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Dear friend,

Let’s do some positive self-affirmations. Shall we?

Stand in front of the mirror, and say:

I am strong.

I can do it.

I matter.

Wait, stop there for a moment. I have an issue with those self-affirmations. Because for me, any self-affirmation that can be doubted might not work.

Am I strong? Maybe not? Maybe I am just too weak?

Can I do it? Maybe I can’t?

Do I matter? Maybe I don’t?

You see, it’s easy to say self-affirmations, but it’s not easy to substantiate them. And unless we can say those affirmations with a reasonable degree of certainty, we might be essentially lying to ourselves.

Interestingly, according to Chassidic teaching, the road to self-empowerment goes through an unexpected place.

The way to become stronger and feel better about ourselves is through… self-nullification (Bittul)!

How does that work?

When we focus less on ourselves and more on our connection to Hashem and the mission He has given us, we are tapping into the greatest and truest source of power.

And with that power, we can genuinely accomplish everything.

One fine example of this can be found in this week’s Parsha, which describes Yaakov’s (Jacob) daring journey from the comfort of his parent’s home to Charan’s foreign and often hostile environment.

Yaakov succeeded despite the enormous obstacles – both physical and spiritual. He raised a remarkable family and accumulated significant wealth.

When describing Yaakov’s wealth, the Torah pays attention to his primary source of success: his flock. It tells stories of Yaakov’s sheep and breeding methods, as well as his dedication to his job as a shepherd.

Does this story remind you of Yom Kippur? It should. Because one of Yom Kippur’s famous prayers is “Ki Anu Amecha”, a song that describes our relationship with Hashem, and it includes the following sentence:

We are your flock / and you are our shepherd.

There is just something about the sheep.

Popular culture tends to see sheep in a negative light. “Don’t be like a sheep,” we are told. Because a sheep is known to follow the shepherd, it has become a symbol of weakness.

The Torah has a different view on this: The sheep is a dedicated animal that will follow its leaders wherever it takes it. It should not be only a symbol of weakness but also one of utmost dedication.

And so, when facing the challenges of Charan, Yaakov had a secret power: the sheep.

He emulated their example and was wholly dedicated to Hashem’s mission; he was confident of his success because he knew his power came from Hashem; he was unstoppable.

With this “sheep-ish” attitude, let’s return to the mirror and modify those self-affirmations.

I am strong. Because I am connected with the real source of strength, Hashem himself.

I can do it. Because Hashem gives me the tools I need to handle whatever comes my way.

I matter. Because Hashem himself chose me to make His world a better place.

May we always recognize our G-d given greatness and abilities.

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom!
Light candles at 4:04 pm, Shabbat ends at 5:08 pm

Rabbi Yossi & Leah Rubin
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Is Thanksgiving a Jewish holiday?

No. I bet you knew that.

Is giving thanks a Jewish value? Absolutely! I bet you knew that, too.

I further bet – wait, this is starting to sound like a casino, so let me change that – I am guessing that unless you belong to that lucky group, those who walk planet earth with an oh-so-grateful attitude, being thankful is somewhat of a struggle.

And the deeper our relationship with the one who did us a favor, the greater the struggle.

Think about that.

If someone walks over to you in the street and hands you a twenty dollars bill, you will think, “wow! That was really nice of them”!

But if it was your boss who gave you a Chanukah gift card… you might be thinking, “only twenty dollars?”

You’d be most grateful if a restaurant gave you a voucher for a free dinner.

But if it’s your spouse who makes dinner… you might realize that the food is missing salt.

You get the point.

The deeper our relationships, the greater our expectations. Those expectations make it difficult to be filled with gratitude because we always think, “yes, thank you, but what about…”.

Our relationship with HaShem is where this is the most obvious.

HaShem is giving us so much. Yet, we all have a long list of the things we don’t have. And this list – at least for me – makes it more challenging to be wholeheartedly grateful for what I have.

A few months ago, I read a letter of the Rebbe that gave me a new perspective on gratitude.

As usual, the published letter included only the Rebbe’s response. Reading it, however, makes it clear that whoever was writing to the Rebbe was kvetching about how life was not good.

The Rebbe gently reminded them of all the good in their lives and then pointed out that the more gratitude they have, the more blessings they will have.

This made me realize that not having gratitude is actually an act of self-sabotage. I might not feel ready to give a full-hearted thank you, but if I will, I will receive much more!

So even from a self-centered point of view, giving thanks is the smart thing to do.

How is showing appreciation to HaShem bring more blessings from above?

Here is a thought.

Our sages teach that HaShem created everything for a reason. Nothing was made “just because.” Everything has a clear rationale and purpose for its creation.

So HaShem really wants His gifts to be used.

When we show appreciation, we demonstrate to Him that we value His gifts and plan to use them. Seeing that, HaShem will keep on giving us more and more blessings!

Enjoy your turkey, and may your life be filled with ever-increasing reasons to be thankful!

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom, Chodesh Kislev Tov!

And in the spirit of Thanksgiving... THANK YOU!
Light candles at 4:07 pm, Shabbat ends at 5:10 pm
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