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Regards from Rome!

One of the great benefits of large families is that there are lots of reasons to celebrate! Last week, we had the great fortune of attending the beautiful wedding of our brother and new sister-in-law in Fuigi, Italy about an hour south east of Rome. Friends and family came from near and far for a truly joyous affair.

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We were excited to be so close to one of the oldest Jewish Communities in the world in Rome. Since 69 CE, when Rome conquered Jerusalem and exiled her sons and daughters as depicted on the infamous Arch of Titus, Jews have lived here in an unbroken sequence.

Interestingly, the only place Jews were allowed to live in Rome for hundreds of years, was in the ghetto - a mere 900 feet by 600 feet - in which almost 10,000 Jews lived at its peak in the nineteenth century. This area was chosen for the Jews since it lay adjacent to the Tiber River which would flood the entire ghetto each year, rendering any investment and construction by the Jews futile. Needless to say, illness and disease spread through the ghetto at alarming pace. Ironically, today this awful ghetto is the most expensive real estate in all of Rome!

Adding insult to injury, the Pope decreed that Jews be forced to attend weekly Sabbath Sermons at the Churches outside the gates of the Ghetto. Legend has it that the Jews refused to listen to these heretical sermons by stuffing their ears with leftover wax from their Shabbos candles. Frustrated by their insubordination, the church engraved Biblical texts alluding to the stubbornness of the Jews above the doors of the Church as pictured here.

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More than anything, I was fascinated by the majesty ad splendor of the magnificent Shul in Rome, built soon after the Ghetto was abolished in 1870. A massive draw for tourists to this very day, yet still very much in use, this beautiful Shul serves as a monument of Jewish resilience through the harshest of times. Though they weren’t allowed to build its dome taller than that of the church, the Roman Synagogue’s dome was slightly lower than that of the Sistine Chapel. Once the Vatican seceded from Italy in 1929, the Dome of the Roman Synagogue became the tallest dome in all of Rome, towering above those of its more than 900 churches!

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The inside of the dome tells a fascinating story: As seen in the picture, the dome is decorated with a rainbow, two evergreen trees and two palm trees. The rainbow, which recalls the oath G-d made to Noah never to flood the earth again, was very meaningful to the Roman Jewish Community that was flooded each year by the Tiber River.

The Evergreen trees were one of the symbols of the Roman Empire. Like the Evergreen tree which is always in season, the Romans believed themselves to be immortal. Like the pine cones spread seeds of new trees, the Romans believed themselves to be ever expanding. And like the Evergreen, which allows nothing to grow under its branches as it sucks all the water for itself, the Romans would completely dominate all peoples that came under their wing.

So why would the Jews include these Roman symbols of power, immortality, and expansion in their new Shul?

The answer lies in the two palm trees - symbols of the Jewish People and the Land of Israel. When the Bible speaks of Israel being blessed with honey, it refers not to the honey of bees, but to the honey of date palms. Honey is the longest lasting substance known to mankind. Honey has been found in the catacombs beneath the pyramids four thousand years later and it's still edible! In response to the Roman Empire’s aspirations for immortality, the palm trees on the dome of the Roman Synagogue pay homage to the truly eternal people - the Jewish People.

Evergreens can last a long time, but honey is forever. The millions of tourists visiting Rome each year all see the broken down ruins of this ancient empire, washed away by the sands of time and rendered irrelevant by the vicissitudes of millennia. But those who visit the Roman ghetto find no ruins of the Jewish People - instead they find six (!!!) kosher restaurants in the ghetto, which spill out throughout the piazza due to the overwhelming amount of patrons. Without a prior reservation, you can’t get a seat at these delicious establishments that serve kosher food on the highest level.

As our children ran happily through the ruins of Roman coliseums, walkways and arches, tzitzis and yarmulkes flying in the wind - Chana and I smiled at each other, knowing that the dream of the builders of the Roman Synagogue had been fulfilled. The palm tree had indeed outlived the evergreens - Judaism is flourishing and the only Romans to be found are Israelis dressed in costume at the Coliseum trying to make a few bucks in photo ops!

Within our own city too, lies the secret of Jewish immortality. Palm Beach speaks of the eternity of the date honey. The palm tree is our special connecting to the land of Israel and the eternal people of Israel. Everyone likes to make a good investment that provides solid returns. Let us meditate upon the secret of the date palm and make sure to invest our resources in the best investment known to mankind, the one that has outlived all its peers, the holy Torah and the Jewish People!

Wishing you a Shabbos sweet as honey,

Rabbi Dovid & Chana Vigler

Chabad of Palm Beach Gardens 
6100 PGA Blvd. Palm Beach Gardens FL 33418
www.JewishGardens.com | 561.624.2223

Why is this happening to me?

We throw our arms up in abandonment and wonder, "Why is this happening to me?" We're angry, we're vulnerable, we're in pain, and we just ask, "Why, G-d? Why me?"

Unfortunately, challenge and crisis is nothing new to our People. As Fiddler's Tevye so eloquently stated in his soliloquy: "We are Your chosen people. But, once in a while, can't You choose someone else?"

Millennia of suffering and persecution have also taught us a thing or two about the reason for this suffering when we analyze the recurring theme of the cause of our challenges.

Having just brought the mighty Egyptian empire to her knees in ten devastating plagues, the Jews were attacked by Amalek, our nemesis that threatens to destroy our nation. As we read the episode in the Torah this week,  the place of the war is identified as Refiddim. Whenever a place is mentioned in Torah, it's not for historical purposes but for contextual insight. The word "Refiddim" means "spiritual weakness." As a result of their neglecting to fulfill their spiritual obligations, their enemy attacked, thus forcing them to turn their attention to G-d for salvation.

The same pattern repeats itself when we celebrate the holiday of Purim next week. The Talmud tells us that the reason we faced the threat of national annihilation (G-d forbid) at the hands of the Persians 2,200 years ago was because the Jews believed that they needed only to have political connections in order to ensure their survival and forgot the need to have divine protection as well.

It was only when the Jews fasted in repentance and reclaimed their connection with G-d that the nemesis disappeared. Once the cause is no more, the effect simply dissipates.

Each of us is an only child of G-d. Our father in heaven loves us like you love your children, and He yearns for a meaningful relationship with us, If, after years of trying to get our attention through bounty and success nothing helps, He sometimes is left with no choice but to get our attention in other ways. If our financial success only caused us to pat ourselves on the back and congratulate our own brilliance, G-d feels neglected and ignored.

Perhaps we have a connection with G-d, but the relationship is stale and dated. Like a loving parent, G-d might desire to deepen that relationship.

Think of your relationship with your kids today. Is it how you'd like it to be? If you had a choice, would you do anything to make them need to remember you?

Let's be smart about this. Instead of kvetching about the problems and protesting the ethics of this, let's simply learn the lesson that G-d has been trying to teach us for around 3000 years: "I love you and I really want to have a deeper relationship with you." (And yes, the Holocaust is a completely unique tragedy that has nothing to do with this pattern.)

​Could we too, in our personal lives, draw a precedent from our nation’s history and solve our own problems and crises by addressing the root of the problem and mending our relationship with the Almighty? Let me know.

Secret to good results in your life

Who doesn't yearn for good experiences and happy endings?

Imagine that there was something you could do to actually influence what happens to you?

A basic principle of our faith is that G-d allows us to call the shots in our relationship with him. How we initiate the relationship is how He reciprocates: If we are magnanimous to others, G-d gives us the benefit of the doubt. When we are tightfisted and exacting from others, G-d is strict with us too.

When we are sad or melancholy, we are inexpressive. Our true emotions are buried beneath our facade and covered as if by a shell. G-d's blessings to us therefore are concealed and not readily apparent.

But an amazing thing happens when we are joyous: Joy allows a person to overcome his inhibitions and step out of his comfort zone. The Kaballah actually tells us that you can get to know a person's essence when they are joyous, because then they don't shield their feelings, but express themselves unrestrained.

When we are joyful, G-d reflects joy back to us too. And like our joy, G-d's joy expresses itself in the clarity of His blessings, where there is absolutely no need to uncover, interpret or decode the blessing. Like joy, which is uninhibited and boisterous, the goodness we are sent from G-d is obvious and explicit!

So whether you're holding your breath for the IRS to stop badgering you, or for Mr. Perfect to ask you out on a date, the Torah reveals to us that being joyful is the key catalyst to experiencing the blessings we so desperately seek!

Today is the first day of the month of Adar II, a month in which we are instructed to increase in happiness and joy. Curiously, it is also considered the most fortuitous month in which to schedule critical events such as surgeries, closings and court cases. Is there a connection? You connect the dots!

Wishing you the open mindedness to be able to be joyous despite all that surrounds you.

 

Can you do what our teens did last week for 24 hours?

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Would you survive 24 hours without being allowed to use your cellphone? Would you believe me if I told you that seven teenagers did this for the first time in their lives last Shabbos? The hardest to reach demographic of the Jewish community, the high schoolers, proved that their Jewish pride and identity is stronger than ever!

You should be proud of Palm Beach Gardens' delegation of teens to last week's international Jewish Teen Shabbaton in NYC, where 2000 teens convened from 110 cities across six continents. Between the Madame Tussauds Wax Museum and ice skating in New York's beautiful Bryant Park, I asked them if they were willing to take the pledge to try to keep Shabbos last week, and they all unanimously accepted the challenge!

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They quickly realized that Shabbos is not just about what we're not allowed to do, but amazingly, about entering into a totally new dimension. Just like one cannot play computer games or eat a burger while swimming, so too we cannot embrace the beauty and majesty of Shabbos while engaged in mundane, weekday activities.

Perhaps it was the moving melodies of united song with thousands of Jewish teens at the Friday night Shabbos dinner table. Perhaps it was the "Stump the Rabbi" session that I moderated for 300 eager and inquisitive teens with great questions! Or maybe it was the impromptu debates we had on anything from Jewish women's sheitels to G-d and the Holocaust. For one it was the sanctity of entering the holy office of the saintly Rebbe. For another it was the experience of the end of Shabbos in the Rebbe's shul. Whatever the source of the inspiration, my heart broke when one of our teens toasted a l'chaim, thanking me for "having reignited within her everything she loved about her Judaism and thought she had lost."

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As hundreds of excited Jewish teens rode the subway to Times Square last Saturday night they broke into spontaneous song and dance on the train. Most onlookers were cheering us on, but when they were confronted by a Jew who claimed to feel uncomfortable by the public display of Judaism, our young adults stood up for themselves and for their identity in a way that made me beam with nachas!

Who would have thought that so many young Jews would be right at home in the heart of Times Square with our pictures emblazoned upon 100 foot tall Jumbotron screens! As we danced at a Jewish rock concert, the power of Jewish unity was palpable and unstoppable in this Shabbat of a lifetime! (Can you find us in the giant selfie Picture below?)

At the Gala Banquet, when we prepared to leave to the Rebbe's Ohel (holy resting place) and make our way back home, a special tribute was made to Ezra Schwartz, a Bostonian teen who was murdered this year in Israel for being a Jew. Ezra's best friend came on stage to standing ovation and read a deeply touching letter he wrote to his best friend after he was killed. I cried when it dawned upon me that our teens weren't dying for their Jewish identities, they are living out their Jewish identities!

The Talmud points out that Children and Builders share the same exact spelling. Our Children are the Builders of our Future. As 2000 Teens return to their respective cities bursting with Jewish Pride, the impact upon the rest of the city is immeasurable! Our focus on the Teens will build a stronger and better Jewish Future for our community. Let's be inspired by their example!

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Can you find us in this Times Square Selfie below?

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A magical Shabbat with 2000 Teens from 6 continents

 

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Life is like a picture postcard.

It might have been a while, but you surely remember what it's like writing a postcard from your vacation getaway. At first, you're not quite sure what you want to say, so you write regular sized letters. As you progress, new ideas come to mind, so you write a little smaller to make sure you can fit it all in. Yet more ideas come to mind and as the remaining space continues to diminish, you write ever smaller, ultimately crawling up the side and over the other side of the postcard, until the microscopic letters have managed to squeeze in every last idea you wanted to say.

Our lives are like that too. When we're young, we think, indeed we're certain, that we have all the time in the world to do whatever our hearts desire. With reckless abandon, we do whatever we want, whenever we desire. Just like the beginning of a postcard. As we mature, we begin to realize that our days aren't quite as limitless as we'd like to think. We begin to live a little more consciously, lives a little more focused on our purpose. As we grow even older, it becomes quite clear to us that we have little time left to accomplish all the great things we would still like to do. We begin to cram things in, trying to make each day count, just like the final scribbled lines on the wring side of the postcard.

If only, we could have planned better when we were young. If only we could've budgeted properly, we would've had all the time and space that we needed.

Time is our most precious resource. No one is wealthy when it comes to time. Each moment can be wasted thoughtlessly or applied preciously.

Just last week, as I was studying a particularly deep and sensitive topic with a group of ladies, they expressed dismay that they 'hadn't known this beautiful information when they were raising their kids at home'! It happens so often that we wish we knew or did something when we were younger.

The Torah portion this week provides us with the antidote to this wasteful predicament. Ki Sisa- 'Count' is the very name of the Portion. When we make each day count, then the years take care of themselves.

This Shabbos, I have the good fortune of leading our community's teen delegation to the international Jewish Teenagers Shabbaton in NYC, joining 2000 Jewish Teens from 27 countries and 6 continents! These teens study with me every week and are joining thousands of their peers for a magical weekend, that will embolden their spirits and kindle their souls!

Imagine the Jewish Pride when thousands of Jewish Teens dance to a Jewish Rock Concert at Times Square this Saturday Night? Picture the passion of a Friday Night Shabbos Dinner where they join in song and spirit though they don’t even speak the same language! From Madame Tussauds on Friday, the Gala Banquet on Sunday to the Rebbe’s Holy Resting place, the Ohel, these teens are learning to make their Judaism count when they’re young!

These teenagers have made smart choices to use their most precious years in discovering their Jewish identity and connecting proudly with young people their age as Jewish Leaders of tomorrow!

This Shabbos, I hope to become a teenager again myself!

Yesterday is only a dream and tomorrow is only a vision, but today well lived makes every yesterday a dream of happiness and every tomorrow a vision of hope. Today is a gift, that’s why it’s called the present!

Lets make it count. One day at a time!

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The interesting meaning behind the Star of David

You've seen it a million times before. It's the most Jewish Symbol you can think of. But have you ever wondered why the Star of David is a Jewish symbol and what it represents?

The hexagram figure of the Star of David is believed to be the symbol that King David's valiant warriors had emblazoned upon their shields. Its profound symbolism was just as meaningful thousands of years ago as it is to us today.

The hexagram is made up of two triangles, superimposed one atop the other. These triangles represent a set of triplets that form the inseparable foundation of all of Judaism. 

Our Kaballists explain that the first triangle represents the Jewish People, who are divided into three parts: Kohanim (Priests), Levites, and Israelites.

The second triangle represents the Torah which is also divided into three parts: The written law (five books of Moses), the Oral Law (the Mishna and the Talmud) and the Secret Law (Kaballah). All three were taught by G-d to Moses on Mount Sinai and the sum of theses comprise the complete Torah.

The Star of David merges these two triangles to serve as an everlasting reminder to us that the Jewish Nation is as indivisible as the Torah that G-d gave us.

Despite the strong temptation to do so, writing off a fellow Jew for being a Trump/Hillary (take your pick) supporter or for being pro/anti a two state solution is antithetical to the essence of who we are. Breaking off a part of us is to break us off entirely. Agree to disagree but never hate your brother. United we stand and divided we fall.

Similarly, many Jews like to believe that only the five books of Moses are G-d given and everything else is but an "invention of the rabbis." Once again, the Star of David reminds us that the essence of Judaism is the unified people of Israel together with the unified Torah of Israel. All of the Jews plus all of the Torah, makes us who we are.

Tragically, there are those who will risk all to defend the People of Israel or the Land of Israel but care little for the Torah of Israel. On the flip side, there are those who will fight to the last drop of blood to stand up for the status of the Torah, not recognizing the many brethren whom they ignore or, worse yet, trample in their raging piety.

We are proud to proclaim that our community is not only engaged solely in spiritual pursuits and deepening our awareness and knowledge of Torah, but we have also gone to great lengths to care not just for the Torah of Israel but for the People of Israel too. Our recent Trump International Chabad Golf Classic tournaments have successfully sponsored the college education of almost five IDF Commandos each spending four years in college. One such scholarship recipient has flown in from Israel especially to spend a meaningful and inspirational Shabbos with us at Chabad.

The Soldiers of King David were blessed with extraordinary Divine Protection. Very few of them ever fell in battle. The brilliant leadership of their fearless teacher was to instill the visual reminder before their eyes always, that the Torah of Israel and the Nation of Israel are indivisible. Let us too learn from the timeless lesson of King David to inspire us to live as wholesome Jews today as well.

Let me know if you agree with this point

Prayer is a word that apparently evokes deep emotion in many Americans. You might be surprised to learn that more than half of Americans say that they pray daily, and that one out of five Americans prays occasionally despite identifying as secular. 

Recently, a self proclaimed sceptic in our shul, needed a miracle for his daughter. When he called me to daven for them, I knew immediately that this has to be serious. We both davened for her well being. Just weeks later when he conveyed to me the good news of her improved condition, we broke out into a spontaneous l'chaim, when even he admitted to me, that maybe, just maybe, there is power in prayer! 

But isn't prayer essentially irreligious?

Irreverent as the question may seem, praying implies that you somehow know better than G-d and that He should change His mind and His decree to concur with your own. Who do we think we are that we dare change the will of the Almighty? Sounds like a lot of chutzpah!

Upon closer analysis, we might be misunderstanding the very definition of prayer. 

The Hebrew name of anything identifies its true essence. If prayer was only about petition, it would be called bakasha. The Hebrew word tefillah is the verb for making clay into pottery: Refining raw material into function, purpose, and beauty!

When we pray, or daven, we are not asking G-d for stuff! We do that too, but that is not what it's about. To pray is to meditate. That's why the prayer book is filled with the beautiful poetry of King David, detailed descriptions of the wonders of creation, and Kabalistic reflections on the universe. We're not supposed to just read them in lip service; we're supposed to reflect deeply on them, one phrase at a time, thinking deeply about their meaning.

This meditation, typically at the very beginning of the day, synchronizes the tension between our spiritual souls and mundane bodies. All day, we are confronted with difficult choices: the morning meditations help set the spiritual tone of the rest of the day. Typically the inspiration lasts just a few hours and therefore we need to pray, to meditate and connect with the core of our being, as the sun rises once more.

Our sages thus explain how prayer works. When we are sublimated during prayer and request of G-d that He improve our fortunes, we are not changing G-d's will at all; rather, we are simply changing ourselves. The bad fortune affected the person we were before the prayer, the person we have become through the prayer meditation is not bound to the previous decree, and that's when our fortune changes for the good!

So, do yourself a favor. Reach for a siddur and read it in English. Take it slowly at your own pace. The meaning is relatively simply to understand. Find a paragraph you can connect to and read it over a few times. Then close your eyes and try to think deeply about it. Meditate. Allow yourself to be inspired by the theme and unleash the power of your G-dly soul. This will change you into a higher being, and improve your fortunes as well!

One of our best speakers this year so far!

John Wayne once said that courage isn't the lack of fear. "It's being scared to death, and saddling up anyway!"

It's not every day that we get to meet a real hero.

Chabad of Palm Beach Gardens had the extraordinary opportunity last week of hosting one of the IDF soldiers who rescued hostages from armed Palestinian and German terrorists in the Entebbe Raid on July 4, 1976. Sassy Reuven is soft-spoken, shy and loves to crack jokes. And he's not very broad or tall either. He is far from how you'd envision "Rambo." Yet, together with almost 250 Israeli servicemen, he followed orders to fulfill one of the most daring and successful rescue missions in recent history.

Addressing the capacity crowd at Chabad of Palm Beach Gardens, Sassy spoke about soccer games with his squad and practical jokes they played on each other just hours before embarking on a mission so dangerous they were uncertain whether they would ever return alive.

The audience was struck by his presentation, yet no one was able to put a finger on exactly what it was that touched them so deeply. It certainly wasn't the eloquence or grammar of this sabra, neither was it his poise or regal bearing. But all said that this speaker's presentation had made a deep impression on them, more so than most other speakers they have heard.

As the rabbi, I felt it was not despite his street savvy and down to earth demeanor, but specifically because of it that we were inspired. Here we were faced not with a brilliant sage or accomplished athlete but with an ordinary person, an average Joe, just like any of us. Yet he managed to change the lives of hundreds of people and Israel's image in the eyes of the world!

Sassy Reuven's presentation was deeply moving and inspiring because he showed us that it's not impressive when extraordinary people that do extraordinary things, but rather when ordinary people do extraordinary things that change the world!

He inspired to find our own voice and to discover the hero inside of each of us. Sassy inspired us to look deep into our souls and unleash the power and passion we have within us, no matter what the world, our peers, or even our own misguided perceptions might throw in our path!

Indeed, the Torah portion this week follows the Great Revelation at Sinai, where a group of vagabonds and slaves became a 'kingdom of priests' and the 'Chosen nation'. Far from the extraordinary revelations you'd have expected to follow, the Torah portion teaches a series of laws concerning murder, kidnapping, assault, theft, loans and courts of law amongst others. The simplicity of these laws reminds us too that it's our commitment to the routine details of life that will illuminate this world and bring it to its purpose!

Please enjoy the pictures below.

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The capacity crowd listening to Sassy Reuven's presentation

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Sassy Reuven- IDF Commando who fought to liberate the hostages in the Entebbe Raid on July 4, 1976

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L-R: Shelly Paolercio, Chabad Rebbetzin Chana Vigler, Mickey Gottlieb

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Rabbi Dovid Vigler introducing IDF Commando Sassy Reuven

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Part of the crowd that came to the lecture by IDF Commando Sassy Reuven, second solider to leave the plane at the Entebbe Aiport on July 4, 1976

More Pictures: Click here  

A meditation you might enjoy

Recently we celebrated Tu b'Shvat, the New Year of the Trees. Though at the outset, it seems quite irrelevant and meaningless, upon closer analysis, it is pertinent and purposeful.

"Man is the tree of the Field. " (Deut. 20:19)

Just as the tree is only as strong as its roots, Man too can only grow and succeed when connected to his roots and ancestors. Though we choose sometimes to dismiss their importance, like a tree, we can never abandon our connection to our ancestors. Doing so, is tantamount to suicide.

As leaves shelter a tree's fruit, man must implement boundaries, rules and regulations to protect his assets. We cannot expect our wisdom, emotions and children to be shielded from corruption if we aren't careful about what we expose them to. Torah prohibits negative influences in our lives, much like the leaves shield and protect the precious fruits.

Once a seed is planted and nurtured, it is sure to produce fruit. Don't ever be discouraged by the time it takes to produce the results. Grain grows quickly but needs to be planted anew each season. If it's taking longer, it only means that the fruit being grown is of the quality of a tree, that will last for generations.

A tree firmly rooted in the earth, bears fruit that provides shelter and shade to passersby. Being careful to nurture the needs of ourselves and our loved ones automatically enables us to protect others as well. The world stops to watch a man who knows where he is going. A life filled with purpose inspires others to find purpose too.

Each year we read the episode of the G-dly revelation at Sinai, to engrave our roots within our hearts. When we recall and experience our spiritual roots at Sinai and we value and appreciate them, we are inspired to fulfill our deepest potential by growing fruits surrounded by luscious leaves and thus impact all that is around us too!

So take the time today to step outside (at least in Florida) and ponder a tree. Take a few moments to meditate on its exquisite beauty and how it holds the keys to your spiritual and emotional health!

Market Mania & the Manna

The stock market is in turmoil. Oil is falling out of control. And folks are feeling it where it hurts: in their wallets.  Since Adam was cursed in the Garden of Eden, "By the sweat of your brow shall you eat bread", making a living has never been easy.

The only exception is in Parshas Beshalach when, while living in the desert for forty years, the Jews would awake each morning (other than Shabbos) to find their food ready and waiting for them in the form of the miraculous manna.

If G-d can provide for our needs in such an ample and miraculous way such as the manna, then why would He want us to suffer through the indignity and challenge of earning a living? Why does it have to be so hard?

The reason is profound.

On the one hand, G-d could effortlessly provide for all our needs. On the other hand, critical to our purpose in this world is our ability to have freedom of choice. We can't have it both ways. If we were to find an automatic deposit in our bank accounts each morning from "G-d Holdings Unlimited" our exposure to the "real world" would be limited and we would have fewer opportunities to sin or, conversely, perform mitzvahs. For this reason, G-d desires that we earn our living in an world that hides His divine presence, and consequently allows us the freedom to act in the manner that we choose.

Simply put, G-d wants to provide for our needs, but He insists that we (at least seemingly) provide for ourselves in a environment of our creation in which his blessings are hidden. If you're trying to earn half a million dollars this year, becoming a shoemaker may not be your best bet. Perhaps become a lawyer or trade the stock market. But as long as you can provide the smokescreen, G-d will bless your actions with success regardless.

But that's only half the job. On the flip side, we must meditate on the lesson of the manna, how our daily bread is actually a benevolent and direct gift from G-d.

And this is the Kaballistic recipe to success: The fusion of both the recognition of G-d's presence coupled with the formation of a milieu (a medium or setting) that will hide His presence.

Invest in the market and practice your trade, but never forget the origin of all blessings, Then surely G-d will bless you with success beyond your expectations!

How 1.5 billion dollars will change my life

There's a one in four chance of getting into a car accident while texting, yet we say, "It'll never happen to me!" Winning the Powerball is a chance of one of 292 million, yet we all pay up and say, "Hey, you never know!"

We all were faced with the interesting question of how winning the jackpot of 1.5 billion dollars would change our lives. How would we spend the money?

 

And then came the worst part of it all: waking up yesterday morning to find out that you didn't win the Powerball and that you actually did have to go to work today!

 

Rumor is spreading through the Internet that the Powerball winner from Chino, California is a 62-year-old nurse, mother of seven, whose observant Jewish boss, Shlomo Rechnitz, bought 18,000 Powerball tickets and distributed them to hundreds of his employees in his nursing homes statewide. Whether it's true or not, time will tell, but it's a good story nonetheless.

Our mystics advise us to "live with the times" and find meaning and direction from our daily dilemmas through the weekly Torah Portion. The devastating plague of locusts inflicted upon the Egyptians this week gives us an interesting perspective on how winning a billon dollars should change our lives.

Whilst G-d Almighty could've easily extracted the Jews from their Egyptian bondage in one fell swoop or a single miraculous gesture, He chose to do so through ten devastating plagues. Why?

If the purpose was to extract the Jews out of Egypt, then one miracle would have sufficed. But G-d was trying to accomplish more: he was trying to extract Egypt out of the Jews!

Powerful as they were, citizens of the Egyptian empire was very superstitious and worshipped a plethora of gods. They were true idolaters and the antithesis of the foundation of Judaism: monotheism. To prepare for Sinai's revelation of the Torah and the formation of the Jewish People, the Hebrew slaves needed to reject the idol worship in which they were steeped for so long.

Each plague represented a different deity that they worshipped. The plague of locusts this week wiping out all the food of Egypt, represented Hashem's dominance over our food supply, our money! Instead of worshipping gelt, the plague taught us to obey G-d instead!

And here were faced with the tough questions:

If someone offered you a billion dollars to cross your "red line" just once: to violate Shabbos, eat ham, or miss Tefillin, would you do it? Can (enough) money make you modify your morals, or are you clearly committed to your values and ideals, no matter how much money is waved in your face?

Rabbi- how can you believe in this stuff?

How often do we roll our eyes when we hear a rabbi, or anyone for that matter, speak of the Messiah and the future redemption? It seems so fantastical, otherworldy, and downright impossible. Indeed, for thousands of years, believers were ridiculed by their rational peers for being so primitive and backward as to believe in such fairytales and nonsense.

The Torah foretells of the Jewish exodus from Egypt in our portion with four terms of redemption (the reason for which we have four cups and four sons at the Seder).  He promises to take out the Children of Israel from Egypt, deliver them from their enslavement, redeem them, and acquire them as His own chosen people at Mount Sinai. But the verse adds a fifth expression of salvation, "And I shall bring them to the Promised Land", which refers to the Complete and Final Redemption with the Messiah. Since it is yet to happen, we have the fifth wine cup on the Seder Table, the Cup of Elijah, but don't actually drink it.

Our prophets speak of a Great Shofar that will sound across the world, herald his arrival to all peoples from far and near. They speak of "wings of eagles" upon which we will be magically transported to the Holy Land in fulfillment of the prophecy of the "wings of eagles." Sounds utterly ridiculous, doesn't it? A fairytale at best!

Not so fast.

You see, in our day and age, when an evil terrorist stabs someone in Tel Aviv, we know of it in Palm Beach in real time. Of course, I'm talking about the Internet. It took us a little while to learn about the Twin Towers on 9/11 on Cable News, but today, with the advent of the Internet on our smartphones, we'd know the news even before we'd see it on television! Could this be the Call of the Great Shofar?

Whilst we don't fly on the wings of eagles, we Floridians spend major portions of our lives on airplanes. A prophecy three thousand years ago would make no sense if it spoke of Boeing 787 Dreamliners. The metaphor mankind could relate to was the majestic wingspan of eagles.

Is it possible that modern science and technological advances in the form of the "information superhighway" and the airplane and drone technology could be the fulfillment of Biblical prophecies?

Even the notion of an All-Knowing Being was, and continues to be, dismissed as absurd. But with digital footprints in virtually everything we touch and everywhere we go, shouldn't this "absurdity" be re-evaluated as standard practice?

Could it be that those who rejected the Torah for millennia as primitive were in fact in the dark themselves?

If you are skeptical, what would it take for you to change your mind and, shocking as the proposition might sound, actually begin to accept the Messianic prophecies as factual? Surely, empirical evidence should make a powerful difference! All you need to learn Torah is humility and a truly open mind. 

You be the judge, and let me know what you think.

What secret Jacob gave his children to ensure they'd stay Jewish in foreign cultures

As our forefather Jacob is about to leave this world in Ancient Egypt, he blesses his Egyptian grandsons, Menashe and Efraim with the most peculiar blessing: 'May you multiply like fish throughout the land'. I can just imagine his grand kids looking at each other bewildered: 'What on earth is that supposed to mean?'. Indeed, this blessing is the one used by parents throughout the ages to bless their children each Shabbos or every night.

Fish have the uncanny capacity to swim upstream- think of the Great Alaskan Salmon run when they swim up waterfalls! That is the G-d given talent that allows them to survive the rocky streams and rivers in which they live. This unique quality of standing against the grain is what Jacob endowed upon his Egyptian grandchildren living. This quality allowed them to retain their identity as Jews in a foreign land and alien culture.

And it is this blessing precisely that our parents and grandparents blessed us too. Never being certain of what challenges and temptations the future would hold in store for us, they endowed us with the same courage of our convictions and strength of character to stand strong and be boldly Jewish, even if it means being different to everyone else around us!

Being like a fish has some very simple, yet practical expressions:

Did you know what the innocuous expression 'knock on wood' really means? 
Few people know that it originated in the middle ages when there were in circulation, pieces of the wood from the crucifixion. To touch one of these was supposed to bring good luck hence touch wood for good luck. Instead of 'knocking on wood' we would be doing so much more good by simply saying: 'Thank G-d' or 'Baruch Hashem' if you want to go fancy.

How about 'cross our fingers' when we hope for something to work out?
It was developed either to symbolize a cross or to recognize fellow Christians during times of persecution. A Jew would simply say: 'G-d willing' or 'I'm yirtze Hashem'.

So, in the spirit of fish, let's be more mindful of the culture in which we live and celebrate our unique identity instead of trying to hide and assimilate it. And then, by all means, go ahead and have another piece of Gefilte Fish!

Thanks for being a Champion!

Question:

Dear Rabbi: I was deeply impacted by my religious grandmother, who taught me many Jewish rituals, but as I grow older and wiser I struggle to relate to her obsession with detail. Does G-d really care if the spoon is milchig (dairy) or fleishig (meat)? Doesn't He have more important things to worry about? I have a hard time believing that my actions are so vitally important to Him. I would appreciate your thoughts on this matter.

Answer:

I had a really busy week, and when I missed a few calls from one of the community members, I grew concerned. When I later received an email, ostensibly from him, titled "Private message" I was relieved; however, as I clicked on the link I grew suspicious. When it asked for my "double password encryption", I realized it was a definitely a virus delivered unbeknownst to the sender. My secretary wasn't so lucky and unfortunately she too clicked on the link. She had to spend a good few hours yesterday undoing the damage and promptly notifying her contact list of the danger.

All from a single click.

Our bodies too are created extremely carefully: A single extra chromosome in our DNA is the difference between a healthy child and one with Down Syndrome; a slight excess or deficiency of hormones can drive a person to behave like a madman; even a knife that was improperly cleaned after being used for peanut butter is enough to kill someone with peanut butter allergies.

See what a single drop of snake venom does to human blood in mere seconds. Click here to view. 

Clearly, it's not the quantity the counts; it's the quality.

If your work is completely unimportant, then a slight indiscretion might not make much of a difference. But when you are doing brain surgery or are in the NASA control room, a mere millimeter is the difference between life and certain death!

"For you are sons of Hashem your G-d." For reasons beyond our control, we were chosen by G-d to be the apple of His eye. And just like the king cares far more about his inner circle, and certainly his princes, more than anyone else, the Creator of the Universe is deeply impacted by your decisions more than by any other of His creations.

Miracles in our Time!

He was just 21 years old and already an IDF Commander. His task was to train 12 IDF Soldiers to become commanders. And then the three teens were kidnapped last summer in Israel, on the same night that we inaugurated the new Chabad House in Palm Beach Gardens. Operation Shuvu Achim, ‘Retrieve our Brothers’, led the IDF into Gaza for a full-scale attack to mine out the terror tunnels used by Hamas terrorists.

Elad Horowitz was commander of the first battalion to enter Gaza last summer. As the troops entered a heavily fortified mosque to seize a known terror tunnel, they encountered gunfire. Elad ordered his troops to the ground before they could receive authorization to return fire. Out of the darkness, one of his boys called "Help me. I’m hit." Instinctively, Elad lifted his head in the direction of his distressed soldier, and that was the last thing he remembered.

Though he can’t recall the experience, he was talking the entire two hours it took to bring him into the trauma unit in Tel Hashomer, Israel’s largest hospital. A bullet had entered Elad’s head just behind his left ear and exited through his right eye.

Despite all prognoses, Elad survived the potentially mortal wound with "only" loss of hearing in his left ear, sight in his right eye, and his sense of smell.

This week, Elad flew in from Israel, accompanied by his mother, Ettiel, to attend our Trump International Chabad Golf Classic benefitting IDF Soldiers and ChabadPBG. It is hard to speak with Elad without feeling a sense of great pride for the courage of our soldiers mixed with a sense of surprise as to how such a sweet and soft-spoken young man could be a commander in such difficult circumstances.

Elad spoke at our Golf Dinner and broke the hearts of everyone, and our Shul successfully raised funds to fund multiple IDF Soldier’s College Scholarships.

As we lit the sparkling silver Menorah in front at the magnificent event, we proclaimed the Chanukah blessings, thanking Hashem for the "miracles he performed for our fathers in those days and in our times." Indeed, Elad is a living miracle in our times.

Interestingly, the weather forecast for the golf event showed an eighty percent chance of rain! Scores of guests were flying in from across the country to attend our highly anticipated annual event, and we simply couldn’t afford the inclement weather. On Sunday, we sent a letter to the Ohel, the Rebbe’s holy resting place requesting a blessing for a successful event and good weather. All around us it was raining from North Palm Beach to Boynton Beach. At Trump, the skies were overcast and the clouds ominous throughout the day, but play went on. To everyone’s utter shock and amazement, it was 5:08 PM, after the last golfer had entered the clubhouse, that the skies opened up in a heavy downpour. Slapping a self-proclaimed atheist on the back, I toasted "l’chaim", telling him, "After today’s weather, I don’t want to ever hear you question the existence of G-d."

Indeed, in today's Torah portion too, we find that it was bad weather that caused the descent of the Jewish people to Egypt and the unfolding of the birth of the Jewish Nation in Egyptian slavery. As sophisticated as we think we have become, we still have zero control over the weather, and for that we rely entirely on Hashem!

The Chanukah candles inspire us not only to remember the miracles that surrounded us years ago, but also to seek out those that surround us today as well. The only question is whether or not we have the vision to be able to recognize them?

So try this Chanukah meditation tonight as you light your seventh candle (before 510pm) and share it tonight at your Shabbos Dinner Table:  

As we peer into the beautiful Chanukah Candles, we recall the oil that couldn't be extinguished for eight days like the burning bush that refused to be consumed. These are the eternal symbols of the Jewish people who have overcome both persecution and assimilation, refusing to be consumed neither by the nemesis who have sought our blood nor by the cultures that have desired our souls. Like the Chanukah Candles, we will continue to burn through the dark night against all odds. The People who should have burned out long ago, continue to blaze. Why? 

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