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 The Internet - Swords Into Plowshares Obituary

Chabad on the Internet

By P. Laphan

Black clothed and hatted men with beards and modestly dressed women keeping the customs of their ancestors and maintaining their integrity in the midst of the technological revolution. Their influence is radiating out from Brooklyn, New York on the form of an incredible Internet service. The effect on me has been deep and profound. To say they have reached my soul is an oversimplification.

I wrote their service and questioned them - about faith, customs, technical points, history - in short, about everything Jewish, and they answered - patiently and steadily.

They did not just answer with a wealth of information. They answered with people. No matter how tiny (a question about Jewish sheet music) or how important (a multitude of questions about conversion) the query, I received an answer. They sent me to real people so that, in accord with that marvelous Jewish custom of discussion, I could communicate with minds everywhere. I asked about Orthodoxy and they answered - and sent me to non-Orthodox Jews for other viewpoints - via Internet. I requested information where I needed the assistance of an observant Jewish woman. They sent me one - via Internet.

I was not only given responses but was, in turn, questioned. I was told that the answer: "Its just right" was not enough. I was taught to think deeper about my feelings, my reasons. I was challenged to become more active, more observant, to write letters when I felt something was amiss, to talk to people, to search for the reason behind - so as to be clearer in my own mind, and to be able to better explain to those around me the questions which come my way.

In the chaos of present day life, Chabad Lubavitch in Cyberspace is something I can count on. There is a real, human person answering my questions there practically 24 hours a day - except Shabbat! Often, a group of them discuss my questions before a response is given - an honest, straightforward, thoughtful response.

At the beginning of my correspondence with Chabad Lubavitch in Cyberspace, I was confused about many aspects of Judaism, even though I have been studying it for years and been surrounded by the Jewish culture most of my life. I had questions about Orthodoxy vs. Conservatism, the keeping of the 613 mitzvot - why not eat meat and dairy together, what did keeping kosher actually mean, why was family purity important, what did keeping Shabbat really entail. To have a source - a human source - virtually seconds away where one can get sound, reliable information, answers, advice, and pointers - is of unequaled importance to me and to most everyone, I would imagine. It has touched every part of my daily life. I have changed my dress, becoming more careful as I learn the reasoning and know what is at stake. I have found that not working on Shabbat has not put my family in the poor house. I try harder to keep the maxim: "Do not do unto others what you would not have them do unto you." When people come to me now, I am better prepared in pointing them onwards. I am becoming calmer.

Chabad Lubavitch in Cyberspace puts it all back to the basics. I now know that somebody out there cares. It must be mentioned that the director of their service is a truly wonderful and humble man. When it really got almost too dark to handle, he was always there (He is still there!). Because of him and his, it just might not get too dark again. And I am not even Jewish - yet! But I am certainly clear on the obligations and duties that go along with my decision now. I have received honest answers, not just a picture of a bed of roses.


Chabad-Lubavitch in Cyberspace

By S. Fleur

I found Chabad Lubavitch on the Internet by a presumed accident, as I researched a doctoral subject through the various channels, routes, and sub-routes of cyberspace. It seemed so strange… One moment, there I was, communicating with a computer in South America and then, in the next, a picture of Rabbi Schneerson the Lubavitcher Rebbe appeared on my screen!

The Rebbe had become an important person in my life about fifteen years ago when, during an evening news program, I had seen his presence on the television screen. Later on someone had given me his picture - a picture that I kept and came to treasure throughout the years.

It had been at that time also that I, of Jewish descent but raised as a Christian, had become involved in the process of discovering my beginnings. The questioning, however, had only taken a few months when the reality of my then existent situation became obvious to me, prompting me to abandon my search for G-d. However, the inner call of my own Jewishness remained within my soul, although limited to no more than a veiled whisper and a small photograph of the Rebbe inside my billfold.

The Years passed, all my Jewish connections became lost in a frenzy of advanced university degrees and various activities, my children grew up, and my husband and I learned the value of the ebb and flow of all significant human relationship. Yet, within my heart, there was still an emptiness, a hollow and aching feeling that long to be fulfilled.

It was the Rebbe's picture again, this time on the Internet, that seemed to awaken and touch my soul deeply. As I hurriedly began to print out all the information available about Chabad Lubavitch, I also found and subscribed to a so called "listserv." Hoping against hope to establish contact with a human being, I wrote my first "Dear Sir" note. To my utter surprise, a very kind answer followed, signed by someone called YY.

Since then the letters have flown back and forth, and I have learned, and I have learned! The questions are in the hundreds: "How does one say the Shema?" "Do you believe that there is a soul?" "Do heaven, hell, and purgatory exist?" 'What happens after death?" "How does one observe Shabbat?" "Where can I find Jewish prayers?" " Is there a place on the Internet to learn Hebrew?" "What are mitzvot?" "Are there transliterated versions of the blessings?" "Why did G-d want animal sacrifices?" etc. And I ask and ask, and they keep on coming, and I find myself being this bottomless question mark that does not seem to ever empty itself out! It is as if years and years of compressed, and wordless, questions have now come to the surface and exploded in myriad pieces on the screen of the Director of activities!

And yet, miracle of all miracles, this same individual - someone whom I have never personally met - patiently and kind, and so very carefully, answers each one of them - from the most trite and inconsequential to the philosophical and esoteric! "Nothing is insignificant," he once replied to me, and I see, in his dedication to his work, not only his commitment to G-d but also the validation of all Jewish souls!

As of today, I cannot fathom the result of my wondering. But, for now, I have discovered that Chabad in Cyberspace is a welcoming shelter, a safe and restful place that feeds my soul and, guarding and protecting my integrity as a human being, allows me to discover my reason for existing!

Visit them at: www.JewishContent.org and enjoy the spiritual lift.

 The Internet - Swords Into Plowshares Obituary

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