Shabbat to Share

Food For the Soul

The Great Flood

In the Parsha Bereishit (Genesis 1:1 – 6:8) we read about the creation of the world, of Adam and Eve and of their sons Cain and Abel.  A third son, Seth, is born to Adam.  Seth’s eighth-generation descendant, Noah, is the only righteous man in a corrupt world.

In next week’s Parsha, Noach (Genesis 6:9–11:32) we learn about Noah and the Great Flood. “According to Jewish mysticism,” writes Chava Shapiro, “by bringing the flood, G‑d was dunking the world into a giant mikveh (ritual bath). The 40 days of the flood hint to the 40 se’ah-measures of water required for a mikveh to be kosher according to Jewish law. The flood, then, was not a punishment, but a purification process that the world needed to undergo in order to be cleansed and reborn. Welcome to World 2.0. In this new reality, the knowledge of G‑dliness not only affected, but actually saturated (pun intended) the earth and every being upon it. Spirituality became so entrenched, so deeply rooted in the essence of existence that every human being could now access it within themselves. It became an awareness that penetrated and ingrained and was expressed in the very fibers of the universe.”

“But the message of the flood goes even deeper,” she adds. “The flood represents all of our issues—namely, the ones that plague us from without…The flood is all those things that threaten to smother the G‑dly spark that lies within us, which is crying and yearning to express itself, but feels it’s being drowned by the overwhelming anxieties and pressures of life…. Do not allow the floods to drown you into oblivion. First, find solace inside the ark. Then grab hold of the helm.”

Shabbat Shalom

Shabbat Bereishit

October 17 (29 Tishrei) is Shabbat Bereishit.. Why is it thus named? Every week of the year we read another portion of the Torah. The cycle ends and begins anew on Simchat Torah, when we read the final portion of V’Zot HaBerachah and the opening lines of the first portion, Bereishit. On the following Shabbat, the full portion of Bereishit is read from the Torah. It is said in the name of the third Chabad Rebbe (known as the Tzemach Tzedek) that the way one conducts oneself on Shabbat Bereishit sets the tone for the entire year.

Appropriately, this Shabbat is often earmarked for inspiring farbrengens (gatherings) and resolutions to increase in Torah study. This Shabbat helps us gather up the spiritual energy of the past month, ensuring that we remain on track for the long haul ahead.

From an article by Rabbi Menachem Posner

Mind Over Matter

The Ark

There is a raging storm at sea. There are hellish waves crashing and pounding upon the shore, carrying all away, leaving desolation behind. The sea is this world into which you were thrown. The waves are the stress and anxiety of indecision, not knowing which way to turn, on what to rely. Up and down, hot and cold—constantly churning back and forth. Do as Noah did and build an ark. Ark in Hebrew is teivah—which means also “a word.” Your ark shall be the words of contemplation and of prayer. Enter into your ark, and rather than drown you with everything else, let the waters carry you upward.

By Rabbi Tzvi Freeman

Moshiach Thoughts

“The rainbow will be seen in the cloud.” Noach 9:14

The Zohar (I:72b) states that the rainbow is one of the signs of the future redemption.

Commentators note that the rainbow indicates the purification and refinement that the world underwent by means of the Flood. Before the Flood the clouds were very coarse, thus preventing a reflection of sunlight. Thereafter, however, the clouds became more refined; they reflected sunlight, thus bringing about a rainbow. This, then, is the connection between the rainbow and the future redemption: The entire world will attain the peak of refinement with the coming of Moshiach.

From an article by Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet

Have I got a Story

The Creation Story: It’s All There

So I’m working on selling ads for our yearly calendar, and I approach a local store owner with a form and a copy of last year’s edition. I show her the beautiful full-color layout and all the Jewish pictures and art spread throughout the pages. When she finishes flipping through it, she stops and asks, “What is the number 5769 on the front?” I responded quite simply, “The amount of years since creation.”

There was silence. “You’re not serious?” she asks. She wasn’t sure if I still lived in the dark ages or was in complete denial – and I was asking her to trust me with her money?

Because, really! Have you ever heard of carbon dating? Aren’t there stars a millions light-years away? Have you ever heard the word “dinosaurs”? It is kind of hard to believe in the Torah when you get stuck on the validity of the first chapter – no, the first sentence.

Well, I ask you to clear your mind and give me a second to present my case. Let us take things at the face value. G‑d created the world in six days. Adam and Eve are standing around in the Garden of Eden. Now what does that garden look like? Remember, the world is only six days old and grass was created on the third day…Was it a garden? A field with seeds? Small little buds looking like a nursery? Doesn’t seem too exotic or paradise-like!

On that train of thought, when they ate from the tree – how was there fruit if it was only a three-day-old tree? How many rings were in that tree? And wait – how did Adam and Eve reach to get it, or, for that sake, even walk, if they were two hours old? And that snake…he was two days old…boy, did they grow up quick. We must be missing something.

When you sit down and start reading your favorite novel, the first chapter starts off with John, a young 32-year-old stock broker, and his wife Amy, an interior designer with a degree from Princeton, walking up their driveway into their two-story colonial in downtown Boston. The book continues for another 244 pages and occurs over a five month period. But when you get to the bottom of page one – how old is the story line?

It depends. The author thinks that, for the sake of this story, it is a few seconds old. But in truth, both John and Amy have a few decades behind them. The fact that they were born, and grew up, and went to school, and met each other, and then married, and bought a house are all relevant parts of the story, but those details are placed throughout the following pages as the author deems necessary for the narrative. Sometimes you get those details and understand how they tie into the story, and sometimes they remain a mystery.

But although the characters are 32 years old, the story is only a few seconds old at this point! These two characters have a long and detailed history, but the book doesn’t actually begin until the author chooses to lift the curtain as they walk up their driveway.

So, too, when G‑d created the world, he slowly lifted the curtain over six days to reveal a rich and complete world with a long history and much planning that went into every detail. And in that story line there were dinosaurs, and trees with rings, and animals maturing, and continents shifting, and people growing up, and light traveling great distances across the galaxies. And at the right moment – exactly 5770 years ago – He opened the book to page one. 

By Rabbi Mendel Teldon

Food For the Soul

Simchat Torah

Following the seven joyous days of Sukkot, we come to the happy holiday of Shemini Atzeret/Simchat Torah. In the diaspora, the first day is known by its biblical name, Shemini Atzeret. We still dwell in the sukkah, but without a blessing. Yizkor, the memorial for the departed, is also said on this day.

The second day is known as Simchat Torah, during which we complete and immediately begin the annual Torah reading cycle. This joyous milestone is marked with dancing as the Torah scrolls are held aloft. Both days are celebrated by nightly candle lighting, festive meals at both night and day, and desisting from work. In Israel, the entire holiday is compacted into one heady 24-hour period.

Note: With covid restrictions in place, Simchat Torah celebrations may be significantly truncated, socially distanced, taken outdoors, or canceled entirely. We pray for the day when this joyous day will be restored to its robust joy. At the same time, even if we celebrate in small groups, far from each other, or even at home, we will do our utmost to infuse it with the same zest and joy as in previous years, if not more!

Candle Lighting Times

Friday, October 9: 6: 01 pm

Saturday, October 10: after 7:01 from a pre-existing flame

Sunday, October 11: holiday ends 6:59 pm

Shabbat Shalom

Grace under fire

The joyous climax of Simchat Torah is the dancing of hakafot(lit. “circles”), during which we dance and sing with the Torah scrolls. This Shabbat marks the fateful day in 1977 when the Lubavitcher Rebbe suffered a massive heart attack while celebrating the hakafot with thousands of chassidim in the central Chabad-Lubavitch synagogue in Brooklyn, NY. In spite of tremendous pain, the Rebbe remained calm and insisted on continuing the hakafot, and only after they concluded did he depart the synagogue.

On the following day, the Rebbe requested that the chassidim celebrate the Simchat Torah festivities with the same joy and fervor as all other years, and so it was. After the holiday ended, the Rebbe addressed and reassured the anxious chassidim from his office (which was hastily converted into a cutting-edge cardiac unit) via a public address system. The Rebbe remained in his office in Lubavitch World Headquarters under medical supervision for several weeks. He returned home  five weeks later on the 1st of Kislev, a day designated by chassidim for celebration and thanksgiving.

Mind Over Matter

Pursuing the impossible

We are here to achieve the impossible. To teach the world tricks it feigns it cannot do. To fill it with light it does not know. To make the blind see, the deaf hear, the bitter sweet, the darkness shine. To make everyday business into mystic union. To rip away the façade of the world and to bring it to confess its secret oneness with the Divine.

When they tell you, “You can’t go on that path, it’s beyond you!”—grab that path as your destiny.

From an article by Rabbi Tzvi Freeman

Moshiach Thoughts


The concept of simchah (joyfulness) is central in Judaism, and especially in the teachings of Chassidism. Chassidism explains its significance in terms of the maxim that “simchah breaks through barriers.” By means of simchah one is able to transcend all kinds of barriers and obstacles to attain sublime goals, especially in spiritual matters.

We can draw an analogy between this maxim and the fact that Moshiach, too, is referred to as “The one who breaks through” (Michah 2:13). This comes to teach us that simchah has the power to break through the walls-the barriers and obstacles-of the galut and hasten the coming of Moshiach! 

From an article by Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet

Have I got a Story

Did G-d work on Shabbat?

I received a call from a set of new parents trying to schedule their son’s brit milah (circumcision). The boy had been born late in the afternoon, slightly before nightfall, exactly a week before the festival of Rosh Hashanah. Ideally a brit is performed on the eighth day from birth, even on Shabbat or Yomtov (a Jewish festival such as Rosh Hashanah or Passover). However, if for any reason the brit is delayed, we do not carry out the procedure on Shabbat or Yomtov but reschedule it for the first available weekday.

Were the baby to have been born while it was still daytime, the brit would have been the following week, on the day before the festival. Conversely, were the new arrival to have made his first appearance at night, then we could have safely called the brit for the following week, and done the job on the festival.

We live, however, in an imprecise world. The exact moment when one day ends and another begins is almost impossible to define with any degree of accuracy. Halachists have responded to this concern by creating a twilight zone: a time-period known as bein hashmashot. Neither full day, nor complete night, it is impossible to definitively define the birthdate of a child born during this time.

We couldn’t risk holding the brit on the day before festival, which might, after all, have been only the seventh day from birth. Conversely, to hold the brit on the festival ran the risk of desecrating the festival by performing an action that, by rights, should have been completed the day before. In the end, halachah (Torah law) dictated that we do neither and the whole ceremony was pushed off until the day after the festival.

Shabbat observers make weekly allowance for this ambiguity in ascertaining the onset of Shabbat by bringing in Shabbat slightly earlier than strictly necessary. The candle lighting times you find in your local Jewish calendar introduce Shabbat earlier than may otherwise be necessary in order to protect the sanctity of Shabbat and to protect against its inadvertent desecration.

Interestingly, however, G‑d did not submit to this precaution. We will read next week in Bereishit (Genesis 2:2) that “G‑d finished creating on the seventh day” which could potentially mislead one to believe that G‑d was still creating the universe into the seventh day, pausing to rest only once Shabbat had begun. However, all traditional commentators interpret the verse to mean that G‑d continued creating until the precise moment when the sixth day finished and Shabbat began.

G‑d creates reality. Time is a function of His will. G‑d has no need to add to the holiness of Shabbat “just in case” because He invented that holiness and He knows the precise moment when He ushers it onto the world. The remarkable lesson from the six days of creation is not only that G‑d chose to create a universe, but that He continued to create up until the last possible instant.

The temptation is always there to do a lot and then stop. To satisfy oneself with one’s past achievements and to coast to the finish line. The life-lesson we learn from G‑d’s act of creation is that every moment is precious, every second a new opportunity to work, to strive, to produce, to achieve. We must not and we dare not miss our opportunity to partner with G‑d in the act of creation.

From an article by Rabbi Elisha Greenbaum

Food For the Soul


This year, the holiday of Sukkot begins at sunset on October 2 and lasts until nightfall October 9.  For the first 2 days work is forbidden, candles are lit in the evening, and festive meals are preceded by Kiddush and include challah dipped in honey.

The seven days of Sukkot are celebrated by eating, praying and socializing in a covered hut (sukkah). This commemorates G‑d’s sheltering our ancestors as they traveled from Egypt to the Promised Land. Being outdoors, with plenty of fresh air, the Sukkah may offer a welcome place to congregate if we follow the Coronavirus safeguards recommended by health authorities. Coming after the solemn High Holidays, Sukkot is a time of joy and happiness. It is followed by another happy holiday: Shemini Atzeret/Simchat Torah.

The Four Kinds

Every day of Sukkot (except Shabbat) we take the arba minim, a.k.a. “Four Kinds.” These are a palm branch (lulav), two willows (aravot), a minimum of three myrtles (hadassim) and one citron (etrog). The four kinds symbolize four types of Jews, with differing levels of Torah knowledge and observance. Bringing them together represents our unity as a nation—despite our external differences. So in this spirit of unity, be sure to share your arba minim with your Jewish friends and neighbors, by Zoom if necessary!

Adapted from information on

Shabbat Shalom

Customs and prayers

At least one k’zayit (approx. 1 oz.) of bread should be eaten in the sukkah on the first evening of the festival, between nightfall and midnight. A special blessing, Leishiv BaSukkah, is recited. For the rest of the festival, all meals must be eaten in the sukkah (see the Code of Jewish Law or consult a Halachic authority as to what constitutes a “meal”). Chabad custom is to refrain from eating or drinking anything outside of the sukkah, even a glass of water.

On October 3/15 Tishrei, we light candles after 7:14 pm.

The Torah readings for this day (conducted in the Sukkah) are:

Leviticus 22:26 – 23:44

Numbers 29:12-16

Zachariah 14: 1-21

Mind Over Matter

The ultimate progression?

When the Torah commands us to live in temporary huts to commemorate our experience in the wilderness, it seems to suggest that we recreate that existence. Yet dwelling in those huts was not a destination, but merely a temporary situation, on our way to the Holy Land. So why re-enact it? Perhaps the holiday of Sukkot is not about returning to “simpler, more primitive times.” Maybe Sukkot is in fact the ultimate progression, a leap forward to somewhere one otherwise would never have reached. When we stay right where we are, in the groove of a (healthy) routine we face the danger of stagnation. The Sukkah compels us to move on, to get off the hammock and onto the journey of making this world a more G‑dly place. Bereft of the security of our homes we are faced with our responsibility to accomplish more.

From an article by Rabbi Baruch Epstein

Moshiach Thoughts

Fulfillment of the prophesies

The four species [effects] the fulfillment of the prophecies that “all shall call upon the Name of G‑d to serve Him with one consent” (Zephaniah 3:9), and “G‑d shall be King over the entire earth: in that day G‑d shall be One and His Name One” (Zechariah 14:9), which shall come about with the speedy redemption by Moshiach.

From an article by Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet

Have I got a Story

Hitting the streets on Sukkot

What makes Sukkot memorable for me is something I have loved to do ever since I first got my own set of the Four Kinds. We are commanded to shake the Four Kinds every morning of the seven-day holiday (excluding Shabbat), and the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory, taught us to take our lulav and etrog and pass it around to whomever else would be willing to recite the blessing and do a “shake.”

The four species are often correlated with particular body parts. The etrog (citron) is likened to the human heart, the lulav (palm frond) is related to the spine, the aravot (willows) represent the mouth, and the hadasim (myrtles) are likened to the eyes.

So, as I approached my twenties, I was determined to overcome my shyness and have the chutpah and backbone (lulav) to approach people heart to heart (etrog), address them with my speech (aravot) and look them straight in the eye (hadasim) to ask if they would like to say a blessing on the Four Kinds, which the sages say bring unity to the Jewish people.

At first, the outright “no”s intimidated me, as did those who explained that they were too busy, or too lacking in knowledge to say a blessing in Hebrew. My favorite haunts used to be hospitals and nursing homes, before they got so strict that they would not let a stranger walk into a room or even read the name on the door to see if the resident might be Jewish.

At first I limited my visits to people I knew, or people who were recommended by others. Then I gradually began to include neighbors and residents of adjacent rooms. After a while, I even gathered the courage to approach the doctors and nurses in the elevators. On one occasion I met a doctor in an elevator and followed him to the top floor of the building, because it took a while to convince him to do the blessing and shake!

Then came the miracles. Once I walked into a room where a relative sat with an obviously ill patient. I made my pitch and the woman said, “Don’t bother, he hasn’t spoken for a year.” I responded, “That’s okay, I’ll just place it in his hands.” I placed the lulav and etrog properly in his hands. The man recited the blessing on his own. The jaws of those around him, including mine, dropped wide open and the woman began to sob. I tiptoed out, still in a daze.

Then there were the more humorous moments. In one nursing home, I approached an elderly woman sitting in a rocking chair. I gently placed the lulav and etrog in her hands. Her eyes lit up as she brought the etrog closer to them. I thought she wanted to examine it for flaws. Instead, she proceeded to try and take a bite out of the etrog. Fortunately, my hand was quicker than hers! Oh well, win some, lose some.

Actually, from a heavenly perspective, it’s always a win-win situation. The Rebbe told of a discouraged  rabbinical student who travelled to bring Judaism to a small city in the Midwest. Upon his return, he told the Rebbe that he hadn’t found even one Jew.

The Rebbe informed the young man that he had received a letter from a woman in the very city he had visited. The letter-writer had been watching the young man from an upper story window. So inspired was she to see the student walking the streets proudly displaying his head covering (kippah) and white ritual fringes (tzitzit) that her soul was awoken at that moment, initiating a process that would eventually lead her back to the path of Judaism.

Perhaps the strange sight of a young woman strolling down a hospital corridor waving a palm branch and a yellow-green citron was enough to activate some Jewish genes. Even if there were no takers on that particular day, my Jewish soul was singing, and the music must have been heard somewhere.

From an article by Yehudis Fishman.

Food For the Soul

Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is a 26-hour fast from before sundown on Sunday, Sept 27, to nightfall on Monday, Sept. 28.

Normally we would spend our day in the synagogue but in these times many of us will be at home, observing by ourselves or with family. Either way, we abstain from eating, drinking, washing or anointing the body, wearing leather shoes, and marital relations.

On Yom Kippur we pray five prayers, corresponding to the five levels of the soul including “Yechida” which is the soul of Moshiach.

Prior to Yom Kippur it is customary to ask for and receive honey cake and to give charity. It is a mitzvah to eat and drink on the eve of Yom Kippur. Two meals are eaten, one in the morning, and one just prior to the onset of Yom Kippur. One should eat only light foods (such as plain cooked chicken and chicken soup) as the second meal. The holiday is ushered in by lighting candles (married women light at least two, and single girls light one). If you are sheltering in place in a male-only household, one of the guys should light candles for everyone.

On Yom Kippur, we not only make amends to G-d, we say “Sorry” to each other in the hopes of repairing relationships that were sidetracked or derailed by superficialities. Perhaps some people see apologies as an admission of weakness or defeat, but they’re actually the opposite. An apology is a sign of strength and love.

Adapted from the booklet “Experience the High Holidays” by the Chabad Lubavitch Youth Organization with information from

Shabbat Shalom

Shabbat Shuvah

The Shabbat between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is called Shabbat Shuvah, “Shabbat of Return.” The name derives from the Haftarah for this Shabbat, which opens with the words (Hosea 14:2), “Return O Israel unto the L-rd your G-d…” Occurring in the “Ten Days of Repentance” (see “Laws & Customs” for Tishrei 3), it is a most auspicious time to rectify the failings and missed opportunities of the past and positively influence the coming year. The master Kabbalist Rabbi Isaac Luria (“Ari”) taught that the seven days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (which will always include one Sunday, one Monday, etc.) correspond to the seven days of the week. The Sunday between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur includes within itself all Sundays of the year; the Monday embodies all Mondays, and so on. Shabbat Shuvah is thus the juncture in time at which we are empowered to influence every Shabbat of our year.

Mind Over Matter

You are a soul

“I know of no magic way to make the fast easy,” writes Rabbi Aron Moss. “But fasting can certainly be a spiritual experience. Rather than trying to ignore the body’s hunger, you can actually use it to bring you closer to your soul.

When the sounds from your stomach start to drown out the Yom Kippur prayers, try this meditation:

Is a plate of food all that I amount to? The answer is: if your body is all there is, then yes, you are what you eat. But in truth, your body is not all there is to you. You are not just a body. You are a soul. On Yom Kippur, become an observer of the body from the point of view of your soul. Watch your body hunger, pity it for its weakness and resolve that in the year to come, you will not make your body and its temporal pleasures the be-all-and-end-all of your life. Rather, you will care for your body so it can serve as a vehicle of goodness, to achieve the mission that your soul was sent to this world to fulfill.”

Moshiach Thoughts

The Third Holy Temple

If Moshiach should appear during the Ten Days of Penitence, it is conceivable that people should eat and drink on Yom Kippur, if it falls during the seven days’ dedication of the Third Beis HaMikdash (Holy Temple). This was the case with the First Beis HaMikdash, and the people of that time ate and drank on Yom Kippur. How much more would this be the case with the Third Beis HaMikdash, to which the Zohar relates the verse, “The glory of this latter House shall be greater than that of the first.” It is reasonable to assume that its greater glory will be apparent not only (as with the Second Beis HaMikdash ) in its structure and its duration, but also in its dedication — which at the very least would equal that of the First Beis HaMikdash.

Have I got a Story

Zaidy’s Yom Kippur

I stand in shul, shifting my weight from one foot to the other, trying to ignore the groans of my unhappy stomach. I flip through the machzor to see how many pages remain until the end of the service. My mind begins to wander; I am transported back to another Yom Kippur, years ago.

In my daydream I am a child again, and my grandparents have come to spend the High Holidays with my family. My grandfather is in his early seventies, although with his long white beard and bushy black eyebrows, to me he looks at least a hundred years old. That Yom Kippur I tried hard to stay in shul instead of running outside to play with my friends. I sit in my seat listening intently and trying to follow along. Suddenly, my ears perk up to the sound of a familiar voice ringing out—it is an old voice, but powerful and steady. It is my zaidy (grandfather); he is saying the mourner’s kaddish for his father, whose yahrtzeit (date of passing) is on Yom Kippur.

My thoughts shift to another Yom Kippur in Communist Russia. Rabbi Aryeh Leib Kaplan has just arranged a minyan in a private house in Ch’ili, after being exiled there for the illegal activities of spreading Jewish teaching and observance in his hometown of Kiev. The ever-watchful KGB, infuriated at Aryeh Leib’s persistence in his “crimes” even in his place of exile, send a goon squad to beat him up on his way home from the clandestine Yom Kippur prayer group. Aryeh Leib’s friend is beaten to unconsciousness, and Aryeh Leib just manages to drag himself to the nearest Jewish family to tell them about his injured friend before he collapses and dies. He leaves a young widow and four orphans. One of them is Zaidy.

Yet another Yom Kippur flashes through my mind. There’s a picture of Zaidy, but he’s young and strong. He is surrounded by ruthless criminals in a dingy prison cell, locked up like his father for the heinous crime of practicing Judaism in Communist Russia. In prison, each inmate receives one piece of daily bread. Zaidy knows that he must save that bread for after the fast, or he will die of starvation. However, if the bread isn’t stuffed into his mouth the moment it is handed to him, it will be grabbed by one of many greedy hands. Zaidy approaches “The Chief” of the cell—a hardened criminal whom all of the other inmates fear and respect. Zaidy presents his dilemma, and miraculously The Chief decides to help. The Chief puts the bread on a high ledge, and warns the inmates that he’ll kill anyone who touches it. Many hungry eyes stare at the bread, but no one touches it.

Later, Zaidy needs to know when the fast is over, but there is only one small window high up on the wall of the cell, and there is no way to tell the time. Zaidy approaches The Chief again and explains his dilemma: he needs to know when it is completely dark in order to break his fast. The Chief gives orders, and a human pyramid is formed—one criminal on the shoulders of another, until they reach the window. The inmates repeat this pyramid every couple of minutes, reporting on what they see, until Zaidy confirms that the fast is over.

The voice of the cantor breaks through my reverie and brings me back to my open machzor. As I resume my prayer, I once more think of Zaidy and my great-grandfather. I feel them smiling down on me.

Zaidy, Moshe Binyamin Kaplan, of blessed memory, passed away on the 13th of Tammuz 5765 (2005), at the age of 87. The story of his Yom Kippur in prison is just one of many of his heroic acts in order to keep Judaism in Communist Russia.

By Devora Leah Riesenberg