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It’s not about what, it’s about how…

15 Sep

Back in 1989, when I was the director of the local Chabad house in the old city of Jerusalem, a “Chabad Squad” from Miami came to visit.  The Chabad House hosted a Shabbat lunch for the group and I persuaded Rabbi Adin Steinzaltz to come and speak with them.  I still recall his words – “What do we have in common, what is the connection between you and I”?  R’ Steinzaltz is famous for speaking his mind, and the crowd loved it.  These days, we have our own Chabad House – Jerusalem Connection – but I remain a member of the Tzemach Tzedek Shul where R’ Steinzaltz prays.  Yesterday was Shabbat Chai Ellul, and once more as in years past, there was a “Chabad squad” visiting from Miami.  I had my own Shabbat group to speak with, but I stayed long enough to hear R’ Steinzaltz address the visitors.  This time his words were different: “There are no real differences between Jews.  Whether Litvaks, Chasidim or anyone else, we’re all the same.  So, we should sit down on Chai Ellul and say lechaim and sing Hava Nagila.”  Different words from the same sage, but with the same positive effect on the crowd.  Lesson?  It matters less what you say than how you say it…If you want to know how we say it, go to http://jerusalemconnection.org/weekly and you’ll get a nice word of Torah on the weekly portion.  If you want something deeper and more systematic, try www.jewishspiritualbooks.com, and pick up something on prayer and meditation.  And if you want to know more about Chabad and Jerusalem, try www.chabadjerusalem.org  Finally, there’s a great e-magazine of Chasidic Judaica out there – www.neirot.org – so you see there’s something for everyone!

King in the Field

8 Sep

For a couple of weeks now, we’ve been hearing about the month of Elul – “I am for my beloved and He for me,” and the “King is in the field.” I’ve been struggling with this message and what it means. I want to feel the difference between this month and every other month. It’s easy to relate to Rosh Hashana, to the “Day of judgment.” Rosh Hashana is the day that He decides existential questions regarding our very existence. But what am I supposed to do with “the King is in the field?” That’s almost like inviting me not to be serious, to take it easy, cause after all, the King is in the field, and I have to do is walk up to Him and ask forgiveness, right? Here’s what I think, though it’s not complete, yet…Kaballah says there are thirteen “attributes of mercy” shining this month. They are always there, but this month they are more emphasized. So, if the mercy is out there, it must mean that we need some mercy, right? It must mean that we’re not so great, that we’ve messed up somewhere along the line, and that’s why He all of a sudden made this mercy available. I’m starting to get that. Well, Chai Ellul, the 18th of the month is coming up this Shabbat, and that’s the birthday of the Baal Shem Tov as well as the Baal HaTanya, so maybe by then I’ll get the rest of this figured out. For now, though, have a look at our weekly words of Torah, at http://jerusalemconnection.org/weekly For something deeper on the subject of prayer and meditation, look at www.jewishspiritualbooks.com, and for something local, have a look at www.chabadjerusalem.org And if you like your Torah on several subjects in digest form, try www.neirot.org

Go Softly…

26 Aug

There is a word in the Chasidic lexicon that is most difficult to translate into English, even though it is vital to understand. When the holy sources give us advice on how to approach life, we want to know what exactly they are telling us. In this case, we are admonished to pursue a character trait called hishtavut, or “equality.” At first glance we might think that the advice applies to civil rights, telling us not to discriminate or exercise bias against someone else of a different race or religion. But no, this is spiritual advice, telling us to take all that happens to us with “equal weight,” or perhaps, with “equanimity.” It’s not a common word, but in Chasidic terms it is vital. It means, “know that all comes from Above. Whether for the good or seemingly the opposite, it is all commanded and directed from one source Above, and therefore, “don’t get excited.” Not easy advice, but we have a lifetime to put it into effect. For more on the subject, go to http://jerusalemconnection.org/weekly And if you like this line of thought and want to pursue it in the context of prayer and meditation, go to www.jewishspiritualbooks.com. Finally, for a little information on Chabad in Jerusalem, go to www.chabadjerusalem.org   Have a great sof-summer!

Summer Time

18 Aug

There is something quite contrary going on here in Jerusalem.  While the fighting was taking place in Gaza, there were still tourist groups passing through the old city.  Whether Birthright or USY or NIFTY or whatever, there were all kinds of tourist groups, though not as many as before the fighting.  However, since the fighting has died down in Gaza, there are virtually no groups passing through.  Why would that be?  It is now summer vacation, now plus there is a semblance of “peace,” and yet virtually no tour groups seem to be coming to Israel?  It would appear that there is a “lag” – whatever occurs in the security situation is reflected two or three weeks later on the ground in the tourist areas.  If so, then allow me to inform anyone who is reconsidering – it is quiet and safe here in the old city of Jerusalem.  Now is the time to join us in the holy Land, and especially this week, during parshat Re’eh you will feel safe and secure!  For more on the subject, check out our weekly words of Torah, at http://jerusalemconnection.org/weekly  And if you really want to delve into the subject of prayer and meditation, then www.jewishspiritualbooks.com is for you.  If you just want to know something about Chabad in Jerusalem, try www.chabadjerusalem.org  After all that, here are two additional sites for your perusal: www.rootsofprayer.blogspot.co.il  and www.neirot.org.  Have a great week!

Summer Vacation

11 Aug

The concept of “summer vacation” may have originated from the Torah.  During the summer after the exodus from Egypt, Moses went up and down Mt. Sinai no less than three times.  It seems that these three “hikes” may qualify as the prototypes for the time that we spend outdoors during the summer, during the second half of the Jewish month of Av (roughly corresponding with August).  Apparently, Moses did not sleep or eat during the three periods of forty days that he ascended the mountain.  Being that we are a much later and therefore lower generation, we no longer maintain this custom.  We eat and sleep outdoors and enjoy the outdoor weather.  Moshe utilized his time on the mountain to absorb the words of God in order to transmit them to the Jewish people as the Torah.  We also have an obligation to learn some Torah every day, so if you’d like to find out more about Moshe and Mt. Sinai, go to http://jerusalemconnection.org/weekly  If you prefer something a little more in depth, try our suite of books on Jewish meditation and prayer, at www.jewishspiritualbooks.com  And if you just want to know a little about Chabad in Jerusalem, go to www.chabadjerusalem.org 

            Some people may want to know more details about prayer – for that, go to www.rootsofprayer.blogspot.co.il  And finally for some general knowledge about the weekly Torah portion and other matters, go to www.neirot.com  Have a great week!

Summer Vacation

11 Aug

The concept of “summer vacation” may have originated from the Torah.  During the summer after the exodus from Egypt, Moses went up and down Mt. Sinai no less than three times.  It seems that these three “hikes” may qualify as the prototypes for the time that we spend outdoors during the summer, during the second half of the Jewish month of Av (roughly corresponding with August).  Apparently, Moses did not sleep or eat during the three periods of forty days that he ascended the mountain.  Being that we are a much later and therefore lower generation, we no longer maintain this custom.  We eat and sleep outdoors and enjoy the outdoor weather.  Moshe utilized his time on the mountain to absorb the words of God in order to transmit them to the Jewish people as the Torah.  We also have an obligation to learn some Torah every day, so if you’d like to find out more about Moshe and Mt. Sinai, go to http://jerusalemconnection.org/weekly  If you prefer something a little more in depth, try our suite of books on Jewish meditation and prayer, at www.jewishspiritualbooks.com  And if you just want to know a little about Chabad in Jerusalem, go to www.chabadjerusalem.org 

            Some people may want to know more details about prayer – for that, go to www.rootsofprayer.blogspot.co.il  And finally for some general knowledge about the weekly Torah portion and other matters, go to www.neirot.com  Have a great week!

All we are asking…

4 Aug

As of this morning Israeli time, there is an uneasy ceasefire declared by Israel in Gaza.  As to be expected, Hamas is not honoring the ceasefire but rather continues shooting rockets at Israel.  But at the moment, that is not what interests us.  Today is erev tisha b’Av, the day before the ninth of Av, and what interests us is the upcoming fast and the mourning over the loss of two Temples, which were the focal point of Jewish life in Israel when they stood.  If today, we are fighting in Gaza and struggling to right public opinion for our obviously justified campaign, it is because we are lacking a Temple, lacking a focal point for our Jewish identity and expression.  Were the Temple standing, the spiritual light would be so great that it would overcome and banish any resistance, and there would be no fighting or bloodshed.  So, what we can hope and pray for over the next two days is to rebuild the Temple and put an end to all bloodshed and strife.  One path to get there is through prayer, and that’s what this week’s words of Torah are about – see http://jerusalemconnection.org/weekly for more information.  Also, check out www.jewishspiritualbooks.com for deeper information on Jewish prayer and meditation, and go to www.chabadjerusalem.org for more information on Chabad here in Jerusalem.  Finally, for matters of interest, check out www.rootsofprayer@blogspot.co.il and also www.neirot.com  A little something for everyone!

Free Love!

28 Jul

As we “go to press” (publish our weekly words of Torah), a de facto ceasefire has taken hold in Gaza.  We have not heard that Israel officially accepts this “truce,” that was literally forced upon it by the “OK duo” of Obama and Kerry, but it is nevertheless in force.  We hope that Israel manages to destroy all the tunnels that Hamas burrowed under Israeli territory in order to kill and terrorize the Israeli population.  In the meantime, we turn our attention to other matters – today is Rosh Hodesh Av, the first day of the Jewish month of Av.  On this day, Aharon the high priest died, and the timing is no coincidence.  Aharon embodied the concept of Ahavat Yisrael – love of a fellow Jew, regardless of his status, abilities or views.  Love of our fellow, and especially of our Jewish brothers and sisters, is a very important component of bringing the ultimate redemption of all of mankind.  The Temple was destroyed precisely because of lack of love, and it will be rebuilt as the result of “free love” among Jew, and among all peoples.  For the next nine days or so, it is a very serious time of introspection and minimizing of ourselves and our egos.  Let it be for the good and result in good news for all of us…for something on the weekly Torah portion, go to http://jerusalemconnection.org/weekly  To delve more deeply into the subject of prayer and meditation, go to www.jewishspiritualbooks.com, and finally for a bit of history and color on Chabad in Jerusalem, go to www.chabadjeruslaem.org 

And don’t forget to have a look at www.rootsofprayer.blogspot.co.il, as well as www.neirot.com.  A little something for everyone!

Our Way

16 Jul

A couple of weeks ago, we read the prophecy of a non-Jew (Bilam) and what he had to say about the Jews. Among other things, he described the Jews as “a nation that dwells alone.” That can be an intimidating thought, but these days it seems to be true. As Hamas shows its true colors, shooting from civilian quarters and beseeching its population to remain in place as the Israeli army enters, we Jews know that we “march to a different drummer.” For example, we go way out of our way to avoid harming Gaza civilians, even though by willingly remaining in the line of fire they become accomplices to the conflict. Some of the world sympathizes with us, but only so much and only for so long. So, is there anything wrong with blazing our own path, with being a nation that “does things our way”? I for one am becoming very comfortable with the idea. We’re on our own national journey and we can be quite proud of that. Want to know more about the Jewish journey? Go to http://jerusalemconnection.org/weekly Feeling like praying, cause the situation calls for it? Go to http://www.jewishspiritualbooks.cm Want to know more about Chabad in Jerusalem? http://www.chabadjerusalem.org is for you!
And if you’re an avid reader of Jewish spiritual matters, you’ll enjoy both http://www.rootsofprayer.blogspot.co.il as well as http://www.neirot.com That should keep us all busy for awhile!

Where were you when the missiles fell?

9 Jul

Where were you when the missiles fell? All of us here in Israel have a miklat, or bomb shelter nearby. Whether we run there or not when the sirens go off, is another question. As a friend of mine said, “I’m not one to run away from a fight.” So, he does not run to the shelter. But, how can you fight? Here’s a suggestion from this week’s Torah portion. Take a spear. That’s right, you heard me, take a spear in your hand. “Spear” in Hebrew is romeach, and it has numerical value of 248. There are 248 words in the shema and 248 commandments from the Torah. Our bodies contain 248 organs, and we protect ourselves by saying the shema and fulfilling the commandments. So, I’m not saying to avoid the shelters, they are still a good idea if you live in this neighborhood. But, grab a spear while you’re at it and give yourself some real protection. Say the shema twice a day and do a few mitzvoth. It improves your risk/reward ratio. There’s much more to be said about this, but for that, you’ll have to go to http://jerusalemconnection.org/weekly And if you want to delve even deeper and develop some techniques of prayer and meditation, go to http://www.jewishspiritualbooks.com. Or just go to http://www.chabadjerusalem.org and you will find out about some great events in Jerusalem. If you’re into chasidut and prayer, check out http://www.rootsofprayer.blogspot.co.il and for a whole magazine on spirituality, go to http://www.neirot.com Lots of ways to fight the missiles…