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Rabbi's Corner

A Special Shabbat

This week we will mark the ‘yahrtzeit’ (anniversary of the passing) of the Rebbe which will be observed this Tuesday.  It is a day when I, and tens of thousands from around the world, gather together to celebrate the Rebbe’s life and recommit ourselves to fulfilling his vision.

Allow me a share a story of the Rebbe; a story that will move us to grow and better ourselves:

A group of high-school students once came to see the Rebbe. The students had each prepared various questions, which they posed to the Rebbe in the course of the audience.

Toward the end of the meeting, after the Rebbe had answered their queries on various issues, one student asked:

"I have heard it said that the Rebbe has the power to work miracles. Is this true? Do you perform supernatural feats?"

The Rebbe replied: "The ability to work miracles is not confined to a select group of individuals, but is within reach of each and every one of us. We each possess a soul that is a spark of G‑dliness. So we each have the power to transcend the limitations imposed upon us by our physical natures, no matter how formidable they may seem.

"To demonstrate this to you," said the Rebbe, "I will now perform a miracle."

Smiling at the startled young faces around his desk, the Rebbe continued: "Each and every individual in this room will now resolve to improve himself in one specific area. You will each choose an improvement that you recognize as necessary but until now have perceived as being beyond your power to achieve. Nevertheless, you will succeed, proving to yourselves that the soul indeed has the power to overcome the natural 'reality' ..."

The Rebbe believed in us and empowered us to better ourselves and the world around us. As we approach the day of his passing let us go beyond our limitations and make a difference.

Let’s do a Mitzvah Today!

Shabbat Shalom,

Spiritual Global Warming...

There is a beautiful story of the famous Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov, the founder of the Chassidic movement some 300 years ago. He was once walking with his students on a cold, wintery day when his students noticed that in the snow beside them, an image of an idol had been engraved.

Our master”, the students began, “you have taught us that everything we encounter in life is to be alesson. If G‑d caused us to notice this site, there must certainly be a message here for us. What can we possibly learn from this site?”

The Baal Shem Tov responded: “There is nothing more pure than water. It is the basis of all life and existence. Nonetheless, even this most pristine substance - when it becomes cold - can be tainted and can be used to express a message that is antithetical to the source of all life – G‑d.

This week’s Torah portion opens with the description of the way Aaron would light the fire on the menorah in the temple. Kindling these flames in the Temple is meant to act as a wake up call for the Jewish People to ignite their internal flames - the passion and fire or our Jewish souls.

The secret to maintaining our purity as Jews lies in the way we preserve our warmth, energy, and enthusiasm about being Jewish. Feelings of apathy, cynicism, or coldness are fertile breeding grounds for sin and assimilation.

So on this Shabbat, when we read about this spiritual global warming, let us add more fuel to our Jewish passion and drive. In this way, we can continue to grow and flourish – both on a micro and macrocosmic scale - adding new life and energy to the world.

Let’s do a mitzvah today! Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom! 

Don't be Stupid

Say the word "sin" and you'll evoke different things in the minds of different people.

To the fire-and-brimstone types, the word smells of shame and scorched flesh. To the hedonist it sounds like fun. Some think it's a wholly Christian concept, while others ascribe it to the ancient Hebrews. To the sages of the Talmud, sin is, above all, an act of stupidity.

"A person does not sin," they wrote, "unless a spirit of silliness has entered into him."

Why stupidity and silliness, you ask? Perhaps the following anecdote will explain.

A colleague of mine used to write manuals for various household items. One day the consumer department forwarded him the following letter:

"Sir," the letter began. "I have in hand a booklet you wrote which came in the box with my new video camera. I must say that I am outraged by your presumptuousness and audacity. This is my camera, for which I paid my own hard-earned money. It has lots of buttons, switches and indicator lights -- and these are all my buttons, switches and indicator lights. How dare you instruct me on what to do with them! I shall press each of my buttons and flip each of my switches as I please. As for the indicator lights, I, not you, shall decide for myself what they indicate; indeed, if I so choose, I shall ignore them altogether. Yours truly … a very stupid customer."

The sages of the Talmud didn't see much difference between that customer and your standard sinner.

The Torah is the instruction manual (authored by our manufacturer!) that shows each of us how we can most efficiently use our skills, our health, and our allotted time on this earth to lead the most productive and fulfilling life possible.

When we act contrary to his Creator's instructions we may be doing something bad, evil, selfish, destructive, enjoyable, defiant, or cowardly. But above all, we are doing something profoundly stupid.

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom! 

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