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Umbrellas have been around for over 2,000 years. The umbrella, typically referring "to a device used for protection from rain" according to Wikipedia, hasn't changed much over the past two millennium!
Most of us don't spend much time thinking about umbrellas, unless we're stuck without one when it's raining. But, if you've ever had the edifying opportunity to contemplate an umbrella, you might come to realize the similarity between umbrellas and Jewish education.
The obvious place to start is at the level of not having any umbrella (or Jewish education). We don't even realize the deficiency until we need it. This usually doesn't happen until we are stuck in a storm. A raging storm of emotions can be set off by a tragedy, or on a more positive note, a Jewish simcha such as a wedding, brit, Bar/Bat Mitzva. In many of these cases, without a sound Jewish background, we have no idea of customs, laws, history, protocol, etc.
Then, of course, there is the umbrella that you pick up on the street for $3.99 when it is already raining. Even if it doesn't last more than a week, at least it will keep me dry today, we think. But with strong winds it turns inside out, or the spokes start coming undone from the cloth. It's not much use, but it gives us a false sense of security.
That's the Jewish education we get when we begrudgingly attend Sunday school or Hebrew school just until the Bar/Bat Mitzva or Confirmation. It gives us a sense of security to think that at least we know something about our 3,300 year old Jewish heritage.
Then there is the sturdy, long lasting umbrella, the kind we might even go back for if we think we may have left it behind. Once upon a time, this umbrella came only in basic black. But today, you can find it in every shapes and color.
Once upon a time, a Jewish education might in fact have seemed rather dull and stodgy, like the basic umbrella. But today it comes in every version one can imagine. Exciting teachers, innovative material, reputable schools, and a plethora of courses for adults and children who can't study full time all contribute to the wealth of Jewish educational opportunities available in the 90s and into the next millennium.
Today, more than ever, there is no reason whatsoever, for any Jew to be stuck at a bus shelter waiting for a storm to pass. Pick up a sturdy Jewish education. You'll be amazed at how it's always there when you need it.
This week's Torah portion, Noach, tells the story of the great flood visited upon mankind because of their improper behavior toward one another. After the floodwaters receded and Noah and his family were able to leave the ark, Noah planted a grapevine which he had brought with him. He made wine from the grapes and quickly became intoxicated. Noah fell into a drunken sleep, laying naked in his tent. One of Noah's sons, Cham, saw his father lying naked and told his two brothers about what he had seen. Shem and Yafet immediately went in to cover their father.
Shem and Yafet were so careful not to look at their father's nakedness when they went to cover him that "they went backwards, and their faces were turned backwards, and they did not see their father's nakedness."
The story is slightly puzzling. It is clear from the fact that Shem and Yafet walked backwards that they did not see their father. Why, then, does the Torah add the apparently redundant words: "...and they did not see the nakedness of their father"?
There is a saying of the Baal Shem Tov that if a person sees something wrong with someone else, it is a sign that he himself has a similar fault. He sees himself, as it were, in a mirror - if the face he sees is not clean, it is his own face which is dirty.
Can we not see a genuine wrong in someone else without being at fault ourselves?
Divine Providence is present in every event. If we see bad in someone, it is to show us our own failings which need correction. Man is blind to his own shortcomings. He needs to see them exemplified in someone else, to force him to reflect on himself and see their counterparts in his own life.
The task of the Jew, however, is not only self-perfection; it is also the improvement of others: "You shall surely rebuke your friend, even a hundred times." Surely, then, when he sees his friend's failings, Providence intends him to help to correct them, not only to introspect on his own weaknesses.
When one sees a fault in another Jew, he should ascertain whether - with tact and delicacy - he can help the person correct the fault or failing.
But when one finds oneself seeing this wrong not as something that he himself must correct, but just as a failing in his fellow this is evidence that the fault is a "mirror."
Therefore, after saying that Shem and Yafet turned their faces away from Noach, the Torah adds, "and they did not see their father's nakedness." It is here emphasizing that not only did they physically not see him, they were not even aware of his fault as such-they were concerned only with what must be done (which was to cover him with a mantle).
Adapted by Sichos In English, sie.org
by Menachem Barash
The following account was written by veteran Israeli journalist Menachem Barash a few weeks after the Yom Kippur War.
"It began," said Chanoch Glitzenstein, "a few days after the Yom Kippur War ceasefire. Nine Lubavitchers from Israel were still in New York, having spent the High Holidays and Sukkot with the Rebbe. They were suddenly called into the Rebbe's room and the Rebbe said: "Due to the events that transpired on Yom Kippur, I request that some action take place whose purpose will be to encourage the soldiers on the front lines, to raise their spirits and to infuse them with new hope.
"Take some bottles of mashke (vodka) with you from 'Kos shel Bracha,' ('cup of blessing,' i.e., from the wine that was used in the Grace After Meals) and take some silver coins and go to the Israeli soldiers in their camps and on their bases. Give each soldier two coins, one for charity in my name and as my emissary and the other for his personal use or to keep."
We were also told to give each solider copies of two letters that the Rebbe had written during the battles to the soldiers who asked him for a blessing. Not one soldier in the IDF should be overlooked. We were instructed that this operation needed to be done with the knowledge of the General Staff of the IDF and with its explicit permission. Not a word should be publicized before completing the mission.
The IIDF army command accepted the idea enthusiastically. The army provided Chabad with vehicles, security, escorts, guidance and even special flights to distant bases. Chabad prepared tens of thousands of booklets with: the Rebbe's blessing to the Israeli soldiers, two letters of the Rebbe along with different quotes and Torah thoughts, and some of the Rebbe's views about the war and the lessons learned, the holiness of the land, and the obligation to protect it in its entirety and to keep it secure.
Wherever we went, the commanders already knew about our coming and were ready to welcome us. The commanders gathered the soldiers. We told them that throughout the war the Rebbe did not stop thinking of Israel and the battlefronts and he prayed nonstop for them. We read portions from what the Rebbe said at farbrengens that took place throughout the summer months, in which he hinted to the possibility of war and the need to prepare practically and spiritually-religiously.
We toasted "L'chaim" with the soldiers and explained to them about the coins that the Rebbe sent them. The soldiers were excited about keeping one coin as a segula (talisman) in time of danger.
After inspiring words and stories, hundreds of soldiers joined along with the Lubavitchers and sang and danced. The singing and dancing went on for hours; in certain instances, late into the night.
"In the Jordan Valley alone, we were sixty men. For three days and three nights we combed through all the positions and all the camps. Soldiers grabbed up the coins, drank the mashke and took in the Rebbe's words, sang and danced, and participated in Evenings with Chabad. They enjoyed the experience," recalled Rabbi Glitzenstein.
In the booklets that were distributed, the Rebbe noted that the soldiers who were called up and went to war are on the level of "tzaddikim gemurim" (completely righteous), for the war began on Yom Kippur which atones for all sins. In one of the talks, the Rebbe emphasized that we all must learn from the soldiers who stand strong in carrying out the orders of those appointed over them. The Rebbe repeated what he said earlier, about the special position the Jews have among the nations, that we have vanquished our enemies until now and will be victorious in all wars until the coming of Moshiach.
Israeli soldiers were called upon to trust in Hashem and not to fear. The Rebbe suggested that the soldiers put on t'fillin every day and give more charity and, as much as possible, to do these two mitzvot together with Torah study, even the smallest amount, from the booklets they were given.
Days later, the signal was given to begin the campaign in the Golan Heights. Groups of Lubavitchers reached all the way to the Hermon Mountains and visited all the outposts and strongholds. Chabad songs and the words of the Rebbe echoed in Syria too, along the ceasefire line.
After the Valley and the Golan it was the turn of Sinai, the west bank of the Canal, Sharm-el-Sheikh and the navy. The Lubavitchers boarded missile boats and all the other ships of the navy and were received with appreciation and joy by the commanders and soldiers alike.
A letter arrived from a wounded soldier who was hospitalized in Beer Sheva. He wrote, "I am severely wounded. The pains in my foot are terrible. Yesterday, Chabad came and visited and brought mashke from the Rebbe's Kos shel Bracha, and they gave out coins. I did not drink immediately. I left the mashke for the next day. This morning, I woke up and put on tefillin, as the Chabadnikim suggested. I gave the coin to tzedaka and drank "L'chaim" from the Rebbe's mashke. What can I tell you? It's unbelievable. The pain in my foot went away and I have already asked the nurse to try and get me out of bed. I am sure that I will be able to walk on my two feet. Please, write thanks to the Rebbe ... he is amazing ... he is amazing ... He not only cheered me up; he healed my foot."
The chairman of the local council of Kfar Chabad, Mr. Davidowitz, said that when he was at the Rebbe for the High Holidays, the Rebbe gave him a bottle of mashke to distribute in Kfar Safiriya (the old Arab name for Kfar Chabad). On his return to the Kfar, he heard that one of the young people from the Kfar had been severely injured in a tank battle and was hospitalized and unconscious. He immediately thought, perhaps this is what the Rebbe had in mind and he went to the hospital. Friends said that the soldier was hit by a missile and that his watch stopped in the attack. Mr. Davidowitz realized that it was precisely that day and that time when the Rebbe had given him the bottle of mashke for Safiriya. When he said this to the doctor who was treating the soldier, he agreed to put a drop of the mashke into the man's mouth. To the amazement of the doctor, the man opened his eyes and regained consciousness.
The commanders did not have enough words to praise Chabad for their remarkable work.
Reprinted from Beis Moshiach Magazine
Rabbi Eli and Shterna Sara Naiditch recently opened Chabad of the Coast in Tel Aviv, Israel, for English speaking immigrants to the city.
Chabad of Neuilly, in Paris, France, dedicated a new Chabad House. The new Chabad House includes a beautifully designed synagogue, classrooms, library, state-of-the-art kitchen and offices.
Hakhel-Jewish Unity Event
On Sunday, September 20, the first Sunday of the New Year, 50,000 Jewish men, women and children participated in a gathering of Jewish Unity, the first of many world-wide during this "Hakhel" year. Buenos Aires, São Paulo, Johannesburg, Kfar Chabad, Moscow; Paris; London; Toronto; New York; Los Angeles; Chicago; Detroit; Houston; St. Paul, Morristown, Pittsburgh, and tens of thousands of online viewers joined together to sing, pray and celebrate. For Hakhel events in your community contact your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center.
Translated from a letter of the Rebbe
Beginning of Marcheshvan, 5734 (1973)
Note: This letter was written three weeks after the Yom Kippur War. This year 5776 is a Hakhel year.
...The month of Tishrei ushers in the new year.
In particular, it is the festivals of this month that provide the resources - spiritual powers and material means - to accomplish the above [to fulfill the imperative, "All your actions should be for the sake of heaven," and "Know Him in all your ways."
Inasmuch as all matters of the Torah are meaningful in all their details, how much more so such a comprehensive matter relating to Tishrei.
It is significant that all the festivals of the month of Tishrei are "sealed" with the Season of our Rejoicing and SimchasTorah.
This pointedly re-emphasizes the explicit commandment, "Serve G-d with joy," - with true joy derived from G-d's Torah and G-d's precepts that "rejoice the heart."
What has been said above regarding the meaningfulness of all details in Torah, applies, of course, also to the time element.
For although each year the month of Tishrei sets the tone and provides benefits for the entire year, each new year also introduces additional new elements pertaining to it, and each year brings its own distinctive teaching.
Thus the special teaching of the current year is related to its distinctive features which set it apart from the six years which preceded it and the six years which follow, in that it is the year of Hakhel [gathering]: "Gather together all the people, men women and children."
To be sure, this mitzva - in its plain and actual form - is confined to the Holy Land, "the land which...always [including the time of exile] G-d's eyes are on it, from the beginning of the year to the end of the year," and to the time of the Holy Temple. However, the spiritual aspects and content of all mitzvot are eternal, being part of our eternal Torah.
The general character of the mitzvah (commandment) of Hakhel calls for the implementation of its contents and purpose, not on an individual basis, but in the manner of Hakhel, i.e. congregationally and collectively, with multitudes of participants, and with special emphasis on congregating the young, including boys and girls of tender age, and for the purpose specified in the Torah, "That they should heed to do all the words of this Torah."
That they should heed," also in the sense of eager anticipation and longing; "to do" - in actual practice, not being content with merely a "good heart," "good intention," or "good resolution," but in actual deed; "all the words of the Torah" - a person should not think that since his merits outweigh his demerits, and by a substantial margin, he has already done his duty, for one is required to fulfill all the words of "this Torah" - as if "pointing a finger" demonstratively and emphatically that this is the Torah exactly as it was given to Moses at Sinai, the Written Torah together with its interpretation, the Oral Torah, free from any, G-d forbid, distortion, misinterpretation, compromise, etc.
The significance of the said Hakhel concept has been accentuated by the events that began on the Holy Day (Yom Kippur) in this Hakhel-Year, directed against our men, women and children as a Holy Congregation.
But the togetherness of our people in the spirit of Hakhel will stand our people in good stead, as it did in the past, in fulfillment of the prophetic promise: "The L-rd of Hosts shall shield them" - His people, the "unique and united people on earth"; "He redeemed them, elevated them, and exalted them all the days of the world."
And as Jews gather together to increasingly implement the Hakhel objective, they should heed all the words of Torah, spreading the light of Torah and mitzvot in an ever growing measure. Thus, they dispel the darkness of the exile and thereby (through Torah and mitzvoth in daily life) bring closer the coming of our Righteous Moshiach and our true and complete Redemption: "And the earth will be filled with (G-d's) glory."
This is an appropriate time to call attention again, to the appeal for Torah and tzedakah (charity) in every day practice, in light of the prophet's words: "Zion shall be redeemed through Mishpot (Torah) and its returnees through charity."
Torah-study every day is crucial to life itself. This applies not only to the soul of the one studying but also to the souls of his family. For then (through Torah-study), the atmosphere of the home becomes an atmosphere of Torah and piety.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This coming Tuesday is the seventh day of the Hebrew month of Cheshvan. In the times of the Holy Temple, the Jewish people traveled to Jerusalem for the festivals of Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot, the seventh of Cheshvan marked the end of the pilgrimage season surrounding the festival of Sukkot, according to our Sages. During Sukkot, the entire Jewish people were in Jerusalem. For the Jews living on the Euphrates River, the furthest reaches of the Holy Land, their journey home took fifteen days and thus, was concluded on the seventh of Cheshvan. It was beginning on the seventh of Cheshvan that the prayer for rain commenced, once all of the pilgrims were comfortably home again.
This fact, of the delay of the prayers for rain until the last pilgrims reached their homes, is relevant to the concept of Jewish unity.
During the pilgrimage festivals, the essential unity of the Jewish people is expressed. However, that unity applies to the essential oneness that binds our people together, while transcending our individuality. The unity expressed by the seventh of Cheshvan relates to Jews as individuals. Jewish unity remains even after each Jew returns to his own home and his individual lifestyle.
The seventh of Cheshvan is the final stage of Jewish unity that was begun during the month of Elul (the days of preparation for Rosh Hashana) and enhanced throughout all of the days of month of Tishrei. May we continue to work on and enhance Jewish unity in every way possible until the ultimate revelation of total Jewish unity and the unity of G-d and the entire world with the coming of Moshiach, NOW!
These are the generations of Noach: Noach was a just, perfect man in his generation (Gen. 6:9)
Rashi comments: This verse teaches us that the most important legacy of a righteous person is his good deeds. A righteous person is not defined by his lineage or by his noble ancestry, but by his own actions and behavior.
A just, perfect man in his generation (6:9)
Noah's perfection was that he followed G-d's will completely and with all of his being throughout the day, not just when he learned and prayed, but with mundane matters as well.
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)
And it [the flood] blotted out every living thing...both man and animal (7:23)
If mankind sinned, why did the animals have to be punished, too? This is explained by a parable. A person prepared a great wedding feast for his son's upcoming marriage, and procured the finest delicacies for the celebration. Before the marriage could take place, however, the son died. The father then dismantled the wedding canopy and threw away all the elaborate preparations he had made, saying, "What do I need all these for? Now that my son is dead all this is useless." Similarly, when G-d saw that mankind had sinned, He said, "What use is there for the whole animal kingdom now? I only created them to serve mankind."
Shabbat was quickly approaching and Abba Tachna was happy. He had managed to gather everything his family needed to make the holy day a true delight. His wife and children were awaiting him and he quickened his pace. The heavy bundle hoisted on his shoulder contained not only Shabbat delicacies, but many of his possessions, for Abba Tachna worked outside the city and returned home only for Shabbat. He hoped to arrive early enough to prepare himself properly for the holy day as was his weekly custom.
As Abba Tachna considered these thoughts, he saw a man lying in the middle of the road, groaning in pain. Abba Tachna approached the man who begged in a weak voice, "Please, Rabbi, bring me to my house. If you don't help me, I am sure I will die from pain and hunger, for I can't move."
Abba Tachna saw that the poor man was covered from head to foot with sores and bruises. He quickly considered the situation, for it was completely impossible for him to carry both his bundle and the injured man. He thought to himself, "If I carry the man to his home and leave my bundle here, it may be stolen, and then my family will have nothing. And if I take the time to bring the man home and then return here to pick up the bundle, it may be too late to carry the Shabbat food and then my family will go hungry. However, if I bring my bundle home and then return for the man, he may die, G-d forbid."
Abba Tachna's decision took mere seconds. Of course, he must bring the injured man to his home first. He let down his bundle and ever so gently raised the man to his shoulders and proceeded to the man's house. When they arrived he put the man in bed where the man's family began to tend to him. Then he hurried back to the roadside and, to his delight, found his bundle where he had left it.
Praising G-d, Abba Tachna doubled his pace toward home. As he approached the city, he saw many people, already dressed in their Shabbat clothes. They were hurrying towards the synagogues, prayer books in hand. Abba Tachna wondered, "Could the Shabbat already have arrived?" The people stared at him, and he read their thoughts, "Why is Abba Tachna still in his work clothes and carrying a bundle?"
Abba Tachna was seized with a panic; could it be that the Holy One would actually allow him to desecrate the Shabbat because he had expended precious time in order to save a man's life? Isn't it true that to save a life is the highest mitzva of all? Abba Tachna quickly scanned the horizon and with great relief saw that, in fact, the sun had not yet set. The Sabbath had not yet begun. He hurried to his home, bathed, dressed in his Shabbat clothes and rushed to the synagogue, arriving just in time. Abba Tachna prayed that Shabbat with a special fervor, for G-d had granted him the merit of saving a fellow Jew and also celebrating the holy Shabbat together with his family.
Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel was head of the Sanhedrin and a wise leader of the Jewish people. One day he instructed his attendant, Tovi, to go to the market saying only, "Tovi, please buy something good to eat."
Tovi thought for a few moments and then went to the butcher. He purchased a tongue, known to be a great delicacy. Returning to his employer, Tovi proudly showed him his purchase.
"Excellent!" said Rabbi Shimon. "Now, go back to the market and buy something which is not good to eat." Tovi was surprised at Rabbi Shimon's unusual request, but he turned back to the marketplace. As he walked, he thought, "Why would my master desire that I buy bad food? There must be some purpose for his request. Perhaps he wants to teach his disciples something." Tovi's thoughts continued in this vein.
Tovi entered the butcher shop and ordered another tongue. Then he returned to his employer and showed him the purchase. Rabbi Shimon asked, "When I asked you to buy something good to eat, you bought a tongue. But then, when I sent you out a second time to purchase something bad to eat, you returned with another tongue. Is a tongue good or bad?"
Tovi replied, "A tongue is both. For when the tongue is good, there is nothing better, but when it is bad, there is nothing worse. When people learn Torah or speak G-d's praises with their tongues, there is nothing more exalted in the world. When they express kindness to their fellow man and use their words to help one another, it is a very great thing. However, when they speak ill of one another, when they insult or hurt another with their words, they bring about great evil and the tongue is very bad."
Rabban Gamliel smiled at his wise and understanding attendant. The incident circulated amongst all the students of Rabban Gamliel and was long remembered every time they used their tongues.
Why does the rainbow signify that G-d won't bring another Flood? Before the Flood, the clouds were dense and obscured the sunlight. The Flood that purified the earth also refined the clouds, making it possible for the rainbow to be seen. The rainbow, a product of the process of purification, is thus symbolic of the Redemption, which will come about through the refinement of the world. Its appearance is a sign of the imminence of Moshiach, as stated in the Zohar: "When a rainbow appears with its shining multicolored hues - await the arrival of Moshiach." The Messianic Era, when the world will reach unprecedented levels of holiness, is the culmination of that process of purification.
(The Rebbe, Parshat Noach, 5721)