Mr. Clean Would Be Proud | Living With The Times | A Slice of Life | What's New
Insights | Moshiach Matters | Who's Who? | A Word from the Director
It Once Happened | Thoughts that Count
The countdown has begun. There are a little more than two weeks of cleaning days until Passover.
The mini-blinds are dusted. The crust of bread that was wedged behind the bookcase has been found and removed. Even the crumbs in the bedroom from those late-night snacks have been vacuumed away. The empty soda cans near the work-bench were already taken to be recycled and you've made a mental note to put any remaining soda with the rest of the "chometz." Everyone's been pitching in, albeit sometimes grudgingly, to do the Passover Cleaning, cum Spring Cleaning, cum "Let's sort out these drawers and closets one more time to see what we can get rid of or donate to charity" cleaning.
The main purpose of Passover cleaning is to abide by the Torah's prohibition that no "leaven" be in our possession during the Passover festival. A fringe benefit is that all of the cleaning helps is feel a stronger kinship to our ancestors who were slaves in Egypt.
An additional insight into passover cleaning and the negation--on the eve of Passover--of any chometz in our possession, is brought to us courtesy of Chasidic philosophy. And, it's a good insight to keep in mind as we go about our very mundane tasks and preparations for the imminent Passover holiday.
On Passover, we are enjoined to totally rid our immediate environment and possessions of chometz--leaven. And during Passover, we are only allowed to eat unleavened bread--matza. Leavening agents cause products to rise and ferment. According to the teachings of Chasidut, leaven represents one's ego--the id--that part of one's self or nature that causes feelings of self righteousness, anger, smugness, and arrogance. Matza, on the other hand, which is unleavened symbolizes selflessness and the nullification of one's ego and character traits which lead to the above negative emotions.
As we clean out those nooks and crannies in our homes in preparation for the upcoming holidays, as we sort through desk drawers and old magazines, and wade through junk drawers in search of chometz (but secretly hoping to find that old-fashioned skate key to show the neighbor's kids who zooms around on roller blades), we should also be sorting through our emotional nooks and crannies, sifting through sand trashing old angers and hurts, and letting go of piles of smugness and self-righteousness.
Passover and the Seder nights are going to arrive and we want to be as ready as possible. The deliverance from cleaning, cooking and Egypt is imminent. So, too, is the Redemption imminent from our leavened lives. We can hasten the process, we can facilitate greeting Moshiach with integrity and humility by cleaning for Pasover this year from the inside out.
When two Torah portions are combined, such as occurs this week, when Vayakhel and Pekuday are read, the result is a single entity with a combined message for us in our daily lives. In fact, this week's Torah reading affords us a fundamental lesson in our service to G-d, for each portion illustrates a different aspect of that service.
"Vayakhel"--"And you shall gather"--points to the unification of all of the different entities in our diverse world, uniting within the domain of holiness. "Pekuday," by contrast, means "counting," and highlights how every entity possesses its own unique importance, for every creation has been given a unique nature with which it can serve G-d.
In particular, the message of Vayakhel applies to the Jewish people, and alludes to their being gathered together to form a single, collective entity. Fulfilling the mitzva of "Love your fellow man as yourself" is possible because all Jews share a single essence, their G-dly soul, which is truly "a part of G-d from above."
This mitzva is so important that even before beginning our daily prayers we make as formal declaration of accepting this commandment as the foundation upon which the day's activities will follow.
In simple terms, when a person sees another Jew, he should try to unite with him, because, in truth, they share a fundamental commonality. This applies not only to Jews in one's immediate community, but to all Jews, even those in the most remote corners of the world.
And when the distance is spiritual in nature, when another Jew doesn't not share one's level of Jewish observance, one should make sure to focus on the connection which is shared and not on the differences which superficially divide.
This approach, this thrust to unite with one's fellow Jews, will lead to the ultimate fulfillment of Vayakhel, the ingathering of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel. We need not even wait until Pekuday, when we read about the official census of the Jews that was taken thousands of years ago. On the contrary, after the coming of Moshiach, Jews will gather first in their ancient homeland, and afterwards, when all Jews will have left their present exile, the new census will be taken.
In fact, as we stand on the very threshold of the Messianic era, we have a foretaste of this ingathering, which is being experienced at present with the aliyah of Jews from many countries to Eretz Yisrael.
Although there has always been a Jewish presence in Israel, there are far more Jews gathering there now than ever before, a fact that has attracted the attention of the entire world.
May our deeds hasten that day when the ingathering of all the dispersed Jewish people will be complete, when G-d will "sound the great shofar...and bring us together from the four corners of the earth into our land."
Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
WITH THE NOD OF THE HEAD
Many Israelis were distressed at the news of the drastic change in the exchange rate of the U.S. dollar as compared to the Israeli shekel and European currency that took place about 2 months ago. Businesses went under and many people lost tremendous amounts of money. Businessmen who decided to exchange the money for dollars lost, in the blink of an eye, huge amounts of money, at times tens of thousands of shekels and more. We mention this so that the reader can understand, in the proper perspective, the following story which happened to Mr. R.S., a diamond merchant in the main Israeli diamond exchange in Ramat Gan, Israel.
In the course of Mr. S.'s business he buys diamonds at the diamond exchange and pays for them in dollars. He then travels to Europe and sells them for the European currency of the country in which he doing the business.
This is what happened two months ago. Mr. S. bought diamonds for dollars in Israel and sold them in Europe, returning home to Israel happy and satisfied with his transactions. However, it suddenly became clear that although the actual sale had been successful, he now found himself in a not so successful situation, concerning the currency he was now holding. Because the dollar had jumped so much on the market, the European money he was now holding had lost a tremendous amount of its original value and in the end, he had actually lost money on the entire successful transaction!
What should he do now? His logic told him to run and buy dollars with his European currency even at the high rate, to cut his losses. But his heart told him that maybe he was making a mistake. He couldn't decide what to do, so he turned for advice to the one whom he consulted whenever he had ques- tions in matters of great consequence, whether material or spiritual--the Lubavitcher Rebbe, shlita.
Mr. S. relayed his question to a Chabad emissary in Kiryat Gat who, in turn, called the Rebbe's office. When Rabbi Leibel Groner, a member of the Rebbe's secretariat, asked the Rebbe if Mr. S. should buy the dollars now, the Rebbe shook his head negatively.
On that very same day, a friend of Mr. S. went to the diamond exchange on his return from Europe and was also surprised to find himself in this very mixed-up situation of holding European money worth so little in comparison to the dollars with which he had bought the diamonds.
When Mr. S.'s friend heard the Rebbe's answer to Mr. S., he asked him, "Is this an instruction for everyone or just for you?" Mr. S. didn't know what to answer and so, the friend picked up the telephone and called Rabbi Groner directly. He asked Rabbi Groner to put to the Rebbe the same question he had asked for Mr. S.
Rabbi Groner went in to the Rebbe, asked the question, and this time, though only a few hours had passed since the previous answer, the Rebbe nodded his head in the affirmative. Buy dollars immediately and don't wait!
Rabbi Groner picked up the telephone and gave over the clear answer from the Rebbe.
The friend heard the answer and was confused,
"The Rebbe had just answered Mr. S. a few hours ago not to buy dollars!"
"That's right," answered Rabbi Groner. "But now the Rebbe is telling you to buy dollars."
Mr. S. and his friend both did according to the Rebbe's instructions.
A few days later, Mr. S. and the friend called Rabbi Groner back with the following epilogue.
Mr. S. told Rabbi Groner, "I waited until the dollar dropped once more and, thank G-d, I successfully converted my European currency into dollars with a sizable profit."
The friend explained, "As soon as I got the Rebbe's answer I exchanged the currency for dollars. The very next day someone approached me with a good business venture for which I needed cash available in dollars, and no other currency. I participated in the business venture and profited greatly from this venture. Had I not had the dollars in my possession, I would have lost the opportunity!
Translated from the Kfar Chabad Magazine.
A LONG YEAR
As we prepare this issue, we know that it marks an anniversary of sorts, a full year (13 months as 5752 was a leap year), since the Rebbe, shlita, had a stroke. With perfect faith in G-d that the Rebbe will have a complete recovery and total confidence in the Rebbe's prophetic words that "The time of our Redemption has arrived," we encourage all of our readers to add on to their ever-growing cache of mitzvot to hasten the Rebbe's recovery and further prepare ourselves for the imminent Redemption. If you would like to write to the Rebbe to inform him of a mitzva you have started doing to this end or to ask the Rebbe for a blessing, address your letters to 770 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, NY 11213 or fax them to: (718) 953-8463 or (718) 953-9000.
A traveling caravan of 5 "Mitzva Tanks" is in the midst of a journey on a predetermined route to convey the message of the Lubavitcher Rebbe that the world should prepare for the imminent Redemption--through the performance of good deeds and acts of kindness, and through studying more about Moshiach and the Redemption. The parade commenced at World Lubavitch Headquarters on Sunday, Feb. 28, and will end on Friday, April 2, the 11th of Nisan--birthday of the Rebbe. To find out if the Parade is coming to your area, call 1-800-LUBAVITCH.
"Moshiach Is On The Way" is the name of a new weekly publication about Moshiach and the imminent Redemption in braille and large type. Published by the Lubavitch Shluchim Conferences on the Moshiach Campaign--Committee for the Blind, the magazine is available free of charge to all blind persons, and public service libraries and nonprofit organizations that serve the blind. For subscriptions write to "Moshiach Digest," 383 Kingston Ave., #364, Brooklyn, NY 11213.
LEARN MORE ABOUT MOSHIACH
Call weekly 800-4-MOSHIACH in the U.S., 800-2-MASHIACH in Canada. Or daily and locally (718) 953-6168.
CHOICE OF ACTION
(From a letter of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, 11 Tishrei, 5712 (1951))
In reply to your letter and questions contained therein:
Re: the apparent contradiction between the Omniscience of G-d and man's free will (or choice of action), there is a whole literature dealing with the subject and it is impossible to give an outline of it in the course of a letter.
I would refer you to at least to the Rambam [Maimonides] (Hilchot Teshuva, ch. 5). However, I cannot leave you without some answer, so I will state briefly: G-d's foreknowledge is no contradiction to man's free choice. What could be a contradiction to free choice is compulsion, not knowledge. Hence a foreknowledge that is not compelling or forcing is in no way limiting to one's free choice of action.
I will cite two illustrations: first, assuming that there are people with prophetic knowledge, their forecast concerning certain people does not compel the people to act in a certain way and does not rob them of their free choice of action. Secondly, as you know, G-d is not subject to time, and the past, present, future are all the same to Him (He was, is and will be, all in one).
It follows that to G-d the future is like the past, and just as knowledge of a past action is no contradiction to free choice, so is His knowledge of a future action. In other words: G-d knows the thoughts of man and his-- man's--decisions and such knowledge does not rob man of thinking and deciding how to act.
Re: your question to my opinion of the Theory of Evolution. You do not mention what evolution you are referring to, presuming of animal and vegetable life.
My opinion is, as is stated in the Torah, that during the six days of creation, G-d created the four animal kingdoms (mineral, vegetable, animal and man), independently of each other. Our Sages have enlarged upon this question in detail. However, this creation does not deny the possibility of evolution after that of particular species through various mutations.
With regard to your quotation concerning the role of Agadah in the the Talmud, particularly those dealing with medicine, I want to point out that you are touching upon two distinct questions: Agadah in the Talmud, and medicine in the Talmud.
As to Agadah not all Agadah can be treated equally. In the introduction to various editions of *Ein Yaakov* you will find out how our Sages class the Agadot of the Talmud. As to the question of medicine in the Talmud, the medical suggestions are not as fantastic as they may appear. As a matter of fact, many medical suggestions in the Talmud have been confirmed in recent years as to their therapeutic value, although medical science has long derided them.
Generally speaking, however, inasmuch as the nature of the human organism has undergone many changes since those days, the medical advice contained in the Talmud cannot be applied nowadays.
But it is quite certain that in their days the remedies were quite effective. For reference consult: Tosafot Moed Koton lla, Kesef Mishneh, ch. 4 of Hilchot Deot, ch. 18, and sources mentioned in Sdei Chemed, Keleim, where it is mentioned that due to physical and climactic changes, medical treatment and remedies of old no longer hold good generally. In the history of medical science many illustrations are cited as to changes in man's susceptibility to disease and treatment, the development of virus attacks, new diseases, etc. There is quite a lot of literature on the subject, and there is no need for me to enlarge upon it.
In the days of Rabbi Sholom DovBer of Lubavitch, the Czarist regime demanded that the rabbis of Russia introduce certain reforms into Jewish education and the rabbinate.
The Rebbe responded:
"Our bodies alone have been handed over into exile to be ruled by the nations of the world, but not our souls.... We must openly declare for all to hear, that with regard to everything involving our religion--the Torah of the people of Israel, with its commandments and customs, no one is going to impose his views on us, and no force has the right to subjugate us."
Rabbi Sholom DovBer of Lubavitch, who was known by the acronym, the Rebbe Rashab, was born in 1860 and passed away in 1920. He was the son and successor of Rabbi Shmuel, the Rebbe Maharash, and was himself the fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe. Because of his systematic, intellectual approach to the teaching of Chasidut, he became known as "the Rambam of Chasidut." He was the founder of the Lubavitcher Yeshiva, Tomchei Temimim.
One of the basic foundations of faith in the Redemption is the realization that each and every person can hasten the Redemption. It isn't enough for us to simply believe in Moshiach and await his coming, but it is incumbent upon meach one of us to add to our Torah learning and performance of mitzvot in order to hasten his arrival.
Our Sages have pointed to certain mitzvot that have the special ability to bring the Redemption closer. The most noteworthy among them is charity, concerning which our Sages say, "Great is charity which bring closer the Redemption." Repentance, too, can bring the Redemption one second sooner, as Maimonides states: "The Torah promised us that ultimately Israel will repent at the end of their exile. and immediately they will be redeemed."
Also, the desire for the Redemption actually acts to hasten its coming, as it says, "The generation who desires My sovereignty, immediately." And especially, according to what is explained by our Sages. It is imperative for each one of us to pray and request the Redemption: This also has a special power to hasten the Redemption.
Other mitzvot and activities have been defined as helping to bring the Redemption: strengthening our faith (since the exodus from Egypt was in the merit of our faith in G-d); unwarranted love (to counteract the unwarranted hatred which caused the exile); studying the inner dimension of Torah (as it says in Raya Mehemna that we will go out of exile in the merit of our future study of the Zohar); studying the Mishna and also bearing children (since "the son of David will not come until all of the souls have come down").
It should be pointed out that it is important when doing these mitzvot to have the intention of bringing the Redemption closer, for this intention itself hastens the Redemption.
The Rebbe Rashab once was travelling to Petersburg by train. When he reached his destination he claimed all of his baggage except one valise which was nowhere to be found. His attendants searched the entire train station, but that suitcase which contained several important books was lost.
Several days later the Rebbe was visited by a young man named Reb Avrohom Eliahu Guarary. The young man was newly married and had invested his considerable dowry in a business which had unfortunately failed. Now, he was left with only one thousand rubles and had come to seek the Rebbe's advice.
No sooner had he entered the room when the Rebbe said, "Ah, Reb Avrohom Eliahu will bring me back my suitcase from the train station!" He handed the young man the claim and sent him off, unaware that the case was missing.
The train station was deserted and Reb Avrohom stopped to have a smoke. He noticed a man watching him and staring at his pack of cigarettes. "Do You smoke?" Reb Avrohom asked the man.
"Yes," he replied.
The young chasid offered the gentile a cigarette and they were sharing a smoke together when the man asked, "What are you doing here at such an hour?"
Reb Avrohom replied affably, "There is a rabbi by the name of Schneersohn visiting, and I am here to pick up his suitcase."
"That's a handy coincidence. You see, I'm the warehouse manager. Why don't you give me your baggage ticket and let me see if I can find your case."
The manager went into the large warehouse and instructed his workers to bring him the suitcase, but to his consternation, they couldn't find it. He ordered them to check each piece of baggage carefully. Sure enough, they found the valise lying behind a large crate. Reb Avrohom thanked the man profusely and returned to the Rebbe, valise in hand.
The Rebbe was very happy to receive his lost suitcase and said to the young man, "I am now in your debt. How can I help you?"
Reb Avrohom poured out his whole story of the ten thousand ruble dowry which he had lost in an unsuccessful business. Now he had only one thousand rubles and wanted to know how to make the most of it. The Rebbe advised him, "Go to the city of Koritz and there G-d will provide you with a livelihood. Just make sure that you bring along food for the trip."
Reb Avrohom returned to his wife and told her what the Rebbe had said. His wife baked and cooked all kinds of delicious foods for his journey, and they chatted excitedly about the success they faithfully anticipated.
Reb Avrohom arrived in Koritz on a hot, humid day. He decided to cool off by taking a swim in the Black Sea. After the refreshing swim, he sat down on the beach to eat some of the delicious food his wife had packed. He noticed another Jew nearby and Reb Avrohom, being a friendly type, offered him some of his wife's food. They struck up a conversation and Avrohom told the stranger the story of his failed business and the blessing he had received from the Rebbe.
"I would like to help you," said the man. "Come back here tomorrow. I'm going to bring a friend with me. Perhaps between the two of us, we can figure out a way to help you out. But don't forget to bring along some of your wife's great cooking," the man added, smiling.
The next day the three men met and concluded a deal. "I have decided to sell you my entire shipment of cigarette papers for a thousand rubies," said the friend. "I hope you are successful and make a big profit from it." They shook hands, and went their separate ways. Reb Avrohom headed for the town of Kremenchug to claim his goods. That town was a center of cigarette manufacture and there he would be able to sell the papers. He headed for the factory of a certain Reb Tzvi and made him a proposal: "I will sell you my entire stock for ten thousand rubles," he said.
"What! The paper is worth two thousand at the very most."
"No," replied Reb Avrohom, "I want to recover my whole loss. I will take ten thousand or nothing." And it was impossible to move him.
Reb Tzvi listened to the young man's whole story and decided he would go to Koritz himself and try to make a similar purchase. But when he arrived he was disappointed to find that there was no cigarette paper to be had. In fact, there was a severe shortage in the whole city. The seller had given Reb Avrohom his last lot for the thousand rubles out of pity for the young man.
Reb Tzvi lost no time. He telegrammed Reb Avrohom, requesting him not to sell his supply of cigarette papers to anyone else. He then rushed back to Kremenchug and paid the asking price of ten thousand rubies.
Having recovered his loss, Reb Avrohom returned to the Rebbe for further instructions.
"But, Reb Avrohom Eliahu," said the Rebbe this time, "my debt to you is already repaid!"
Moses assembled all the congregation... (Ex. 35:1)
After the Jewish people had sinned with the Golden Calf, the Sanctuary could be erected only if all of them were united together. Before the sin, however, it could have been built by even one individual.
Moses assembled ... these are the laws G-d has commanded (35: 1)
Jewish unity only has meaning and value when it is used as a means to strengthen Torah observance. Therefore, as soon as Moses had gathered all the Jews together, he immediately began to enumerate the Torah's practical laws.
Earring, nose ring, finger ring and bracelet (35:22)
These items which were donated for the Sanctuary to teach us an important lesson in raising our children: Earring--We must listen carefully to the Torah's dictates on child rearing, and must always listen to what our children say, to make sure that the education they receive is a good one; Nose ring--We must "smell out" our children's companions, to make sure that they are positive and not negative influences on their behavior; Finger ring-We must point, so to speak, with our finger, the right path to follow, and explain the dangers of straying from that path; Bracelet--We must use our arms, that is, all of our strengths and resources, to ensure that every Jewish child receives a strong Jewish education.
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)
All the gold was used in the work to complete the sacred task (38:24)
The only reason gold was created was for its use in the Sanctuary and the Holy Temples.