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Rabbis' Blog

Inspirational Torah Messages from Chabad Lubavitch of El Paso

The Book of Redemption

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This week world Jewry begins learning the second book of the Torah – Shemot. In various sources the entire book is called Sefer Hageulah – the Book of Redemption. While the first few parshiyot clearly serve as a historical record of the fascinating journey of our people from Egyptian bondage to freedom, the content of rest of the book does not seem to fit the title.
 
Upon further reflection we find that the content of the entire book is dealing with a far deeper and more consequential redemption than merely the liberation of a nation of slaves. It is the blueprint of the process through which the very nature of our world was transformed from a coarse and earthly reality to one that is worthy of reflecting and connecting to a greater and more sublime reality.
 
The book of Shemot can be divided into three categories, reflecting the three steps of this process.
  • Redemption of the Hebrews from Egyptian bondage in a most miraculous way, destroying the great Egyptian empire (Shemot – Beshalach/Exodus 1-17).
  • The revelation at Mt. Sinai and the giving of the Torah to the Jewish people through Moses (Yitro – Mishpatim/Exodus 18-24).
  • Detailed instructions for the construction of the Tabernacle (Teruma – Pekudei/Exodus 25-40).
 
Redemption of Humanity: The ancient Egyptian Empire was the most depraved of all societies of the time. It was the epitome of self-centeredness and self-indulgence. Pharaoh proclaimed himself a deity and utterly rejected the notion of a higher purpose or power. This reflected the reality of humanity at the time. G-d destroyed this evil with the goal of educating the world that there is truly One Super Power and simultaneously redeemed the descendants of Jacob from this chronic disease forever. Now they were ready to engage in G-dly activity as a nation.
 
Redemption of the Physical: Today, we instinctively treat a Torah scroll with reverence. It is kept in a beautiful Holy Ark and rarely handled for any purpose other than to be read publicly during prayer services at synagogue.  The Torah scroll is indeed holy. However, before the revelation at Sinai, such a phenomenon did not exist. Theoretically, if our patriarchs would write a Torah scroll, there would be no need to treat it with reverence. Physicality was not compatible to the G-dly reality and therefore could not contain and reflect G-dly energy in a revealed sense. It was bound to its earthiness. A Torah scroll was just a scroll.
At Sinai the world changed forever. Now G-dly energy could permeate physical objects that are used for a mitzvah and they must be revered and cherished as befitting G-d Himself.
 
Redemption of the Mundane: As a prelude to the instructions for the construction of the Tabernacle G-d says to Moses (Exodus 25:8): They (the Israelites) should make a Sanctuary dedicated to Me and I will dwell in their midst. Our sages explain that this verse implies that through the Tabernacle, G-d dwells and is revealed in every aspect of life. The mundane routine of life can now reflect a higher purpose. G-d can be found in simple interactions, household chores and pleasurable hobbies as well. Surely we are all obligated to observe all the mitzvoth of the Torah; but more amazingly, we are capable of experiencing the divine beyond the walls of the synagogue – in our home, workplace and even the gym.
 
As Maimonides teaches (Mishnei Torah Deot 3:3): Thus, whoever walks in such a path all his days will be serving G-d constantly; even in the midst of his business dealings. . . Even when he sleeps. . . On this matter, our Sages have directed and said: "And all your deeds should be for the sake of Heaven." This is what Solomon declared in his wisdom: "Know Him in all your ways and He will straighten your paths"
 
We have been empowered to find meaning in every aspect of life. Everything we do, when done properly, becomes a vital component in making our world a better and more G-dly place.

Chanukah 2015 @ Chabad

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Chanukah this year was a whirlwind of activity for every segment of our diverse community. We endeavored to bring the joy and eternal message of the holiday to everyone on their level. The following is a partial report of the various activities of Chanukah 2015.

The Chanukah edition of the El Paso Chabad Times was published two weeks prior to the holiday and mailed to every Jewish household in town free of charge. Click here to view the special edition.

 Home Depot Rocket Dreidel Workshop

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Over 100 men, women and children joined together at the Home Depot at Mesa & Remcon to craft awesome Rocket Dreidels! Delicious latkes rounded off the delightful experience. View the photo album of the event here. 

Jewish Women's Circle - Gift Wrapping & Creative Bows

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Over a dozen ladies perfected their gift wrapping skills and learned new tips to creating creative bows as a preparation to Chanukah. Home made sufganiot were on the menu as well! View the photo album of the event here.

 The Chanukah Playland

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The largest annual Chanukah event in town was attended by well over 200 celebrants. Throughout the day children had a blast on the various inflatable rides, enjoyed holiday themed arts & crafts and delighted in face painting and balloon art. Each child received a gift and Chanukah gelt. The grand Menorah lighting, signaling the onset of Chanukah was attended by Consul General of MexicoJacob Prado and City Rep. Peter Svarzbein. View the photo album of the event here.

 Celebrating With The Seniors

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Chabad arranged celebrations for the wonderful folks at The Monte Vista and Royal Estates senior living homes.

Chabad volunteers visited numerous people in their homes and offices as well. A special visit was made to the local federal prison FCI La Tuna to bring the light and joy of Chanukah to the Jewish inmates.

Chanukah Sushi Bar!

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The last night of Chanukah was celebrated in style with a full Kosher Sushi Bar and entertainment for all ages. The public menorah was kindled to full capacity and 100 attendees enjoyed an evening to be remembered. View the photo album of the event here.

 Chanukah In The Media

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KVIA ABC Channel 7: Chanukah Interview with Maria Garcia

El Diario De El Paso: Chanukah Message In Spanish

KTSM Channel 9: Coverage of the Public Menorah Lighting

Front Page of the El Paso Times

Front Page of El Diario De El Paso

El Paso Times: Chanukah Message

El Paso Times Online Gallery of Menorah Lighting

El Diario De El Paso Coverage of the Menorah Lighting

The El Paso Inc. Coverage of the Menorah Lighting

El Paso Times: Faces & Places 

Chanukah Message To El Paso | English/Spanish

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The eight day festival of Chanukah is arguably the most popular Jewish holiday in American society.

Observed at the beginning of winter, we kindle lights, spin celebratory tops, enjoy festive foods and sweets and gift children with money.

We celebrate the courageous and greatly outnumbered band of Maccabees, the priestly Hasmonean family, who revolted against the tyranny of the Assyrian Greek Empire (138 BCE). The ancient Greeks endeavored to uproot all that was sacred to Judaism so that Israel would completely assimilate to their ways. They defiled and ransacked the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and ensured that no ritually pure olive oil remain in the vicinity.

Many souls were lost due to this campaign and all seemed to be lost.

A small band of loyal Jews – the standard bearers of the Jewish faith commonly known as the Maccabees - raised the battle cry and valiantly battled the enemy. They miraculously won each battle until the Temple was under Jewish control. As they prepared to inaugurate the temple by kindling the Menorah (candelabra) no appropriate oil could be found. Production of this unique fuel would be a project of eight days.

These dedicated warriors did not relent and they found a tiny jug of this precious oil – barely sufficient to kindle the flames for one evening.

They joyfully inaugurated the new Menorah and hoped for the best. Lo and behold, this minimum amount of oil burned for eight days and nights. This was a clear sign that God was pleased with their self-sacrifice.

On the anniversary of this miracle we kindle lights each night. Starting with one candle on the first night increasing the number each successive evening until the eighth night we kindle a total of eight.

The universal message of this tradition is clear. In a reality permeated with darkness, even a small flame makes a great difference. Once a sliver of light has illuminated the dark we must continue to add with increasing intensity. What was sufficient yesterday is not nearly enough today. It is up to us to brighten our world with the light of goodness and kindness with ever increasing speed and intensity.

Chanukah will be celebrated through Dec. 14. Learn more about Chanukah: www.chabadelpaso.com/chanukah

Rabbi Levi Greenberg is the Associate Rabbi at Chabad Lubavitch. Follow Levi on Twitter @RabbiLeviELP

This article was published in the El Paso Times (December 7, 2015).
Click for link to article.

 

This Chanukah message was translated and published in the El Diario de El Paso - El Paso's spanish language daily.

Click here for link to article in spanish. 

Con duración de ocho días, Jánuca es posiblemente la fiesta judía más popular en la sociedad norteamericana. En esta celebración, que ocurre al principio del invierno, encendemos luces, giramos juguetes, disfrutamos comida festiva y dulces, además de obsequiarle dinero a los niños.

En Jánuca celebramos a los macabeos, quienes pertenecían al clan sacerdotal de los hasmoneos y encabezaron un revuelta en contra de la tiranía del imperio griego seléucida en el año 138 antes de nuestra era.

A pesar de ser superados numéricamente por sus adversarios, los macabeos era un grupo valiente. El objetivo de los antiguos griegos era erradicar todo aquello que fuera sagrado para el judaísmo, a fin de asimilar por completo a Israel: es por ello que profanaron y saquearon el Santo Tempo de Jerusalén asegurándose de que no quedara suministro de aceite de oliva ritualmente puro en sus inmediaciones.

Muchas almas se perdieron durante esta campaña y todo parecía estar perdido. Un pequeño grupo de judíos leales –los cuidadores de la fe comúnmente conocidos como macabeos– elevaron su grito de batalla y enfrentaron al enemigo de manera valiente. Milagrosamente ganaron cada batalla hasta que el Templo regresó al control de los judíos. En el momento que se preparaban para la reinauguración del recinto sagrado, con el encendido de la menorá –candelabro– no encontraron el aceite apropiado: la producción de este combustible único tomaría al menos ocho días.

Los esforzados guerreros no cedieron ante las circunstancias y al final encontraron una pequeña jarra con el precioso aceite –suficiente para encender las llamas por una noche. Con gusto inauguraron la menorá esperando lo mejor. Y –¿quién lo iba a decir?–, esta exigua cantidad de aceite mantuvo las luces encendidas ocho días y ocho noches. Se trataba de una señal clara de que Dios estaba contento con su autosacrificio.

En el aniversario de este milagro encendemos luche cada noche. Comenzamos con una vela en la primera noche, incrementamos el número cada noche de manera sucesiva hasta que en la octava tenemos ocho velas encendidas en total.

El mensaje universal de esta tradición es claro. En una realidad permeada con oscuridad, incluso una pequeña llama hace una gran diferencia. Una vez que una insignificante luz ha iluminado la oscuridad, debemos añadir más con un aumento de su intensidad. Lo que era suficiente ayer no es siquiera bastante para hoy. Nos toca a nosotros iluminar nuestro mundo con la luz de bondad y generosidad cada vez con mayor celeridad e intensidad.

Jánuca se celebrará al atardecer del 6 de diciembre hasta el 14 de este mes. Para mayores informes sobre el festejo, encuentre información en: www.chabadelpaso.com/chanukah

Levi Greenberg es rabino asociado en Chabad Lubavitch

@RabbiLeviELP

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