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Rabbis' Blog

The Joyous Divorce

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Today is Lag B’Omer! Jews are accustomed to celebrating important miraculous events in our history. Lag B’Omer is unique in the fact that we celebrate the Yartzeit (anniversary of passing) of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai – the great Talmudic sage and author of the Zohar. For centuries, Jews would make the pilgrimage to his grave in Miron, Israel to celebrate with bonfires, music, dancing - expressions of unbridled joy. These celebrations are customary throughout the diaspora as well.

On the surface it may seem odd to commemorate the passing of one of our great leaders with joyous pomp and ceremony. I’d like to share a story of Rabbi Shimon that may clarify this oddity.

After ten years of childlessness, a couple decided it would be prudent for them to divorce. Although they were happily married, they both wished to have children and figured that this blessing was not destined for them as a couple. They approached Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai to arrange a get (Jewish divorce).

Hearing their story, the Rabbi advised them that just as their marriage was celebrated with a joyous banquet – the divorce should be celebrated in kind. After the party they can return to him and he will arrange the divorce. Heeding the Rabbi’s advice, they invited the entire town to a lavish feast. During the meal, the husband had his full share of wine and lovingly called to his wife: “You may take the most precious valuables of my home with you as you return to your parent’s home.” After a short while he drifted off to sleep.

The wife indicated to her servants to lift her husband and carry him to her father’s home for the night. The next morning when he awoke, he was surprised to find himself in his soon to be ex-father-in-law’s home. “Why am I here?” he asked. “You offered that I should take the most precious valuables with me from the marriage. You are most precious to me,” she replied.

When Rabbi Shimon heard of this turn of events he immediately prayed on their behalf and blessed them with many happy and healthy years of continued marriage. Within the year, they were blessed with a child.

Why did Rabbi Shimon not pray for the couple when they initially approached him? Why did he advise them to celebrate their upcoming divorce?

Rabbi Shimon’s advice guided the couple in realizing that the unfortunate cause for the dissolution of their marriage was divine and therefore worthy of celebration. After they demonstrated that they had accepted the reality of childlessness out of love and joy – he felt they were worthy of miraculous intervention.

As the author of the Zohar, Rabbi Shimon’s unique contribution to Torah scholarship was the study of the inner dimension of the Torah. This allows us to appreciate the inner dimension of our lives and to understand that everything that occurs is for the best. We need to condition ourselves to accept it all with joy.

Therefore, on the day of his passing he promised to bless all that will celebrate this day in the spirit of his teachings – with unbridled joy.

I invite you to join us in celebrating Lag B’Omer at the Community BBQ, Thursday, May 26 at 5:30pm.

Best wishes for a joyous Lag B’Omer!

Our Trip to Ruidoso


In 1942, the Rebbe published a calendar (entitled Hayom Yom) with a Chasidic message for each day. It is my custom to study these short and powerful messages every day. Last Friday I read the following message: A soul can descend into This World and live its seventy or eighty years - in order to do a favor for a fellow Jew in material matters, and how much more so, in spiritual matters.

This amazing concept can be applied within the context of daily life: Sometimes the purpose of an entire trip, enterprise or career choice may be in order to have a positive effect on one single person.

Earlier this week, Chani and I took a short trip to Cloud Croft and Ruidoso. During the ride we lost our way and decided to check out a housing complex we had noticed. In the main office I met another traveler from Albuquerque and during our conversation I discovered that he has family in El Paso. Surprisingly, we are acquainted with his family here in town and he is Jewish! What were the odds that our wrong turn would lead to this meeting with a fellow Jew I had never met before? I realized that this was not simply a chance encounter and something positive should result from it.

I asked my new friend if I may suggest that he do a mitzvah. Slightly taken aback, he asked me what I had in mind. “Have you had the chance to wrap Tefillin today?” I asked. Although he had celebrated his Bar Mitzvah and had observed others wearing Tefillin in Israel, he had never wrapped Tefillin in his life and was willing to do so with my assistance.

After he donned the Tefillin we recited the Shema together and he was glad to have had the opportunity to experience the mitzvah. Mazel Tov!

I am confident that the purpose of our entire trip was fulfilled in those five minutes.

This is the true meaning of Tikkun Olam. Everyone is a messenger from G-d to help another. We need to seize the opportunities that present themselves at every turn and use them to share the message of Judaism to all. It may be participating in a Torah class and encouraging a friend to join, or starting a trend in our social circle to observe a certain mitzvah - we start a ripple effect that continues forever.

By sharing one mitzvah at a time we will illuminate our world for the better.

Being Holy

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A Jew once wanted to safeguard a $100 bill. He read in the Torah a verse in this week’s parsha of Kedoshim (Leviticus 19:11) “You must not steal.” Confidant that one would never violate this commandment seconds after reading it in the Torah, he placed the money on that page for safekeeping. The village thief happened to be perusing through the holy book and came across the bill and the dire warning. In a quandary he continued reading until he reached the verse (Leviticus 19:18) “Love your fellow as yourself.” Eager to help the anonymous owner with fulfilling the important mitzvah of sharing with another, he pocketed the $100 bill and placed a $50 bill on the page.

Last week, we hosted an event in honor of the Chabad Pillars of 2015. The community expressed appreciation to those individuals that have made a financial commitment, above a specific threshold, in supporting the work of Chabad.

The parsha opens with the statement “Kedoshim Tihyu” – Be holy because I (G-d) am holy. Not to be confused with spirituality, holiness denotes transcendence within reality. One striving to be spiritual would typically be isolated from society and desist from caring about normal human needs. Holiness, on the other hand, is achieved through elevating the mundane to fulfill a loftier purpose and role. Torah study and mitzvah observance empower us to accomplish this feat.

The Torah illuminates our path as we maneuver our way through life allowing us to elevate the food we eat, the clothing we wear, the hobbies we enjoy – just about everything! Setting aside 10% of our earnings to charity elevates our entire business. Reciting a blessing before and after we eat transforms a routine meal into a divine service. Living according to the will of G-d – the ultimate of holiness and transcendence – makes us holy as well.

Last week we celebrated the holiness accomplished by Tzedaka and Hakarat Hatov – expressing due appreciation – in order to introduce more holiness in our community and beyond. Let us keep the momentum going strong by increasing our Torah study and Mitzvah observance, thereby transforming our world to be a better and holier place for all.


The Hallmark of a Jewish Home

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This week I was visiting a Jewish home in town and offered to check the Mezuzah to ensure it met the requirements of Jewish law. To our amazement, we found a printed piece of paper with one line of the Shema printed on the top. Rabbi Levi discovered a Mezuzah on someone’s door that contained nothing in it at all. Both were replaced with kosher mezuzah’s – to the joy of the respective owners.

Over 2,000 years ago there lived a unique pair of friends. Rabbi Judah the Prince and the Roman Emperor Antoninus were extremely close and they would spend much time in philosophical discussion. Once, Antoninus sent the Rabbi a very valuable and expensive gift. To his puzzlement the Rabbi reciprocated by presenting him a mezuzah scroll. “Your gift I need to guard – my gift will protect you,” the Rabbi explained.

The mitzvah of mezuzah serves two purposes. It is strategically placed on every doorpost of the home as a constant reminder that G-d is the creator of all, our commitment to Torah study and mitzvah observance and that we should be grateful for our many blessings. It bears testimony to the fact that G-d’s will defines the lifestyle of the home’s inhabitants.

Additionally, it serves as divine protection for the inhabitants all the time. Inscribed on the mezuzah scroll is one of G-d’s names, spelled with three letters – an acronym of the words “Shomer Daltot Yisrael” – Guardian of the Doors of Israel.

For the Mezuzah to serve its purpose it must fit certain criteria. Contrary to common belief, the case is of little consequence. The scroll is the main player here. It must be produced by a trained and expert scribe according to Jewish law dating back to Sinai. Due to the nature of this scroll it is possible for letters to fade or crack and should be routinely checked by a competent scribe as well. Proper placement on the doorpost is also crucial.

We are committed to helping you observe this beautiful mitzvah properly. If you would like to buy new mezuzahs for your home, check your old ones or simply want to be sure that they are properly mounted - please do not hesitate to call upon us to do a home visit free of charge. It will be our pleasure!

Click here to learn more about mezuzah.

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