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Shabbat, January 11, 2014

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Yud Shevat
Halachic Times (Zmanim)
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Jewish History

Rabbi Shalom Sharabi, known by his name's acronym, the RaShaSH, was born in Yemen, and as a young man immigrated to Israel. He was quickly recognized for his piety and scholarship, especially in the area of Jewish mysticism, and was appointed to be dean of the famed Kabbalistic learning center in the Old City of Jerusalem, the Yeshivat ha-Mekubbalim.

He authored many works, mostly based on the teachings of the great kabbalist, Rabbi Isaac Luria, the Ari. Rabbi Sharabi's most famous work is a commentary on the prayerbook, replete with kabbalistic meditations.

His mystical works are studied by kabbalists to this very day. He is also considered to be a foremost authority on Yemenite Jewish traditions and customs.

Link: The Kabbalah

Rebbetzin Rivkah Schneerson was born in Lubavitch in 1833; her maternal grandfather was Rabbi DovBer, the 2nd Rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch. In 1849 she married her first cousin, Rabbi Shmuel, who later became the fourth Lubavitcher Rebbe. For many years Rebbetzin Rivkah, who survived her husband by 33 years, was the esteemed matriarch of Lubavitch, and Chassidim frequented her home to listen to her accounts of the early years of Lubavitch. She is the source of many of the stories recorded in the talks, letters and memoirs of her grandson, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak (the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe). The Beth Rivkah network of girls' schools, founded by Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak in the 1940's, are named after her.

The sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, passed away on Shabbat morning, the 10th of Shevat, of the year 5710 from creation (1950)

Links: A brief biography; more about Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak; works authored by Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak.

At a gathering of Chassidim marking the first anniversary of the passing of the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, the late Rebbe's son-in-law, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, delivered a Chassidic discourse (maamar) entitled Basi L'Gani ("I Came into My Garden"), signifying his formal acceptance of the leadership of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement.

Links: A timeline biography of the Rebbe; Love According to the Rebbe (includes a description of the historic "statement" given by the Rebbe on Shevat 10, 1951); Leadership according to the Rebbe; 54 Years; 54 Ideas

Laws and Customs

This week's Torah reading contains the "song at the sea" sung by the Children of Israel upon their deliverance from the Egyptians, when the Red Sea split to allow them to pass and then drowned their pursuers. Hence this Shabbat is designated as Shabbat Shirah, "Shabbat of song."

Our sages tell us that the birds in the sky joined our ancestors in their singing; for this reason it is customary to put out food for the birds for this Shabbat (to avoid the possibility of transgressing the laws of Shabbat, the food should be put out before Shabbat).

Links: The Chassidic Masters on song; Miriam's song

Chabad Chassidim observe the customs of the yahrtzeit (anniversary of the passing) of the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn (1880-1950), as established by his son-in-law, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson (1902-1994), who succeeded him as Rebbe following his passing on the 10th of Shevat in 1950.

Link: A Letter from the Lubavitcher Rebbe outlining his suggested observances for Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak's first yahrtzeit.

Daily Thought

Many people, without realizing, end up with two gods:

One god is an impersonal one, an all-encompassing, transcendent force.

But then, at times of trouble, they cry out to another, personal god, with whom they have an intimate relationship.

Our faith is all about knowing that these two are one. The same G‑d who is beyond all things, He is the same one who hears your cries and counts your tears. The same G‑d who is the force behind all existence and transcends even that, He is the same G‑d who cares about what is cooking in your kitchen and how you treat your fellow human being.

G‑d cannot be defined, even as transcendent. He is beyond all things and within them at once.