Click here to view world's largest Menorah, in Birobizhan, Russia:
Problem is, however, it's not kosher for Chanukah -- in order to fulfill the mitzva, it has to be within 32 feet of the ground. Otherwise, it's too high up, not viewable to the average pedestrian unless you look up.
This teaches us a powerful lesson about Judaism in general and Chanukah in particular.
We need to see the miraculous in every aspect of our lives, even in the down-to-earth, daily routine. If it's too lofty, too sublime, too abstract... it's not helping us achieve the purpose for which we were created, to illuminate the darkness of the world with the light of Torah.
Our Jewishness ought to be expressed outwardly through the mitzvos we do in the realm of action as well, not just in speech and thought.
Friday, December 14, 2007
Click here to view world's largest Menorah, in Birobizhan, Russia:
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
After solemnly holding tight onto a pitchfork for over seven decades, the dour-faced Depression era couple is almost breaking into a “Happy Chanukah!” smile.
Indeed, the picture has changed as the stern stick-in-the-mud style has branched out right and left with warm and welcoming outreach to one and all. Lo and behold, the cold sharp iron implement has gracefully metamorphosed into a warm and bright Menorah.
When Grant Woods painted the austere rural American Gothic in 1930, he could never have imagined a Menorah standing in the center of his masterpiece. Neither could most of us envision that Chanukah would one day light up the contemporary American scene.
The festival of Chanukah has finally arrived, even here, deep in the heartland. Although once low profile and almost in hiding, the shy and bashful Chanukah is now embraced and celebrated, in homes, halls and malls across the country. Rather than restricted to a tiny notice tucked away in back of the religion section, Chanukah has now blossomed into a full color front page story.
It’s not that our smiling couple just discovered Chanukah out on the street. Note that they’ve already kindled their personal household Menorah in the window, and have come out front to publicly and proudly display a Menorah for all to see. The cherished Constitutional Freedom of Religion that we enjoy in this country is surely a good reason for us all to smile along.
These adorable folks may also be smiling at how times have changed since they starred in the original Gothic. Long past its heyday, the pitchfork has fallen into disuse, an archaic relic that rusts in the barnyard or is confined to museums. By contrast, the Menorah of twenty five centuries ago is full of energy, meaning and purpose. The vital and vibrant Menorah reflects the past and burns with a fiery passion for the future, shining forth as strong as ever.
The painting’s original expression of the precious values of Thrift, Endurance and Faith are depicted beautifully in the new rendition. But rather than standing stoically and tight lipped, Chanukah poignantly delivers a three pronged message that emanates warmth.
Thrift: The little cruse of oil that illuminated the Holy Temple in Jerusalem for eight days and nights demonstrates the victory of Quality over Quantity and the triumph of the few over the many.
Endurance: The Menorah highlights the brave and courageous Maccabees who struggled to overcome great challenges and obstacles.
Faith: Standing tall and proud, the Menorah encourages our faith in G-d and strengthens our confidence in Jewish destiny and future.
The Menorah inspires today, just as it inspired the Jewish people when they were liberated from Greek-Syrian oppression and influence. We preface the Menorah lighting by reciting the blessing for the miracles “in those days, in our time.” The Menorah’s bright rays help dispel the surrounding darkness and confusion and fear of war and terrorism in our time.
Retire, the old trusty pitchfork, must, but first with final respects to its association with the rich symbolism of Messianic universal peace. That is when “nations will beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning shears.” (Isaiah 2:4)
Posted by Rabbi Green at 9:04 PM
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Four thousand hats, four thousand beards, sixty five countries, forty seven states. There is no hall large enough in the entire borough of Brooklyn, NY to hold them. They are gathered at Pier 94 on the west side of Manhattan, which has been converted in to a gigantic banquet hall.
Welcome to the International Convention of the World-Wide Chabad Lubavitch Movement.
The annual gathering of Chabad emissaries is the highlight of our year. Our mission to reach every single Jew is evident throughout the entire ballroom.
Rabbis from every corner of the world are here today, yet tomorrow they will be off to their faraway destinations, placing them within the reach of every single Jew in the entire universe.
The guest speaker is Mr. Levi Leviev, the powerful diamond magnate, who personally bankrolls hundreds of Chabad institutions in the former Soviet Union. He tells the tale of ten Chabad envoys who one hundred years ago arrived in Samarkand to inspire the Bucharian Jewish community. To their chagrin, only ten boys agreed to attend their small cheder. The entire generation was engulfed by a wave of assimilation, yet those ten boys in the cheder remained steadfast in their Jewish observance. One of those boys was Mr. Leviev's grandfather.
It was this committment to the individual, to every single Jew, that Chabad displayed to his grandfather and continues to display to every single Jew that inspires him to stand side by side with the Chabad movement, ensuring that no Jew will be left behind.
The highlight of his talk was the story of a girl from the country of Tatarstan who was born to a Jewish mother and non-Jewish father. The mother felt an obligation to give her daughter a Jewish education and enrolled her in the local Chabad day school. The father went along with it initially, but gradually changed his mind and decided to baptize her as a Christian. As they prepared for the ceremony on a Friday evening, the girl asked the priest for some candles, and he complied with her wishes. She took the candles, lit them and proceeded to say," Baruch ata adon-ai... Lehadlik ner shel shabbat kodesh .... Needless to say, there was not a dry eye in the audience.
May we all merit to reach every Jew and inspire them to give their children a love and passion for the Jewish faith.
By Rabbi Dov Mandel
Posted by Rabbi Green at 4:34 PM
Thursday, October 25, 2007
World's oldest Jew turns 107
The man believed to be the world's oldest living Jew celebrated his 107th birthday in Moscow. Boris Efimov, born Boris Fridland, worked as a political caricaturist until the early 1980s. He won two Soviet State Prizes and was named People's Painter of the USSR in 1967. Efimov had no Jewish education growing up. He began studying Judaism at the age of 100 at Moscow's Chabad-run Marina Roscha Center, where his birthday celebration was held this week.
From JTA News Website
Posted by Rabbi Green at 4:34 PM
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Saturday, October 13, 2007
Another reflection on the current Jewish year, 5768:
What is the luckiest number in Judaism?
OK, there's no such thing as luck. But what's the most meaningful number you can think of?
For example, let's say you make a donation to Chabad of Westboro (click here, by the way, so this doesn't have to be theoretical :-) or to any Jewish charity of your choice.
Which sum would you choose to donate?
Could it be that you'd donate in units or multiples of 18?
Why? Because the number 18 is the numerical value of the Hebrew word Chai (Chet=8, Yud=10). And Chai means life, right?
Wrong. Chai actually is an adjective which means "alive."
"Life" as a noun would be "Chayim."
The numerical equivalent of "Chayim" is 68, the last two digits of this year.
So one could make the case that 68 is more "alive" than 18. 18 is merely a description of life, whereas 68 is life itself!
(Time to start increasing your tzedaka from 18 to 68 :-)
Anyhow, now that we've established that 68 is an important number, let's consider the number 57, the first two digits of this year.
Fifty-seven is the numerical equivalent of "Zan," which means "sustains," or "the one who sustains" (zayin=7, nun=50). 57+68, then, could mean "the One Who sustains life."
Or perhaps, we can use Gematriya (Hebrew numerology) a bit more liberally, and say that 68 is the English word, "now" (nun=50, aleph=1, vav=6).
In this sense, 57 and 68 means: "Life Now," i.e. now is the time for life, lliving life the way life ought to be. Living life to its fullest, by filling it with Torah and Mitzvot.
But in truth, life for a Jew can't be lived to the fullest until Moshiach comes and rebuilds the Bais Hamikdash. At that time, life will truly be meaningful, as we will live in a more real, G-dly reality. Indeed, at that time, human life will once more be eternal, as it was intended to be prior to Adam's sin. In Kabbalah, only immortal life is true life. (This is why, even nowadays, life is only truly meaningful when imbued with Torah and Mitzvot, which are eternal.) Likewise, although life is the synthesis of body and soul, it is the soul which makes the body live, and not vice-versa. For the soul is eternal whilst the body is not. When Mashiach will come, however, a deeper perception of reality will become evident. It is the raw physical existence of the human body, the nethermost end product of creation, that expresses the essence of G-d. Hence, the body will become eternal as well. In fact, there will be a great paradigm shift in the symbiotic relationship of body and soul. At that time, the body will sustain ("Zan") the soul, and not vice-versa, as it is today.
Anyway, sorry for digressing. Back to the point --
So 5768, "Life Now," really means:
May it be this year! Amen.
Posted by Rabbi Green at 10:04 PM
Saturday, October 6, 2007
This week's Parsha is the first of the entire Torah. Quite appropriately, it is called "Bereshit" -- "In the beginning" -- because of its opening phrase, "In the beginning, G-d created heaven and earth."
But let's analyze that for a moment. Rashi objects to the translation "In the beginning" for the simple reason that "Reishit" does not mean "beginning" as a free-standing noun, but rather "beginning of" in construct state.
For example, "children" would be "banim" in Hebrew, but "children of..." (as in Children of Israel) is "b'nei" in construct. "B'nai" never stands alone in a Hebrew sentence. Only when there is a complement phrase or noun that follows (i.e. "Israel") can a construct be used.
Reishit is a word in construct form. Consequently, a more accurate translation of this oft-quoted passage would read: "In the beginning of _______, G-d created heaven and earth." (If the verse intended "In the beginning," the phrase should have been "B'rishona")
This begs the obvious question: in the beginning of what?
(Rashi offers several interpretations. See B'reishit 1:1, 2nd Rashi, at length)
Let's try a somewhat unconventional approach to this age-old question.
Perhaps "In the beginning of [blank]" is precisely what the Torah is trying to say.
The Torah is telling you, the reader, to fill in the blank with something new you are beginning. Any new activity or pursuit, either spiritual ("Heaven") or a material ("Earth").
For example, "In the beginning of my trying to keep Shabbat," or "In the beginning of my new job," or "In the beginning of my trying to have a meaningful relationship with so-and-so," and so on.
Indeed, all new beginnings are fraught with difficulties. All too often we are too set with the status quo, too set in our ways to adapt comfortably to change. Sometimes we don't know where to start, and feel overwhelmed with a sense of chaos and lack of clear direction. At times we may feel a sense of emptiness, as though we are missing the motivation to go forward.
So the Torah (comes from word "Horaah" -- instruction) comes to guide us through by demonstrating that the beginning of any new endeavor in life follows the same model of creation.
Firstly, be aware that "G-d is creating heaven and earth." If the challenge seems too tough and insurmountable, don't shy away. It's not an accident or coincidence that you happen to be in your current set of circumstances. G-d is creating you and your surroundings anew at this very moment.
Secondly, don't get discouraged if you encounter difficulties, darkness, chaos, or feeling of emptiness, in your first attempts. G-d experienced the same thing. "And the earth was astonishingly formless and void, and darkness was on the face of the deep..."
Did He get discouraged? No. Instead He said: "Let there be light!"
That's what you need to do. Turn the darkness into light. "A Mitzva is a candle and the Torah is light." A bit of light dispels much darkness. By imbuing your surroundings with the joy, meaning & wisdom of the Torah, the "void and darkness" we all encounter in life will instantly dissipate.
Once there is light, there is clarity and focus. It won't happen all at once, but in an organized, orderly fashion. Just like in creation: first there was mineral, then plant life, then animal life, and finally human life.
Your efforts will finally bear fruit, through thoughtful planning and dedication. All you need to do first is turn on the light.
And there will be light.
Happy Shabbat Bereshit!
Posted by Rabbi Green at 10:46 PM
Thursday, September 20, 2007
This year is 5768
5 to 7 is two steps up
7 to 6 is one step down
6 to 8 is two steps up.
In life (like in the stock market) sometimes we take two steps up, then get discouraged when we have to take a step back. But don't despair! The purpose of this step back is only to be able to go again two steps up.
In Kabbalistic/Chassidic terminology: "Descent for the sake of Ascent"
May this be a year of revealed blessings, and may we ascend higher in all areas of life, materially and spiritually, with health, happiness and nachas, and most of all, with the ultimate ascent, the return to Eretz Yisrael and the building of the Beis Hamikdash, with the coming of Moshiach NOW!
Posted by Rabbi Green at 11:49 PM
Sunday, September 16, 2007
This year, Rosh Hashana, Sukkot and Simchat Torah are all "three-day holidays."
To be more precise, they're acutally two-day holidays like always. However, this year, since they occur on Thursday and Friday, these holy days flow seamlessly into Shabbos without any interruption of a mundane weekday.
What can we learn from these three-day marathon holidays, in which work is forbidden for three consecutive days?
In Judaism, three is an important number. It symbolizes permanence, consistency, endurance and sturdiness.
An occupant of a house can claim three consecutive years of undisputed occupancy as proof of ownership.
An ox that gores three consecutive times is considered a "goring ox," and it must be presumed that it will gore again in the future.
A three-ply twine is far more enduring than a two or single ply, and is not easily severed.
A table cannot stand on two legs, but can stand on three. Hence the three patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Due to the righteousness of this threesome, their progeny endures forever.
So what do we make of three days of consecutive holy days?
Simple! This year, holiness and the holy activities of Shabbat, i.e. prayer and Torah Study, Mitzvot observance, etc., ought be focused on as a greater priority than ever.
Indeed, our fixed times for Torah study must be:
permanent, consistent and enduring.
Soccer, karate, piano lessons and business calls, etc., can all wait. When your weekly or daily Torah study time arrives, everything else stops.
Even if the phone rings, don't answer it. It's like Shabbos. Three-days-worth of it.
Posted by Rabbi Green at 11:33 PM
Thursday, September 6, 2007
This coming Jewish Year is a Sabbatical Year called “Shmittah.” It is the last year in the seven-year cycle, and has its own special laws.
In the land of Israel, it involves a prohibition against all agricultural activity. Out of the Land of Israel, special laws apply to the eating of Israeli produce.
For Jews, the world over, another law applies as follows.
Any loans made before the Shmittah year may not be reclaimed after Shmittah, as the word "Shmittah" means "release."
The exact cut off date is the subject of differing opinions; some maintain it is at the beginning of Shmittah, whilst others maintain it is at the end of Shmittah.
During Temple times, this law was readily observed. However, later in history people became reluctant to lend money to other Jews in the months before Shmittah, for fear of not being able to reclaim the money later on.
It was Hillel the Elder who lived two thousand years ago who developed the idea of Pruzbul. This is a method that allows one to reclaim debts after Shmittah, by turning one's debts into public debts before Shmittah begins.
This is done quite easily by appointing a “court” of three adult Jews and declaring before them: ‘I hereby transfer to you all debts that are owing to me, so that I may reclaim them whenever I so desire’.
Go to http://www.chabad.org/tools/feedback.htm/aid/5212/jewish/Fill-Out-a-Pruzbul.html
and fill out the form. This should be done on or before Erev Rosh Hashanah, Wednesday 12 September, 2007.
We will also do the oral declaration of Pruzbul at the beginning of our Rosh Hashana service on Wed. 12 at Westborough High School, 90 W Main.
Please join us!
Posted by Rabbi Green at 11:34 PM
Friday, August 31, 2007
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
"Excuse me, Ma'am," he asked, "are you one of the followers of this Rabbi?" She replied that she was.
"Let me tell you a story about that Rabbi," said the cop. "It's my favorite story, but I haven't told it to many Jewish people, in fact, I think that you are the first." He raised his voice over the din of passing cars.
"I used to be in the police escort that once a week escorted the Rabbi to the Montefiore Cemetery (where he would pray at the gravesite of his saintly predecessor, R' Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn). I got to know some of the young men who accompanied the Rabbi, and I learned a thing or two about Hasidim. They are very friendly people and we talked alot while the Rabbi was inside praying.
"They used to tell us all about the greatness of the Rabbi and how he tries to help people all the time. I was standing there with some of my buddies and I half-jokingly asked if the Rabbi helps non-Jews also.
"'Sure,' they said, 'The Rebbe helps anyone who asks. Why? Do you need something?'
"Later, in private, I told one of the young men, that my wife and I had been married for nine years with no children, and one week ago the doctors told us that we had no chance. We had spent a lot of money on treatments, seen all sorts of big professors, we were running around like crazy for the last six or seven years, and now they told us that they tried everything and there is no more hope. You can't imagine how broken we were. My wife cried all the time and I started crying myself.
"So this young man tells me, 'Listen, the next time that you escort the Rebbe to the cemetery, stand near the door of his car and when he gets out, ask him for a blessing.' And you know, that's just what I did! The next time I was in the escort, I stood by his door and when he got out I said to him, 'Excuse me, Rabbi, do you only bless Jewish people or non-Jews too?'
"I'll never forget how the Rabbi looked at me - like I was a good friend! He said that if he can, he tries to help anyone who asks. So I told him what the doctors said, and he told me to write down on a piece of paper my name and my father's name together with my wife's name and her father's name, so he can pray for us. I did it, although I did think it was funny writing down my father and father-in-law's names - real heavy-duty Irish names. But I did it and you know what? In a short time, my wife was expecting and nine months later she gave birth to a baby boy! The doctors went crazy, they couldn't figure it out, and when I told them that the only difference was a Rabbi's blessing, they just scratched their heads. Wow! It was unbelievable!"
The cop's face was truly glowing at this point. "But here comes the best part. Do you know what we called him? What name we gave our baby boy? We called him 'Mendel' after the Rabbi. Can you imagine? The only Irish 'Mendel' in the neighborhood - probably in the world! At first my wife didn't like the name because it didn't sound American. Hey, it doesn't even sound Irish! But I said, No! We're calling him Mendel!
"Of course, our parents objected when they heard the name. They said, 'With a name like that, all the kids will be cruel to him. Why make the kid suffer for no reason?' But they're missing the point. When he comes home and says that the other kids called him names and beat him up because he has a Jewish name, I'll tell him that I want him to learn from those other kids how not to behave. They hate the Jews for no reason, but you should love the Jews, you should help the Jews. You just tell them that without that Jewish Rabbi called Mendel you wouldn't be here at all, and then maybe they'll start thinking differently too!"
Needless to say, he did not give her a ticket.
Posted by Rabbi Green at 11:14 PM
Sunday, August 5, 2007
In every time and every generation, critics and pundits deemed the Torah old-fashioned. This is, and always has been, a factual error. “Old-fashioned” implies that it was once in fashion, and only later became old fashioned. The Torah, on the other hand, has never been in fashion. Its teachings have always been radically out-of-the-box and revolutionary, never conforming with the prevalent attitudes of every society and every age.
Indeed, for most of recorded history, the Torah’s very core principles of Monotheism and the Sinaitic Revelation pitted its practitioners at odds with most of the world’s inhabitants.
It was never fashionable to believe in the Torah’s eternal truths, to assert that G-d is One, infinite and all-transcendent, yet inseparably pervasive and intimately mindful of the most finite detail of our daily existence. No, it was never fashionable to abstain from all creative labors on the Sabbath, to observe the kosher dietary laws, and to observe the Torah’s supra-rational Mitzvot with the same devotion as its rational ones.
The Torah has always been far ahead of its time, so much so that the “times” still haven’t caught up with the Torah yet.
To be continued...
Posted by Rabbi Green at 11:06 PM
Sunday, July 29, 2007
The Mishna (Avot 4:1) teaches:
"Who is wise? One who learns from every man..."
Indeed, a holy man named Rabbi Zusia of Anipoli (18th century Ukraine) taught that one can learn seven lessons from a thief:
1. Work quietly. Don't show off your accomplishments.
2. Take risks. Being Jewish sometimes requires self sacrifice.
3. Every detail is crucial. Never overlook the slightest opportunity to do a good deed.
4. Work hard. Judaism requires effort!
5. Work efficiently. Time is of essence.
6. Be optimistic and ever hopeful. Believe that you will succeed and you will.
7. If the first attempt does not succeed, try and try again.
PS Don't steal. This is the wrong lesson to learn from the thief :-)
Posted by Rabbi Green at 1:15 PM
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
My boyfriend and I are having some conflict over the issue of moving in together before marriage. I don't want to until we're married. He says that he wouldn't feel comfortable committing to someone he hasn't lived with first. It still doesn't seem right to me, but what can I say to him? He seems to have a valid point.
Tell your boyfriend that you do not feel comfortable committing to someone who is prepared to live with someone without committing.
An enduring marriage is based on commitment first, which brings comfortability--not the other way around. If the comfortability brings the commitment, it is not a real commitment. What will happen if your shared life hits an area of discomfort? Actually, it's not a question of "if," but of "when": there is not a single married couple that doesn't encounter some uncomfortable moments in their life together. Do you jump ship? Or do you work on it because you made a commitment to each other, and to G‑d, that you're going too make this relationship work?
In this, marriage is very much like Judaism itself: our Sages tell us that when G‑d asked the Jewish people if they would accept the Torah, the people of Israel responded, Naaseh v'nishmah, "We will do and we will comprehend." We pledged ourselves to both of two critical elements of a meaningful relationship: the commitment to do whatever it takes to maintain the relationship, and the creation of the comfort zone that comes through knowledge and appreciation of the other. But we understood that for the relationship to have a good chance of enduring, the "do" element must come first.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe used to say: Being too close when you're supposed to be apart, causes you to be apart when you're supposed to be close.
Posted by Rabbi Green at 12:02 PM
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
The period of time we are in now is known as the "Three Weeks." This denotes the twenty-one days between the Fasts of the Seventheenth of Tammuz and the Ninth of Av. (The 17th of Tamuz was the day the walls of Jerusalem were breached, and the 9th of Av was when the Temple was finally destroyed, both the first Temple (c 425 BCE) and the second Temple (69 CE).
Besides for just being a shorter way of saying the amount of time, i.e. 21 days, there is deeper significance to why it is called the "Three" Weeks.
Three is a powerful number in Jewish Law. It reflects permanence and enduring strength. Three times constitutes a "Chazaka" in Halacha. For example, if an animal exhibits certain behavior three times consequetively, it is presumed that this behavior will be repeated in the future. Ownership of a contested property is granted to the occupant who can prove uncontested occupancy for three years. King Solomon the Wise once said: "A three ply cord cannot be easily rent." Three also implies sturdiness. A table of three legs can stand independently, while one of two legs cannot.
Question is, why is this mournful period of time traditionally known as the "Three Weeks?" Certainly this period is a temporary one. The destruction of the Temple began the period of Exile we still experience today, but will soon be terminated by the Redemption, i.e. Moshiach's arrival and the building of the Third Holy Temple.
So why should this time be called by such an imposing number?
The Lubavitcher Rebbe explained that this is no coincidence.
The reason it is known as the Three Weeks is to underscore the profundity of the sadness and the magnitude of the destruction. The fact that it is called three demonstrates the seemingly endless nature of this present Exile, one that has lasted for over 1930 years! The darkness of the present era is unprecedented in Jewish History.
On the other hand, the fact that this Exile has been so long and inexorable also reflects a message of intense hope and yearning.
You see, in the Chassidic perspective, the whole purpose of descent if the resultant ascent -- "Yerida l'tzorech Aliya." Consequently, the unfathomably apparent permanence ("Three Weeks") that characterizes this current exile indicates that the resultant Geulah -- redemption -- from this exile, will be a truly permanent one... an era of eternal and lasting good for all mankind.
Interestingly, the middle Shabbos of the Three Weeks is always the day we read Parshat (Matos) Massei and complete the Book of Numbers (Chumash Bamidbar) in synagogue.
Upon concluding the final words of the Parsha and Chumash, we sing in unison the words "Chazak, Chazak V'nischazeik" ("Be strong, be strong and let us strenthen ourselves!") along with the Torah reader.
Three times Chazak -- three times strength.
Indeed, the Torah gives us the strength to see how Exile is merely a stepping stone to the Redemption, how sadness is merely a catalyst to joy, and the destruction a prelude to the wondrous rebuilding and rebirth that follows!
And this is why the Holy Temple we look forward to is the third one. For it is a truly lasting one.
The Rebbe announced on countless occasions that we are the last generation of the exile and the first of the Redemption. As such, we will certainly witness the rebuilding the Third Temple in our times. May it be in the most immediate future, Amen!
Posted by Rabbi Green at 10:48 PM
Friday, June 29, 2007
The Previous Rebbe describes the details of his imprisonment in 1927 by the Soviet authorities for his efforts to spread Judaism and Chassidism among his fellow Jews. These recollections are significant not only as a historical record, but also because they reveal the inner spiritual dynamic of his imprisonment and redemption.
From the beginning of his imprisonment, the Previous Rebbe resolved that he would not be affected by the authorities who had imprisoned him.This resolution had implications beyond his commitment not to compromise in Torah observance. The Previous Rebbe did not perceive the Soviet authorities as having any power at all. In his eyes, they were "utter nothingness and void." He refused to cooperate under interrogation and responded to them with pride and integrity. Despite the physical discomfort and the blows he suffered at their hands, he was not intimidated, nor did he allow them to break his spirit.On Rosh Chodesh Tammuz, guards entered his cell and ordered him to stand. He refused. The guards explained that they had information for him and that the prison rules required that he stand to receive it. He again refused. They threatened to beat him, and when he did not obey them, they carried out their threat.
This scenario was repeated three times. Before the last blows were administered, one of the exasperated guards told the Rebbe, "We'll teach you a lesson!" The Rebbe responded, "The question is, who will teach whom...."Realizing that their attempts to intimidate him were ineffective, the Soviet authorities invited him into an office and informed him of his sentence - three years' exile in Kostroma. (On the desk before him, the Previous Rebbe noticed his file. He saw that his sentence had actually been commuted. He had at first been condemned to execution; the second sentence suggested was twelve years' hard labor; and only the final ruling, three years of exile, was delivered.)
The date was Thursday, the first day of Rosh Chodesh Tammuz. He was informed that he would be granted several hours at home and then he would depart by train to Kostroma. He asked the prison authorities when he was scheduled to arrive in Kostroma and was told that he would arrive on Shabbos.
He refused to go. One of the officials warned that if he did not comply with their orders, he would not be granted another opportunity to leave prison. He replied that he was prepared to stay in prison for as long as necessary; he would not travel on Shabbos.
Shocked by the Rebbe's defiance, the authorities paused for consultation with leading government officials. After some hours, they agreed to detain him in prison over Shabbos and allow him to travel on Sunday, the Third of Tammuz.
To learn more about the story of the 12th of Tammuz, visit www.sichosinenglish.org/books/timeless-patterns/45.htm
Posted by Rabbi Green at 12:25 AM
Friday, June 22, 2007
Max Greenburg was at his favorite eatery, the Second Avenue Deli, when he called over the waiter. "Yes?" asked the busy waiter. "Are you sure you're the waiter I ordered from?" asked Max. "Why do you ask?" replied the waiter. The customer responded: "Because I was expecting a much older man by now."
Posted by Rabbi Green at 2:24 PM
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Wednesday, June 6, 2007
Sometimes your computer can teach you a lot about life. At the literal level, this week's Parsha is called "Send" ("Sh'lach") because it's all about the spies that Moses sent.
Allow me to explain.
The saintly kabbalists taught that the underlying theme of an entire Parsha is expressed through its name.
Rashi comments: "Why is the section dealing with the spies juxtaposed with the section dealing with Miriam? Because she was punished (with leprosy) over matters of slander, for speaking against her brother, and these wicked people witnessed it, but did not learn their lesson.
One of the major lessons of Sh'lach, then, is the devastating results of evil speech.
How does the name "Sh'lach" convey that message? What does the word "Send" teach us about the effect of speech?
That's where my computer comes in. You see, I have this seemingly innocuous little icon in my Outlook called "Send." It appears at the top of every email message I compose. I can type and type to my heart's content in total privacy, but once I hit the "Send" key, the message is out of my control. I can no longer modify or erase it. It's out there floating in Cyberspace, getting instantaneously sent to someone's email server. The recipient will get it exactly the way it appeared when I clicked "Send."
Did you ever click "Send" prematurely, before editing your message? Or perhaps you regretted what you wrote or how you wrote it? Too late now.
I once composed a private message intended for a certain individual. Somehow, however, I erroneously addressed it to several hundred recipients, and only became aware of this oversight after having clicked "Send." Oops! My erstwhile private information was now public. Thanks to that darned little Send button.
Much like the text we send in the present age of email and instant messaging, our spoken words leave our control once we say them.
Our words may be from us, of us and by us, but once they are spoken, they are no longer ours. Indeed, once they leave our mouth, they cannot be retrieved.
A Chassidic tale vividly illustrates the far-ranging consuquence of improper speech:
A man went about the community spreading evil gossip. Later he felt remorse and asked his rabbi how he could make amends. The rabbi instructed the man to cut open a feather pillow and scatter its feathers to the winds. After the man had complied with the strange request, the rabbi instructed further: "Now, go and gather the feathers. Because you can no more make amends for the damage your words have done than you can recollect the feathers."
Speech has been compared to an arrow. Once the words are released, they cannot be recalled. The harm they do cannot be stopped, nor can the harm always be predicted, for words like arrows often go astray.
On the other hand, a kind word, a blessing or prayer, can continue to yield results of healing and love, even long after they were spoken. Just as the tongue can be the most destructive tool, when used properly, it can be the most healing tool.
Think twice before pressing Send. Think three times before opening your mouth.
At the literal level, this week's Parsha is called "Send" ("Sh'lach") because it's all about the spies that Moses sent.
Posted by Rabbi Green at 10:06 PM
Thursday, May 31, 2007
Itzik, Tzion & Tziki were among the first soldiers who arrived at the Western Wall during its liberation on June 7th, 1967 (Iyar 28). In their historic photo, one can see their awe and admiration of the hallowed stones of the Wall. This was the first time Jews were able to return to the Wall after 19 years of Jordanian occupation. On the fortieth anniversary, they visited again, along with the aged photographer of the original photo, David Robinger (sp?). Together they recounted the great miracles that occured and the raw emotions of that momentous experience.
That historic occasion triggered a new era of rebirth of Jewish life, with thousands of Jews from all over the world coming to the Kotel, putting on Tefillin, etc.
Before the advent of the great Messianic Era, the Prophets predict that "a great Shofar will be sounded," and all their will be a reawakening of Jews lost in the exiles. The Rebbe, who incidentally predicted the great miracles of the Six Day War weeks prior to its onset in June of 67, declared that the sounding of the "Great Shofar" began on this day. Prior to the war, the Rebbe had initiated a worldwide Tefillin campaign, and later added numerous other Mitzva campaigns.
To find out how you can get involved with these mitzva campaigns and be part of the ongoing miracle of Jewish revival, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. The time of the Redemption is now... let's be part of it!
Posted by Rabbi Green at 6:16 PM
Sunday, May 27, 2007
Someone recently joked that in today's day and age of moral relativism, the name ought to be changed to "the Ten Suggestions."
Obviously, we'd laugh at such a suggestion. Take 'em or leave 'em, but for crying out loud, don't rename them! Everyone knows that there are Ten Commandments, right?
For the sake of accuracy, let's debunk this myth once and for all.
There's no such thing as the "Ten Commandments."
1) There are 613 Commandments given at Sinai, not just ten.
2) The "Ten Commandments" is a poor translation of "Aseret Hadibrot." This term should properly be translated as the "Ten Statements." (Otherwise, it would have been called "Aseret Hamitzvot")
3) If you read the so-called "Ten Commandments," you will actually find 14 or 15 commandments mentioned therein.
A much better name for these famous ten statements is the Decalogue.
So what's all the hype about the Decalogue? Simple. These were the only part of the Torah that ALL the Jewish people heard at once and directly from G-d. (The rest was transmitted to us via Moses over the period of forty years).
That's why they're called the Ten Statements or Sayings ("Dibrot" comes from "Dibbur," speech), indicating that we heard them as they were verbalized by G-d.
Our Sages taught that by articulating these statements, the Almighty was in fact giving us the entire Torah, since the Dibrot are all-embracing and incorporate all 613 commandments in a general way.
Indeed, the Decalogue contains exactly 620 letters, corresponding to all 613 mitzvot and seven Rabbinical ordinances, or conversely the seven Noahidic mitzvot for all mankind.
Stay tuned for further misconceptions...
Posted by Rabbi Green at 9:27 AM
Friday, May 25, 2007
Can’t think of anything new?
Come to think of it, what do we consider new, anyway?
Doesn’t it seem as though the word "new" has become somewhat of a cliché?
Let's consider this oft-used word and its modern applications. Let's see. Massachusetts might be called "New England," but fact is that's the oldest part of the country. In fact, just last month I took a class to Newport, RI. Now THAT was old. So I guess "new" is a relative term.
What ever is called new will ultimately be old. Every new fashion will be old and outdated at some point. Of course, everyone enjoys reading the morning newspaper hot off the press with a cup of coffee. But alas, “news" is not really new at all. In fact, it's old by very definition -- it reported an event that happened. And the proof is that twelve hours after it arrives, it’s garbage. Oops, I mean, it’s recycling. Either way, it’s OLD.
So what else is new? (yawn)
New York? New Jersey? How about New Coke?
Someone once explained to me that a new car is new till you drive it off the lot. At that point, it becomes used (read “old”). Same with a new born baby. First she’s a newborn. Then suddenly, she’s one day old.
Can anything be considered “new” forever? Could something be new and stay new?
Sadly, but the whole idea doesn’t really exist in our world.
Said King Solomon the Wise: “Ein kol chadash tachat hashemesh” – “There’s nothing new under the sun.” What ever is born eventually dies. That’s just the way things go in an ephemeral world.
However, the Sages have another take on Solomon’s statement. There may not be anything new “tachat hashemesh,” under the sun. But OVER the sun, beyond the heavens, there’s something new. What comes from beyond the sun?
The Torah was new the day it was given, 3319 years ago, and it is new today, fresh and ever-relevant. Every year on Shavuot, even every day, we are given the Torah anew.
Every morning we recite the blessing: “Blessed are you G-d, who GIVES us the Torah” – not GAVE (past tense), but “who gives us the Torah” in the here and now.
There’s nothing new in this world, says Solomon, except for the Torah. Everything that comes to be is old a moment later. The Torah, however, is given to us anew every moment. It is relevant in every circumstance and every time, just as the day it was given at Sinai.
The Torah is the life-blood of the Jewish people. That is why we are the oldest people on earth and yet the most modern, the most deeply rooted in antiquity and at the forefront of progress, at the cutting edge of new discoveries.
Because of our connection to a timeless Torah, we are a timeless people.
See you in Shul on Shavuot as we celebrate our timelessness.
We will be starting on time, though :-)
(So what else is new?)
Posted by Rabbi Green at 9:22 AM
Thursday, May 17, 2007
Welcome to our new blog!
Our new blog and new-and-improved website couldn't have been launched at a more appropriate time.
You see, Shavuot, the holiday we are celebrating on May 23-24, is the ultimate time of renewal. Each year on Shavuot, we receive the Torah anew!
The first Shavuot took place on Shabbat, fifty days after the Exodus from Egypt, on the sixth day of the month of Sivan, 2448 years after the creation of the world (May 9, 1312 BCE), 3319 years ago. That day, at the break of dawn, G-d spoke the Ten Declarations.* (See next post entitled "Popular Misconceptions") Similarly, each year G-d gives us the Torah anew on Shavuot. We celebrate each year by going to Shul (this year, on Wed. May 23) and listening to the reading of the Ten Declarations & the giving of the Torah, thereby reliving the events of that momentous time. In addition, the night before, we remain awake late into the night studying the Torah, awaiting it's giving the next morning as we would a most cherished treasure.
So you see, Shavuot is a time of new beginnings.
In fact, new-ness is such an important theme of Shavuot that the Torah commands us to bring a "New Grain-Offering" to G-d on that day. On Shavuot, the first wheat offering of the year's new harvest was brought as an offering in the Holy Temple. It was also the time that people began to bring the first fruits as well.
Each Biblical holiday has agricultural/seasonal significance as well as historical significance. In fact, these two significances complement each other. The arrival of new wheat -- food for the body -- corresponds to the new gift of the Torah -- nourishment for the soul.
Hope this gives you some food for thought!
So nu? Please join us in shul on Wednesday as we relive the Sinai experience anew.
And thanks again for reading our new blog.
Posted by Rabbi Green at 8:08 PM