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What a Cold Week!

Dear Friends,

What a cold week! As Victorians, we weren't prepared for it, and so we have felt it.  I believe there is another reason why it was very cold...  

Usually we have a very interesting way of warming ourselves up in Victoria. We say to each other: "This is cold?! You know how cold it is now in Toronto/Winnipeg/Montreal?! That's not cold!"

I recognized this mechanism when my brother was visiting last winter. We were walking to Shul, and he was complaining about the cold weather, so I responded with the classical, "This is cold?!  You know what's like in New York right now!?" To which he responded, "That doesn't warm me up! It's still cold, no matter what it’s like in New York!" I guess he is not a Victorian after all...

To our surprise, this week, we couldn't warm ourselves up with that claim. It was warmer in Toronto, Montreal and New York, so it felt extremely cold in Victoria.

Judaism teaches a wonderful outlook on life. In spiritual matters, a person should never be satisfied, and must look toward role models who have achieved greater heights, be inspired by their accomplishments and strive to do better. In the material world, one needs to look at people who are less fortunate and be happy with what we ourselves have. 

This was hinted in a verse that you may be familiar with, "Bashamaim mima'al veal haaretz mitachat." Some of our great teachers have interpreted it as "Basahamim - Mima'al," in heavenly things, look upward to be inspired by those who are doing better than you, and yet, "Ba'aretz – Mitachat," in earthly things, look downward and appreciate your blessings...

Thus, our winter is really not so bad – since we know somewhere else it is worse; but we should never feel good about spiritual disadvantage – even if it could be worse. 

Thankful for the Gift of Life

Dear Friends,

Last week, I arrived in the Seattle airport from my trip to New York and made my way to the ferry terminal in Tsawwassen. After paying at the ferry booth, I turned to my right to get to my lane heading to Victoria.

Moments later, a semi-trailer coming from another booth hit the passenger side of the car, broke the window, and shook the car. It was a frightening split of a second.

The side of the car was severely damaged. I checked myself to make sure I was alive and well.  It was clear that if the truck had continued another few inches further, things would have ended very differently. Still shaken by this traumatic incident, the first thought that came to my mind was that I am grateful. I felt thankful to G-d that I wasn't hurt and there was nobody in the passenger seat.

The police came, my car was towed and I walked onto the ferry with all my boxes and suitcases from New York… The truck driver stood there looking confused and embarrassed.

On the ferry, I went and found the truck driver.  Shaking his hand, I reassured him that I was not upset, "we all make mistakes and learn from them,” I said. He seemed stunned by my reaction. I explained to him that my first feeling after the accident was just being thankful to the Almighty for not getting hurt, and this overwhelmed any feeling of anger that I could have had.

The Code of Jewish Law requires from one who is in a dangerous situation and was saved, to say the blessing of "Hagomel Lachayavim Tovot", which means "Blessed are You, who bestows good things upon the guilty.” I believe this is why gratefulness was the first thought that entered my mind.

I invite you to join me tomorrow morning at Shul, when I will be saying the blessing of "Hagomel" at the Torah, another opportunity to thank G-d for the trust He has in me, giving me the gift of life.

Stones as a cushion by Moishe Cohen

Dear Friends,

Last weekend, I attended the international conference of Shluchim (Chabad emissaries-Rabbis).  This weekend was very special in many ways, from meeting old friends, to reuniting with family members, sharing experiences, learning from fellow friends, getting inspired and much more...

I'd like to share the most emotional moment of the conference for me and for many others who attended. It was at the Banquet, the only gathering where all of us came together in one room at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, which was transformed into a magnificent ballroom for the evening, since there was no hall in New York City big enough. Four thousand Rabbis and about 1,000 guests were weeping while listening to a Torah Thought from Moshe Cohen, a 10 year old boy from England, the oldest of five, who had lost his mother suddenly just 30 days before.

We weren't crying out of sadness or pity, we were shedding tears of deep memorial reaction to the pureness and innocence of a young child, whose faith and sense of purpose gives him the strength and encouragement to carry on and to continue to bring light to his surroundings. I think many of us wished that we could take home this conviction, to hold strong through the test and challenges of life.  This little child taught us all a great lesson.

Here you can see it for yourself:

Common Language

Dear Friends,

I'm writing this short message just a few minutes before candle lighting in Brooklyn, NY. As some of you may know, I'm participating with 3,000 thousand other Chabad Rabbis from no less than 60 countries around the world in the international conventions of Chabad-Lubavitch Rabbis. To understand the uniqueness of this meeting, let me share with you the following incident:

A few days after I returned from the annual convention, it may have been the first year, I told a fellow woman in our community about an interesting ride I had on my visit.

"At the end of the day” I told her, “I joined a friend to ride back home, when I turn around to see who was in minivan, it was quite unique. One Rabbi was from Tokyo, another was from Copenhagen, another was from Uzbekistan, the driver was from northern California, the other was from Bangkok, and the last one was a colleague from Minchin, Germany and me, from Canada..."

"This is amazing" she said, "but what language were you speaking, then?"

I smiled. "We all speak the same language, in fact, we learned in Yeshiva all together..."

Afterwards I was thinking about that - it was a great question. She is right - we live in different parts of the world, and we, including our children, speak the same language, not only words, but more importantly the content - we all are inspired from the same materials, we all share the same lives. The different of geographic location doesn't change the message...

That's the story of Judaism for the last thousands of years, beyond time and beyond space.

That's the language of the Jewish soul. 

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