Rabbi's Corner

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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