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Rabbis' Blog

Judaism Does Not Forget About You

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Several years ago, a young Jewish man from a remote town in Alaska moved to El Paso for personal and economic reasons. He contacted Chabad and was graciously invited to join my parents for Shabbat dinner. At one point during the meal, my father mentioned that he had recently spoken with his brother, Rabbi Yosef Greenberg, the Chabad Rabbi in Anchorage, Alaska. He remembers that this young man celebrated his Bar Mitzvah at the Chabad Center in Anchorage with an informal ceremony.

The young man admitted that he remembered doing something for his thirteenth birthday but that he could not recall the details of the ceremony let alone the name of the officiating Rabbi. My father smiled and said, “You might forget about Judaism, but Judaism does not forget about you.”

It turned out that a few months later he experienced a serious medical emergency here in town and only due to Chabad’s services did he receive the necessary treatment in time to save his life.

In this week’s parsha, Korach, the intelligent, wealthy and powerful cousin of Moses expressed frustration at the lofty elevated status of Moses’ leadership. “The entire nation is holy,” he argued. “Why is Moses so unique?” He felt that although Moses surely surpassed him in academics, piety and humility, they were surely within comparable levels and therefore should share the leadership of the masses.

Korach’s approach to leadership was fundamentally flawed. He thought that those on the higher end of the ladder received leadership positions by default. Torah has a different metric system for this.

Moses was chosen to be the leader of G-d's people after he demonstrated an extraordinary characteristic while tending Jethro’s flock. As a shepherd, he was dedicated to the welfare of the sheep, ensuring each one grazed in pastures best suited for their needs. But that was not enough.

Once, a tiny sheep strayed away from the flock and ran off into the wilderness. Moses ran after the little creature and returned it to the flock. No sheep was dispensable. This episode convinced G-d of his ability to lead the Jewish nation.

True Jewish leadership means to assume personal responsibility for every individual Jew. This is a position of soulful commitment not a political office acquired through elections or political intrigue.

In our time, the Rebbe assumed this responsibility for every individual Jew. The enormous empire of Chabad emissaries in every corner of the globe is the result of the Rebbe’s personal commitment to ensure that not a single Jew be forgotten to Judaism.

As we observe the Rebbe’s Yartzeit on the Third of Tammuz - Tuesday, June 27, reflect on how you can participate in the Rebbe’s mission to connect every Jew to G-d. Be inspired by the Rebbe’s message and encourage a fellow Jew to observe another mitzvah. Share the beauty of Torah with someone who knows less.

When we gather the entire Jewish family together, we will merit the arrival of Moshiach who will herald in an era of true peace and tranquility for all.

Good Shabbos,

Rabbi Levi Greenberg

Please click here for more information about the Third of Tammuz.

Please click here to learn more about the Rebbe.

Permanent Stopovers

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Travelling is a part of life. For some it is a pleasure, for others it is a bother. No matter the reason you travel it is best to arrange your itinerary in the most practical, efficient and convenient way.

For the first forty years of our nation’s existence, we were in constant travel mode. The Torah in this week’s parsha Beha’alosecha describes the procedure followed by the Israelites throughout their journey to the Promised Land. The divine cloud that hovered over the Tabernacle would ascend, indicating that it was time to travel forward to the next destination.

While the Israelites packed their tents, the Levites hurriedly dismantled the Tabernacle and loaded its various parts onto their designated wagons. A trumpet blast signaled the beginning of the journey and the entire camp of several million strong marched forward. When the cloud stopped, the Levites reconstructed the Tabernacle under it and the Israelites camped around it in the designated pattern.

There was no set schedule as to how long they would camp in a specific area. At times, they were stationary for years and sometimes the cloud signaled a new journey after only one night! Regardless, the Tabernacle was fully constructed at every single stop. As the Torah reiterates several times “At G-d’s bidding they encamped, at G-d’s bidding they travelled.”

Is it fair to demand such a labor-intensive activity as constructing the Tabernacle for a rest stop of several hours?

When you follow a map to get from point A to point B every stop on the way is a means to an end. But when you follow a divine GPS, every stop is a destination. G-d transcends time and fulfilling His will is enshrined in eternity. A stopover of several hours is as consequential and important as a 12-year encampment. Therefore, the Tabernacle was fully assembled every time.

Life is a divine journey. Wherever you may be there is a something special you need to accomplish. When you are travelling or moving around searching the right place to live, every stop is important no matter how long you are there.

View it as home. Find a synagogue and join them for services. Bring along your Tefillin and pray every day. Keep kosher as if you were in your kitchen and celebrate Shabbos just as you would at your dining room table.

Because wherever you may be, G-d has something special in mind for you.

Less is the New More

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In our desert region, we have limited water resources. One year of drought can have major repercussions to our water supply and there are good people working around the clock to find solutions. Recently the El Paso Water Utilities was running ads with the slogan “Less is the New More.” The message is simple, stop wasting water and help preserve what we have. When we are economical with our supplies, we discover that our quality of life is not affected by using less.

This positive perspective is rooted in the Torah from an unexpected source.

In this week’s parsha Nasso we learn of the inauguration of the Mishkan, the Tabernacle in the desert. This beautiful structure accompanied the Israelites throughout the rest of their 40-year sojourn in the desert and therefore designed to be mobile. The Levites were charged with the mission of transporting the enormous edifice and they were in need of “moving trucks” to get the job done.

The leaders of the twelve tribes donated six wagons and twelve oxen to the Mishkan as an inauguration gift, and they were assigned to the Levites as “moving trucks”. The family of Gershon, responsible for transporting the tapestries, received two wagons and the family of Merari, responsible for transporting the boards, the columns and the sockets, received four wagons.

Now, taking into account the sheer weight, size and amount of boards, columns and sockets the Merarites needed to transport, four wagons were terribly inadequate to get the job done. Loading and balancing such a heavy burden on those wagons during the journeys was extremely difficult and nerve wracking. Why were they not provided more wagons in accordance with their needs? Money was not an issue!

As it turns out, the Merarites managed to transport their load for 39 years. Despite the fact that it was inconvenient and difficult, four wagons proved to be sufficient. This teaches us that every resource in this world needs to be used to its fullest potential – even if it demands excruciating labor on our part!

This powerful lesson applies to all areas of life. Every minute needs to be utilized to the fullest, no matter how exhausting this maybe. Every penny can create a better world and every interaction should serve a higher purpose. Living life with such focus is difficult but G-d did not create anything extra.

Our greatest gift is the ability to extract the fullest potential out of everything we have.

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