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The Chabad.org Blog

Dear Friend,

Vacuum cleaners are whirring, Jews are out shopping en masse, and matzah is flying off the shelves faster than hot cakes (perhaps they are the original hot cakes?).

At Chabad.org, we began our Passover prep months ago. In fact, it was just after Chanukah that we took careful inventory of our Passover content and presentations, and made a plan of things to add, tweak and improve.

We revamped the Passover site, gave it a mobile-friendly layout, and added new “what is” and “how to” guides, and other goodies. Why don’t you jump into the driver’s seat, give the Passover site a whirl and let us know what you think?

Happy pre-Passover from your friends at the Chabad.org Editorial Team!

Dear Friend,

Chances are that you are reading this message on your smartphone. A decade ago, you might have been viewing it on your desktop computer, possibly even in Internet Explorer. As the way online content is delivered changes, so must the way we display it.

You’ve probably noticed that we’ve changed the layout of this email. We’ve given each item a larger image, removed a lot of the clutter, and most importantly, optimized it to fit on your device.

Our design and development teams worked hard to give you the best reading experience, and we’re pleased with the results. Feel free to share your impressions (both compliments and critiques) with us so that we can continue to tweak and perfect our communications with you.

Thanks in advance,

The Chabad.org Editorial Team

Dear Friend,

Purim is coming! The most joyous day on the Jewish calendar falls on Saturday night, March 11, and Sunday, March 12. On this day, we celebrate the miraculous salvation of the Jewish people from the wicked Haman and are enjoined, among other things, to be happy. Visit any Jewish community on Purim and you will notice children and adults dressed up in costumes or festive clothing, smiling, dancing and celebrating.

But what if you don’t feel like being happy? What if you’re just not in the mood? In His wisdom, G‑d gave us a great gift. The antidote to unhappiness is reaching out to others and helping them. Putting yourself aside, even for a few moments, in order to help someone else, provides a feeling of contentment and happiness and helps change your mindset and feelings for the better.

Not surprisingly, two of the four Purim observances involve helping others. One is mishloach manot, giving gifts of at least two ready-to-eat foods to a minimum of one person, and the other is matanot laevyonim, giving money to at least two needy people.

So if you don’t feel like being happy, put yourself aside, think of someone else and make their day.

Happy Purim!

Chani Benjaminson
on behalf of the Chabad.org Editorial Team

Earlier today Amazon Web Services S3 cloud-hosting service went down. As a result large swaths of the Internet went down - including many popular websites.

Here are seven things you can do while the web is down.

Learn Torah the Old Fashioned Way

(Credit: Giphy)
(Credit: Giphy)

One of the Rebbe’s mitzvah campaigns is to have a “home full of books.” While today one might think of fulfilling it with a kindle full of books, there are times that a kindle won’t cut it… this is one of them. So while the web is is down, open a Torah book! You will be glad you did: They’re always accessible, Shabbat friendly, and ready to explore in your personal or local Jewish library.

Do a Mitzvah

Buzzfeed down? Go outside and help someone. Take a few coins, put them in a charity box.

Take a Walk outside

(Credit: Giphy)
(Credit: Giphy)

Put the phone in your pocket and look at the world without a photo-filter. Our sages teach that the greatness of G‑d can be seen in the majesty of the world.

Make a blessing

Take an apple from the fridge or grab a bottle of seltzer. Take a moment to enjoy a kosher snack - just be sure to thank the One who made it.

Dance for Joy

In the scheme of things, that hot new app not loading remains very firmly a “first world problem.” Celebrate the fact that right now, you are able to do so much good in the world.

Reload That Website

We don’t recommend obsessively refreshing your browser to see if Isitdownrightnow is itself up or down. Our rabbis teach, “think good and it will be good.” Just relax.

Log on to Chabad.org

While much of the Internet went down, Chabad.org is up and ready to inspire. Explore the Torah portion or enjoy a class on Talmud from Jewish.tv.

Dear Friend,

At this time of year, I’m always struck by the diversity of Torah. Through Genesis and most of Exodus, the weekly Torah portions followed a storyline narrative. Then we started learning various Torah laws. This week, we began learning the design, architecture and engineering of the Tabernacle (Mishkan) in minute detail.

The entire Jewish nation came together to donate their time, possessions and individual talents to build the Tabernacle . Every person counts, and we each have our own uniqueness that we bring to the table. It is only through a united effort that G‑d’s home is built to its full glory.

The same can be said of the Torah. Every portion adds a new perspective and teaching. It is only through going through the Torah slowly, week by week, that we appreciate its beauty and greatness.

This past Shabbat, we marked the first yahrtzeit of Rabbi Yehoshua B. Gordon. If you haven’t yet started learning the weekly Torah portion, then Rabbi Gordon’s lucid, engaging, yet concise class going through the daily Torah lesson is an excellent place to start.

If you already learn the daily Torah, then perhaps consider learning it with an additional commentary. By doing so, you will come to appreciate the beauty, richness and diversity of the Torah even more!

Yehuda Shurpin
on behalf of the Chabad.org Editorial Team

Dear Chabad.org Family Worldwide,

We are marking one year on the Jewish calendar since the passing of our dear Rabbi Yehoshua B. Gordon, of blessed memory. The text that follows is part of a letter we wrote a year ago, shortly after his untimely death.

Despite the passage of time, Rabbi Gordon’s classes are viewed more and more, a testament to the eternal relevance of the Torah he taught, and surely a continued source of delight for his soul.

Browse the comments below, and see the hundreds of messages from his international body of bereaved students—some of whom only discovered him after his passing.

This evening, his community in California will be commemorating his yahrtzeit, and beginning to write a new Torah scroll in his memory. Please join them.


As many of you know, Rabbi Gordon’s knowledge, clarity, humor and down-to-earth sensibility made learning with him edifying, enlightening and enjoyable. It’s no wonder that within two short years of allowing his daily Torah classes to be streamed live on Chabad.org (in mid-2009), he gained the unique and historic distinction of teacher to the largest classroom of daily Torah study in the world!

Rabbi Gordon rose daily at 4 a.m. to prepare for his classes, giving his all to his students across the globe.

Less known, however, to his worldwide family of students were the immense responsibilities he undertook in caring for the San Fernando Valley’s 250,000 Jews.

When Rabbi Gordon and his wife, Deborah moved to the Valley in 1973, the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, blessed them with immense success to accomplish their mission: to help every single Jew in the Valley achieve his or her Jewish potential. In so doing, Rabbi Gordon recruited 35 additional emissary couples, and established some 26 Chabad-Lubavitch centers, to serve area Jews.

Shouldering a great deal of responsibility for the successful joint Valley operations, including an at times crushing fundraising load, Rabbi Gordon also counseled couples and individuals and made himself available to fellow shluchim around the world who sought his advice, all the while raising a wonderful family with his wife. He did his utmost to maximize every moment.

Yet his Torah-teaching—to his community and to the Chabad.org family worldwide—held a special place in his heart. It meant a great deal to him that on his travels around the globe for Chabad, he would encounter people from all walks of life, who told him: “Rabbi, I learn with you daily”; “You’re my personal teacher”; and so much more.

Rabbi Gordon lived the knowledge that rabbinic, organizational and budgetary responsibilities notwithstanding, the very first responsibility of a shliachan emissary of the Lubavitcher Rebbe—was to impart the Torah’s wisdom to others.

And he felt fortunate to have each of you worldwide as his students, no less fortunate than each of us felt to have him as a teacher. He had a unique intimacy to him that came across the screen, helping each of us to feel as if we were in the room with him and he was speaking with us directly.

***

When his energy waned and he suffered great pain, Rabbi Gordon derived daily strength and satisfaction from the knowledge that he was continuing to help us all learn Torah, through the filmed archive of his classes, which we will forever air daily on Chabad.org.

The soul of HaRav Yehoshua Binyamin ben HaRav Shalom Dov Ber has ascended on high, but he has left us a strong and lasting beautiful legacy of Torah scholarship permeated with Chassidic warmth, which will remain with us forever.

We know from discussions we had with him that it would bring him the greatest nachas, the greatest joy and satisfaction, if in his memory we would each:

1.Rededicate ourselves to the Rebbe’s daily learning programs of Rambam, Chumash, Tanya, and Tehillim to which Rabbi Gordon gave his all; and

2. Inspire at least one more friend who does not yet participate in these classes to begin learning with Rabbi Gordon daily.

***

To ensure that we all remember our teacher and friend, and to give his wife and children an inkling of what he meant to so many of us, we encourage you to post your memories and condolences below. (You may also choose the option of sending your message privately to Rabbi Gordon’s family. To do so, please indicate in your comment that you do not want your message posted online.)

May G‑d bless Rabbi Gordon’s family, including all of us around the world, to be comforted with the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem, with the coming of Moshiach speedily in our days.

— The Chabad.org Team

An obituary of Rabbi Yehoshua B. Gordon appears here.

Dear Friend,

“When Adar arrives, we increase in joy,” say the sages regarding the Jewish month we are about to enter.

Whenever people see a kid with a long face, they look at him with concern and ask: “What happened? Is everything OK?” We expect children to be happy. On the other hand, when we see an adult grinning in middle of the day, we ask with concern: “What happened? Is everything OK?” We assume that normal adults are serious.

This makes sense when we consider the serious burdens most adults carry: mortgages, health matters, car repairs, complicated family dynamics . . . the list goes on. Children are happy because they don’t (or shouldn’t) have these worries.

So how is an adult to be happy?

Here’s an exercise. When you wake up tomorrow, even before you hop out of bed, say the Modeh Ani prayer: “I offer thanks to You, living and eternal King, for You have mercifully restored my soul within me; Your faithfulness is great.”

Say the words slowly. Think to yourself: The Creator of the world believes in me, cares about me and has restored my soul.

This isn’t going to pay the mortgage, and it may not even turn your boss into a mensch, but it will bring you the greatest joy of all: the knowledge that Someone Above cares about you deeply.

Wishing you a happy month!

Rabbi Mendy Kaminker
on behalf of the Chabad.org Editorial team

Dear Friend,

You know that stubborn, pugnacious, rebellious little grunt-like feeling that wells up in your gut when you hear the word “Don’t … ” at the beginning of a sentence addressed to you?

Have you ever felt it when you read the Ten Commandments—that is to say, the seven of them that begin with “Don’t … ”? If yes, then count me as a friend.

In the Mechilta, Rabbi Ishmael teaches that when the Ten Commandments were heard at Sinai, whenever G‑d said “Do … ,” the Israelites responded “OK, yes!” and whenever G‑d said “Don’t … ,” they responded “OK, no!”

Rabbi Akiva, however, teaches that they replied in the affirmative to every commandment. Even their no’s were expressed as yes’s.

Why was Rabbi Akiva able to see the “yes” hidden in each “no”? As the Rebbe once explained, it’s because he was a baal teshuvah.

A baal teshuvah has been nurtured, during the first part of his or her life, on the habit of resisting, rejecting and rebelling against anything like a “Don’t!” that seems to plop down “from the sky,” as if just to make life difficult and cramp one’s style. But a baal teshuvah has managed, during the second part of his or her life, to turn an ear to the inner positivity of even a “Don’t.”

A baal teshuvah experiences a Divine “Don’t” not as a door shutting one in from the wide world outside, but as a door protecting one from external distractions, and opening up the infinite wealth and countless blessings of being at home.

Michael Chighel,
on behalf of the Chabad.org Editorial Team

A work on the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s insights into human suffering

''A Time to Heal'' explores numerous instances throughout the Rebbe’s decades of leadership, where he offered insight and consolation to individuals and communities in their greatest moments of need.
"A Time to Heal" explores numerous instances throughout the Rebbe’s decades of leadership, where he offered insight and consolation to individuals and communities in their greatest moments of need.

A Time to Heal, Rabbi Mendel Kalmenson’s rendering of the responses of the Lubavitcher Rebbe (Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory) to tragedy and suffering, has received the “Best Book Award” under the general category of religion in the “Best Book Awards” international competition.

A beautiful meditation and compilation, this book explores numerous instances throughout the Rebbe’s four decades of leadership, where he offers insight and consolation to individuals and communities in their greatest moments of need, highlighting his unique approach that incorporated both staunch devotion to G‑d and deep compassion for humankind.

To a young widow who was struggling with how to explain her husband’s death to her children, the Rebbe replied: “Explain to [your children] the way it is in truth: That there are souls that are so pure and holy that G‑d wants them to be in the heavens, after they have completed their mission in this world, and guard [over their loved ones].”

To the rabbi whose community had recently lost two young members to untimely deaths, the Rebbe quoted the Chassidic adage: “Think good, and it will be good.”

Whether dealing with the tragic, accidental death of Ariel Sharon’s 11-year-old son Gur or the unspeakable 1956 massacre in Kfar Chabad, Israel—or even when discussing with former Israeli Prime Minister Moshe Sharett a religious response to the Holocaust—the Rebbe had the ability to console and validate the anguished feelings and sufferings of those in great pain.

“A hallmark of the Rebbe’s approach to the world was an almost stubborn optimism in the face of tragedy—a refusal to live in fear or to see our world as anything but inherently good,” writes Kalmenson in the book, which was produced by Chabad.org and published by Ezra Press, an imprint of Kehot Publication Society.

A resident of London, Kalmenson is a columnist for Chabad.org, and rabbi and executive director of Chabad Belgravia, where the book was launched in the fall of 2015.

Rabbi Mendel Kalmenson, author of "A Time to Heal: The Lubavitcher Rebbe’s Response to Loss and Tragedy"
Rabbi Mendel Kalmenson, author of "A Time to Heal: The Lubavitcher Rebbe’s Response to Loss and Tragedy"

Dr. Mark Glaser—emeritus chief of cancer services at Imperial College and honorary consultant in clinical oncology at Imperial College hospitals, who taught at Harvard and Yale universities, and was a research fellow at Stanford University—spoke at the launch. He praised the book, saying that he feels as if he has gotten to know the Rebbe, whom he referred to as “undoubtedly one of the greatest rabbis of the 20th century,” through Kalmenson and his teachings.

“This book has been written with diligence, authority and exemplary literary style. It will be an enabler for those who need to change their lives and get through their tribulations to be granted a perfect healing for mind, body and soul,” said Glaser.

A Time to Heal quickly gained popularity and was out of print within months of its release.

A second edition has been printed and can be purchased on Kehot.com.

The Midrash tells the story of an elderly man who was observed planting fig trees at the age of 100.

“Surely you don't expect to live to see the fruits of your labor?” questioned passersby.

“Have not my ancestors worked for me? Why then should I not work for the future generation in the same spirit of selflessness?” the man replied.

With so much going on in the world, we often feel powerless to make any real lasting change. How can our small actions make any significant difference? How can my good deeds help bring about the Redemption when our ancestors who were unarguably on a higher spiritual level and did many more mitzvahs did not see the Redemption happen during their lives?

But if we keep at it, even if we don't see immediate results, we are paving the way for the future, just as our ancestors did before us. Goodness lasts forever, and our deeds are accumulative. They all go into the same pile, building upon one another, higher and higher, until, together, we reach the ultimate crescendo.

Miriam Szokovski
on behalf of the Chabad.org Editorial Team

More than 750,000 questions were fielded by Chabad.org’s “Ask the Rabbi” team in the last decade. The questions spanned the gamut—from the practical application of Jewish law to profound questions of faith and identity.

“Ask the Rabbi” is rooted in the earliest days of Chabad in cyberspace, when Rabbi YY Kazen, also known as the father of the Jewish Internet, began answering Jewish questions via online bulletin boards (the precursor to today’s message boards) in the late 1980s.

Nearly 30 years later, the service now has its own app. “Ask the Rabbi,” the latest in a series of apps from Chabad.org, brings answers to burning questions—and the chance to ask your own—on iOS and Android smartphones and tablets.

“The app is part of a project to bring the manifold features and sections of Chabad.org to smartphone users,” says Dov Dukes, who manages the mobile-app division at Chabad.org. “It aggregates recent popular questions published by the ‘Ask the Rabbi’ team, presenting them with a slick, modern interface. It also offers one-click access for users to submit their own questions, which are kept confidential.”

Answers, he adds, are sent privately via email.

Like the family of Chabad.org sites that are available in eight languages, this app takes advantage of localization, offering versions with questions and answers in English, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Russian, Portuguese and Spanish.

Install the “Ask the Rabbi” app from the iTunes and Google Play, and see if you can stump these rabbis! Ask the Rabbi is made available free of charge by the generous partnership of Dovid and Malkie Smetana, Alan and Lori Zekelman, the Meromim Fund, and Moris and Lillian Tabacinic.

Four-part series tackles questions that have perplexed humanity from the beginning of time

Online learning has been a rapidly expanding and ever-changing dynamic that began almost as soon as the Internet was born. Video streaming, online discussion rooms and responsive quiz forms have helped educators bring university-level learning to students of all backgrounds and socioeconomic levels.

Chabad.org Courses, which has been offering comprehensive courses on a variety of Jewish subjects, is now poised to release its next offering, tackling questions that have plagued humanity from the beginning of time: free will vs. Divine omniscience.

Are human beings the masters of their own fate? Does G‑d control human lives? Can belief in an all-powerful and all-knowing G‑d be reconciled with the notion of free will? To what degree can a person be held responsible for his actions? What empowering message can a person take out of the discussion?

In a four-part series called “The Choice Is Yours,” Rabbi Mendy Herson will examine these issues in light of Biblical, Talmudic, philosophical and Chassidic texts.

“Like our other offerings, this course is high-quality, comprehensive and text-based,” says Rabbi Yaakov Kaplan, who produced the course. “At the same time, the delivery is personable and accessible to everyone, including beginner students.”

To accommodate visual learners, the video classes are accompanied by PDF source sheets that also offer summaries of key elements of the class.

Between classes, students can review the lesson through online quizzes, and join a robust analysis of the subject with fellow students and the presenter on a private discussion platform.

Upcoming courses will cover topics such as self-growth (March), the Jewish view of the primordial sin (May) and the belief in Moshiach (June).

Rabbi Mendy Herson will examine a range of substantive issues as part of a four-part online series called “The Choice Is Yours.”
Rabbi Mendy Herson will examine a range of substantive issues as part of a four-part online series called “The Choice Is Yours.”

“The response we’ve received so far has been tremendous,” says Kaplan, “and we expect even more students to join our upcoming courses. We are seeing repeat students and newcomers of different ages and backgrounds from literally the world over. This is the place to go for online Jewish learning, and that’s a very exciting development for all kinds of students of Judaism.”

The class will run on four consecutive Thursdays, beginning on Feb. 9. It is free and open to the general public; however, registration is required.

Click here to enroll.

For questions or comments, click here.