Food For the Soul
The Darkness Within
In the Parshah Bo (Exodus 10:1–13:16 ), the last three plagues befall Egypt before the people of Israel leave their slavery. The ninth plague, darkness, is described in these words: “No man saw his brother, neither did anyone rise from his place.”
With this description, an event in history becomes current and contemporary. The plague of darkness becomes part of the timeless history of man, symbolic of analogous afflictions that admit no immunity. Simple physical darkness of the night becomes a malady of the individual, of the soul.
There is no blindness like the selfishness that blots other men from one’s vision—the darkness that prevents one man from seeing his brother. This is the plague directed outwardly.
Another aspect of the darkness affliction is satisfaction with what one is, the stagnation that keeps man from growing, from rising from his place. There is a smug arrogance in the very common statement people actually make, “I am a good man.” Such people, blind to their shortcomings, become insufferable; they never dare entertain the possibility that they might be imperfect.
These are the universals in the plague of darkness: the self-centeredness that excludes other men from consideration, and the contentedness that assures us we have attained the epitome of goodness. Darkness keeps us from seeing others or ourselves.
Rabbi Zalman I. Posner
Preparing For Shabbat
Like all good things, keeping the Shabbat properly requires advance preparation. We must prepare our homes, ourselves, and the food we will be eating and serving throughout the Shabbat meals. Shabbat also requires that we have certain things on hand in advance, as we can’t go shopping if we notice suddenly that we’re out of a critical ingredient, such as wine. The Shabbat laws forbid us from many mundane household activities: we don’t wash the walls or use a vacuum cleaner, turn the lights on or off, cook, or even warm up food. Ensuring that all these are taken care of before Shabbat brings that wonderful feeling of preparing for a special occasion—and makes Shabbat all the more meaningful.
For information about preparing for Shabbat, visit Chabad.org
Mind Over Matter
The Torah is the compass of life. It provides our navigational fix so we know where to go and how to get there. Without the Torah’s guidance and direction we would be lost in the often stormy seas of confusion. Within the Torah lifestyle there is still ample room for spontaneity and freedom of expression. We can be committed to the compass and still be free spirits. Indeed, there are none as free as they who are occupied with Torah.
From an article by Rabbi Yossy Goldman
“G-d said to Moses: Come to Pharaoh. . .” Bo 10:1
The Parsha Bo relates the events of the redemption from Egypt. The word “bo” means “come”. Why did Torah use this word instead of the seemingly more appropriate word “go”? Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet wrote that this teaches us that the service of G-d on the level of bo will hasten the redemption from the present galut (exile). “There is a fundamental difference between bo (come) and lech (go). To go to something may imply no more than a superficial involvement,” he wrote. “To come to something, however, implies that the subject-matter will enter your mind and heart, affect and influence you to the point of absorbing unification. Everything in the service of G-d must be done in a way of penetrating to one’s very core. The approach of bo (come) hastens the coming of Moshiach and the redemption from the galut, speedily in our very own days.”
Have I Got A Story
The Rabbi’s Motorcycle Accident
It’s Friday afternoon in central Paris. It’s close to Shabbat, so I get on my motorcycle and head home. I live in France, serving as a Chabad emissary in S.-Maur-des-Fossés, a small city south of Paris. It’s raining heavily, and the pavement is slippery. I slow down, adjusting my helmet. Suddenly I notice a sports car entering the intersection. The driver hasn’t noticed me approaching. I brake quickly. The motorcycle skids, and I fall to the ground. Are these my last moments? Silence. One car stops and blocks the road. I check myself for injuries. Thank G-d, I’m fine. A woman runs toward me. “Are you all right?” she asks in French. “Can I help you?” “I think I’m all right,” I answer, removing my helmet. She looks surprised—perhaps not expecting a bearded man. There are not many in Paris.
“Is everything all right?” she asks again, this time in Hebrew. Now I am taken aback. She introduces herself as Madame Katia Dahaan. “I live nearby, and happened to be passing,” she says. “I didn’t expect to see a Jew, never mind a rabbi.” “And the Hebrew?” I ask. “Oh, that’s from trips to Israel years ago,” she says. Katia wants to talk, but I apologize and explain, “It’s almost Shabbat, and I need to get home.” Katia is surprised to hear Shabbat is coming. Her reaction puzzles me. Almost 400,000 Jews live in that neighborhood; it’s hard not to know today is Shabbat eve. “Do you light Shabbat candles?” I ask. Katia gives me another strange look. She mutters, “No, I don’t.”
“Can I invite you to our home for Shabbat?” I offer. “Which Shabbat?” she asks with surprise. “Tonight,” I answer. A smile emerges. “I don’t think I can come tonight, but I will be happy to come another Shabbat,” she says. We exchange phone numbers, and part. Katia didn’t come that evening, nor the next Shabbat. And I couldn’t find her number, though I tried hard to locate her.
Four months pass. One morning I received a text message from an unfamiliar number. Moments later, my phone rang. “Rabbi? It’s Katia Dahaan. Do you remember me?” “Of course! We are still waiting for you to come for Shabbat.” That Friday night Katia was one of our guests. She was very emotional throughout. Others asked me who she was. I told them about the accident. I said, “You can say that she was a messenger from Above to help me during those scary moments.”
Katia looked at us with a smile and [told us] her version: “I am forty-five years old and live alone. I have a sister and mother, but I haven’t spoken to them for over twenty years. It’s hard to be single, especially for a Jewish woman. My parents were traditional; we made kiddush, celebrated holidays and fasted on Yom Kippur. But since I’ve been living alone, I stopped observing. When you live alone, it’s hard to make kiddush because there is no family to have a meal together. I didn’t even have Jewish girlfriends. About two years ago, after years of being disconnected from Judaism, I wanted to come back to my religion. I decided to find a job in a Jewish environment. This way I’d make friends, and maybe get invited for Shabbat and holidays. I found a job in a shoe store. All the local workers were Jewish, and I made friends. On Fridays they would wish one another ‘Good Shabbat,’ and on Mondays, ask each other how Shabbat went. But no one paid attention to me. Every week I hoped for an invitation, but every week brought more disappointment. I became very angry with Jews and Judaism. I decided to find something to do on Friday nights. I found an advertisement for a church choir looking for singers on Friday nights.”
Silence prevailed around the table. “I was accepted into the choir, and it’s been a year that I’m singing in church on Friday nights. With a sad smile she added, “I come home so tired that I don’t have time to think about Shabbat. Everything went smoothly until that Friday,” continued Katia, “when I saw the motorcycle rolling over on the road. I ran to help the rider, and was shocked when he reminded me that it was Shabbat eve and invited me! And he didn’t even know me! You think that I was sent to you? Katia concluded. “I think it was you who was sent to bring back my soul.”
Katia doesn’t sing in the church anymore. She spends every Friday night with us or other Chabad families. So, it wasn’t just a motorcycle accident after all.
Edited from an article by Rabbi Hershy Drukman