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By Rabbi Yonassan Biggs

Shalom and Bracha!

This Shabbat we read the portion of Acharei which begins with the discussion of the offerings on the day of Yom Kippur. One of the offerings was the goat that was cast away in the wilderness, symbolizing the nullification of our sins. As it was sent away, a parallel goat was offered in the holy of holies. Another offering was the incense, which was offered in the holy of holies only on the day of Yom Kippur. In Teshuvah, returning to Hashem, there are two levels. The first is rejection of sin (including acceptance to observe whatever was lacking). The second is using the negative past as a catalyst to serve Hashem beyond the norm. This has numerous forms: the negative past awakens a deep yearning and the service of Hashem is much more intense. The negative background allows someone to understand others better and thereby reach out successfully to more people. The negative background provides insights how to serve Hashem better and guide and forewarn others. In all of these forms, there is a transforming from the negative to the positive.

These two levels of Teshuvah are represented by the goats and the incense. Throwing away of sins is the first level, a total rejection of actions against the Torah and acceptance to follow the Torah’s guidance. The incense represents the higher Teshuvah. Kaballah gives a beautiful insight into the eleven spices in the incense. Ten is generally the number of sanctity, whereas eleven is often a number of impurity. Further, one of the ingredients of the incense was not Kosher. This is because the incense, and particularly the incense of Yom Kippur, represents the power of transforming evil to good.

This relates to Shabbat Hagadol. The Shabbat before Pesach is called Shabbat Hagadol, the great Shabbat. This is because of the great miracle that occurred on this Shabbat. The Jewish people were commanded to take the Pesach lamb on the tenth of Nissan, four days before slaughtering it. That day was Shabbat. The lamb was the idol of the Egyptians. Readiness to slaughter the lamb was a tremendous act of self-sacrifice. When Moshe initially spoke to Pharaoh, he told him that the Jews must perform their offering outside of Egypt because the Egyptians would surely stone the Jews for slaughtering sheep. Holding a lamb for four days, in preparation for slaughter, was an even greater act of courage. Nevertheless, imbued with faith in Hashem and the coming redemption, The Jews followed Moshe’s command.

Upon seeing the Jew’s taking sheep into their homes, the Egyptians asked them what they are doing. They responded that in four days they would slaughter the lambs, and then Hashem would kill all of the firstborn Egyptians. Upon hearing this, the firstborn Egyptians rebelled, demanding the release of the Jews. Many Egyptians were killed quelling the rebellion.

The reason that this is called a “great” miracle is that although many times our enemies have been given over into our hands, or defeated by Hashem, here the Egyptians were smitten by there own, by their firstborn. The firstborn represent the epitome, the cream of the crop. By the Jews selflessly fulfilling the will of Hashem, the epitome of evil became a tool to smite evil and pave the path to redemption. Further, the merit of their self sacrifice made them worthy of the redemption. May Hashem grant us the miracle of redemption immediately.

Friday, April 11th, marks the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s Hundred and twelfth birthday. Those who say the Rebbe’s chapter of Tehillim daily begin to say chapter 113. As we mark this day it is an appropriate time to reflect upon the Rebbe’s effect on worldwide Jewry and to think how we can follow in his path, both by ourselves fulfilling additional Mitzvot and by encouraging fellow Jews wherever they may be to embrace their heritage. Just as we begin the Seder by inviting the hungry to partake, every Mitzvah we do should be accompanied by a desire to share with the spiritually hungry. A prominent Rabbi once suggested that we leave a seat vacant at the Seder in memory of the victims of the holocaust. The Rebbe responded that the victims would be better remembered by seeking a Jew who was not attending a Seder and bringing him to the Seder. The true victory over those who would annihilate us r”l is using them a catalyst to intensify our heritage and fortify our people.

On a person’s birthday, his Mazal is strong. On a leader’s birthday, the Mazal of the entire Jewish people is strengthened. If anyone would like a prayer said by the Rebbe’s resting place, please contact me at rabbibiggs@gmail.com and include your Hebrew name and your mother’s Hebrew name. May Hashem immediately grant the goal that the Rebbe strived for endlessly, the coming of Moshiach.

Thousands of families are depending on Chabad to provide them for the basic needs for the holiday. Please donated generously to the Passover emergency fund and as you enjoy your Seder you will know needy families are enjoy their Seder thanks to you.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Biggs

Dedicated to the Rebbe in honor of his birthday. May Hashem grant his greatest wish, the coming of Moshiach



All times listed are NY times.

The search for Chametz is Sunday night, April 13th after 8:06 p.m.

The fast if the firstborn is Monday April 14th.

Chametz may be eaten until 10:43 a.m. Monday.

Chametz must be burnt or sold before 11:49 a.m. Before 11:49 one must declare “All Chametz (leavening or leavened products) in my possession are hereby null, void, and without owner like the dust of the earth.”

Pesach extends from the night of April 14th through April 26th at 8:30 p.m. April 15th, 16th, 21st, and 22nd are holidays.

Tefillin are not worn the entire week according to the Chabad custom.

The fast of the firstborn is Monday, April 14th.

Candle lighting is 7:15 on Monday April 18th. It is desirable to use long candles that will burn the entire Seder. Please endeavor to include as many Jews as possible in the Pesach Seder both nights.

The Kabbalah teaches that the Matzah of the first Seder is the bread of faith and the second Seder is the bread of healing.

Tuesday during Musaf we stop praying for rain and begin to pray for dew throughout the summer.

Candle lighting Tuesday night is after 8:17 from an existing flame.

Counting the Omer begins Tuesday night. Every night until Shavuot we count the days after nightfall. The blessing is Baruch Atta Adonai Eloheinu Melech Haolam Asher Kid’shanu B’mizvotav V’tzivanu Al Sefirat Ha’omer. On Tuesday night we say today is one day of the Omer. May the All Merciful return to us the Temple service in its place speedily in our days. Amen. Selah. On Wednesday night we say the blessing and count today is two days of the Omer etc. Next Monday we count today is seven days, which are one week of the Omer etc. Next Tuesday we count today is eight days, which are one week and one day of the Omer etc. If the Omer wasn’t counted at night, we count during the day without a blessing. Thereafter, we continue to count with a blessing. If we miss an entire day, we continue to count without a blessing.

The Seder has a lesson for each of us in our lives. Mitzrayim (Egypt) represents limitations and boundaries. In our lives, it represents our inhibitions and obstacles that prevent us from reaching our goals. Pesach is the time Hashem gave us to rise above our obstacles. The way to do so is Matzah. Matzah is the bread of humility. It has the same grain and nutritional components of bread, but it doesn’t rise. What is the true meaning of humility? Faith. Humility is not ignoring our accomplishments or abilities. It is recognizing that these are gifts of G-d and we must question if we have used His gifts to the utmost. Moshe was called the humblest of all men. Didn’t he know that he was the ultimate prophet and redeemer? Of course he did. He saw these as G-d’s gifts. Had they been bestowed on someone else, they would have done a better job. Matzah is the bread of faith. Humility is recognition that everything comes from Hashem. That is the key to overcoming impediments. We aren’t working with our powers we are working with His. Matzah is the bread of faith. When we are imbued with ego, we are plagued with grief for everything we think we deserve. Humility teaches us gratitude which is the foundation of joy.

In merit of faith may this Pesach be the celebration of the final redemption with the coming of Moshiach who will heal all of the wounds of Galut (exile).

Chag Kasher V’sameach

Rabbi Biggs

One of the favorite parts of the Haggadah is the section Dayeinu, when we recognize that each of the miracles of the Exodus would be sufficient in its own merit to elicit our gratitude to Hashem. This teaches us a wonderful trait, to appreciate every blessing individually and live a life of gratitude rather than a life of dissatisfaction.

When we think more deeply into the Dayeinu, questions arise. We say if Hashem split the Sea and didn’t bring us through on dry ground it would have been sufficient for us. Were we meant to stay on the other side and get killed? That’s not sufficient! Perhaps He would have scared the Egyptians. But we continue if Hashem had brought us to Mount Sinai and not given us the Torah, it would have been enough. How is that enough? The Torah is our life! The Exodus was to receive the Torah! We continue the If Hashem had given us the Torah and not brought us to Israel, it would have been enough. How is that possible? Hashem told Abraham that the exile was the preface for the inheritance of the Land of Israel! And similarly the construction of the Temple!

In the Haggadah we recount the Hashem redeemed Himself with His full glory, not through and Angel or a messenger. The meaning of Dayeinu is not that Hashem could have skipped steps, because each of the 15 Dayeinus are critical to the Exodus and birth of the Jewish people. However, if He had revealed His presence in the earlier steps and continued through intermediaries, the Exodus would be complete and that revelation would suffice to validate all of the later steps. Hashem put His whole being in each phase to demonstrate His great love and devotion to Jewish people.

There is a deep lesson from this. Our deeds should parallel His love. When we serve Hashem, we shouldn’t just do the job. Our whole being should permeate the prayer, the Torah study and the Mitzvah.

Shabbat Chol Hamoed
Candle lighting Friday April 18th is 7:19 Shabbat ends 8:21

This Shabbat we read about the giving of the second tablets. After begging Hashem’s forgiveness for the Jewish people for having made the golden calf, Moshe asked that Hashem show him His glory. (Moshe’s goal was not a selfish one. He knew that by rising to a higher spiritual plane, he would be able to share his spiritual wealth with the Jewish people.) The Rambam explains that although Hashem has no physical form, Moshe wanted to reach the pinnacle of human awareness of Hashem. Hashem acceded to his request. From this we see a powerful lesson. By begging for forgiveness for other Jews, although they were involved in lust, idolatry and violence, Moshe was elevated to a new spiritual plane.

This is reminiscent of a story of the third Lubavitcher Rebbe, The Tzemach Tzedek. The Tzemach Tzedek studied a great deal under his grandfather, the first Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi. Even after his grandfather’s passing, he would appear to him and answer his questions in Torah. One time, his grandfather had not appeared for a long time, causing the Tzemach Tzedek great anguish. The Tzemach Tzedek was on the way to synagogue and a poor man asked for a loan, because it was a market day. The Tzemach Tzedek told him to meet him after prayers. After entering synagogue and going through spiritual preparation for prayer, the Tzemach Tzedek donned his Tallit. He then thought that he was wrong for delaying the loan. In the interim, as the Tzemach Tzedek was praying, the man could be making a living. He took off his Tallit, went and got the money, and sought out the man in the marketplace. (One can only imagine the distraction of such a Tzaddik searching the marketplace before prayers.) When he returned to synagogue, and again donned his Tallit, his grandfather appeared to him and explained all of the questions the Tzemach Tzedek had saved since their last meeting. He then explained to him the tremendous spiritual heights one can reach by doing a fellow Jew a physical favor and certainly a spiritual favor.

The Haftara describes the prophecy of Yechezkiel when Hashem brought him to a valley of dry bones and told him to bring them back to life. Upon doing so, Hashem told him that the dry bones represent the Jewish people.

Many parts of our life can be represented by dry bones. Often, when we pray, or do another Mitzvah, it is without life. We say the words and go through the motions, but they are without life. We help poor people or study the Torah, but it is without life. Hashem is telling us to arise and feel the beauty of every Mitzvah we do.

This also applies to our relationships with our friends and family. The Previous Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Shneerson, once said that a Shalom Aleichem used to be a heartfelt greeting. Now, in the greeting, there is a hint of when are you leaving already? We need to put life into our dry bones. A kiss good morning to our children, a hello, must be full of life.

Through our breathing new life into our dry bones, may Hashem speedily grant the coming of Moshiach and the resurrection of the deceased.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Biggs

Dedicated to Shlomo Ben Yaakov Hakohen Gindi on the occasion of his Brit. May he rise to be a source of joy and pride to to Hashem, his family, and his people.



Shevi’i Shel Pesach

Sunday night Sefirah is 6 days of the Omer

NY City Candle lighting Sunday April 20th at 7:22 .

Candle lighting Monday April 21st after 8:24 p.m. from an existing flame

Yizkor is Tuesday April 22th

In NY City, Pesach ends 8:25 pm Tuesday

Shalom and Bracha!

Monday and Tuesday we celebrate the last two days of Pesach. On the Seventh day of Pesach we celebrate the splitting of the Red Sea. As the Jewish people fled Egypt, Hashem hardened Pharaoh’s heart and he pursued them. As the Jews reached the Red Sea, they found themselves completely surrounded. The sea was on one side, and the approaching army was on the other. The people were thrown into a panic, and were divided as to what to do. Some felt it was better to commit suicide by jumping into the sea rather than capitulate. Some felt it was better to return to servitude. Others felt it was better to try their hands at war, and still others felt they should dedicate themselves to prayer.

Moshe answered the Jewish people “Fear not. Stand strong and you shall see the salvation of Hashem that He will perform today. You will never again see Egypt as you have seen them today. Hashem will battle for you. Be still.” Thereafter, Hashem told Moshe “Speak to the Jewish people and they should go forward.” Nachshon Ben Aminadav, the leader of the tribe of Yehudah, bravely entered the waters and proceeded forward until they split.

The four approaches mentioned above represent different reactions to problems in following Hashem’s direction in life. Suicide represents the inability to fulfill one’s mission. Although more idealistic than returning to Egypt, it rejects the principle purpose of our existence, to make the world a divine place. Returning to Egypt represents a lack of faith in the ability to fulfill Hashem’s direction. Battle represents attempting to deal with the world with only our own finite powers. By only praying, we ignore Hashem’s directive to accomplish things ourselves.

We left Egypt with the goal to receive the Torah at Mount Sinai. However great the obstacles were, Hashem told us not to lose focus on our mission. All of the above approaches did nothing to advance us towards receiving the Torah, and as such were wrong. Only by pressing forward with Hashem’s mission with full faith in success can we progress.

Often, we find it difficult to follow the Torah while living within society. Challenges lead us to feel we must either escape the world or forgo certain Mitzvot. The splitting of the sea teaches us that we must face and overcome challenges by focusing only on the mission of Hashem and we will then surely succeed.

Nachshon was the head of the tribe of Yehudah, from whom Moshiach stems. On the eighth day of Pesach, we celebrate the coming redemption. May our resolve to follow the Torah in an unwavering manner hasten his coming and may we conclude this Pesach in Yerushalayim.

The Baal Shem Tov instituted a custom to conclude the holiday with a meal celebrating the coming of Moshiach. Matzah is eaten and four cups of wine are consumed. The Rebbe added that each cup should be consumed with the intent to hasten Moshiach’s coming. May the continuation of this meal be the great feast Hashem has prepared for the coming of Moshiach!

Chag Sameach,

Rabbi Biggs

Dedicated to my dear friend Moshe Chaim Ben Yehudis for blessings in every manner

Shabbat Kedoshim

NY City Candle lighting 7:27 Shabbat ends 8:30

For worldwide times on the web go to www.chabadgn.com/Candles
Friday night is 11 days which are one week and 4 days of the Omer

Mevarchim Iyar Rosh Chodesh is Wednesday and Thursday

The Molad is Tuesday afternoon, April 29th, 4:38 and 10 Chalakim

Pirkei Avot chapter 1

Shalom and Bracha!

This Shabbat we bless the month of Iyar and we read the portion of Kedoshim. The portion begins "be holy, because I, Hashem your G-d, am holy. A deep reflection upon this for gives us the awareness that each of us has a spark of G-d within us and through the power of that spark and the awareness of that spark we can elevate ourselves to any height of holiness.

In the midst of the portion we find a very special Mitzvah, loving our fellow Jew as ourselves. Rabbi Akiva said that this Mitzvah is the great principal of the Torah, and Hillel said that the entire Torah is an explanation of this Mitzvah. Seemingly, this Mitzvah is very difficult to understand. How can Hashem command me to have an emotion? Further, why is the entire Torah connected to this Mitzvah?

Our emotions are effected by our thoughts. Hillel, in expressing this Mitzvah, said “Don’t treat others in a manner which you hate.” The Tzemach Tzedek, (the third Lubavitcher Rebbe) explained Hillel’s words. We all resent when people dwell on our faults. Although we make mistakes, we want others to concentrate on the positive things that we have accomplished, not the negative. Hillel teaches us to treat others in the same manner. Rather than thinking about their faults, ignore their faults and think about the good that they have done. Suddenly, it becomes much easier to stop hating and start loving.

In order to love someone as ourselves, we must come to a higher awareness of our own being. We are each souls, and our bodies are merely the vehicles of the soul’s expression. The entire Jewish people are one entity working to perfect the world through Torah and Mitzvot and prepare the world for Moshiach’s coming. Although some of us are less active in our mission, we are all parts of one body. As such, loving of our fellow Jew is tantamount to loving ourselves. This higher awareness is the basis of the entire Torah.

The word Iyar, the month we bless this Shabbat, is an abbreviation of the Hebrew verse Ani Hashem Rofecha (I am Hashem your healer.) Our prolonged exile is the sickness that has enveloped the world for much too long. The Temple was destroyed because of wanton hatred and will be rebuilt because of Ahavat Yisrael. Let’s each do something special for Jewish unity and may we speedily see the coming of Moshiach.

Shabbat Shalom and Chodesh Tov,

Rabbi Biggs

In memory of Mindel Bas Nota Asher and Pessiah Bas Nota Asher Shetman.
May their souls be bound in the bond of eternal life.

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