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Men Are From Mars...But Women Are From Venus, a much-talked about book these days, discusses something that Judaism has always known: men and women are different!
In the Talmud, our Sages say it clearly and succinctly: "Women are a people unto themselves."
Since men and women are different and Judaism acknowledges these differences, the Torah has much to say about the relationship between husband and wife.
The Talmud advises husbands, "Love your wife as much as yourself and honor her more than yourself."
Maimonides suggests to wives, "Honor your husband more than is necessary."
Honor, esteem, and respect -- these are fundamental aspects of a Jewish marriage.
But what about love? Isn't love an integral component of a Torah marriage?
Let's look at the Jewish concept of love.
The word for love in Hebrew is "ahava" which comes from the word "hav," meaning "give."
The world says, "What can I get out of this marriage? What can I gain? What's in it for me?"
The Torah says, "What can I put into this relationship? What can I give?" The Torah teaches us that the way to foster love is not by taking but rather by giving, and being a willing and active recipient.
Just for a minute, think about that cute little baby -- your own child, the neighbor's, your niece or nephew, or grandchild.
A natural reaction when around an infant is to pick it up, and cuddle it. Before you know it, you'll find yourself saying "I love you" to the baby. What has the baby given to you? Nothing. But you are giving to the baby -- hugs, cuddles, kisses, coos -- and this giving evokes in you a love for the baby.
Society teaches that each of us is the center of the world.
The Torah, however, teaches that G-d is the center of the world.
If we make room in our lives, and especially in our marriages, not only for our partner, but also for G-d, we have a tested formula for a stable marriage.
(Just take a look at the low divorce rate in Torah-based marriages and any skepticism will be quelled.)
This is beautifully expressed by our Sages in their discussion of husband and wife.
"Man" in Hebrew is "ish"; woman is "isha."
Both words have two letters in common, "alef" and "shin," which spell "fire."
The two disparate letters are "yud" and "hay."
When "yud" and "hay" are combined they spell one of G-d's names. When husband and wife live without G-d in their midst, all that is left is "aish" -- an all-consuming fire.
The Torah calls the wedding ceremony "kidushin," meaning "sanctification."
And the word for marriage comes from the Hebrew "to lift up."
If husband and wife devote themselves to lifting each other up throughout the ups and downs of marriage by following the guidelines of the Torah, they will be truly sanctified and their marriage will be holy.
Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe
"And every offering of all the holy things...which they bring to the kohen, shall be his," states the Torah in this week's portion, Naso.
"This refers to bikurim (first fruits)," explains Rashi, the great Torah commentator.
The very first fruits to ripen are to be brought to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and given to the kohen (priest), as his due.
Agricultural produce does not grow by itself.
In order to produce those fruits a Jew must toil countless hours painstakingly plowing, sowing and tending his fields. Yet instead of enjoying for himself the first tangible results of his labor, the Torah demands that they be brought to Jerusalem and presented to a total stranger!
We learn from this that the very first and best of whatever a person possesses should be used for the purpose of tzedaka (charity).
Many people don't find it too difficult to accept this principle when it comes to supporting religious institutions.
They give willingly when asked to contribute to a synagogue or yeshiva.
But a strange thing occurs when it comes to giving tzedaka to a needy individual: "Why should I part with my hard-earned money to support him?" the Evil Inclination prompts us.
"Why should his needs come before mine? Why must I part with the very best? Is not second best good enough? Better I should take care of myself first, and only afterward help others with whatever is left over."
We learn, however, from the mitzva of bikurim, that such is not the Jewish way.
We are commanded to give the first fruits to the kohen, an individual, for his own personal use. Only after this is done are we permitted to derive benefit from the blessings G-d has given us.
Significantly, the Torah commands us to bring the first fruits to the Holy Temple, "the house of the L-rd your G-d" in Jerusalem before presenting them to the kohen.
A Jew must first understand that whatever wealth is granted him from Above is not truly his, despite the labor he may have invested to amass it.
When a Jew realizes that everything, in reality, belongs to G-d, the protests of the Evil Inclination are silenced, and it is far easier to part with the "first fruits" of one's earnings even for another individual.
by Mordechai Staiman
On a clear day at the International Moshiach Center you can see forever -- as far as the World-to-Come.
On a less clear day, there are signs in every language, proclaiming, "Moshiach Is On His Way -- Get Ready!" and "Welcome Moshiach."
That is the way it should be, says Rabbi Yosef Shagalov, the director of the Center. "The Rebbe, shlita, told us that the Redemption is imminent and that we have to get ready to greet Moshiach. The purpose of the Moshiach Center is to spread the Rebbe's message."
Though many were skeptical about whether or not there was sufficient interest to support a Moshiach center, the International Moshiach Center (I.M.C.) opened a day before Shavuot 5753, and, since then, the 40,000 visitors to the Center, and the untold phone callers, have proven that the time is ripe.
Some of the visitors or callers are not even Jewish, according to Shagalov. "All they know is that the Messiah is coming," says Shagalov, "and they want to be a part of it."
There is one call Shagalov cannot explain: Two weeks after he opened his door at 355 Kingston Ave, in the heart of Crown Heights, Brooklyn, he got a phone call from a Reform rabbi in a Pennsylvania town. The rabbi told Shagalov that his congregants had heard Moshiach was coming and insisted that he inform them the minute Moshiach showed up. How he got the I.M.C.'s phone number still remains a mystery to Shagalov, but he sent the rabbi all the information he had requested, only to get a second call from the rabbi two weeks later, pleading with him to rush off literature discussing the topic of the Rebbe as Moshiach.
"Gladly," Shagalov said, "But why the urgency?"
Said the rabbi: "Because now my congregants expect me to make a major speech at my temple about the Messiah, and bumper stickers with the Rebbe's picture on them aren't enough. They're really into this, thanks to your Center."
The story didn't end there: Two weeks later, Shagalov received a $40 check from the rabbi, making him the first member of the Moshiach Book Club.
Moshiach is not an angel from Heaven, and Moshiach's revelation is not the subject of an idle daydream.
The world is awash with signs of his imminent arrival, as predicted by the Rebbe.
It's even been said by the Alter Rebbe, founder of Chabad Chasidut, that "Moshiach will come and you will read about it in the newspapers."
So one day recently, when a CBS-TV crew stopped in to check out the I.M.C., no one was the least bit surprised at their appearance.
"Tell me," the TV reporter asked a store clerk, "What's your biggest Moshiach item seller?"
"Bumper stickers, pictures, books, you name it -- anything that clearly speaks about Moshiach."
"And why is that?"
"Because the Rebbe taught us that the more we reinforce our belief in Moshiach, the more this gives him life and hastens his coming."
Then, as the camera man continued shooting film, the TV reporter held up a lavishly decorated tambourine and spoke (this was later shown on Channel 2 News "Live At Five"):
"Good evening, folks. It's said in Jewish teachings that when the Messiah appears, all the women will go out and greet him with music. That is why thousands of Lubavitch women all over the world right now are buying up tambourines like this. They're decorating them with flower petals and whatever the imaginative mind can dream up in preparation for his imminent arrival."
The camera whirred away until the reporter had finished her segment.
Shortly thereafter, just as the cameraman was putting his camera away and Shagalov was giving the reporter some Moshiach literature and souvenirs, two yeshiva students entered the store, carrying their tefilin. Suddenly, Shagalov turned to the cameraman and asked, "Are you Jewish?"
Until then the cameraman had said very little, but in response, perhaps taken aback by the question, all he could do now was to nod "yes."
"Would you like to put on tefilin?"
At first, the camera man looked confused. He seemed incapable of uttering a single syllable. Suddenly he opened his mouth and this time a word -- "yes" -- flew out. "But I don't have tefilin," he added.
Suddenly the yeshiva students started to put tefilin on the new- found Jew -- first his arm, then on his head -- and all during this time, the only thing he could think of saying was "Yes, yes, yes." But, then, just as suddenly, he blurted out, "But I don't know what to say."
"Repeat after me," said one of the students. "Shema Yisroel ..." "Shema Yisroel ..." "Hashem Elokeynu ..." "Hashem Elokeynu ..." "Hashem Echod ..."
When the cameraman had finished saying "Echod" he was overflowing with renewed Jewish pride. Jewish phrases that he remembered learning as a boy but had never uttered since that time tumbled from his lips.
As the CBS-TV crew left, the camera man was overheard to say, "Too bad I couldn't film myself putting on tefilin."
But the mitzva was done.
For a free catalogue of the Moshiach Center, call (718) 604-2000 or FAX: (718) 363-1221.
MOSHIACH THROUGH SCIENCE
Honoring the 42nd yartzeit of Rabbi Yisroel Aryeh Leib, brother of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, shlita, a symposium exploring the connection of science with the Messianic Era took place in Crown Heights.
Topics included "Peaceful Applications of Nuclear Power," and "Unity in Chasidut, Mathematics and Ahavat Yisroel."
The non-technical conference included a special video interview with Professor Alvin Radkowsky of Tel Aviv and representatives of the Radkowsky Thorium Power Corp. For information about tapes or future symposiums call (718) 773-1987.
The newest Chabad Center is Chabad-Lubavitch in... Cyberspace! "Cyberspace" stands for the world of Computers and Computer Networks.
It is run by Rabbi Yosef Kazen (Activities-e-mail: email@example.com) and Eli Winsbacher (Systems-e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org).
Anyone with access to the INTERNET can now receive L'Chaim, as well as other items of Jewish interest. People on Compuserve, AOL, Prodigy, or Genie can also receive them by e-mail.
The Internet address for the host is www.chabad.org, where you can or "gopher" to. You can also "subscribe" to their ListServer. For more info e-mail to: email@example.com, or finger firstname.lastname@example.org.
From letters of the Lubavitcher Rebbe
15 Cheshvan, 5733
This is to acknowledge receipt of your correspondence.
You write that you would love to learn what it means to walk in the presence of G-d, etc. I trust that you know of the so-called Seven Commandments given by G-d to Noah and his children.
- the establishment of courts of justice;
- the prohibition of blasphemy;
- of idolatry;
- of incest;
- of bloodshed;
- of robbery;
- of eating flesh cut from a living animal.
These Seven Commandments which G-d gave to the children of Noah, i.e. to all mankind, are the basic laws, with far-reaching ramifications, which embrace the whole life of society as well as of the individual, to ensure that the human race will be guided by these Divine laws of morality and ethics, and that human society will indeed be human, and not a jungle.
To be sure, Jews, the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, were later given many more Divine commandments which obligate them, but not the rest of mankind.
However, this in no way diminishes the fact that gentiles can and must attain complete fulfillment through the observance of the above-mentioned Seven Commandments of man, with all their ramifications, for, inasmuch as they are G-d-given, they provide the vehicle whereby to attain communion with G-d, and thus "walk ever in the presence of G-d," as you write in your letter.
I would like to make an additional essential point.
If there was a time when some intellectuals thought that there was no need to connect the laws of ethics and morality with Divine authority, inasmuch as these are rational principles, the fallacy of this thinking is now abundantly clear.
For we have seen, in our own day and age, a whole nation which had boasted of great philosophic advancement and ethical systems sink to the lowest depth of inhuman depravity and unprecedented barbarism.
And the reason for this was that they thought that they could establish a morality and ethics based on human reason, not subject to the authority of a Supreme Being, having themselves become a super race, as they thought. There is surely no need to elaborate on the obvious.
From what has been said above, it is clear that no individual can rest content with his own observance of the Divine Commandments, but it is his responsibility to his friends and neighbors, and society at large, to involve them in the observance of the Divine Commandants in daily life and conduct.
21 Kislev, 5733
I am in receipt of your letters of November 17th, etc, and may G-d grant the fulfillment of your heart's desire for good.
As for the matter of feeling depressed, etc., as you write, surely you know that one of the basic tenets of our faith and our Torah -- called Torat Emet, the Law of Truth -- is to have complete trust (bitachon) in G-d, Whose benevolent Providence extends to each and every one individually.
It is necessary to reflect on this frequently, for then, one can see that, being under G-d's benevolent care, there is no room for anxiety, or worry. This is why the Torah is called Torat Chayim, the Law of Life, for it is the Jew's guide in life.
And although in certain situations it is necessary to consult a doctor and follow his instructions, because the Torah expects a Jew to do everything necessary in the natural order of things, it is at the same time, necessary to have complete bitachon in G-d and exclude all anxiety.
It would be well to have your mezuzot checked to make sure they are kosher and properly affixed. Also, you no doubt know of, and observe, the good custom of putting aside a coin for tzedaka - charity before lighting the candles bli neder - without future commitment.
May G-d grant that you should have good news to report.
Micha lived during the reigns of Kings Yotam, Achaz, and Yechezkiya.
In his prophecies he predicted the fall of Samaria and Jerusalem.
Micha spoke on behalf of the poor and denounced the degeneracy and corruption of the wealthy ruling classes.
He told the people what G-d wanted of them:
"Only to do justly, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with thy G-d."
Although he predicted the fall of Jerusalem, he also foretold in his famous prophecy, Israel's ultimate triumph among the nations of the world, when swords shall be converted to ploughshares and peace will reign in the world.
He predicted that at that time "Every man shall sit under his vine and under his fig tree, with none to make them afraid; for the mouth of the L-rd of Hosts has spoken."
In a previous column we discussed in brief the importance of charity as a preparation for and a means of hastening the Redemption. Today, we will delve a little more deeply into how and why tzedaka -- charity -- serves this function.
In the Talmud, our Sages tell us that by giving tzedaka we bring the Redemption closer. In addition, it also states, "Israel [the Jewish People] will not be redeemed except through tzedaka."
Chasidic philosophy gives us some insight into why tzedaka is of such importance in relation to the Redemption.
Rabbi Shneur Zalman, in his basic book of Chabad Chasidic philosophy, explains that tzedaka elevates the world more than any other mitzva.
Charity liberates the innermost forces of the soul and releases us from our personal exile, thereby effecting the release from our national exile.
Jewish teachings explain that in our daily lives -- our interaction with others, our performance of mitzvot, etc. -- we strive to imitate G-d.
The revelation of Moshiach, the Messianic Era, and the Resurrection of the Dead at the time of the Redemption, are the greatest forms of tzedaka, whereby the G-dly light will be revealed.
Tzedaka, according to Chasidut, is the vessel to contain these revelations. Metaphorically speaking, tzedaka is the wick which captures the flame of this G-dly light.
In addition to helping others through our giving of charity, thereby ultimately helping ourselves, we also help the Divine Presence, which accompanies us throughout this long, dark exile.
Jewish mystical teachings explain that tzedaka uplifts and "lessens the pain" of the Divine Presence which also suffers in exile.
When a man or a woman pronounce the special vow of a nazir...to abstain from wine and strong drink...no razor shall pass over his head...he shall not come near a dead body... all the days of his abstinence is he holy to G-d (Num. 6:2-8)
The Hebrew root of the word "nazir" has two meanings, reflective of the nazir's dual nature:
The nazir is "separate" or removed from society because of the restrictions he takes on; the term "nazir" is also derived from "nezer," a crown or diadem, indicative of the nazir's special aura of holiness.
When Moshiach comes, the definition of a nazir will change somewhat.
Our prophets foretold a time when many people, not just a small number of individuals, will be nezirim.
In the Messianic Era, however, being a nazir will not necessitate separating oneself from certain aspects of the material world.
At that time, indulging in physical pleasures will no longer have the power to exert a negative spiritual influence on the Jew.
Material wealth will be commonplace, enhancing the real purpose of the Messianic Era--the pursuit of the knowledge of G-d.
(Sichot Kodesh, 5751)
The L-rd bless you and guard you. The L-rd make His countenance shine upon you and be gracious to you. The L-rd turn his countenance toward you and grant you peace (Priestly blessing)
This special blessing was uttered by the priests in the Holy Temple and continues to be invoked by kohanim in synagogues today, but with one significant difference:
In the Holy Temple, the kohanim would actually pronounce G-d's ineffable Name, indicative of the sublime level of holiness that was brought down by their blessing, whereas today we are forbidden to do so.
When Moshiach comes kohanim will return to their former practice, at which time the power of the blessing itself will be even greater than during the time of the Holy Temple.
(Sichot Kodesh, Parshat Mishpatim, 5752)
Why do kohanim raise their hands when blessing the Jewish people?
Our Sages taught that while giving blessings is both proper and appropriate, it is extremely important that we also "raise our hands" and do something to actually help the person in need.
Over 600 years ago, an uprising was started by an ignorant French shepherd boy in Southern France, who set the minds of the simple folk afire with tales of a revelation.
"Every day a dove appears before me. Sometimes, it perches on my shoulder and sometimes upon my head, and whispers prophecies in my ears. When I extend my hand to take the dove, it turns into a lovely maiden and says to me, "Some day you will be a king. But now, you must wage war against Turkey, and you will be victorious."
The words of the shepherd boy had an overwhelming effect. The story spread like wildfire, and the credulous masses flocked by the thousands to see and hear the shepherd boy. Most of the people, their curiosity satisfied, returned to their homes, but hordes of shepherds remained and formed a huge army. This group, which numbered thirty thousand, travelled with the shepherd boy from place to place as he spread his message.
The shepherds had marched to Granada, whence they would continue on to Turkey, when they realized the folly of their expedition. How could they attack the mighty forces of Turkey with their few sticks and clubs? No, they thought, let us attack the Jews instead, for they would be easy prey, and were, after all, infidels, no different from the Turks! They would seize the spoils, buy weapons, and then, equipped for battle, would proceed against Turkey.
Wherever the shepherds travelled the Jews suffered terribly. Messengers were dispatched to the king of France begging for protection against the violent mobs. Afraid of the uprising gaining force and spreading, the king ordered each city to assist the Jews in warding off the marauders. He also ordered the shepherds to disband, but they scoffed at his dispatches.
Jews were massacred in Marseilles, and the shepherds moved on to Toulouse. The governor there moved with great force against them and many were imprisoned. But, during the night their supporters amongst the populace freed them. The following morning, word spread that the "guardian angel" of the shepherds had set them free, and the masses rallied to save them from the governor. So strong was the public support for the mob that the governor feared to oppose them.
Meanwhile, the Jewish population had fled to the tower of Narbonne to escape the bloodthirsty mob. When rumor of the capture of the shepherds reached the Jews, they joyously left the protection of the fortress, sure that the governor had saved them. The shepherd force fell upon the unprotected Jews, and together with local accomplices, scores of Jews were murdered.
The governor was enraged by news of this latest massacre. He, himself set out to crush the shepherd mob, but when he saw the support they had attracted, he had no choice but to retreat in the face of overwhelming odds. The governor had great sympathy for the beleaguered Jews. He sent horsemen to warn them to stay in hiding until the danger had passed. Then, he had them escorted to the city of Carcassonne, which lay locked behind great walls.
When the shepherds heard of the governor's plans, they bribed the escort to inform them of the path which the Jews would take. The hapless Jews were slaughtered by the shepherds who ambushed them on the road.
The shepherds got as far as Aragon and Navarre in Spain, where they met firm opposition from Alphonso, King of Aragon. He captured 80 shepherds and hanged them. When the shepherds reached the city of Montreal, the Jews had been warned and came out to meet them in battle, killing many of them.
One day Alphonso proposed to his strongest warrior, "If you will kill their leader, I will give you a great reward."
"But how could I kill such a holy person?" the soldier asked.
The king replied, "If he falls to your hand, it is a sign that he is no more than a wandering murderer, and you will have performed a meritorious deed."
The soldier set out for the shepherd camp. At first shot the shepherd leader fell. When they saw their leader dead, the others fled from the camp. The shepherd army split into many small bands and returned to their homes. Only one group of about five hundred, unaware of the death of their leader, went to attack the city of Toledo. When they reached the city, Alphonso's brave warriors met them with arms and drove them out of the city.
When generals and kings heard of the defeat of the shepherd army, they set their armies against the remaining bands and destroyed many. Others perished in a plague which followed the numerous battles.
By the year 1320 the uprisings of the shepherds were crushed completely. The Jews of Germany, France, and Spain then gathered food and clothing to help rehabilitate the many destroyed and ravaged Jewish communities in Southern France and Northern Spain.
The destruction of evil in the Messianic Era will transform human life beyond recognition.
The battle against evil is so woven into our lives that its removal will create a different world -- a world without locks and policemen, without guns and punishment, without disgrace and hate, without jealousy and money-lust.
Children will not fight with their parents and teachers.
People will not fight with themselves.
There will be no one to resent and nothing to get upset about.
There will only be goodness -- and it will all be so natural.
(Days of Moshiach)