Dear friends and family “ad 120 b'simcha”
Shalom uvracha from Yerushalayim!
Very briefly, we learned this week (אגרת הקודש ל"א) that we need to daaven for the wellbeing of the Holy Shechina as well as for our own wellbeing. The Alter Rebbe illustrates the relationship of the Shechina with B’nai Yisrael- the Children of Yisrael with a holistic parable – the heart [the Shechina] delivers life energy to all parts of the body [the souls of B’nai Yisrael]. It is a circulatory system and so long as all parts are in unity and working in harmony, all is good and they return healthy blood back to the heart and it remains healthy. Otherwise, ‘chas v’shalom’ the heart can get ill. Similarly, we are in a circulatory relationship with the Shechina and its wellbeing is affected by our unity or lack thereof. B’ezrat Hashem I hope to complete this after Shabbos. In the meantime ‘bless me and I bless you back’ to achieve true unity and live in harmony b’simcha.
Have a wonderful Shabbat b’ahavah ubivracha
Could someone please tell us why the Chabad girls schools are named Bais Rivkah?
Our Mother Rivkah
This has been and still is a very painful week. May Hashem have compassion on us and bring about the complete redemption NOW.
From Rivkah Imeinu we learn that even one who grows up in the midst of evil people, even in the midst of an evil family, is still capable of living and fulfilling their ideals of righteousness and holiness.
Rivkah Imeinu also teaches us how to conduct ourselves in this great struggle and how to deal with the ensuing self-doubt. Reb Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev teaches us that Rivkah did at first, doubt her connection to Hashem. Though she did feel a connection to holiness during her pregnancy as it says in the Midrash, nevertheless because it was such a difficult pregnancy, she questioned her connection to "Anochi" – to the One who said, "Anochi Hashem Elokecha- I Am Hashem your G-d."
After our mother Rivkah was informed that she was carrying twins who were very different from one another and would be wrestling against each other until the end when the "older one will serve the younger one", the Torah does not tell anything more about how she felt? Did she just accept this pain? What did she do with it? What should we / can we do with our pain?
Pain is necessary for survival. Pain motivates us to protect ourselves; and spiritually pain can lead us to do tshuvah. I wonder what our mother Rivkah did with her pain when she found out that one of her children might turn to idolatry and violence. When Hashem said to the woman: "I will greatly multiply thy pain and thy travail; in pain thou shalt bring forth children," what did she do with the pain? It must be, for sure that our mothers found some way to do something positive with this knowledge. Surely they were motivated by their pain to pray for their children even more than ever before. I imagine that somehow they tried to use their pain to give us strength to overcome our evil inclinations.
I am sure that רבקה אמנו our mother Rivkah is still praying for all of her children until Moshiach is coming. We have no idea as to what extent her prayers are answered, but I have no doubt that they are answered. Surely she prays that none of us will give in to evil. Surely she prays that Yaakov will continue to have the strength to never give up. Surely she prays that Eisav and that all of us will do tshuvah and that we will come to realize how much we need to be connected with real tzadikkim and tzadkkaniot. Surely she is praying that we will not stop praying.
Hashem we have already had so much pain in our lives, please guide us quickly to know how to best use it so that we should merit Your גאולה שלימה Complete Redemption with the coming of Moshiach NOW.
May all of Israel Have a wonderful and healing Shabbos
One of the deepest miracles of Chanukah is the very discovery of the only remaining small flask of pure olive oil. The miracle of Chanukah in our personal lives is to discover that even when you are about to give up- don't! Keep on looking until you find that tiniest amount of pure light within, and though it may be only a small quantity by this worldly standards it is enough with Hashem's help, to illuminate your darkest nights and connect you beyond this world. Remember! A Jew doesn't give up!
The reconstructed Menorah in the Old City. The Lubavitcher Rebbe זצ"ל held that according to the Rambamthe menorah of the Beit Hamikdash was shaped in an angular fashioon similar to the one above.
Consider your Neshama - your soul, Hashem's candle!
CHODESH TOV! May you and all of Israel be blessed with a wonderful and joyous new month, a month of healing light, and joyous light. I hope that every one is B"H very well and that all who need a healing are getting better b'ezrat Hashem.
"KI NEIR MITZVAH V'TORAH OHR" EACH MITZVAH IS A CANDLE AND TORAH IS LIGHT! Reb Shlomo zt"l explained that fire is associated with 'kedusha' holiness; that is why with one candle light you can light an infinite amount of candles. Such is the power of KEDUSHA! When you share your light you don't lose any of your own light; you actually will always have more as a result. Chanukkah is coming- May we all be blessed to discover the pure light within us and let us share it joyously with the whole world.
What is the connection between parshat Toldot and blessing the new moon of Kislev and Channukah? The word 'Toldot' means those things which you birth, your offspring; hopefully these will bring goodness and blessing into the world and will continue to beget and birth more and more goodness and kindness. When you share something with all your heart, when you give tzedakkah with all your heart then the recipient is also inspired to share and give. When you discover the deepest essence of your being, your neshama light, you realize your light and are most inspired to share it with the world.
That is why we place the Chanukah candles at our doorways and light them at dusk when it is already a little dark outside, and getting darker. Every one of us must discover Hashem’s light within and every one of us is required to illuminate the darkness. We all share a common light and every one of us has a unique spark of light. There is a certain aspect of darkness that only you can illuminate.
We need light right away even while there is still a little daylight left; we can’t wait until it’s completely dark. When we think that we already have or own all the light we need, it’s already getting darker. When the light is about to disappear we realize that we need a higher, a deeper light that can shine and illuminate through all darkness. We need Hashem’s holy light to illuminate this world. We need to discover and connect with our deepest light to beget "toldos" that will continue to bring Hashem's holy light into this world.
Illuminate with Joy! Have a wonderful Shabbos b’ahavah ubivracha,
Fathers, Mothers, Children, Brothers and Sisters
Reb Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev points out that until Yaakov Avinu, the transmission of "the seed of Avraham" i.e. being a Jew, did not occur automatically. Just because your father and mother were Jewish, did not necessarily mean that you too would be Jewish; it depended on whether or not you chose to follow the righteous path of Avraham and Sara, of Yitzchak and Rivkah. Thus, Yishmael was the 'son of Avraham', but not the 'seed of Avraham'. Likewise, Eisav was the 'son of Yitzchak', but did not merit being the 'seed of Avraham and Yitzchak'. It is only from Yaakov Avinu and onward that a child born to Jewish parents is inherently a Jew and a carrier of the seed of Avraham, be he or she, righteous or not.
We see in the Torah that both Sarah Imeinu and Rivka Imeinu were barren for significant periods of their lives. It was only after much prayer and Divine intervention that they gave birth. Yishmael was born without any special prayers. Yitzchak, however, did not come into this world until Sarah and Avraham prayed for many decades to receive him. Yaakov Avinu also was not born until his parents prayed fervently to be blessed with child. It is particularly interesting that Eisav who came to be known as Eisav Harasha- Eisav the wicked one, also came into this world as a result of these very same prayers.
Concerning Eisav, we find that only his head ended up being buried together with his fathers and mothers in the M'arat HaMachpelah in Chevron. Intellectually, he was all for righteousness, and thus, his head 'made it.' However, he did not manage to convince his 'nefesh ha'bahamit'- his animal soul, to participate in serving Hashem. [Indeed, many of us experience the same difficulty; all too often we allow ourselves to be convinced either by others or ourselves that we'll never overcome this inner division between our head and heart.]
Both Avraham and Yitzchak were deeply concerned and pained about their two sons who were not following the path of the righteous. When Sarah decided that Yishmael had to be sent away, Avraham was very disturbed by this; Hashem had to come and tell him to listen to Sarah.
Yitzchak Avinu knew prophetically that Edom and subsequently the Roman Empire would be the descendants of his son Eisav and that they would destroy the second Beit Hamikdash and drive the children of Yaakov into the longest and most severe exile. There is no clear mention of what this felt like for Yitzchak; it's even too difficult to imagine the deep pain this knowledge caused him. It was only our mothers Sarah and Rivkah that knew which of the children were the true seed of Avraham; they are the ones who took the decisive actions to make sure that the rightful offspring inherited Avraham's seed.
Although both Avraham and Yitzchak knew the same things as Sarah and Rivkah did, they still attempted to find a way to change these realities. Yitzchak decided to bless Eisav, hoping that thereby Eisav would do tshuvah. But that was not meant to be, and when Yitzchak realized this, he pronounced that the blessings legitimately belonged to Yaakov.
But we need to understand the significance Eisav being born together with Yaakov. During her pregnancy, when Rivkah prayed to Hashem for clarity, Hashem told her that Eisav and Yaakov would struggle against one another until the end when finally the older one would "serve the younger." Eventually the nefesh ha'bahamit [represented by Eisav] will join and serve the nefesh ha'Elokit [represented by Yaakov]. The nefesh ha'bahamit possesses much energy and passion, which the nefesh ha'Elokit on its own is lacking. Eisav will find his redemption only by joining with the tzaddik. Likewise, those of us who will never achieve the level of tzaddik, the level at which darkness is transformed into light and bitter into sweet, can nevertheless find our redemption and achieve the level of behaving like a tzaddik. To do this, we mamash have to connect ourselves with the true tzaddik.
What are a father and mother to do? When we are confronted by the negative results of our own mistakes, when we see the problems that our behaviors brought upon our children, we may easily fall into despair. But Hashem is compassionate and sends along children and students who are truly connected and these children mamash want to save us. They see us as we are, they see that we have given up on our dreams; that we no longer attempt to be as great as we can and were meant to be. And they care, they care very deeply and they want to help us. When we get to such a low point, we have to pray very deeply to allow ourselves to be helped by them and not allow our foolish pride to prevent us from admitting to our mistakes. Often we crash because we don't recognize the truth about ourselves. We think that we are better than we really are and when we are confronted by the truth we get upset and turn our backs on Hashem and on ourselves. There is nothing wrong with not being who you are not, but there is something very wrong about not being who you are and can be. As the Rebbe Reb Zusha told his students before he left this world, the only question that he really feared was when Hashem would ask him, "Zusha, why weren't you Zusha?" There is nothing wrong with needing the help of one's children or one's friends to return and come closer to Hashem. Let's hope and pray that we won't be too haughty to receive their help when it is offered.
May we all be blessed to smell the fragrance of the Garden of Eden accompanying our children. Amen.
This Is About You and Me and Every One of Us
And these are the descendants of Yitzchak the son of Avraham; Avraham fathered Yitzchak. Yitzchak was forty years old when he took Rivkah - the daughter of Besuel the Aramite, the sister of Lavan the Aramite, for himself as a wife. Yitzchak prayed to G-d, opposite his wife, because she was barren. G-d accepted his prayer, and his wife Rivkah conceived.
The children struggled inside her. She said, "If so, why am I?" She went to seek Hashem. G-d said to her, "There are [two esteemed individuals the forebears of ] two nations in your womb, two kingdoms will separate from your innards, kingdom against kingdom will struggle. The elder will serve the younger."
The term of her pregnancy was complete, and behold, there were twins in her womb. The first one came out reddish and completely (covered in hair), like a fur coat of hair. They named him Eisav (Esau). Afterwards his brother emerged, and his hand was grasping Eisav's heel. He called his name, Yaakov. Yitzchak was sixty years old when they were born."
Bereishis 25: 19-26.
We have learned in the past the teaching of Rebbe Nachman zt"l, that when we learn the stories in the Torah, we must find ourselves in these stories. As long as you think that these are stories are only about other people, you are missing the point and don't yet understand the depth of the story. It's about you and me, it's about every one of us. We are in these stories and we have yet to resolve them fully. So too concerning the above passage describing Rivkah's pregnancy and the birth of the Yaakov and Eisav.
Our Mother Rivkah
From Rivkah Imeinu we learn that even one who grows up in the midst of evil people, even in the midst of an evil family, is still capable of living and fulfilling their ideals of righteousness and holiness. Rivkah Imeinu also teaches us how to conduct ourselves in this great struggle and how to deal with the ensuing self-doubt. Reb Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev teaches us that Rivkah did at first, doubt her connection to Hashem. Though she did feel a connection to holiness during her pregnancy as it says in the Midrash, nevertheless because it was such a difficult pregnancy, she questioned her connection to "Anochi" – to the One who said, "Anochi Hashem Elokecha- I Am Hashem your G-d."
Once we start moving towards our goals, we are basically in a pregnant state. The birth has not yet occurred, but we are definitely pregnant. And so very often, the pregnancy may be a turbulent one - the inner struggle intensifies. We are now in unfamiliar and uncomfortable territory. There are many concerns and many unresolved questions and issues. This can be very painful, so much so that we question why we ever considered moving forward, for it seems that we may end up worse off than before. Even though the past was not so great, but at least it was familiar. Moving forward might even make us question our value as beings; our self-knowledge and self-esteem are endangered.
"She Went To Seek Hashem."
When this occurs, we learn from Rivkah Imeinu - our mother Rivkah, the best thing you can do is to go and seek guidance from Hashem. And so, "She went to seek Hashem." She prayed and she sought the counsel of the tzadikkim, Shem and Eiver. In order to find success in our growth, we need to pray for Hashem's help. Without prayer we are barren.
The seeking is deeper than our other prayers. To seek and to search for Hashem in the midst of our confusion, to seek to know what Hashem is trying to teach us in our hardships, is to go into a very deep conversation and relationship with Hashem. In the depths of this conversation, you may stand before Hashem and ask Him what He was dreaming about when He dreamt of creating the world and placing you in it. This is the practice of "hisbodedus" that Rebbe Nachman taught us to do - to frequently and regularly speak to Hashem in a very personal way in your mother tongue; to speak with Hasten as your closest friend and partner in life- to ask Hashem to reveal His glory to you, in whatever situation you find yourself. Rebbe Nachman said that if we do this sincerely, Hashem will surely reveal Himself to us.
The Great Struggle
"G-d said to her, "There are [two esteemed individuals the ancestors of] two nations in your womb, two kingdoms will separate from your innards, kingdom against kingdom will struggle, and the elder will serve the younger,"
Chassidus explains that here the Torah is teaching us about our spiritual and physical makeup. We, living humans [as opposed to the dead and as opposed to angels] are composite beings, consisting of a 'Divine soul' and of an 'animal soul'. Yaakov represents the "nefesh haEloki" - the Divine soul – [and also the Yetzer haTov - the inclination and will to do good]; while Eisav represents the "nefesh habahamis" - the animal soul –[and also the Yetzer haRah - the inclination and will to do bad]. The wrestling that Rivkah experienced in her pregnancy is the foreshadowing of the struggle that each one of us experiences in our personal lives- this is struggle of Yaakov and Eisav, living together and wrestling with one another for dominion over the 'small city'- our personal selves.
The "seat" of the 'Divine soul' is in the intellect- it can comprehend and know of the existence of G-d, and therefore it seeks and yearns to be united with Hashem - its source of life, and with all of Hashem's creation. The Divine soul is, as stated in the Tanya, a "chelek Elokah me'ma'al mammash"- a veritable part of Hashem above. It recognizes its connection with Hashem and seeks to remain bound up with Hashem always, to dissolve into the Oness of Hashem. Living in this world is a difficult experience for the Divine soul, for this is the 'world of the lie'- where the unity of Hashem is concealed and may even be denied.
The "seat" of the 'animal soul' is in the left ventricle of the heart. The animal soul sees itself as a separate entity and is concerned only with itself- its' 'self'- its own selfish needs and desires. The animal soul passionately pursues self-gratification even if this may be to its own self-detriment.
These two 'nations' are constantly wrestling with each other, each one wanting to rule over the "small city" - that is, you, the individual. As one rises, the other one gathers its strength once more and strives to overthrow the other. Victories are short-lived. After doing a mitzvah we are still tempted with transgressions. After transgressing, we feel remorse and want to do Tshuvha. As long as we do not fall into despair, such is the ongoing struggle within each one of us - except for the rare individuals who are either completely righteous or completely wicked.
The nefesh habahami is much louder and noisier than the nefesh Eloki, it speaks passionately and with familiar reason. The nefesh Eloki speaks with a 'still quiet voice' [which is sometimes inaudible and we have to be quiet in order to hear it].
The Alter Rebbe cautions us in his sefer Tanya not to fall prey to the sinister [though cogent] arguments of the nefesh habahami. Surely you have noticed that the yetzer harah has a wealth of reasonable arguments to get us to exactly as he wants, and the most sinister of all his arguments is the one that claims that our service of Hashem is false and that we are somewhat schizophrenic at best. The yetzer harah claims that all the spiritual work that we do and all the mitzvot we do are irrelevant because they are full of imperfections. The yetzer harah further claims that we will never get away from being controlled by the nefesh habahami. As proof the yetzer harah says something like this, "If your prayers were real, if your Torah learning was real then you wouldn't do any transgressions ever again. And since within five minutes of praying and learning you have done such and such transgressions, is it not true then that these holy activities of yours are not 'real'? Admit that it is I who is in control over you. Stop wasting your energies and emotions on serving Hashem."
The Alter explains that these arguments would be correct if we had but only one nefesh- soul, but that is not the case. We have two nefashot- souls and whenever one gains the upper hand, the other one fights back. Your daavening is real even if it is full of foreign thoughts. Your Torah learning is real even if you are not yet applying all that you have learned! The important thing is never to give up and to continue striving to serve Hashem with joy. Don't ever let the yetzer harah make you sad or depressed even though you may have to spend your entire lifetime in this conflict!
In The End The 'Older One' Will Serve The 'Younger One'
Further Hashem is teaching us that we are not meant to destroy the "yetzer harah", we are not kill the animal soul. Rather it is our task to educate it, so that it will join with the Divine soul in serving Hashem, in making this world - the lowest of all worlds, into a dwelling place for the Shechinah.
And this is Hashem's promise, "The elder will serve the younger.". The 'yetzer ha-rah' is greater in years, is older, for we are born with it. Whereas, the 'yetzer hatov' only joins us, at the age of 'bar and bat mitzvah'. as long as we keep on struggling and trying to do our best, as long as we don’t allow ourselves into being deluded, into thinking that we have completed our work; and for as long as we are alive we remember that we have work to do, and actually keep on doing the work, then Hashem will keep His promise that the 'older one', the 'yetzer harah' will serve the 'younger one'.
B'simcha Tamid: Always Be Joyous
The only way that the Divine soul can succeed is by being b'simcha tamid- always joyous. Here are the alter Rebbe's words at the opening of Chapter 26 in his holy sefer Tanya:
"Truly this should be made known as a cardinal principle, that as with a victory over a physical obstacle, such as in the case of two individuals who are wrestling with each other, each striving to throw the other- if one is lazy and sluggish he will easily be defeated and thrown, even though he be stronger than the other, exactly so is it in the conquest of one's evil nature; it is impossible to conquer it with laziness and heaviness, which originate in sadness and in a heart thast is dulled like a stone, but rather with alacrity which derives from joy and from a heart that is free and cleansed from any trace of worry and sadness in the world."
And Make For Me Delicacies Such As I Love (Bereishis 27:4)
Among the various causes of sadness, there is the 'sophisticated' cause- of the one who is sad because he/she has to constantly struggle with the temptations of the 'evil inclination'. Even after many years of struggle, the struggle just never seems to end. He/she would like to be a tzaddik or a tzadekkes- a righteous servant of Hashem. But after all their efforts they just never quite achieve it. And so they need to learn how not to be sad over this.
The Alter Rebbe explains that there is the service of the Tzadikkim, who have converted the bitter into sweet and darkness into light. And there is the service of the ones who are not tzadikkim, who, though they have not transformed darkness to light, serve Hashem by subduing the 'sitra achra' – the 'other side' even while it is at its strongest and soars like an eagle. Both kinds of service bring much gratification to Hashem. Even we, who have not achieved perfection, and maybe never will, bring great honor and nachas to Hashem each time that we manage to subdue the nefesh habahami and 'yetzer harah'.
When Yitzchak wanted to bless Eisav, he told Eisav to prepare some tasty foods for him so that he would elicit and receive his father's blessings before he died. The Alter Rebbe explains this passage as follows: "Yitzchak said to Eisav … and make for me mata'amim - "delicacies". These are the words of the Shechinah [Yitzchak] to her children, the community of Israel, as explained in the Tikkunim. "Delicacies" is in the plural to indicate two kinds of gratification, The analogy is to material food, where there are two kinds of relishes: one of sweet and luscious foods, and the other of tart or sour articles of food which have been well spiced and garnished so that they are made into delicacies to quicken the soul." (Tanya Chap. 27)
Everyone wants to be a tzaddik, but most of us probably won't achieve that level. Nevertheless we are all commanded to move in that direction and to never give up doing so, regardless of how many times we may have fallen. When the yetzer harah tries to make us sad by throwing our imperfect service in our face, we must ignore him, and continue to serve Hashem with joy. We really should not judge and evaluate our service of Hashem - that should be left to Hashem. Instead we should simply concentrate on serving Hashem as best as we can.
"The Zohar, Parshat Terumah (p.128) extols the great satisfaction before Him, blessed be He, when the sitra achra is subdued here below, for then the glory of the Holy One, blessed be He, rises above all, more than by any praise, and this ascent is greater than all else, and so forth." (Tanya Chap. 27)
No matter how many times we may fall, always get back up – just like a child who is learning how to walk, he does not give up when he falls, he just gets up again and again, and each time he improves his skills. Remember Reb Nachman's words, "Alt tor men nisht zein," – you are not allowed to be old! The Talmud teaches that a young person is one who has confidence that tomorrow will be better.
A King Who Is Old And Foolish: That is the Yetzer Harah (Zohar I 179b) – two anectdotes:
Once the Chofetz Chaim, when he was already an old man in his nineties, was encountered by the yetzer harah, as he was about to get out of bed to start the morning prayers, on a very cold winter day very early in the morning. The yetzer harah said to him, "You are an old tired man and you have served Hashem all your life, from early in the morning till late at night. It is very cold today, don't you think that you deserve a bit more sleep and rest in your warm bed?" And the Chofetz Chayim answered him, "You, yetzer harah, are described in the Zohar as "A king who is old and foolish." Now, you are older than I, and yet you are here already, so early on this very cold winter morning! And you are telling me to stay in bed?!"
Once the holy Rizhiner Rebbe, was encountered by the yetzer harah when he was in prison. [He had been imprisoned by the Czar, because he heard a rumor that the Rizhiner Rebbe was going to take over Russia- but that's another story.] Said the Rizhiner to the yetzer harah, "I always wondered why you are described as a fool, after all you are quite clever and very often succeed in getting man to do transgressions. But now I understand. For I am here in prison against my will, but why are you here?! Surely you are a fool!"
Mesifta d'Rechimusa – The Yeshivah Of Love
In Pirkei Avot (1:12) we learn, Hillel says "Be of the disciples of Aharon, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving your fellow creatures, and bringing them near to the Torah."
As we learned above, we are not meant to destroy our nefesh habahamis, we need it. In fact it comes from a very high place in heaven. There it was an angel in the service of Hashem. Rebbe Nachman teaches that "shalom"- peace, means to make peace between opposites, even with one who is 'against' you. [This does not mean that you have to give in or compromise with evil!]
Rebbe Yaakov Dovid of Amshinov zt"l, says that we learn from the verse, "And Yitzchak loved Eisav," that we should also love the wicked one. Even though Yitzchak's attribute was 'gevurah- severity' he nevertheless loved his wicked son Eisav and he wanted to bless him.
I saw an amazing teaching in Sefer Chareidim this week. This sefer was written by the holy Rabbi Eliezer Azkari zt"l, who [I heard] was the assistant to the holy Ari z"l, four hundred years ago in the holy city of Tzefat. He says that the reason Hillel said "BE a disciple of Aharon," instead of saying, "LEARN from Aharon," is because Hillel wants to tell us that we can actually BE such a person. When someone has caused us suffering, we usually feel that we'll never really be able to make real Shalom-peace with them- at most we'll forgive them. However, Hillel is teaching us that we can BE and we must BE true disciples of Aharon, loving peace, pursuing peace, loving people and bringing them near to the Torah!
And then Rabbi Eliezer brings another awesome teaching! He says we learn in the holy Zohar [parshat Shlach] that just like there are 'yeshivot' here in this world, there are also yeshivot in heaven. There in heaven Aharon haKohen has a yeshiva and its name is MESIFTA d'RECHIMUSA – THE YESHIVA OF LOVE! And all who follow in the path of Aharon haKohen in this world will merit to BE a student of his in his heavenly yeshiva MESIFTA d'RECHIMUSA – THE YESHIVA OF LOVE as well! I hope that we'll all be there together.
I wish you good and deep learning this Shabbos Yitzchak Avinu and Rivkah Imeinu, b'simcha tamid! Amen