Spiritual Strength

A person must seek out a spiritual livelihood with all the intensity of his strength, just as he seeks a material livelihood…
–Hayom Yom, Cheshvan 14.

We all sometimes suffer from a lack of emunah. I, myself, have had days or weeks, even recently, where I struggle to find a connection. Over the past month or so this hasn’t been an issue for me but I have watched and tried to help others as they have suffered from losing their faith. As I watch someone moving from one community to another, and telling me that they want to leave Judaism, I see myself. I see myself studying and reading and crying and struggling.

And I realise that G-d gave me these struggles for a reason. So I could help others.

I firmly believe that I was put on this earth to spread light of Torah and love among Jews. Love and understanding lie at the heart of my role here. And when G-d gives me challenges and I have hard times, I am supposed to use this experience to transform another person’s life. Next time I’m struggling, I will rise above the challenge and turn to G-d. I will overcome it, for I realise it is not a defining part of me. And all the while I will use these lessons to spread ahavos Yisroel.

The Rebbe I Never Met

On Gimmel Tammuz, I don’t mourn the Rebbe. I’ve watched as others have written of their emptiness, and listened as they tell me of the sadness they feel on the day when they lost their Rebbe. But I don’t think of this day in terms of loss. I don’t mourn, at least not in the way others do. Instead, I think of what I’ve gained from the spiritual giant we call the Rebbe.

I never met the Rebbe; never stood in line to receive a dollar, never had an audience with him, and never went to one of his gatherings. Physically, I never encountered him. But what is the physical world, after all? The Chassidus teaches us that corporeality is merely a guise; something which has relatively little to do with the true nature of our existence. We utilise this world, but tzaddikim transcend the barriers of physicality.

The Rebbe’s memory is still alive, and as I never knew his physical self, I have not lost anything other than an opportunity I can’t begin to dwell on. Instead, I have only ever gained from him. How can we say the Rebbe is dead when his spirit and legacy live on? How can I claim that this man didn’t change my life, even though I never met him in the way one meets a rabbi or friend?

The Rebbe started a revolution- a Torah revolution which touched every Jew. Even those of future generations. Even myself. From a completely non religious background, it was through the Rebbe’s shluchim that I found beauty and harmony in Judaism when my own life knew no such thing. Through the teachings of the Rebbe I found the inspiration to write, to study and to teach, when previously, I had no motivation even to go about my daily activities. And in his legacy I found a home where previously I had none.

Today, I think back on all the Rebbe did, but I also look at the present and I see that much of my life stems from the Rebbe’s influence and all he did. And I look to the future and see the continuation of his legacy, through the shluchim who work to spread Torah and light, and through the arrival of Moshiach- brought on, as the Rebbe famously declared, by just one good deed. May we soon merit to witness this, speedily and in our days.


The Ohel

Beginning tonight, we commemorate the yahrzeis of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, and remember the day on which he left this world. His departure undeniably left a gap, but on the anniversary of his death, we do not mourn in the traditional sense. We remember him, we turn to his teachings, and we continue his legacy. At this time, I would like to remind everyone to take advantage of an amazing resource, and write to his resting place- the Ohel.

Many times, I have been in difficult situations where I feel helpless. I have davened and cried out to G-d, but it’s as if my prayers fall on deaf ears. I know, in retrospect, that they don’t, but in times where I feel terrifyingly alone, I usually turn to the Ohel as a last resort. I put pen to paper- or finger to keyboard- and I write a letter, send it on its way, and usually forget about it for a day or two.

Then something always happens. Something unexplainable. Miraculous, even. Who can say for sure, but it feels as if the Rebbe has intervened on my behalf. As we approach his yahrzeis, let’s take advantage of the power of tefilla, and the power of the tzaddikim, and write a letter. Pour out our hearts. Discuss our concerns. And beg for Moshiach to come, speedily and in our days iyH!


Gut Chodesh!

Today is the second day of Rosh Chodesh, when we celebrate the beginning of a new month. It’s the start of Tammuz, a month which begins with the yahrzeis of the Rebbe on Tammuz 3, and concludes with a period of mourning known as the Three Weeks. In Jewish history, it is not a positive month, as we remember the invasion and destruction of Yerushalayim- but the message of Gimmel Tammuz is one which helps us transform darkness into light.

Throughout his life, the Rebbe worked to spread light. He built bridges, he established Jewish communities, and he provided chizuk to those who needed it desperately. Physically, the Rebbe is no longer with us. But he lives on through his legacy and spirit.

This Gimmel Tammuz, let’s all take a moment to dwell on the impact which the Rebbe had on the world. And then, let’s all incorporate his teachings into our day, and perform just one of the many mitzvos of which he fostered observance. Do one good deed; give one extra coin to charity; help one person. And may we then merit to see the arrival of Moshiach, speedily and in our days.

Gut Shabbes! (Korach)

This Shabbes, we read the Sedra named after Korach, the rebellious Israelite who sparked a mass rebellion. In light of Korach’s actions, which caused division and heartbreak, we need to look at Moshe Rabbenu’s reaction. Just like the Rebbe, who was the focus of my dvar Torah this week, Moshe sought to create unity where there was none. And that spark of Moshe Rabbenu lives on in each of us.

This Shabbes, utilise that spark. Bring people together. Host someone for a meal or two, invite people to your house, or simply strike up a conversation with someone at the kiddush on Shabbes morning. Our actions carry and immense amount of power- the power of unity. Let’s build bridges between all of klal Yisroel, and, through our unity and mitzvos, hasten the arrival of Moshiach, speedily and in our days iyH!

In London, Shabbes candles should be lit at 9:04 PM today, and Shabbes ends at 10:36 PM tomorrow. When lighting your candles, please keep in mind Chaim Elozor ben Baila, Moshe ben Hadasa, Moshe ben Genya, Chashachana bas Bryna and Shai bas Odeya. Thank you, and gut Shabbes!

Parshas Korach: Division and Rebellion

In this week’s Sedra, Korach starts a rebellion against Moshe Rabbenu, and, joined by over 250 others, insists that the priesthood belongs not only to Aharon but to them, also, stating that ‘the entire community is Holy’. Moshe Rabbenu is horrified by this display of division, and challenges them to offer ketoret (incense) to G-d, along with Aharon, saying that G-d will accept the incense from the one he has chosen. Aharon’s ketoret stops the plague which has engulfed the Israelites, as a result of their disobedience, and yet he is required to prove his status once again, and does so through the blossoming of his staff. The Parsha concludes with G-d commanding the terumah offering and the giving of gifts to the kohanim.

Korach was attempting to start a revolution. In his eyes, and the eyes of his followers, he was a revolutionary; a freedom fighter. On Tuesday, we mark the yahrzeis of a very different kind of revolutionary: the Rebbe. Both Korach and the Rebbe wanted to change the way the world worked. They both had visions of how things should be, and they both tried their utmost to implement these visions. So how come Korach ended up causing a terrible uprising and a deadly plague while the Rebbe sparked a Torah revolution which engulfed world Jewry and influenced the lives of millions of people around the world?

There’s one word which lies at the heart of this massive difference. And that word is division. Korach tried to push people apart. Rather than playing on the Israelites’ strength as one nation, the nation of the chosen people, he attempted to split them up, and start his own following which aimed to remove Moshe Rabbenu and Aharon. His followers became violent and angry and tore away from Moshe’s leadership, splitting the strong nation into warring tribes.

Meanwhile, the Rebbe did the exact opposite. Where Korach pushed people apart, he pulled them together. He attempted to unite all the world’s Yidden, through tefillin and Shabbes candle campaigns, and encouraged the institution of Chabad houses in places where there was no thriving Jewish community. Through reaching out and building bridges, he brought together people from all walks of life- from Chareidim to totally non-observant Jews, and everyone in between, even including non-Jews, who he reached out to with the campaign for spreading the Noahide laws.

The moral of the story? Build bridges, don’t burn them. Reach out, don’t pull away. And above all, look upon your fellow Jew with the love he deserves, and spread the light of acceptance to defeat the darkness of division.

This dvar Torah is dedicated to the memory of the Lubavitcher Rebbe zt”l, in anticipation of his 23rd Yahrzeis, and to all the Chabad shluchim around the world who work tirelessly to spread the light of Torah.

Turn to G-d

Rabbi Meir taught us, “When man is bound up above, he does not fall down below”.

When we focus on G-d and His Torah- the ‘up above’- we begin to realise the fleeting nature of the corporeal world. This doesn’t make us immune to day to day trials and tribulations; but when we experience knocks and blows, we don’t fall down. We remain standing; battered, possibly, but strong. Because at the end of the day, we know that we can put our trust in Hashem.

Being bound up above doesn’t equal an easy life. But it does help us to deal with the problems we encounter. We turn to Torah study; we turn to davening; we turn to G-d Himself. It doesn’t take much to achieve this. Just faith. Put your faith in G-d, turn to Him in times of trouble, and even when you slip, you wont fall.