The Baal Shem Tov told us that all the days of the year - the weekdays, the Shabbats and holidays, etc. - receive extra power from Shabbat Bereishit. The Lubavitcher Rebbe said that the way in which people behave during Shabbat Bereishit is how they will act the entire year. Therefore it is appropriate to behave as much as possible in a manner actualizing our fullest potential and taking advantage of every spiritual opportunity. Make a commitment to not only perform all of the mitzvahs you have been doing, but to perform them with the correct intention. Remember, Shabbat Bereishit is a new beginning.

How do we do this? One way is to use our experiences over the High Holidays to sharpen our sensitivities to how we act. An important rabbi once presented himself to a well known chasidic Rebbe to whom he was distantly related. "Rebbe", he said, "I know you are upset with me." The Rebbe exclaimed in answer, "Do I not read the Bedtime Shema, in which I say in it the words, 'behold I forgive'?!" (The first of a set of prayers that is read just before going to sleep is a paragraph stating that one forgives anyone who has in any way acted inappropriately towards them.)

Being involved in the physical is why we were created….

After a month of holidays, refocusing on our day-to-day lives is not always so easy. Some of us would just like to spend all of our time studying Torah, going to synagogue, not quite putting our feet back on the ground. When the Maggid of Mezrich took over the leadership of the chasidic community from the Besht, he spent a lot of time with the large numbers of simple uneducated folk that attached themselves to the chasidic court, reaching out to them and listening to their problems. He gave his maximum effort to help where he could and to console where he could not. One of his followers, who was also a childhood friend, was unhappy about this and spoke up. "Why are you spending so much time with physical earthbound things? Is this the reason you were created? Is this the reason you were put in such a position of leadership?

The Maggid answered him, perhaps not fully seriously, "At the time the Holy One Blessed Be He created the earth and its bounty, He was sitting with the souls of the tzadikim, the righteous in the Garden of Eden, as they were basking in the light of the Divine Presence and occupying themselves with spiritual endeavors. In the midst of this, the Almighty began to get involved with creating His world. One of souls spoke up: 'Why are you lowering Yourself with involvement in physical things?' Being involved in the physical is why we were created. Just remember that our job is to take the physical and reveal its spiritual core."

Let's work on keeping our goal in mind….

Let us not get carried away with our own accomplishments. A person once came to the Rizhiner Rebbe and described to the Rebbe his own exulted level of holiness. "The whole week," the man said, "I do not eat any cooked food and only drink water. I never sleep in a bed and my shoes are filled with nail heads to make walking uncomfortable. In the winter I roll in the snow, and I am given 39 lashes daily, all to atone for my sins and bring me closer to G‑d." The Rebbe walked over with him to the window where they saw a horse rolling in the snow and said, "Do you see that horse? He too does not eat cooked food and drinks only water, sleeps on the ground, has nails in his shoes, rolls in the snow and takes more than 39 lashes a day. Nevertheless, despite all of this, he is still a horse."

Let's work on keeping our goal in mind. A rabbi once hired a wagon to take him to a certain destination. The horses were pulling the wagon to get to the next feed stop, the driver was driving the wagon to get the money to purchase necessities for his family, but, while both were justified, it was only their passenger, the rabbi, whose purpose was to accomplish a holy mission.

Shabbat Shalom and Shana Tova, Shaul

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