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The Chabad.org Blog

Getting Green Thumbs

April 26, 2015

Dear Friend,

Having moved into our first home with our own yard this past fall, our family eagerly looked forward to spring when we would be able to get out and garden.

Seen through a thick layer of brambles, leaves, weeds and more—it seemed impossible to envision our yard as a clean, fresh space. But with the help of some nice guys who came with axes, chain saws and a truck, our backyard was debris free. Then came the real challenge: making something beautiful there.

We’ve started small, adding purple flowers to the concrete planter by our front steps, sprinkling grass seed, and patrolling the walls of our house for creepy vines that keep on coming back.

We’re far from finished, but there’s no doubt that our home is no longer the eyesore it was.

Based on a verse in Song of Songs, the Rebbe famously compared our world to a garden. Yes, we need to cut the weeds, plant flowers, and tidy the grass. And yes, there is more we can do before our yard will be objectively considered beautiful. But that’s no reason why we shouldn’t jump right in and do what we can.

One extra flower at a time, we can make this world beautiful.

Menachem Posner
on behalf of the Chabad.org Editorial Team

PS: Have you been gardening lately? What experiences, lessons, or tips would you like to share? Please leave a comment. We'd love to hear from you.

Do You Procrastinate?

April 21, 2015 2:08 PM

Dear Friend,

Last night, I sat down to do some work, but then an interesting-looking article caught my eye. I thought I’d take two minutes to read it. But, as often happens on the Internet, one article led to another and then another and another. An hour and a half later, I emerged having read dozens of pages about the North Korean refugee crisis in China, last year’s Mount Everest avalanche, and the devastating 1993 famine in South Sudan.

I'd learned a lot but I was no closer to finishing my work.

And I know I’m not alone. A significant percentage of people are chronic procrastinators, and the vast majority of us do so periodically. (Certainly, educating oneself is not a waste of time, but it would have been more effective to wait until my work was done.)

These weeks, as we count the days between Passover and Shavuot, we focus on self-refinement. During this time, we read a chapter of Ethics of the Fathers each Shabbat. Every chapter is chock full of “advice for life.”

This week we read chapter two, which includes advice against procrastination: “Don’t say ‘When I’ll be free, I will study,’ lest you’ll never be free” (2:4).

There is so much we can accomplish. Why not start right now?

Miriam Szokovski
on behalf of the Chabad.org Editorial Team

Are Selfies Selfish?

April 13, 2015 12:25 PM

Dear Friend,

Maybe it’s because I don’t see myself possessing a rare beauty worth sharing with the world at large, but I never really took to selfie taking.

Come to think of it, the selfie can be a very selfish thing. In the old days, people would take pictures to share with others what they saw. “Look, here is a beautiful flower!” “A historic building!" But now that’s not enough. It’s as if we need to add ourselves to everything. The focus is not on the flower or the landmark; it’s me, and something else in the background.

But focusing on yourself can sometimes be a good thing.

We’ve begun the seven weeks of Sefirat HaOmer, when we count the days from Passover to Shavuot, and each day is another step in a process of self-refinement. For 49 days we are to take our personality and examine it closely, repairing the broken parts and perfecting the good ones. Each week focuses on another one of the seven facets of our personality, and each day focuses on one subfacet.

And when we do it, it’s perfectly fine to share with others as well, if that will propel you or them forward.

Use Facebook, Instagram or Twitter to tell the world about your personal journey, and encourage them to join you.

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

A Mitzvah That Counts: Our New ‘Omer’ App Gives Daily Reminder and More

A daily reminder and more on Android and iOS devices

April 6, 2015 8:53 AM
Chabad.org’s free “Omer Counter” app makes counting the 49 days between the second night of Passover and Shavuot easier and more meaningful.
Chabad.org’s free “Omer Counter” app makes counting the 49 days between the second night of Passover and Shavuot easier and more meaningful.

Perhaps one of the most difficult mitzvahs to fulfill properly is the counting of the Omer, which requires that each sequential day be counted (after nightfall) without missing a day—from the second night of Passover all the way until the eve of Shavuot. In addition to remembering to count on each of 49 consecutive nights, the counter needs to verbalize that night’s count and the corresponding Kabbalistic formula—all that before daybreak, or at least, before sunset the following evening.

Chabad.org’s app development team has found a novel way to offer assistance with its “Omer Counter” app. In addition to daily reminders, a live counter tells the user how much time remains for counting that day.

Highly customizable, the app—with texts in Hebrew and English—tracks the user’s counting record and can then produce the appropriate text for that person (since a person who misses one night may no longer include the special blessing before counting on the subsequent nights that year).

Beyond the mechanics of the daily count, the app also features a specially created “daily meditation” from Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, corresponding to the Kabbalistic mystical confluence of sefirot (emanations) associated with each day, as well as a wealth of insights and other information culled from Chabad.org’s repository of Jewish content.

For the novice just foraying into the intricacies of Hebrew reading, the app features a trainer that assists students by highlighting each word as it is chanted, allowing them to familiarize themselves with the Hebrew at their own pace. Supported on mobile devices and tablets, it is ideal for those learning while they are on the move.

Timely Addition to Chabad.org’s Suite of Apps

Lead developer Dov Dukes notes that the technology for the trainer is built on Chabad.org’s “Torah Trainer,” which now includes all 54 Torah portions, their Haftarahs, and the blessings recited before and after the readings.

“Omer Counter” joins Chabad.org’s Jewish Apps Suite in strategically leveraging Chabad.org’s content and know-how to other platforms.

Through the vision and generosity of a group of funders, the “Omer” app joins the “Hayom” app, the “Passover Assistant,” the “Jewish.tv” video app, the “Shabbat Times” app, a JewishKids.org app for children and others—all designed to help bring Jewish wisdom and tools 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 dedicated to spreading the wisdom and practice of Judaism worldwide.

“The possibilities in app development for a Jewish audience are virtually endless,” says Chabad.org’s managing director, Rabbi Meir Simcha Kogan, “and we are determined to implement the drive and vision of our generous partners and our staff to use the best practices and highest standards in leveraging these technologies for strengthening Jewish awareness and observance.”

The “Omer Counter” app is available free of charge on Apple’s App Store for iOS devices and Google’s Play Store for Android devices.

A live counter tells the user how much time remains for counting that day and sends updated reminders as well. It also features a specially created “daily meditation” corresponding to the Kabbalistic mystical confluence of sefirot (emanations) associated with each day, as well as a wealth of insights and other information culled from Chabad.org’s repository of Jewish content.
A live counter tells the user how much time remains for counting that day and sends updated reminders as well. It also features a specially created “daily meditation” corresponding to the Kabbalistic mystical confluence of sefirot (emanations) associated with each day, as well as a wealth of insights and other information culled from Chabad.org’s repository of Jewish content.
For the novice just foraying into the intricacies of Hebrew reading, the app features a trainer that assists students by highlighting each word as it is chanted, allowing them to familiarize themselves with the Hebrew at their own pace.
For the novice just foraying into the intricacies of Hebrew reading, the app features a trainer that assists students by highlighting each word as it is chanted, allowing them to familiarize themselves with the Hebrew at their own pace.

Why I Love Passover

April 6, 2015

Dear Friend,

I love Passover.

I love the fresh, healthy and natural food that we eat (our family is particular to prepare just about everything ourselves, to make sure it’s 100% chametz-free). I love the songs that we sing every year at the Seder (okay, we try to sing them, but genetics prevent us from fully realizing that wish). And I love the fact that we often get to divide our time between my parents and in-laws, where so much is the same, but so much is different.

Every Jewish family uses the same boilerplate, but every Seder is so different. We all just read the same Haggadah, crunched the same matzah and drank the same wine, but the conversations in every home were unique.

And this is what Passover is all about. Taking a national experience and making it personal. It’s not just about our nation leaving Egypt, but it’s about me leaving my personal Egypt and embarking on my journey to my personal Holy Land and attaining freedom from whatever may be holding me back.

Enjoy the rest of your journey!

Menachem Posner,
on behalf of the Chabad.org Editorial Team

P.S. What customs and practices make your family’s Seder special? Please share a comment and let us know.

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