Friday, June 29, 2007

Today (June 28) is the 12th of Tammuz, the day of the liberation of the Previous Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn from Soviet imprisonment. It is celebrated by Chassidim throughout the world as a major chassidic holiday and as a victory of light over darkness and holiness over tyranny. Here is an excerpt from the story of his imprisonment and ultimate release.

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

Friday, June 22, 2007

Some more humor

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."

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

A Little Humor

A South American scientist from Argentina has discovered after a lengthy study that people with very low intelligence level, read their e-mails with their hand on the mouse!
Don't bother taking it off now, it's too late!

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Think before clicking "Send"...

Sometimes your computer can teach you a lot about life.

Allow me to explain.

The saintly kabbalists taught that the underlying theme of an entire Parsha is expressed through its name.

At the literal level, this week's Parsha is called "Send" ("Sh'lach") because it's all about the spies that Moses sent.

"Send forth men for yourself to scout out the Land of Canaan,"G-d commanded Moses. The spies were instructed by Moses to bring back a report of the land. And so they did. Unfortunately, though, their report was a slanderous one. The tragic consequences of this evil report are described in the ensuing chapters of the Parsha.

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.