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Weekly Newsletter January 6

Dear Friends,

The final portion of the Book of Genesis describes the final years of Jacob's life. After spending the majority of his life moving from place to place, his final 17 years were the most peaceful and calm.

Interestingly, he did not spend those best years of his life in the Holy Land, but in Egypt, considered the most spiritually depraved land at the time. Yet of all places, that's where Jacob found serenity.

One reason those were his best years is because his son Joseph saw to his every need and ensured that his entire family was taken care of. But it's really more than that. When Jacob saw how his son, who despite being entrenched in Egyptian society, still maintained his commitment to G‑d and to the faith of his ancestors, he knew the nascent Jewish nation would be able to survive anything.

When we are strong enough to remain Jewish through all the ups and downs we experience, our ancestors can rest assured that their investment in our future is paying off, and will continue to propel us through to the coming of Moshiach.

Weekly Newsletter December 30

Dear Friends,

This week we entered the month of Tevet, which the Talmud describes as the coldest month of the year, with the only way to keep warm being body heat – i.e., by being in close contact with others and keeping each other warm.

This quality takes on unique significance in a Hakhel year, a year of gathering, when Jews around the world are making efforts to gather at every possible occasion

Whenever Jews come together, we automatically become stronger and warmer. This is true any time Jews gather, but it is especially so when we come together in the spirit of Hakhel – uniting to hear words of Torah and with the purpose of enhancing our collective Jewish life.

So next time you look outside and it feels cold or dark, remember that all you need to do is join or host a Hakhel event, and your soul will become warm and vibrant!

Weekly Newsletter December 23

Dear Friends,

When lighting the Chanukah candles, the original mitzvah was for each family to light one candle each night of the holiday. Those choosing to enhance their observance, says the Talmud, would light one candle for each member of the household. An additional enhancement calls for every person to light their own candle and to increase the amount of candles each night to correspond with the day of Chanukah.

So although one can technically fulfill the mitzvah with a minimum of one candle a night per family, almost nobody settles for that today.

May the enhanced light of Chanukah serve as a springboard for going the extra mile with all the other mitzvahs too, which will help hasten the ultimate enhanced light, the coming of Moshiach.

Weekly Newsletter December 16

Dear Friends,

This week Chabad communities around the world celebrated a holiday known simply as “Yud-Tes Kislev”—the 19th of Kislev, the anniversary of Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi’s release from Tsarist prison.

Rabbi Schneur Zalman, also known as the Alter Rebbe, referred to his imprisonment as a spiritual challenge to his work of bringing the teachings of Jewish mysticism to the masses, and for a time he actually considered stopping as a result. But then he discovered that not only was it not a reason to stop, but ultimately it is what propelled him to keep growing the Chabad movement, disseminating his teachings further than before.

This is similar to what occurred to Joseph, son of Jacob, about whom we read about in this week’s Torah portion. He was sold into slavery, but instead of disappearing and losing his identity, he thrived and grew until he became defacto ruler of Egypt.

The same message can be found in Chanukah, which starts this Sunday night. The menorah in the Temple was kindled with pure olive oil. The way the oil is extracted from an olive is by crushing it, destroying the olive. But instead of disappearing, the oil now brings light and warmth to the world around it.

So be like an olive—turn your challenges into opportunities for growth and light!

Weekly Newsletter December 9

Dear Friends,

Picture this: Jacob traveling with his entire family and all his property – animals and manpower – hoping to arrive and settle in the Holy Land. Considering their large footprint, when Jacob realized he had left a few small, empty jugs on a riverbank, it would have been totally understandable if he'd have written them off as a loss. In the big picture, leaving them behind makes perfect sense.

But in Jacob's mind, nothing and no one is insignificant. If it exists, it has a purpose. So he went back, himself, to collect the forgotten jugs. He didn't send a child or a servant, because he knew that if he wanted it done with the proper attention, he had to be the one to make it happen.

Let’s continue in Jacob's footsteps, paying attention to even the smallest detail in the world around us, using everything—even a small, empty jug—to prepare the world for the coming of Moshiach. May it happen speedily, in our days.

Weekly Newsletter December 2

Dear Friends,

Throughout his life, our forefather Jacob encountered some of the first anti-Jewish sentiment in history, and in his case it was literally family: his brother Esau and his father-in-law Laban. Both wished him harm, but neither succeeded.

Esau wanted to kill Jacob and Laban wanted to swindle him out of his rightful earnings. Jacob overcame their adversity because he refused to play their game. He did not allow his survival to hinge on putting others down and pointing fingers. Instead of blaming others for his problems, he focused on being the most successful servant of G‑d he could be.

We inherited this spirit from our forefather, and with each passing generation the Jewish people get better at it. As a nation, we have had good times and better times. And there have been times of terrible suffering. Yet even when things look bleak and we feel—rightfully—that the entire world is against us, giving up is not in our DNA. Jacob didn’t do it, and we certainly won't.

Weekly Newsletter November 25

Dear Friends,

In this week's Torah portion we are introduced to Jacob and Esau, twin brothers who couldn't have been more different from one another.

Esau was a hunter, while Jacob was a scholar, spending all his time studying Torah and delving into the Divine secrets of Creation.

As descendants of Jacob, we are entrusted with the gift of Torah and the ability to connect to G‑d by studying His wisdom. Every time a Jew studies Torah, our connection to G‑d deepens.

You can study Torah alone or with a group, you can study for hours or for a few minutes. The main thing is, make Torah study central to your life!

Weekly Newsletter November 18

Word from the Rabbi

Dear Friends,

Every year on the last Shabbat of the Hebrew month of Cheshvan, thousands of Chabad Rabbis from around the world gather in New York City for the Kinus Hashluchim — the international conference of Chabad emissaries.

In addition to arranging the logistics, which include feeding thousands of rabbis for an extended weekend and planning innovative workshops and creative programming, the organizers are tasked with coming up with a theme to be highlighted throughout the Kinus.

The theme of this year’s Kinus is obvious: Hakhel, the year of gathering. Besides for the Kinus itself serving as a massive Hakhel gathering, the overall focus of the conference will be the importance of bringing Jews together in Jewish settings throughout the year. While Chabad Rabbis are always bringing Jews together, in a Hakhel year we double our efforts.

But one need not be a Rabbi to host or organize a Hakhel gathering. Invite some friends over and have your own Hakhel gathering! Use this how-to guide and download our monthly packets with suggested programs and tips.

Isaac married Rebecca, who married in this week’s Torah portion, pledged to emulate their parents, Abraham and Sara, and to keep their doors open for all people, with the goal of spreading recognition of G‑dliness. Their home functioned as perhaps the first Hakhel in history, and we take our cue from them to turn our own homes into beacons of Jewish light for all.

Weekly Newsletter November 11

Word from the Rabbi

Dear Friends,

This week's Torah portion opens with G‑d appearing to Abraham three days after his circumcision.

At age 99, Abraham willingly accepted the fact that despite decades of worshiping G‑d and encouraging others to, he was still imperfect. When G‑d told him he had more to do, he didn't question and was prepared to move up a rung, despite already being the most devout person on the planet.

Abraham taught us that we must always look for ways to improve, even late in life and even after tremendous accomplishments. He also taught us that recognizing our imperfection should never prevent us from striving for greatness. Even when we are still working on improving ourselves, we can help others and work to make a difference in the world.

Weekly Newsletter November 4

Dear Friends,

When Abraham discovered that there was only One G‑d, he didn’t keep it to himself. Instead, he made it his mission in life to share G‑d’s existence with anyone and everyone he encountered. There were others before him who believed in G‑d, most notably Adam, Noah, Shem, Eber, and more. But they for the most part kept their beliefs to themselves and their immediate circles.

Then along came Abraham who discovered the fallacy of idolatry on his own. No one else around him believed in G‑d, and he recognized the need for the entire world to believe in monotheism.

As descendants of Abraham, who inherited his innate faith in G‑d, we must also take it to the next level. Don’t be satisfied with living a good Jewish life yourself; share it with others! Invite others to experience the joy of Shabbat, share a Torah thought, or teach others to make a blessing over kosher food. The whole world is thirsty for this, and it is up to us to quench their thirst.

This will bring the ultimate redemption and the coming of Moshaich so much closer!

Weekly Newsletter October 28

Dear Friends,

At the end of this week’s Torah portion we read about the birth of Abraham, the first Jew. He was born at a time of chaos in the world, coming on the heels of the Great Flood and the Tower of Babel, yet he somehow managed to introduce the belief in one G‑d, along with the attribute of kindness to all of G‑d’s creations.

Some will say that the world today is also quite chaotic, with wars and natural disasters raging. This means that there is a need for an Abraham today as well, in order to introduce serenity and peace in the world. That Abraham can be you—you can be the reason the world experiences a vast change for the better. Your one mitzvah and your one act of kindness can make a difference for everyone.

You, and all of us, have that power by birthright, as an inheritance from our ancestors. We can make the world a better place, reaching the ultimate perfection with the coming of Moshiach!

Rabbi Ronnie Fine 

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