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The bills are due - yesterday, the payment was due - last week, you've got the sniffles which you just know will turn into a nasty two week cold and the car is long overdue for an oil change. You decide to relax but the phone rings; it's that salesman you told to call back last month.
And you're supposed to be joyful?
You decide to go for a walk, even though it's cloudy outside. You put on a jacket, go outside and look at the sky. Maybe the walk isn't such a good idea, either. Just to the end of the block, since you're already here. And cowering down into your jacket, you think of the overdue project and the upcoming confrontation with cousins.
And you're supposed to be joyful?
Two houses from the end of the block, you hear sounds. Young children. Oh, yes, you know that family. Moved in a few months ago. Never properly introduced yourself.
Something about the children attracts your attention. You stop walking and watch. There's a boy about five and a girl maybe two. There are toys in the driveway, a three-wheeler bike and a little doll carriage. The boy's riding up and down the driveway on his bike and the girl is playing with something you can't see. Suddenly the girl drops what she's playing with and sits in the carriage. She's small, but not that small.
The boy, seeing her, gets off his bike and comes to her, swaggering rather officiously as only a big brother with a little sister can. He directs her how to sit. She complies and he starts pushing her.
The corners of your mouth begin to smile, just a little.
The boy pushes her up the driveway. Or tries to. About halfway up, he says, "You're too heavy," and abandons her. She looks after him for a moment, watching as he gets back on his bike. Then with a determined set to her face - mimicking his swagger - she strolls over to where he's riding in circles. She stands and waits. He circles a couple more times, then stops. She gets on the stand connecting the back wheels and he starts riding again, constantly making sure she's all right and having fun.
And you find yourself smiling and you find yourself joyful.
And that joyfulness lasts the whole walk back to your house, back to the bills and the phone calls and the confrontations - and the coming cold.
Joy is an attitude. It doesn't change the external facts - though it may of course lead to actions that will change them. Nor does joy come from the outside - though an outside event may stimulate it, act as a catalyst.
Rabbi Shlomo of Karlin would say that depression is considered the threshold of all evil.
Joy, even in the face of difficulties, even - paradoxically - after sinning is the antithesis and antidote to depression.
When are we truly joyful? When we know things are under control, when we have confidence that things will turn out right, when we can see the interconnectedness and feel the outreachings of love (like that of the children at play). True joy comes from an experience, an assurance of Divine Providence - that G-d guides all of creation in all its details.
Of course it is sometimes a struggle to be joyful - even when the blessings and the Providence are manifest. But that is our struggle - to be joyful and create joyfulness. Especially in the month of Adar, the month of transformations, of turning upside down, we should respond to an inkling of depression with an excess of joy.
For a deeper discussion of the topic, see The Chassidic Approach to Joy by Rabbi Shloma Majesky, published by Sichos in English.
This week's Torah portion, Vayikra, which begins the book of Leviticus, deals with the service of offerings and sacrifices which were brought in the Sanctuary and the Holy Temples. Although today we cannot bring physical sacrifices, the Torah Is eternal and applies in any day and age. In fact, each Jew is likened to a sanctuary, whose purpose is likewise to bring G-dliness Into the world. We may therefore apply the lessons we learn from these offerings to guide us in our own worship of G-d.
The "tamid" (perpetual) offering was the foundation of the entire daily service, for it was the first to be offered in the morning and the last one to be brought at the end of the day. The tamid was relatively inexpensive, consisting of a lamb, a little oil, and some flour and salt. The tamid was not brought by individuals, but rather, all Jews contributed a small amount of money every year with which to buy the necessary items. This offering brought down G-d's blessings for all Jews, wherever they might live.
We learn from this that G-d does not require us to give up all of our material possessions without leaving anything for our own use. What is required, however, is that whatever we do offer, must be given wholeheartedly and with sincerity. Quality is more important than quantity, and our service of G-d should be conducted with joy and enthusiasm.
Another lesson to be learned is that although the tamid was offered only twice each day, it was called a "perpetual" offering because its influence was felt throughout the rest of the day.
The same is true in our own lives. Most of our daily tasks are devoted to necessary and mundane matters, and we are often too busy to sit and contemplate G-dliness a whole day long. That is why, as soon as we open our eyes in the morning, we bring our own "perpetual offering," to express the same utter devotion and dedication to G-d that was expressed by the tamid: "Modeh ani lefanecha, Melech chai ve'kayam, sh'hechezarta bi nishmati b'chemla rabba emunatecha - I offer thanks to You, living and eternal King, for having compassionately restored my soul in me. Great is Your faithfulness." With this declaration, we not only thank G-d for having restored our soul, but designate Him as our King, whose sovereignty we willing accept.
The recitation of "Modeh Ani," the saying of which takes only a moment, sets the proper tone for the rest of the day. Thus do we bring our own tamid offering even today, enabling us to remain connected to G-dliness even when occupied with our daily affairs, and ensuring that all our endeavors will be blessed with success.
Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe
Ani Maamin - I Believe
Although he was centered in Otvoczk, Rebbe Shaul Yedidya Elazar of Modzitz had Chasidim throughout the major towns and cities of Poland. One of these was Reb Azriel David Fastag, who became noted for his exceptional voice throughout Warsaw. Many came to the shul where Reb Azriel David would pray on the High Holy Days.
Reb Azriel David's happiness came from the world of negina - song. His moving tunes made their way to Otvoczk, where Rebbe Shaul Yedidya Elazar appreciated them immensely. The day a new niggun (tune) of Reb Azriel David's came to Rebbe Shaul Yedidya Elazar was like a "Yom Tov" for him.
The clouds of Nazism began to cover the skies of Europe. Most Jews could not fathom what was about to befall them. Only a few "read the map" correctly and managed to escape to safe havens. One of them was the Modzitzer Rebbe, whose Chasidim made a tremendous effort to save him. As the Nazis entered Poland, the Chasidim smuggled him out of Poland to Vilna (Lithuania), and from there he made his way across Russia to Shanghai, China, eventually arriving in America in 1941.
Meanwhile in Poland, tens of thousands of Jews were being herded daily to their death in cattle cars. What did it look like in one of those cattle cars of the "death train"? What could one expect to find other than people crying?
In one such car on its way to Treblinka in 1942, a tune of life managed to emerge from those crushed people. How could people on their way to the slaughter sing? Was this not some cruel Nazi joke?
An elderly Chasid, wrapped up in his ragged clothing, his face white as snow, made his way over to his neighbor on the death train, begging him to remind him of one of the special tunes the Modzitzer Rebbe sang on Yom Kippur.
"Now you want to know about songs?" answered the other, thinking that maybe all the suffering had caused the Chasid to lose his mind.
But this Modzitzer Chasid, Reb Azriel David Fastag, was no longer paying attention to his friend. In his mind, he was praying next to the Modzitzer Rebbe, leading the prayers before all the Chasidim.
Suddenly, before his eyes, the words of the twelfth (of 13) Principle of Jewish Faith appeared: "Ani Ma'amin b'Emuna Sheleima, b'vias HaMoshiach; v'af al pi she'yismamaya, im kol zeh, achakeh lo b'chol yom she'yavo - I believe with perfect faith in the coming of the Moshiach; and even though he may tarry, nevertheless, I wait each day for his coming." Closing his eyes, he meditated on these words and thought, "Just now, when everything seems lost, is a Jew's faith put to the test."
It was not long before he began to hum a quiet tune to these words. Amidst the heavy atmosphere of death and despair on the train, Reb Azriel David's attachment to G-d took him above it all.
"How can one of us be singing at such a time?" wondered his fellow Jews on the train. "And with such a sweet voice! It must be, that from Heaven they are accompanying us, in mourning, to our death... But listen, what is it that they are singing? You're about to be slaughtered, shot, poisoned or burnt and what are they singing? - I believe!"
The Modzitzer Chasid was above it all, a pillar of song - the song of the eternity of the Jewish People. He was unaware of the silence in the cattle car, and of the hundreds of ears listening in amazement. He also didn't hear the voices as they gradually joined his song, at first quietly, but soon - growing louder and louder! Meanwhile, he made sure to write out the notes of the newly composed song.
The moving tune, with its holy words, had penetrated the hearts of the Jews on the train. The song spread from car to car. Every mouth that could draw a breath joined in "Ani Ma'amin - I believe."
As if waking from a dream, Reb Azriel David opened his eyes to the sight of the singing train. His eyes were red from crying; his cheeks, wet with tears. Deeply moved, he yelled to whomever would listen, "My dear brethren! This niggun is the song of the Jewish soul. It is a song of pure faith, that thousands of years of exile cannot overcome!"
Then, in a choked voice, he continued, "I will give my portion in Olam Haba (the World to Come) to whomever can take these notes of my song 'Ani Ma'amin' to the Modzitzer Rebbe!"
A hushed silence descended upon the train. Two young men appeared, promising to bring the notes to the Modzitzer Rebbe, at any cost. One of them climbed upon the other, and in the small crack of the train's roof, made a hole to escape. Poking his head out under the open sky, he said, "I see the blue Heavens above us and the stars are twinkling"
"And what do you hear?" asked his companion.
Turning white, the man answered, "I hear the Ministering Angels singing the 'Ani Ma'amin,' and it's ascending to the seven firmaments of Heaven..."
Bidding farewell, the two proceeded to jump off, one after the other. One was killed instantly from the fall, while the other survived, taking the notes of the song with him. He eventually found his way to the Holy Land and the notes were sent by mail to Rebbe Shaul Yedidya Elazar in New York.
Upon receiving the notes and having the "Ani Ma'amin" niggun sung, the Rebbe said, "When they sang 'Ani Ma'amin' on the death train, the pillars of the world were shaking. G-d said, 'Can it be that My Torah is a fraud? No! But whenever the Jews will sing 'Ani Ma'amin,' I will remember the six million victims and have mercy on the rest of My People.'"
It is told that on the first Yom Kippur that the Modzitzer Rebbe sang the "Ani Ma'amin," there were thousands of Jews in the shul. The entire congregation burst into tears, which fell like water into the pool of tears and blood of the Jewish Nation. The tune soon spread throughout world Jewry.
"With this niggun," said Rebbe Shaul Yedidya Elazar, "the Jewish People went to the gas chambers. And with this niggun, the Jews will march to greet Moshiach."
Based on HaRakeves HaMisnaggenes - The Singing Train" by P. Flexer, translated by Reb Yitzchak Dorfman. From www.modzitz.org where you can here the "Ani Maamin" song sung by Mordechai Ben David.
Saying Mazel Tov?
Modern medical wisdom recognizes that good health depends on a patient's emotional state and mental attitude. For centuries, it has been customary for Jewish women to adorn both the birthing room and the cradle with Psalm 121 (Shir Lama'alot). The Psalm states our declaration of dependence upon the Creator for our safety and well-being, and His commitment to guard us at all times. To get a free, color print of the Psalm write to LEFJME-Expectant Mother Offer, 312 Kingston Ave. Bklyn, NY 11213 or call (718) 756-5700, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.mikvah.org, or www.LchaimWeekly.org/general/art/shir-lamaalot.jpg
Rosh Chodesh Adar II, 5738 
To All Participants in the Melava Malka
Sponsored by "R.S.B.S.T.N.L.G."
Oceanside, Long Island, N.Y.
Greeting and Blessing:
I was pleased to be informed of the forthcoming annual Melava Malka on Motzoei Shabbos-Kodesh Parshas Zachor. And though pressure of duties make it difficult to send individual messages to all similar events, I do wish to associate myself - by means of this message, with all of you gathered on this occasion - in tribute to the good work of your group in strengthening Yiddishkeit [Judaism] among yourselves and in your region.
As you surely know, Parshas Zachor, which is read on the Shabbos before Purim, contains the commandment to remember what Amalek, the archenemy of our Jewish people, did to our people when they were on their way to receive the Torah at Sinai.
Amalek's unprovoked and sneaky attack was calculated to shake their belief in G-d and dampen their enthusiasm for His Torah and Mitzvos [commandments].
Haman, a direct descendant of Amalek, was driven by similar hatred of the Jews, because "their laws were different from those of any other people," as the Megillah [Scroll of Esther] states. Likewise all subsequent Amalakites and Hamans of all ages.
But "Amalek" - in a wider sense - represents all obstacles and hindrances which a Jew encounters on his, or her, way, to receive and observe the Torah and Mitzvos with enthusiasm, and joy in the everyday life. And so Parshas Zachor comes to remind us, and never forget, that "Amalekites" exist in every generation and in every day and age, and that we must not allow ourselves to be deterred or discouraged by any Amalekite in any shape or form.
If the question be asked, "Why has G-d done thus?" Why should a Jew be confronted with such trials and difficulties? - the answer is that every Jew has been given the necessary powers to overcome all such "Amalekites," and he is expected to use them, in order to demonstrate to himself and others that nothing will deter him, nor dampen his fervor, in the observance of the Torah and Mitzvos in accordance with G-d's Will. And once he recognizes that whatever difficulty he encounters is really a test of his faith in G-d, and resolves firmly to meet the challenge, he will soon see that no "Amalek" of any kind is a match for the Divine powers of the Jewish soul. Indeed, far from being insurmountable obstructions, they turn out to be helpers and catalysts for ever greater achievements, having been instrumental in mobilizing those inner powers which would have otherwise remained dormant.
This is also forcefully brought out in the Megillah, in the example of Mordechai the Jew, who "would not bend his knee nor bow down" before Haman. As a result of this indomitable stance, not only was Haman's power totally broken, but many enemies became friends, as the Megillah tells us that "many of the peoples of the land were turning 'Jewish,' for the fear of Mordechai fell upon them!"
May G-d grant that each and all of you should go from strength to strength in emulating Mordechai the Jew, advancing in all matters of Yiddishkeit, Torah and Mitzvos, with joy and gladness of heart, and may you all be blessed with a full measure of "light, joy, gladness, and honor," both in the plain sense as well as in the inner meaning of these terms in accordance with the interpretation of our Sages - "Light - this is the Torah ... honor - this is Tefillin," since the Torah and Mitzvos, though a "must" for their own sake, are the channels and vessels to receive and enjoy G-d's blessings in all needs, materially and spiritually.
Wishing each and all of you a happy Purim, and may the inspiration of it be with you every day throughout the year,
With esteem and blessing,
12 Adar II, 5765 - March 23, 2005
Positive Mitzva 118: Misusing Something that has been Declared Holy
This mitzva is based on the verse (Lev. 5:16) "And he shall make restitution pay for that which he has done wrong with the holy thing"
Anything which has been designated for use in the Holy Temple is considered holy and cannot be used for any other purpose. For example, if a person set aside money to be donated to Temple, he must use it for that purpose. If he makes use of the money in any other manner, he must pay back a greater amount; the money originally promised plus a fine. This fine is one-fifth of that new total.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This coming week contains within it a special date for the American Chabad/Lubavitch community, but possibly even more so, for the American Jewish community at large.
The date is the ninth of Adar II, this year Sunday, March 20. On this day in 1940, the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn, arrived in the United States.
For all purposes, this day marks the beginning of the "dissemination of the wellsprings (of Chasidus) to the outside" in the Northern Hemisphere.
After his arrival in the United States, the Previous Rebbe successfully devoted himself to establishing a strong educational system here. Within two years, yeshivot in New York, Montreal, Newark, Worcester and Pittsburgh were founded. This flurry of activity, however, did not at all affect the manner in which he continued to work toward the establishment of educational organizations in other parts of the world. For, within ten year, programs were started in Paris, Safaria (Israel) and North Africa.
Before his arrival in the United States, the Previous Rebbe was told that "America is different." The customs and ways from the"old country" just wouldn't do here. The Rebbe replied in his usual indomitable manner, "America is not different!" and proceeded, throughout the rest of his life, to prove that he was right.
The Jewish community here is greatly indebted to this prophetic and visionary giant.
If a person sins...and is not sure, he shall bear guilt (Lev. 5:17)
The Torah is even stricter, in terms of bringing sacrifices, with one who is not even sure if he has sinned. The sacrifice when one is uncertain if he sinned cost more than the sacrifice which was brought as an atonement for a known sin! If a person knows clearly that he has done something wrong, he will regret it and feel bad. However, if he is not sure, he may convince himself that he really did not sin. Then, he will not repent. Thus, he has to bring a costlier sacrifice which will cause him to be more introspective.
If his offering be from cattle (Lev. 1:3)
Three types of burnt-offerings may be brought upon the altar: cattle, sheep, and fowl. A wealthy person is self-assured and prideful, and therefore most likely to sin. For this reason he must bring the largest and most expensive offering, "from the cattle." A less affluent person, less likely to sin, fulfills his obligation by offering a sheep. But the poor man, who is already humbled by his poverty, need only bring "of the fowl," the least costly type of offering.
And the sons of Aaron the priest shall put fire on the altar (Lev. 1:7)
Even though a heavenly fire descended from on High to consume the offerings, the priests were still required to bring ordinary fire as well, to the altar. We learn from this that one may not rely solely on the "fire that descends from on high"- the natural, innate love of G-d which is present in the soul of every Jew. Each of us must also bring an "ordinary fire," kindle that innate love of G-d by taking the initiative and contemplating His greatness, to further nurture that inner spark.
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)
In a small village in Poland there lived an unassuming and pious Jew named Meir. While he was by no means well-to-do, his family never wanted for their daily bread. Each day on his way home from the synagogue Meir passed through the farmers' market, buying produce and poultry which his wife sold from a small store attached to their house. The prices were always fair, and they earned a reputation for honesty.
Meir stood out from the other buyers at the market, for he would never haggle over prices. Meir had his one fair price, and that was that - he would never budge. Eventually the farmers came to respect him and would even seek him out when they had some special goods for sale, and he became known to everyone as "Honest Meir."
Meir had only one regret in life - his business took time away from his beloved Torah study. One day he decided that he would work only half as much, and spend the time saved learning Torah. His wife was worried by his decision, but he calmed her saying, "Don't you think that G-d can send us enough in those three days?" She wanted to reply that of course He could, but would He? But she stopped herself and decided to wait and see what would happen. As it turned out, their income was the same and her husband thrived on his Torah study.
One day his wife came to Meir to discuss the marriage of their daughter, Mirele. "G-d has been good to us, and we must certainly be grateful, but our daughter isn't getting any younger, and the time has come for us to start saving for her dowry."
Meir looked at his wife and replied, "G-d has taken care of us so far. Trust in Him and stop worrying."
But his wife couldn't rest. "Meir, we aren't supposed to rely on miracles. Maybe you should go out and work like you used to."
Meir replied, "What you're saying may seem true, but don't forget my 'silent partner' - G-d. Haven't you seen with your own eyes that since I've spent extra time with my 'Partner' we have lost nothing. I can not stop my Torah studies, especially now when we need Him even more." There was nothing more his wife could say except a heartfelt "Amen."
A short time later a peasant showed up at the marketplace with a large honeycomb encased in a block of wood. Several prospective buyers approached him, but he refused them, saying, "I will sell only to Honest Meir." And there he sat and waited until finally, late in the afternoon someone told him that Meir wouldn't be coming to market that day.
The peasant made his way to Meir's house where he was greeted by his wife. "My husband isn't at home now," she told him, but she asked him to wait while she ran to fetch him. Meir measured the honeycomb and lifted it, then he made his offer: "Judging by its size and weight, and even allowing for the wood, there should be a lot of honey in it." The two men agreed on a figure which seemed fair to both. The only problem was that Meir didn't have such a large sum. Meir's wife interrupted, saying: "I will try to borrow the money from some of our neighbors."
Meir served the peasant a cup of tea, and then he questioned the man: "Tell me, how did you come to have such a strange honeycomb?"
The peasant replied, "I was walking through the woods collecting fire-wood. When my cart was full, I got inside and fell asleep, but it seems that my mare wandered a bit, for when I awoke, I found myself in a different part of the woods, in front of a tree stump. Looking up, I noticed bees buzzing, and being something of a beekeeper myself, I hopped out of my cart and with a long thin twig I removed the queen bee from the hive. I tried to take out the honeycomb, but it was impossible to do so without breaking it. That's when I got the idea of sawing off the stump."
By the time the peasant had finished his tale, Meir's wife had returned with the money. Meir gave it to the happy peasant who went off feeling very pleased. Meir's wife began to extract the honey. She pulled out two and then three heavily laden honeycombs and reached in with a deep ladle for more, when she found there was nothing there but a deep, empty hole. The poor woman was horrified. They were now in debt, and for nothing but a bit of honey and a piece of wood!
She called for her husband, who was equally shocked at the find. "What will we do now?" his wife wailed. Meir was also at a loss, but not willing to give up he said, "Go fetch your longest cooking spoon and maybe we can salvage something from the bottom."
Meir dipped the spoon into the wooden cavity, and lo and behold, the spoon was filled with a pile of golden coins and jewels! His wife almost fainted from the shock, but when she recovered she asked her husband, "Do you think G-d had the bees produce this treasure for us?"
Her husband turned to her, smiling, "Possibly, but I think there's a simpler explanation. Probably someone hid this treasure years ago and had to abandon it for some reason. Then the bee colony settled in the trees stump and built their hive on top of the treasure. Now, it seems that G-d must have decided there was no longer any reason to leave it hidden since we need the money to marry off our children and do other good things. So, you see, the peasant was rewarded for his labor, and we were even more richly rewarded for our faith and trust in G-d."
It is in the Era of the Redemption, true happiness will be experienced, as in the verse, "Then will our mouths be filled with laughter."(Psalms 126:2) For that age will bring perfection to the world at large: "There will be neither famine nor war, neither envy nor competition."(Mishne Torah) In that age, now near at hand, all nations will join together in the service of G-d, thereby fulfilling the prophecy, (Zephaniah 3:9) "I will make the peoples pure of speech, so that they will all call upon the Name of G-d and serve Him with one purpose."
(From Books with Souls, adapted from a talk of the Lubavitcher Rebbe)