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From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Shlach

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Dear Friends, 

We are pleased to send you this edition of Here’s My Story

Mr. Meir Moss is a businessman who lives in Sydney, Australia. He was interviewed in August of 2016.

Click 
here for the story.

Have a beautiful Shabbos.

Warmly,
Rabbi Levitin 

 

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Behaalotecha

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Dear Friends, 
We are pleased to send you this week’s edition of Here’s My Story
Rabbi Joseph Karasick, who served as president of the Orthodox Union from 1966 to 1972 and chairman of its board of directors from 1972 to 1978, is the author of the memoir, Thirteen Steps. He was interviewed in January of 2016.

Click
 here for the story.

Have a beautiful Shabbos.

Warmly,
Rabbi Levitin 

 

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Nasso

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Dear Friends, 

We are pleased to send you this week’s edition of Here’s My Story

Dr. David W. Weiss, of blessed memory, is a scientist who moved to Israel in 1966. He was interviewed in his home in Jerusalem in September of 2015. A very powerful interview. 

Click 
 here  for the story.

Have a beautiful Shabbos.

Warmly,

Rabbi Levitin 

Farbrengen with the Rebbe

Dear Friends,

As we prepare ourselves for this Holy Shabbos, Parsha Bamidbar (May 19), followed by the Yom Tov of Shavous - Zman Matan Torasenu (the time of the giving of the Torah) Sunday and Monday, May 20-21, I'd like to share with you a section of a farbrengen given by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, OBM. The Rebbe is speaking in Yiddish with translated English captions. Please, click on the image below to see the video.

Pre-Shavuot Farbrengen with the Rebbe, OBM

An hour-long excerpt from a 1982 farbrengen

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Each year, the Rebbe would hold a Farbrengen the night before Shavuot, often touching on topics from Tractate Sotah, which is customarily studied during the Counting of the Omer period, as well as discussing the lessons of the approaching holiday.  

Tractate Sotah in the Babylonian Talmud concludes with a surprising statement of Rabbi Yosef. In the Jerusalem Talmud the tractate concludes with a story featuring Hillel, Shmuel the Small, and Rabbi Eliezer the Great.  

In this pre-Shavuot Farbrengen, the Rebbe delivers a Hadran (studying the tractate’s conclusion); drawing on these colorful personalities to explain the hidden link that connects them, and the deeper lesson which their stories convey.  

  We urge everyone to attend services on Sunday, May 20th to hear the reading of the Ten Commandments.

www.chabadofseattle.org

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Behar-Bechukotai

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Dear Friends, 
We are pleased to send you this week’s edition of Here’s My Story
Mr. Peter Kalms is a businessman who has had many interactions with the Rebbe throughout the years. He was interviewed in his home on aMy Encounter trip to London, England, in August of 2007.

Click 
here for the story.

Have a beautiful Shabbos.

Warmly,
Rabbi Levitin 

"On The Run" - From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin

It was after the horrible destruction. The resistance had been fierce. There was dissention among the defenders. At the end, the second temple was destroyed and Jerusalem lay desolate. Among those who survived was the famous Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai, author of the HolyZohar (Sefer Tanya, Iggeres Ha Kodesh 143a), whose Yahrzeit is today, the 18th of Iyar, the 33rd day of the Omer, known as Lag B’omer.

Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai, also known as the Rashbi, was being pursued by the Roman authorities. A death warrant had been issued against him.

Talmud Shabbos 33b

“Upon hearing that a death sentence had been passed upon him, Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai and his son, Rabbi Elazar, ran away and hid in a study hall. Every day, Rabbi Shimon’s wife would bring them bread and small pitcher of water, and they would eat this to sustain themselves. When, however, the decree intensified. i.e. the Romans escalated their hunt for the fugitives….”

“They then went and hid themselves in a cave. Food was thus no longer brought to them, but a miracle happened and a carob tree and a spring of water were created for them, and they drew their sustenance from these sources…”

The Gemara recounts their daily routine in hiding: “They would shed their clothes, and would sit covered in sand up to their necks. All day long they would study together, and when the times for prayer arrived, they would dress, cover themselves, and pray. They would return and shed their clothes, immersing themselves in sand once again, so that their clothes would not wear out from prolonged use…”

The Gemara continues: “They dwelled secluded in the cave for twelve years.” (According to tradition, it was during his time in this cave that Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai composed the Holy Zohar.)

Exiting the Cave

“Elijah the prophet came and stood at the mouth of the cave, and he proclaimed: “Who will inform the son of Yochai that the Caesar has died, and that the decree has been annulled?” – Rabbi Yochai and his son heard this, and they emerged from the cave…”

As they ventured back to civilization, they saw some people who were plowing a field and sowing crops there. Angered by this, Rabbi Yochai declared: “These people are forsaking the pursuit of the Life of the World to come, and occupying themselves instead with the concerns of the transitory life!” – And there-after, everywhere Rabbi Yochai and his son would cast their gaze the object of their vision would immediately be incinerated.

Finally, a heavenly voice rang out and proclaimed to them: “Have you emerged from seclusion in order to destroy My world?” Return to your cave!”

“So, they returned to the cave…” They remained there for twelve additional months.

“A heavenly voice rang out and proclaimed: “Emerge from the cave!”

“They emerged from the cave, and again encountered people seeking their livelihood through ordinary means. This time though, everywhere Rabbi Elazar would destroy something through his fiery gaze, Rabbi Shimon, his father, would heal it…”

“Presently, Rabbi Shimon said to Rabbi Elazar: “My son, the world has enough total devotees of Torah study in you and me alone; we need not hold others to our standard of devotion and diligence.”

The Gemara continues: “As night began to fall late Friday afternoon, Rabbi Shimon and his son saw a certain old man who was clutching two bundles of myrtles, and was running home with them as twilight descended. They said to him: “The myrtle bundles; for what do you need them?” He answered them: “They are in honor of the Sabbath.”

Rabbi Shimon and his son questioned: “But could you not have sufficed with just one bundle?” He answered them: “One is forzachor, and one is for shamor.” [In the Ten Commandments, the almighty enjoined the Jewish people to remember (Zachor) and observe (Shamor) the Shabbos day]

Hearing this, Rabbi Shimon said to his son: “Look how cherished themitzvos are to the Jewish people; each nuance of the law they celebrate separately!” And they were appeased.”

“In The Beginning”

“In the beginning of G-d’s creating the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1/1)

Rashi: In “G-d’s creating” (this name of G-d, used in this first verse of the bible, represents G-d in his attribute of strict justice.) The name representing His attribute for mercy (Hashem) is not used here, because, “at first it rose in thought (i.e. G-d considered, so to speak) to create It (the world) with the attribute of strict judgement, but he saw that the world could not last if he did. He gave precedence to the attribute of mercy and joined it (fusion) to the attribute of strict judgement.”

RamBam, Hilchot De’ot, chapter 3, 1

“A person might say, “Since envy, desire, (the pursuit) of honor, and the like, are a wrong path and drive a person from the world, I shall separate from them to a very great degree and move away from them to the opposite extreme” For example, he will not eat meat, nor drink wine, nor live in a pleasant home, nor wear fine clothing, but, rather, wear sackcloth and coarse wool and the like…”

“This, too, is a bad path and it is forbidden to walk upon it. Whoever follows this path is called a sinner (as implied by Numbers 6:11’s) statement concerning a nazarite: “and he (the priest) shall make an atonement for him, for his having sinned because of the dead.” Our sages declared: how much more so does one who abstains from everything.”

Purpose of Creation

Maybe it’s just possible for us to suggest that Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai and his son, Rabbi Elazar achieved a level of spiritual elevation during “twelve years in the cave”, as the original plan of G-d in the process of creation through strict justice. But, the purpose of the creation for people like ourselves, as the RamBam describes above, is to engage the physical world, infuse, elevate, and ultimately to transform the mundane and make it an abode for the G-dly presence.

Have a Good Shabbos.
Warmly,
Rabbi S.B. Levitin

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Acharei-Kedoshim

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Dear Friends, 
We are pleased to send you this week’s edition of Here’s My Story
Mr. Alan Baker is an expert in international law and former Israeli ambassador to Canada. He is presently the director of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He was interviewed in July of 2010.

Click 
 here  for the story.

Have a beautiful Shabbos.
Warmly,
Rabbi Levitin 

 

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Tazria-Metzora

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Dear Friends, 
We are pleased to send you this week’s edition of Here’s My Story
Mrs. Reba Sharfstein and her late husband, Rabbi Zelig Sharfstein, served the Cincinnati Jewish community for over 50 years. She was interviewed in January of 2009. Click 
 here for the story.

Have a beautiful Shabbos.

Warmly,
Rabbi Levitin 

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Shemini

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Dear Friends, 

We are pleased to send you this week’s edition of Here’s My Story

Mr. Hirschel Pekkar works as a silversmith in Brooklyn, New York, where he was interviewed in 2012.

Click 
 here for the story.

Have a beautiful Shabbos.

Warmly,

Rabbi Levitin 

A Passover Message | True Freedom

A Passover Message adopted from a letter by the Holy Rebbe (Rabbi Menachem Schneerson), OBM, from 11th of Nissan 5722 (April 15, 1962). 

The Festival of Pesach, the Season of our Liberation, being a part of Torah, "Torah" in the sense of instruction and guidance, teaches us the true concept of freedom.
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Unlike other, often strange, interpretations of this concept, the Festival of Pesach reminds and teaches us that true freedom means total freedom; that is, full and complete freedom in all three aspects which constitute human life: (a) the realm of the soul, (b) the realm of the body, and (c) the surrounding world in which the individual lives — in each of the three areas individually, and in all of them together.

This means that a Jew must strive for true freedom in all of the said three aspects of his daily life, and in such a way that not only would they not be in conflict with one another, but, on the contrary, one would supplement and complete the other. Only this kind of freedom may be called true freedom.

It is self-evident that the said harmonious and total freedom cannot be achieved in a way of life whereby the soul, which is truly a part of G‑d (the G‑dliness in man), would be subordinated to the body, and both of them (body and soul) to the (material) world. The superior cannot serve the inferior and be content to do so. The highest aspect of human life, the soul, will never acquiesce in subservience to the body. The obvious conclusion, therefore, is that true freedom can be achieved only when the lower constituents of human life — the body and material environment — will be elevated to the highest possible, for them, degree of affinity, with the soul and its aspirations, while the soul, on its own level, will liberate itself from everything that hinders her fulfillment.

The enslavement in Egypt, and the subsequent liberation, reflect precisely the concept of freedom defined above:

The enslavement was complete and total in all three aforementioned aspects of human life; (a) spiritual enslavement in, and to, a country of the lowest moral depravity, for which reason Mitzraim (Egypt) was called the "abomination of the earth"; (b) extreme physical slavery of "hard labor"; (c) the fullest deprivation of their share of material world possessions to which they were entitled.

The Liberation, likewise was in all the three aspects, and in the fullest measure: (a) First and foremost, spiritual liberation — "Withdraw and take for yourselves lambs for the Passover sacrifice". Not only was it a withdrawal from worship of the Egyptian deity, but also an open demonstration of its nothingness; (b) the fullest physical liberation, by marching out of Egypt with a "high hand" (raised hand), with song and jubilation; (c) as for their share of material wealth, they went out "with great substance".

In seeking self-liberation, there are those who confine themselves solely to their soul.

There are others who recognize that freedom must include also the body, and that the gratification of the bodily needs should conform to the true Jewish way. However, they are Jews at home only; when they go outside and go about their business (what should be their business) they feel no responsibility to elevate their share in the material world; they are slaves to the "Mitzraim" environment.

Pesach reminds everyone that the Liberation from Mitzraim should be a daily experience: "Remember the day of your liberation from the land of Egypt all the days of your life".

We are reminded daily: You are free, liberated in soul and in body; and this personal liberation of body and soul makes it possible to convert the substance of “Egypt” into a great Jewish substance.

"I demand only according to their capacity" G‑d, the Creator of man, declares that what he requests and demands of us does not exceed their capacity and ability to fulfill; all that is needed is the firm determination to fulfill G‑d's request. And this is the way, indeed the only way, to our true freedom, freedom from the inner personal Golus (exile), and freedom also from the general Golus, through our Righteous Moshiach.


In memory of Shmuel ben Nisan O.B.M.- Samuel Stroum - Yartzeit March 9, 2001 / 14 Adar 5761  


Wishing you a kosher and happy Pesach,

Warmly,
Rabbi Levitin

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Tzav

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Dear Friends,  
In honor of the Holy Rebbe's OBM 116th Birthday this coming Tuesday, 11 Nissan (corresponding this year to March 27), we are pleased to send you this week’s edition of Here’s My Story.
Rabbi Bentzion Yaacov Shmuel Orimland presently serves as the rabbi of Young Israel in Margate, New Jersey. He was interviewed in September of 2012 in Brooklyn. This story originally appeared in the film “A Glimpse through the Veil,” produced by JEM.
Click 
here for the story.

Have a beautiful Shabbos.

Warmly,
Rabbi Levitin

 

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Vayikra

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Dear Friends, 
We are pleased to send you this week’s (Vayikra) edition of Here’s My Story
Dr. Mottel Greenbaum is a psychiatrist in private practice. He lives with his wife and family in Melbourne, Australia, where he was interviewed in July of 2016.

Click 
 here for the story.

Have a beautiful Shabbos.

Warmly,
Rabbi Levitin 

 

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Vayakhel-Pekudei

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Dear Friends, 
We are pleased to send you this week’s (Vayakhel-Pikudei) edition of Here’s My Story. Mr. Naftali Feldman is a businessman who lives in New York City. He was interviewed in June of 2016. Click 
here for the story.

Have a beautiful Shabbos.

Warmly,
Rabbi Levitin

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Ki Tisa

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Dear Friends, 
We are pleased to send you this edition of Here’s My Story.
This is an especially touching interview with Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, the Vice President Emeritus of the Orthodox Union.

Click here for the story. 

Warmly,
Rabbi Levitin

Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Tetzaveh

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Dear Friends, 
We are pleased to send you this edition of Here’s My Story. Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kiss is a restaurant manager and caterer. He was interviewed in the My Encounter Studio in January of 2016. Click 
here  for the story.

Warmly,
Rabbi Levitin 

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