January 2001

Log On!
The modern day world of Internet and cyberspace offers opportunities that are truly limitless. With one click, you can connect with half of the world. Judaism though, has connections that surpass even the largest websites. They are called Mitzvot (which come from the word Tzavta – connect). Each Mitzvah that we do connects us to G‑d and when millions of “Mitzvah doers” get connected to one G‑d, this automatically forges a common bond amongst them. Let's unite with Jews worldwide by logging into Torah study or adding one more “e-Mitzvah” to our web of good deeds.

Man toils. He ploughs the ground and digs the earth. He plans a seed and waters the bud. He weeds the sprouts and then waits. He watches his apple tree grow, stronger, bigger, broader, anxiously waiting for the ultimate purpose = the delicious fruit. In the spiritual world, Tu B'Shvat reminds us that man is like a tree. We toil to raise children, “water” their talents, “weed” their mistakes and watch them grow bigger, stronger…to produce what? Good Deeds. Fruits are compared to Mitzvot, and as Tu B'Shvat comes along, eat a fruit and choose a mitzvah to make the day spiritually sweet.

Do these Purim details sound familiar? The king makes a party, get drunk, banishes his queen, chooses Esther in her place, Mordechai overhears a murderous plot, King Achashverosh rewards Mordechai…all seemingly insignificant facts. In reality though, G‑d was simply setting the stage for the salvation of the Jews even before Haman thought of the plot! Jewish tradition teaches us that G‑d always plans the cure before the disease! And not just in historical happenings; in you private life too. So next time G‑d sends a challenge your way, relax. The solution has already been planned – you just need to find it!


Why Matzah? Why Maror? Why do we dip? Why were we slaves? The Passover seder is full of questions, and the whole setup of the Seder encourages the asking of questions. So here's a question. Why do we need to ask questions? Asking questions is really an expression of interest, a display of caring. If you're indifferent, you don't even ask what's happening, but when you challenge, inquire and even dispute, it's a sign that you care. One Passover night, you may not get all your questions answered, but your question IS the answer - the answer to Jewish survival. One who asks questions at the Seder table, will continue to search for answers throughout the year.


Jewish Pride
The scene is Mount Sinai . It is Shavuot and the Jews are receiving the Torah. G‑d specifically chose Mount Sinai because it is the lowest of all the mountains in the area. This was to teach us that bigger is not always better, and that sense of humility and humbleness is a very important trait.

Then why on a mountain? Giving the Ten Commandments in a valley would bring out the message of humility much stronger. But look at Lesson #2. when it comes to Torah and Judaism, stand strong like a mountain, be proud of your heritage, and don't let others know you over. And, yes, it is possible to do that in a non-boastful, humble manner.


The Rebbe
Why do people help people? What is the motivation behind a favor? Some do it because of Jewish guilt. Others do it out of pity. Many people do it because helping others makes them feel good about themselves. This month marks the 7 th Yahrtzeit of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. The Rebbe dedicated every day of his life to the welfare of the Jewish people. Every man, woman or child was regarded as his own child, and no person was too simple of insignificant for the Rebbe's concern. What was his secret? It was certainly not pity or Jewish guilt. It was not even about feeling good. The Rebbe did it simply out of love. He was one of the rare individuals that had the gift of truly loving others – and this is a trait worth emulating.


Is sad bad? Tisha B'av is a day of mourning and sadness. Yet Chassidic teaching differentiates between two types of sorrow: merirut, a constructive grief, and atzvut, a destructive grief.

Merirut is the distress of one who recognizes his failings, while Atzvut is one in despair whose melancholy has drained him of hope and initiative. The first is a springboard for self-improvement; the second a bottomless pit. The first one weeps, the second's eye's are dry and blank. The first one's heart is in turmoil, the second one is still with apathy and heavy as lead. And what happens when it passes, when they emerge from their respective bouts of grief? The first one springs to action: resolving, planning, taking his first faltering steps to undo the causes of his sorrow. The second one goes to sleep.


Tzedakah vs. Charity
How do you translate TZEDAKAH? Charity? Wrong – try again. Charity implies that a donor, who is not obligated, gives a gift to a recipient who really has no right to the gift. His act is a virtue not a duty. Translating Tzedakah as charity changes the entire meaning and loses the essence of the Mitzvah. In reality, Tzedakah mean Tzedek – Justice. Everything in the world ultimately belongs to G‑d, and it is only entrusted to us with the stipulation that we share with those less fortunate. Tzedakah is a duty, not a choice. Tzedakah is a Mitzvah, not just a good deed.


Head of the Year
Thousands of people gather at Times Square to mark the arrival of a New Year. On Jan. 1 st , the champagne is flowing music pounding and gaiety is in the air. Is Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year celebrated similarly?

First let's retranslate: Rosh Hashanah does not mean NEW year; it means HEAD of the Year.

Tradition teaches that just as the head contains the brain, which controls the entire body, so does Rosh Hashanah contain within it the potential for life, blessing and sustenance for the entire year. Our actions on this day set the tone for the year to come. Let's utilize every moment!


Terrorism 9-11
A tragic day – it changed our lives forever. Does that mean it spells DOOM? Think about it. An important thing happened. Finally, evil was identified for what it was. The “cancer” was focused in on and became clear to the surgeons what the course of action has to be. In life, as long as the danger is not identified, then life is in danger. Once identified, the “surgery” can begin. Up until this week many people weren't' sure, maybe we have to appease or make peace with the evil. But now we all now – evil must be eradicated. I believe that this is not the beginning of the end of terrorism in the world.


“Neither snow nor rain nor hear nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” These words are engraved on a New York Post Office Building and accurately describe the mail carrier.

Every Jew is a mail carrier entrusted by G‑d to deliver Mitzvot. Many times, we don't know the contents of the Mitzvah(envelope), or the parcel may seem too heavy to carry. Yet, despite any obstacles, even Anthrax scares, we carry on. We know that the effects of even one Mitzvah touches us and our surroundings, and overflows to the world at large.



The Browns
The enthusiastic cheering of the fans last Sunday was an important ingredient to the 18-0 win, according to Butch Davis. He asked everyone to come back Sunday, and do it again – even better!

As Jews, we are all players on the Mitzvah Team. Sometimes it's fun; sometimes it's difficult; but it's always important to have a cheering squad. Each player has a different role, and not all play each game. Make sure that you are a great fan – even when you are on the “bench,” or just a spectator.