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by Dovid YB Kaufmann obm
The next few weeks are busy travel times. Whether the travel is for visiting family or taking a vacation, for business or going to or from university.
With travel comes inconvenience. Packing, tickets, transportation to and from the transportation, hotel or other accommodations, schedules, maps, food, itineraries and someone or something getting lost.
Then there's security. Or insecurity. Passports, picture id's, screeners, (mis)handlers - as if traveling wasn't risky enough. Somehow it seems more dangerous to be on the road - or in the air - than scooting around town.
Whether we like to travel or find it a nuisance, we try to take proper precautions and we hope that whoever's driving (or flying) is driving safe. Travel's not by horse and wagon (though sometimes it may feel that way), but there's still plenty to worry about.
With all the precautions taken on a physical level, though, we often don't concern ourselves with precautions on a spiritual level - other than perhaps a heartfelt yet fearful prayer on takeoff and a heartfelt and relief prayer of thanks on landing.
One reason for this neglect is that we think we're traveling for our purposes - whether business or pleasure. If a person is traveling pursuing his or her own affairs, then, in a sense, what does G-d care? But if we're not just traveling for ourselves, we're traveling (at least also traveling) to fulfill one of G-d's commandments, then our going and coming just might (no guarantees) merit extra spiritual protection.
One of the universal commandments - a Divine decree applicable to all humanity - is charity - tzedeka in Hebrew. Thus there is a Jewish custom - but it's a custom that everyone can adapt - of designating a dollar or some coins as "charity travel money." This money - it doesn't have to be a lot - is given to a charity once the destination is reached.
So even if you're going on vacation for yourself, you're also going to deliver charity, which G-d wants and needs you to do, to your destination city. G-d goes with you, so to speak.
It's even better if a third party participates, so that you're actually a messenger. So if a friend or family member is going on a vacation or a business trip, why not give them a dime or a dollar, and ask them to deliver to some charity upon their arrival?
This week's portion, Toldot, tells us of Isaac's blessing to Jacob: "May G-d (Elokim) give you from the dew of the heavens and the fat of the land, and abundance of grain and wine."
This blessing is unusual in that the name of G-d used here is Elokim. Most blessings in the Torah are given using G-d's name Havaya (spelled with the Hebrew letters yud, hay, vav and hay).
Every name of G-d represents a different expression of His energy in the world. The name Elokim represents strength, discernment and discipline. The name Havaya represents kindness, and an unbridled flow of G-d's creative energy that makes existence possible.
So, we would think that blessings should come from kindness rather than discipline. Surely, a blessing that derives from strength coupled with discipline would be less powerful than one that stems from kindness. However, the opposite is true. The energy and life force that we receive from strength is greater because it is passionate and therefore unlimited.
According to Kabala, Abraham's attribute was kindness, Isaac was strength and Jacob was harmony or truth. In Abraham's lifetime, the G-dly blessings were according to his attribute and his mode of service, hence the name of Havaya appears in those blessings. After Abraham's passing, the blessings started to come in accordance with Isaac's attribute and his mode of service, hence the use of the name Elokim.
After the passing of Abraham we are told "And Elokim blessed Isaac his son."
Nevertheless, we read in our portion of the lengths Jacob went to, doing things that were against his nature, just to secure Isaac's blessings. If he already had G-d's blessing, why did Jacob want Isaac's blessings so badly? Because Isaac's blessing of "May Elokim give you from the dew of the heavens. . ." was much more powerful even than the ones he had received directly from G-d!
We are Jacob's descendants, and we have been given the ability to have an amazing effect on the world around us. What gives us the ability to have such a profound effect on the world? It is because we have Isaac's powerful blessings from the name Elokim.
This is what it means when it says, "through him (Abraham) the nations of the world will be blessed." That we, the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, will finish the mission that they started, change the world for good and bring Moshiach.
May we all enjoy the simple meaning of Isaac's blessings, "May G-d give you from the dew of the heavens and the fat of the land, and abundance of grain and wine." Together with every other blessing, including nachas, good health and abundance. And especially the greatest blessing, the coming of Moshiach. May he come soon.
Adapted by Rabbi Yitzi Hurwitz from the teachings of the Rebbe, yitzihurwitz.blogspot.com. Rabbi Hurwitz, who is battling ALS, and his wife Dina, are emissaries of the Rebbe in Temecula, Ca.
Tefilin Vignettes at the Kotel
by Gutman Locks
They were visiting from America. When they walked into the Kotel (Western Wall) area Yussi tried to get them but the father refused. He motioned to me to try.
"Hi, where are you from?"
"What are you doing in Israel?"
Pointing to the boy, "Yesterday was his Bar Mitzvah."
"Oh, Mazal Tov. Did you put on tefillin today?"
"Did you put on tefillin today?"
I was holding the tefillin in my hand. "Come I'll show you."
"What are they?"
"It's a Biblical commandment to the Jewish man. We are told to take G-d's words and bind them for a sign on our arms and for a reminder between our eyes. It means that we will do what G-d told us to do and we will think about what G-d told us to think about. We have been doing it for thousands of years."
"We don't have time."
"It'll only take a minute. Come, I'll show you. Are you right-handed?"
I helped him to roll up his sleeve.
I asked the boy how old he was. He said thirteen.
"Did you put on tefillin for your Bar Mitzvah?"
He said that he didn't.
"Come, you can do it too."
After they read the Shema in English I told them, "Now for the most important part of the mitzvah. Whenever you do a mitzvah, whenever you fulfill a commandment, a special opportunity comes. It's as if G-d is listening with both ears. Close your eyes and picture everyone you love one at a time with light on their faces and smiling and ask G-d to bless them. Ask Him to guide you in your life... to protect the Jews in danger... don't forget to thank Him for all the good that He has given you. Take a couple of minutes and talk to G-d."
When they finished praying I had the father put his right hand on the boy's head and repeat the blessing that the Kohen gives to the congregation and then to add his personal prayers for the boy. I told them that it was their double Bar Mitzvah as it was the first time they had ever put on tefillin.
As you can see from their faces they had a great time. It turned what was going to be a tourist sightseeing trip to an ancient Wall, into a Jewish father and son spending a few minutes opening their hearts, speaking quietly to Hashem. It certainly was the most meaningful part of their trip to Israel.
Thank G-d someone was there to help them.
Shmuli pointed to two guys sitting over to the side and said, "They're Israelis. The one on the left is living in Hawaii. He said that he put on tefillin today, but I doubt it, and the second one refused. Maybe you can get them."
I walked over and asked, "Which Island are you living on?"
"By Makena Beach"
"No. On the other side."
"Over by the waterfalls?"
"Yeah, close to them."
He was impressed that I knew the Island. Not so many ultra-religious-looking Jews know Maui.
They were coming from India, having visited their guru. Such Israelis are very difficult to convince to do anything at all with the Torah. They have already strongly rejected it for many years. They see the Torah as restrictive and their guru's teachings as enlightening. But due to my background I was able to get them both to put on tefillin and to pray deeply for the things they wanted to bring into the world.
After we took off the tefillin I said, "There are so many things that I would like to share with you but at least let me show you two major differences between the Torah's teachings and the way your guru thinks."
That put them on the defensive even more.
"Look at your body. It seems to be solid, but really it is some 99.9% empty space and zillions of molecules."
"And each molecule is made up of zillions of atoms and 99.9% empty space."
They were fine with that, too.
"And the atoms are made up of quarks, and then gluons, and on and on, smaller and smaller forms until you finally come to what the body is really being made of. Nothing! The entire creation is being made out of nothing."
"That's right," they insisted, "It's all an illusion!"
"That's one of the big differences I wanted to show you. Yes, it is being made out of nothing, and yes at any moment it might revert back to nothing, but right now it is something. It is a real creation, albeit temporary, and made out of nothing. The world has been created for a purpose; it is a holy opportunity if you use it right. It might be a delusion to most people, but it is not an illusion."
"No. It's nothing, a dream, an illusion. Like something being raised up by a magician's wand."
"No, it is a real creation. It is being put here for a purpose. Think about it for a while."
And the other thing I wanted to share with you is that G-d is Infinite."
"Of course, we know that."
"And the Infinite has to be all or else It would not be Infinite."
"The Infinite is all, but you are finite. You are not the Infinite."
"I am a part of the Infinite."
"No, the Infinite has no parts. It is always One."
"I am a piece of the Infinite."
"You cannot break off a piece of the Infinite. The Infinite is always One. It is All, and It is everywhere. You are not everywhere. Your guru says that he is a 'G-d realized being' so he is G-d. No. G-d is all. Your guru is not all. The Infinite is all including the finite, but the finite is not the all. The finite is just one little finite entity. Only the Infinite is G-d."
The information is in their heads now, and when they are ready it could very well help them to come home.
Gutman Locks is well-known at the Western Wall's Chabad Tefillin Booth for over two decades. With humor, warmth and love, he helps thousands of Jews try this mitzva. He is the author of several books, musical tapes and many educational videos.See more of his writings at www.thereisone.com
A new 11,000-square-foot shopping center in Livingston, New Jersey, is home to 15 storefronts, including a bank, pet shop and clothing store. There's a health center with a dentist and doctor's office and a ShopRite supermarket. But this shopping center is unique. It is LifeTown Shoppes, designed to help children and young adults with special needs practice doing everyday errands. The shopping center is part of the 53,000 square foot complex created by Rabbi Zalman and Toba Grossbaum, emissaries of the Rebbe in Livingston for 23 years. They are also the founders of the local branch of Friendship Circle, creators of LifeTown. The current facility, which includes a swimming pool, art gallery, dance studio and football field. LifeTown offers art, water, light, sound, sensory and occupational therapy to people with special needs.
Rosh Chodesh Kislev, 5734 
To All Participants in the Mortgage Repayment Celebration of The Rabbinical College of America
Greeting and blessing:
I am very pleased indeed to extend heartfelt congratulations and best wishes to the distinguished Dinner Chairman, Honorees and all participants in this memorable event.
Most significant in itself, the occasion is also highly symbolic in its ramifications.
The repayment of a mortgage signifies that the mortgagee has fully discharged his obligations and debt to the mortgager and is now in complete possession of the property.
Parallel with this type of financial mortgage there is another kind - a spiritual and moral "mortgage" incumbent upon every human being, in terms of obligations to the Creator and Master of the world as well as to fellow humans. For Jews, this "mortgage" encompasses every aspect of the daily life, as our Sages expressed it succinctly: "I was created to serve my Creator." This "mortgage" goes back to our first Patriarch, Abraham, of whom G-d said: "I have known (chosen) him because he will command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the Lrd, to do righteousness and justice." (Gen. 18: 19). This means - to put it quite simply - that we, all of us who are descendants of the First Jew, have mortgaged our children and our whole future in the said covenant. It obviously follows that everyone who is actively engaged in Jewish education, the kind of education that teaches our children and youths, and their children after them, to "keep the way of the Lrd" -is doing a very good job of "mortgage repayment."
Now that, thanks to the dedicated efforts of each and all of you, the mortgage of the Rabbinical College has been paid off, it will surely enable you - personally and jointly - to do even a better job of "mortgage repayment", by helping the Rabbinical College expand still further its facilities, increase its enrollment and generally upgrade the scope of its activities, both quantitatively and qualitatively.
May the Creator and Master or the World, the Source of All Blessings, grant you Hatzlocho [success] in all above, and bless each and all of you, and yours, in all needs, materially and spiritually, in a generous measure.
With esteem and blessing
Rosh Chodesh Kislev, 5733 (1972)
I duly received the telephone message as well as the letter in regard to your state of health, and I remembered you in prayer at the holy resting place of my father-in-law, of saintly memory, in accordance with the request.
From what I have been informed about your advancement in matters of Jewish observance, it is surely unnecessary to emphasize to you the importance of bitachon - complete trust in G-d - not just as an abstract belief, but in a way that truly permeates one's whole being. For, in addition to this being one of the very fundamentals of our faith and way of life, it is also a channel to receive G-d's blessings, especially for the success of the medical treatment, which has to be undertaken in the natural order, inasmuch as our holy Torah itself gives authority and power to doctors to heal and cure.
You surely also know that daily life, in accordance with the will of G-d, is the channel whereby Jews receive G-d's blessings in all their needs, and additional efforts in this direction bring additional Divine blessings.
In light of the above, I would also like to suggest that although it may involve inconvenience at this time, it would be well, if at all possible, that you, yourself should light the candles (well before sunset) on the eve of Shabbos, first reciting the blessing. Many also follow the custom of putting aside a few cents for tzedaka - charity - before lighting the candles. This should be done bli-neder - without future commitment, also making sure that no actual Sabbath desecration (G-d forbid) should be involved in this connection, either by the person lighting the candles or other members of the family. And since the mitzva of lighting the candles on Shabbos eve and Yom Tov eve has been given specifically to Jewish women, this mitzvah has a special merit and segula - indication for good - for Jewish women, and the Divine blessings that go with it. For this reason, this letter is being sent to you by Special Delivery, with a copy for Rabbi ........ to make sure it reaches you before Shabbos.
With prayerful wishes to you and kind regards to your husband,
AVNER means "father of light." Avner ben Ner (I Samuel 14:50) was the uncle of King Saul and commander of his army. According to the Midrash, Avner was so strong that "it would be easier for a person to move a wall six cubits thick than to move one of Avner's feet."
ASHIRA has two meanings. When spelled with an ayin (ò) it means "rich." When spelled an alef (à) the meaning is "I will sing."
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
In Chasidic circles, and particularly Chabad Chasidic circles, this month of Kislev is known as the "Month of Redemption" for it contains many events of good news and Redemptive qualities.
The first day of Kislev (Friday, November 29 this year) marks the anniversary of the Rebbe's first public appearance after a serious heart attack on Simchat Torah, 1977.
(Tragically, 1 Kislev is also the yartzeit of the Rebbe's emissaries Rabbi Gabi and Rivky Holtzberg, and four other holy Jews, who were murdered 11 years ago by terrorists at Chabad of Mumbai.)
Kislev 2 is the anniversary of the actual return of the holy books to their rightful owner - the library of Agudas Chasidei Chabad - following their illegal removal from the library. After a prolonged civil court-case, which decided to whom the library of the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe belonged, the verdict was rendered on the day when the Torah reading stated, "I shall return in peace to my father's house."
The ninth of Kislev is the birthday and anniversary of the passing of Rabbi Dov Ber, known as the Mitteler Rebbe. On the 10th of Kislev, one year before his passing, the Mitteler Rebbe was released from prison where he had been interred on false charges.
On the 19th of Kislev, Rabbi Shneur Zalman, the founder of Chabad, was released from Czarist imprisonment. During his interrogation, he impressed the investigators, including the Czar himself, with his wisdom, scholarship and piety. Thus, the entire Chasidic movement was exonerated and its teachings could be spread freely. Ever since, the 19th of Kislev has been celebrated as the "New Year of Chasidut."
Of course, last but not least, the holiday of Chanuka, begins on the 25th of Kislev (this year beginning Sunday evening, December 22). It, too, is a holiday of redemption. On Chanuka we thank G-d for the miracles and for redeeming them from the oppressive rule of the Greeks.
May this month truly be a month of redemption for the entire Jewish people, with the coming of Moshiach, NOW.
And Isaac entreated G-d on behalf of his wife, because she was barren (Gen. 25:21)
Isaac had an explicit promise from G-d that he would have children, as He had already assured Abraham that "by Isaac shall your seed be called"; that this had not yet been fulfilled was thus attributable to his wife. Isaac therefore prayed to G-d "on behalf of his wife" that the children should come from her.
(Maora Shel Torah)
One nation will be stronger than the other (Gen. 25:23)
Rashi comments: When one rises, the other falls. Jacob and Esau symbolize the struggle between the G-dly soul and the animal soul, between a person's good and evil inclinations. When a Jew's G-dly soul is dominant and exerts itself, there is no need to combat the animal soul - it "falls" by itself. Light does not have to fight darkness to illuminate - as soon as it appears, the darkness vanishes. So too, does the light of holiness dispel all evil.
And his hand was holding on to Esau's heel (Gen. 25:26)
Esau is symbolic of the animal soul and the yetzer hara (evil inclination); Jacob is symbolic of the G-dly soul and the yetzer tov (good inclination). The function of the G-dly soul is to perfect the physical body while guiding and correcting the animal soul, "holding on" as it directs it along the right path.
That my soul may bless you (Gen. 27:4)
Why did Isaac want to bless Esau instead of Jacob? Jacob was "a pure man, a dweller in tents (of Torah)" and even without a blessing he would stay away from evil. Esau, however, was very likely to fall into bad ways, and needed the assistance of his father's blessing.
And you shall stay with him a short time ... until your brother's fury turns away ... until your brother's anger turns away (Gen. 27:44, 45)
Rebecca advised her son Jacob what to do: "Run away to my brother Laban and wait until your brother gets over his anger. How will you know when that time has arrived and he is no longer angry at you? When you yourself stop holding a grudge against him." Rebecca understood the reciprocity of human emotions: Love is reciprocated with love, and hatred elicits a like response in others.
The Rebbe Maharash carefully scrutinized the chasid who had just entered his room for a private audience. "Tell me," he asked, "have you allotted time to learn Torah with others?"
The chasid shifted uneasily. A talented silversmith and skillful watchmaker, he had traveled for many days from his town, Vladimir, to be with the Rebbe, and this private audience was definitely the culmination of his visit.
No, he explained, he had not scheduled any learning sessions with others, but he was not to blame. He had just taken up residence in Vladimir and the Jewish population there was comprised of boors, through no fault of their own. They were descendants of the Cantonists - the Jewish children who had been brutally kidnapped from their grief-stricken parents to serve forcibly in the Czar's army, eventually forgetting the sacred laws and rituals of their youth.
There were only two villagers capable of officiating as chazan; the chasid was the only one in the entire community learned enough to read from the Torah, and it was his sacred duty to prepare the weekly Torah portion. This, besides his daily private study schedule and business, argued the chasid, left him with no additional time to teach others.
"I do not understand you," said the Rebbe Maharash disapprovingly. "For what reason did you leave your previous residence in Polotsk - which is famed for its religious adherence - and exchange it for Vladimir, a wilderness barren of Torah and mitzva observance?"
The chasid agreed wholeheartedly. Polotsk had been an exemplary place to live, inhabited by exceptionally pious people who filled its synagogues from dawn till dusk, and whose yeshivot boasted advanced levels of religious education of no small repute. But what could he do? His business had deteriorated steadily and he barely eked out a meager existence in Polotsk. Besides, he had expressly asked for and received the Rebbe's consent and blessing to move to Vladimir. The blessing had materialized to the fullest extent with his business succeeding beyond his wildest dreams.
"You are mistaken," said the Rebbe Maharash, "thinking that you were sent to Vladimir for business purposes. Whoever believes in G-d and Divine Providence can, and must, understand that G-d does not uproot a G-d-fearing family from a place of Torah to an irreligious environment for material reasons. This notion stems from your misconception of your purpose. In truth, your purpose is not to work with silver and watches but to spread G-d's Torah and its commandments wherever possible. Your move to Vladimir was Divinely orchestrated to enable you to teach and inspire the masses, whether the knowledgeable soldier or the illiterate Cantonist children."
The Rebbe Maharash continued, "Have you forgotten the teaching of the saintly Baal Shem Tov that a soul descends to this physical world for seventy or eighty years to do another Jew a favor, a physical favor and especially a spiritual one? He who assumes that his steps are predestined according to his material needs is lacking in his faith. Cannot the same Divine blessing rest in Polotsk as in Vladimir? My blessing for your material success was intended to accompany your own efforts in disseminating Judaism; without it, my blessing will come to nothing."
"Let the reader think carefully," wrote the Previous Rebbe, who recorded this story in a letter to one of his followers, " do not read this story as if it were just another anecdote, entering one ear just to exit the other. Rather, let the words of the Rebbe Maharash permeate his very essence, and let every person ask himself -- what am I doing to fulfill the Divine mission that has been entrusted to my care in the place which has been Divinely ordained for me?!"
Reprinted from the weekly magazine, Beis Moshiach.
"Isaac moved on from there and dug another well, and they did not fight over it. He called it rechovot (lit. "spacious") saying, 'Now G-d has made room for us' (Gen. 26:22) The three wells Isaac dug are symbolic of the three Holy Temples. These are the wells of "living waters" that give us our spiritual life. The first well Isaac dug proved to be a source of strife, just as the first Temple was destroyed in the days of Nebuchadnezzar. The second Holy Temple, like Isaac's second well, was also eventually destroyed, by Titus and his armies. But the third well remained, just as the Third Holy Temple which we eagerly await, will be eternal.