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Prepare for a Blizzard of Epic Proportions!

On Sunday I began to see people posting blizzard announcements all over Facebook. Living in New York, I am used to snowstorm warnings, but this one was different. The blizzard about to wallop much of the Northeast would bring record amounts of snowfall to New York, forecasters predicted.

Mayor de Blasio and the meteorologists cautioned New Yorkers to take the blizzard warnings seriously. "This could be the biggest snowstorm in the history of New York City, unlike anything we've seen before," they said.

Slowly, the city began to shut down. Schools and businesses closed early. I'd been summonsed for jury duty Monday afternoon, but two hours in the courts closed and we were dismissed, with documentation clearing us from having to serve for another six years.

Cars were ordered off the roads by 11pm and the transit system was completely shut down. Thousands of flights were cancelled, including my mother-in-law's return flight to London, so we were able to enjoy her company for a few extra days.

The media frenzy took on a life of its own, and I received frantic phone calls from relatives all over the world concerned for our safety and wellbeing in the face of this looming snowmageddon.

It's safe to say this storm affected millions and millions of people, who went out and stocked up on food, water, flashlights, batteries, salt, snow shovels and everything else they might need for the storm. When I tried to buy a sled for my kids, all the stores were completely sold out!

And then I woke up bright and early Wednesday morning expecting to see the city drowning in snow, but it was nowhere to be found. Just a few small inches in the ground. Juno, predicated to be the worst storm to ever hit New York, failed to deliver.

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This week we mark the 10th of Shevat—the day the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe passed away, and also the day upon which, one year later in 1951, his son-in-law, the Rebbe, assumed leadership of the Chabad movement.

On this day, exactly 64 years ago, the Rebbe gave his first talk as leader of the Chabad movement, and he predicted a major storm. A blizzard of epic proportion was heading our way, and he strongly advised us to prepare.

This blizzard would reach not just 30 million people, but all 7 billion people living on earth. We've been preparing for this storm, not just for two days, but for thousands of years. And unlike Juno, which failed to come, this storm is coming.

The Rebbe told us we would witness not a snowstorm, but a storm of warmth. This storm won't shut down airports, it will open up the airways and we'll all travel on eagles and clouds! The storm is coming and it's the storm of Moshiach.

The Rebbe promised us that our generation would witness the coming of Moshiach and the era of peace and tranquility he will usher in.

Most of all, the Rebbe told us to prepare. How? By accumulating acts of goodness and kindness.

Thirty million people made sure to take the predictions of winter storm Juno seriously. Now it's time to take the Rebbe's words seriously.

Go out, get ready, stock up on mitzvos, and do everything you can to prepare to greet Moshiach!

Never heard of Charlie. Have you?

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Prior to last week's tragic terror attack in France, had you heard of the Charlie Hebdo magazine? 

Neither had I. 

And for good reason: the magazine was a nonentity on the verge of bankruptcy. 

Charlie Hebdo printed about 60,000 copies weekly, of which only 30,000 were actually sold. There are about 60 million people who live in France which means that 0.0005 percent of the population was reading it. And of the billions of people living on Earth, 0.0000042857 percent read this publication, which, for statistical purposes, amounts to zero. 

Virtually no one read Charlie Hebdo, but a few crazed fanatics who did decided to avenge the “honor of Muhammad” by brutally killing 17 innocent civilians in cold blood, and wounding 21 others.
 
This small group of ruthless individuals have forever altered the course of history; the Jewish nation, France, and the free world will never forget last week's terror and bloodshed. 

Our sages teach that the power of goodness and kindness is infinitely stronger than the power of evil. "A little light (goodness and kindness) dispels much darkness (evil)” is not merely an adage—it is the starting point for illuminating our lives and ultimately transforming the entire world. 

And, so, I ask you: 

If two fanatics with AK 47s can shut down an entire country and sow fear across the world, can you imagine how much joy and peace you can spread across the world by lighting Shabbat candles this week? 

If two lunatics, with a single act of terror can bring 3.7 million people together in an unprecedented display of unity, can you imagine the kind of unity that you can create with a single act of love

If two murderers can unite 40 world leaders by taking away the lives of others, can you imagine what you could do by giving of yourself to others through the mitzvah of charity? 

If these systematic murderers could instantly make the almost defunct Charlie Hebdo magazine a household name, selling 5 million copies this week, can you imagine what you could do by studying the Torah, which has been around for 3327 years, is printed in dozens of languages and will never go bankrupt? 

If a few deranged fanatics can unleash widespread terror and bloodshed while offering a prayer to their "god," can you imagine the life, the connection, the meaning you can bring into your life by praying to Hashem? 

If all it took was two of the seven billion human beings on Earth to read the Charlie Hebdo publication and irrevocably change the developed world, can you imagine what you can accomplish today by reading this article? 

Lost in London

Last week I travelled to London for my niece’s wedding. Because my wife is English, and her parents and several siblings live there with their families, we took our children along so they could spend time with the extended family.

While we were there, we decided to make the most of the city and took a trip to the London Eye. Living in Manhattan should have taught me not to take a car into the notoriously traffic-congested city, but with four little jetlagged kids, it seemed easier to take the car. When we arrived, we circled the area several times looking for parking, but alas there was none. We decided that my wife would take our two older children on the giant Ferris wheel and give them the real London experience, while I stayed in the car with the younger two who had both fallen asleep.

I drove around a while longer until I found a place where I could let the car sit until my wife and kids came out. I texted my brother-in-law Moishy, who was also at the Eye with his family, with directions for my wife: “Tell her to walk one block from where I dropped her off and make a left. I’m waiting on that street.”

Unfortunately, I had no way of contacting my wife directly, because when we arrived in London we decided to put a local sim card into one of our phones, but we felt it unnecessary to do to both phones; one was sufficient. As it happens, I ended up with the working phone.

The ride ended, my wife’s siblings and their families headed to their cars, and Shevy and the kids started walking towards our car.  The problem is my directions were not as clear as I thought they were! So they walked and walked, jetlagged and freezing cold, without finding me. Meanwhile, I had two sleeping jetlagged kids in the back of the car, and when I realized there was a problem, I started circling the area looking for them. We had no way to communicate and Shevy didn’t even know my London phone number because I’d just gotten it.

I started calling out my window, asking passersby if they’d seen a blond woman with a little girl and boy, but no luck. Soon my kids woke up and started crying, and my frustration mounted.

Being married for 12 years, I tried to put myself into my wife’s shoes and work out what she would do in the current situation. I realized, without a shadow of doubt, that she would grab the nearest taxi, go home, and call me as soon as she arrived. Suddenly I was much calmer, and waited for the call which, as predicted, came soon after.

In this week’s Torah portion we first meet Moses, the greatest leader the Jewish nation has ever known. What made him such an effective leader?

Moses was a shepherd and on one occasion one of his sheep ran away. Moses thought the sheep was trying to escape so he ran after it. He ran and ran and ran until he caught up to the sheep which had stopped at a stream of water to drink. It turned out the sheep was simply thirsty. When Moses understood what was driving the sheep, he walked back to the herd carrying the tired sheep on his shoulders.

This, explains the midrash, is why Moses was a superior leader. A true leader is able to understand why his followers do what they do, say what they say and think what they think. This was Moses’ specialty. For forty years he led the Jewish people, always sensitive to their needs and demands. He understood why they complained and how to motivate them.

What a lesson for all of us! We know many of our family and friends intimately, but how often do we really stop to think things through from their perspective? Next time you have a fight with a friend, spouse, sibling, or business partner, stop and try to really see their side of the argument. Close your eyes, use what you know about that person and how they filter and process interactions, and you’ll have a whole new perspective. Try it!

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