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30 Years of Maimonidean Immersion

We’ve got the tools!

April 29, 2014
Vintage and recent volumes of Maimonides’ code of law, the Mishneh Torah, are housed at the Library of Agudas Chassidei Chabad, the Chabad-Lubavitch central library.
Vintage and recent volumes of Maimonides’ code of law, the Mishneh Torah, are housed at the Library of Agudas Chassidei Chabad, the Chabad-Lubavitch central library.

Thirty years ago, on the final day of Passover of 1984, the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory, initiated a Torah study program for learning Maimonides’ magnum opus, the Mishneh Torah, a masterful compendium of all the laws of the Torah.

Since the program began, tens of thousands of Jews have studied these laws—which cover all areas of the Torah—again and again. In addition to the special bond that connects them with their fellow scholars all over the world, they have attaining a familiarity with the Torah that is truly enviable.

But why just envy? You can do the same. Recognizing that some of us are still starting out or simply require a slower pace, the Rebbe actually instituted three tracks.

Advanced scholars study three chapters every day, completing the entire 1,000-chapter work in less than a year. Those who have been doing it since the beginning are now on their 33rd cycle.

For those who lack the ability or time to study three chapters every day, the Rebbe suggested that they turn to Maimonides’ Sefer HaMitzvot (“Book of Commandments”), covering the same commandments being studied in detail by those participating in the three-chapter-per-day regimen—concluding all 613 mitzvahs by the time the cycle ends.

He also suggested a parallel one-chapter-a-day track for those able to study the original, but at a more modest pace, completing the entire text in less than three years. (Those studying one chapter a day are currently most of the way through the 11th cycle.)

Here at Chabad.org, we have a number of great resources for students at all three levels.

  • We have the entire text of Mishneh Torah available in Hebrew and English.
  • For those studying Sefer Hamitzvot, we have the Hebrew original, an English translation, an abbreviated rendition, and even a kids’ version all in one spot, so take your pick.
  • Our master Torah teachers Rabbis Yehoshua B. Gordon and Mendel Kaplan have been streaming wonderful classes in Mishneh Torah and Sefer Hamitzvot respectively, and I’m sure there is a comfortable seat for you in their virtual classrooms.
  • But what do I learn today? How do I know what everyone is studying right now? We’ve got you covered. It’s all laid out neatly on our Daily Study page.
  • And for those on the go, we have an Android app for you as well.

No matter the track, thirty years later there are uncounted thousands of students who are looking back with satisfaction and forward with anticipation as this program continues to spur proficiency and unity of the highest order.

Join us. You will be glad you did.

Oral Wisdom

April 25, 2014 11:49 AM

Dear Friend,

It’s springtime. The air is warming, fragrant flowers are blossoming, and the birds are returning to their homes. This clarity of sight, scent and sound paradoxically helps us to turn our senses inward. We are in a uniquely extended 49-day spiritual season between the Exodus on Passover and the receiving of the Torah on Shavuot.

There is no better way that I know of to prepare myself to receive the Torah anew than through the study of Pirkei Avot, our sages’ guide to a well-lived, purposeful Jewish life.

We’re instructed to review a chapter each week between Passover and Shavuot, and then continue through the Days of Awe and Days of Rejoicing in Tishrei, and for good reason: Pirkei Avot not only readies us to receive the Torah, but teaches us what kind of people G‑d wants us to be once the Torah is ours.

There is a wealth of insight from Pirkei Avot available right here on Chabad.org. A personal favorite commentary that I return to each year is from my colleague Rabbi Yanki Tauber, based on the Rebbe’s teachings.

From the classical to the contemporary, there is an abundance of commentaries on Pirkei Avot designed to help us fulfill our core purpose and goal of receiving, actualizing and transmitting the Torah to this and future generations.

Yaakov Ort,
on behalf of the Chabad.org Editorial Team

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Passover

April 17, 2014

Dear Friend,

Is there a Seder in Bali? I’ll be doing the Seder alone; can you send me a printable haggadah? I am going away for Passover, and am not sure if and when I should search for chametz in my home. Which foods can I feed my pet during Passover? How can I make the Seder meaningful for teens? With so much suffering in the world, are we truly free during this festival of freedom?

These are but a small sampling of the thousands of questions our 25 rabbis and rebbetzins fielded in in English, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and Russian over the days leading up to Passover.

Before Passover, it is customary to ensure that everyone has the basic necessities to celebrate the holiday and where to go for the Seder. We try our best to accomplish just that, helping to put our constituents in touch with local Chabad centers and other local Jewish resources, often making late-night calls to ensure that everyone has what they need.

The team remained on active duty 24/6 up to the last few minutes before Passover, standing by and assisting thousands of people from all over the world with their Passover-related questions.

Many of the answers can be found in our Passover Q&A section. I invite you to look through the responses, as well as to send in your questions, both Passover- and non-Passover-related. It will be our pleasure to respond.

With continued blessings for a kosher and happy Passover,

Chani Benjaminson,
Team leader for Ask the Rabbi @ Chabad.org

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Kedoshim: Be Holy

April 23, 2014

Dear Friend,

Every so often I have the privilege of being home for bedtime, which usually includes a story—often from the Talmud.

My four-year-old’s favorite character is the famous first-century sage Hillel, who is famous for spending a snowy night on the roof of his yeshivah, where he had climbed up to hear the Torah conversations inside. Other stories describe his patience, love and concern for others.

In this week’s Torah portion, Kedoshim, we have the commandment “Love your fellow as yourself.” Rabbi Akiva comments that “this is a great principle of the Torah.”

This echoes a famous statement of Hillel’s, “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah.”

Hillel and Rabbi Akiva summarized the Torah to its essence. God wants His children to love each other.

The statements are quite different (and according to Rashi, unrelated), but the message is clear: keeping Shabbat, eating matzah, laying tefillin—while truly important mitzvahs—are dwarfed by how we treat others.

What better time is there to be able to apply this than after the lessons of humility from matzah, followed by the introspection of the Sefirat HaOmer?

Share these stories with your kids. But more than that—let’s be the role models that they can emulate.

Moshe Rosenberg,
on behalf of the Chabad.org Editorial Team

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The Freedom to Be Green

April 4, 2014 5:44 PM

We at Chabad.org know that people love to print up our articles. For the Shabbat table, to hang on the fridge door, or just to enjoy later at an unplugged moment.

We also know that some folks prefer not to print images along with the articles. It’s a waste of paper, ink and energy—and all around bad for the environment.

Responding to your feedback, our crack team of developers implemented an elegant solution. From now on, when you click the “print” button, you will notice a new set of options: the standard print icon, and a green “print without images” option, allowing you to choose if you want to print the artwork along with your article.

Just to help you see for yourself how this works, we are sticking an image in this blog post that you can choose not to print. Click the printer icon above, and enjoy the freedom.

Shout-out to developer Efi Gotbeter, who made it happen!

Acharei: Anticipating Redemption

April 6, 2014

Dear Friend,

This week, on the 11th day of Nissan (Thursday night, April 10–Friday, April 11), we celebrate the 112th anniversary of the birth of our beloved Rebbe, of righteous memory.

The Rebbe would speak about the long-awaited redemption of our people using two terms: collective redemption and personal redemption.

Our prophets and sages tell us what the redemption of our entire people will look like: When Moshiach will come, there will be no war or hatred. All peoples of the world will live in peace and harmony. The very ether will be filled with love and awareness of G‑d’s presence.

Definitely a world we can yearn for.

But what exactly is “personal redemption”? What is it supposed to look or feel like?

To be personally redeemed means to apply the same global yearnings and ideals to our own “micro” selves. Personal redemption means that our own little world should harbor no more conflict, jealousy or resentment. It means nurturing an outlook that engenders love inside of our selves toward all of G‑d’s creations. And a state of mind in which we are constantly aware of G‑d’s presence in our lives.

So, how do we achieve this? The Rebbe advised that we begin by studying Torah texts that tell us what the era of Moshiach will look like. We can then work to mirror that in our own lives.

May this Passover, the “Festival of our Freedom,” bring with it true liberation and freedom, both micro and macro.

Mendy Kaminker,
on behalf of the Chabad.org Editorial Team

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