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"A Jew is obligated to derive a lesson in his service of G-d from everything he sees or hears."
Regardless of who does the laundry -- whether you wash your clothes yourself, the cleaning help does it, or you take it to the laundromat down the block -- laundry needs to be done regularly.
New or freshly laundered clothes are such a pleasure.
Before we put them on, they are clean and smoothly pressed; everything is neat and proper. But after wearing them for awhile they become creased and/or stained.
Nevertheless, one need not discard these clothes; instead, we launder them.
The laundering process involves putting the soiled clothing into a machine filled with warm or hot water, and adding soap or chemicals that serve to remove the dirt and discoloration. When clean, the clothes are then pressed by applying a heavy weight or pressure. The garment can now be worn again.
So it is with the Jewish soul.
When G-d gives the Jew his or her soul, it is clean and pressed and fitted individually to him or her.
As we say each day in our morning prayers: "The soul that You have placed within me is pure."
In time, however, as it is used for worldly matters, the soul becomes creased -- creased through misuse for things that are not the will of G-d. The soul may also become soiled and stained when one neglects, G-d forbid, to do an obligatory mitzva or one transgresses, G-d forbid, a Divine prohibition.
Nevertheless, the Torah tells us not to despair, or give up on the soul's purity and potential.
First, one must immerse it in warm water; that is, warm the soul with the warmth of Torah and mitzvot, allowing it to "simmer" in them and become revitalized.
Heartfelt prayer, about which it is said, "Pour out your heart like water," and heartfelt Torah study (the Torah being likened to water) enable the soul to absorb its holiness.
Make sure to throw in the other ingredients as well, to restore the soul to spotless purity: the giving of charity, and the observance of kashrut and other mitzvot. And, if one adds to this the "weight" and "pressure" of Torah -- a weight and pressure that may seem, at first, to be a burden -- this not only causes no damage to the garment, but on the contrary, restores it to its former glory.
In other words, through Torah and mitzvot, the soul becomes what it ought to be.
From a letter of the Rebbe in 1951
"These are the accounts [of the items furnished] for the Sanctuary," begins this week's Torah portion, Pekudei.
The Torah enumerates the amounts of gold, silver and brass that were collected to build the Sanctuary, and the various uses of these raw materials.
According to our Sages, Moses felt it necessary to provide an accurate ledger of the contributions, setting an example for all collectors of public funds in future generations.
Yet even a cursory glance at our Torah portion reveals that the list is far from complete.
We are given a detailed accounting of how the silver and brass were utilized, but no mention is made of the gold.
Even the amount of silver listed represents the sum total of half-shekels that were collected, but does not include the donations that were made for the Sanctuary.
The Torah relates that the materials collected were more than sufficient, but tells us nothing about what was done with the extra.
Furthermore, no reference is made to the ten other items that were donated by the Jews, such as the blue, purple and scarlet threads. What then are we to make of such a seemingly incomplete accounting?
The key to understanding this apparent inconsistency lies in the commentary of Rashi, the great Torah Sage, who explains that the Torah's intent is not to provide us with a detailed report of every single donation and its use. Rather, only the weights of those donations that were considered essential for the building of the Sanctuary are important for us to know.
The fact that the Torah gives only a generalized account of the weight -- and not the value -- of the materials collected contains deep significance.
Weight is symbolic of the physical aspect of an object, whereas value represents its spiritual component. Interestingly, the Torah informs us only of the weight of the items that were donated.
In terms of our service of G-d, "weight" is symbolic of practical deeds, whereas "value" represents the intentions behind those actions.
There are two components involved when a Jew performs a mitzva: The actual physical deed, and the thoughts and motives that underlie his action. The Torah makes a point in emphasizing only the "weight" -- the practical action -- as far as building the Sanctuary is concerned.
We learn from this an eternal lesson that applies always: the "Sanctuary" to G-d that every Jew must build within himself is not to be achieved through spiritual means only -- i.e. good intentions, purity of heart etc. -- but through actual physical observance of the Torah's commandments.
When a Jew performs actual physical mitzvot, his deeds form the vessel in which the Divine Presence can dwell.
This emphasis on deed as opposed to intent is so great, in fact, that it can transform an ordinary coin given to charity into "a coin of fire" -- permeated through and through with the fiery glow of the Jewish soul.
In this manner do we build our individual Sanctuaries to G-d, thereby hastening the day when the Third Holy Temple in Jerusalem will be built and G-d's holy Presence will once again dwell therein, speedily in our day.
Adapted from Likutei Sichot of the Rebbe, Vol. 26
by Faige Bassman
My mother raised six children -- five boys and me, the youngest and only girl.
She had a way of making each and every one of us feel as if we were her favorite child. On occasion she may have expressed this to us individually, but we never confessed it among ourselves.
My brothers, who lived in the same city as my mother, often called her three or four times a day, and I, who for the last ten years have lived out of town, still called her at least three times a week.
Our love for our mother didn't come because we were such great children; it was simply impossible not to love her. She was totally undemanding -- always accepting and supportive, never critical. Unfortunately, she was burdened with many medical problems. Over thirty years ago she had developed lymphoma, and in the course of her life had seven reoccurrences requiring chemotherapy and radiation.
She also had open heart surgery some fifteen years ago. In between all this, she took care of my father, who was also very sick for many years. My mother often worked two jobs, and at times, two different shifts. Yet she never complained. When you saw her you never could imagine the kind of life she really had.
When I was growing up the generation gap was the "in" thing.
In search of truth and meaning, I wandered off to Israel after high school. My parents agreed to give me a year to decide on future plans. While on a kibbutz, I became close to some Dutch people who operated a center in Holland for drug rehabilitation.
Since a relative had come back from Vietnam an addict, I was very interested. They asked me if I would join them in Holland and eventually in India, where they were planning on starting a home for the many Western young people who went there in search of truth and ended up becoming involved with drugs. I came home to talk my parents into letting me go and they agreed, but only on condition that I go speak to a rabbi whose article my father had read in the Cleveland Jewish News. He felt that Rabbi Alevsky was talking the way I was: G-d, truth, meaning, purpose. My father was hoping I would find these things in a Jewish setting.
I agreed to talk to Rabbi Alevsky. I had never before had a conversation with an Orthodox Jew. I went to visit Rabbi Alevsky in his home, straight from a tennis game, wearing my tennis clothes. He wasn't at home, so I met Devorah Alevsky instead.
Any preconceived ideas I may have had about Orthodox people or women were immediately altered. She was so majestic, but at the same time real. So gentle, yet strong. So pure, yet wise, warm and compassionate. She spoke about a spiritual purpose of the Jew that was both global and personal. I was warmed and touched, and felt a deep connection.
But still, I wanted to go to India. So off I went.
During the whole time I was in India, my yardstick for normalcy was my mother, and my yardstick for truth was Judaism.
I felt that if there was a G-d, if there was a truth, it had to apply to everyone. I wanted to find something on my journeys that could give my mother a lift above the hard life she lived, but nothing seemed to fit the bill. I couldn't imagine my mother sitting on a mountain top with a guru, thank G-d.
After three-and-a-half years I returned from India and Europe very disillusioned. What I didn't like about looking for the truth was that it was so vague and undefined. In an era when everything went, I wanted direction and answers. But the things people in Europe and India were into -- Eastern philosophies -- didn't attract me. So I went back home to Cleveland, only to find my friends in college just hanging out.
Then I met the Mendelsons. They befriended me, understood me, and gave me guidance. Rabbi Mendelson told me about a yeshiva for women in Minnesota. He said, "You've already been all over the world looking for answers. Now you should look in your own backyard." I decided that, having given everything else a try, I might as well try to learn about Judaism.
So I went, for the first time for two weeks during the summer, and I found a place like home where I didn't have to be anything.
Many other girls were there, some fifty or so from all over the world, who were also searching for something. Rabbi Friedman taught me and guided me through my questions and struggles like no one I had ever met before. The Torah I was learning wasn't foreign; it was something even my mother could relate to. Her mother had lived it. My bubbe had kept Shabbos and kosher.
Finally, I felt that I had found "it" -- where it was all along, right in my own back yard.
The Seven Universal Laws of Noah:
Influence non-Jews to observe the seven universal laws commanded to Noah and his descendants.
These include the prohibitions against:
- eating the limb of a living animal,
- saying G-d's name in vain,
- the obligation to establish a system of justice,
- and belief in one G-d.
TO A CLINICAL PSYCHIATRIST
From a letter of the Rebbe
Rosh Chodesh Adar II, 5736
I duly received your letter of 23 Adar I, and will remember you in prayer for the fulfillment of your heart's desires of good.
You invite my comments on the problems you mention in connection with your profession as a clinical psychiatrist in relation to your patients, specifically on moral and religious issues.
There is no need, of course, to point out to you that there can be no hard and fast rule that could be applied to all patients alike, since every individual is a world in himself. However, there are some points that would be valid in all cases.
To begin with, what is reprehensible from the view point of the Torah, called Torat Chaim (because it is the true guide in life), cannot be condoned. This should not be confused with the principle of pikuach nefesh (a danger to life) which takes precedence over Shabbat, which is itself a directive of the Torah, requiring that the laws of Shabbat observance be temporarily suspended in such a case; it is not a violation of Shabbat, but a Divine directive like that of Shabbat observance which, in case of pikuach nefesh, is subordinated; and it is certainly not something left to human discretion or judgment.
Clearly, the said principle cannot serve as a basis for condoning other violations of Torah laws in order to help a patient get rid of guilt feelings, or make him feel better.
At the same time, there is also the instruction "The irate person is not a good teacher" (Ethics of the Fathers 2:6).
This applies, of course, not merely to a teacher who teaches any subject or theory, but also to one who teaches and guides and advises in matters of daily life and conduct.
A further helpful point to bear in mind is that through increased learning of Torah and stricter adherence to the mitzvot -- though these are a must for their own sake -- a Jew widens the channels to receive G-d's blessings, including deeper insights and understanding to cope with problems and to make the right judgments and decisions.
With prayerful wishes for success in all the above, and wishing you and yours a joyous and inspiring Purim,
P.S. Needless to say, there is no point at all for you to change to another specialty in medicine that would not disturb your peace of mind, etc. On the contrary, inasmuch as in your present profession you can now be guided also in your therapeutic methods by the Torah, it will be both a greater merit for you and of greater benefit to your patients -- which makes it even more imperative that you continue specifically in your present field.
One of the ways to lessen and eliminate the personal emotional agitation, etc., is to consider your patients in the way the Torah explains their condition, namely, that "a person commits a transgression only because of a ruach shtut (an impulse of folly) that beclouds his mind"; in other words, because of mental illness. And the more serious is his malady when he does not want to recognize and admit that he is ill.
What has been said here is not to imply that it is necessary to tell the patient bluntly that what he has done is prohibited by the Torah and therefore he must not behave that way. The approach should rather be in keeping with the method suggested by Maimonides when teaching a child. He writes that when teaching a child Torah, the child should be encouraged and induced to learn eagerly by promising and giving him candy and similar rewards that appeal to his childish mind, until such time as he will understand that the learning itself is the greatest reward. Similarly, in the case of these patients whose knowledge and standard are still on a child's level, for the essential thing is the actual result.
THE JEWISH EXPERIENCE
A provocative seminar to break your stereotypes of man and G-d, The Jewish Experience is being sponsored by Chabad of the Upper West Side. The Reality of G-d, Secret Codes of the Torah, Mysticism, and the Divinity of the Torah are some of the topics that will be covered in this day-long seminar.
The Jewish Experience will be held on Sunday, March 5, Ohab Zedek, West 95 near Columbus. Featured lecturers are Dr. Immanuel Schochet, Miryam Swerdlow, and Rabbi Aaron Raskin. For reservations and more info call (212) 864-5010.
Last month, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Lipskier, a devoted husband and father of 8 children, a Torah scholar who, for the past 22 years, guided thousands of students at the Rabbinical College of America, was killed in a tragic auto accident.
In the car with him were his wife, Yocheved (bas Chaya), and Dobra Baila (bas Ita) Greenberg, 34, a mother of 5 children.
A fund has been established for the needs of the Lipskier family, "The Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Lipskier Memorial Fund." Checks can be made payable to RYYLMF-RCA and sent to 226 Sussex Ave., PO Box 1996, Morristown, NJ 07962. As of this writing Mrs. Greenberg is still in critical condition and both women are in need of our prayers.
ELECTRONIC MOSHIACH BILLBOARD
An electronic billboard in Montreal, Canada, carries three different messages: a picture of the Rebbe with the words "A message from the Rebbe" accompanying it; the words "Let's Welcome Moshiach with Acts of Goodness and Kindness"; a picture of the Rebbe from a Lag B'Omer Parade waving.
When people comment that Lubavitchers might be going a little overboard as it seems that every other word is about Moshiach or Redemption or the Messianic era, our only response is that we are emulating the Rebbe.
An example (and this is not an exception, but the rule) may be found in a talk of the Rebbe's a few years ago at just about this time of year.
At that time the Rebbe spoke of the 50th anniversary of the Previous Rebbe's arrival in America. In the course of just 5 minutes the Rebbe said:
"May the completion of these 50 years of service bring about the complete and ultimate redemption -- the eternal Redemption led by Moshiach.
"The Messianic Redemption is also connected to the present month, the month of Adar. Adar is a month of celebration as our Sages commented, 'When Adar commences, happiness should be increased.' This happiness, in contrast to the happiness of the other months of the year, is unlimited in nature. Thus, we find that though the festivals of Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot are described as 'festivals of rejoicing,' the court would send emissaries to ensure that the celebrations were kept within certain limits. In contrast, the celebrations of Purim are unlimited in nature. This relates to the Messianic Redemption, for the ultimate expression of happiness will come in the Messianic age.
"This unbounded happiness is not restricted to Purim alone. The Megila describes Adar as 'the month that was transformed,' implying that the month as a whole is one of celebration. In particular, this is true now that eight days of the month have passed. The number eight shares a connection to the Messianic Redemption.
"The present day, Tuesday, is also connected to the Messianic Redemption, for Tuesday is associated with the repetition of the phrase, 'And G-d saw that it was good,' interpreted by our Sages as a reference to a twofold good: 'good to the heavens' and 'good to the creatures.' This twofold service relates to Moshiach's coming since, as our Sages explain, all terms that are repeated in Torah are allusions to the concept of redemption.
"A connection to the Messianic Redemption can also be found in this week's Torah portion..."
So you see, if the Rebbe's Chasidim and admirers are known to be Moshiach-minded, it is the greatest compliment possible!
And Moses saw all the work... and Moses blessed them (Exodus 39:43)
How did Moses bless them?
"May the Divine Presence abide in the work of your hands."
Would it not have been more appropriate to pray that G-d's Presence should rest in the Sanctuary the Jews had just finished building?
While the Jews were involved in work on the Sanctuary they were in a state of spiritual elevation. Making a dwelling place for G-d filled them with awe.
Upon completion, they returned to their ordinary daily activities.
Moses' blessing was that this spiritual elevation should carry over to their mundane lives: they should always conduct themselves in such a way as to merit G-d's presence among them.
One hundred sockets to the hundred talents (Exodus 38:27)
Just as the entire Sanctuary rested on one hundred sockets, so too did our Sages institute the saying of one hundred blessings each day, forming the foundation upon which the entire day is built.
For the cloud of the L-rd was upon the Sanctuary by day... throughout all their journeys (Exodus 40:38)
The Divine Presence was so strongly attached to the Sanctuary that the only time it lifted was when the Children of Israel needed to move to another location.
This phenomenon was never repeated again in history: not at the Sanctuary at Shiloh, nor in the First and Second Holy Temples. However, in the Third Holy Temple that will be built by Moshiach, the Divine Presence will be even stronger.
Conclusion of the Book of Exodus
The last verse in Exodus speaks about the "cloud of the L-rd that was upon the Sanctuary by day, and the fire that was on it by night."
Day represents the times when the Jewish people flourish; night represents the darkest hours of Jewish history.
The Torah assures us that throughout all our travels, regardless of whether or not the sun is shining, G-d's clouds and heavenly fire protect us and assure our safety and survival.
Reb Simcha Zissel had been born in his parents' old age; his elder brothers were very much older than he.
When he was still a small child, several of his older brothers were already married.
One was a teacher in an elementary school, one was a potter, and another was a butcher. All were quite learned and pious Jews, but fanatic opponents of Chasidism.
They used to tell such wicked stories about the Chasidim that their father, who himself was no lover of Chasidim, could not bear to listen to their slanderous tales.
As a child, Reb Simcha Zissel did not know exactly what Chasidim were. But he did know that whenever his brothers visited their father, they constantly spoke about "the Chasidim," and would heap the most terrible curses up on them.
When Simcha Zissel grew a bit older, he was transferred to a more senior teacher, with whom he spent quite a few years. When he approached the age of bar mitzva, he began frequenting the study hall. In this study hall there was an old Jew, a genuine Torah scholar, who was called Reb Chaim "Holtz" ("Wood"), because whenever he lay down to sleep, he put a piece of wood under his head for a pillow.
This Reb Chaim learned Torah with extreme diligence. He fasted often, and when he ate, his meal consisted of bread and water: On weekdays, the water was cold, but in honor of Shabbos he drank warm water which had been heated before Shabbos. He would also recite Kiddush over challa instead of wine.
By nature Chaim was the silent type. He paid no attention to anything that happened in the study hall, but if asked about a Torah subject he would answer at length. When people spoke ill of the Chasidim, he would reply, "Why do you slander your fellow Jews? If I were not so old and sick, I myself would go to visit the Rebbe of the Chasidim."
When Reb Simcha Zissel asked Reb Chaim why he slept on a piece of wood, he replied with the Talmudic saying that "sleep is one- sixtieth part of death." "Now you tell me," said Reb Chaim to Reb Simcha Zissel, "Does it make sense to do something that will make you sleep even more? You could sleep your whole life away!"
Reb Chaim advised Reb Simcha Zissel to attend an out-of-town yeshiva. He offered to give him a letter of reference to a famous Rosh Yeshiva (Dean of the Academy) in Vohlnyia, but Simcha Zissel preferred to remain in his home town.
Reb Chaim Holtz had lived in Kalisk for many years and no one knew who he was or where he had come from. All he did was sit in the study hall and study Torah. At that time there were numerous young men who were being supported by their in-laws so that they could sit and learn Torah. They were very fond of hearing Reb Chaim's novel insights. He urged them to take upon themselves the Talmudic injunction, "Exile yourself to a place of Torah," and convinced them that it would be to their benefit if they travelled to other cities to learn, and he would even advise them where to go.
At the time Simcha Zissel began studying in the study hall, those young men who had gone abroad to learn a few years earlier had begun to return.
While praying they would hum melodies, snap their fingers and clap their hands -- strange behavior, most unusual for the town.
Even in the middle of their learning, they would stop and begin a tune. And what singing! Fiery, bubbling -- it made you want to dance!
Now Reb Chaim came to life. He started talking, and was no longer the silent type. The young men were delighted with Reb Chaim, and he was delighted with them.
Reb Simcha Zissel saw it with his own eyes: Once, late at night, they brought potatoes and baked them on the stove, and produced a small bottle of strong spirits.
Reb Chaim drank and gave the young men to drink.
With his very own eyes, he saw them dancing and singing for hours.
At intervals, Reb Chaim would sit down, with the young men surrounding him, and they would speak in whispers. All of a sudden, with no warning, Reb Chaim broke into a loud song, and he resumed dancing with the young men.
A few weeks later it all came out.
This very Reb Chaim was a leading member of "the cult," who had come to convert Kalisk to Chasidut! The city was afire. What sort of business was this?
Reb Chaim and the young men took no notice of the uproar and continued learning in the Beit Hamidrash.
They prayed in Chasidic style, slowly, and without hurry.
Occasionally, they would start humming strange, moving melodies which were a plea sure to hear.
Right in the middle they would begin clapping their hands and dancing about, all with the greatest joy. The whole town would come to gaze at their praying.
Reb Chaim began speaking about Chasidut openly to the young men and the learned menfolk of the town.
The first few times, the men became enraged, but they wanted to hear what he had to say, for it was truly worth hearing. Within three months time virtually everyone in the entire city had been transformed into Chasidim.
From a letter of the Previous Rebbe
From Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneerson of saintly memory
"The fundamental of fundamentals is the belief in the coming of Moshiach."
(Chofetz Chaim Al HaTorah, Parshat Noach, section 22)