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Inconsistencies and incongruities seem to be part and parcel of our lives in these days leading into the new millennium.
We have previously unfathomable information literally at our fingertips via computers, yet we can wait weeks until the purchasing department approves an upgrade on those very same computers. We can take our phones everywhere and can talk to people anywhere, but we all know the frustration of a "busy" signal at the crucial moment.
Judaism has long acknowledged that there can be seeming inconsistencies and that those inconsistencies are alright.
For example, each Jew is a very distinct individual with his own mission and Divine service that he and only he can and must accomplish. And yet, he is also very much a part of a whole, a collection, one people, without whom the entire Jewish people are incomplete.
Concerning each individual's mission, Judaism explains that only a completely righteous individual knows where his mission is at every particular moment. Such an individual knowingly and purposefully seeks out those missions and accomplishes those acts destined for him and only him.
The rest of us, well, as the verse says, "G-d guides the steps of man." We often don't know why we've wound up in a certain place until, days, weeks, or even years later we pull some information or a name out of the recesses of our memory and use that information that we acquired "by coincidence" to help make the world a better place.
In the actual participation in mitzvot we see the importance of the individual as well as the collective group. When a person does a mitzva, he is doing that mitzva. No one else is doing it and no one else can be doing it for him. And yet, at the moment that he does a mitzva, he joins together with every other Jew who is also doing that mitzva individual doing a mitzva and ultimately, with the entire heritage of the Jewish people.
When a woman lights Shabbat candles, she -- the individual -- is connecting with and connected to women and girls around the globe who are lighting Shabbat candles and to women throughout Jewish history who have lit Shabbat candles since the times of our Matriarch Sara.
And when a man puts on tefilin, he -- the individual -- is connecting with and connected to men and boys around the globe who are putting on tefilin and to men throughout Jewish history who have put on tefilin since the times of our Patriarch Avraham.
This bond between individuals both here and there, both past and present, grants each individual the potential to carry out his service -- which effects himself, his family, the Jewish people and the entire world -- with renewed energy.
As we all continue to pursue and accomplish, knowingly or unknowingly, our individual divine missions, we ready ourselves for the time when the true meaning of an individual as an integral part of a whole will be realized. For, at the time of the Redemption and the ingathering of all Jews to the Holy Land of Israel a united and unified whole -- "a great congregation will return" -- of very different individuals -- "our sons and daughters, youth and elders" -- will return to the Holy Land.
The name of a Torah portion alludes to the common thread that runs through the entire narrative. Thus, although this week's Torah reading, Emor, contains many different ideas, the name itself is significant and expresses the central theme of all of them.
The literal meaning of the Hebrew word "emor" is "say." It implies an ongoing action, a perpetual commandment that applies in all places and in all times.
Emor teaches us that thought is not enough; a person must carry the thought process one step further and express what he is thinking in speech as well. Speaking requires the person to weigh and assess his thoughts, working them over in his mi nd until he comes to a satisfactory conclusion.
Yet why is merely thinking insufficient? Because as human beings, we cannot know what is going on in someone else's mind; if our thoughts are not expressed verbally, no one else can derive any benefit from them. Thus the Torah commands us to "say" -- to reveal our good thoughts and ideas, and to share them with our fellow man.
In accordance with the commandment "And you shall love your fellow Jew as yourself," a Jew is obligated to share whatever good he possesses with others. Good thoughts, thoughts that have meaning and significance, are in this category, for expressing them can bring enjoyment, enlightenment and encouragement to our fellow Jew.
The way in which our thoughts are expressed is also important. The Jew is required to convey them in an effective and pleasant manner so they will have the desired effect on the listener.
Significantly, the name of the Torah portion is "Emor," "Say," and not "Daber" -- "Speak." "Daber" is a harsher term, implying the use of strong language to convey a point. "Emor," by contrast, implies a softer kind of speech, and a more pleasant way of communicating.
The commandment to reveal our thoughts to our fellow man and exert a positive influence on others must be carried out in a tender and loving manner. Threats and intimidation have no place in the Jew's vocabulary. Every Jew without exception is worthy of being addressed with affection and respect, for all possess the same Divine spark, the Jewish soul, a "veritable part of G-d above."
Adapted from Hitva'aduyot of the Rebbe, 5742
Being a Therapist
by Chana Shloush
In her pastel Crown Heights kitchen, I spoke with Regine (Reggie) Podrizki where I had a glimpse not only of Manhattan's Twin Towers but of the life and mind of a Lubavitcher psychologist.
Reggie was born in Europe after World War II to Holocaust survivors. Her family's frequent moves (mostly in the western U.S.) kept her from developing her first love -- tennis -- of which she had long hoped to become a professional. She met Chabad on her college campus in southern California, and after earning a degree in social work, Reggie came to Crown Heights to study at Machon Chana Women's Yeshiva and to work.
After a few years Reggie became dissatisfied with the social work she was doing. "Several people had encouraged me to become a psychotherapist, but I shied away from it for years because of the tremendous responsibility it represented," she admitted. Finally she wrote to the Rebbe. His answer: Become a therapist.
"Even after I got the answer, it still took me another year and a half to accept that responsibility and begin studying," she said.
Reggie's course work at the New York School for Psychoanalytical Psychotherapy in Manhattan involved six and a half years of "hard, but very rewarding" work. Requirements included two years of supervised therapist work, a case study, and personally undergoing psychoanalysis. Her credentials enable her to provide treatment on an in-depth level. "The training gives the therapist the ability to understand problems at their source as opposed to working on the behavior modification level, which deals with immediate change but where the undesirable behavior might return," Reggie explained.
(Reggie also published "A First Interview with a Child Survivor of the Holocaust," a chapter in the book Children During the Nazi Regime by Judith S. Kestenberg and Eva Fogelman, Praeger Press.)
One of her most satisfying experiences as a therapist has been her work with a teen-age girl from a rabbinical Orthodox family. The girl had had tremendous battles with her mother. After meeting with Reggie for a year and a half, "she actually looks up to her mother and even praises her," Reggie said. "Her mother is thoroughly happy with the change."
Reggie believes that due to widespread misconceptions, many observant Jews who could benefit from therapy are not taking advantage of the opportunity. "The fact is, Torah and psychology are merely two different levels of reality. Torah is your "derech", your path and goal in life. Psychotherapy attempts to help your understand how you are experiencing your life as you strive toward your goals. You hold up a mirror to yourself. Did you pick the right profession? Are you dealing with friends and family in a good way, or do you need to change either your ways of relating or your friends?
Once you understand what you are experiencing on a deeper level, you can make tremendous inroads to achieve a more satisfying life. Of course, therapy is not magic. No one can turn a watermelon into a pretzel. But a lot of good growth changes can occur.
"You can't work with your own unconscious mind, though. You need a neutral person outside of yourself to help. Once upon a time, religion blocked psychology because it contained anti-religious elements. Today therapists -- especially observant ones -- have been able to weed out those negative elements. If the therapist is empathetic to Torah, you will not be talked out of serving Hashem," Reggie explained.
Reggie, herself single, feels that being unmarried is one of the innumerable obstacles G-d throws in an individual's path so one will exert one's strengths. Prolonged singlehood can be due to exposure to less than ideal childhood conditions and may require years of intervention. Stigma is counterproductive. It punishes the person who has already had a hard time, she said.
I asked Reggie how parents can help their children have emotionally healthy childhoods. "Routine is very important for kids," she said. They crave it, they hate surprises. They need a safe environment and acknowledgment from their parents. You don't necessarily have to tell them that you love them 24 hours a day as long as you give them the sense that you are there to help and care very much about them. If you are providing that much as a parent, you're probably doing fine.
Must a therapist be a perfect person? No, says Reggie, a therapist is an imperfect individual can be objective in helping another person to understand his or her life experiences. It is based on sensitivity, maturity, and training.
No matter how much we can understand another person, there will always be an element of mystery. "We're each here to fulfill a mission. No one can totally know where anyone else is really at inside. The Rebbe respected everyone, as should we.
Reprinted from Machon Chana Connection
Eat Matza... Again!
On the first Passover that the Jews were in the desert some were unable to offer the Pascal sacrifice as they had become ritually impure. They asked G-d to allow them to bring the sacrifice one month later, on 14 Iyar. G-d permitted this extension. Today, to commemorate this "Second Passover" and our "second chance" we eat matza on 14 Iyar (this year Friday, May 3).
Official free translation
On the third day -- twice blessed with "It was good" of weekly portion of Counting the Omer, 5735 
To the Sons and Daughters of Our People Israel, Everywhere G-d bless you--
The auspicious day of Lag B'Omer is approaching, the day of Rabbi Shimon Ben Yochai's [known as "Rashbi"] simcha [rejoicing]; the day of which it is said: "On this day it is a mitzva to celebrate Rashbi's simcha, and for those living in the Holy Land -- to go to his grave and rejoice there greatly.
This year Lag B'Omer significantly occurs on (Tuesday) the day on which the Creator expressed His special satisfaction by repeating "it was good" twice -- an allusion to two "goods": good to Heaven and good to the creatures.
It is, therefore, surely an auspicious time -- the day of Lag B'Omer itself, as well as the days immediately preceding and following it, which respectively serve as preparation for, and first-fruits of, Lag B'Omer -- to rejoice greatly with the simcha of mitzvot, especially mitzvot that combine both "goods," good to Heaven (man's duties to G-d) and good to the creatures (man's duties to man).
This includes, of course, the mitzva of encouraging Jews to do mitzvot (or do them more devoutly), as this effort of spreading the observance of any mitzva is also an act of loving-kindness.
And since influence in this direction generally -- indeed, inevitably -- involves quoting words of Torah and instructing in the laws of the particular mitzva, it comes under the mitzva of Torah-learning and teachings.
Thus both -- the effort to encourage Jews to do mitzvot, and the manner of this effort -- are mitzvot of "good to the creatures."
Hence it is an opportune occasion to remind everyone again and again, what has been urged for some time now, in regard to active promotion of the observance of mitzvot. Indeed, in light of the relevancy to Rashbi and Lag B'Omer, the special Mitzva Campaigns which have been stressed lately* assume an added significance, as follows:
Torah Campaign -- since the Torah was the vocation of Rashbi and his colleagues;
Tefilin Campaign -- concerning which it is said in Rashbi's Book, the Zohar, that tefilin is a G-dly crown, and one who adorns himself with this "Supernal Sacred Crown" is given the title of King of the Earth, companion to the King in Heaven, the Holy One blessed be He.
Mezuza Campaign -- the Zohar says: When a person affixes a Mezuza at the entrance to his house... he adorns himself with his Master's crown and keeps evil things away from his door.
Tzedaka Campaign -- of which it is said in the Zohar: whoever shows heartfelt compassion for the poor... rules over all creatures of the world.
House Filled with Sacred Books -- of Torah and Tefila (Prayer) -- of which it is said in the Zohar that studying Torah and worshipping G-d command everybody's respect and awe.
Candle-lighting to usher in the holy Shabbat -- of which Rashbi declares that it is a sublime honor for her (who lights the candles)... to be blessed with children... who will foster peace on earth, etc.
May G-d grant that through the said activities, in the spirit of all that has been said above, and within the framework of commitment to Torah and mitzvot in the daily life, beginning with the Torah Campaign (both the Revealed and Inner Torah ), thereby removing the cause of the protracted Exile, namely, bitul Torah (neglect of Torah) -- we will see the realization of "G-d is my King since the days of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth,"
And will soon merit the true and complete Redemption through the Melech HaMoshiach;
Then it will come to pass that "None shall any more have to teach the other... for all will know Me" which Rashbi explains: Because everyone will be filled with the spirit of wisdom and understanding, counsel and valor, knowledge and fear of G-d.
Note: In subsequent years the Rebbe added the following Mitzva Campaigns: Family Purity and Kashrut in 1975; Love of a Fellow Jew and Jewish Education for Children in 1976; Letter in a Torah Scroll in 1981; Study of Maimonides' Mishna Torah in 1984; intensification of the Moshiach Campaign in 1991.
NEW WOMEN'S YESHIVA IN TORONTO
In addition to Chabad-Lubavitch Women's Yeshivot in Melbourne, Australia; Johannesburg, South Africa; Bournemouth, England; Kfar Chabad and Sefat, Israel; Montreal, Canada; and Brooklyn, New York, Machon B'not Menachem has opened in Toronto, Canada. This newest seminary will draw on students from around the world as well as from local women in the community.
As in previous years, parades and outdoor events in honor of Lag B'Omer will take place this Tuesday (May 7) around the world. Organized by local Chabad-Lubavitch Centers, programs usually include live, family entertainment, bonfires and an all-around good time for all. Traditionally, the largest parade is in Jerusalem, where school children from around the country come to participate in this annual event.
THE JEWISH SOUND
With the motto, "If it sounds Jewish... it's the Jewish sound" Rabbi Nechemia Vogel of Chabad of Rochester, NY features a Jewish radio show from 10:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m. on Friday mornings. Located at 88.5FM, the show features Jewish music, philosophy and folklore. Tune in this week to the Jewish Sound.
This coming Tuesday, on the 18th of Iyar (May 7, 1996) we celebrate Lag B'Omer.
Lag B'Omer is especially known for two historic events which happened on that day. On Lag B'Omer, the deadly plague which had attacked the students of Rabbi Akiva ceased. Years later, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai passed away on Lag B'Omer.
The Rebbe has often emphasized a point concerning the plague which effected Rabbi Akiva's students that is always appropriate to repeat: Our Sages teach that the plague was caused by a lack of respect of one student for another. We need to realize that these students were not just your average people. They were great scholars who merited to be designated as the great Rabbi Akiva's students. Thus, not only had they reached a certain level of Torah knowledge, they were also shining examples of how one Jew should interact with another.
This is especially true considering the fact that one of Rabbi Akiva's most well-known teachings was "Love your neighbor as yourself."
In this area of interpersonal interaction then, any minute flaw was all the more glaring. What is meant by stating that there was a lack of respect for one another? Each student believed that what he believed to be the way to approach Torah, mitzvot and G-dly service were the correct way. Out of each student's tremendous love for his fellow Jew he tried to convince his colleagues that this particular path was the path, disregarding his colleague's opinion. This shows a lack of respect, for the Talmud teaches us that every single individual has his own opinion.
This is the lesson we must learn today when, as is expected, each Jew has his own opinion about every issue great and small. We must accept that the other person has a different opinion. We cannot show any lack of respect for our fellow Jew s imply because he has another opinion. Even if his opinion is diametrically opposed to ours, we must respect him -- not necessarily his opinion but him -- and treat him accordingly.
In the merit of this respect may we behold the revelation of Moshiach immediately.
"Ben Zoma said: Who is wise? He who learns from every person, as it is stated: 'From all those who have taught me I have gained wisdom...'" (Ethics of the Fathers 4:1)
In order to learn, a person does not have to be a sage -- every person should learn. A wise person is not merely one who learns, but rather one who sees something positive in every person, and from him, he learns that positive quality.
(Likutei Diburim )
One must learn from every person, even from one's inferiors. This indicates that a person's wisdom is for the sake of Heaven, and not in order to become vain and conceited.
"He [Ben Azzai] used to say: Do not regard anyone with contempt, and do not reject anything, for there is no man who does not have his hour and no thing which does not have its place." (4:3)
There is no man who does not have his hour when circumstances favor him. Similarly, there is nothing which does not have its place which the Holy One has designated as its proper place. All creatures and every single detail of creation forms the totality and completeness of the world. Accordingly, one may not despise any person or any thing in the world.
(Maharal of Prague)
"Rabbi Yochanan HaSandlar said: Every assembly which is for the sake of Heaven will endure, but that which is not for the sake of Heaven will not endure." (4:11)
The purpose of a gathering should not be to secure the victory of one's own opinion, for in this case, each member of the group will want his opinion to be accepted, and the truth will be ignored.
Rather, the purpose of the gathering should be "for the sake of Heaven" -- to clarify the matter and discover the truth. Then the purpose of the assembly will be successful.
The following story happened about four hundred years ago in the town of Cracow, which, at that time, had one of the most important Jewish communities.
The Jews were mourning the loss of their spiritual leader, and decided that for a community like theirs no ordinary Rabbi would suffice. Two delegates were chosen to tour the country and find a suitable replacement to serve as their rabbi.
After visiting many big towns and large Jewish communities, they at last heard of a young man who was said to be the "star of the age," a veritable genius. They lost no time in contacting this exceptional young man and found him to be an eighteen-year-old rabbi by the name of Rabbi Moshe.
Despite his tender years, they were immediately impressed with his brilliant scholarship, his gentle bearing and his humility. They were convinced that he was the man they were looking for and they finally got him to agree to become the spiritual guide and leader of their Jewish community to make the necessary arrangement for his reception.
At that time in Cracow it was the custom, a sort of courtesy gesture, for the Jews to call on the bishop of the town and tell him of the Rabbi they had chosen for their community.
Thus it was that a suitable delegation called upon the Bishop of Cracow and, in the most glowing terms, described the Rabbi they had been fortunate enough to find to become the spiritual leader of the Jews of Cracow. The bishop was visibly impressed with their description of Rabbi Moshe.
The delegates lost no time in making all the necessary arrangements for Rabbi Moshe's coming. And when the date was set, they notified the bishop as they had promised him.
Being rather fond of pomp and ceremony, the bishop had commanded that a band go on foot in front of the carriages, so that the entry of Rabbi Moshe should be announced by the beating of drums and the blowing of trumpets.
At long last, the carriage of Rabbi Moshe appeared. The bishop already had a picture in his mind of a sage and a patriarch. He was shocked when out of the carriage stepped a lad, with hardly a suggestion of a beard, thin, small, and not particularly impressive.
Nevertheless, the bishop made his speech of welcome with as good a grace as he could muster, but inwardly he was seething with rage! He would show the Jews that they could not lightly play jokes on him, the Bishop of Cracow!
As soon as the bishop returned to his castle, he immediately sent a letter to the heads of the Jewish community saying he must see them at once. When they reached his home he told them that he was angry with them for having put him in so humiliating a position.
"Now I shall put a proposition before you which will decide the issue. If your rabbi is the great and wise person you would have me believe, he will have to prove it conclusively. I am going to invite all the sages and philosophers in the country to meet your rabbi. They shall ask him any question on any subject they please, and it will be up to him to give satisfactory answers. If, however, he fails in this public forum, not only will your rabbi suffer the consequences, but the whole Jewish community of Cracow will be driven out!
The Jewish leaders were miserable. Of course Rabbi Moshe was a great genius, but who could foresee what trouble lay ahead? They hurriedly told Rabbi Moshe, who said, "Do not worry, this is not the first time nor will it be the last, that such situations have arisen for us Jews. The Almighty will surely grant me the necessary wisdom to answer all questions put to me, so that our Jewish name not be put to shame."
The momentous day came. The hall was packed. Jew and non-Jew alike had the same interest. The greatest thinkers and scholars had come at the bishop's invitation: bishops, priests, scientists, all were there that day!
Rabbi Moshe looked pale but calm. His gentle eyes glowed with a light of determination. With G-d's help, all would be well.
Rabbi Moshe faced his examiners and the questions began to pour forth. But he was not flustered. His answers came unhesitatingly, clearly and concisely. There was not a sound among the vast audience. As the hours passed and Rabbi Moshe emerged the victor, the bishop announced that the forum would be adjourned. The bishop apparently concluded that his own honor had been upheld, and that they had indeed a remarkable genius before them in the person of the youthful Moshe.
The bishop again made a public speech, this time with obvious pleasure. He said that the city of Cracow, and indeed the whole country, could regard it as an honor to have so distinguished a scholar among them. He would regard it as a privilege to call upon Rabbi Moshe from time to time. The bishop concluded with the hope that Cracow would always be blessed with such great spiritual leaders and that the citizens of Cracow would live together in peace.
Rabbi Moshe was none other than the great Rabbi Moshe Isserles, known as the Ramo, who passed away on Lag B'Omer.
With the Melave Malka meal at the close of Shabbat, the Sabbath Queen is escorted on her way. This meal nourishes the luz bone, and from this bone the body will be reconstituted at the time of the Resurrection.
(Prayerbook of Rabbi Yaakov Emden)