Diffusion of the Rebbe

This week is a big week for Chabad.  Wednesday marks 70 years since the Rebbe became Rebbe. 
Many people wonder why we're celebrating the day on which the Rebbe took over leadership of Chabad if he passed away 26 years ago.  People also wonder why Chabad hasn't appointed a new Rebbe.

The simple answer to the second question is because his shoes can't be filled.  There's a deeper answer though, which answers the first question too.

Even before officially becoming Rebbe, he would give the honor of officiating weddings with certain conditions.  About 12 years into his leadership, he officially stopped, due to lack of time.  At the same time, he encouraged people to have their wedding ceremony outside of his office, would listen in on occasion, and assured couples that this was "the same" as him performing the wedding. 

About 20 years later, he stopped giving private audiences (yechidus), again because of time constraints, but started giving out dollars on Sundays a…

Faith vs. Trust by Rabbi Wagner

R’ Shmuel Strashun, the ReSHaSH, was a talmid chochom as well as a man of means, who is known for his commentary on gemoro. He lived in Vilna, where he spent his time studying Torah and giving shiurim, while his wife ran their business ventures which were very successful. Once, he had a debate with R’ Yisroel Salanter, who was his contemporary. The argued about bitachon, and, specifically, whether one may have bitachon about something that is not a necessity but merely a luxury. The ReSHaSH argued that if something is needed, then you are justified in trusting in Hashem to provide you with it. But if you don’t need something, then what basis can you possibly have to expect, let alone be certain, that Hashem will give it to you. R’ Yisroel Salanter, however, disagreed. He insisted that if you trust in Hashem, He will come through for you, and there are no limitations on what you may have bitochon for. They each tried to support their position, but were unable to reach a resolution. Finall…

A thought on Politics

I can feel already that 2020 is going to be a major year for Chabad of Temecula.  We're making progress on the property and hope to have more to share in around a month, but be sure that lots is happening behind the scenes. 

2020 will also be an election year, and if we don't have enough politics in our lives already, we can look forward to much more this year. 

Chabad stays out of politics.  Not that we don't have personal opinions or that the issues aren't important, but so many other good organizations are involved in politics and our work transcends political issues or parties.

Many religious organizations are heavily involved in politics, precisely because the issues are so important.  People invoke "Jewish values" "Christian values" or any other religious or moral value into the conversation to argue why their political views are correct. 

What are these "Jewish or other values" that are being attributed to their political party?  If y…

How much do you love G-d?

A year or so ago, I was at at another Chabad for a morning service and noticed a Jew standing with a tallis praying.  I approached him and offered to put on tefillin with him.

He looked at me, and with a heavy Israeli accent responded, "I only put on tefillin at the Western Wall.  You have no clue how close of a relationship I have with G-d, and He doesn't need my tefillin."

Given the sincerity of his prayers, I was kind of taken about with his rejection, especially since I could tell from his answer that he wanted me to respond to him (some Israelis are like that.  They just want to see how you'll respond).

I said to him, "Are you married?"

"I was" he said.  "Divorced now."

"In that case" I said, "you know at least kind of what marriage is about."

"Imagine if your wife asked you to take out the trash, and you responded by explaining her how your love transcends taking out the trash for her, and she doesn't really …

How Natanya's Pen Pal Became Homeless on Tisha B'Av

As a young child in school, I remember being taught about Tisha B'Av, as the day that both temples were destroyed.

As I grew, I learned that more sad things happened on that day.  While the Jews were in the desert, on the doorstep of Israel, they complained about not wanting the holy land.  G-d responded with a decree that they would wander for 40 years in the desert, until that complete generation died.  This too happened on Tisha B'Av.

Of course, the first Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians on that day.  About 500 years later, the second Temple was destroyed by the Romans on the same day.  The ruins of the outer wall of that temple are what people call "The Western Wall." 

In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.  In that same year, Queen Isabella of Spain expelled all Jews who refused to convert from her country.  Which day did that happen?  You guessed it. 

On August 1, 1914, Germany declared war on Russia.  This was the beginning of WWI, WWII and …

Would you like to become orthodox?

Would you like to become orthodox?  Okay, okay, we don't have to go there.  At the very least, I won't be the one to tell you not to.  At the same time, we all have change waiting to happen that seem as impossible and ridiculous as becoming orthodox.  The socially awkward might expect their family to accept them as such, since "it's who I am."  To change this would be selling my soul.  I'll write more about this next week, but for now I want to share how impossible change happens. 

Anyone who has made life changing decisions can look back and pinpoint three stages in the change.  The first stage is the build up.  Let's use the example of someone with a debt addiction.  They could have 50 years of suffering from their problems, and still bang their head against the wall.  In this stage, there's lots of back and forth.  I want to change, but I don't really want to change.  Maybe I can manage my suffering with minimal change etc.

The second stage is t…

Do you like getting sick?

Do you ever get a cold? How about back pain? Do you like being ill?  Of course not! At least mostly.

We don't talk about it much, but being sick has its benefits. You might get extra pampering, take it easy, relax, skip washing the dishes, mopping the floor, putting the kids to bed, and may even skip work!

While 99% of me doesn’t like being sick, there is that quiet little 1% that is okay with being sick, even if I won’t admit it to anyone.

The same is true for all problems that we have in life, like marriage, money, children, or moral and religious problems. Relationship problems are really just character flaws and blind spots which only become problematic once you're in a relationship or business.

All these problems give the benefit of not being forced to work on our blind spots. If we can accept a sub-par relationships or financial situations, we won’t have to deal with our darkest sides!

In other words, while all of our problems, called golus (exile) are overall unwanted, there…