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"Turn that frown upside down!"
"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 (commandment) 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-the way in which the soul expresses itself) are the three main parts of a person's behavior. Each individual 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 (Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidism), asking how he could help a fellow Jew who acted as if he were pious when in reality he was actually quite a sinner.
The Alter Rebbe declared: "May what the Talmud says happens to a person who pretends to be a pauper but is not really poor, happen to 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 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 real.
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 expression of one's feelings. Even if we aren't inwardly, genuinely happy to see someone, at least we should greet him 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, pretend until you are!
The word teruma (offering) appears three times in the beginning of this week's Torah portion, Teruma:
"And have them bring Me an offering." This refers to the half-shekel that each Jew contributed toward the sockets of the Sanctuary.
"Take My offering from everyone whose heart impels him to give." This refers to the half-shekel that was given for the communal sacrifices.
"The offering you take from them shall consist of the following: gold, silver, copper...." This offering was for the Sanctuary proper and all its vessels. Instead of a single, specified amount, every Jew contributed what he wished.
The sockets of the Sanctuary, unlike the rest of the Sanctuary's components toward which a Jew could donate as little or as much as he wanted, were made from another offering in which all Jews participated equally. What made the sockets different?
The sockets were the lowest part of the Sanctuary, yet they formed the foundation of the entire edifice.
Within every Jew is a spiritual Sanctuary: "They shall make a Sanctuary for Me and I will dwell in their midst" - within each Jew. This spiritual Sanctuary likewise consists of correlating spiritual components, including its "sockets."
In the spiritual sense, these "sockets" are the Jew's self- nullification, his humility before G-d and acceptance of the yoke of heaven.
The concept of "kabalat ol," obedience to G-d's will, is the same for every individual, the wise and the untutored, the rich and the poor. Accordingly, each person was obligated to contribute the same half-shekel towards the Sanctuary's sockets, for when it comes to self-nullification before G-d, all Jews are equal.
Why was it necessary for everyone to make an identical contribution for the communal sacrifices? Because this offering was made to atone for the sin of the Golden Calf which affected every Jew, including those who did not participate. Even Moses, who was not actually present, was harmed by it. To correct this communal damage, a collective sacrifice in which all took part equally was required. Thus every Jew was obligated to contribute the same half-shekel.
By contrast, when it comes to the inner service of G-d, every Jew is different. A person is obligated to utilize the unique faculties he has to the best of his ability. Correspondingly, each Jew contributed a different amount to the Sanctuary, in accordance with his individual talents.
Adapted from Likutei Sichot, Volume 1
The Long and Winding Road
by Alanna Berman
Each week day, 22 children living in Tijuana rise before the sun to catch a shuttle that takes them to school. Why wake so early? School isn't just around the corner, or even in the next town over. Rather, these kids traverse 40 miles and one international border to arrive at Chabad Hebrew Academy in Scripps Ranch [California]. The approximately one-and-a-half hour trip from Mexico, depending on traffic and border wait times, gets students in grades K-8 to CHA's campus just in time for the start of 8 a.m. classes. After school, the students take the same shuttle home to Mexico, often not arriving until 5 p.m.
"The commute definitely takes a toll on the students," says Rabbi Mendel Polichenco, who runs the Chabad House in Tijuana. "It would even take a toll on an adult to be in a car for that long, but these students understand the importance of a Jewish education and being in a Jewish environment, so the time that they spend getting to school [and back] is worth it."
Although collaboration between Chabad centers is not unusual, international collaboration, and to this is extent, is revolutionary. Following the closure of Chabad Tijuana's Jewish day school, Rabbi Polichenco and Rabbi Yosef Fradkin, head of school at CHA, decided to forge their two communities, each accepting responsibility for ensuring Jewish children living in Mexico did not go without a Jewish education.
The Jewish day school in Tijuana, Colegio Israelita de Tijuana, closed its doors nearly five years ago following a decline in enrollment and in the face of an international drug war, being played out on the streets of Mexico's border towns.
"There weren't enough children to keep the school going," Rabbi Polichenco says, "but I didn't want to leave the children without a Jewish education. So before I closed the school, I spoke with Rabbi Fradkin about bringing the children to CHA... The children get an excellent education, and it works out well for everybody."
These days, two 15-passenger vans transport students to CHA every day. Eighth grade student Fernando Sur, who has been attending CHA since first grade, says on his first day there, the only English words he knew were 'cat' and 'house' - a situation typical of many students coming from Mexico to attend school in the U.S. for the first time. Now, he's trilingual, speaking fluent English and Hebrew (as well as his native Spanish), thanks to the programs at CHA.
"We have very strong systems in place with ELL, or English Language Learners with remediation," Rabbi Fradkin says. "Our focus is to provide as many resources as possible upon entry to the school for the first year or two, and we focus a tremendous amount of resources at that time to ensure the children can be mainstreamed within the regular program, which is unique here since it is divided according to each child's ability."
Because CHA groups children in classes by ability, ELL students might be in an advanced math class while completing remedial courses in reading comprehension until they can catch up. CHA accounts for this extra need, adding extra staff to classes where younger kids new to English might need extra assistance.
"We offer three specific staff for the students who come from Mexico. By the time these students leave CHA, they are fluent in Spanish, English and Hebrew, as well as being above grade level in all of their subjects," Rabbi Fradkin says.
The flexibility in the curriculum at CHA has allowed many students to achieve success over the years, and in the case of Sur and his fellow Mexican Jewish students, it's made all the difference.
"We try and encourage all students to demonstrate leadership at the school and care for each other, while demonstrating their own initiatives," Rabbi Fradkin says. "In Fernando's case, I remember when he was in fourth grade, he was offering to teach staff and faculty Spanish during a lunch break. He really took ownership of his own talents and what he was able to do, and I thought this was so sweet of a fourth grader to do. When I think of him I think of that great energy, and of what we're trying to accomplish by instilling confidence in our students that they can use what they have to teach others and make others' lives better. He exemplifies that."
Besides a bolstering of multilinguality on campus, the addition of international students has brought an unexpected level of camaraderie among CHA's entire student body.
"The kids coming from Tijuana are of course very friendly with the American kids at the school, and there is no shortage of offerings for the kids to stay the night," Rabbi Polichenco says. "If the kids have a long trip for school where they stay late, they [always] have someone to stay with, thankfully, because it would be exhausting for them to get up the next day after such a long day at school and then commuting home."
Despite the occasional hiccup, Rabbis Polichenco and Fradkin say the partnership works wonders for all involved.
"What we put into it, we get out of it ten-fold, so it's worth it," Rabbi Fradkin says. "You seldom see such an extreme impact on a child as when you take them from another country, foster their English skills, and bring them up to be above par in the U.S. It means a lot to us because each year, we see students who've been affected by the program graduate from CHA."
"They're kids, and they need to be reminded of that occasionally, but that balance is important - letting them still be kids in an academically and high achieving environment, [and ensuring they] recognize the importance and value of what they've undertaken. They don't want to waste their time while they are here," Rabbi Fradkin says of the dedication he sees in the students coming from Mexico. "The children, no matter what, will remember the sacrifices they have made to get a Jewish education, and a college preparatory education at that."
Excerpted and reprinted from the S. Diego Jewish Journal
Rabbi Shmuly and Sarah Stiefel will be moving to Lipetsk, Russia, where they will serve the needs of the 4,000 local Jews of that city, located 300 miles south of Moscow. Rabbi Menachem and Adina Landa, are moving to Novato, California, where they will establish a new Chabad Center there as well as direct the Gan Israel Day Camp of Marin County. Rabbi Aharon and Chaya Kaganovsky recently moved to Mariupol, Ukraine, where they will direct programs for the youth and the elderly. Newlyweds Rabbi Aharon and Zelda Leotardi will be settling soon in Rome, Italy, where they will be working with youth and teens.
27 Elul 5717 (1957)
Blessing and Greeting:
I was pleased to receive your letter of September 17th, and was particularly gratified with its contents, that you are well and happy, and gradually taking over your routine activities.
There is a well-known saying to the effect that making a good start sets off a good chain of reaction for continued success. This is especially true in marriage, which begins a new life. Therefore it is important to start it off well, to ensure continued happiness and contentment. May G-d help that this be so in your case.
Most important of all is to start the new life in a way that corresponds with the teachings of our Torah, the Law of Life, and then the going is much easier than one anticipated.
This brings me to the next point. You write that you do not want to use the expression of "promise to do," but would rather use the expression "to try to do," as you are afraid to commit yourself, lest you would find it difficult to live up to your promise. Experience has shown that when a person makes a promise to do something, this very promise gives him the strength to carry it out without hesitation, and with greater ease.
Whereas, when one does not commit himself, promising only "to try," or "to do one's best," then, when the matter comes up, and there is temptation not to do it, he is more likely to fail, saying to himself that, after all, he did not promise to do it, but only "to try," and therefore he is not breaking his word, and his conscience doesn't bother him. That is why I think that you should be determined to observe the laws, etc., and, knowing that you have made a promise to do so, will give you not only greater strength, but also peace of mind, as it would eliminate all doubts and hesitations.
Needless to say, if the things in question were impossible to carry out, there would be no room for making a promise. However, in this case, where it concerns the practical observance of the Divine Commandments, given by G-d, the Creator, Who knows also the abilities of the human beings, it is certain that He would not have commanded to do anything which is beyond one's power to do, for G-d is the Essence of Goodness, and does not impose a greater obligation that one is capable to fulfill.
Moreover, the laws that He commanded are not for His sake, inasmuch as G-d is not deficient of anything, but they are for the good of the observer.
You will recall what I said to you when you were here that, in regard to the practical precepts, the less one debates with himself, but, rather, fulfills them with simple faith in G-d, the easier and the more natural life is, and the more harmony and happiness it brings. For one of the essential aspects of the Torah is to serve G-d with joy. Such service is carried out, not only through the act of fulfillment of a certain precept, such as putting on tefillin, or the lighting of candles, etc., but every action, word, and thought, which are dedicated to G-d with a spirit of joy of being able to serve the Creator, brings additional light in one's world, and in the world at large.
On the threshold of the New Year, may it bring blessings to us all, I send you and yours my prayerful wishes for a good and pleasant year, materially and spiritually, with the traditional, and all-embracing blessing of kesivo vechasimo toivo [may you be written and sealed for good].
Although you do not mention it, I trust that you duly received my two previous letters. As for your question with regard to using certain expressions, you may, of course, use the expression that best describes your thoughts and feelings, and also in any language you find most convenient.
Esther (known in Hebrew as Hadassah), was orphaned and raised by her relative, Mordechai. She became Queen of Persia after the execution of Queen Vashti, and, because of her great self-sacrifice, became the primary figure responsible for saving the Jews from annihilation during the Purim plot. She wrote the Megilat Esther which was accepted by the Sages to be included in the Jewish canon. Her son, Darius II, embarked on the rebuilding of the Second Holy Temple following the death of Ahasuerus.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
We have begun the month of Adar, about which our Sages declared, "When Adar enters, we increase in joy." Although we celebrate Purim on Adar 14, the theme of the entire month is joy.
Joy, of course, is not limited to a specific time of year, place or circumstance. Rather, it is an underlying principle and integral component of the Jew's service of G-d. The Torah enjoins us to "Serve G-d with joy." Similarly, "You shall serve the L-rd your G-d with joy and gladness of heart."
Nonetheless, there is a special obligation to be even more joyful during Adar. The Talmud explains that Purim is the culmination of the Giving of the Torah. At Mount Sinai the Jews accepted the Torah, but it was somewhat coerced. On Purim, they accepted the Torah not out of fear, but out of love. The festival of Purim thus emphasizes our commitment to Torah and mitzvot, with a renewed sense of excitement and enthusiasm.
Joy is a tremendous force that is capable of transcending all boundaries. On Purim, a Jew must rejoice until he transcends the limitations of his intellect and elicits the deeper dimensions of the soul.
Although every Jewish holiday is in the category of "festivals for rejoicing" (as we say in our prayers), the joy of Purim is the greatest of them all. This is reflected in the fact that one is encouraged to be so joyful "that he cannot distinguish [between 'blessed is Mordechai' and 'cursed is Haman'] - i.e., above and beyond all restrictions and limitations.
The joy of Adar is thus a preparation for the joy of Purim, which not only breaks through boundaries but transcends them beyond measure. This will lead to the ultimate joy in the Final Redemption, as it states, "And the redeemed of the L-rd shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads."
May the positive influence of Adar be expressed in the advent of the true and complete Redemption with Moshiach in the immediate future.
Speak to the Children of Israel, that they may bring Me a contribution from every man whose heart prompts him (Ex. 25:2)
"The fool gives, and the clever man takes," states the popular expression. What does this refer to? The giving of tzedaka (charity). The fool thinks he is parting with something belonging to him; the clever man realizes that whatever he gives, he actually receives [its reward].
(Rabbi Yisrael of Ruzhin)
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 charity 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..."
And you shall make a candlestick of pure gold...its cups, its knobs, and its flowers (Ex. 25:31)
Symbolic of the entire Torah, each element of the menora represents a different part of the Torah's teachings. The six branches of the menora stand for the sixty tractates of the Talmud. The knobs and flowers represent the teachings of the Sages outside the Mishna. The cups allude to the esoteric teachings of the Torah, for cups are used to hold wine - wine being the inner part of Torah, referred to as the "wine of Torah" (also alluded to in the saying, "When wine enters, secrets emerge."
It was Stalinist Russia. The sudden banging on the door made the occupants' blood run cold. The knocking was getting louder. They were about to sneak out the back exit when the older of the two suggested that the younger one stay behind. It was better to wait a few minutes before opening the door.
The banging continued even more vigorously. "Who's there?" the youngster called out, but the stranger refused to identify himself. The youth opened the door. Standing there was a high-ranking officer of the KGB. "Is this where the shochet lives?" the officer demanded.
"Shochet?" he replied. "There's no one here by the name of Shochet."
The officer gave him a penetrating look and said, "Then perhaps there's someone here who cuts children?"
"No," he said in the most confident tone he could muster.
For a moment the stranger said nothing. Then he whispered in the boy's ear: "Don't deny it. I know that the man who cuts children lives here!" The youth was shocked, for the man had uttered these words in Yiddish!
"I am a Jew. Seven days ago my wife gave birth to a baby boy, and I want very much for him to be entered into the covenant of Abraham. My wife is very much opposed to the idea. Tomorrow at exactly nine in the morning she will be leaving the house. I am begging you to come to my house tomorrow and bring the mohel. The baby will be in one of the front rooms."
The officer told the astounded youngster his address and hurried away. "Remember," he said pleadingly, "Tomorrow is the eighth day of my son's life. I implore you to do me this favor."
Reb Eizik, a Chasid, was the only shochet and mohel in the entire city, and Yaakov, a boy with no living relatives, had been taken in to live with the shochet and accompanied him on his holy and very dangerous rounds.
The officer left. Was it a trap? Yaakov was convinced that it was a clever ruse cooked up to catch Reb Eizik red-handed. When Reb Eizik came home, Yaakov filled him in on everything. Reb Eizik thought for several minutes, the deep wrinkles that lined his forehead testifying to his inner conflict and turmoil. He had reached a decision: "Tomorrow morning we will go to the officer's house to enter his son into the covenant of Abraham."
The following day, Reb Eizik and his ward arose at dawn, recited their prayers and set out in the direction of the river. On the way, Reb Eizik explained that he was almost certain that this was a trap. He therefore wished to immerse himself in a mikva before they continued. "If this is to be our last day on earth, at least we will die in a state of ritual purity," he declared.
The officer's house was located on one of the finest streets in the city, which only served to confirm their suspicions. The neighborhood was inhabited by the highest ranking members of the KGB and their families. But the two Jews stuck to their decision. Reb Eizik and Yaakov secreted themselves in a hiding place across from the officer's house. Seconds later they saw a woman dressed in the latest fashion exit the building and proceed down the block. Together they strode across the street.
Reb Eizik knocked on the massive door. An older woman opened the door and motioned for them to enter. In the corner of the room was a beautiful crib, inside which a tiny baby was sleeping peacefully. They ran over and picked up the child, whereupon a small white envelope fell out.
Inside the envelope was a letter from the baby's father, apologizing for his not being able to be present at his son's brit and asking that they give the baby a Jewish name. The rest of the letter was an emotional statement of his thanks and appreciation for the great mitzva they were doing, without their even knowing who he was.
Reb Eizik quickly and deftly performed the brit, while Yaakov acted as sandek. They were about to leave when the woman who had opened the door suddenly appeared and motioned for them to stay put.
Yaakov was terrified. Seconds later, however, the woman brought out a brand new frying pan, and handed them a dozen eggs! A veritable fortune! She invited them to make themselves omelets.
After they finished eating and were about to leave, the woman presented them with a huge sack of bread, another gift from the Russian officer. Such a quantity of bread was something the average citizen could only dream of, but how could they walk down the street carrying the bag. Surely they would attract the attention of the ever-watchful police.
The woman suddenly understood why the two Jews hesitated to accept the priceless gift. She opened a drawer, ripped off a wad of coupons from a booklet and handed them over.
Many months later Yaakov was walking down the street when the same Russian officer stopped him. "I must thank you again, from the bottom of my heart. I have one more request to make of you. Whenever you make a brit, you should tell my story. Let everyone know that even in Soviet Russia, there are still Jews who have a warm spot in their hearts for Judaism."
This request led to a tradition in Yaakov's family. He is honored with being the sandek, in commemoration of the role he played in that brit so very long ago, and he relates the story of the Russian officer, from beginning to end, with great enthusiasm and fervor.
Reprinted from Beis Moshiach Magazine
When a Jew carries out his service in this world he reveals his essence. In this manner, every Jew will illuminate the world and reveal how this world is a dwelling for G-d. This, in turn, will lead to the construction of the Third Holy Temple. And then we will see how Aaron will kindle the menora. We will also merit to see Moses perform the priestly service (for since he served as a priest in the dedication of the Sanctuary, that positive quality was never taken from him). This will also be reflected within the spark of Moses possessed by every Jew.
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe, 7 Adar I, 5752-1992)