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The Chabad.org Blog

Sleepless and Inspired

May 30, 2014 3:01 PM

Dear Friend,

I remember the first time I stayed up all night on Shavuot, the anniversary of the revelation at Sinai. Facing the hazy orange glow generated by Chicago’s quarter-million streetlights, we walked to the synagogue where we would sit with the others, studying Torah, making up for our ancestors’ sleeping in on that fateful morning at the mountain. Once there, I nibbled cake and listened to the learning. Eventually I nodded off. A few years (and more than a few coffees) later, I managed to keep awake the whole night.

Since then, I have experienced Shavuot night in Budapest (followed by an immersion in the mikvah/bathhouse constructed in the community’s prewar heyday), Safed (followed by a dip in the ice-cold spring-fed Arizal Mikvah), Jerusalem (followed by early morning prayers at the Kotel), and now in Montreal (followed all too soon by kids climbing into my bed).

No matter the surroundings, the experience remains the same: spending the night preparing to receive the Torah while the world sleeps. It’s something not to be missed.

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

P.S.: Make sure you’re not too tired to make it back the next morning. The highlight of the holiday is coming—kids in tow—to hear the 10 Commandments read from the Torah at the synagogue. Chances are there’ll be some good cheese blintzes as well.

New Book About the Rebbe

May 29, 2014 3:16 PM

In just over a month will be the 3rd of Tammuz, which will mark 20 years since the passing of the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory. Our staff is hard at work on numerous commemorative and inspirational projects which we hope to share with you in the coming weeks.

For example, we’ve just uploaded a new book, My Encounter with the Rebbe volume 2, the personal memoirs of the late Zalmon Jaffe of Manchester, England, depicting his relationship with the Rebbe. In rich detail, this book chronicles his visits with the Rebbe from the years 1973 to 1976.

We extend our thanks to the publishers, who allowed us to share its content with you, and to Miriam Szokovski, who painstakingly uploaded the texts and photos to the site.

To read the new book, please click here.

Lessons from a Lone Gunman

May 23, 2014 3:45 PM

Dear Friend,

I was in the car the other day listening to a report of a standoff between the police and a person who had barricaded himself in a house with a cache of guns. The incident ended when the fellow shot and injured himself, thankfully before he was able to do anyone harm.

In addition to road closings, traffic snarls and people not being able to get to where they needed to be, one ramification of the standoff was that the local school was closed for the day, and the last day of the school year was postponed.

Here is where my mind began wandering.

One unfortunate individual had an impact on thousands of people’s lives, one that will last for months to come.

If he could affect so many people, just think how much you and I can influence the world by an act of kindness. And imagine how positively the world can be affected by millions of good deeds.

Don’t sit around waiting for the spotlight to find you. Get out, do something good, and you will be the spotlight.

Eliezer Zalmanov,
Responder for Ask the Rabbi @ Chabad.org

Be a Flag-Waver

May 19, 2014 8:12 AM

Dear Friend,

Every country has one. Nations have rallied around it, soldiers have died protecting it, and its gentle wave in the breeze gives hope and courage to many.

It was again time to count the Israelites in the desert, and this time they were split into four groups, each under its own distinct flag.

The Midrash relates that when the Torah was given on Mount Sinai, the heavens opened and Israel caught a glimpse of the angels arrayed in legions, each with its own banner. Seeing this, they proclaimed, “If only we too could have flags like them!”

G‑d lovingly replied, “Not only is your wish granted, but the future messianic redemption will be in the merit of flags as well!”

A flag both unites and demarcates. A nation or army may have their own unifying flag, but each state and division within the country or army has its own distinct standard as well.

When we wave our distinct flags, we show not just our pride on being part of a greater group, but also in our own contributions, recognizing the unique abilities that we each possess.

So wave your flags with pride, teaching the world that each of us has a unique purpose and mission in life.

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

Humility in a Box

May 9, 2014 3:45 PM

Dear Friend,

There was once a scholar who was quite arrogant despite—or perhaps because of—his Torah knowledge.

He once chanced upon Reb Zushia, a chassidic master known for his humility, who taught him a life lesson. Reb Zushia quoted the Talmudic discussion of whether the holy ark containing the Torah scrolls could be counted toward the 10 men required to form a prayer quorum—a notion the Talmud suggests and then rejects, noting that an ark is not a person, and only people can constitute a minyan.

“Why did the Talmud originally think,” Reb Zushia asked his visitor, “that the ark containing the Torah scrolls can be counted? Surely the Talmud's rejoinder, that an ark is not a person, is obvious?”

The man was dumbfounded, not knowing what to respond.

“Although an ark is merely a wooden box,” explained Reb Zushia, “it contains within it Torah scrolls. It was therefore supposed that the Torah it contains may elevate it to human status. The truth is, however, that despite the Torah you possess, if you remain a wooden box, unaffected by the Torah you’ve learned, you’re hardly a mentsch.”

The name of this week’s Torah portion, Bechukotai, can be linked to the Hebrew root word that means “engrave.” Just as words etched in stone are not a distinct entity from the stone itself, so must our studies be internalized and engraved upon our hearts—or else we are but wooden boxes.

Shaul Wolf,
Responder for Ask the Rabbi @ Chabad.org

Unplug for a Day

May 2, 2014 11:06 AM

Dear Friend,

Are we too plugged in? More and more articles and studies are exploring the ill effects of overconnectedness in today’s technology-laden world. People feel uneasy and disoriented if their smartphone or computer is not in easy reach, and children as young as four are being treated for Internet addiction.

Recently, I came across an article challenging readers to unplug for a full 24 hours—not just from their cell phones, but computers, laptops and tablets as well. The whole shebang.

It made me smile. And feel slightly smug and very, very fortunate.

I, for one, don’t need to be convinced about the benefits of powering down. I do it every week. Week in, week out, come Shabbat we unplug for 25 hours. It’s magnificent. It’s calming, empowering and rejuvenating.

This week’s Torah portion talks about Shabbat, the weekly day of rest, which our ancestors have been keeping for over 3,000 years. It’s extraordinary how relevant and meaningful Shabbat is, has been and will continue to be . . .

If you haven’t had the opportunity to fully unplug and observe Shabbat, try it this week. There may be some tough moments in the beginning, but you’ll be hooked in no time!

Miriam Szokovski,
on behalf of the Chabad.org Editorial Team

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