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With a title like "chutzpa" you might think that we're writing a review of a book by just that name. Hardly.
Rather, let's take a moment to delve into the deeper and more esoteric meaning of chutzpa. For starters, since the term "chutzpa" is not easily translated, let's first define which facet of chutzpa we want to discuss. Typically, when we say that someone has chutzpa, we mean that he is nervy, bold, daring. We'll save this definition for later.
The use of the word "chutzpa" in the Talmud, however (oh, you thought it was a modern Hebrew word, right?) is more like impudence and insolence. According to the Talmud, during the time immediately preceding the revelation of Moshiach, there will be an increase in chutzpa!
There is a famous dictum that the darkest moments of the night are immediately before daybreak--before the dark is totally obscured by light. Similarly, chutzpa increases and becomes strongest in the last few moments of exile, immediately before the Redemption when chutzpa will be totally eclipsed by G-dliness.
Why chutzpa rather than something apparently more negative? Why, for instance, do we see that forces like Communism--which for decades have subjugated Jews and not allowed us to learn about or practice Judaism--are totally disintegrating in these last moments of exile? And yet, as any parent or school-teacher can tell you, chutzpa gets stronger.
Chutzpa is associated with someone who totally and illogically rejects anything to do with G-dliness or Judaism even if he knows it's true. For this reason, the characteristic of chutzpa is associated with the nation of Amalek, a warlike people who attacked the Jews soon after the Exodus. After all, wouldn't you say it took a lot of chutzpa for Amalek to wage war with the Jews just days after our ancestors were taken out of Egypt by G-d Himself amidst tremendous miracles and wonders?
Amalek and their trait of chutzpa is so strong and detrimental, in fact, that we actually have a mitzva to totally destroy them. (Amalek is the only nation concerning whom we are thus commanded.)
It is precisely because chutzpa is such a strong trait that it is the last to fall. Which only means that we have to try a lot harder to eliminate it. And don't forget that the Talmud promises us, "According to the toil is the reward."
But, on the positive side, chutzpa doesn't have to be all bad. Let's take, for instance, the idea that chutzpa means nervy, bold and daring. In this sense, we can use chutzpa for the good. We can beseech and beg of G-d, until the point of actual chutzpa--that He send Moshiach now. Certainly G-d will be pleased with a display of chutzpa in this area and will fulfill our demand.
This week's Torah portion, Metzora, continues the previous week's discussion of spiritual purity and impurity. Although not applicable today, after the destruction of the Holy Temple, the specific instructions how to purify ourselves after becoming spiritually impure will once again be followed when the third Holy Temple will be established, after the coming of Moshiach.
The first form of impurity to be dealt with is the plague of leprosy, a disease which was visited upon an individual because of the sin of slander. This leprosy bore no resemblance to the modern-day affliction with the same name, but was a Divine punishment sent to make an individual aware of his transgression and afford him the opportunity to repent. This leprosy could affect the person's skin, or even spread to his garments, his furnishings, or the walls of his house. The only authority qualified to determine whether or not a suspicious spot was indeed leprosy was a priest, who then bore the responsibility of effecting the leper's purification, by following the procedure outlined in the Torah.
Once the determination that a person was leprous was made, the individual was sent outside the camp of the Children of Israel, and made to dwell in absolute seclusion for seven days. After rending his garments, he was forbidden to cut his hair or wash his clothes, much like a person in mourning, until the leprosy was healed. Only the priest could pronounce the leprosy cured. The Torah then details the appropriate sacrifices which were to be brought, and the proper way of offering them. Only after the leper did this and immersed himself in a mikva was he allowed to rejoin the rest of society.
The leprosy which affected a garment took the form of either a red or a green spot. If, after two weeks, the leprosy persisted, even after the garment was laundered, it had to be burned. When the plague appeared on the walls of a house, the entire household had to be emptied of its vessels. If the leprosy did not disappear after a certain time, as determined by the priest, the stones of the house had to be removed, and the wall itself dismantled. In the most extreme cases, if the plague persisted, the entire house had to be destroyed. All these regulations pertained only to houses in the Land of Israel.
The affliction of leprosy followed a certain progression. Appearing first on the person's skin, it spread to his garments, vessels and house only if he did not repent of his misdeeds. G-d thereby granted the individual the opportunity to begin with a clean slate after each step, and only sent the next stage of the plague if he persisted in his evil ways. Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
A BLESSING FROM THE REBBE
Robin B. Zeiger, Ph.D.
After my husband and I finalized the purchase of our new house in Richmond, we completed a Chanukat HaBayit ceremony, dedicating our new home. In this ceremony, we nailed up our 19 mezuzot. We felt confident about the quality of all of our mezuzot because we had most of them checked by a very reliable scribe right before we moved.
In preparing for this special event, I had decided to do some reading on the subject of mezuzot. I then compiled some philosophical, legalistic, and personal thoughts on the mezuzot to share with the community during our celebration.
As I was reading through some of the sources, I came across a book with several incredible stories about mezuzot. For example, individuals who had been struggling with health problems in the area of fertility found mistakes in their mezuzot scrolls in words related to their particular struggles. When they were fixed, their situations improved. As I read these stories, I was entertained, yet also skeptical.
Both my husband and I are schooled in scientific fields, pathology and psychology, respectively. As a result, we tend to look at the world through very rational eyes. We also prefer to rely upon our own hard work, rather than expecting or searching for miracle solutions from others. Thus, over the past year, as we have struggled with infertility problems, we have relied heavily on doctors and science. While we have clearly appealed to G-d, it has been through our own prayers. When friends and family have suggested asking for intervention from special rabbis, sages, etc., we tended to shy away from these solutions. The few times that we decided to ask for a blessing from that special someone, we were not surprised when it didn't help.
After many tests and experimental treatment, I became pregnant. As this pregnancy has progressed, we have been excited, scared, and overwhelmed. Many a time, we have personally turned to G-d with our prayers of hope and thanks.
A couple of months ago, when I was well into this pregnancy, a couple of close friends suggested asking the Lubavitcher Rebbe for a prayer for a safe birth. While my husband and I have always respected the Rebbe and the work of the Chabad movement, we have never considered ourselves members of Chabad. On some level, we have remained a bit skeptical. Therefore, to ask for a blessing seemed a bit foreign to us.
For some reason, this time we decided to take our friends' advice. At our request, Rabbi Yossel Kranz asked the Rebbe for a blessing. A few days later, Rabbi Kranz called us with a most unusual response. He said the Rebbe advised us to check our mezuzot. Rabbi Kranz added that this was an unusual response from the Rebbe in the case of childbirth.
Now that we were faced with making a decision based on the advice of the Rebbe, I thought of the stories I had read about mezuzot. Rationalists that we are, my husband and I really struggled with our decision of what to do. On the one hand, the advice of the Rebbe didn't make sense. Yet, on some level, we felt if he said to check our mezuzot, we should.
That Sunday morning, we took down all of our mezuzot and drove to Silver Spring to the nearest scribe. The whole way there, we kept asking ourselves if we were crazy. I said that either there would be no mistakes or there would be a mistake in one of the words having to do with children.
Well, can you guess the outcome? The scribe found a total of 3 mistakes. One was in the word b'neichem (your children). Another was in the word beitecha (your house, which can also mean your household, once again alluding to children). The scribe showed my husband, an expert in Torah reading, the mistakes. Thus, he was able to observe them with his own rationalistic eyes. Interestingly, at least two of the three mezuzot were ones we had not had checked before moving into our new home.
The whole way home we were in awe. It is hard to put into words our reactions. When we told our story to members of the community, we received two different kinds of responses. One group of people, like ourselves, was amazed and inspired. The other group remained skeptical, offering rationalizations for the findings.
This dichotomy points out to me the ultimate in the religious experience. While I certainly rely more heavily on the rational and cognitive, I firmly believe that religion and belief in G-d ultimately involve a leap of faith. Religion of the mind is not enough. We need to experience G-d with our heart and soul. Perhaps my husband and I were relying a bit too heavily on the obvious and forgetting this important lesson.
I'll tell you one more thing. We will never doubt the Rebbe again!
Reprinted from the Richmond Jewish News.
ONE WEEK INVESTMENT
Bais Chana Women's Institute in Minnesota has acquired an international reputation as a place where women of all backgrounds can come to learn more about their Judaism. It is currently piloting a one-week seminar for couples. The week-long venture includes stimulating discussions with Rabbi Manis Friedman, renowned lecturer and author. Seminar dates are May 3-10. Child-care for children up to four years of age is available. Space is limited, so reserve as soon as possible. Call (718) 756-2591 or (612) 698-3858.
DISCOVERING THE ESSENCE
Printed in more than 2,000 locations throughout the world, translated into numerous languages, studying worldwide, Tanya is the basic work of Chabad-Lubavitch Chasidic philosophy. Classes on Tanya are held in every Chabad Center throughout the world. Chabad Lubavitch of West Brighton in Brooklyn is offering a series of lectures on Tanya every Wednesday night at 8:15 p.m. at the Seabreeze Jewish Center. For more information about the class, call (718) 996-7351. For a Tanya class near you, call your local Chabad Lubavitch Center or 1-800-Lubavitch.
DON'T PASS OVER PASSOVER
Chabad Centers of Manhattan are offering Passover seders in three locations on both nights of the holiday. For reservations on the Upper East Side call 212-249-5629. On the Upper West Side call 212-864-5010. For New York University area, call (212) 995-3147. To find out about a seder in other locations call your local Chabad Center or 1-800-Lubavitch.
CONCESSIONS ARE NOT SACRIFICES
From a letter by the Lubavitcher Rebbe
I received some information about the relationship at home, but I do not know to what extent it reflects the actual situation. Hence I want to convey to you some thoughts in light of what the relationship should be according to the Shulchan Aruch [Code of Jewish Law]--the Jew's practical guide in life. If the relationship is, indeed, in keeping with it, the purpose of this letter will be to strengthen and deepen it, as there is always room for improvement in all matters of goodness and holiness, Torah and mitzvot. On the other hand, if it is not quite what it should be, I trust that, since the Torah is surely "a lamp unto your feet," you will bring it up to the desired level, and you will do it with joy and gladness of heart.
The central aspect in the manner of conducting a Jewish home and family life is that it has to be based on the way of the Torah, "whose ways are ways of pleasantness and all its paths are peace." If this rule applies to all activities of a Jew, even outside the home, how much more so does it apply within the home itself!
Of course, since G-d has created human beings with minds and feelings of their own and these are not uniform in all people, peace and harmony can be achieved only on the basis of "give and take," that is, meeting each other half way. For a husband and wife to make concessions to each other is not, and should not be considered, a sacrifice, G-d forbid. On the contrary, this is what the Torah teaches and expects, for we are talking about concessions that do not involve compromise in regard to the fulfillment of mitzvot, and both of you are of the same mind that the laws of the Shulchan Aruch must not be compromised.
Furthermore, to achieve true peace and harmony calls for making such concessions willingly and graciously--not grudgingly, as if it were a sacrifice, as mentioned above, but in the realization that it is for the benefit of one's self and one's partner in life, and for one's self perhaps even more, since it is made in fulfillment of G-d's Will. And if our Sages exhort every Jew "to receive every person with a friendly face," certainly it applies to one's wife or husband.
There are many sayings of our Sages, as well as those of our Rebbes, urging husband and wife always to discuss matters of mutual concern, and to give patient attention to the opinion of the other and then act in mutual agreement. It is also very desirable that they should have at least one regular study period in a section of Torah which is of interest to both, such as the weekly Torah portion, or a timely subject connected with a particular season or festival.
While the major obligation to study Torah is incumbent on men, it has been emphasized that women, too, have to fulfill the mitzva of Torah study in areas where they are directly involved, as explained in the laws of Torah study. All the more so in the present day and age when women have the possibility--hence the obligation --to do their share of spreading Judaism no less than men.
It may sometimes appear difficult for the husband to take time out from his preoccupations in order to discuss mutual problems with his wife, or study Torah with her, but he should not look at it as a sacrifice. On the contrary, he should do it eagerly in fulfillment of a most important mitzva--sholom bayit--peace in the home. And if any mitzva has to be carried out with joy, how much more so such a fundamental mitzva.
Finally, I would like to add that of the mitzva campaigns which have been emphasized in recent years, special attention has been focused on the mitzva of ahavat Yisrael [the love of a fellow Jew], which embraces every Jew, even a stranger; how much more so a near and dear one.
I hope and pray that each of you will make every effort in the direction outlined above and will do so with real joy and gladness of heart, and may G-d grant that you should have true nachat [joy]--which is Torah nachat, from each other and jointly from your offspring, in happy circumstances materially and spiritually.
Can one possess chametz during Passover even though he will not be using it?
No. In fact, any chametz owned by a Jew during Passover becomes forbidden forever. Therefore, a person has two options:
- Dispose of all chametz before Passover; or
- sell it to a non-Jew through a rabbi who will repurchase it after the holiday is over.
Blessings for the Lubavitcher Rebbe, shlita, during his recent illness is truly amazing. And yet, is it really so amazing that so many people are reaching out to this giant of a person who has touched, helped, and healed so many others.
Schoolchildren are sending get-well cards, many containing descriptions of what good deed they have decided to do in order to aid in the Rebbe's speedy recovery.
In an unprecedented show of unity, Psalms have been recited in synagogues, yeshivas, day schools, Hebrew schools and Sunday schools throughout the world.
Our Sages teach us that when one visits a sick person one sixtieth of the person's illness is removed. Although there are opinions in Jewish law as to what constitutes a "visit," there is no doubt that all of the good wishes and prayers for the Rebbe have aided in his recovery.
When the Torah was given at Mount Sinai, every Jew was healed from any illness or handicap. We are told that this will be true during the Messianic Era, also. In fact, the Rebbe, shlita, once asked a doctor, "From where will you derive your livelihood when Moshiach comes?" The Rebbe then proceeded to answer him: "People will come to you and you will tell them they are healthy and they will pay you for it!"
May we very soon see the recovery of all Jews, with the arrival of Moshiach, NOW.
Rabbi Shmuel Butman
There is a story told of the Alter Rebbe concerning a chasid who was in the publishing business. He wanted to publish and print Torah books, but he needed a governmental permit from the Minister of Education. He was very concerned about receiving it because the government wasn't favorable toward the Jews and was especially unwilling to print any sort of Jewish literature or in any way disseminate Jewish teachings. The printer, therefore, went to the Alter Rebbe for a blessing and advice on what to do.
He was told to go to the city of Vilna, and there to speak to a certain individual who was the melamed [a melamed is a teacher of young children]. He was very puzzled because the Minister of Education was not in Vilna, but in St. Petersburg, and the melamed was a simple, ordinary person with no particular political insight or connections.
Nevertheless, if the Rebbe sent him there, he would go. In the city of Vilna he met with the melamed, who was equally puzzled. He said, "I have no idea why the Rebbe would send you to me. I am an ordinary person. I have nothing to do with any kind of political issues, nor do I have any important connections."
The two of them went to a third chasid who had a position of some authority in that town. He did have some political connections, but nevertheless he also couldn't fathom the Rebbe's reason for sending the printer to their town. All three men being chasidim, decided that if the Alter Rebbe had sent him, then this had to be the place for him to be. The Rebbe's rationale would eventually become apparent.
A few days later the three of them were outside in the street, when a stranger walked by. According to his apparel and bearing, this stranger seemed to be some sort of a nobleman. He stopped and looked directly at the melamed and then said to him, "I'd like to meet you tomorrow. Could you please come to my hotel?"
The following day, the melamed went to the hotel, and the nobleman said to him, "Don't you remember me? Don't you recognize me?"
"No," the melamed replied. The noble continued, "Do you remember the town of X that you lived in as a child?" The melamed stared at him, "Yes, of course, but how do you know?"
The stranger began, "I'll tell you a story. Do you remember that in your town there was a boy who was an orphan, and the people in the town did everything they could to raise this child and to help him. But this boy was very rebellious and violated the Torah and the Jewish way of life. Eventually they took the boy and punished him by embarrassing him publicly. They tied him up, and people walked by and ridiculed him. Then somebody came over to him and untied him, allowing him to run away. Do you remember such an incident?"
"Yes," answered the melamed. In fact, he himself was the one that released the boy. The stranger finally identified himself as that boy, and said: "I want you to know that all my life I have felt indebted to you. I have always wanted to pay you back, but I never knew where you could be found until I just happened to see you yesterday. I want you to know that I'm in a position to help you. I'm a very wealthy person, and I'd like to repay you for what you did for me. I hold a high government position--I am the Minister of Education."
When the melamed heard these words, he nearly fell off his chair. Turning to the Minister of Education, he replied, "Thank you very much for your offer, but really, I didn't do it for money. But I would like to tell you a little story which will explain to you how we just 'happened' to meet yesterday." He recounted how the Alter Rebbe had sent a person who needed a permit from the Minister of Education to visit Vilna just at this time. The Rebbe had, for some unexplained reason, referred the man to him, the melamed. And now, this meeting shed light on the Rebbe's actions. He added, "The greatest favor you could do for me is to grant this person permission to print his books."
The great insight of the Alter Rebbe astounded the group of men. Obviously, the Rebbe had seen that the Minister of Education would be in the city of Vilna, and the Minister owed a debt of gratitude to the melamed. For this reason he sent the chasid to the city of Vilna to meet the melamed, so that all these three would meet. The Alter Rebbe was able not only to see into the future to know where the Minister of Education would be, but he also saw the past and knew the whole story of how this melamed had freed the little boy.
And the priest who is cleansing shall cause the man that is to be made clean to stand...at the door of the Tent of Meeting (Lev. 14:11)
The leper who is undergoing purification is allowed a privilege not extended to others who have become spiritually unclean: He was brought to the Holy Temple's Gate of Nikanor and allowed to stick his hand and foot into the inner Temple court, to participate in the offering of the sacrifice he had brought. What was so special about the leper, who had committed so grave a sin as slander against his fellow Jew?
After the seven days of seclusion and repentance, the leper was now a baal teshuva, a penitent, and was considered free of all sin. A new "door" in life had opened for him, and thus he was permitted to stand in the very door of the Temple court.
(Der Torah Kvall)
And the priest shall take one of the sheep and offer it as a guilt offering (Lev. 14:12)
A guilt offering was generally brought for transgressions of sacrilege. The leper, who had committed the sin of slander and haughtiness, was guilty of such sacrilege against G-d. "He who commits a sin in private drives away the Divine Presence." A person who whispers his gossip, glancing right and left to see if anyone else can hear, has forgotten that there is an ear above that hears every word that is uttered. Likewise, a haughty person also causes the Divine Presence to depart, as it states, "Both he and I cannot dwell in the same place."
On the subject of afflictions, the Talmud states, "A person sees all defects, except for his own," meaning that we are sometimes blind to our own faults. The Baal Shem Tov explained that when a person notices a spiritual defect in another, it is a sure sign that he suffers from the same problem himself, at least to a small degree. The Hebrew verse can also be read, "All defects that a person sees in his fellow, are his own defects."
In Bilaam's prophetic vision, he stated: "There steps forth a star from Jacob and there arises a scepter out of Israel." Onkelos notes that this "star" alludes to Moshiach. The Jerusalem Talmud, however, learns that this term alludes to every Jew, inasmuch as Jews are likened to the stars. Actually, both are correct. The star alludes to both Moshiach and to every Jew, as the Baal Shem Tov taught, that within each and every Jew there is a "spark" of the soul of Moshiach.
(From Highlights of Moshiach by Rabbi Abraham Stone)