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The Chabad.org Blog

Get the Omer App!

April 26, 2016 4:56 PM

Ready for Sefirat HaOmer?

Every year, Jews around the world begin counting the 49 days of the Omer, starting on the second night of Passover.

This special mitzvah—counting up the days until the holiday of Shavuot—celebrates the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai and unites Jews around the world each day.

But remembering to count the Omer nightly can certainly be challenging to work into people’s everyday schedules. And, after missing even a single day, one continues to count, but no longer with a blessing.

Chabad.org’s app “Omer Counter” reminds users to count and guides them through the special blessing before the Omer, the unique daily passages and the ability to check off of the Omer has been said.

To that end, Chabad.org has created the “Omer Counter,” a popular app in both the iOS Appstore and Google Play. The app reminds and encourages users to count the Omer each night, as well as explore the deeper spiritual message behind the mitzvah and share their activity on social media.

To download the app, visit here or look for the “Omer Counter” and other Chabad.org apps in Google Play and the Appstore.

No Rest for the Weary

April 26, 2016 2:30 PM

Dear Friend,

Ah! We’ve scrubbed our homes, cooked up a storm, and relived the Exodus through the Seders. Now’s the time to sit back and enjoy our freedom, right?

Wrong.

Now’s when the real work begins.

When the Jews left Egypt, they were a foundling nation, still shrugging off the shackles of slavery. To be sure, they had witnessed wonders and miracles and G‑dly revelation, and they followed Moses into the desert with a firm faith and commitment to G‑d. But in order to truly be ready to accept the Torah, they had to go through a 49-step process of refinement to rid themselves of the slave mentality and embrace their G‑dly mission. They had to take the inspiration of the Exodus and integrate it into their hearts and minds.

And so must we today.

Sefirat HaOmer, the Counting of the Omer, is the way we take our soulful Seder experience and translate it into real personal growth. It’s a time to dig deep, reflect, examine our flaws and refine our characters.

Enjoy the journey!

Sasha Friedman
on behalf of the Chabad.org Editorial Team

P.S. How were your Seders? What was particularly meaningful to you this year? Let us know in the comment section below!

Mah Nishtanah - Four Questions Seder Trainer

April 19, 2016 10:27 AM

This year say the Mah Nishtanah (the Four Questions) at the Seder like a pro!

The Passover Seder remains the most widely observed Jewish tradition in America as food, family, conversation and tradition come together for a powerful storytelling experience.

Perhaps one of the highlights of the Seder experience is the asking of the Four Questions, the Mah Nishtanah.

Yet the Mah Nishtanah, so central to the Seder, can be daunting to those unfamiliar with the Hebrew.

That’s why Chabad.org is proud to offer our Mah Nishtanah Trainer.

This interactive web-app allows participants to hone their skills at reciting the Four Questions, practicing those words or phrases they find the most difficult.

It features the Mah Nishtanah according to Ashkenazi and Chabad tradition, as well as in Modern Hebrew and in Yiddish.

Check out the Mah Nishtanah Trainer now!

Freedom in the Darkest Times

April 18, 2016 4:02 PM

Dear Friend,

A recent coffee break found me rereading some of my favorite Passover stories. I read of Passovers celebrated during the Holocaust, in the Siberian Gulag, and in dim cellars during the time of the Spanish Inquisition. The faith and courage that these stories convey never fail to inspire me.

Is it incongruous, one might wonder, to celebrate freedom while living under oppression? To commemorate salvation during times of desperation and deprivation?

The heroes of these tales knew, though, that Passover is more than just a memorial to past glories. The strong hand and the outstretched arm that redeemed our fathers from Egypt have continued to defend our people throughout the ages. “For not just one alone has risen against us to destroy us, but in every generation they rise against us to destroy us; and the Holy One, blessed be He, saves us from their hand.”

On an individual level, too, we each experience a personal bondage to “Pharaoh”—those internal and external things that prevent us from reaching our full potential. Passover empowers us to overcome our limitations and serve G‑d in true freedom.

This year, don’t just retell the Passover story—relive it.

Wishing you and yours a joyous Passover!

Rochel Chein,
responder for Ask the Rabbi @ Chabad.org

The Life and Legacy of the Tzemach Tzedek, 150 Years Later

A Chabad.org mini-site is chock full of information, including his teachings, stories and music

April 17, 2016 11:37 AM
At left is a picture of the Tzemach Tzedek in a calendar published by Mesora, Lodz (Poland). On the right is an 1886 lithograph printed in Vilna and accompanied by authorization of the Russian censor, dated Oct. 30, 1886. This picture was likely printed in conjunction with the 20th anniversary of the passing of the Tzemach Tzedek. (Photo: Library of Agudas Chassidei Chabad-Ohel Yosef Yitzchak Lubavitch)
At left is a picture of the Tzemach Tzedek in a calendar published by Mesora, Lodz (Poland). On the right is an 1886 lithograph printed in Vilna and accompanied by authorization of the Russian censor, dated Oct. 30, 1886. This picture was likely printed in conjunction with the 20th anniversary of the passing of the Tzemach Tzedek. (Photo: Library of Agudas Chassidei Chabad-Ohel Yosef Yitzchak Lubavitch)

Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch, known as the Tzemach Tzedek, was the third leader of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement. A flurry of activity exploring the multifaceted life of this great Jewish leader marks the 150th year of his passing on the 13th of Nissan (which this year corresponds to Thursday, April 21), just prior to Passover of 1866.

Born in 1789 to Rabbi Shalom Shachna and Rebbetzin Devorah Leah, he was the grandson of Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, the founder of Chabad. He assumed the position of “Rebbe” shortly after the passing of his father-in-law, Rabbi DovBer, in 1827, and was the first to live in the town of Lubavitch for the entire duration of his leadership.

Known for his brilliant Torah scholarship, fearless defense of the Jewish people and deep Chassidic fervor, it was under his tenure that Chabad Chassidim swelled to encompass hundreds of thousands of adherents. His responsa are renowned as acute and authoritative rulings across the gamut of Jewish law, and they are widely studied. His prolific literary output in both Chassidism and halachah (Jewish law) was legendary, both in volume and depth.

Concurrently, Chabad scholar Rabbi Eli Rubin has published an article exploring some salient characteristics of the Tzemach Tzedek’s Chassidic writings. Among other things, Rubin demonstrates some of the different ways in which the Tzemach Tzedek synthesized, developed and expanded the teachings of his grandfather.

The Chabad publishing house Kehot recently released a newly revised edition of the Tzemach Tzedek’s seminal work Derech Mitzvotecha in honor of this milestone. This new edition includes annotations and elucidations to the original text, aiding the reader in the study of this complex Chasidic work.

In addition, a new timeline of the rabbi’s life and accomplishments—which, although devoted to intense scholarship, also included weeks and months of walking the halls of power to defend the Jewish right to self-determination, in addition to tireless efforts on behalf of oppressed people—has been prepared by Rabbi Mordechai Rubin.

Much of the new research, as well as existing content, has been incorporated into a Chabad.org mini-site dedicated to the Tzemach Tzedek. There, visitors can read biographies, teachings and stories, and even listen to the music that he either composed himself or had composed to be sung in his court.

“Looking back to 150 years ago,” says Rubin, “we can see how so much has changed. Yet many of the Tzemach Tzedek’s teachings, his leadership example, and his devotion to G‑d and His people remain as relevant and fresh as ever.”

A Chabad.org mini-site is dedicated to the Tzemach Tzedek, 150 years after his passing. (Photo: Library of Agudas Chassidei Chabad-Ohel Yosef Yitzchak Lubavitch)
A Chabad.org mini-site is dedicated to the Tzemach Tzedek, 150 years after his passing. (Photo: Library of Agudas Chassidei Chabad-Ohel Yosef Yitzchak Lubavitch)

‘The Smiling Rabbi’ Indeed

April 13, 2016 3:58 PM

Rabbi Mendel Kaplan of Jewish.tv fame shared the following tidbit on Facebook, and we thought you may enjoy it:

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of speaking to a group of Catholic-school students who had come to visit. As I entered our main sanctuary, where they were gathered, their teacher told me: “They know you already, rabbi. In class, we’ve been watching many of your videos on Chabad.org. They call you ‘the smiling rabbi.’ ”

And, besides expressing my appreciation for the kind compliment, I’m thinking, “Wow! The incredibly powerful impact of Chabad.org’s thousands of online learning opportunities may never be known ... ”

Kudos to those unsung behind-the-scenes heroes of the world’s premier Jewish website, who are literally making a world of difference!

Sign up for email alerts when one of Rabbi Kaplan’s classes are posted or browse the hundreds already online.

Give the Gift of Passover

April 13, 2016 1:39 PM

Dear Friend,

Next Tuesday is the 11th of Nissan, the anniversary of the birth of the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory.

Chassidim often talked of a “birthday gift” for the Rebbe. Of course they did not give the Rebbe ties or cakes. Knowing that the Rebbe prized our efforts to make the world a more G‑dly place, the gifts chassidim gave—and still give—are mitzvahs performed, Talmud tractates mastered, chassidic discourses learned and internalized, and kindness done for others.

Since the Rebbe’s birthday is just before Passover, this would often take the form of round, handmade shmurah matzah distributed to Jews who would not otherwise not have this special food on their Seder tables, or Seder invites for people with no Seder tables.

Right now is the time to give a fellow Jew the gift of Passover. Send a matzah, extend an invite, or just reach out in friendship. And if you need a spot at the table, please don’t be shy. We’ll be glad to host you.

The Chabad.org Editorial Team

Jewish.tv Has Your Back This Season

April 13, 2016 11:43 AM

Are you the kind of person who likes to learn from videos? Then we’ve got good news for you!

With Passover preparations in high gear, we have got the tools you need to get yourself brushed up on the ins and outs of the Seder and the Haggadah.

If you have time and inclination to really dig deeply into the Seder texts and traditions, Rabbi Mendel Kaplan offers a series of in-depth classes on various aspects of the Seder, including 22 (!) classes devoted to the Hallel Psalms, which figure prominently in the Seder liturgy. What you see today is the accumulation of years of teachings and dozens upon dozens of obscure texts, so enjoy the bounty that’s now there for the taking.

Rabbi Mendel Kaplan preparing for his class.
Rabbi Mendel Kaplan preparing for his class.

And if you want to get a quick jump-start into demystifying the Seder, Rabbi Moshe Steiner is currently unrolling a four-part course that should do the trick. While this course was exclusively for registered students, we’ve opened it up to anyone, so feel free to check out the classes and become enlightened just in time for the Passover Seder.

With best wishes for a meaningful and joyous Passover,

The Jewish.tv Team

Social Media: Lessons in Loving the Leper

April 6, 2016 9:42 AM

Dear Friend,

With all its perks regarding connection and community, social media sometimes falls into a vicious cycle of hot takes and Internet shaming.

Controversies great or small, real or imagined, simmer and boil over online. A single tweet or comment can suddenly draw down a storm of righteous online indignation and social-media vigilantism. The flaws and failings of others are tried in the court of public opinion.

This week’s Torah portion discusses the responsibility of the kohen to declare a person either afflicted or cured of tzaraat, a biblical malady that brought ritual impurity and seclusion.

Why, asked the Rebbe, was only a kohen qualified to declare that a person is afflicted by tzaraat?

One of the kohen’s duties is to bless the Jewish people, to bring peace to others. Only someone whose very essence is love can determine that someone else is lacking.

When we rush to push a person away—even if we feel that we are eminently qualified to judge them—we must stop and look at the source of this conviction. Are we coming from a place of pure love like the kohen?

What’s more, the kohen did not just declare impurity of tzaraat but also brought about its cure. If we see someone that is “on the outside,” it is our job to labor with love to make sure they find their way in.

Mordechai Lightstone,
on behalf of the Chabad.org Editorial Team

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