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Rabbi's Corner

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

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Dear Friend,

This Shabbat we will announce and bless the upcoming month of Elul, the final month of the Jewish year. We will also read the Torah portion of Ekev, which is a continuation of last week’s portion Ve’etchanan.

Once Elul begins, it is customary to blow shofar blasts daily to get into the frequency of the High Holidays. Unlike other instruments, the Shofar's sound is somber and sobering. It's a fitting sound for this time of year, and the Torah portions read at this time reflect this mood as well. 

In last week’s portion we read the primary statement prayer of our faith: “Shma Yisrael Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echad”, and its continuation: and you shall "Love Hashem your G-d with all your heart, all your soul and all your might”. 

This week’s portion includes the second portion of the Shema, which enjoins us “….To love G-d and serve Him with all your heart and all your soul..."

What does the second portion of the Shema add to the first? The key word in our portion is and to serve Him. Chapter one of the Shema is all about love; Chapter two on the other hand is all about serving G-d with awe and deep respect.

According to Lyrics.com, the word “awe” appears in American pop music 897 times, as opposed to “love” --which appears a whopping 330,441 times. This is very telling about the culture we live in and the emotions we value. Love wins, we are told. But what about awe, respect, reverence?

In the High Holiday prayers we refer to Hashem as "Our father, Our King”, a loving and caring father and at the same time, a supreme King whom we serve with  reverence.

In other news (and on topic): Just this week we mark 50 years from the Woodstock festival. In a pastoral letter penned eleven months prior to Woodstock, the Rebbe addresses the generation (and the vibe at the time) with the preamble (Igrot Kodesh v. 25) “Every generation has its advantages and challenges”. The Rebbe comments on the trend at the time, that of every social norm reevaluated and every possible yoke thrown off. The Rebbe then encourages an exception to this trend: accepting G-d’s sovereignty as King of the world. 

We have little, if any, frame of reference for accepting sovereignty upon ourselves. Our very country is built on rejecting the concept of a (human) king. This week’s Torah portion teaches and encourages us to meditate on this possibly foreign concept, getting ready emotionally and spiritually to evoke the deep feelings of both awe and love, as together we coronate the King of the universe anew on Rosh Hashanah, with the stirring sound of the Shofar.

I conclude with the beautiful blessings found in this week’s portion:

"…And He will love you and bless you and multiply you; He will bless the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your soil, your grain, your wine, and your oil; the offspring of your cattle and the choice of your flocks, in the land which He swore to your forefathers to give you..."

A Guiding Light

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Dear Friend,

 

Today is a special, albeit not-too-famous day on the Jewish calendar: the fifteenth of Av, known as "Tu B'Av".

The Talmud relates that in biblical times, the daughters and sons of Israel would mingle in the fields, meeting each other in the hope of creating a Jewish home together.

It's significant that this date is the 15th of the lunar month-- a full moon. A full moon radiates a beautiful glow of a greater luminary, the sun. This is a profound reflection of the Jewish attitude in love and marriage, as well as the Jewish attitude to life in general. 

As human beings, we're meant to view our relationships and all that is dear to us, not as something we've earned or deserve, perhaps a love we're entitled to, but rather as a reflection of Gd's love and kind relationship to us. Everything we have is a gift, and true love is the wish to give more than we receive; to reflect G-d, the ultimate Giver, as the moon reflects the sun.

And just like the moon, there are up days and down days. The waning moon, a less-than-perfect day in life and relationships, comes with the understanding that this is just one part of the long game, and the moon will wax and shine luminously again. 

This is also a reflection of our collective history. We've had our fair share of times when we've felt alone, when we may have felt that the good times were over and it's all downhill now. But the 15th of Av reminds us that we are not a "widowed nation"; we have a loving provider above that loves us unconditionally. 

On this Shabbos, we celebrate this theme as we conclude the week of Tisha B'Av and the Nine Days of mourning and segway into bright, luminous and uplifting days ahead. Raizy and I look forward to greeting you at Chabad.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Shmuel Metzger

P.S. Some very exciting news happening at Chabad Sutton in September: GROW, our Montessori-inspired Jewish afterschool enrichment, will run every Wednesdays with sessions for children ages 4-6 and free pickup from P.S.59! Also in the works, three weekly baby & toddler classes at our MJM Baby Studio. Email manhattanjewishmontessori@gmail.com for info on all of the above.

Artwork by: Linda Frimer 

The Auto Pilot

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Dear Friend,
 

I pray that you’re enjoying a restful and re'jew'vinating summer. 

There is a style in Chabad Chassidic thought- especially pronounced in the Rebbe's teachings- that examines seemingly negative remarks in the Torah for an underlying positive. This is not spin; it is a natural outgrowth of a belief that Gd is goodness itself and the premise of creation of the universe - both macro and micro, for each each individual is a world- is the need of a kind Gd to bestow good. Consequently, as we approach Tisha B'Av, we examine the book of Eicha (Lamentations) and search for encoded blessing within an otherwise tragic and harsh reading.

The volume begins: 'The city [Jerusalem], once with the throngs, is now “בדד”- alone.'

At first glance, this would seem like the description of the sad fate of our people, fallen from glory, dispersed and desolate, doomed to a sort of national solitary confinement. 

But Rabbi David Kimhi (1130-1235), father of the Hebrew grammarians, gets right to work examining the word בדד - Auto. "Auto" can have negative connotations (think, “autistic”) but also positive meaning, as in “autonomous”. 

A quick scan of the Torah for this root word finds the prophet Balaam using it in a most positive sense: 'Am Lvodod Yishkon, Uvagoyim Loh Yischashov' (Numbers 23:9,  loosely translated: 'A nation on its own frequency, not concerning itself with the masses'. 

Now the word בדד- auto takes on a whole new meaning. Rather than a curse of aloneness, it is the blessing of simply being left alone to charter the course of our destiny with our unique moral and ethical code, the Torah. 

Our Torah is בדד -singular. Pop culture and the pop values it espouses are by definition transient. Is it such a curse to be singular against that backdrop? 

To be sure, we absorb and integrate ideas from the global marketplace. Take a look at any landmark synagogue and notice the substantial architectural influences: Moorish, Tudor, even Greek columns; this can be seen in Judaica, scribal arts and many other areas. But there are areas in which the Torah expects us to be the influencers, not the influenced: our morals, ethics and sense of law is our own, and we are expected to be a light among the nations. 

On Tisha B'Av, a day of reflection and introspection, when we abstain from food and drink and focus on that which we have lost and yearn for, we have the luxury of drowning out the background noise of the throngs and realigning our one and only self to the one and only Hashem. 

Good Shabbos/ Shabbat Shalom, 
Rabbi Shmuel Metzger

Artwork by Vancouver based artist Linda Frimer 

Six Great Thinkers: One Thousand Years Of Jewish Thought- Lesson 6 of 6

Stay Tuned For Winter 2020 Programming

Full text of remarks at a special brunch hosted at The British Consulate New York City

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Good morning,


I would like to begin by thanking our gracious hosts the consulate of Great Britain under the dynamic leadership of the honorable consulate-general Antony Phillipson.

Today’s elegant and delicious brunch is a reflection of a deeply meaningful -and might I add- unexpected relationship.

Approximately one year ago, on a balmy Saturday morning I arrived at our synagogue on 53rd st to find that the lights were off. Without getting into the technicalities of Jewish law, it is prohibited to turn on the light on the Jewish Sabbath, however- it is permitted under certain circumstances to ask this of  someone not of the Jewish faith. And so I found myself on the curb, with a rather unusual request and no takers to come in to the synagogue to ignite the light.

And then came along Mr. Edward Price. Yes the great Ed Price, with no pretense of suspicion, no judgement and no projection of any negative attitude or stereotype. In his gentlemanly way and uniquely British accent he said, “let’s do it, Im glad to help”. and so in addition to turning on the light, a spark of deep friendship was ignited. it's a relationship that I cherish as we’ve become good friends.

Our sages teach Choviv Adam Shenivra B’Tzelem –A human being is precious as he is formed in the image of Gd. he is given free choice, agency, and stands at the helm of creation. This is more a responsibility than a privilege.

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson –The Rebbe- perhaps the most important Jewish voice of the 20th century- suggests in his writings that the reason for the round shape of our planet –with no technical beginning or end- is that every man and woman on the globe should feel that his or her place on the earth is the beginning and end- it’s all up to the individual.

Our sages teach Bshvili Nivra Ha’olam – , the entire world was created for me, that is to say that the world, its challenges and its burdens, are mine solely, not the collective responsibility of mankind. there are and always have been men and women who live their lives this way, and I present Exhibit A.

Recently Rabbi Motti Seligson (who is with us today) and his wife Shterni were joined by my wife Raizy and myself for dinner. As the dinner conversation evolved we realized that we all had a Polish grandparent. Now, this is highly unusual as there was an almost complete genocide of Polish Jewry. We then realized that four of our grandparents were saved by the exact same person - the Japanese Consul to Lithunia, Mr. Chiuni Sugihara with the help of his dedicated wife Yukiko Kikuchi. each one of us was alive today not because of political maneuvering or the actions of a sovereign government or group of activists, but by a morally upright soul from a foreign land.

Seven decades ago, a courageous Englishman, Sir Winston Churchill stood on the right side of history at a moment of indifference, and saved the world. If not for his individual moral courage, chutzpah (that's cheek in English) despite indifference and dissent, one wonders where the world would be today. Indeed, the UK was and is a beacon of hope and freedom for all peoples. Great Britain is also home to a thriving Jewish community of all persuasions  including 60 centers of the Chabad movement under the leadership of 119 dedicated husband-wife teams. The old Chassidic adage goes "better one action than one thousand sighs" -- we thank our dear friends of the British government for being proactive and sending an unambiguous message by hosting this event for our community.

What is it that motivates a person to act in a moral and just way? Perhaps it is the awareness that we are not a combination of chemicals cast into time; we are united despite our differences- imagined and real- by a higher purpose, by an eye that sees and an ear that ears, something greater than the sum of parts of the universe by the great power that we refer to by the name of Gd. Gd creates us all, and consequently all of life is sacred. The Seven Universal Laws known as the laws of the children of Noah lay out the ground rules of human conduct by respecting life and provisions, a non subjective moral code.

...we pray that the current sense of jitters and prejudice in Europe, the US and elsewhere is cyclical and not structural or systemic. On Passover eve we raise a glass of wine and exclaim “In every generation they try to destroy us..however almighty G-d saves us from their hands”. the jewish faith and the jewish people shall persevere, not because we can run swim or jump quicker than those who err on the side of cowardice and prejudice but rather and more importantly because we are assured that almighty Gd designed the universe in a way that the unfinished narrative of history will ultimately have a happy ending. 

I thank all our friends here today, in the great and noble traditions of Sir Winston Churchill and Chiuni Sugihara and great men and women who fought for freedom and justice, putting life and career on the line, for making that reality one day closer. 

Cleanup Hitter

Dear Friends,


It seems that the globe has been spinning quicker lately. This week, there was an avalanche of local and international news. Locally, the shuttering of Manhattan’s longest standing Judaica store was big news for me; nationally, all the Memorial weekend goings-on; internationally, Israel will be holding a do-over election-- and even extra-terrestrially:  an unprecedented report appeared in Monday’s Times that the US Army has de-stigmatized pilots reporting on apparent UFO activity.

With all that going on, I would like to draw your attention to a story deep in the sports section: the passing of Major League Baseball player Bill Buckner, who succumbed to Lewy body dementia at the age of 69. Buckner played 22 seasons with distinction, but his name, unfortunately,  became synonymous with just one play: an error.

It’s the 10th inning in Game Six of the 1986 World Series. A lazy ground ball hit by NY Mets Mookie Wilson should’ve ended the game, and secured Boston’s first world series win in sixty seven years. Instead, what happened at that point (replayed in slow motion too many times to count) is that the ball bounced in an awkward position and went past Buckner's glove. Ray Knight scores, the Mets win, and the rest is history.

In due time and after much scorn, Bill moved off the grid to Idaho where he lived in a self-imposed exile; his name inextricably associated for all time with that ill-fated play.

In the laws of Teshuvah, (commonly translated as repentance but more accurately, "return"), the strongest message is the uniquely Jewish idea that we have within us the ability to transcend our errors- of both commission and omission- and that any setback need only be temporary.

Maimonides (See link, Chapter 6 Law 4) teaches that at any point in our lives we have the power to perform a total pivot and dissociate our core self  from an unfortunate action, thought or word. Yom Kippur serves as a cosmic etch-a-sketch-like redo, with the power to literally erase the mistakes of the past ( interpersonal wrong-doings are not undone until all parties are satisfied).

This message of Teshuvah empowers us as we navigate the Sefira days of self- reflection and self-perfection between Passover and Shavuot, compelling us to let bygones be bygones and look one way only: forward, as we prepare to receive the Torah anew.

We will celebrate this enduring message at the Annual Shavuot Ice Cream party (promotion attached in this email) Raizy and I look forward to greeting you.

With best wishes,

Rabbi Shmuly Metzger

PS We are holding services this Shabbat and every Shabbat (schedule attached), great service, amazing kiddush with thought compelling discussion and lots of good cheer.

PPS On April 8, 2008, Buckner threw out the first pitch to former teammate Dwight Evans at the Red Sox home opener as they unfurled their 2007 World Series championship banner. He received a two-minute standing ovation from the sell-out crowd. After the game, when asked if he had any second thoughts about appearing at the game, he said, "I really had to forgive, not the fans of Boston, per se, but I would have to say in my heart I had to forgive the media for what they put me and my family through. So, you know, I've done that and I'm over that."

 

Opening Our Eyes

 

Dear Friend,


Judaism is unique in the way it synthesizes two ideas that appear paradoxical. Truth and peace, for example, may seem at odds with one another, our faith shows us how to synthesize the two. An additional example would be the relevance of timeliness and the transcendence of timelessness.

I was reminded of this just this week as I passed through Rockefeller Center and encountered the Jaune Plensa sculpture, Behind The Walls 2019, (a project of the Frieze New York art initiative.)

This wondrous piece of art made me stop and reflect. I wondered if 'Behind the Walls' suggests that one whose eyes are tightly shut is on the inside or the outside of that wall. And if art is subjective, a sort of Rorschach test as to one's deepest perspective, I saw (rather predictably for a Rabbi, I guess) the core of Judaism itself.

I'll preface that by sharing a tale told my in favorite publications as a kid, a children's periodical, edited by the Rebbe, called 'Talks and Tales'. This particular story, which takes place in a shtetl of yesteryear, presents us with a blind musician who plays at weddings and Bar Mitzvahs. Accompanying him was a kind soul who would lead him to and from the local venue. I can't recall many of the details but the kicker, which has always stayed with me, was that this musician in fact had 20/20 vision, and just couldn't stand to see what he perceived as the immorality and injustice surrounding him.

Was he right? It's complicated. The Torah expects us to navigate this life with 'eyes wide open'. With that said, every once in a while, a 'factory reset' of how we view ourselves and the world is in order. This is what I saw in "Behind the Walls".

When one recites the central prayer of our faith, the Shema, it is customary to cover ones eyes and meditate briefly. In those few moments the physical universe ceases to exist; the only reality is a higher one: "Hashem Echad, G-d is One."

When a woman (or girl) lights the Shabbat flames, she covers her eyes as well, and in those precious moments of personal prayer, there is no one and nothing just G-d and herself.

As the world spins, some aspects evolve and some stay the same, architecture, style- even our biochemistry- is all subject to change. And with all the change, we can get caught up in that motion. Alas, there are things that don't change. Morality and a Higher Power are fixed in time, and in that brief moment when we reset ourselves, we transcend the world and all its movement, and open our eyes again, recharged to view a world of possibility, built on an enduring foundation of Hashem Echad, the One and oneness of G-d.

At Chabad-Sutton we gather every Shabbat morning. I encourage you to join us as we close and reopen our eyes in prayer and reconnect with the timeless foundation of our faith.

Raizy and I look forward to greeting you.

With warm wishes,

Rabbi Shmuel Metzger
 
 

 

 


On Walls

 

...For He strengthened the bars of your gates; He blessed your children within it. Book Of Psalms 147:13


Dear Friend,


As last minute preparations are underway for the fun-for-the-whole-family Chabad at Beekman-Sutton 1980's Themed Purim Party, I am reminded of a defining moment of that decade, the fall of the Berlin wall, uniting east and west, bringing together families torn from each other, and bringing a glimmer of peace and hope to a turbulent time.


In the Jewish experience, walls are meant to unite, not divide. While the Berlin Wall usually evokes negative associations, the Walls of Jerusalem bring to mind sanctity, holiness and unity. In fact, the very existence of surrounding city walls gives us a lesser known, though  very special, holiday, the Purim Of Walled Cities, otherwise known as Shushan Purim, a "post game" Purim celebrated on the following day, only in cities that are surrounded by walls. 


Why the special celebration for walled cities? And what makes a wall celebrated or ignominious? For starters, we ask: what is within the wall and what is without? What is the function of the wall: to insert unnecessary division among people- or to protect those within from danger?  Danger- whether posed by people, contraband, or a Trojan horse seeking to threaten a precious heritage or culture of sanctity- makes the walls that surround a shelter; a precious entity.


The Rebbe would often emphasize the magic of the "walls of Shushan" by noting that the Purim decree of annihilation was designated for Jewish people--only. An obvious loophole for anyone living in that era would be to jump ship and abandon their faith. But in all the detailed retelling of the Purim story, we find not even ONE instance of this; their wall of faith, despite all pressure and danger, was rock solid; impenetrable.


Raizy and I Iook forward to greeting you at the festive Purim party this Wednesday. May we be blessed, always, that any wall that separates us from a loved one, or a deep heart's desire, come tumblin' (tumblin') down...


With warm regards and blessings for Purim joy and Shabbat Shalom,


Rabbi Shmuel A. Metzger


PS: Not on the subject of walls: the menu for Purim in the 80's is spectacular and catered by kosher Mexican restaurant Carlos and Gabby's... RSVP now so we can prepare properly! 

 

 

Curb Your Enthusiasm?

 " ...Accursed be Haman who sought to destroy me, blessed be Mordechai the Jew.  Accursed be Zeresh, the wife of my terrorizer, blessed be Esther who sacrificed for me - and Charvonah, too, be remembered for good [for suggesting to the King that Haman be hanged on the gallows]..." -Prayer Following Megillah Reading

 

Dear Friend,

The Jewish people have a looong national memory. In the Purim prayer above, we delineate every last ill-wisher and friend down to Charvonah - the quick-thinking low-level hand in the palace of King Achashverosh. 

Within the prism of Chabad Chassidic thought, all the good and bad characters of the Torah represent corresponding character traits and emotions. Stubborn Pharoah becomes 'Pharoah-itis'- the traits of a drug addict whose actions (or inaction) slowly destroys themselves and every last relationship. The ancient Philistines, 'Klipat Pelishtim or Phillistine-itis', feelings of deep depression.

In the Purim narrative we spin our graggers when we mention our nemesis, the people of Amalek, progenitors of the Purim villian, Haman. More important than this specific offender, though, is to recognize the offense- and look within oneself to obliterate any trace of a negative character trait.

In Chassidic thought, Amalek represents a cynical voice within, always ready to curb your enthusiasm by suggesting, 'Don't get too holy; you went to Shul for two consecutive Shabbats; make sure you are not evolving into a religious extremist! Cool it down, take it easy..."-- that's Amalek.

To be sure, as Maimonides teaches  (Laws of Human Dispositions 1:3-4) , it's ideal to to strive to be a 'middle of the road type of 'guy', finding balance in all you do. With that said, it's ok to be extreme (sometimes). When you love someone, pour your passion into the relationship; it can only benefit. And when you feel passion for something holy and worthwhile, like Torah study and a relationship with your creator, put yourself into it; your soul and your spiritual connection will only benefit.

G-d can be admired--better yet, served, worshipped. The Shema Prayer comes to mind. 'Love Hashem with all your heart, all your soul and might' certainly implies extreme devotion, the polar opposite of a flippant and indifferent inner Amalek.

At Chabad, there are many opportunities to fan the inner flame, pining for a more Jewish and meaningful life experience.  For starters, we have an AWESOME Purim party planned; we look forward to greeting you and and enjoying Purim to the extreme.

With blessing,

Rabbi Shmuel A. Metzger

A Redeeming Factor

Dear Friend,

Hope it's been a spectacular week.

A basic  tenet of Jewish faith is the belief in a Messiah (Moshiach). And although it's as fundamental as Kosher and Shabbat, it seems that many get uneasy when the topic comes up. Perhaps the word Messiah conjures images of a  subway pseudo-prophet preaching about beliefs foreign to our own. In the original Fiddler On The Roof, the producers pulled a beautiful Sheldon Harnick score called 'When The Messiah Comes' from the show. Apparently, even for fantastical Broadway standards, this one felt like a push too far.

So, what is the Moshiach?

Maimonides defines it as both a noun and verb: an individual of specific lineage and possessing of exceptional spiritual character, and also, a specific event, leading to a new era.  The Moshiach era is initiated when Almighty G-d gives the 'green light' to the one worthy of that title in a given generation. The Moshiach era ushers in a time when all nations bury the hatchet and disease and suffering is no more.

The Rebbe noted that while the world is undoubtedly imperfect, the collapse of the Soviet Union, which had for so long repressed Jewish expression and quite suddenly and peacefully transformed to play host to one of the greatest Jewish Renaissances ever, is a small foretaste of a global  transformation. This macro metamorphosis, from a world of limitations and struggle to an era of collective peace and good, is how the prophets describe the era of Moshiach.

Redemption is macro but it's also micro:  Rebbe Menachem Nochum Twersky of Chernobyl (1730-1787) teaches that every individual has an inner Moshiach, a powerful potential for positive transformation of themselves and their personal space, impacting those around them with peace and good, as in the era of Moshiach. 

A guiding light at Chabad at Beekman-Sutton is to cultivate this awareness: Each of us possesses within us the incredible power to make this world a better place. This power within is realized and uncovered through Torah education. We are proud to offer a spectacular Shabbat morning Torah class as well as a one-of-a-kind text based weekly women's class, Raizy and I look forward to greeting you. 

As the week comes to an end, I bless you with a Shabbat Shalom, ; "Shalom" in the true and lasting sense, with the realization of our personal and collective dreams-come-true .

Rabbi Shmuel A. Metzger

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Dear Friend,

What a wonderful week it was!

In addition to the usual hectic goings-on at Chabad we had two wonderful community events (pictures attached), the grand finale of the ‘Six Great Thinkers – One Thousand Years of Jewish Thought’ and the women’s Challah Bake (Special thank you to internationally acclaimed Challah baker and best-selling author of 'Rising, the book of Challah' (who also happens to be Raizy’s sister), Rebbetzin Rochie Pinson. 

Which leads me to this week’s Torah portion where we read of a most unusual fundraising drive: the wealthy do not give more than one half-shekel and the destitute must also somehow come up with a full half-shekel as a donation. The commentaries wonder: what is the meaning of this? Wouldn’t it make sense for the population to contribute an amount appropriate to their financial capacity? The answer: The focus here is to drive home the point that we are all an equal piece of a larger kaleidoscope, the community.

The beauty of this week’s beautiful programs is that it brought together and united so many members of our community. We are all different; we have varying political opinions, occupations, and world outlooks-- and yet, we are all one community.

I would like to take this opportunity to invite your ‘half-shekel’ to another great community event up ahead: the Chabad at Beekman-Sutton 1980’s themed Purim party (promotion attached). Come dressed in a 1980’s themed costume and receive a complimentary mini rubics cube (might I mention no need to bring the spray-paint). 

May almighty Gd bless you, our entire community and all communities with a good Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Shmuel Metzger
 

PS: If you're a kid - or have one- don't miss an incredible event taking place THIS Sunday at Chabad, YOU SCRIBE! 2-4 pm. Click here to RSVP

Pictures from the women's Challah bake:

Baby Loves Shabbat Weekly Friday class:

Exploring Space and the Moon Landing at Manhattan Jewish Montessori this week:

< Less-Than Greater-Than>

 


 

The Plural I

 

Dear Friend,

A happy almost Shabbos to you.

This week's Torah portion begins with the  commandment to build the Mishkan, (Shemos 25:8) "Make a home for me and I will dwell in them".

The classic commentaries and super-commentaries struggle to make sense of the switch from singular to plural in this verse. Should it not have been written, “and I will dwell in it?” 

Allow me to give a sampling of their interpretations:

Basic
'Them' is an allusion to the Tabernacle, the Three temples in Jerusalem and the various synagogues and individual homes which serve as a 'safe space' for the sacred in this world.

Mystical
Rabbi Yeshayahu Horowitz's (1558-1628) magnum opus (best described as 'Pre-Chassidic Chassidic thought') interprets 'them' to mean, every single individual of the nation of Israel. The imposing architecture may be impressive; more impressive though, is an individual making her/himself a 'dwelling place' for Gd's presence with the study of Torah and performance of the Mitzvahs. I should mention that The Rebbe would quote this interpretation quite often.

An Alternative Explanation
May I suggest a third interpretation with a little twist: The human being is so very complex (and even complicated at times.) The book of Tanya begins with an existential question which may cross one's mind,  "Am I essentially a good guy or a bad guy?". The author explains that the answer to this conundrum is not so simple. Wo/man is a hybrid of a holy soul which is a Chelek Eloka Mimal Mamosh - an actual fragment of Gd - and a Nefesh Habahamis - A self serving animal(istic) soul. These two paradoxical forces tethered together create a full circuit and wo/man springs to life. Now, compound that with chemicals and positive and not-so-positive life experiences and alas the gestalt of 'I' might feel like 'We'. Says Almighty Gd: Please allow Me in, to 'feel at home' in whatever role you play- thoughtful daughter, caring sister, loving spouse, dedicated father, no-nonsense employer, brilliant scholar, etcetera. Make Me at home as whomever and wherever you are.

Though this is indeed a monumental task, I bless you and your loved ones in the timeless words of Moses at the grand opening of the Mishkan: “May it be Gd's will that His blessed presence be found in all you do".

Warmly,
Rabbi Shmuel Metzger

PS The upcoming 'Six Great Minds - One Thousand Years Of Jewish Thought' on Tuesday evening will explore the fascinating life and times of the great 'Baal Shem Tov' founder of the Chassidic movement. This class is not to be missed! I know it's after a long day of work...I assure that you will not regret venturing into the cold night to attend this riveting class.

Double Your Fun

 

 

Dear Friend,

Hope your week went well.

We are at the cusp of the very special "twin months" of Adar.

An introduction and some basic math: The Jewish calendar is essentially a lunar calendar (354 days and some change) however the Torah requires that the holidays be within a specific season; whereas there is an 11 day deficit annually, we 'fall behind' a full month every three years. The solution is a 'leap month' every few years. After a brief discussion in the Talmud, the sages conclude that the added month should be the happiest one ie the Purim month. 

This year we enjoy this special calendar with Rosh Chodesh this coming week (Feb 5-6) and we celebrate Purim on the eve of March 20.

Speaking of which, mark your calendar for the eve of March 20th when Chabad at Beekman-Sutton will celebrate with a 1980's themed Purim party. You can come and dance with your Michael Jackson moondance shoes or if you wish just sit in the back and play Pac-Man, your call. The combinations and fun ideas are virtually endless. Our boombox will be blasting festive Jewish music all evening.

May almighty G-d bless you with double blessing now and always.

Stay warm and Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Shmuel Metzger

PS The 'Six Great Thinkers - One Thousand Years of Jewish Thought' winter series is going strong. To reserve click here

PPS check for a Kosher symbol on the Doublemint®
"Double Your Pleasure®, Double Your Fun™" or the knockoff "Dubble Bubble" as some chewing gums include gelatin which is sourced from a super non-kosher animal which shall remain unnamed.

A New Song

 

Dear Friend,

Boy, this week flew by.

As we celebrated Tu B’shvat this week, I am reminded of the following anecdote:

About two decades ago I got hooked on Jewish cantorial music, in particular the music of the greatest of the 'Golden Cantors’ Yossele Rosenblatt. (These days, I only listen when I'm solo as the kids throw a riot when I turn on anything of that genre). There was one song especially that tugged at my heart, a Yiddish song called 'lomir zich iberbeten avinu shebashomayim', translates as , ‘lets make up with our Father in Heaven'. The lyrics of the song detail the arrangement:  'we keep his mitzvos'...'He stops the pogroms'.

It was such a tragic and compelling tune that I literally could not get this song out of my head. Until one day, when I encountered the great cantor Zalman Baumgarten walking on the street in Crown Heights.

Me: What do you think of Rosenblatt's 'lomir zich iberbeten'?

Cantor Baumgarten: Why do you ask?

Me: I can’t get it out of my mind.

Cantor Baumgarten chuckled and told me the following:

"I performed that song many times nationally and internationally until at one point, when I reported to the Rebbe regarding my concerts and travels, I included the concert programme. I then received a pointed answer. The Rebbe circled that particular song in the programme  and noted מכאן ולהבא אינו כדאי (loosely translated: 'in the future this song may be deleted'.) As a true follower of the Rebbe; I literally forgot the song!

I stood there quite stunned! Upon reflection, though, it all made sense.

Many Jews today feel uncomfortable with their Jewishness. Judaism evokes a Pavlovian association with Shtetel, Shoah, and victim-hood in general. The Rebbe's life mission was to transform this negative association from a sorry tale in black and white to a beautiful story in full blu-ray/ high-def. While it’s true that we may "never forget", we must also never forget that the authentic symbol of our faith is a Jewish school- not a museum. In my humble opinion, the Rebbe was conveying to Cantor Baumgarten to stop reinforcing that sorry stereotype and to choose from the thousands of happy songs depicting the joy of Judaism in his performances.

At Manhattan Jewish Montessori and all of a Chabad ‘s educational programs, we convey THAT story. By doing so, we are conveying our true identity to the next generation, in a tale of hope, happiness and replanting.

Which leads me right back to Tu Bshvat. Tu Bshvat is all about planting seeds, with eyes on tomorrow. Our best days are ahead; the horrors of the past will never be forgotten and at the same time they will not define our core self in any way.

May Hashem bless us that the seeds we plant today flourish into a full bloomed garden and that our children grow as happy and proud Jews.

With blessing,

Rabbi Shmuel Metzger

PS The Tuesday night class is INCREDIBLE to reserve click here .

PPS Raizy will be joining three thousand female powerhouses, aka Chabad Shluchos (female emissaries) for an annual conference, culminating in a Gala on Sunday evening at 5:30pm. You can watch it live on www.Chabad.org.

 
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