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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 

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Terumah

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Dear Friends, 
We are pleased to send you this edition of Here’s My Story for Parsha Terumah.

Rabbi Mendel Lipskar is the executive director of Chabad of South Africa. He also serves as the rabbi of the Shul at Hyde Pak in Johannesburg. He was interviewed in our recent My Encounter trip to South Africa in August of 2014.
 
Click here for the story. 

Warmly,
Rabbi Levitin

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Yisro

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Dear Friends, 
We are pleased to send you this week’s edition of Here’s My Story.


Dovber Klein, a teacher at the Chinuch N’Orim Talmud Torah and Chabad youth leader, has just published a book, Sea Traveler, on Chassidic meditation during prayer. He was interviewed in Manchester in March of 2015. 

Click  
here for the story.

Warmly,
Rabbi Levitin

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Beshalach

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Dear Friends, 
We are pleased to send you this week’s edition of Here’s My Story
Mr. Ron Nachman (1942-2013) served as mayor of Ariel, Israel, for 28 years – from 1985 until his passing. He was interviewed in January of 2001. 
Click  
here for the story.

Warmly,
Rabbi Levitin 

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Bo

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Dear Friends, 
We are pleased to send you this week’s edition of Here’s My Story
Rabbi Fishel Jacobs is a speaker, author and the head responder for numerous websites dealing with issues of family purity. He has previously served as an officer in the Israeli army and a rabbi in the prison service. He was interviewed in May of 2014. Click  here for the story.

For a video of Rabbi Jacobs recounting his experience with the Rebbe, as well as a recording of his yechidus (private audience), click here .

Warmly,
Rabbi Levitin 

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Va'eira

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Dear Friends, 
We are pleased to send you this week’s edition of Here’s My Story. Mrs. Chaya Hecht (1931-2017) lived in Brooklyn, New York and worked as a preschool teacher for over fifty years. She was interviewed in February of 2015.

Click here for the story: 
http://myencounterblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/262.-Vaeira-5778-EMAIL.pdf 

Warmly,
Rabbi Levitin 

Alta Rebbe's Yahrzeit - 24 Tevet

But Rabbi, Are We Destined to a Life of Struggle!?

It was a very stimulating group of students. I was their Tanya teacher for over a period of three years, when they were ages 14 to 17. I was a no-nonsense teacher. They had to memorize the chapters of Tanya. When I see them, even today 20 years later, I ask them to say a few lines of Tanya for me. They smile as they say a few lines from memory. These young ladies are living all over the world, serving as leaders in their communities and raising beautiful families.

I remember vividly, in discussing the struggle of the “Beinoni” (the intermediate level) between the two forces found in each individual – the G-dly Soul and the Animal Soul, and that this was a life-long struggle, one of the young students raised their hand and said, “But Rabbi, Are we destined to a life of struggle?”

Napoleon’s Invasion of Russia

This coming week, Thursday, January 11th is the 24th of Tevet, the Yahrtzeit of the Alta Rebbe, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Laidi, the first Rebbe of Chabad. From Ha Yom Yom: “He leaves Laidi on the eye of Shabbat Mevarchim Elul 57572 (1812). After wandering with his family and many Chassidism, he arrives in the village of Piena, Kursk Province, on 12 Tevet 5583 (1812). There, after Shabbat ends, the eve of Sunday, 24 Tevet, he passes away. He is interred in Haditz, Poltava Province.”

The reason the Rebbe decided to leave the city of Laidi was to avoid Napoleon’s advancing armies. Napoleon invaded Russia in 1812 as part of his plan to bring all of Europe under his hegemony. The Rebbe was fiercely opposed to Napoleon’s grand designs. Supporting the Czar of Russia, the Rebbe was escorted by a troop of soldiers by express order of the Czar.

For more information on this history between The Rebbe and Napoleon: https://goo.gl/G9Beyd

Beinoni

“Rabbi Shneur Zalman was a brilliant Talmudist and an original thinker of the highest order. He composed a famous and authoritative halachic work, Shulchan Aruch Harav that ranks among the classic works of Torah law. His magnum opus, however, was a book of philosophical and Kabbalistic treatment of the basic ideas of Chassidus. Entitled Likkutei Amarim, but popularly known as Tanya (after his first word), this work was first published in 1796 and became one of the basic texts of Chassidus.”

“His Sefer HaTanya is likely the seminal work of Chassidic/Kabbalistic philosophy.”
(Above quoted from Triumph of Survival: The Story of the Jews in the Modern Era 1650-1990, by Rabbi Berel Wein)

Tanya, chapter 12:
“The Beinoni (the “inbetweener”) is a person whose evil never gains enough momentum to conquer “the small city” to influence the body to sin. This means that the three garments of the animal soul, which are thought, speech, and action, of Kelipah never overcome the divine soul within him, so as to become “dressed” in his body, brain, mouth or the other anatomical parts which total 248 (Mishna Oholos 1:8) causing them to sin and be defiled, G-d forbid.”

“Only the three garments of the divine soul, they alone influence the body. Namely the thought, speech, and action of the Torah 613 mitvahs, and once he has reached the level of beinoni it is as if he has never committed any transgressions in his life (because any trace of prior sins has been wiped away through repentance – Notes onTanya).”

“However, in the case of the beinoni, the divine soul’s deep core, which is its ten powers of intellect and emotion, are not the only forces attempting to direct and dominate “the small city”.”

Comments in Tanya, Chapter 12:
“…The war between the Divine and Animal Souls initially acts itself out in the heart. The Divine Soul, whose influence emerges on the right side of the heart, wants its feelings for G-d to overflow into the left side of the heart, where the Animal Soul’s emotions of self-gratification emerge. Each soul desires to saturate the heart completely.

In the case of a tzadik, the Divine Soul’s goal has been achieved, and the Animal Soul has been silenced completely.

But with the Beinoni, the conflict remains. At an emotional level, the beinoni is still torn between love of G-d and the desire for self-gratification, though he has achieved enough self-mastery not to allow these feelings to surface behaviorally in any way.

While externally the tzadik and beinoni appear identical, their inner life is likely to be quite different. The tzadikexists in a state of inner peace, his whole being singularly devoted to G-d. For him, worship is innate and natural. The beinoni, on the other hand, lives a life of inner tension, with his heart tugged by strong forces in opposing directions. For him, worship remains a strongly disciplined practice, to contain his inner negativity and selfish drives, preventing them from surfacing at any moment.”

 

The Brain Rules Over the Heart

 

Comments Continued:
“There are times, however, when the beinoni does enjoy inner peace and the urges of the Animal Soul are temporarily quieted.”

Tanya, continuing chapter 12:
“Except on particular occasions, such as when performing the Mitzvah of reading the Shema or when at prayer.”

Comments Continued:
“The focused meditations of the Shema and of prayer can temporarily generate such emotion from the Divine Soul, on the right side of the heart, that the beinoni’s Animal Soul, on the left side, is totally overwhelmed.”

Tanya, continuing chapter 12:
“However, after prayer, when the expanded consciousness of the Blessed Infinite light of G-d departs, the beinoniloses the external assistance in focusing his mind and heart, and consequently the evil in the left chamber of his heart reemerges and awakens, leaving him to have a desire for the temptations of this world and its pleasures.

Only since this force, in the left side of the heart, is not the only ruling power prevailing over “the small city” the negative energy is unable to bring its desire to fruition to influence the body’s parts in action or speech - or in substantive thought.

From allowing his thoughts to dwell on the pleasures of this world, how to satisfy his heart’s desire. Since, inherently, in its natural capacity, the brain rules over the heart (as stated in the Zohar, portion of Pinchas 3, 224a), for that is how man is formed at birth.

This means that any person can, with the will-power of his brain, restrain himself and take control of his heart’s urges, so as to prevent his heart’s desires from being enacted, spoken or contemplated, to divert his attention away from his heart’s urges entirely, to something completely different.”

Feelings of Success

It was midnight, after a long day, and I stood looking at the chocolate chip cookies left out on the table (I love chocolate!). I had a tremendous urge to take a cookie. I then said to myself, “would this be a rational decision – a person my age – at midnight – chocolate?” I appealed to my rational soul (which is a whole separate discussion). I overcame the desire, walked away and felt great (I’m not always so successful against chocolate). The feelings engendered when you walk out victorious in the struggle discussed in the Tanya are profound.

Have a Good Shabbos.

To Be Continued.

Warmly,
Rabbi Levitin

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Vayechi

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Dear Friends, 
We are pleased to send you this particularly interesting edition of Here’s My Story
Rabbi Moshe Tzur, an Israeli Air Force veteran, now lives with his family in Jerusalem, Israel. After his service in the Air Force, he went on to found a number of yeshivot and other non-profit organizations. He was interviewed in December of 2015.

Click here for the story: http://myencounterblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/243.-Ki-Teitzei-5777.pdf 

Warmly,
Rabbi Levitin 

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