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When it comes to quality time, most of us think about specific blocks of time - however limited they might be - that we set aside to be with our immediate family.
If someone started speaking to you about "Jewish quality time," you'd probably think they were going to launch into a lecture about setting aside specific time for such Jewish pursuits as doing mitzvot, praying, and studying Torah.
Yes and no.
Even over a thousand years ago, in Talmudic times, there lived people known as chasidim. Their performance of mitzvot was typified by going above and beyond the letter of the law. They used to spend tremendous amounts of time in prayer and only a few hours a day in Torah study. But, the amount of Torah knowledge they gained in those few hours of study was inordinately greater than what the average person would have gained. The reward for their intensive prayer schedule was that the time spent studying Torah became "quality time" and their studies were blessed.
The mitzva of Torah study is incumbent upon us at all times. In fact, according to the Talmud, if a person wastes even one minute that he could have spent studying, it's as if he belittled the entire Torah. Yet, the Talmud also states that someone who is involved in helping the community has fulfilled the commandment to study Torah by simply saying one verse from the Shema in the morning and in the evening. Quality time!
In the Mishna Ethics of the Fathers, customarily studied in these summer months, we read that Rabbi Yaakov said that one hour of repentance and good deeds in this world is greater than the entire time one will live in the World to Come. What does this mean?
On the simplest level, Rabbi Yaakov is telling us that quality time counts. Through spending even just one hour in teshuva - turning away from one's transgressions - and good deeds, we will merit the various levels of revelations of G-dliness in the Messianic Era. In fact, all the G-dliness we will experience during the World to Come can be acquired just through a one-hour spiritual workout here and now.
But how do we accomplish this? The Hebrew word for hour, "sha-ah," also means bending or lowering. By bending ourselves in this world, and setting aside specific times - an hour a month, or a week, or even a day, for teshuva and good deeds, we are assuring ourselves a portion in the World to Come.
Jewish quality time, it's amazing, isn't it?
This week's Haftora is the first of seven special readings consoling the Jewish people. After The Three Weeks of darkness and destruction, G-d consoles us through his prophet Isaiah. Each week, the consolation gets more and more powerful.
This Shabbat is called Shabbat Nachamu, because the Haftora starts with G-d's words to Isaiah, "Nachamu nachamu ami - "Console console my people."
Being that this is the first Haftora of consolation, should it not have begun with just one reference to Nachamu - console, a basic level of consoling? Then, in the upcoming weeks the expression could be doubled?
A double expression such as Nachamu Nachamu, means more than two, however. Rather, it is an expression of multiple in quality and quantity. Not only is this consoling of greater intensity, but it is ongoing. And being that this is the first Nachamu of the seven Haftoras of consoling, it is this one that sets the standard for all subsequent expressions of consoling.
In a few weeks, we will read in the Haftora another double expression. In this week's Haftora, G-d is asking his prophet to console us. But in the upcoming Haftora, consolation is taken to a new level: "It is I, I Who consoles you." This double "I," is G-d saying, that it is coming from the deepest level of His essence. Even deeper than the giving of the Ten Commandments, which begins with only one "I," "I Am the Lord your G-d..." This is because when Moshiach comes and we will experience G-d's consolation, the revelation will be even greater than the one at Mount Sinai, it will be G-d's deepest essence.
It is true, with the devastation that befell our people during the Three Weeks, one might think, "Take it slow, first console a little, how can we handle so much?" But we know, that we are always close to G-d, and even in times of exile and darkness, He is one with us. G-d is saying, "Nachamu Nachamu," you can handle the double Nachamu, with all its intensity.
This is especially relevant now, when we are so close to the coming of Moshiach, and the darkness of the exile is doubled. We must realize that only our physical existence is in exile, however our spiritual essence is always free and one with G-d. Soon we will see the fruit of our labor, a double Nachamu, as the physical will also be free, and it will experience G-d's essence as well, as our Haftora says, "And G-d's glory will be revealed, and all flesh together will see, that the mouth of G-d spoke."
G-d chose us to accomplish His deepest desire. He put us here, in this dark exile, to accomplish this mission, because it is only here where it can be accomplished. Very soon, because of our efforts, the mission will be completed and we will reap the rewards. This exile will end and we will truly be consoled, forever, like the Haftora says, "Nachamu Nachamu. " May it happen soon.
Adapted by Rabbi Yitzi Hurwitz from the teachings of the Rebbe, yitzihurwitz.blogspot.com. Rabbi Hurwitz, who is battling ALS, and his wife Dina, are emissaries of the Rebbe in Temecula, Ca.
Rural American Rabbi
by Rabbi Chaim Bruk
In 2013, while anticipating the adoption of our third child, we learned that he would be biracial. I was convinced that G-d sent this beautiful soul to us; yet, I had a few moments of doubt. I was questioning the Almighty, whether he was the right fit for our family; I couldn't help but wonder how his life experience would play out as a biracial Orthodox Jew growing up in Big Sky Country. My beloved wife Chavie, firm and inspirational as ever, encouraged me to remain focused, "let us shower our baby with love and warmth," she said, "and let G-d worry about his future challenges."
Growing up in my Brooklyn "hood," I was living in a bubble. Ohio seemed remote, Texas like another country and the Mountain West states were, in our mind, like another planet. Our family traveled upstate to Catskill Game Farm, to Pennsylvania's Sesame Place and even enjoyed a memorable trip to Orlando, but west of the Mississippi was a like a foreign land to me. Yet, while rural America seemed far, far-away from the life I knew in America's "five boroughs", I have been blessed to learn, it's the perfect place to live and raise my family.
In 2007, Chavie and I moved to Bozeman, opening the state's first branch of Chabad Lubavitch, to offer exciting spiritual experiences to Wild West Jewry. We were welcomed warmly by Jews and gentiles alike and, over the years, have garnered hundreds of friendships with human-beings of all flavors. Living in Montana, for a decade now, I've developed a real appreciation, and admiration, for "fly over country" and its people.
I have found Montanans to be friendly, thoughtful and intrigued by my Jewish observance. Whether interacting with a bellman in the "big city" of Billings, a rancher from Kila or a state trooper in Butte, Montanans are genuinely caring and refreshingly authentic. They care more about their family than what car they drive, feed their animals before themselves and, no matter how busy they are, would pull over to help you on the side of the road, even if was -22 outside.
While I miss the kosher restaurants, the Sabbath atmosphere in the street and the opportunity to speak in my mother tongue, Yiddish, Bozeman has become home and I'm a proud Montanan. "Love thy neighbor as thyself" is not merely a bumper sticker or a campaign slogan out here; it's a way of life.
Raising my son Menny, for almost four years now, has been an extraordinary blessing and incredible experience. He's adorable with a one-of-a-kind personality; it's hard to keep up with his super fun energy. From his dance moves that could put any hip-hop artist to shame to his one-liners that are so precious; from his care-free attitude while painting the beige carpet in his sister's room red to his midnight longing for seltzer, he's a ball of life.
He's black, wears his Yarmulke proudly and loves praying with me in Shul, and our Jewish community along with our fellow Montanans embraces him unconditionally. He's not seen as that "black boy," and I'm not seen as that "adoptive father." They just see us as a family.
Personally, I am not color blind. I do see peoples' visible differences, but that doesn't G-d forbid make me think less of them or contemplate treating them differently. Seeing diversity allows me to appreciate their individuality, their personal story, even more than if I would've ignored their uniqueness. Not to recognize people's exceptionality is to deny them a part of their experience, a part of their core self.
While Montana, like the rest of the world, surely has a few people who are ignorant and judgmental, I am grateful to be raising my family in a rural America, where people are welcoming, loving and open-minded. No, there isn't much diversity in our backyard, but it's a place where people take to heart the timeless words of our Declaration of Independence "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."
G-d Bless America.
Rabbi Chaim Bruk, together with his wife Chavie, is the executive director of Chabad Lubavitch of Montana and spiritual leader of The Shul of Bozeman.
Rabbi and Mrs. Yoni Atiya have been appointed the new Shluchim (emissaries of the Rebbe) to the Me'arat Hamachpelah (Machpelah Cave) in Hebron. Chabad of Me'arat Hamachpelah will serve the tens thousands of Jews and non-Jews visiting the second holiest Jewish site in the Land of Israel. Rabbi Atiya was born and raised in Hebron, is the son of Chabad emissary to Rabbi Victor Atiya and grandson of the illustrious Dovid and Sarah Nachshon, amongst the first Jewish families to move back to Hebron in 1968 after the massacre of the Jewish community of Hebron by Arabs in 1929.
Saying Mazel Tov
For centuries, it has been customary for Jewish women to adorn the birthing room and the cradle with Psalm 121. The Psalm states our dependence on G-d for our safety and well-being, and His commitment to guard us at all times. For a color print of the Psalm call LEFJME at (718) 756-5700, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.mikvah.org, or visit www.LchaimWeekly.org/general/art/shir-lamaalot.jpg
15th of Av, 5745 
Shalom u'Brocho [Peace and Blessing]:
Your letter reached me with considerable delay. Thus, by hashgocho protis [Divine Providence], your letter, dated on the day of the Chag haGeula [Festival of Liberation] of my father-in-law the Rebbe, of saintly memory, is fittingly acknowledged on the auspicious day of the 15th of Av. Both these dates are connected with the dissemination of Torah. It was the cause of the arrest and eventual liberation of my saintly father-in-law under the Stalin regime (1927); while increased Torah study is the main feature of the 15th of Av, as explained at some length at the end of Mesachta Taanis.
This brings me to the paragraph in your letter wherein you refer to "very modest acts" on your part in the field of Torah education. I must challenge this self-assessment on the ground that the record speaks for itself. Moreover, in wide segments of Jewry, especially among American Jews, the impact of your "modest acts" strikes deeper and wider than similar acts of a Rabbi or Rebbe (myself included) could attain, for obvious reasons.
Incidentally, it is well to remember an admonition by my father-in-law to the effect that a person should not underestimate one's achievements, since only then will one generate the inner incentive and drive to achieve the fullest utilization of one's total capacities.
For the sake of a mutual consensus, I am prepared to accept your claim of "very modest acts" - in a relative sense, in terms of your potential and future acts, which will dwarf your past accomplishments by comparison. Indeed, this is a natural human aspiration, as our Sages assure us in the well-known adage: "Whoever has 100 desires 200; and, (attaining) 200 (will not be satisfied with the increment of another 100, but desires double) - 400. And so forth in geometric-progression.
Me'inyan l'inyan [From one matter to another]. Some time ago I noticed in the JTA Bulletin an item about another "modest act" of yours, namely your involvement in a project to publish the Chumash [Five Books of Moses] in Braille. I do not have it on hand, so I am relying on memory. Needless to say, it's a great zechus [privilege].
In light of the famous teaching of the Baal Shem Tov that anything that comes to the eyes or ears of an individual contains some personal message to the beholder or listener, I take the liberty - though I do not usually take such liberties - of volunteering a suggestion. I feel certain that whether you take it or leave it, you will surely accept it in the proper spirit.
My suggestion - that is all it is - is that you consider including in the said project the publication in Braille of the section of the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch [Code of Jewish Law] in English that deals with the month of Tishrei, with the preparations for it in the latter part of Elul. The need for it requires no elaboration to you, and if it is to be implemented without undue delay, there is time, I believe to have it done in good time before Rosh Hashanah".
Should this suggestion be approved and acted upon, then - in keeping with Ps. 119:63 - I would like to participate in it with a financial contribution which I leave to your assessment, since I am not familiar with the actual costs involved in the publication and distribution of such an item in Braille. I will look forward to your response on this matter.
To conclude on the auspicious note of the 15th of Av, may Hashem grant the fulfillment, for you and all of us in the midst of Klal Yisrael, of the assurance of our Sages z'l . ["all who add, G-d adds to him"]
With esteem and blessing,
What is the significance of the 15th of Av?
The Talmud shares that many years ago the "daughters of Jerusalem would go dance in the vineyards" on the 15th of Av, and "whoever did not have a wife would go there" to find a bride. It also states that 15 Av is the greatest festival, greater even than Yom Kippur. According to the Code of Jewish Law we omit penitential prayers due to the day's festive nature. The Code of Jewish Law also says we should increase our study of Torah from the 15th of Av onward, since the nights are begining to grow longer, and "the night was created for study."
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This Shabbat, the Shabbat after Tisha B'Av, is known as Shabbat Nachamu for the Haftorah portion we read which begins, "Nachamu, Nachamu Ami - Comfort, I will comfort My People."
Our Sages state that the word "Nachamu" is stated twice, for with the building of the Third Holy Temple, G-d will comfort us doubly for the destruction of the first and second Temples.
Jewish teachings further explain that the repetition of words in the Torah points to the unlimited quality of the matter being discussed.
Thus, the comfort that G-d offers us through his prophet in this week's Haftorah does not point a limited consolation for the destruction of the First and Second Temples; G-d is telling us that with the building of the Third Holy Temple in the Messianic Era, we will be comforted in a totally unlimited manner, when the revelation of G-dliness and Divine Knowledge will likewise be totally unlimited.
Monday will be the 15th of Av, a special date in the Jewish calendar. Among other things, it is the day on which we are encouraged to begin increasing our Torah study, since, on the 15th of Av the nights become longer - nights which can be used for Torah study. The Rebbe, in a talk on this Shabbat, emphasized what form this Torah study should take:
"In general, the study of Chasidut is associated with the Redemption... in particular the function of this study as a catalyst for the Redemption is more powerful when the subject studied concerns that matter itself," i.e., matters concerning Moshiach and the Redemption.
May G-d comfort us not only doubly but in an infinite and unlimited manner with the revelation of Moshiach and the building of the Third Holy Temple, immediately.
Ben Zoma said... "Who is rich? He who is happy wit his lot, as it is said: (Psalm 128:2) 'When you eat of the labor of your hands, happy are you, and it shall be well with you' " (Ethics 4:1)
A person's wealth is not measured by the amount of money he has stashed away in boxes and treasure chests. For no person is wealthy other than in knowledge (See Talmud Nedarim 41a). One who is happy with his lot is a truly wealthy person.
(Maharal of Prague)
Rabbi Meir Said,... "If you neglect the Torah, many causes for neglecting it - b'teilim - will present themselves to you." (Ethics 4:12)
The word "b'teilim" can equally mean worthless matters, of no value. This, then, is what our text would signify: If you are invited to join a study group on some aspect of our faith, perhaps your answer is, "I would love to, but I don't have the time, I am too busy, and really, I have not even a moment to myself." In short, you decide to neglect the Torah. If you do that, says Rabbi Meir, "many other valueless, worthless things can be held up against you." For what were you doing last night and the night before? If you are indeed so busy, how can you account for that theater performance, or the hours upon hours before the television set? For that, apparently, you had the time. For that, it would seem, you were not busy.
(Rabbi I. Bunim in Ethics from Sinai)
For the reward of a mitzva is a mitzva, and the reward of a transgression is a transgression (Ethics 4:2)
The reward one receives for obeying G-d's word is qualitatively different from the payment a laborer is rewarded for his exertions. A worker who plows and sows receives his salary from the owner of the field, yet the actual money was not created by him; it is not the direct result of his labors. This is not so, however, in the case of mitzvot. According to Chasidic philosophy, the mitzva itself creates the reward.
A Jew came to the rabbi of his town with a problem. "I don't know what to do. I really hate my wife. It seems like she is always doing things to aggravate me." In shame, the man continued, "Sometimes I even think of killing her!"
The wise rabbi looked at the man pensively. "How long have you felt this way?"
"Almost since the time we married," replied the man. "It wasn't so bad at first. But when she irritated me, I found it impossible to behave nicely or civilly toward her. And now, I dream of being rid of her forever."
The rabbi stroked his beard and then said, "You know, there is a way you can kill her without even being held responsible!"
The man's eyes opened wide. Never had he expected the rabbi to be an accomplice, but he needed all the help he could get. "Tell me, rabbi, what can I do?"
"Well," explained the rabbi to the simple man, "the Midrash tells us that if a man pledges a large sum of money to charity and doesn't pay it, his punishment will be that his wife will die. All you need to do is pledge a large sum of money to the shul and not pay it! Within a year, I assure you, your wife will be dead."
The man was overjoyed with his good fortune of having such an understanding and wise rabbi.
"But," added the rabbi, "You wouldn't want anyone to think that you are not paying the pledge intentionally to kill your wife. You wouldn't want G-d to think that either, would you?"
The man nodded his head. "What should I do, rabbi?"
"Well," began the rabbi. "For starters, you must treat your wife exceptionally well for the next few months."
The man was horrified. "Rabbi, I don't even treat my wife a little bit nicely because, as I told you, I can't stand her. And now, you want me to behave exceptionally kindly toward her?"
"It's the least you can do so that people don't think you're killing her intentionally, isn't it?"
The man nodded and the rabbi continued. "First, buy her a new dress. How long has it been since she's gotten a new dress?"
The man acknowledged that his wife hadn't gotten a new dress since they were married seven years previously. "And also," the rabbi continued, "make sure to give her a little spending money."
The man rolled his eyes. "She always complains that she doesn't have enough money to make good meals. But I know it's just an excuse to upset me!"
The rabbi smiled and added, "Say something nice to her once in a while. Even compliment her in public, just so that people will think you really like her, of course," the rabbi added conspiratorially.
The man left the rabbi's study beaming. He immediately made a large pledge to a charitable organization and began counting the hours until he'd be rid of his wife. He did follow the rabbi's advice, though, and went out to buy his wife a new dress. She, of course, could not understand her husband's change of heart. When he also gave her some "pocket money," she went to the market and purchased some nice fruits and vegetables, even a bit of meat. She prepared a delicious meal to show her appreciation.
Weeks passed, with the man marking off the days on his calendar and simultaneously behaving decently, for once, toward his wife.
At the end of two months, the man stopped marking his calendar. He and his wife were happier than they had ever been during their entire marriage. The more pleasant the husband was, the more he complimented his wife and tried to help her, the more she tried to please him in every way.
After a half year had passed, the husband had totally forgotten about his little conversation and "arrangement" with the rabbi. It wasn't until the year was nearly up, when he remembered about the pledge and the repercussions if it wasn't paid. He immediately ran to the rabbi.
"Rabbi, the year is nearly up and I still haven't paid the pledge," the man said frantically.
"Nu," said the rabbi. "Soon you will have peace and quiet. What are you worried about?"
"You don't understand, rabbi. I love my wife. She is the most wonderful person in the world. She can never do enough to please me and I get such pleasure from doing things that make her happy. I don't want her to die!"
"Oh my, that is a problem," replied the rabbi. "Your only choice then, is to pay the pledge."
"But Rabbi, I pledged an huge sum, something I could never possibly pay!"
"You must borrow the money then, and pay it out little by little. I will even give you a note of recommendation to some free-loan funds," offered the rabbi. "After all, it is a matter of life and death!"
"I don't know how I can ever thank you," the relieved husband told the rabbi. "Certainly that my wife should remain alive is worth all the money in the world!"
The man borrowed the money to pay the pledge. Every month he paid back a little of the money and they lived happily ever after.
The portion of Va'etchanan begins, "I beseeched G-d at that time, saying...let me go over, I pray, that I may see the good land." (Deut. 3:23-25) The Midrash relates that Moses beseeched G-d with 515 prayers (the numerical equivalent of the word "va'etchanan - and I beseeched") to be allowed to enter the Holy Land. Even after G-d explicitly told him, "Do not continue to speak to Me any more of this matter," Moses persisted. We learn from this that we must never give up imploring G-d to bring us back to the complete Land of Israel with Moshiach, for we have been promised we are the last generation of exile and the first generation of Redemption.