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"Traditional" modern medicine has ingrained within most of the medical profession and many of us lay-people a skepticism toward alternative medicine. Acupuncture, chiropractics, holistic and herbal medicine, etc., predate vaccinations, antibiotics and surgery-as-the-only-option; yet many of us balk when the suggestion is made to consult an alternative health professional. And woe to the MD who uses or encourages alternative methods; he may well be ostracized by his peers in the medical community. All this despite the fact that recent findings--by modern medical doctors no less--have shown that some of these alternatives really do help!
In the area of medicine, modern has become traditional and we have become so intransigent as to not even consider alternatives. After all, human nature makes us feel comfortable with what we know, and nine times out of ten the amoxicillin will cure the ear infection. And if that doesn't help there's always another, newer antibiotic to try.
For many Jews, the modern definition of Judaism--like medicine--has become the norm, the family "tradition." We're comfortable with mixed seating in the synagogue, kosher in the house and non-kosher out, and the 11 o'clock news after a sumptuous Shabbat dinner. On Chanuka we light the menora but are not necessarily even aware that Jewish law dictates the shape of the menora and the length of time the candles must burn. Purim means dressing up and eating delicious hamentashen, but when it comes to listening to the Megila--the Scroll of Esther--one of the actual mitzvot of Purim, there's minimal interest. The list goes on, and we can all add our own family "traditions" to the repertoire. All of these customs despite the fact that Jewish observance, as set forth in the Torah, predates modern Jewish traditions.
Being reluctant to try alternative medicine limits one's options and closes off an entire world to a person. The same can be said when we're hesitant about delving into and even practicing the Torah's laws and customs.
But, when you show a willingness to learn Torah even though it's not necessarily accepted among your peers, to observe Jewish holidays according to ancient Jewish traditions though they might not be a part of your family's traditions, to respect Jewish beliefs stemming from a traditional Jewish perspective, you are actually expanding your own horizons.
Modern medicine is slowly beginning to recognize the possible value of alternative medicine. The same can be said of modern Judaism. We all know about the recent studies within the Jewish community. They have found that only through such traditional Jewish values as a strong Jewish education, "hands-on" holiday observance, Jewish marriages, etc., does the younger generation have a chance at becoming or remaining committed Jews.
Imagine how much we can expand our horizons, how enriched our lives can be, if we are willing to open up to the ancient traditions of Judaism.
Until the Revelation on Mount Sinai and the giving of the Torah, the Jewish people's principal connection to G-d was through Moses. G-d would speak to Moses, who would then pass on the commandment to the rest of the Jewish people. This week's Torah portion, Teruma, begins a new chapter in our worship of G-d and opens up a new means of communication: G-d asks the Children of Israel to build Him a Sanctuary, a special place where they will pray, offer sacrifices, and witness miracles and manifestations of G-dliness.
Why did G-d require a special place to dwell? Does He not already exist everywhere? Why would G-d, Who is not limited in any sense, want to cause His Presence to rest on a particular, limited, physical site?
To answer these questions, let us employ an easily understood analogy taken from a natural phenomenon: When a high, brick wall falls down, the bricks from the highest part of the wall fall the farthest away. Those bricks that formed the lowest section of the wall remain very close to their original place. This principle applies as well to the spiritual realm--"The higher the spiritual source, the lower will be its manifestation in the corporeal world."
As a further illustration we see that the better a person's understanding and grasp of a subject, the more he is able to explain the subject, however complex, to another--even to one with limited intelligence.
Similarly, G-d's desire to dwell in a specific location does not point to His limitation, but is rather a manifestation of His infinite nature. It is precisely because G-d is without measure and omnipresent that He was able to dwell in a sanctuary made of wood and stone.
There were also different degrees of holiness present in the Tabernacle, which traveled together with the Jews through the wilderness, and the Holy Temple, which was later erected in Jerusalem as a permanent dwelling. The Tabernacle was built mostly of material from the vegetable and animal kingdoms--wood and animal products; the Temple was built almost entirely of stone, taken from the realm of the inanimate, the lowest of all. The Holy Temple had the highest manifestation of G-dliness, from the highest spiritual source, and this was reflected in the fact that it was made of the lowliest building materials.
"And they shall make Me a sanctuary and I will dwell in their midst." Today, because we have no Holy Temple, every Jew serves as a sanctuary to G-d. Just as the Children of Israel elevated their physical possessions by using them to build the Tabernacle and later the Temple, every Jew must now utilize his possessions in bringing the peace and light of Torah into the world. When we do this, and conduct even the most mundane aspects of our lives "for the sake of Heaven," we ourselves are sanctified and transformed into a sanctuary to G-d, and become active partners in imbuing the world with holiness.
Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
WINNING THE LOTTERY
Three years ago the Liggett family--Andy, Beverly and their son Joshua--got a shot at the Big Wheel in the California State Lottery. It was the chance of a lifetime.
As Andy's hand gripped the rim and thrust the wheel into motion visions of the $10 million Jackpot swirled through his head. When the wheel came to a rest he had won something for his family they had not envisioned--inner peace.
The monetary prize, while far short of the jackpot, was sizeable nonetheless. But the grand prize began to evolve when they returned to their home in the Beverlywood suburb of Los Angeles. One night during dinner Joshua, who was four at the time, told his parents that since he already had everything he needed, he wanted to use his part of the money to help others, especially poor Jews.
The son had learned well the lessons taught by his parents.
A short time later, Andy related the anecdote to his friend Jeff Kichaven, who serves as one of Chabad of the West Coast's primary attorneys. Since the Liggetts had only recently moved to Los Angeles from New York, Andy asked Jeff if he knew a worthwhile charity in the area, where he was sure the money "would directly benefit the people it was intended for." Kichaven immediately suggested Chabad.
"From the first time I met with Rabbi Cunin I knew Chabad was something special," says Mr. Liggett. "It's the epitome of people helping people. A real grassroots operation that's there for the community. If you give them $1 they'll spend 99 cents of it helping people."
Ever since that first meeting, the Liggetts, who founded the highly successful "L.A. Movers" clothing company, have been committed to Chabad in a significant manner.
Beverly and Joshua smile in agreement when Andy says of tzedaka (charity): "It's your duty as a human being--and most importantly as a Jew--to help your fellow man. I know that we help create something good, we make a difference, when we give to Chabad."
And Chabad has made a difference in the Liggett household as well. "I came from a family where Judaism was mostly a matter of culture but, for me, that's changed over these last years," says Beverly. "First, we began to invite friends over for Shabbat candles and challah. Our next step will be a kosher kitchen."
The Liggetts travel frequently and Beverly says, "Whether we're in the Orient, or Europe; wherever we go, Chabad Houses and Lubavitch Centers are there to make us feel comfortable, to make us feel at home; to remind us we're Jews wherever we are."
Andy also finds himself, "becoming more involved with religion, a little bit at a time. I started by putting on tefillin and reciting a short prayer in the morning. But after a while I wanted more, so I went to Rabbi Hecht and said, 'Tell me the next step.' Now I daven 25 minutes every morning.
"I believe G-d sends messengers to guide you in your life, to make you better or worse. It's up to each of us to take and learn what we can. I go to New York about six times a year on business so I've had the opportunity to see the Lubavitcher Rebbe. It's an amazing experience. Once he told me, 'You'll go from strength to strength.' I believe that's true, and I believe it happens each time I add another aspect of religious practice to my life.
"Becoming increasingly aware of Judaism has brought our family a new sense of self-confidence and love. It has brought inner peace."
Reprinted from People Helping People, published by Chabad of the West Coast.
JEWISH MEDICAL ETHICS CONFERENCE
The unique Jewish approach to modern medical and ethical dilemmas will be considered during a special weekend program for medical and health professionals and students. Highlights of the May 14-17 conference include fetal research and genetic engineering, Jewish insights into the management of substance abuse, health care to aids patients, euthanasia, and more. The conference is hosted by the Lubavitcher community in Brooklyn and is being organized by the Lubavitch Youth Organization. For more info, call (718) 953-1000.
We're happy to announce that bound volumes of the fourth year of L'Chaim are presently available. To order a book send $28 ($25 and $3 postage and handling) payable to L.Y.O. to: L'Chaim Book, 1408 President St., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11213. Some copies of the third year of L'Chaim are still available. The first two years, however, are not available.
A special Shabbat program took place this past weekend in New Jersey with comedian Richard Morris. Morris, who has appeared on "Late Night" with David Letterman and "New York at Night," has also written for top comedians. He lead an interesting and entertaining Shabbat program which included his own experiences and observations while exploring his Jewish roots. He also gave a comedian's view of the funny and beautiful side of Shabbat observance. The Shabbaton was sponsored by Chabad Center of White Meadow Lake. For information about future programs, call (201) 625-1525.
THE PHENOMENA OF TESHUVA
The Phenomena of Teshuva--A Return to Jewish Roots--will be the theme of a special Shabbat weekend hosted by the Lubavitch community in Crown Heights. Participants will be addressed by physicist Dr. Y. Hanoka, psychiatrist Dr. Y. Landes, N.Y. Times editor Y. Ort, Holy Days heroine Henscha Gansburg and co-director of Chabad of Commack Chaya Teldon, all baalei teshuva themselves. The weekend will take place February 21-23. For more information call (718) 953-1000.
From a letter of the Lubavitcher Rebbe
...after a brief biographical outline of yourself, you present your problem, namely that you recently became aware of a feeling of apathy and indifference to the religious rites and practices, due to a perplexing doubt as to the authenticity of the Jewish tradition, by which you undoubtedly mean the Torah and mitzvot, and you wonder how their authenticity may logically be proved.
I hope this is indeed the only difficulty which has weakened your observance of the practical precepts in daily life; in most cases the true reason is the desire to make it easy for oneself and avoid a "burden"; one later seeks to justify this attitude on philosophical grounds. If this is the case the problem is more complicated. In the hope that you belong to the minority, I will briefly state here the logical basis of the Truth that the Torah and mitzvot were given to us Jews by Divine Revelation. This is not very difficult to prove, since the proof is the same as all other evidence that we have of historic events in past generations, only much more forcefully and convincingly. By way of illustration: if you are asked, how do you know that there existed such a person as Maimonides, whom you mention in your letter, you would surely reply that you are certain about his existence from the books he has written. Although Rambam (Maimonides) lived some 800 years ago, his works now in print have been reprinted from earlier editions, and those from earlier ones still, uninterruptedly, going back to the very manuscript which Rambam wrote in his own hand. This is considered sufficient proof even in the face of discrepancies or contradictions from one book of Rambam to another. Such contradictions do not demolish the above proof; rather, efforts are made to reconcile them, in the certainty that both have been written by the same author.
The same kind of proof substantiates any historic past, which we ourselves have to witness, and all normal people accept them without question, except those who for some reason are interested in falsification.
In many cases the authenticity of an historic event is based on the evidence of a limited group of people, where there is room to suspect that the witnesses were, perhaps, not quite disinterested. Nonetheless, because there is nothing to compel us to be suspicious, and especially if we can check the evidence and counter-check it, it is accepted as a fact.
From the above point of view, any doubts you many have about the authenticity of the Jewish Tradition should be quickly dispelled. Millions of Jews have always known and still know that G-d is the author of the Torah Shebiktav (written Torah) and the Torah shebe'al peh (oral tradition) which He gave to His people Israel not only to study but to observe in practice in daily life. The Alm-ghty made it a condition of the existence and welfare of our people as a whole, and of the true happiness of every individual member of our nation.
How do these millions of individuals know, and how did they know in the past, that the Torah is true? Simply because they have it on the evidence of their fathers, millions of Jews that preceded them, and these in turn from their fathers, and so on, uninterruptedly back to the millions of Jews (if we include women and children and those above and below the age range of the 600,000 male adults) who witnessed the Divine Revelation at Sinai. Throughout all these generations, the very same content has been traditionally handed down, not by a single group, but by a people of many millions, of different mentalities, walks of life, interests, under the most varying circumstances, places and times, etc. etc. Such evidence cannot be disputed.
It is difficult, in the course of a letter, to elaborate, but I am sure that even the brief, above analysis should dispel any of your doubts (if indeed you have any serious doubts) as to the authenticity of our Tradition. I trust you will from now on not permit anything to weaken your observance of the mitzvot, whose very observance itself illumines the mind and soul more than any philosophic book can ever do. I shall be glad to hear good news from you, and I wish you success.
If we have a rabbinical question, how many rabbis should we consult?
If we have consulted a rabbi and he has forbidden a certain matter in question, we are not permitted to consult another rabbi about the same question, unless we first advise him of the decision of the first rabbi.
(Kitzur Shulchan Aruch)
In the verse, "They shall make Me a sanctuary and I shall dwell within them." A grammatical question immediately becomes apparent. If the Jews are commanded to make a sanctuary, why does G-d say He will dwell within "them" and not within "it"? Within them, as explained by Chasidic literature, means within every Jew. For, within the soul of every Jew is a place devoted and dedicated to G-dliness.
On the above point, the previous Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, explained: The site of the sanctuary remains sacred, even in times of exile and desolation. The Midrash says that the Divine Presence never departs from the Western Wall. The destruction of the Temple is limited to its building alone. This is true, too, of the personal sanctuary within every Jew. For, the foundation of every Jew is whole. Every form of spiritual desolation found in the Jewish people is only in those aspects of a person analogous to the part of the building above the foundation. The foundation of the individual sanctuary, however, remains in its holy state.
Expanding on this idea, the Rebbe has spoken on numerous occasions about the need to turn our homes into mini-sanctuaries. This is accomplished by turning our homes into sanctuaries for Torah study, charity, and prayer. In addition, we would do well to fill the house with true Jewish furnishings--Jewish books and a charity box attached to a wall so that it becomes part of the actual structure.
Each member of the family, including children of all ages, can also participate by making their own rooms into mini-sanctuaries. Torah study, prayer, and charity can all be practiced in the individual mini-sanctuary, as well as other mitzvot.
Within every Jew, within each Jewish home, is that spark of G-dliness which, though it might be dormant, remains totally indestructible. It is the sanctuary that G-d commanded us to make in this week's Torah portion. May we all merit to beautify and enhance our own personal sanctuary.
Rabbi Shmuel Butman
Many, many years ago in southern Russia two families joined in the joyous celebration of the marriage of their children, Eliezer and Devorah. The moon shone down upon tables richly set with brimming platters of festive foods. People conversed happily, their gazes turning periodically to the joyous couple, and music filled the night air.
Suddenly, screams pierced the night, and dreaded words filled the air, "Cossacks, Cossacks are coming!" Pandemonium erupted and panic- stricken people ran in every direction looking for shelter from the murderous horde. But alas, men, women and children were mercilessly cut down in the quick, bloody foray. Throughout the town, Jews were robbed and murdered, captured and enslaved by the Cossack band.
When quiet finally descended upon the devastated village the young bride, Devorah, was still alive. She had no memory of her miraculous escape, but now, faced with an uncertain future, she set out for the Holy Land to the home of an uncle, her only surviving relative. Sympathetic Jews along the route helped her, and at long last she arrived in Israel where she was taken into the family and began to recover from her traumatic experiences. Since the fate of her husband was unknown she was unable to remarry, and the poor girl went to the Western Wall every day to pray that the Alm-ghty restore her husband to her.
One day the streets of Jerusalem buzzed with excitement. Trumpets blared and crowds gathered to welcome a handsome young king who, mounted on a beautiful stead, rode through the narrow streets followed by his retainers.
Suddenly, Devorah, who had come to witness the great event with her cousins, fainted. When they brought her home their mother scolded them for taking her out on such a hot day. But Devorah, who had regained consciousness looked up at her aunt and said, "Oh no, it wasn't the heat that caused me to faint. I saw my husband! The young king, he is my lost husband!"
The family looked at her in astonishment. Poor Devorah was suffering delusions, no doubt as a result of all she had been through. When her uncle returned that night they told him about Devorah's encounter with the visiting king. He felt great pity for his unfortunate niece and decided to take her to a well-known tzadik to ask for a blessing for her health.
To his surprise, the tzadik advised him to take Devorah's words seriously. Since the uncle had been appointed member of the delegation which was to greet the king, the tzadik advised him to take advantage of that fortuitous situation. "Let me give you an idea," said the tzadik, "In the course of your reception for the king, engage him in a game of chess. You will play very well, but then you will make a mistake. When he asks to explain this obviously foolish move, you will tell him that you are troubled by a personal problem. And when he inquires what it is, you will mention the name 'Devorah'. By his reaction, you will know his identity."
Just as the tzadik said, the chess game was played, the "mistake" was made, and when her uncle mentioned Devorah's name, the young king leapt up, scattering the chess pieces. "Where is she?" he exclaimed; "Did she remarry?"
The uncle recounted the entire story of Devorah's survival and passage to the Holy Land. He told how she recognized her husband and stuck to her convictions despite everyone's disbelief. The king was very moved by the account, and begged her uncle to tell her of his own difficult and trying experiences since the night of their wedding. He had been sold into slavery, had worked on a pirate ship, and then finally, shipwrecked on an island, been chosen king of the inhabitants. He had never, however, forgotten her. "Please, tell Devorah that I am prepared to do as she wishes. If she will have me back, I am prepared to renounce my crown and resume our life together. But, if not, I am willing to give her a divorce here and now. It is hers to choose."
The uncle returned home with the astoundingly good news that Devorah had, indeed, found her husband. There was no question in Devorah's mind; her prayers had been answered, her husband had been returned to her. The young couple was reunited in great happiness. The young man formulated a plan. After transferring stewardship of his little kingdom into capable hands, he would return quietly to Jerusalem, where he and Devorah would set up their home. This is exactly what they did. Most of the inhabitants of the city never knew the real story of Devorah and her husband.
Adapted from The Storyteller.
From the cover (itself) shall you make the cherubim (Ex. 25:19)
The cherubim were made with the faces of small children, one a boy and one a girl. From this we learn that providing the proper Jewish education for even our tiny children is a basic principle necessary for our keeping the Torah.
(Rabbi Yosef Ber of Brisk)
Within and without shall you overlay it (Ex. 25:11)
A true Torah scholar is one whose "inside" matches his "outside." Merely learning the lofty principles contained in the Torah is not enough --its lessons must also be internalized.
That is why we say in Psalms (45:14), "All the glory of the king's daughter is within." The splendor and glory of the Torah is the internal purity it leads to.
The menora shall be made (Ex. 25:31)
Rashi explains that the words "shall be made" are passive, indicating that the menora would be made by itself, and not by Moses, who was in the midst of receiving instructions from G-d how to fashion all the other utensils to be used in the Sanctuary. Rashi states that Moses did not fully understand how the menora was to be formed, so G-d told him to throw the gold into the fire, and He would make the menora Himself.
Why was Moses so perplexed by the menora, but not by any other command even more complex?
Our Sages said that the purpose of the menora was to serve as a testimony to all who saw it that the Divine Presence rested among the Jewish People. Moses, for his part, had difficulty understanding how it was possible for one small menorah to light up the entire physical world.
G-d answered him: You are right--this is beyond the power of mere flesh and blood. Therefore, throw the gold into the fire and I Myself will make the menora.
Jewish tradition speaks of Moshiach ben David and Moshiach ben Yosef. The term "Moshiach" unqualified always refers to Moshiach the descendant of David of the tribe of Judah. He is the actual final redeemer. Moshiach the descendant of Joseph of the tribe of Efraim (also referred to as Moshiach ben Efraim) will come first, before the final redeemer, and later will serve as his viceroy. The cooperation between Moshiach ben David and Moshiach ben Yosef signifies the total unity of Israel, removing the historical rivalries between the tribes of Judah and Joseph.
(From Mashiach by Rabbi J. I. Schochet)