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Rabbi Eli's Blog

Rabbi Eli's Blog

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Want Your Marriage to Last? Get Married in a Desert!

As Shabbat ends this week, we will usher in the holiday of Shavuot, commemorating the day on which G-d gave us the Torah on Mount Sinai 3327 years ago.

After a miraculous exodus from Egypt, G-d asked us for our ‘hand in marriage’ at the foot of Mount Sinai. It was at this mountain that we exchanged our vows: G-d guaranteed our eternal and immortal existence for all times as His chosen People and we, in turn, took an oath to remain faithful and loyal to our spouse by observing His Torah and mitzvahs.

shavuot-724451.jpgCouldn’t G-d have picked, perhaps, a more appropriate or romantic location on which to hold this eternal union and marriage with Israel? The desolate and barren Sinai Desert hardly seems like an ideal location?!?

Yet, as in every facet of our Torah, there is a profound and insightful lesson being expressed precisely by the location at which G-d chose to give the Torah – a desert.

A desert is ‘no man’s land’. No one can claim ownership or rights to it. And the same holds true of our Torah. Each of us has inherited an equal right, claim, and connection to the Torah. Each and every one of us can have a personal and intimate relationship with G-d Almighty through studying the Torah and observing its mitzvahs.

The rabbi and businessman, the yeshiva student and college student, the newborn child and the grandparent – we each have inherited this precious gift that connects us with G-d. It’s an ‘equal opportunity’ Torah!

While 50% of marriages end in divorce these days, the wedding ceremony between G-d and Israel in the Sinai Desert produced a passionate marriage that is very much alive today as 3327 years ago.

index_pic.gifSure, we have had our fair share of friction with G-d. Yes, it’s not always been blissful. He has gotten angry and frustrated with us on occasion. True, we have not always been loyal and faithful. And of course, we can each do more to be a better spouse, but the very fact that you’re reading this blog post today is the greatest testament to the enduring strength of our eternal relationship.

And so, as we are about to approach our 3327th wedding anniversary, we are called upon to reignite our innate passion and love that we each possess for Judaism, G-d, and his Torah.

Please don’t miss this auspicious opportunity.

This Sunday at 1:00 pm come (together with your family and friends - especially with children) and listen to the reading Ten Commandments. Together as one community we will recreate the energy and feelings of that awesome wedding ceremony in the Sinai Desert.

Mushkie, Chana, and Shirah Yocheved join me in wishing you a Shabbat Shalom and a Chag Same’ach, may we merit to joyously receive and internalize the Torah!

Rabbi Eli

770, my home

 770.JPG

 

770 Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn, New York, known to thousands simply as "770", is home to Chabad-Lubavitch World Headquarters. The building houses dozens of offices, a study-hall, and of course a large synagogue. It is the place where Rebbe gave his talks and farbrengens and handed out dollars. From 770, the Rebbe sent out his emissaries, building the largest spiritual army in history which today covers a large portion of the globe. Simply put, 770 is the hub of Chabad. 

More than a building or a synagogue, 770 is a magnet, a compass, drawing 
people in. I studied in 770, pouring over holy texts and hashing out Talmudic debates. I spent many nights in that study hall, deep in Chassidic discussion, often till the wee hours of the morning. This is the place I could forget about the rest of the world and meditate for hours about the greatness of G-d. Before moving to Humboldt I would be in 770 every day, and whenever I go back to New York it’s the first place I go.

rosenblatt.JPGAt 1:45 AM this past Tuesday morning, the safety and security we've always felt in our home away from home, 770, was brutally shattered when a knife-wielding man violently stabbed 22-year-old Israeli student Levi Rosenblatt in the head. Thank G-d, Levi is recovering and will be ok, but to have a horrific attack like this in 770 is unimaginable. I felt like it had happened in my own living room.

Clearly, the spiritual forces of darkness are waging war, desperately 
trying to subdue us. 

Schneur_Zalman_of_Liadi.jpgBut this week in particular we celebrate the triumph of Chassidism and light over those who sought to destroy it. The 19th of Kislev is known as the Rosh Hashanah of Chassidism. On this day, the founder of the Chabad movement, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, was released from prison (where he had been imprisoned due to false accusations) and allowed to continue spreading his teachings. When he returned home, he explained that his release from prison was not only a personal victory, but a spiritual one as well. In the heavenly realms, the forces of evil were trying to prevent the dissemination of Chassidism, and the Rebbe's physical release from prison represented the victory of holiness, purity and light over darkness. 

Today, we stand on the verge of redemption, ready for Moshiach, and so once more we battle the evil forces that would like nothing better than to see us fail. But we cannot be subdued. As we celebrate the 19th of Kislev this week, and Chanukah next week, we will continue to add light, love, kindness and generosity to the world, until we manage to vanquish the darkness entirely.

We hope you can join us in bringing the light of Chanukah, by participating in the upcoming events. Click HERE for more details.

 

Make every moment count!

As Shabbat keeps coming in earlier and earlier it seems like theres not enought time to get everything done. But it also helped me relize the importace of every moment and the need to use out each and every one to its fullest. Which reminds me of a story that the Midrash relates:

Seeing that his students were falling asleep during his lecture, the famed Rabbi Akiva relayed the following teaching: Why did Queen Esther (the Jewish queen of Persia in the Purim story) rule over 127 countries? Because she was a granddaughter of Sarah who lived for 127 years. 

What is the meaning of the teaching and why did Rabbi Akiva choose to relay this teaching as his students were falling asleep? (note: falling asleep during the Rabbi’s sermon is not a new tradition!) 

An answer I heard from Rabbi Jacobson: Through this observation, Rabbi Akiba gently reprimanded his students for sleeping through the class. If Esther reigned over 127 countries, or provinces, in the large Persian Empire, corresponding to Sarah’s 127 years of life, it follows that for each year of Sarah’s life, Esther was granted kingship over an entire province or country. It follows then, that for each month of her life, she was given the gift of kingship over an entire city (a country contains at least 12 cities.) It follows then, that for each week of her life, she was rewarded with a town (a city has at least four towns). This would mean that for each day of her life she was rewarded with a neighborhood or section of the town. If we break it down even further, we will find that for every second of her life, she was rewarded with an entire block, over which her descendant, Queen Ester, ruled!esther_persian_empire.jpg

Rabbi Akiva thus sought to impress upon his students the value, potential and significance of every moment of life. Sarah received immense reward for each and every second of her life, because she devoted all her time and energy to living an honest, meaningful and good life. This was the subtle message that Rabbi Akiva, in his pedagogical brilliance, conveyed to his sleepy students. We cannot squander such a valuable resource as a time - not even a minute! Each moment is precious and laden with great potential. 

Money one.JPGImagine there is a bank which credits our account each morning with $86,400.00, carries over no balance from day to day, allows us to keep no cash balance, and every evening cancels whatever part of the amount we failed to use during the day. What would we do? Draw out every cent, of course! 

Well, everyone has such a bank. It's name is time. Every morning, it credits us with 86,400 seconds. Every night it writes off, as lost, whatever of this we have failed to invest to good purpose. It carries over no balance. It allows no overdraft. Each day it opens a new account for us. If we fail to use the day's deposits, the loss is ours. There is no going back. There is no drawing against thetomorrow. 

To realize the value of one minute, ask a person who missed the train. To realize the value of one second, ask a person who just avoided an accident. To realize the value of 1/10 of a second, ask the person who won a silver medal in the Olympics. 

They tell a story of the man who came to the therapist for a very serious problem. “How can I help you?” asks the therapist. Yes, says the patient. Please tell me what time is it? Therapist: Three o'clock. Patient: Oh, no! G-d help me.  Therapist: What's the matter? Patient: I've been asking the time all day. And everybody gives me a different answer!...

Good Shabbos,
Rabbi Eli

The Boy Bravely Walks Off Field

Chabad boy

The following is an email that Rabbi Mendy Lipskier, Director of Chabad Lubavitch of Fountain Hills in Arizona, sent to his community:

I'd like to share a real life experience that occurred in our family recently. The "Kid and the Yid" is our son, Yossi, 9 years old, an avid baseball fan, and valuable team member on our local Little League team. We recently dropped him off, "uniformed up" at "the diamond" for the regular game. 

We do as all little league parents normally do, sometimes we stay, sometimes we drop off. Due to other commitments, this particular day we dropped him off leaving him in his uniform with his coach and teammates.

What happened next was the "foul ball." 

The game was going fine, with Yossi (as always) very actively participating, and very much looking forward to his "at bat." As he came up to bat, the umpire happened to notice that Yossi wears two uniforms, his team uniform, and also the fringe undergarment uniform of every male Jew - Tzitzit.

But then, for the first time, the umpire insisted that Yossi remove his Tzitzit in that it could produce some type of "interference or unfair advantage."

Yossi --the only Jewish boy, not just on the team, but we think in the entire league-- respectfully explained to the umpire that he is wearing a religious undergarment, had never had an issue with this previously, however the umpire would not listen, decrying in affect "foul ball."

What was Yossi to do? Disrespect the umpire (an adult), or disrespect his religion? 

To Yossi, the choice was easy and clear. He had "two feet on the ground" in more ways than one. He walked off the field and would not play! 

The game stopped, Yossi's team also volunteered to walk off the field and forfeit the game in its entirety. 

After a significant "pow-wow" between the coaches and the umpire, Yossi was allowed to play, "double uniforms" and all.

So what educational opportunity does this story lend itself to?

1. Tzitzit is a sign of Jewish pride. Jews have always had a way of dress to distinguish them from the people of the lands in which they lived—even when that meant exposing themselves to danger and bigotry. By the grace of G?d, today most of us live in lands where we are free to (and should) practice our religion without such fears.

2. Religious tolerance means to refrain from discriminating against others who follow a different religious path.

3. The freedom of individuals to believe in, practice, and promote their religion of choice without interference, harassment, or other repercussions shall always prevail.

4. Ignorance, unacceptance and religious intolerance still run rampant, and people exhibiting those traits, among other "blind acts," might see Tzitzit as just part of a "fringe religion." However, we actually see it as a symbol of "forget-me-knots." Today, whether it be a Yamulke, a Mezuzah, or Tzitzit (ideally all), as Yossi did, we should all wear our "Jewish uniform" unapologetically with pride and with our head's held high.

As we know, self-assertion often demands a lot of humility. Doing something out of the ordinary requires putting our image on the line. It means that I care more about my truth than what other people think about me. This is self-esteem that is rooted in soul-consciousness.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe taught a powerful lesson gleaned from the location Hashem chose from where to give us His Torah, as explained on Chabad.org:

The Midrash tells us that G-d chose Mt. Sinai, and not a more impressive mountain, to teach us the value of humility. The question, of course, is this: If humility is paramount, why did G-d give us the Torah on a mountain at all? Why not a plain, or even a valley? The mere term "Mt. Sinai" is an oxymoron. It’s a mountain, towering and majestic. And it’s Sinai, meager compared to her sister mountains, humble. If humility is paramount, why did G-d give us the Torah on a mountain at all?

When G-d gave us the Torah and inaugurated us into Jew-hood, He said, "You are going to need to be real strong to be a Jew." Be a mountain. Have a backbone. Be a charismatic light unto the nations, and don’t give a hoot if people laugh at you.

But be a humble mountain. Humble in your recognition that your strength comes from G-d. Your life’s value is not about your image, it’s about your higher calling. Don’t measure yourself against the standards set by your neighbors; measure yourself against your soul’s potential.

First Blog Post

 

So I was inspired by one of my congregants to start a blog (thanks Rachel! see her blog HERE). Here I was busy preparing all the things we'll need for Passover a mere 3 weeks away when I started feeling overwhelmed by the tremendous responsibility we have to ensure that every Jew in Humboldt should be able to celebrate their freedom. It got me thinking what about my freedom... I know, I know, we left Egypt thousands of years ago... but I still feel like a slave. With so many responsibilities how does one become truly free?

Then it dawned on me. We are all limited not by our tasks that need to get done but by our own self. By reaching beyond your own limits and doing something that’s out of your comfort zone you break out of all shackles holding you back and become truly free.

Like the Rebbe once said:
rebbe.jpg"Make a part of your life an act that takes you beyond your bounds, helping people that are not part of your family or circle of friends, doing something that does not fit within your own self-definition. Invite someone to your seder who you're not so comfortable with. At first, it may not feel so good. But you have set yourself free."

So lets all make a sincere effort to be truly liberated this Passover bringing about the ultimate liberation with the coming of Moshiach speedily NOW! 

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