Gut Shabbes! (Terumah)

Today is the first day of Adar. Adar is the month in which we celebrate the joyous festival of Purim, and in fact, the whole of Adar is known as a month of rejoicing and gladness, marked by good fortune for the Jewish people. But that’s not all.

The word Adar is related to the word Adir, which refers to strength and power. Adir, which is used to describe the Jewish people, is connected to the spiritual strength within each of us, to do mitzvos and spread light. This month, as we celebrate the joy of Adar, let’s not forget the power we have inside us, to strengthen our observance and performance of good deeds.

In London, Shabbes candles should be lit at 4:59 PM tonight, and Shabbes goes out at 6:10 PM tomorrow. When lighting your candles, please keep in mind Chaim Elozor ben Baila, Shmuel Yosef ben Soroh Malka, Moshe ben Soroh Malka, Moshe Ben Genya, Moshe ben Hadasa, Chashachana bas Bryna and Golda Shira bas Yenta Ruchel. Thank you, and gut Shabbes!

Gut Shabbes! (Mishpotim)

In this week’s Parsha, we learn about lending money. Not only are we obligated to lend money to someone in need of a loan, but it is in fact considered a form of tzedekah. Donating money to someone, enabling them to get through the day and put food on the table is a huge mitzvah; but enabling them to help themself is even more important. This is where loans come in; although it may be easier to drop coins in a box, or give a one-time monetary gift, a loan allows someone to change their life independently, and hopefully end up in a position where they can repay you, as opposed to feeling dependant on the gifts and whims of others.

The Parsha reminds us not to ‘act as a creditor’ towards people who owe us money; no matter how much we want our money back, we can’t harass the person we loaned money to. The whole point of granting a loan is to help others, and not to help ourselves benefit financially. For this reason, charging interest is forbidden. This mindset doesn’t just apply to loans. It should apply to all the acts of kindness we do in our lives. We shouldn’t help others expecting something in return, whether it’s money, power or their gratitude. Instead, we should remember the laws of giving loans, and give with the aim of empowering others and pleasing G-d. After all, when we make G-d’s creations happy, we make Him happy too…

In London, Shabbes candles should be lit at 4:46 PM tonight, and Shabbes goes out at 5:58 PM tomorrow. When lighting your candles, please keep in mind Chaim Elozor ben Baila, Moshe ben Genya, Moshe ben Hadasa, Moshe ben Soroh Malka, Shmuel Yosef ben Soroh Malka, Chashachana bas Bryna and Chaya bas Perrel. Thank you, and gut Shabbes!

Gut Shabbes! (Yisro)

In Parshas Yisro, we read about Moshe Rabbenu’s father-in-law, Yisro. Up until now, Moshe Rabbenu had dealt with all of the disputes and legal cases which the Israelites sought advice on- despite the fact that there were several million of them. Needless to say, this consumed almost the entirety of his time, and he spent most of the day standing, listening to quarrels and arguments and questions. Moshe Rabbenu loved his people- but his father-in-law knew that this had to stop.

And so, he told Moshe to appoint judges and councillors over the people- wise men who would judge these cases, and if they couldn’t solve a dilemma, only then would it be brought to Moshe Rabbenu. The message was quite simple: you shouldn’t face life alone. We know this from the Creation story itself, and the oft-repeated phrase, “man was not made to be alone”. Part of the reason why there is so much emphasis on marriage in the Jewish world is because we believe that G-d intended for people to face the troubles and the triumphs of life with a partner; someone who truly cares.

A couple of years ago, I heard a beautiful sermon which has stayed in my mind ever since. Quite often, we hear difficult relationships described as being like a rollercoaster. But in fact, life is a rollercoaster, and that isn’t meant in a negative way; essentially, just like a rollercoaster moving along a track, life has both exhilarating highs and terrifying pitfalls. And if you’re on a rollercoaster alone, those pitfalls can be very scary; but if you’re with someone else, someone who you love, then not only are the highs that much more joyous, but you have someone to depend on when the rollercoaster shoots downwards.

Life truly is a rollercoaster- and may we all merit to find that special someone who makes the journey so much more beautiful.

In London, Shabbes candles should be lit at 4:34 PM tonight, and Shabbes goes out at 5:46 PM tomorrow. When lighting your candles, please keep in mind Chaim Elozor ben Baila, Shmuel Yosef ben Soroh Malka, Moshe ben Soroh Malka, Moshe ben Genya, Moshe ben Hadasa, Chashachana bas Bryna and Chaya bas Perrel. Thank you, and gut Shabbes!

Tikkun Olam and Tu B’Shevat

Today is Tu b’Shevat- Rosh Hashono for trees- a day on which we remember the intrinsic importance of nature in Jewish teachings. Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai famously taught that “If you have a sapling in your hand and someone tells you Moshiach has arrived, first plant the sapling and then go out to welcome Moshiach”- a statement which reminds us just how important it is to look after the world we live in.

In honour of this day, I’d like to share the following words, courtesy of Chief Rabbi Mirvis.

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Gut Shabbes! (Beshaloch)

Today is Yud Shevat, perhaps the most important day on the Chassidic calendar. It is the yahrzeis of the Previous Rebbe, and also the anniversary of the beginning of the Rebbe’s leadership, exactly one year after his father in law passed away. I’ve always felt somewhat conflicted about the nature of Yud Shevat. On the one hand, I felt a sense of sadness regarding the passing of the Previous Rebbe, but on the other hand, the Rebbe’s leadership brought the promise of new horizons and a new hope.

Of course, the only way to tackle the darkness which increases in the world when a tzaddik passes away is to combat it with hope and light, which was essentially the lifelong mission of the Rebbe. And on this day we should think about what we, too, can do to change lives and spread light. It doesn’t have to be a big gesture; simply lighting Shabbes candles, or inviting someone for a meal, can change the world and even bring Moshiach. The power is in your hands to transform your life and the lives of those around you; let us continue the Rebbe’s legacy by using that power for good.

This week, Shabbes candles should be lit at 4:21 PM in London, and Shabbes goes out at 5:35 PM tomorrow. When lighting your candles, please keep in mind Chaim Elozor ben Baila, Shmuel Yossef ben Soroh Malka, Moshe ben Soroh Malka, Moshe ben Genya, Moshe ben Hadasa, Chashachana bas Bryna and Chaya bas Perrel for a refuah shleimah. Thank you, and gut Shabbes!

The Queen

Darkness falls
It’s Friday night
I can almost see
The Shabbes Queen.
The flickering candles
The murmur of prayer
The rustle of velvet and silk.
Salt on the chollah
A blessing said aloud
And joy all around me
Dancing and singing –
Come, greet the Queen-
Come with me,
My beloved friend-
I call but nobody answers.
Every week
I say the same words
Please G-d, this week,
Let my dreams come true.
Please G-d, this week
Let me greet the Queen
In joy and peace
Good health and happiness
And not alone.

Gut Shabbes! (Bo)

In this week’s Parsha, Bo, Pharaoh continually hardens his heart against the people of Israel, and refuses to let them leave Mitzrayim. Moshe Rabbenu feels distressed and let down by Pharaoh’s behaviour, as it represented the sheer determination and resolution of the forces of evil. Upon seeing Moshe’s distraught reaction to this evil, G‑d said to him, “They, on their own, do not possess such power. It is only because I have hardened their hearts”.

When we come up against challenges in our life, the world can seem unfair and hard-hearted. But Judaism makes no attempt to pretend that these difficult times are caused by some evil force- some scapegoat we can blame everything on. Instead, we are reminded in this week’s Parsha that stumbling blocks and challenges come from G-d, too, and that we must work through them with persistence, courage and emunah.

Shabbes candles should be lit at 4:09 PM in London, and Shabbes goes out at 5:24 PM tomorrow. When lighting your candles, please keep in mind Chaim Elozor ben Baila, Shmuel Yosef ben Soroh Malka, Moshe ben Soroh Malka, Moshe ben Genya, Moshe ben Hadasa and Chashachana bas Bryna for a refuah shleimah. Thank you, and gut Shabbes!

Gut Shabbes! (Va’eiro)

Yesterday, I wrote about an insight of the Rebbe’s, which explains the miracle of the staff. When Aharon’s staff swallowed the Egyptian serpents, it did so in the form of a staff- not as another serpent. The Rebbe teaches us that this reflects our nature and role in life; we are not warriors, and when we are forced to fight back, we do so without bitterness and vengeance.

Today, I read another chiddush of the Rebbe’s, about the ‘self-sacrifice’ we read about later on in the Parsha. The Rebbe explains that true mesirut nefesh is not to die as a Jew. In many religions, martyrdom is a major part of the faith, but in Judaism, the challenge is to live as a Jew. True, throughout our history we have been persecuted, attacked, and killed, but our duty of self sacrifice comes not in dying but in living. This, in many ways, complements the message I shared yesterday; we are not warriors, we are survivors.

This week, Shabbes candles should be lit at 3:58 PM in London, and Shabbes ends tomorrow at 5:14. When lighting your candles, please keep in mind Chaim Elozor ben Baila, Shmuel Yosef ben Soroh Malka, Moshe ben Soroh Malka, Moshe ben Genya, Moshe ben Hadasa and Chashachana bas Bryna. Thank you, gut Shabbes, and gut Choydesh!

Gut Shabbes! (Shemos)

One of my favourite quotes ever goes something like, “The bravest thing I ever did was carry on living when I wanted to give up”. It’s a sentiment I can relate to on both a personal and a spiritual level- it applies not only to my whole life but also to my Jewish journey. For me, Shabbes was always the hardest mitzvah. It seems restrictive. In today’s world, turning on a light is a convenience, not work, says a voice in my head. Why does it matter if you flip a light switch, or tear a packet?

But the biggest challenge is when you’re alone, spending Shabbes with a family directly opposed to your frumkeit, or in a shul where you’re treated like an outsider, and you go home to stare at the four walls of your house and count the minutes until Shabbes goes out. It’s isolating, painful, heartbreaking even. I know quite a few people in this situation, whom I do my utmost to help. Having been there myself, I try to offer them both physical and emotional support. This week, as I kindle the Shabbes lights and remember those who are ill, I also remember those who are spending the Holy day all alone…

This week, Shabbes candles should be lit at 3:49 in London, and Shabbes ends tomorrow at 5:06 PM. When lighting your candles, please keep in mind Chaim Elozor ben Baila, Shmuel Yosef ben Soroh Malka, Moshe ben Hadasa, Moshe ben Genya, Chashachana bas Bryna and Rivka Miriam bas Tsivia Bina. Thank you, and gut Shabbes!

Gut Shabbes! (Vayechi)

This week’s Parsha, Vayechi, tells us about the deaths of Yaakov Avinu and his son, Yosef- two of the most inspiring and well-known men in the Torah. Their deaths both take place within the space of one Sedra, and to the casual observer, this would seem shocking- tragic, even. And yet Rabbi Nachman tells us, “Yaakov Avinu did not die”.

This line, delivered to Rabbi Yitzchok, is derived from the Torah itself. The text avoids using the word “vayamas” (he died), instead employing a series of euphemistic synonyms. Even if, physically, his body passed away, his spirit never died- indeed, the life of a tzaddik such as Yaakov is entirely spiritual, meaning that technically, he never “died” as such. Instead, he lives on through his descendants: you and I. Every single one of us is a descendent of Yaakov, and through our strength, courage, Torah study, and performance of mitzvos, we allow his spirit to live on.

This week, Shabbes candles should be lit at 3:41 PM in London, and Shabbes goes out at 4:58 PM tomorrow. While lighting your candles, please keep in mind Chaim Elozor ben Baila, Moshe ben Genya, Moshe ben Hadasa, Shmuel Yosef ben Soroh Malka, Chashachana bas Bryna and Chaya bas Perel. Thank you, and gut Shabbes!