide in life.
And although in certain situations it is necessary to consult a doctor and follow his instructions, because the Torah expects a Jew to do everything necessary in the natural order of things, it is at the same time, necessary to have complete bitachon in G-d and exclude all anxiety.
It would be well to have your mezuzot checked to make sure they are kosher and properly affixed. Also, you no doubt know of, and observe, the good custom of putting aside a coin for tzedaka - charity before lighting the candles bli neder - without future commitment.
May G-d grant that you should have good news to report.
FRIDAY NIGHT LIVE
A weekly Shabbat event at Lenox Hill Neighborhood Association -- 331 E. 70th St. -- open to all Jewish couples, singles and families regardless of affiliation, features a Beginners' Service ushering in Shabbat with song and spirit.
No reservations are required for the 6:30 p.m. services.
An optional Shabbat meal at 7:30 follows the services and requires reservations and $18.
For more information call Chabad Lubavitch of the Upper East Side at (212) 717-4613.
It's Adar, be happy! This is the basic theme of the Jewish month in which we find ourselves. "When Adar begins, we increase in joy," our Sages teach.
But why should we be so happy just because it is Adar? In Adar we celebrate the joyous holiday of Purim, commemorating the time when the unity and prayers of the Jewish people brought about the nullification of Haman's wicked plan to annihilate the Jews.
Our Sages declared Purim a day of festivity and rejoicing; of sharing our joy with our fellow-Jews. As Purim is the central holiday of Adar and the "theme" of the month, the entire month is permeated with our pursuit of joy and happiness. The Talmud describes Adar as having "a healthy mazal."
It is a month which brings the Jewish people strength and true health. In the month of Adar, G-d's blessings for a good and sweet year are renewed, intensified, and increased. These provide more good reasons to rejoice!
In our day and age we have another reason to rejoice when Adar begins. Jewish teachings explain that "Joy breaks all boundaries." As we stand literally on the threshold of the long-awaited Redemption of the Jewish people and the entire world, the Rebbe has suggested that our every action be permeated with joy in the hope that this will break through the last boundaries of exile.
May the joy we experience in these, the last days of exile, hasten the coming of the ultimate joy, the coming of Moshiach. May we join one Redemption to another and connect the redemption of Purim to the Messianic Redemption. May it take place imminently.
Speak to the Children of Israel that they may bring Me a contribution... gold (zahav) and silver (kesef) and copper (nechoshet) (Exodus 25:2,3)
Our Sages explain that each of these metals is an acronym for a phrase which refers to a specific level of giving tzedaka:
Zahav: "Ze hanotein bari" -- "A healthy person who gives." On this highest level, a person gives tzedaka solely to fulfill G-d's commandment.
Kesef: "K'sheyesh sakanat pachad" -- "When there's danger or fear." On this level, a person gives tzedaka for his own personal gain, i.e., so that his merit will ward off an impending threat.
Nechoshet: "Netinat choleh she'omer tnu" -- "The giving of a sick person who says to give."
This is the lowest level, for the person gives tzedaka only as a last resort, when he himself is suffering.
And they shall make an ark of shittim wood, two-and-a-half cubits its length, one-and-a-half cubits its breadth, and one-and-a-half cubits its height (Exodus 25:10)
The dimensions of the ark were measured in "halves" to teach us that a Jew must be humble and "brokenhearted" when learning Torah, as the Talmud states (Sukka): "Words of Torah endure only in one who makes himself as if he does not exist."
(The Admor of Sasov)
And you shall make two cherubim (Exodus 25:18)
As Rashi explains, the wings of the baby-faced cherubim were spread over the ark which contained the Tablets of the Law. We learn from this that the continued existence and perpetuation of Torah depends on the "cherubim" -- the very youngest Jewish children who study Torah and follow its ways.
A contribution from every man whose heart prompts him (Exodus 25:2)
A very wealthy but extremely stingy man once came to Rabbi Shlomo of Radomsk for a blessing. As was customary, he enclosed a certain amount of money for tzedaka in his letter to the tzadik.
When Rabbi Shlomo refused to accept the money, his attendant was surprised. "Why wouldn't you take his contribution?" he asked him. Replied the tzadik with a smile, "Had you seen the look of joy on his face when I returned his money, you wouldn't ask me why I was unwilling to take it..."
When the construction of the new synagogue of the Belzer Rebbe, Reb Sholom, was well underway, the local gentile landowner decided that it was not fitting for a Jewish house of worship to have such prominence. He would show the Jews just what he thought about them and their religion by building a large, imposing church directly opposite their synagogue. He had the plans drawn up and when he was sure that his building would dwarf the Jewish structure, he began construction.
In case his intentions were not clear enough, he sent a message to the Rebbe: "I am the most powerful noble in Belz, comparable to Haman." To that message the Rebbe replied, "May your end be the same as his," and the construction continued on both buildings.
The conflict continued and escalated to the point that the young son of the noble accosted the Rebbe on the street and stuck a piece of pork in the tzadik's face demanding, "Eat this, Jew!" No sooner had the words left his mouth than the boy fell to the ground in a fit of uncontrollable shaking and in a matter of minutes was no longer alive. After that, the landlord was the implacable enemy of Reb Sholom.
As the shul neared completion, the nobleman saw that it would tower over every other structure in the vicinity. He gave orders that a high steeple be constructed on the roof of the church, and so the building "competition" continued from day to day. When Reb Sholom met the nobleman they exchanged words, and Reb Sholom replied, "With G-d's help, you will not be able to overcome me, nor will your building ever see completion."
G-d rules the world, and the word of a tzadik stands, and so, in time, it became public knowledge that the land on which the noble was spitefully constructing his church was not his. In fact, it belonged to a family of orphans who were contending in court for the property rights. The court battle raged on, but in the end, the land was put up for public sale. The nobleman was furious, and he made it known that nothing would prevent him from killing any Jew who dared to bid on the property.
Reb Sholom, however, was not deterred. He lost no time contacting a certain medical doctor in Vienna with whom he was on intimate terms. He requested that the doctor come to Belz for this special auction and purchase the land for whatever sum was necessary. And this the doctor did. Over the following few months, two handsome buildings were constructed at the behest of the Belzer Rebbe on that property.
The nobleman was also undeterred, and although the original property was no longer available, he began construction anew on a different, adjoining street. Once again, the gentile nobleman and the Rebbe were at odds over their construction sites.
Now, the festival of Passover was approaching, and the nobleman saw a good opportunity to get revenge on his rival. He issued a law forbidding the baking of matza in the area of Belz, on the pretext that there was a danger of fire.
Every year, the young students of the Belzer yeshiva were sent to surrounding towns and villages to celebrate the holiday with the Chasidim there who were able to provide them with their holiday needs. This year, though, the Rebbe decided that they would remain in Belz, being confident that he would be able to provide enough matzas for all.
Early one fine spring day, the nobleman decided to take his favorite horse out for a brisk trot. Suddenly the trail seemed too narrow and another rider appeared before him -- it was the count of another neighboring town, someone he had never held in much regard.
"Move aside!" he ordered. But the other nobleman took great offense.
"I will not move aside, Sir," he bellowed. An argument quickly flared up and within minutes the landowner from Belz was dead.
That Passover the Rebbe celebrated together with all the Jews of Belz and all the students of the yeshiva -- there was matza for all, and they weren't bothered by the arrogant, wicked landlord.
When Moshaich comes, the nations of the world will ask: "How did you merit such miracles and wonders?" And we will answer, "We merited them because of our simcha-happiness."