Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Wedding Dresses and Wedding Cake

Wedding dresses and wedding cakes are just the beginning...And although the wedding photographer captures it all, real life starts the day after. How to make the rest of your married life a success? Sign up for The Art of Marriage to find out!

In the meantime, here's something to whet your appetite for the feast that's to come.

The Three Pillars of Marriage, Rabbi Manis Friedman

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What is Marriage

For the 25 million of you each month who are wondering, "What is marriage?"  Or, "Maybe it's time for a little marriage therapy / couples counseling," we have the answers!

Join us this spring...

Monday, March 19, 2012

Today in Toulouse

March 19, 2012 – Jonathan Sandler, a teacher, two of his children, Aryeh age 6 and Gavriel age 3 and Miriam Monsonego age 8 are shot dead in an attack at Toulouse’s Ozar HaTorah school.

March 6, 2008, Jerusalem, eight boys are killed in a terrorist attack in Jerusalem’s Merkaz HaRav Yeshivah.
April 11, 1956, Kfar Chabad, Israel - five youngsters and their teacher are murdered by terrorists.

Shock, pain, and grief overwhelm us.  How can we respond to such tragic and heinous loss of life?  Is there any response?
In 1956, Kfar Chabad grappled with just these questions.  The answer of their Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, was clear: “Don’t abandon your post.  In the spot where this tragedy occurred, the quality of Divine Mercy will be revealed.”

During the week of ‘shiva’ for the slain youngsters, the Rebbe called for a public fast day in all Chabad schools throughout the land of Israel, and sent the following words of encouragement to the residents of Kfar Chabad:

“It is my fervent hope that, with the help of G-d, Who guards with a watchful eye and supervises with individual providence, that you will overcome all obstacles, strengthen yourselves in your individual and communal building efforts, and expand all the institutions both in quantity and quality. From a position of tranquility of mind and heart and joy and gladness of heart, the study of Torah—the living word of G-d which is our protection—and the observance of mitzvot will be strengthened and exalted. Kfar Chabad should become the wellspring from which streams of chassidut and the teachings of our holy Rebbes flow outward, bringing all our Jewish brothers and sisters close to their Father in Heaven, with kindness and mercy. Through this [you shall] bring the ultimate redemption through our righteous Mashiach very soon.  
I am participating with you in your prayer and fasting, and I trust in G-d that, very soon, I will participate in your true and complete joy, physical and spiritual joy.”
(Igrot Kodesh, volume 13, introduction)

Pharaoh, Antiochus, the Crusaders, Chmielnicki, the Nazis, terrorists.    As a nation, we've outlived all our oppressors.  "Not by military force, nor by physical power, by My Spirit," says the L-rd of Hosts" (Zecharaiah 4:6).  Our weapons are positive ones, active ones: building, conducting ourselves with love for our fellow, fulfilling another mitvah with devotion.

Our hearts cry in pain with the families of those who were killed. From Kfar Chabad we remember Nissim Essiss, Moshe Peretz, Shlomo Mizrachi, Albert Edri, Amos Ozen  and their  teacher, Simcha Zilberstrom.  From Merkaz Harav we remember Neria Cohen, Segev Pniel Avihail, Avraham David Moses, Yehonatan Yitzchak Eldar, Roi Roth, Yochai Lipshitz, Yonadav Chaim Hirschfeld, and Doron Mahareta. 
To the Sandler and Monsonego families, we send our heartfelt prayers that the Omnipresent should comfort you among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

Please pray for Aharon ben Leah, a 15 year old who was injured in today’s attack.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

For Man is a Tree of the Field

Punxatawney Phil's prediction of six more weeks of winter notwithstanding, tomorrow, the Jewish calendar marks the first harbinger of spring in the Land of Israel.

The 15th of Shevat is the "New Year of the Trees," when the majority of the Mediterranean winter rains have passed, and sap begins to stir and flow through the fruit trees of Israel.  The Talmud (Rosh Hashanah 14b) explains: "If one picked fruit from a citron tree after the sun went down, he may not separate tithes from one batch for the other; the former is an 'old crop,' the latter is a 'new crop.'"

The 15th of Shevat is celebrated by eating fruits of various types, especially the species associated with the Land of Israel: grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, and dates. The Kabbalists of Safed, in the 1500s, crafted a “seder” for the 15th of Shevat, modeled after the Passover Seder. One drinks four cups of wine moving from white to red, and eats grains, and fruits from four categories: those with a hard shell, stone-fruit, fruits that are edible inside and out, and fruits that are enjoyed for their scent. The idea of the seder is to absorb the Torah way of relating to the world and its physical pleasures: neither excessive indulgence nor asceticism, but the pleasure of connecting with the G-dly sparks within all physicality.

This understanding of the deep connection between spirituality and pleasure is hinted to in the placement of the 15th of Shevat – between the holiday of Chanukah, celebrated with olive oil, and the holiday of Purim, celebrated with wine. Oil and the light it fuels symbolize the ethereal spiritual realm, while wine captures that of physical enjoyment. Between them is the bridge – the 15th of Shevat.

For more about the month of Shevat, click here.
To learn about the kabbalah of the 15th of Shevat click here.
Insights into lessons we can learn from the seven species of the Land of Israel.
Here’s an abridged form of the “seder,” – for the full ceremony, click here.  
The 15th of Shevat is also a day to pray for a beautiful etrog for the Sukkot holiday. 
This tasty recipe uses some of the seven species.
Lastly, "Seven Foods for Seven Habits," how the seven foods with which Israel is blessed can provide lessons in Divine service and self-growth.

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Monday, February 6, 2012