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Though most of the world operates on a metric system for weight, liquid, cubic, square and linear measurements, the United States continues to use a system still known as the English system, despite the fact that the English switched to metric decades ago.
Years back, it was expected that Americans would gradually wean themselves off English and switch to metric; thus products produced in the U.S., even those not manufactured for export, carry both the metric and English measurements. Goods imported into the U.S. from Israel and Europe carry both metric and English designations. But for most American school children, their only familiarity with the metric system is the knowledge that soft drinks come in one, two or three liter bottles.
There is, however, another system of measurement, linear at least. And it is called the "Jewish yardstick."
The Jewish yardstick is simple to use, and it doesn't interfere with any other system of weight, liquid, cubic, square, or linear measurement.
The rules for using the Jewish yardstick are as follow:
When measuring up your neighbor, friend, co-worker, relative or any stranger, judge him leniently and favorably. When measuring yourself and your accomplishments, be stringent.
In Chasidic terminology one would say: Look at another with the "right eye" -- with kindness; look at yourself with the "left eye" -- with strictness or severity.
Such an approach is based on the commandment to "Love your fellow as yourself." Just as a person's intrinsic self-love allows him to overlook his own faults, so too, must we overlook another's faults.
In regard to our personal conduct, we strive to both push away the negative and to do good. When relating to another individual, however, the Jewish yardstick's method is to channel our energies solely into the positive path -- "Do good."
Although there may be times when someone's conduct warrants reproof, before criticizing -- even before giving "positive criticism" -- we should question ourselves as to whether we are fit to be the one to administer it. Furthermore, if repro of must be given, it should be offered gently, which will obviously enable it to be accepted more readily than harsh speech. Moreover, such words should be spoken only on select occasions.
The old saying, "Spare the rod and spoil the child," is a derivation of the Biblical verse, "One who spares the rod hates his son."
Judaism indicates that rebuke and reprimand are not only important, but at times, essential. However, admonishment may be given only when the relationship between two individuals is like that between a father and son: To give rebuke, one must love the other person just as a father loves his child; additionally, the difference in level between the two people must be as radical as that between a father and a son. Needless to say, this does not apply in most cases.
Why is all this true? Because the ultimate value of every Jew is immeasurable.
Based on the last public talk of the Rebbe on 25 Adar I, 5752 (1992), until, may it be very soon, we learn the novel concepts of Torah taught by Moshiach.
"And he made the candlestick of pure gold," we read in this week's Torah portion, Vayakhel. "And six branches were coming out of its sides: three branches of the candlestick out of its one side, and three branches of the candlestick out of the other side."
Surprisingly, a widespread misconception exists concerning the menora that stood in the Holy Temple.
This misconception, whose origin lies in non-Jewish sources, has unfortunately filtered down into Jewish circles, resulting in a faulty under standing of the genuine appearance of the menora.
In truth, the six side branches of the seven-branched candelabrum rose upward diagonally in a straight line from the center; they were not, as is commonly pictured, rounded in a bow-shape.
What makes this error even more regrettable is that it is derived from the famous Arch of Titus, may his name be blotted out forever.
The Roman emperor, seeking to memorialize his destruction of the Second Holy Temple and his pillage of the Temple's vessels, commissioned a work to secure his place in history. Its depiction of the menora, however, is not an accurate representation of the one that was stolen from the Beit HaMikdash. Titus wished to improve upon the original and therefore " beautified" it by rounding out its branches.
The Hebrew word for "branch" -- "kaneh" -- alludes to the menora's true shape, for its literal meaning is "a reed" -- a plant which grows at the water's edge in an unbending, straight line.
Both Maimonides and Rashi concur that the branches of the menora were straight; Maimonides even drew a picture of the menora so there would be no room for doubt.
It is of the utmost importance that this ancient forgery, which, unfortunately, has found its way into many synagogues and study halls, be corrected once and for all, and the true form of the holy menora be accurately depicted.
Another interesting feature of the menora was its "cups": "Three cups, shaped like almond blossoms, were on one branch, with a knob and a flower; and three cups, shaped like almond blossoms, were on the other...on the candlestick itself were four cups, shaped like almond blossoms, with its knobs and flowers" -- a total of 22 cups in all.
In his drawings, Maimonides depicts these cups upside-down -- the bottom of the cup on top, the wider opening on the bottom!
What are we to learn from the cups' unusual configuration?
The purpose of the menora was to illuminate -- not only the inside of the Holy Temple, but the entire world.
This concept is also reflected in the fact that the windows of the Beit HaMikdash were constructed to be narrow on the inside yet wider on the outside of the structure, thereby channeling the light of the menora outward, to the world at large.
Similarly, a cup that is upside-down represents the act of pouring out and providing sustenance, symbolic of the Jews' role as "light unto the nations."
Adapted from the Rebbe's Likutei Sichot Vol. XXI
Something from Nothing
by Professor Yaakov Brawer
The first three years of my career were spent at a well-known medical school in Boston. In addition to providing a livelihood, I saw my position as an opportunity to reach out to Jewish students.
To this end, a colleague and I started a Sunday morning breakfast club for the Jewish students in the first-year medical class.
Every Sunday, after we had stuffed our young friends to contentment with lox, bagels, etc., we would have a talk delivered by one of Boston's many outstanding Torah personalities.
In addition to the breakfast club, I regularly invited students to my house for Shabbat and I encouraged students to come around to my office to learn or to simply discuss Judaism.
By the spring of my second year, however, I began to realize that these efforts were not producing much in the way of results.
As far as I could tell, my only concrete accomplishments were introducing some Midwesterners to the joys of lox and bagels, and providing a little free entertainment with quaint ethnic overtones to overworked and otherwise preoccupied future physicians.
By the time the fall semester of my third year rolled around, I had accepted a position at McGill University for the following September.
Figuring that I had enough to worry about what with moving my laboratory and applying for new grants in addition to maintaining my research and teaching responsibilities, I had no qualms about dropping the time-consuming and seemingly futile outreach activities. My interaction with the first-year class was kept formal and purely professional.
One June day, after the school year had just ended, a girl whom I recognized as a first-year student walked into my office.
Introducing herself as Rachel, she asked if she could have a few minutes of my time. First, she wanted to know what I was. She knew that I was an Orthodox Jew of some sort, but the beard and visible tzitzit indicated that I belonged to some exotic subspecies which she couldn't identify.
I told her that I was a chasid of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
Nodding in apparent recognition, she then asked me if I was aware of the remarkable events that had occurred in her class during the past year.
I had no idea what she was talking about, so she began to explain. But first, a little background is necessary:
The unity among first-year medical students is legendary. They see themselves as true comrades in suffering. The class has a great sense of cohesion and even develops a sort of collective personality.
Rachel's class had begun the year no differently. During the course of the first semester, the students were subjected to a variety of lecturers, some of whom were quite obnoxious, and, unfortunately, Jewish as well. Medical students relieve tension by impersonating and satirizing their teachers, and this class was no different.
In time, however, the imitations and spoofs began to take on a certain anti-Jewish tone and the Jewish students (about 40 out of a class of 160) began to feel uncomfortable.
As the semester progressed, the anti-Jewish slant to the jokes become more pronounced and the class became perceptibly polarized.
By the time my course was offered in the spring, the first-year class had split into two hostile camps divided along religious lines.
The Jewish students had become depressed, unsure of themselves and extremely demoralized. The Jewish professors who were being mocked were indeed offensive and did effect mannerisms with which anti-Semites have traditionally labeled Jews. They had no basis for strong Jewish pride or even identity. Their feelings of status and self-worth had always centered on their academic achievements; now they were finding out that their colleagues saw them not as professional brethren, but as alien Jews. Caught by surprise, they did not know how to respond.
If the gentile kids found grist for their mill in those other professors, what sort of a job would they do on me, what with the dark suit, yarmulke, beard and tzitzit? The Jewish students braced for the worst.
Strangely, it never came. On the contrary, two weeks after I started to teach, a delegation of gentile students approached some of the Jewish students to apologize. They now understood, they said, that the problem with those other lecturers was not that they were Jewish, but rather that they weren't Jewish enough!
I did not use foul language, tell crude jokes or put students down. They were fascinated by the fact that I had the pride and self-respect to dress and behave according to my beliefs.
They were impressed that I left early on Friday out of respect for the upcoming Sabbath.
They knew how competitive an academic career was and they were amazed that I would put myself at a disadvantage by giving religious obligations priority over career.
The apology was accepted, the Jewish students glowed with pride, and many made resolutions to further their own Jewish commitment and education.
Rachel had stopped by to tell me the story and to thank me.
For what? I had played no active role in this drama. I didn't even know that all this was going on. I hadn't "reached out" to anyone nor had I fed anyone lox and bagels. I was simply there, doing what I was paid by the university to do.
Of course, according to Chasidic teachings, that isn't exactly correct.
I was there -- and the "I" of a Jew has the unrestricted potential for influencing the world for good, whether he or she knows it or not.
Reprinted from: Something from Nothing published by TAV Seminary, Montreal.
Acquire a letter in a Torah Scroll
The very last commandment in the Torah is for one to write a Torah scroll for him/herself.
The Rebbe highlighted this mitzva when he established the Sefer Torah Campaign 14 years ago whereby Jews the world over would, for a nominal fee, "purchase" letters in a Torah scroll, thereby connecting with millions of Jews around the world.
To date, over 5 million Jewish men, women and children have participated in this mitzva.
To be a part of it, contact your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center. For the special Children's Sefer Torah write to 332 Kingston Ave., Bklyn, NY 11213.
NOTHING GETS LOST
From letters of the Rebbe
8 Elul, 5717
....It is generally recognized that nothing in this world gets lost, even in the physical world -- how much more so in the world of the spirit and soul!
Thus the belief in the immortality of the soul is not just a belief, it is a conviction. It is therefore self-evident that the greatest thing you can do for your father's immortal soul is to carry on his good work expertly, as this kind of work cannot be placed on anybody else's shoulders, and, moreover, inasmuch as your family has been doing pioneer work in ----, to make that continent also a fitting place for the Divine presence.
I trust also that all the members of your family will make a concerted effort to continue this work, disregarding any difficulty or financial problem, and not hesitate to increase the budget of our institutions, even where a deficit is implied. For a deficit can always be rectified in due course, whereas an opportunity in education that is lost is hard to retrieve.
21 Elul, 5717
I received your letter in which you write that you are completing the sixth year at the yeshiva, and that neither your parents nor your teachers at the yeshiva object to your leaving. You ask my opinion in connection with the various jobs which you were offered.
Notwithstanding the above, it is my opinion that you should continue to study at the yeshiva for at least another year, with complete devotion and dedication, without thinking about a job or career at this time, and without any distraction.
The "Giver of the Torah," Who is also "He Who feeds and sustains the whole world," will later help you settle down economically in a satisfactory way.
You should remember that at this time, in adolescence, it is still possible to study the Torah with devotion and peace of mind. After breaking away from this study and entering the world of business or work, it is difficult to recapture the same spirit and the same opportunities for learning. That is why I urge you not to miss this opportunity and to devote yourself to the study of Torah for at least another year, as mentioned above. I trust that your parents will also agree to this.
8 Tishrei, 5715
I have received your letter in which you write that during your learning the discourse of the Shabbat on which we bless the new month of Elul, several points were not clear to you, and you request an explanation.
Generally speaking it is difficult to elaborate in a letter on this kind of question, but perhaps the following brief remarks will be helpful to you:
- You ask, what is meant by the statement that, even physically, the Jew should by his very nature flee from even unintentional sins, just as an animal instinctively avoids danger.
Your question concerns the term "guf" (body), since the body without the soul cannot commit any act; how can the two be considered separately in this connection?
The explanation should be clear from the illustration used, namely the animal, i.e. a living animal. In other words, the term "body" was not meant to exclude the "animal soul," but the "Divine soul" and even the "rational soul."
- The above explains your other difficulty regarding reward and punishment, namely, if the Jew instinctively, so to speak, avoids sin and does good, why reward him for it?
In general, within the Jew there is, first of all, the "Divine soul" pulling to good, and the "animal soul," which has free choice to follow the lead of the Divine soul or to oppose it.
It is this free will to do good despite the animal soul and Evil Inclination pulling in the opposite direction which merits the reward.
There is no contradiction here because in an act committed inadvertently, the rational soul does not participate, and therefore, in truth, the body and animal soul ought to avoid it because it is harmful.
- Your question (based on Rashi in Bava Kama) presents no difficulty, for it is a matter of common knowledge that an animal under normal conditions flees from danger.
However, in the case of the young kid (in distinction from a grown animal), it is not experienced enough to recognize a danger that is not quite clear and immediate...
SHIMMY THE YOUNGEST
Shimmy is the youngest in his family, and it seems as if he always has to wait for everything. He's the last one to sip wine from the kiddush cup on Friday night. He's the last one to get his matza at the Seder table.
Join Shimmy as he explores his feelings with his mother, and discovers that waiting is a part of everyone's life!
Shimmy the Youngest is written by Miriam Elias, delightfully illustrated by Aidel Backman, and published by HaChai Publishing.
Available in Judaica stores.
A PARTNER IN THE DYNAMIC OF CREATION
A thought-provoking collection of ten lively essays outlining the teachings of the Rebbe on subjects of particular interest to women.
A Partner in the Dynamic of Creation opens the reader's eyes to a refreshingly broad world-picture which springs into vibrant color as the Rebbe unveils and illuminates the human and cosmic repercussions of each of the major commandments involving women.
The book, published by Sichos in English, can be purchased in Judaica stores or by sending $15.95 to: SIE, 788 Eastern Pkwy, Bklyn, NY 11213.
This Shabbat we read a special portion known as Shekalim.
In connection with the commandment of giving a half-shekel during the time of the Holy Temple for the public sacrifices, we find that the Torah explicitly commands that "the rich shall not give more...than a half-shekel."
On the surface, this is difficult to understand: All the offerings in the Holy Temple were required to be perfect and complete. Why then, in this instance, was it forbidden to give no more than a half-shekel? Also, since the donation required was only a half-shekel, why does the Torah tell us that an entire shekel is equivalent to twenty geira? Why doesn't it just tell us that a half-shekel is equal to ten geira?
In resolution: This command teaches us that a Jew cannot become a complete entity, a "holy shekel," unless he joins together with another Jew. Every Jew by himself is ten geira, a half-shekel. When, however, he joins together with another Jew, they comprise twenty geira, a complete entity.
That the portion of Vayakhel and Shekalim are read on the same Shabbat emphasizes the need for establishing unity within oneself, making it possible to then establish bonds of unity with other Jews.
A Jew's service begins with gathering together and synthesizing the various aspects of his own being, after which he joins together with the entire Jewish people. Only then can he gather together every element of the world and show how its entire existence is intended solely to carry out G-d's will.
This will lead to the ultimate process of ingathering, the ingathering of the dispersed Jewish people, when G-d will "sound the great shofar...and bring us together from the four corners of the earth to our land."
Six days a week shall work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be to you a holy day, a Sabbath of rest to G-d (Exodus 35:2)
The Torah does not state "you shall do work," but rather, "work shall be done," to teach us that our labors must always be viewed as if they are accomplished by themselves, without our active participation.
A Jew must always strive to maintain this healthy attitude towards work to make it easier for him to mentally divest himself of his business worries on Shabbat.
Investing an inordinate amount of mental energy into one's business makes it harder for him to properly appreciate the spiritual dimension of the Shabbat day.
You shall not kindle any fire throughout your dwellings on Shabbat (Exodus 35:3)
Why does the Torah single out this prohibition from amongst the other 39 types of labor which are also forbidden on Shabbat?
Heated arguments and disputes are like a fire; unfortunately, controversy has the power to disrupt many a peaceful home. When people are occupied with their daily tasks they do not have time to argue with one another; on Shabbat, however, they are less busy than during the week.
The Torah therefore warns us not to kindle the fires of controversy on Shabbat by keeping ourselves busy with Torah study and prayer.
Incidentally, rearranging the final letters of the above verse in Hebrew results in the word "shalom" -- "peace"!
These are the things which G-d has commanded you to do them (Exodus 35:1)
On weekdays man is commanded to perform his labors for the sake of heaven, thereby refining and elevating the world through his active involvement; on Shabbat he is forbidden to perform these same labors, thereby elevating to a higher level of holiness all that was accomplished the previous week.
And he put in his heart that he may teach (Exodus 35:34)
This expression appears only once more in Scripture, in the verse, "That you be able to teach the Children of Israel all the statutes which the L-rd has spoken through Moses," to teach us that whoever is blessed with wisdom and understanding of Torah is obligated to share it with others and not keep the knowledge to himself.
The Midrash records the following story:
It is said that King Solomon owned a special carpet by means of which he travelled across the world and learned many wonderful things. This carpet was decorated with embroidered scenes of heaven and earth and on it he would travel to any corner of the world he desired.
On his travels the king -- who was bestowed with the knowledge of all the languages of the animals -- listened to the conversations of the birds and beasts and the whisperings of the plants, and learned many lessons from them.
Once, he heard an ant calling out to her fellows: "Run quickly! The soldiers of King Solomon are coming and soon they will trample you all!" Solomon's curiosity was provoked and he descended and addressed the ant: "Who are you, and why are you telling the others to flee from me?"
The ant replied, "I am queen of the ants, and it is my responsibility to care for my subjects and see to their welfare."
The king was very moved by her reply, and he was about to address her again when she spoke up and said, "You are so much higher than I, I cannot speak with you. If you wish to converse with me, pick me up."
Solomon crouched down, picked her up, and asked: "Tell me, is there any ruler as great and powerful as I?" The queen ant replied, "King Solomon, don't think you have anything to boast about. You are not so great; why, even I am more important than you. Just look, you were sent here to lift me up!"
The king became very angry at the ant's effrontery and threw her down. "How dare you speak to me like that! I am the king!"
The ant replied, "You may be king, but even so, you must remember you came from the dust and you will return to dust."
King Solomon took the words of the ant to heart. He could learn the lesson of humility even from the lowly ant.
King Solomon also learned the lesson of humility on another occasion during his travels.
While flying on his special carpet, King Solomon looked down and saw a magnificent golden palace. He was very curious to investigate it, and so he caused the carpet to descend.
As he and his entourage approached the palace, the scent of the Garden of Eden filled their nostrils. Circling the palace, they searched and searched for the entrance, but it seemed impossible to discover. King Solomon summoned the king of the demons to assist him.
"Find out if there are any people inside," he commanded. The demon soon returned to report that there were no humans. The only creature in the entire environ of the palace was a great eagle who lived on the palace roof.
The king summoned the eagle, but he had no knowledge of a door. Finally, he summoned the oldest of all the eagles. This eagle, who was over a thousand years old, flew down and told King Solomon, "I do not know where the entrance is, but I heard from my father that there was a door many years ago which the winds have covered up completely."
King Solomon commanded the winds to uncover the hidden door, and immediately a ferocious windstorm began and uncovered a large gate. Over the gate these words were inscribed: "Let no man enter other than a prophet or a king."
The king was overcome with curiosity. He found a glass case which contained beautifully wrought keys, and with these keys he entered the palace.
King Solomon had never seen the likes of the grand hall in which he found himself. The walls shone with precious stones that turned the dimness into daylight. As he walked down the hall, he saw a silver lock on a large door. Opening it, he found a cave above with the inscription, "The king who lived in this palace was happy and lacked nothing, but he still died in his youth."
The cave contained fabulous treasures, and in the center of the room was a strange throne with the figure of a man seated upon it. When the king touched it, it moved and with a furious look shouted, "Come to me, all ye winds and spirits and demons. Destroy this man who dares to disturb my peace."
All at once terrible shrieks filled the building and fearsome figures rushed toward the king. King Solomon cried out, "Stop! How dare you attack your king, Solomon, King of Israel? Are you not ashamed of your traitorous behavior?" The spirits fled in terror. Then, the statue fell from its throne. King Solomon saw a silver chain around its neck bearing the inscription, "I am Shadad ben Adad, ruler of the bravest, conqueror of the mightiest. Thousands bowed to me, and all kings trembled be fore me. But death, I could not defeat."
King Solomon returned to Jerusalem filled with the memory of the palace which proved man's inadequacy and impotence. The king's trust in G-d was greater than ever, for he saw that G-d is the only true and eternal King.
A person must be zealous in his faith in Moshiach's arrival, one of the 13 Principles of our Faith.
It is fitting for one to have a strong desire, a great love and a boundless devotion to the extent that he will say, "Will I be given Redemption in my days?"
Just as one has a desire which is so strong that all his thoughts and longings are totally captivated by this desire, so should one desire the Era of the Redemption in order to reach perfection in body and soul.
With this complete desire, one fulfills the "duty of desiring the salvation."
(Shevet Musar, chapter 51)