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Have you been to a pharmacy recently? Regardless of whether it's your corner druggist, a chain store or the pharmacy in your local supermarket, there's a lot we can learn about life inside one.
Upon entering a pharmacy and seeing the vast selection of medicines and drugs which provide relief and cure for all sorts of illness, including the most deadly, the observer is greatly impressed, and rightly so.
All these medications, however, are useless and even lethal unless one knows what to do with them. In order for a sick person to actually be cured, two crucial things must happen: an expert must instruct the patient which specific drug to take for a particular illness, along with its specific manner of administration; and the patient must actually take the medicine.
Every person's life is a little like a pharmacy. Each individual is an emissary of G-d, who has been given a specific portion in the world to "cure" and rectify.
He has also been given the "drugs" and means with which to achieve this. But all this is only preparation, for he still needs an expert to instruct him which "drugs" he is to administer to correct his "portion" and his own self. Otherwise, he is apt to jeopardize rather than cure, to destroy rather than build.
There are those who might say, "I myself will consult Jewish sources and find out what must be done, both regarding myself and my mission in life." However, such an approach is similar to the layman who, having learned to read, acquires medical texts and surgeon's instruments and begins practicing medicine and prescribing drugs.
And what about the most important part actually taking the medicine? What about actually going out and "healing" oneself and the world?
One may be an accomplished scholar, greatly esteem his "expert doctor," and acquire the medicines in the exact manner the doctor prescribes, but if one doesn't actually take them, he has not yet begun the healing process.
A person may have many good excuses: the time isn't right, the place is not appropriate, he doesn't have enough influence, etc. But all an excuse ever does is determine the degree of one's culpability: is he guilty, merely negligent or altogether absolved?
The most impeccable excuse will not cure the illness a person was meant to deal with. And since, undoubtedly, the Divine intention is that a cure be achieved, such arguments are obviously flawed and prejudiced by self-interest.
Make sure to read all the labels on your medications, have child- proof caps when necessary, and know that the medicine of Torah never expires.
Based on a letter of the Rebbe to a pharmacist.
This week's Torah portion, Shemini, opens with a description of the dedication of the Sanctuary in the desert, and the revelation of G-dliness that occurred.
A similar account may also be found in the Second Book of Chronicles, describing the dedication years later of the Beit HaMikdash (Holy Temple) in Jerusalem by King Solomon: "And when all the Children of Israel saw how the fire came down from heaven, and the glory of G-d upon the house, they bowed themselves with their faces to the ground upon the floor, and prostrated themselves, and praised G-d, saying, For he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever."
The Jew's service of G-d, exemplified in the manner of bowing down before G-d described above, exists on a spiritual plane as well. The verse categorizes this into three distinct levels:
"And all the Children of Israel saw how the fire came down from heaven, and the glory of G-d upon the house": This highest level describes a recognition of holiness and G-dliness so great that the individual can actually "see" G-d's greatness with the naked eye. The natural outcome of this awareness of G-d's presence is a feeling of nullification before the Almighty, and the desire to serve Him with all one's heart and soul.
"They bowed themselves with their faces to the ground upon the floor": These words describe the opposite situation, in which G-dliness is not necessarily revealed in the individual's soul. In this instance, the Jew cannot see beyond what his eyes perceive; the concealment of the physical world proves too great for him to discern the G-dliness it contains. Nonetheless, the Jew forces himself to "bow down" before G-d, and serves Him against his natural instincts.
In general, these two distinct aspects of our worship describe the essential difference between the period in which the Jewish people had a Holy Temple, and the period of exile.
When the Beit HaMikdash stood, G-dliness was revealed openly in the world. Believing in G-d did not require a great leap of faith, for His existence was clearly demonstrable. Three times a year the Jews would make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and "recharge" themselves with the light of the Divine Presence.
During the exile, however, G-d's presence appears to be hidden, for we do not see the open miracles that occurred daily in the Beit HaMikdash. As we cannot attain the level of nullification before G-d that comes from "seeing" Him openly, we force ourselves to "bow down" because we intellectually understand the need to do so.
Nonetheless, the Torah describes a third type of service, one that begins with coercion but ends with a deeper understanding and awareness of G-d's presence.
"And they prostrated themselves, and praised G-d, saying, For he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever." When a Jew takes the first step, working on himself to "bow down" no matter how difficult he may find this, he will eventually discover that the desire to serve G-d with all his heart existed in his soul all along!
Adapted from Likutei Sichot Vol. 27
When the wealthy Mr. Levy's daughter became very ill, so sick that the doctors feared for her life, he consulted with the best specialists he could find. The bigger the specialist, the higher the fee. But Mr. Levy was willing to expend any amount of money so that his daughter would live.
Unfortunately, even the most famous doctors he consulted could not help Mr. Levy's daughter. So, when an acquaintance suggested that Mr. Levy visit the Lubavitcher Rebbe and ask his blessing for a complete recovery for his daughter, the magnate agreed to go.
Though Mr. Levy was not at all observant, he was willing to do anything for his adored daughter. "I am prepared to give you $10,000 if you make my daughter live and be well," Mr. Levy told the Rebbe when they met.
"And what about keeping Shabbat?" the Rebbe asked Mr. Levy.
"I have no time for that. My business is large and I can't possibly close it on Shabbat. But, do you know what? I'll give you $50,000 if you can heal my daughter."
The Rebbe looked into Mr. Levy's eyes and saw in them deep hurt and a broken heart. "Let's say," the Rebbe answered softly, "that I agree. How will that help you? I didn't bring the sickness on your daughter and I can't take it away from her." "But everyone told me that you are a holy man, and that you can save her.
Please, have mercy on her, Rebbe. I will give you $100,000!"
"You didn't understand," the Rebbe said quietly. "Everything is dependent on our Father in Heaven. I can only help you by praying for her and asking G-d's mercy...to help you with your prayers. But first you must begin to pray. Is it not understood that you cannot come before G-d to ask His kindness and at the same time violate His commandments? Before G-d you must be clean and pure. Your food, too, must be kosher as G-d commanded."
"Rebbe," the man stammered, "I will give you whatever sum you name."
"Keep your money. You cannot buy G-d with money. Go to your house and make your kitchen kosher. Put mezuzot on your doors. Start putting on tefilin every day and observe Shabbat. In the merit of all this, G-d will surely send a complete recovery to your daughter."
Mr. Levy went away confused. For the first time in his life, he had been unable to buy someone with money.
When his daughter's situation became even more precarious, he made the decision to begin observing the mitzvot of which the had Rebbe spoken. After he put on tefilin, (for the first time in many years), the downhearted father went to the hospital to visit his daughter. There he was greeted by one of her nurses. "It's still too early to tell," the doctor told Mr. Levy, "But there seems to be some improvement in your daughter.
Mr. Levy ran to his daughter's room. The nurse outside the door motioned for him to enter quietly and told him, "The pains suddenly stopped and she has fallen into a peaceful sleep. I called Dr. Brown. He came, looked at her, and left."
From that day onward, the girl's health improved. The team of doctors could not understand what had caused the sudden change from a slow death to a speedy recovery.
"We are looking into the medication we gave her over the last few days. Maybe we are standing at the threshold of some new medical discovery," one of the doctors said in excitement.
"I know what medication had this effect," said Mr. Levy. "Tefilin!"
"Tefilin?" questioned a doctor from Italy. "What kind of medication is that and from whom did she get it?" he asked.
"It isn't medication," laughed a Jewish doctor. "It is something Jews put on their arm and head when they pray. Tell me, please, Mr. Levy, what exactly happened."
"The Lubavitcher Rebbe helped me," began Mr. Levy as he told the doctors about his meeting with the Rebbe.
Celebrate your Jewish birthday
Your birthday is an auspicious day. It is a time to make a gathering with friends and relatives at which you teach or study some Torah, share your good resolutions for the upcoming year, and give tzedaka (charity).
To find out your birthday according to the Jewish calendar call the Tzivos Hashem Superphone at (718) 467-7800.
January 26, 1948 Dear Mr. Kramer,
I wish to take this opportunity to thank you for your help in connection with our request for military permits for the two delegates to the Occupation Zones in Europe.
We are in receipt of the letters from Congressman Bloom and from the Army Department of Senator Wagner, which you were good enough to forward to us. We shall be equally obliged to you for forwarding to us any other correspondence you receive on the subject.
I want you to know that we sincerely appreciate your kind cooperation in the matter, which is of far-reaching importance to many of our sorely pressed brethren in the displaced camps in Europe. They are certainly suffering considerably physically, but their spiritual plight is no less serious.
The proper education facilities which the Merkos L'Inyonei Chinuch is doing its best to make available to them and to others is more than a first-aid injection.
In the words of last week's Torah portion: "All the disease...I will not afflict upon thee, for I, the L-rd, am thy healer." The best cure, the Torah teaches us, is prevention.
A good Jewish education, that is, one in the spirit of the Torah and mitzvot, achieves this objective. This is also the purpose of Merkos L'Inyonei Chinuch.
April 9, 1949 My Dear Mr. Kramer,
It gives me great pleasure to send you our recently published book, The Lubavitcher Rabbi's Memoirs, as a token of appreciation of your kindness in arranging the matter of the citizenship of my venerable father-in-law in such an excellent way.
Once again I wish to reiterate our grateful appreciation, and I say this not only in my own name, but on behalf of the family.
The Memoirs reveal an interesting and hitherto little known chapter in the early history of Chasidism, and Jewish life in the 17th and 18th centuries in general. They portray a gallery of the early pioneers of the Chasidic spirit and way of life which cannot fail to be inspiring.
I take this opportunity to wish you and your esteemed family a kosher and happy Passover. May the Feast of Liberation inaugurate our long-awaited era of real liberation, materially and spiritually.
One way to develop the desire to want and believe in Moshiach is by talking about it!
Reb Avraham Parshan, of blessed memory, who was considered to be an exceptionally smart Jew, would often cite the verse in Psalms, "I believe because I have spoken," in his explanation that speaking brings about belief.
In other words, speech brings to the surface one's inner feelings and illuminates what is hidden in the depths of the soul. The soul, in turn, begins to shine, and the belief that is present within each of us but is sometimes dormant, flourishes.
On this subject, the Previous Rebbe said in 1939, right before World War II, that one of the preparations for the "great guest, Moshiach," is by talking about him.
Furthermore, the Rebbe says that talking about Moshiach "disturbs the designs of the evil inclination."
Talking about Moshiach reveals our belief, and the belief brings the Redemption, as the Maharal of Prague writes on Psalm 92:3.
"To recount Your benevolence in the morning of the Redemption will come about through belief in You And Your Redemption through Moshiach during the nights of exile."
This clearly teaches us that through discussions of Moshiach during the night of exile, when everything seems dark and bleak, we will bring about the great Redemption. Talk simply reveals and brings to the surface that which is concealed in t he depths of one's inner being.
It is remarkable that "talk," which is cheap, nevertheless has the unique quality of retrieving what is so precious and valuable. What is absolutely mind-boggling is how much talk is constantly wasted. If we would only put our capacity for speech to good use, by talking about Moshiach, how much better off all of us would be!
And he brought near the meal-offering, and he filled his hand of it, and burnt it upon the altar, beside (milvad) the burnt-sacrifice of the morning (Leviticus 9:17)
The Hebrew word "milvad" is an acronym for "melaveh le'ani be'shat dochko" "he who lends to a poor person in his hour of need." Lending money to the poor is so noble a deed it is considered as if one brought an offering before G-d.
And every earthen vessel... whatever is in it shall be unclean (Leviticus 11:33)
An earthen vessel becomes unclean by virtue of its contents, not because of anything its exterior may come into contact with.
For pottery itself has no intrinsic value, serving only as a container for whatever it holds. A metallic vessel, how ever, becomes unclean from the outside, as the metal itself is valuable.
A human being is likened to an earthen vessel; he too is composed of "dust of the earth." He himself has no intrinsic worth; his value comes from that which is within.
(The Kotzker Rebbe)
To distinguish between the unclean and the clean, and between the beast that may be eaten and the beast that may not be eaten (Leviticus 11:47)
In Hebrew, this verse begins and ends with the letter lamed, (the numerical value of which is sixty when added together), alluding to the halachic principle of nullification in sixty parts (i.e., if a drop of non-kosher food inadvertently falls into a pot of kosher food, the mixture is permitted if the volume of kosher food is sixty times as great as the non-kosher).
You shall not make yourselves unclean with them, that you should be thereby defiled... you shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and you shall be holy (Leviticus 11:43-44)
Our Sages said: He who defiles himself a little, is defiled a lot from Above; he who defiles himself in this world is defiled in the World to Come.
Similarly, one who sanctifies himself a little is assisted and sanctified from Above; he who sanctifies himself in this world will be sanctified in the World to Come.
The man, a follower of the great tzadik, the Spoler Zeide, came to him weeping bitterly. "Rebbe," he cried, "what am I to do? Stolen property was found in my courtyard, and I am being accused of being a thief. My lawyer tells me that I will not escape with less than three months in prison."
The Zaide listened and replied, "I will be a better lawyer for you, and you will receive only one month in prison."
"But, Rebbe," the man continued, plaintively, "I am an innocent man. Why must I be punished for a month?"
"I will tell you a tale of a similar incident which occurred to me, and you will understand. Once I was staying at the home of a very hospitable Jewish customs officer. I became friendly with another guest there, and when the Shabbat ended, we made plans to continue our journey together. Unbeknownst to me, the other man had stolen some valuable pieces of silver from the house.
"As we proceeded down the road, we heard the sounds of a carriage approaching very fast. The man asked me to watch his pack for a moment and he disappeared in the mass of trees. The carriage stopped in front of me and I recognized the customs officer and a gentile officer.
"'Seize him,'" the Jew cried. "'He is the thief!'
"And before I knew what was happening they threw me into the back of the carriage and we drove away. When I recovered from the initial shock, I tried to explain that it was not I, but the other man who had stolen the silver, but they scorned my words. It was obviously nothing would avail, and I accepted it as the will of Heaven.
"I was thrown into a cell full of frightening criminals who found my appearance an occasion for great mirth. They pulled at my sidelocks and beard, and I could only entreat the One Above to rescue me from their evil clutches. They tried to extort money from me, but when they saw I had none, they set out to beat me.
"The first one laid into me as two others held me down. As soon as his hand touched me, he cried out in pain. His hand swelled and gushed with blood. The thieves and murderers who surrounded me took conference with one another. One said I was a sorcerer, another claimed I was a saint; regardless of their opinion, they all agreed to leave me alone.
"When the immediate danger had passed, I looked around at the other prisoners. One, called "Gypsy" turned out to be, instead, a Polish Jew who had been imprisoned for horse-stealing. I realized that I had been incarcerated precisely in order to help this pathetic man repent. Little by little we spoke and I gained his trust. He related a sad tale of being orphaned and then falling in with a band of Gypsies, whose ways he adopted.
"One morning the man came to me in a state of terror. He had dreamed of his dead parents who told him to do whatever I would instruct him. They said if he refused, he would die in his sleep. From that moment on he was the most willing penitent.
"Slowly, I instructed him in the Jewish religion. He stopped eating forbidden food, began to recite prayers, and begged the Al-mighty to forgive his errant ways. After several weeks passed, he even began sleeping near me and became completely attached to me in word and deed.
"A few days later I dreamed that Eliyahu told me to flee from that place and go to the town of Zlotopoli where I would be offered the position of beadle of the town. But then I remembered the "Gypsy," and my promise not to abandon him. But, I reasoned, if a miracle could come about for me, it could come about for him, too.
"I told the repentant man to follow me. When we came to the first door, we saw it was open. He held my belt and we passed through the door together, and continued into the black night, with no thought as to where we were going. Many hours later, we stopped at the house of a Jew who told us that we had found the path to Zlotopoly.
"Three days later, we arrived in the town, and I was appointed to the position of beadle. So you see, don't complain about the judgements of G-d, for they are very deep and beyond the understanding of men. Just be strong in your faith, for I can assure you that everything that happens, no matter how it appears, is only for the good. And, as I promised, you will sit in prison no more than one month."
One might think that in order to succeed in bringing the Redemption, one must take into consideration the reaction of the world at large.
However, the world is ready and prepared!
When a Jew goes about his Divine service properly, rising beyond all limitations and constraints, yet doing so in a way that [his service] can be enclothed in the vestments of nature, he will see how the world, nature, and non-Jews, are indeed aiding him in his service.