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Devarim Deutronomy

L'Chaim
May 13, 1994 - 3 Sivan 5754

317: Bamidbar

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Published and copyright © by Lubavitch Youth Organization - Brooklyn, NY
The Weekly Publication For Every Jewish Person
Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.


  316: Behar Bechukosai318: Naso  

Self Esteem  |  Living With The Times  |  A Slice of Life  |  What's New
Insights  |  Who's Who  |  A Word from the Director  |  Thoughts that Count
It Happened Once  |  Moshiach Matters

Self Esteem

When parents were asked in a recent survey what they wanted most for their children, over 50% of the respondents answered, "high self-esteem."

To generate a positive self-image and high self-esteem, we can study for ourselves and then tell our children the history of the upcoming holiday of Shavuot.

Shavuot is the holiday on which we relive the experience of receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai.

It is on this holiday that we recommit ourselves to the Torah and its mitzvot.

When describing our ancestors' preparation and readiness for this momentous event, the Torah explains that every single Jew was present at the Giving of the Torah. Not one Jew -- from the youngest child to the oldest adult -- was left out or forgotten.

Every Jew was there. Every Jew wanted to be there. Every Jew had to be there.

For, our Sages tell us, that had one Jew been missing, the Torah could not have been given. Each one of us is precious. Each one of us is essential. The Jewish people is incomplete when even one solitary Jew is not present.

But not only were all of the Jews alive at that time present at the Giving of the Torah. The souls of all Jews destined to be born were also present at Mount Sinai! For the Torah is the inheritance of every Jew.

At the Giving of the Torah, every Jew actually heard G-d's "voice" when He told us the Ten Commandments.

In the very first commandment, G-d said, "I am the L-rd, your G-d."

The Hebrew word for "your G-d" -- elokecha -- is in the singular form rather than what would seem to be the more correct plural, Elokeichem.

"Elokecha" teaches us that G-d commanded every Jew individually to observe the Ten Commandments and the other mitzvot of the Torah.

Each Jew has the personal responsibility and privilege to fulfill the mitzvot.

We cannot pass off our responsibility on another, for each one of us was present at that moment when G-d commanded us personally.

And, of course, it follows that if G-d thus commanded us, he also gave us the ability and strength to fulfill our obligations.

Just as the revelation of the Torah at Mount Sinai was experienced by every Jew without exception, the revelation of the "new Torah" which G-d will teach us in the Messianic Era will also be experienced by every Jew. Without exception, every Jew alive today and every Jew who ever lived, will experience the peace, prosperity, and Divine knowledge of the Messianic Era.

For the Messianic Era, like the Torah, is the inheritance of every single Jew.


Living With The Times

Adapted from: Talks of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Vol. 2

The name of this week's Torah portion, Bamidbar, which begins the Book of Numbers, means literally "in the wilderness."

Indeed, there are many places that can be considered a wilderness, in the Jewish sense.

Any locale lacking Jewish institutions of learning or where kosher food is hard to obtain is a desert, as far as the Jew is concerned.

From a physical standpoint, these places may be the most beautiful garden spots on earth. But if they lack those things a Jew needs to survive, they are desolate and barren.

A Jew who finds himself in such a wilderness may think it impossible to lead a full Jewish life under such circumstances.

At first he may give up those practices he sees as not absolutely essential to his spiritual well-being; slowly but surely, he is likely to abandon even those fundamental to his existence as a Jew.

"But things are different out here in the desert," he may claim. "One cannot behave in a wilderness as one does in a Jewish environment!"

This week's Torah reading, however, underscores just how baseless this argument is.

Bamidbar describes how the responsibility for setting up and carrying the Sanctuary and its numerous vessels and implements through the wilderness was divided up among the various Levite families.

For forty years, no matter where their journeys led them, the Children of Israel erected the Sanctuary each time they encamped.

How were the Jews able to do all this -- in a desert, no less -- a place devoid of human habitation, let alone conducive to Jewish practice?

The Torah teaches that G-d does not set boundaries for holiness, decreeing that it exist only within certain limits.

No matter where a Jew finds himself, be it a spiritual desert or a Jewish enclave, he possesses the power to erect a Sanctuary to G-d and to imbue his surroundings with holiness.

All he needs to do is to allow the G-dly light of his Divine Jewish soul to shine through, and he will see that all obstacles and difficulties disappear.

This teaching, which we learn from the erection of the Sanctuary in the desert, applies to each and every Jew, although most specifically to Jewish women.

Generations ago in the wilderness, it was the women who first came forward, before the men, to donate their possessions to build the Sanctuary.

This action was indicative of the special power women are granted to enhance their surroundings with holiness.

Jewish women have always remained strong in the face of negative outside influences.

The Jewish woman is the one who sets the tone in the home and to whom the education of the next generation is entrusted, no matter where the Jewish family may wander.


A Slice of Life
Reprinted from the Yiddishe Heim by Rabbi Yosef Wineberg

In the 1940's, the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Y. Schneersohn, sent emissaries to visit various Jewish communities.

Their purpose was not to collect funds for the Rebbe's sacred institutions; in fact, these emissaries would refuse even unsolicited donations.

Fund-raising was not the function of these special emissaries; these emissaries had a purely spiritual assignment: to bring Chasidic warmth, with new inspiration and vitality, to the communities they visited.

When I lived in Chicago, I was privileged to join in the hearty welcome of the distinguished emissary whom the late Rebbe had sent to Chicago.

In the midst of his crowded schedule, the emissary inquired after a certain individual, a Mr. L. He told us that the Rebbe had specifically instructed him to pay a visit to this Mr. L., who happened to come from a long line of distinguished Lubavitcher Chasidim.

However, having arrived in this country when he was a young boy, he gradually became "Americanized" and drifted somewhat from Judaism. The Rebbe, therefore, sent his emissary to give him a spiritual "shot in the arm."

It turned out that Mr. L. was a prominent businessman, with whom some of us had a nodding acquaintance. This information seemed encouraging to the Rebbe's emissary.

We put through a call to Mr. L.'s office and an appointment was arranged. Several local rabbis, including the rabbi of the Lubavitcher shul where Mr. L. was a dues-paying member, accompanied the emissary to Mr. L.'s house. I was also one of the visiting party.

Mr. L. received his visitors with sincere warmth.

An intimate and animated conversation followed, in the course of which the emissary reminisced about his acquaintance with Mr. L.'s grandfather.

Mr. L. warmed up, and he too, spoke nostalgically about his parents' and grandparents' homes, where the Chasidic customs were a daily experience, and where Shabbat and Yom Tov were truly joyous occasions of lasting inspiration.

The mission accomplished, the venerable emissary rose to take leave, whereupon Mr. L. brought out his checkbook, and asked to whom he should make his check payable.

"My dear friend," the emissary told him, "I did not come to solicit financial contributions, and I trust you will not be offended if I absolutely decline to take any money from you."

This obviously puzzled Mr. L. "Surely you did not come all the way from New York in order to pay me a social visit," Mr. L. said.

"Let me explain it to you," the Rabbi of Mr. L.'s shul replied.

"You know that a Torah scroll is written in a special way, by a scribe, with a quill and special black ink on special parchment.

"It sometimes happens, especially when the Sefer Torah is not used for a length of time, that a letter fades, and according to Jewish law, if a letter is missing in the Torah it is no longer 'kosher.' It therefore must be repaired by a scribe.

"The Rebbe has taught us that every Jew is a Sefer Torah.

"There are letters and words, which the Jew spells out in his daily conduct -- Shabbat, keeping kosher, Jewish Marriage Laws, raising children to a life of Torah and mitzvot -- all these are the `letters' which make up the living Sefer Torah, namely, the Jew.

Sometimes it happens that one of these letters becomes faded.

So the Rebbe sends us, the `scribes,' from time to time, to freshen up some of the faded letters, and make each one of us a perfect Sefer Torah."

Moved and grateful, Mr. L. bade us farewell, and we left him to digest the food for thought which was so aptly provided for him.

When the emissary returned to New York, he reported to the Rebbe on his activities and included a detailed description of what had transpired at Mr. L's home.

The Rebbe said, "It was indeed a very interesting explanation that was given to Mr. L, but the analogy was not true in all respects. It is true that a Jew is a Sefer Torah, but with a difference."

The Rebbe went on to explain:

"There are two ways of making an inscription. One can write with a quill or pen and ink, or one can engrave like the Ten Commandments which were engraved in stone.

"What is the difference between these two methods? Writing with a pen, or quill, means applying ink to paper or parchment.

"The ink and the parchment are separate entities, but they are skillfully joined by the writers. But because they are separate entities, it is possible for the ink to fade, or be erased.

"On the other hand, engraving means forming letters and words within the very stone itself; nothing is superimposed upon the material -- the material and the letter are one. Such letters cannot be erased, nor can they fade.

"So long as the material exists, the letters are there. However, while no actual fading or erasure is possible in this case, there is a possibility of dust and grime gathering and covering up the engraved letters. If this happens, one must only clear away the dust and grime, and the letters will again be revealed in their original freshness."

The Rebbe concluded:

"A Jew is a Sefer Torah, but not a written one. He is rather like the Ten Commandments -- engraved.

"The Torah and mitzvot are an integral part of the Jewish soul; they are engraved in his mind and heart. You do not have to `rewrite' a Jew; all you have to do is help him brush away the dust and grime of environmental influences which have temporary covered up his true self - the 'pintele Yid'. This is why a Jewish heart is always awake and responsive."


What's New
SUMMER TIME

The count down to summer has begun. Every Jewish child deserves a positive Jewish experience during summer vacation.

That's why every Chabad-Lubavitch Center world wide has a day camp incorporating Jewish pride into a day chock full of sports, crafts, fun and games.

Call your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center for a camp near you.

CHABAD IN NEW MEXICO

Holiday programs, a pre-school, Shabbat meals, adult education classes, campus activities, and more -- these are some of what Chabad in Albuquerque, New Mexico offers to heighten Jewish consciousness.

Rabbi Chaim and Devorah Leah Smukler, directors of Chabad Outreach, are helping to build a proud Jewish presence in Albuquerque. Call them at (502) 268-9105.

FIFTY YEARS

Yeshiva Schools in Pittsburgh is celebrating its jubilee year.

Founded in 1943 by Rabbi Sholom Posner under the leadership of the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, (Pittsburgh) Yeshiva Schools now comprises seven educational institutions as well as adult education and campus outreach.

Yeshiva Schools is currently negotiating the purchase of a new building for the boys division.


Insights

NO MORE, NO LESS

From letters of the Lubavitcher Rebbe
First day in the portion Bamidbar, 5719 (1959)

We begin this week the first portion of the book of Bamidbar (Numbers).

At its very beginning we are told of the command to count the Jews (may they multiply).

In further portions of this book, we are again told about other tallies of the Jews.

The Torah attaches to this a special importance, so much so that this whole book of the Torah is called the Book of Countings.

What can we learn from this in connection with our work of spreading Judaism, permeated with Chasidic light and warmth?

One of the most important thoughts is this:

In a census, every person that is counted, no matter how great and important, is no more than ONE. On the other hand, no matter how small and how humble another may be, in the census he cannot be counted for less than ONE.
One of the greatest obstacles to acting on behalf of another is the thought: "What business is it of mine? Why should I care? What can I accomplish?"

But if we consider the above mentioned -- that each individual by himself is only ONE, then in order to benefit from the strength and importance of more than one individual, he must unite with another Jew! After reflecting that the next person is ONE just like myself, one realizes that it is very possible that, with the proper help, he can become my equal in every respect.

We can then understand the fallacy in the aforementioned thinking.

We see the great accomplishments, for oneself and for another, that can be attained, and we therefore throw ourselves into our work with renewed vigor and energy.

May the Almighty bless your work, may it be successful in every aspect. And very soon, may we be worthy, together with all Jews, to see the fulfillment of the Holy prophecy, "'In this place [the land of Israel] which is now destroyed, the sheep [the Jews] will pass before the one who will count them [Moshiach],' says the L-rd."


Lag B'Omer 5731 (1971)

Torah from Sinai begins with the Ten Commandments, of which the first two, "I am G-d your G-d" (the root and foundation of all positive mitzvot) and "You shall have no other gods" (the root and foundation of all prohibitions) proclaim the Unity of G-d.

A precondition to Mattan Torah [the Giving of the Torah] was the unity of the Jewish people (as it is written, "Israel encamped there facing the Mountain" -- in the singular form, indicating, as our Sages explain, "as one person with one heart").

The essence of Mattan Torah is to realize in the material world the unity of G-d, through the "one nation on earth," the Jews, fulfilling the 613 mitzvot of the one Torah.

At first glance it is difficult to understand how such unity can be achieved, considering that G-d Himself created mankind as diverse individuals, differing in their opinions ("as they differ in their faces so they differ in their minds"), living in a world which He likewise created diverse as to climate and physical features.

How can a whole nation attain true unity within itself and bring unity into such a diversified world?

The explanation is to be found in the verse, "And they stood themselves under the Mountain": all 600,000 adult Jewish men, with their wives, sons and daughters means that, as they were about to receive the Torah, they all submitted themselves to it so completely, that all mundane matters ceased to exist for them, as it were; their self-effacement and joy of receiving the Torah left room for nothing else.

And since the "mountain" was the same for all, and all were permeated with the same feeling of self-effacement and joy, this brought true unity to all the individual Jews, and also unity of G-d into the world, through the one Torah.

The Jewish people began with one family, that of our father Abraham, and ever since then the Jewish family has been the foundation of our people.

In the family, too, each member is a separate individual, with a particular function and purpose in life assigned to him and her by hashgacha protit (Divine Providence).

Unless there is unity in the family, there can be no unity of the Jewish people.

How is family unity achieved? In the same way as mentioned above:

When all members of the family accept the one Torah from the One G-d in such a way that Torah and mitzvot are the only essential thing, and all other things are merely secondary -- and have significance only insofar as they are related to the essence -- then there is true unity in the family.

In attaining this family unity -- bearing in mind also that Jewish families are the component parts of the Jewish people, hence the basis of the unity of the Jewish people, as mentioned above -- the Jewish mother and daughter have a most important part, being the foundation of the home, as has been underscored on previous occasions.

Needless to say, the said unity must be a constant one, without interruptions; that is to say, its unity must be expressed not only on certain days of the year, or certain hours of the day, but in every day of the year and in every hour of the day.

This means that a Jewish home must be wholly based on the foundations of the Torah and mitzvot, and so permeated with the spirit of Torah dedication and the joy of mitzvot that this should be reflected also in the conduct outside the home, in the street, and in the entire environment.


Who's Who

Hoshea, a prophet and a prince of the tribe of Reuven, was active in the era of the First Holy Temple.

Under the reign of Jeroboam II, when there was great material abundance and a concomitant collapse of morality, Hoshea prophesied G-d's retribution unless the people returned to Him in repentance.

Hoshea died in Babylonia, but requested to be buried in Israel.

He told the people to set his casket on a camel and bury him where it stopped.

Miraculously, the camel continued for hundreds of miles from Babylonia to the Jewish cemetery of Tzefat.

Concerning the Messianic Era Hoshea prophesized,

"The Children of Israel will remain for many days, having no king, nor prince, nor sacrifice...afterward the Children of Israel will return, and seek the L-rd their G-d, and David their king."

A Word from the Director

A famous Midrash describes how, when G-d was about to bring an unprecedented level of G-dly revelation into the world through the giving of the Torah to the Jewish people, G-d demanded of the fledging Jewish nation a guarantor for the Torah.

The Jewish people offered their ancestors as the guarantors but G-d refused them.

He demanded that their children be the guarantors instead.

When the children came before G-d, He asked them, "Do you agree to be the guarantors of the Torah for your parents, and if they do not observe the Torah, you will be responsible for them?"

To this Divine question, the children answered affirmatively, whereupon G-d began reciting the first of the Ten Commandments.

It is perhaps in this vein that the Rebbe has stressed throughout the years that all Jewish children should be present in shul on the holiday of Shavuot to hear the reading of the Ten Commandments and to accept the Torah anew.

We bring the children so they can become familiar with the "terms" of the guarantee. The children's presence in shul actually confirms our guarantee it.

In Hebrew, the word guarantor is "orev."

Orev can also mean pleasant or sweet.

What sweeter guarantors can we have than our children, whose influence helps our own deeds to be pleasing?

One of the many beautiful concepts in Judaism is that the Jewish soul can comprehend long before the intellect.

With this in mind, we see how imperative it is to bring even infants and young children to shul; though their minds might not yet comprehend where they are and why they are there, their souls certainly do.

On Shavuot -- (this year {1994}) Monday, May 16 and Tuesday May 17 -- make sure to be in shul and to bring your children as well.

It is especially important to be in shul on the first day, when the Ten Commandments will be read.

As we prepare ourselves to receive the Torah once again, let us prepare ourselves as well, for the ultimate revelation of G-dliness that we will experience in the Messianic Era -- may that time begin NOW.


Thoughts that Count

The Levites shall keep charge of the Sanctuary of Testimony (Num. 1:53)

The Levites, whose job it was to "guard" the Sanctuary and the Holy Temple, were counted in the census from the age of one month.

But how can a one-month-old infant possibly "keep the charge of the Sanctuary of Testimony"?

The concept of "guarding" the holiness of the Sanctuary refers to spiritual guardianship, not physical protection.

The Levites served not by virtue of their physical prowess or outstanding bravery, but because of their high spiritual stature, something that even a small ba by had already inherited.

(Lubavitcher Rebbe)

Every male from twenty years old and upward; all that were able to go forth to war (Num. 1:20)

According to the Ohr Hachaim, (Rabbi Chaim ben Attar) every single person in the census was brave of heart and worthy of going forth to war, a miracle that does not occur among other nations.

When Jews are strongly connected to G-d and His Torah they are not subject to the laws of nature.

The census in the desert was taken not long after the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai, when the Jewish people were still under its powerful influence.

Still firm in their commitment to observing G-d's commands, they thus merited the miracle that not even one was found to be lacking.

But those who encamped before the Sanctuary toward the east ... were Moses, Aaron, and his sons, keeping charge of the Sanctuary (Num 3:38)

This is one of the verses from which Maimonides concludes that both Kohanim and Levites are responsible for guarding the Sanctuary and the Holy Temple. Moses was a Levite and Aaron was a kohen; both are entrusted with "keeping charge of the Sanctuary."

Why couldn't any Jew guard the Sanctuary?

Why were only Kohanim and Levites permitted to do so?

Guarding the Sanctuary is done for the glory of G-d, not for physical protection.

Allowing only the elite to serve affords greater honor to that which is being guarded.

(Sichat Shmirat Hamikdash Bizman Hazeh)


It Happened Once
The town of Harki belonged to a branch of the Polish aristocratic Radziville family.

The owner spent most of his time in France and was rarely seen on his vast estates.

One of the young noblemen of the family, Benedict by name, had a very close friend in France named Pierre Louis, a young man from an assimilated Jewish family. He was, in fact, so alienated from his Jewish roots that he had no remaining Jewish ties at all.

When Benedict married, he settled on the estates of his wife's family in Russia.

His good friend, Pierre Louis, also married into a wealthy family, and settled nearby. The two lived a life of luxury and pleasure and were constantly in each other's company.

After many years had passed, Pierre Louis was widowed.

Now, with no anchor in life, he immersed himself totally in a life of debauchery in the company of the Russian and Polish aristocrats who were his companions.

Once, when the chasid Rabbi Nissan went to visit the Baal Shem Tov (the "Besht"), the Besht explained to him at great length the meaning of the verse, "Those who go down to the sea in ships and do work in raging waters": The phrase "those who go down to the sea" refers to the souls that come down and enter the bodies, comparable to the seas which cover everything, as the body covers the Divine soul within it.

"But there are two kinds of descent: in one, souls descend into the sea of life -- i.e. when one finds oneself within a circle of Torah. In the other, the souls descend into the midst of a raging sea without any ship in which to take refuge.

"Those Jews who descend into the physical body, but live in an atmosphere devoid of the light of Torah, flounder as if in a raging sea.

"Therefore," concluded the Besht, "it is the duty of other Jewish souls who `do their work in raging waters,' to save them, as they would a drowning man."

The Besht made it clear to Rabbi Nissan that he was referring precisely to the "Christianized" friend of Benedict, Pierre Louis, who was, in actuality, a Jew named Pesach Tzvi.

"This winter, Benedict will go hunting with his friend Pierre Louis and they will both visit Harki. At that time, I want you to read this letter that I am giving you, and then carry out all the instructions in it."

Rabbi Nissan was to inform Pierre Louis that he was a Jew, named Pesach Tzvi, and that he must return to his people.

Even if Pierre Louis didn't want to listen, Reb Nissan must go and repeat exactly what the Besht had said. The Besht assured him that he would be successful.

When Rabbi Nissan returned to Harki the town was buzzing with anticipation of the aristocracy's hunting season who habitually visited the area.

Benedict and Pierre Louis were staying, as they always did, at the home of the local priest. But this time, as Benedict entered the house, he tripped over the threshold and fell. The pistol he was carrying in his pocket discharged, and a bullet lodged in his stomach.

Pandemonium reigned as a doctor tried in vain to staunch the flow of blood. Riders were dispatched to neighboring towns to bring other doctors, but the patient's condition deteriorated steadily.

As news of the accident spread throughout the town, the Jews were distressed to hear that Benedict, who had always been friendly toward them, was in grave danger.

Rabbi Nissan now opened the letter of the Besht, and to his astonishment, it contained a prescription for treating Benedict's wound.

In addition, the letter said that if anyone inquired how Rabbi Nissan came to know this cure, he should say that he learned it from Rabbi Yisrael Baal Shem Tov.

On the second day after the accident Rabbi Nissan arrived at the house, saying he had a cure for Benedict.

The desperate doctor allowed the Jew to be admitted.

The Rabbi spread an ointment on the wound and also put some medicine down the wounded man's throat. To the amazement and relief of all, the cure took effect within an hour.

Only then did Rabbi Nissan approach Pierre Louis and ask to speak to him in private.

He related all the words of the Baal Shem Tov, telling him that he was a Jew, and must return to his people, but Pierre Louis was too shocked to respond.

It was in the month of Nisan that Pierre Louis arrived in Harki and came to Rabbi Nisan.

He had no rest since the day they had spoken, and now he finally resolved to return to his people.

Over the next year he studied and made great progress.

Benedict was quite sympathetic to his friend's return to Judaism, and as a gift he gave him an estate outside Harki.

As an additional display of good will, Benedict presented to the local Jews the land on which their houses were built.

In this manner the existence of the Baal Shem Tov and his circle of mystics became known in Harki.


Moshiach Matters

In the days of Moshiach the Divine light will be utterly revealed in the heart of every individual, and in every heart there will be a constant and visible awe of G-d.

(Derech Chayim)


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