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Devarim Deutronomy

L'Chaim
July 8, 2005 - 1 Tamuz, 5765

877: Chukas

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  876: Korach878: Balak  

Reality Check  |  Living with the Rebbe  |  A Slice of Life  |  What's New
The Rebbe Writes  |  Rambam this week  |  A Word from the Director  |  Thoughts that Count
It Once Happened  |  Moshiach Matters

Reality Check

by Rabbi Eliyahu Touger

For anyone whose life was touched by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, this coming Sunday, Gimmel (3) Tammuz, is a time of mixed feelings. For the Rebbe is not with us in the same way as before.

That said, there is no person who is connected with the Rebbe who thinks of the Rebbe in the past tense. Even now, he is the Rebbe. And people look to the Rebbe for all the material and spiritual influence they received in the past.

The Rebbe has a unique ability to keep a person focused on his ultimate purpose. There is nothing more empowering than attaching oneself to an all-encompassing goal. When the Rebbe accepted leadership 1950, he explicitly stated that bringing the redemption was the goal he sought to achieve. In his later years, this mission became increasingly pressing as the Rebbe reiterated the importance of transforming Moshiach's coming from a dream into concrete reality.

People often ask: "Do you really believe Moshiach will come?" For a person whose life is touched by the Rebbe, the question is the opposite: "Why hasn't Moshiach come already?" Moreover, he does not merely ask a question, he does what he can to provide an answer by acting to make the world a more suitable setting for Moshiach to enter.

Many of us feel a conflict between realism and idealism. We have an image of the world as we would like it to be and then there is the world as it actually exists.

Making Moshiach a goal means looking at ourselves and the world around us from G-d's perspective, seeing the real good that each individual and all existence possess, and committing ourselves to bringing that potential to the surface.

Every entity plays a role in this ultimate design. In a time of difficulty, instead of looking at the problems, you look towards this intent. You focus on the genuine reservoir of good that exists and do your best to tap into it and make it accessible to others.

It is not an escape from an unpleasant reality; it is accessing a deeper and truer reality, one which each one of us possesses and can bring to the surface.

If we all possess this reservoir of good, why don't we reveal it? Probably because our attention is focused elsewhere. We get sidetracked with the details of our day-to-day existence, the tensions, some real and some imagined, that exist, and the simple routine that prevails. The Rebbe challenges such a mindset and asks us to dig deeper, stand prouder, and be willing to be more of ourselves, indeed, to step beyond ourselves.

The Rebbe taught this by example and through his teachings, he made it possible to understand and identify with this motif. Most importantly, he gave us the potential to share it with others. Connecting with the Rebbe lifts a person out of his doldrums, brings him in contact with his inner positive potential, and spurs him to reach toward his purpose. When we identify with the Rebbe, we can inspire other people in the same way. It's very simple: goodness is catchy. If you can manifest it genuinely yourself, it will enter the hearts of others and they will respond. The motif will spread. When more of us live with Redemption in this manner, we will initiate a positive spiral of change, for the microcosm affects the macrocosm. The ripples will be felt in ever-widening circles and Moshiach's coming will be an actual reality.

Adapted from Highlights


Living with the Rebbe

This week's Torah portion Chukat begins, "This is the statute of (chukat) the Torah..." The portion describes the special laws associated with the purification that comes about through the Red Heifer.

The word "chukat" refers to "statutes." When speaking about the different types of mitzvot (commandments), the Torah singles out chukim - statutes - as being unique. There is no reason given for the observance of chukim. We don't know of any material or spiritual advantage that will be garnered by their observance; we fulfill them simply because G-d commands us to.

There are some who explain that it is important to have such commandments to show that our Torah observance involves a commitment beyond our personal will. Even when we do not understand what G-d has commanded us, we are willing to carry out His commandments. According to this understanding, the observance of these mitzvot is rather dry. Yes, it is necessary, but there is really no warmth or vibrancy to it.

Not everyone observes chukim in this way, however. On the contrary, we see some people who have a special joy in fulfilling chukim. Why? Because chukim relate to a point in the soul that is above our own will and our understanding. In the observance of these mitzvot, a person identifies with G-d on His terms. He or she is doing what G-d wants because He wants it and for no other reason. In essence, that is the most encompassing form of satisfaction a person can have.

The above enables us to appreciate one of the unique dimensions of the era of the Redemption. In his book of Jewish law entitled "Mishne Torah," Moses Maimonides (the Rambam) states that "In that age, the occupation of the entire world will be solely to know G-d." Indeed, the singleness of aspiration that characterizes the chukim will resonate through all mankind, as the Prophet states: "All the nations will be transformed to [speak] a pure language ... to serve Him with a single purpose." For our energies will focus on comprehending G-d's truth.

We have a multitude of different desires. Now it's true, the inner motivation for any of our desires is G-dliness. At present, however, that inner dimension is covered by many other externals. We think we are seeking things like love, wealth, or power. We aren't aware of the essential drive propelling our will. For in any experience, what we are really seeking is the G-dly truth it contains. In the era of the Redemption, by contrast, this truth will surface, and in everything that we do, we will appreciate the G-dly intent.

From Keeping in Touch, adapted from the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe by Rabbi E. Touger, published by Sichos in English


A Slice of Life

Asking the Rebbe for Advice
As told by Rabbi Mendel Gluckowsky

A young, enthusiastic Lubavitcher Chasid who is involved in printing the book of Tanya throughout Israel. This is in keeping with the Lubavitcher Rebbe's directive of 1984 to print the Tanya wherever Jews live. Tanya is the basic book of Chabad Chasidic philosophy written by the first Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Shneur Zalman. The Rebbe said that by printing the Tanya, and studying it, we are helping prepare for Moshiach.

This Chasid went to a small settlement (yishuv) in Israel recently, his portable printing press and other equipment safely secured in his vehicle. All he needed was an electrical outlet where he could plug in his machine. As soon as it became known the reason for the Lubavitcher's visit, one of the yishuvniks agreed to let him use his electricity. As they were setting things up and getting the press rolling, the yishuvnik told the Lubavitcher the following story:

"A few years ago I was having a hard time finding my soulmate. I became a little despondent and decided to do some traveling. Perhaps at least I would find myself! Like many other young Israelis I traveled to India and eventually found my way to the Chabad House there. While in the Chabad House, I noticed a couple walk into the rabbi's office looking quite forlorn. A little while later, they emerged, full of smiles and looking happy and content. I got up my courage and asked them what miracles had taken place in the rabbi's office to afford this change of mood.

" 'We had a very serious problem that was bothering us,' one of them began. 'We asked the rabbi for advice and he encouraged us to ask the Lubavitcher Rebbe. We were shocked to hear that we could still ask the Rebbe for advice and blessings in these times. The rabbi explained that we could write a letter to the Rebbe and place it in one of the volumes of the Rebbe's Igrot Kodesh (letters) and that is what we did. The page that we had randomly opened to had an exact solution to our problem!'

" 'I thought to myself,' continued the yishuvnik, 'maybe the Rebbe can help me with my problem as well. I knocked on the rabbi's door and asked him if he could help me write a letter to the Rebbe. The rabbi agreed. I poured out my heart to the Rebbe that I wanted to get married but had not yet found my soulmate. I placed the letter in the Igrot Kodesh.

" 'The page to which I opened spoke about the importance of studying the daily lessons of 'Chitat' (Chumash - the Five Books of Moses, Tehillim - Psalms and Tanya) as well as owning books published by Kehot, the Lubavitcher publishing house. Hmm, this doesn't have anything to do with me or my situation I said to myself disappointedly. I thanked the rabbi for his time and went on my way.

"Eventually I returned to Israel. A few months after I returned I reminded myself about the Rebbe's letter and thought, 'It can't hurt. I'm still not married. I might as well study Chitat.' I purchased the books and started studying daily. Soon after I met my wife and two months later we got engaged. Now we are married and living in this yishuv. When you came I was reminded about the other suggestion the Rebbe had made and decided that not only should I have Kehot books in my home but should take the opportunity to help print them too!"

A young man from France was also having difficulty finding his bashert (soulmate). He thought that perhaps he should travel to Israel and that would be where he would find his wife. He discussed it with his rabbi and the rabbi suggested that the young man travel together with him and a group of other young people to New York. During their visit to the Ohel (the Rebbe's resting place), the young man could ask the Rebbe what he should do.

The young man agreed. He traveled to New York and went with the group to the Ohel. There, he said the special prayers said at the resting place of the righteous and then read the letter he had written to the Rebbe asking if he should travel to Israel to look for his bashert.

After finishing their prayers, the group went out to eat at a kosher restaurant. In the change that he received after paying his bill, the young man noticed a dollar with writing on it. He looked at the dollar and realized that it had been given to someone by the Rebbe during Sunday dollars[1] over a decade earlier. The recipient had written the Rebbe's blessing onto the actual dollar bill. It read: "With blessings to travel to Israel."


by Yehudis Cohen

A few years ago, I was teaching in a women's summer yeshiva program. It was Friday afternoon and I gathered my children together to give charity before candle lighting, as is customary. As I handed one of my children a dollar I noticed that it had writing on it. A date and a fairly common Jewish name were written in Hebrew. I realized it was a dollar from the Rebbe and put it aside until after Shabbat.

I mentally went over the Hebrew names of the participants in the program. I hoped to give this special dollar to a woman in the yeshiva who had never personally received a dollar from the Rebbe and who shared the name of the person who had originally received the dollar.

Interestingly, no one in the yeshiva had the name that was written on the dollar. I asked one of the other teachers if she could think of anyone by that name and she mentioned that she had a daughter by that name.

I held onto the dollar for the next few weeks, thinking that perhaps there would be a new student or visitor whose name would match that on the dollar. When it came time for the other staff member to leave, she asked me if I still had the dollar from the Rebbe and if yes, would I give it to her for her daughter. I hesitated momentarily as the teacher's daughter had personally received a dollar from the Rebbe but she had asked so I gave it to her.

The summer came to an end and I noted that no other women entered the yeshiva with the name on the dollar.

And then, I found out the end of the story. The teacher's daughter was entering a new school in the fall and was a bit anxious about the change. The teacher had asked me for the dollar so she could give it to her daughter, assuring her that the Rebbe's blessings would be with her. Before giving the dollar to her daughter, she showed it to her husband. "This is my handwriting," he told his wife in surprise. "This dollar was given to our daughter by the Rebbe when she was a young child and must have been misplaced or stolen. And now it has come back to her at precisely the time she needs it."

   

Notes:

  1. (Back to text) Each Sunday for many years, people from all walks of life came to the Rebbe and received blessings or advice as well as a dollar for charity that the person would "redeem" by giving his own dollar to charity.


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The Rebbe Writes

Freely translated letter of the Rebbe (written during the lifetime of the Previous Rebbe)

25 Tammuz, 5709 [1949]

Greetings and blessings,

...With regard to the matter itself [of the request that chasidim send photographs so that a book containing pictures of all those who felt close to the Previous Rebbe could be prepared for him]: I am amazed at your protests. The letter was directed to those who are connected to the Rebbe through bonds of hiskashrus; i.e., to those who turn to the Rebbe for advice and blessings for themselves and for their wives, sons, and daughters, and from time to time, describe the particulars of these individuals' situations. This practice is known to everyone. On the contrary, the widespread view is that if someone does not do this, he is also lacking in his connection to the Rebbe.

...With regard to your complaint: "What will the chasidim from Poland say?" It is certainly obvious, in your eyes as well, that those chasidim from Poland and Hungary who raise questions about etc. (I write "etc." because they all raise questions, but not necessarily about one matter) in a loud voice will speak about this matter regard-less, because of "the envy of the students of scribes" that exists among them.

There is no need for an intellectual explanation about this to such a degree.

...One point can be made in support of your position, i.e., the question: What advantage is there to making a book of pictures, and is it worth entering into the entire debate for that reason?

In my opinion, there is no need for an explanation about this. It is obvious even to people like ourselves that not only does a picture arouse feelings of friendship and connection on the part of those who hold it, it also brings about feelings of closeness on the part of the person who sent the picture when he recalls that his picture is in the possession of his friend. How much more so does the concept apply in this instance.

Here, it is already possible to see the positive feelings that were aroused among different people who are bonded to the Rebbe from the knowledge that the Rebbe desires their family pictures so that he will be able to recall them. This is all my inference, because I did not ask the Rebbe the reason for the directive.

Even if you are correct in your wariness that a refined chasid may be harmed by the knowledge of the Rebbe's desire for these pictures and his directive, there are - as is well known - two different approaches: when "something is appropriate for one refined person, but it is not appropriate for 10,000 fools... I will not be sensitive to the degradation of that large multitude, but instead, will desire to try to save that one refined person" (the Introduction to Maimonides' Moreh Nevuchim);

It is worthwhile for a person who works on himself and is advanced in his studies to become a wagon driver for the duration of several years in order to perform a particular favor for one individual as is related in the introduction to Pokeiach Ivrim. How much more so does this apply in the present instance when, as stated earlier, this suggestion has positively affected and affects several people. In particular, this applies because even according to the first approach, Maimonides writes as a preface that this is appropriate only when this is the only method that can be found....

Gevald! How much critique will you give? Even if you were correct in all of your letters and demands, there is nothing but negativity. Why don't you invest your energies in positive things, in building Chabad activities in your community, in your synagogue, and in your city? Our Sages state a general principle: "A positive commandment supersedes a negative commandment." Note all the explanations that can be made concerning this.

I assume that you have counterclaims and complaints about the above, but that is also negativity. Even when we see that the Torah absolves a person compelled by forces beyond his control, he is only absolved; it is not considered as if he performed the desired act. And even if one would postulate that it is considered as if he performed the deed, that applies only to him individually, but a person who could have received from him does not receive anything at all....

With wishes for everlasting good in all matters and with greetings to all the members of your household,

From I Will Write it in Your Hearts, published by S.I.E., translated by Rabbi S.B. Wineberg


Rambam this week

5 Tamuz, 5765 - July 12, 2005

Prohibition 254: It is forbidden to turn in a runaway slave who flees to Israel.

This mitzva is based on the verse (Deut. 23:16) "You shall not deliver a servant to his master" This prohibition applies to a slave that is living with his master outside of Israel. If this slave deserts his master and seeks refuge in the Holy Land, we may not return him to his master. Rather, he is granted his freedom.


A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

In the end of the summer of 1990, clearly and unmistakably, the Lubavitcher Rebbe announced that "The time for your Redemption has arrived." The Rebbe explained that that this statement was being made through the gift of prophecy and should be disseminated throughout the world. The world was now ready for the Redemption.

What role are we to play? The Rebbe stated this clearly, as well. Our primary task, he said, is to study and teach about Moshiach, to live with the idea of Moshiach, to make essential changes in our way of looking at life, and to publicize the prophecy that Redemption was imminent, and that everyone should be actively preparing to greet Moshiach.

The Rebbe's most recent talks, from 1991 and 1992, consistently communicated the news that the time of the Redemption has arrived and that every individual can and must play an active role in hastening the Redemption. One of the ways this can be done, the Rebbe explained, is by permeating our lives with the awareness of the imminent Redemption.

By attending classes at your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center, by listening to Torah classes over the phone, by studying and reading the Rebbe's published talks and essays (available in many languages), you will connect to the Rebbe and everything he personifies.

As we approach Gimmel Tammuz, the pain has not lessened. But there is no room for despair. For, as each moment passes, we are one moment closer to seeing in a revealed manner that, to quote the Rebbe, "Moshiach is coming," and "he has already come." We are one moment closer to recognizing that "the world is ready for Moshiach" and that "the time of the Redemption has arrived." We are one moment closer to being reunited with the Rebbe, and "he will redeem us."


Thoughts that Count

... you shall take to yourself a Red Heifer (Num. 19:2)

We find a puzzling aspect to the laws of the red heifer which is unique among the laws of the Torah. The same ashes which purified the spiritually impure rendered unclean the pure. A similar uniqueness can be found in the trait haughtiness. There are some who justify their lack of adherence to the laws of Torah by saying that they and their acts are of little significance to G-d. For them a little pride would be in order. On the other hand, if one who does observe the Torah allows his piety to go to his head he will undoubtedly drag himself down.

(Baal Shem Tov)


They wept for Aaron thirty days, all the House of Israel (Num. 20:29)

The men and the women all mourned Aaron for he used to pursue peace, and bring love among men of strife and between a husband and wife.

(Rashi)


If two people were involved in an argument, Aaron would approach one and say, "My child, I was just with your friend. He was berating himself for the way he had treated you." Aaron would not move from the spot until the person agreed to make peace with the other one. Then Aaron went to the second person and said similar things until he, too, agreed to make peace. When the two met, they would hug each other like old friends.

(Yalkut)


And running (living) water shall be put on it in a vessel (Num. 19:17)

The people of Israel are likened to water: Water can accomplish great things - flattening mountains, straightening rugged places, forming crevices, overcoming everything which is in its path. But, this only occurs when the water is flowing. If it is frozen it has no such power. The same is true of the Jewish people. When they are enthusiastic and inspired they can accomplish anything. But when they are frozen and cold, they cannot achieve a thing.

(Rabbi Shapiro of Lublin)


It Once Happened

Told by Rabbi Leibl Groner

This incident took place about 15 years ago. A couple came to New York City from Montreal with their 16-year-old son. At that time, each Sunday the Lubavitcher Rebbe would give out dollars to be given to charity and people would have an opportunity to ask the Rebbe for a blessing. The son wanted to go into Crown Heights on Sunday to the Rebbe but his parents were not particularly interested in going. "You go and we'll meet you later in the day back in Manhattan," they told him.

Upon returning to his parents, the teenager asked his mother if everything was all right with her mother, his grandmother. "As far as I know, everything is fine. Why do you ask?" she inquired.

The son explained that he had received a dollar and a blessing from the Rebbe. As he began walking away, the Rebbe called him back and gave him another dollar, saying, "This is for a speedy recovery for your grandmother."

The woman immediately called her sister in Florida who was visiting her mother at that time. "Is everything okay with Mom?" she asked her sister.

"Why do you want to know?" was the sister's query.

"First tell me if everything is okay with Mom. Then I'll tell you why I am asking."

"As a matter of fact," the sister began, "just this morning Mom woke up, fell and broke her right arm."

Now it was the other sister's turn. "The Lubavitcher Rebbe knew about it even before I did! The Rebbe gave our son a blessing for a 'speedy recovery' for his grandmother when he passed by today at Sunday dollars," the mother explained incredulously.


Professor Avner Chai Shaki, former minister of Education and Culture, as well as Minister of Religious Affairs, and Knesset member, passed away recently. What follows are excerpts of an interview with him from Beis Moshiach Magazine.

Professor Shaki's relationship with the Rebbe began in 1972 when he resigned as a member of the Mafdal party after voting in the Knesset with his conscience rather than the party line in the "Law of Return" issue. At a private audience that followed the resignation, the Rebbe told Prof. Shaki, "Although you had to resign from your position, you will yet return with great honor and be a minister!"

"To be honest, I told my wife and friends afterward that I wondered how the Rebbe could promise that I would get the position of a minister. How could I return to Mafdal? They threw me out! The Rebbe's words were quite astonishing to me.

"Many years later, the heads of Mafdal came to my house and offered me an honored position, and I was elected as chairman of Mafdal and Minister of Religious Affairs. I saw how the Rebbe's prophecy had come true."

In 1975 Prof. Shaki had a second private audience with the Rebbe. At that time, he brought the Rebbe 1,200 pages of research on Mihu Yehudi.

"I handed the Rebbe the papers and the Rebbe riffled through them. He turned and turned the papers and I naively thought that the Rebbe was being polite or curious.

"After half an hour, the Rebbe finished leafing through the 1,200 pages and began to ask me questions and to comment on the contents of what I had written. These were things the Rebbe had absorbed in moments!

"The research contained Jewish legal rulings from rabbis in England, Australia, New Zealand, and the opinions of 50 scholars. The Rebbe remembered every detail I had written and began to discuss with me things that even I, who had done the research, didn't remember! Until this day, I am still amazed by how the Rebbe was an expert on the research after glancing through it all in half an hour.

I stood there flabbergasted. I saw what the memory of a genius is like."

Parenthetically, I remember that I told the Rebbe that I was happy to see in Kfar Chabad that they taught children of all backgrounds and from all communities, and if only it was done that way everywhere. The Rebbe quoted the Torah saying, "Yisrael [the Jewish people] are the children of kings!' He repeated this twice. Then he added, 'We must look at all Jews as princes with no differences among us.' With the Rebbe, we saw what ahavat Yisrael (love for one's fellow Jew) for every Jew truly means.


Moshiach Matters

A noted rabbi came to the Rebbe and asked for an explanation of the purpose of the Moshiach campaign. The Rebbe did not reply and shifted the conversation to other issues, among them a free-loan fund which the other Rabbi managed. "Do you know so-and-so?" the Rebbe asked. "Would you give him a loan?" "Of course," the other Rabbi answered. "I didn't know that he was in financial difficulty. I'd be happy to help him." "Would you extend the loan until Moshiach comes?" The other Rabbi hesitated. "My goal in the Moshiach campaign," the Rebbe continued, "is to eliminate this hesitation."


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