Printed from ChabadSutton.org

Rabbi's Corner

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

½

 


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.

 

Something Fruity

 

Dear Friend,

I hope you had a week that was off the charts!

It was very gratifying to see the amazing turnout at the launch of 'Six Great Minds: One Thousand Years of Jewish Thought' as we relived the life, read multiple genres of poetry and delved deep into the Kuzari of Judah Halevi. The course continues this Tuesday night with the legendary Maimonides and his life and teachings. To reserve your spot click here.

On Monday, we will celebrate the 15th of Shvat otherwise known as 'Tu B'shvat'. Allow me to share a beautiful insight on this special day based on remarks I had the merit of hearing directly from the Rebbe.

[On a personal note, this teaching is especially memorable to me. Although the Rebbe was fluent in some eight languages, the default language for all his talks was Yiddish. At the age of 15, I was slowly picking up the language and had studied enough Chassidic thought to start picking up the concepts as well. As the Rebbe spoke that Tu B'shvat evening, I vividly remember piecing together the words and applying the concepts I was hearing and then- BOOM!- a whole new world opened up for me with nothing lost in translation. ]

The Rebbe began by noting that on Tu B'shvat we celebrate the seven species specified in the Torah that our holy land Israel is blessed with: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates.

These seven kinds combined represent, and find conceptual parallel to, a perfect lifetime in the service of G-d. The Rebbe then described each one.

Wheat and Barley:
The book of Tanya emphasizes that we are a composite of two powerful forces, the G-d soul and an animal soul. Wheat (bread) is considered the staple food of man; Barley is the staple food of the animal. In addition to unlocking the potential of the G-d soul within us, we look to 'train the animal'-our more mundane side- to appreciate spiritual pursuits as well, thus harnessing its power for good. 

Grapes:
Water is a necessity of life; wine is a luxury. As opposed to just doing the bare minimum in order to 'cover the bases' of Torah obligations, we are encouraged to observe the mitzvot 'Chassidically': by performing the mitzvahs with love, devotion and in a luxurious fashion. An example of this would be  investing in a high end Mezuzah, a special Etrog, etc.

Figs:
Many of the commentaries on the Torah posit that the infamous 'Tree of Knowledge' was actually a fig tree. The proof is (Genesis 3:7) ...And they [Adam and Eve] sewed together fig leaves and made themselves loinclothes. The theory is that in their shame, they reached for the nearest foliage which happened to be from that very tree. Consequently, by addressing the 'fig', we are really rewiring ourselves not only to abstain from something prohibited but taking it one step further to address the root of our negativity, represented by the precedent for all sin.

Pomegranates:
At this point one might be feeling quite holy. Problem is that holy very often goes hand-in-hand with “holier than thou”. One of the reasons it is customary to partake of pomegranates on Rosh Hashanah is to be reminded of the Talmudic statement 'The sinners of Israel are loaded with Mitzvot as the pomegranate is loaded with seeds'. Simply stated, no matter your personal service, abstain from judging others. G-d has His own metric system.

Olives:
Olives teach us to stay focused on our life’s spiritual mission even during bitter and crushing times. Getting on spiritual track is complicated enough; throw a debilitating challenge into the mix and it becomes near impossible.  But Oil (as opposed to grapes) is extracted with a press under high pressure, showing us that the best of us can come out when we are feeling squeezed. Staying on course and maintaining equilibrium through it all leads us to the final species...

Dates:
The Zohar compares the different stages of a date palm’s path to full maturity to the human lifespan. This final stage represents a rich and full lifetime as described in the book of Tehillim (Psalms 93) “A righteous person shall flourish as the date palm.”
   

May we merit to lead a life full of seeds and flowering fruit! 

I hope you enjoyed this small bit of Chassidic inspiration. A practical takeaway: Raizy and I encourage you to stop by the office on Tu Bshvat morning (Monday Jan 21) for a buffet of exotic fruit, as is customary. We look forward to seeing you. For kids ages 4 and up, our monthly CKids event will be taking place from 10:30-11:00 am. Sign up by clicking here.

With blessing that all your wishes for good take root,

Shabbat Shalom!
Rabbi Shmuel Metzger

 


 

 

A Special Occasion

 

Dear Friend,
 

I hope this correspondence finds you and your loved ones well in body and spirit.

In this week's Torah portion we read of the final plagues and the drama leading up to the redemption from ancient Egypt. Redemption- past and future- is a central theme of the Jewish faith. In fact, one may view most all Mitzvahs as an expression of redemption. For example, on Shabbat eve, women and girls kindle Shabbat candles, creating a warm and mystical ambiance. At that moment, those present are redeemed from the mundane workweek to a time of G-dliness and spirituality.

Another redemption Mitzvah: After G-d does a flyover/Passover, sparing the Jewish firstborn only, He commands -Shemot 13:13- (and I paraphrase) "And now you owe me one!". Consequently, there is a special mitzvah of "Pidyon Haben" redemption of the firstborn son. It is an age-old custom to place the redeemed baby on a pure silver tray during the ceremony, redeeming him from a Cohen for a token five silver shekel.

Just yesterday, our community participated in this special Mitzvah.

Some background: I have a handsome and gifted nephew and Raizy has a cousin, beautiful inside and out  and gifted too. Two years ago, Raizy pitched the match and... "Mazel Tov", Fastforward to this week, the firstborn of this beautiful couple, baby Avraham turned one month old and had a Pidyon Haben. Now, the Chabad at Beekman-Sutton is in possession of the most exquisite Pidyon Haben tray- some four feet long and a good 20 pounds of pure silver- a generous gift by the Becker-Schultz family. We were honored that our community could participate in this beautiful ceremony by providing the tray on which the baby was carried. If you know of any family celebrating this special occasion, please let us know so we can share the tray with them.

At the end of this week, please accept my blessing for redemption, small miracles and big breakthroughs, personal and professional, in every aspect of your life. In the words of our revered and beloved Rebbe, "May we dance to the Moshiach redemption speedily in our days" Amen. 

Warmly,

Rabbi Shmuel Metzger

PS The fascinating and original Chabad at Beekman-Sutton "Six Great Thinkers- One Thousand Years Of Jewish Thought " course begins this Tuesday, 7:30pm. Sign up for individual lectures or the entire course by clicking  here.

Pictured from right to left: Baby Avraham's mother, maternal grandmother, paternal great grandmother, and maternal great-great grandmother... may they all live and be well!

Astoria Borealis

 

Dear Friend,

 

Did you witness the ConEd explosion aka The Astoria Borealis?

You may have seen it on the news or from your windows— an epic electrical event just across the East River. From my vantage point, the entire night sky was lit with an awesome kaleidoscope of psychedelic colors (admittedly, I wondered if perhaps someone had messed with my Kiddush Wine). This incredible display went on for some time (miraculously no one was hurt) and was so dramatic and unusual, it appeared almost biblical. Speaking of which, in this week's Torah portion there are seven awesome plagues, with their own lights and special effects, as we once again revisit the central story of the Jewish faith, the exodus.

 

Chassidic thought teaches that in addition to the literal interpretation of the biblical narrative, there is a moral/religious lesson to be gleaned here. Pharaoh is best described as 'the king of status quo', barely motivated even by clear and present danger. The founder of Chabad in the book of Tanya encourages us to reenact an exodus daily, to bust out of the dusty shackles of sameness and turn the page of our personal history book. 

With that said, might I suggest a first Shabbos of 2019 resolution. Nothing dramatic, important nonetheless, attend synagogue services this #Shabbat. If not for every Shabbat, just this week (and there’s a fabulous Kiddush this week sponsored by the Langers). Hope to see you there. Good Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom.

Warmly,

Rabbi Shmuel A. Metzger

 

On Jewish Identity

 

Dear Friend,

 

This Shabbat we begin reading the first portion of the second Torah book starting with the words "...Shemot".

The word “Shemot” means names. Our sages teach, there were three ingredients critical to preserving our people’s identity for the duration of their long and bitter bondage in Egypt: they maintained their language, their mode of dress, and their Jewish names.

The Rebbe would often compare and contrast our final exile and redemption to the original slavery and exodus. To the amazement of many in the late 1950's, the Rebbe even mentioned Allen Ginsberg and Abbie Hoffman (of beatnik and Yippie fame) as perfect candidates worthy of Moshiach redemption with the best of em; Shtick notwithstanding said the Rebbe, "they keep Jewish surnames and both dress and speak in a way different than the locals as our righteous forefathers had done in Egypt". 

With that said, I suggest and encourage getting comfortable and making use of your Hebrew name (perhaps identify yourself to the local barista at Starbucks that way to hear "Yaacov Moshe your latte is ready!"). Should you not know it, we can talk about it over cholent at the Shabbat Kiddush. I’m sure we can figure it out! 

With warm wishes for a peaceful and meaningful Shabbat,

Rabbi Shmuel A. Metzger

Remarks Shabbos Chazak

 

Joseph passes away, is embalmed and placed in a coffin in the land of Egypt. THE END

The Rebbe points out that at first glance it would seem that the conclusion of the book of Bereishis is an exception to the rule of thumb that books of Torah conclude on a positive note, as Joseph's death positions the Hebrews of Egypt for an imminent enslavement-- they have just lost all political firepower in the palace.

On second (and deeper) glance a positive emerges ( fyi: even those who have studied the Rebbe's weltanschauung semi-seriously expect a positive to emerge).

Here's the positive: For the duration of two centuries plus, a broken Jewish slave could take solace and comfort with knowledge that the very body and holy soul of Joseph was present in the exile with him, and could pour out her/his soul to G-d with confidence that they had not been forgotten.

At the Exodus Joseph's bones are definitely not forgotten and are eventually relocated to Israel. (His pious mother Rachel is another story. Til this very day her tomb is off the beaten path as a symbol of her selflessness. As the sages teach, she preferred to be buried there as she prophesied that the Jewish exiles would pass that particular location in shackles on the journey to Babylon. She then made a bold decision to waive her right to her rightful spot in the tomb of patriarchs alongside her beloved husband Jacob, instead she chose a final location - until the redemption arrives- in wait for that particular moment when her despondent descendants would pass by in tears and could enjoy a very brief reprieve of prayer, comfort and hope during their bitter ordeal.)

Which leads me to something as profound (imho) and current.

The Talmud teaches (Ketubot 111:1) that it is preferable to be interred in Israel as "Burial in the holy land is comparable to burial beneath the very temple altar", in the diaspora, the grave of choice has typically been in close proximity to a pious Torah scholar; for a Chabad Chassid in the US, it is of paramount importance to secure a plot in NY's Old Montefiore Cemetery in the hallowed shadows of the Rebbe's mausoleum, the Ohel- "Kotel of the diaspora". That is, until recently.

Before their untimely passing, Rabbis & Shluchim of the Rebbe, Avrohom Levetansky and Yehoshua Gordon made their wishes known to be interred in the local cemetery near their congregations in California. In lieu of returning to their native habitat in New York, where they no doubt would have received a "ten gun salute" for decades of putting every last cell and pigment of skin in the game in service of their respective communities, they chose to stay. Their tombstones stand proudly under a palm tree in Commerce City, California, a testament to these heroes of spirit, dedicated in life and thereafter to the holy mission entrusted to them by the Rebbe and to their flock, inspiring us to rededicate ourselves, emulating this selflessness in service of our families, friends and communities in good health. In conclusion, let us proclaim the traditional refrain recited upon the conclusion of a Torah book, חזק חזק ונתחזק Be Strong! Be Strong! Let us be emboldened! Good Shabbos. Photo Credit: Eli Gordon. 

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