Enter your email address to get our weekly email with fresh, exciting and thoughtful content that will enrich your inbox and your life.
The Chabad.org Blog

Learning from Rachel

October 31, 2014 1:45 PM

Dear Friend,

By all accounts, Rachel lived a difficult life.

As a young woman she forfeited her own marriage to Jacob in order to spare her sister, Leah, embarrassment. The years passed and she stoically watched her sister give birth to child after child while she struggled to conceive. Even in death, she was buried on the side of the road, leaving her rightful place next to her husband in the Cave of Machpela to her sister, Leah.

Centuries later, when the Jewish people were exiled from Israel, they passed Rachel's tomb, drawing strength and comfort from her presence, and she beseeched G‑d on their behalf to restore Israel and return her children to their land.

This week we mark her passing on Tuesday, Cheshvan 11th. When we face hardships and struggles, we can draw strength and inspiration from the way Rachel dealt with hers.

And Rachel waits, patiently, at the side of the road, for the day that G‑d will return her children to the Land of Israel permanently, with the coming of Moshiach. May it happen soon!

Miriam Szokovski
on behalf of the Chabad.org Editorial Team

Q&A: Meet Rabbi Avraham Meyer Zajac: Master Talmud Teacher

With his daily class in California featuring Talmud study with Chassidic insights now online, he hopes to inspire students worldwide

October 27, 2014 3:14 PM
The daily Talmud class of Rabbi Avraham Meyer Zajac, co-director of Chabad-Lubavitch SOLA-South La Cienega, Calif., is now online. (Photo: The Eiden Project)
The daily Talmud class of Rabbi Avraham Meyer Zajac, co-director of Chabad-Lubavitch SOLA-South La Cienega, Calif., is now online. (Photo: The Eiden Project)

Chabad.org’s array of video classes on Jewish.tv was recently enriched by the addition of a daily Talmud class given by Rabbi Avraham Meyer Zajac, who co-directs Chabad-Lubavitch SOLA-South La Cienega, Calif., with his wife, Stery.

Zajac, who grew up in Brazil, went out on shlichus to California in 2007. Here, he reflects on his journey to the rabbinate, his community’s growth, and what he looks forward to offering a global audience.

Q: Can you share a bit about your community in southern California?

A: Ours is a young, diverse community with a real range of backgrounds. Located between the larger Jewish communities of Pico-Robertson and La Brea in Los Angeles, there are many young families attracted to the area by the affordable housing, and more are coming all the time. Some are yeshivah-educated—from Chabad and non-Chabad institutions—and then there are many who are really just starting out, so there is a real mix, reflecting the whole Jewish community.

In addition to the many other classes, we learn a page of Talmud at 6 a.m., before 7 a.m. prayers. We’re a lively bunch, and we feed off each other’s energy. There are around a dozen of us who attend regularly since we began the class six years ago, and it’s really become part of our lives, something most of us cannot imagine starting our day without. Over the years, I have seen the Torah study really change people, some in subtle ways, and some in also more obvious and always in profound ways.

Q: How about you? How did you become a master Talmud teacher?

A: I grew up in Brazil, where my family had been living since my grandfather was sent there by the Previous Rebbe (Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, of righteous memory) to serve as a community shochet (ritual slaughterer).

The class takes place at 6 a.m., before 7 a.m. prayers. (Photo: The Eiden Project)
The class takes place at 6 a.m., before 7 a.m. prayers. (Photo: The Eiden Project)

My love and passion of learning came from my parents, Rabbi Motel and Rivka Zajac, may they be well. My earliest childhood memories include hearing my father learn every day in the wee hours of the morning.

When I was a child, we had the privilege of hosting Rabbi Shmuel Dovid Raitchik from Los Angeles, who would come to Brazil for around a month every year. He left a very strong impression on me.

In 1982, I came by his recommendation to learn in Yeshiva Ohr Elchonon Chabad in L.A., where I had the merit to learn Talmud and other subjects with the one-of-a-kind Rosh Yeshivah, Rabbi Ezra Schochet. The Torah institutions of the Rebbe (Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory) are permeated with joy and passion towards learning and teaching Torah.

Now, years later, I have the unique privilege to serve as the Rebbe’s emissary under Rabbi Boruch S. Cunin, director of West Coast Chabad, and part of the team of California shluchim (Chabad emissaries) who are exceptional in both Chassidishkeit(Chassidic warmth and teachings), and in making Torah learning and teaching a cornerstone of their mission. This gives me additional inspiration to do my part in learning and teaching Torah.

After I completed my studies in New York and a few months after I married my wife, Stery, in 1991, we moved to Hong Kong as Chabad emissaries under Rabbi Mordechai Avzton. There, I began to give my first daily Talmud class following the DafYomi (page a day) cycle. There were many businesspeople passing through Hong Kong, and such a Torah class was a service that many of them appreciated. Thank G‑d, throughout the years, I continued to teach the daily Daf Yomi, and shortly after establishing Chabad Sola here in Los Angeles in 2007, I continued this class with our community.

“There are around a dozen of us who attend regularly since we began the class six years ago, and it’s really become part of our lives, something most of us cannot imagine starting our day without,” explains the rabbi. (Photo: The Eiden Project)
“There are around a dozen of us who attend regularly since we began the class six years ago, and it’s really become part of our lives, something most of us cannot imagine starting our day without,” explains the rabbi. (Photo: The Eiden Project)

Q: With hundreds of such classes taking place all over the world, in what way would you characterize the uniqueness of this class?

A: Our studies are colored by the teachings of Chassidus. There are probably 80 people in our congregation who learn Chitas (a Hebrew acronym for Chumash, the five books of Moses; Tehillim, or Psalms; and Tanya, the seminal work of Chassidic philosophy by Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, the Alter Rebbe),

The Rebbe encouraged the daily study of Chitas, Maimonides' Mishneh Torah and HaYom Yom (the Rebbe's compilation of teachings of the Previous Rebbe) emphasizing that these daily study portions are applicable to everyone, and many of us learn other Chassidic tracts as well.

In this setting, it’s only natural to find resonance between the subjects we are learning. When you live with what you learn, it influences every area of your life, and your learning is no exception. Seeing the mechanics of Talmud through the lens of Chassidus is very inspiring and has a very deep effect on all of us.

“Over the years, I have seen the Torah study really change people, some in subtle ways, and some in also more obvious and always in profound ways,” says Zajac. (Photo: The Eiden Project)
“Over the years, I have seen the Torah study really change people, some in subtle ways, and some in also more obvious and always in profound ways,” says Zajac. (Photo: The Eiden Project)

Q: Now that your class is online, what changes did you need to make, either in the content or the presentation?

A: Again, we are a lively bunch, so some of us need to restrain ourselves a bit. Also, since we learn every day of the year—including Shabbat and Jewish holidays, days when we don’t record—we’re relearning those classes the day after Shabbat or the holiday for the benefit of the online audience.

I really must acknowledge the guidance and inspiration I’ve received from Rabbi Joshua B. Gordon of Encino, Calif. He’s been giving online classes for many years on Chabad.org, and I am in touch with him regularly.

In fact, Rabbi Gordon is about to complete the full corpus of Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah, which he has been teaching for three years now following the cycle the Rebbe established. That is a wonderful milestone for him and the thousands all over the world who have grown in their Torah learning along with him.

The class learns every day of the year, including Shabbat and Jewish holidays, though, of course, they don't record on those days. So they relearn those classes the day after for the benefit of the online audience. (Photo: The Eiden Project)
The class learns every day of the year, including Shabbat and Jewish holidays, though, of course, they don't record on those days. So they relearn those classes the day after for the benefit of the online audience. (Photo: The Eiden Project)

Q: Any final thoughts?

A: We’re all very excited about our class, and thank G‑d that we can share it with many other people. It’s an honor and privilege for us to be joined by the Chabad.org community.

Rabbi Zajac’s daily class can be viewed here on Jewish.tv.

Zajac and his students say they're thrilled their class can now be viewed by others. (Photo: The Eiden Project)
Zajac and his students say they're thrilled their class can now be viewed by others. (Photo: The Eiden Project)

Just a Bitter Drop

October 26, 2014

Dear Friend,

Look outside tonight and you’ll see a small sliver of a moon. We’ve just begun a new Jewish month: Marcheshvan, often called Cheshvan.

Notice how the first syllable of the word was lobbed off in common parlance? This is because the Hebrew word “mar” means “bitter” and we don’t want to call a month bitter—even one woefully bereft of holidays like this one.

“Mar” also means “droplet,” alluding to the many raindrops we expect to fall this much-needed rainy season in Israel.

Taken together, these two meanings offer a wondrous lesson. Even when things turn bitter, remember that your troubles are like a drop of rain, soon to run off and nourishing at the core.

Here’s to a month that is all nourishment and no bitterness (oh, and not too much rain when I have a long walk to synagogue on Shabbat)!

Menachem Posner
on behalf of the Chabad.org Editorial Team

A Rainbow of Meaning

October 21, 2014 1:50 PM

Dear Friend,

Who doesn't love rainbows? They are so beautiful and colorful. Catching sight of them before they fade is exciting.

But did you know that the rainbow has a spectrum of Jewish meaning as well?

In this week’s parshah, Noach, we read that after the epic flood that wiped out the entire known world, G‑d showed Noah a rainbow as a sign that He will not destroy the world again. In fact, our sages teach that when a rainbow appears it is a message that our behavior is not so great, and that we really deserve to be flooded again.

For this reason, when you do see one (and I don’t mean the kind your lawn sprinkler makes) there is a unique blessing to say.

And it has another shade, perhaps less known. It is a reflection of G‑d’s divine glory, which Ezekiel describes “like the appearance of the rainbow that is in the cloud on a rainy day.” Because of this, the sages of the Talmud caution that we are not to stare at a rainbow.

Either way, next time you see a rainbow, stop for a moment, reflect on its meaning, and say the special blessing.

May your week be full of bright, shining colors!

Moshe Rosenberg
on behalf of the Chabad.org Editorial Team

P.S.: Like a rainbow has variety of colors, our weekly magazine has all types content. Let me know your favorite by sharing a comment.

Come Back and Dance

October 12, 2014

Dear Friend,

We all know the proverbial “once-a-year-Jews” who sit through several hours of prayers and a sermon or two every year during the High Holidays simply because “that’s what Jews do.”

Now, I’m not suggesting that they stop coming. Heaven forbid. Hearing the shofar on Rosh Hashanah and observing Yom Kippur are certainly biggies. I just wish I could invite them to come back to shul one more time for Simchat Torah, when the synagogue is alive with singing, dancing and joyous celebration of our precious heritage.

The Rebbe—Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory—would often emphasize that the joy of Simchat Torah is the top rung of the ladder of the month of Tishrei. Each holiday brings us one step closer, and they culminate with Simchat Torah, when we reach the greatest point of spirituality. So if you attended Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services—and even if you didn’t—you owe it to yourself to find a Simchat Torah celebration and tie it all up on a high note.

Eliezer Zalmanov,
on behalf of the Chabad.org Editorial Team

Happy Sukkot!

October 5, 2014

Dear Friend,

The contrast between the High Holidays and Sukkot, which follows them, couldn’t be more striking. We’ve spent a month in the lead-up, not to mention Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur themselves, in solemn prayer and reflection. Then, the moment Sukkot approaches, it all seems to go to the wind!

Sukkot is called “the season of our rejoicing,” and for good reason. In Temple times, the revelry was so great that our sages proclaimed, “He who has not seen it has never seen joy in his entire life!”

While part of the joy is celebrating the certainty of being granted a sweet new year, there is a lot more to it.

The mystics teach that we each contain amazing reserves of spiritual energy. Through joy we can unleash this amazing dynamism. The chassidic masters teach that joy has the power to break through all obstacles and boundaries. Thus, the Sukkot merriment is not a step down from the spiritual heights we’ve just achieved; it’s a huge leap forward!

This Sukkot, let’s rejoice and break through the final boundaries of exile, bringing about a time when G‑d will finally spread His “Sukkah of peace” over His world!

Yehuda Shurpin,
on behalf of the Chabad.org Editorial Team

New ‘Kaddish’ App Instructs and Inspires Mourners

Free app offers an audio-visual reading trainer, plus a wealth of information in eight languages

October 1, 2014 9:23 AM
The Kaddish Assistant is a free app from Chabad.org that gently guides the mourner through the process of saying Kaddish and more.
The Kaddish Assistant is a free app from Chabad.org that gently guides the mourner through the process of saying Kaddish and more.

The Yizkor (remembrance) service on Yom Kippur, in which special prayers are said in memory of the departed, may be the most well-attended synagogue service on the Jewish calendar. And throughout the night and day of Yom Kippur, there will be resounding sounds of amen to mourners saying Kaddish for those who have passed.

Yet with unfamiliar words containing as many as five syllables, the Kaddish has long challenged mourners who wish to honor the memory of their loved ones, but are intimidated by the prospects of chanting the formula in public.

Perhaps the best known of all Jewish mourning practices, the Kaddish prayer is recited by surviving relatives as a merit to the soul of the departed, both at the funeral and then again during prayer services for the next 11 months, as well as on the anniversary of the passing.

Composed in ancient Aramaic—the Jewish vernacular two millennia ago—the Kaddish expresses the hope for the manifestation of G‑d’s presence on earth.

As an aid to the mourner, Chabad.org’s development team has released a new app—the “Kaddish Assistant”—that gently guides the mourner through the process of saying Kaddish and more.

According to Dov Dukes, lead developer of Chabad.org’s app team, the centerpiece of the new app is the audio-visual trainer that assists students by highlighting each word—in Hebrew characters, transliteration and translation—as it is chanted aloud in a clear, easy-to-follow voice. It has three speeds and offers Ashkenazic, Sephardic and Chabad versions of both the basic Mourner’s Kaddish and the longer Rabbis’ Kaddish.

Kaddish is recited for 11 months after a person passes and then again on his or her yahrtzeit, the anniversary of the passing. Since the Hebrew calendar functions differently than its Gregorian counterpart, the app calculates and stores yahrtzeit dates, helping users track upcoming Kaddish dates, and reminds users of upcoming yahrtzeits via push notifications. It even allows them to share the information with others, inviting them to attend synagogue services with them via email and social media.

Help at Your Fingertips

Drawing on Chabad.org’s vast online library, the app offers user-friendly information, as well as inspirational articles and guides on Kaddish.

For those looking for a synagogue in which to say Kaddish, the app harnesses Chabad.org’s find-a-center service to locate nearby congregations with ease. And should a question arise, a click of a button puts the user in contact with Chabad.org’s “Ask the Rabbi” team.

The “Kaddish Assistant” joins Chabad.org’s Jewish Apps Suite, leveraging the website’s abundance of content by incorporating it into interactive apps. Through the vision and generosity of a group of funders, the “Kaddish Assistant” joins the Passover Assistant app, “Jewish.tv” video app, the “Shabbat Times” app, a JewishKids.org app for children and others—all designed to help bring Jewish wisdom, tools and support to the fingertips of users. Additional apps are in the planning and developmental stages by an international Chabad.org team.

The drive, vision for and underwriting of the apps, which are available free of charge, come from the generous partnership of Dovid and Malkie Smetana, Alan and Lori Zekelman, the Meromim Fund, and Moris and Lillian Tabacinic—all of whom are dedicated to spreading the wisdom and practice of Judaism worldwide.

The new app will be fully functional in seven languages—Spanish, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Portuguese and Russian—in addition to its current English-language version.

The app is available free of charge for Android devices on Google's Play Store and for iOS devices at Apple’s App Store.

The Kaddish Assistant app has three speeds and can accommodate Ashkenazic, Sephardic and Chabad versions of both the basic Mourner’s Kaddish and the longer Rabbis’ Kaddish.
The Kaddish Assistant app has three speeds and can accommodate Ashkenazic, Sephardic and Chabad versions of both the basic Mourner’s Kaddish and the longer Rabbis’ Kaddish.
The centerpiece of the new app is the audio-visual trainer that assists students by highlighting each word—in Hebrew characters, transliteration and translation—as it is chanted aloud in a clear, easy-to-follow voice.
The centerpiece of the new app is the audio-visual trainer that assists students by highlighting each word—in Hebrew characters, transliteration and translation—as it is chanted aloud in a clear, easy-to-follow voice.
The app calculates and stores yahrtzeit dates, helping the user to track upcoming Kaddish dates. It even allows them to share the information with others, inviting them to attend synagogue services with them via email and social media.
The app calculates and stores yahrtzeit dates, helping the user to track upcoming Kaddish dates. It even allows them to share the information with others, inviting them to attend synagogue services with them via email and social media.
Drawing on Chabad.org’s vast library of articles and videos, the app offers user-friendly information, as well as inspirational articles and guides on Kaddish.
Drawing on Chabad.org’s vast library of articles and videos, the app offers user-friendly information, as well as inspirational articles and guides on Kaddish.

The latest news from Chabad.org.
Recent Posts
Blog Archive
Related Topics