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If you order from Patagonia, or just enjoy reading their clothing catalogue, you might know that for a while they offered clothing with buttons made from the nuts of a variety of trees found in the rainforests of South America.
These "button nuts," according to Patagonia's environmentally- minded owners, would give us additional reasons to leave the rainforests intact.
The quality-control people at Patagonia put the buttons through hundreds of washes and found that they held up wonderfully. So they started sewing them onto their clothing.
Unfortunately, after a little while they began to receive complaints from their customers, and returns started trickling in. The trickle turned into a downpour which would make any rainforest proud.
The unforeseen problem, it seemed, was that not everyone does laundry the way the people at Patagonia do! At Patagonia they had washed the clothes and immediately dried them, over and over again.
Many people, however, either let their clothes soak overnight or wash the clothes and leave them laying damp in the washer, only to put them many hours later in the dryer.
The nuts/buttons were genetically programed for self-perpetuation in rainforests. In the rainforests, they would be in a very damp setting for many hours, and then in the daytime, when the sun shone brightly and they dried out, the shell would open, allowing the seeds to spill all over. This was similar to the way some people washed and dried their clothes; soaking them overnight or leaving them wet in the washer was like the rain, and the dryer was like the strong sun.
It's not just nuts in rainforests that are genetically encoded for self-perpetuation. Jews, too, have been programed by the Ultimate Programmer to self-perpetuate.
We have been encoded with a Jewish soul, a neshama that responds to spiritual influences as rainforest nuts respond to environmental influences.
"One mitzva brings another mitzva," Jewish teachings explain.
When we do a mitzva, we awaken within ourselves the desire and capacity to do another mitzva, and another and another. It's like when you do a good deed for someone (a mitzva!) and you feel so good about it (and yourself) that you want to do another.
As we do more good deeds, augment our Jewish education, and sanctify more of the mundane, the connection to our Divine source is enhanced, which intrinsically induces us to do more.
But it doesn't only motivate us to do more. Like the rainforest nuts, we burst open, spilling our good will, our strengthened spirituality, and our joy in the performance of mitzvot, in our individual selves and in our national perpetuation and preservation.
This week's Torah portion, Emor, contains the mitzva of kiddush Hashem -- the sanctification of G-d's name: "You shall not profane My holy name, so that I may be sanctified among the children of Israel."
A Jew must give up his life rather than deny G-d. Sacrificing one's life for the sake of G-d causes His name to be sanctified throughout the world.
There are actually two types of kiddush Hashem.
The first is when a Jew is willing to give up his life but a miracle occurs and he does not die, and the second is when he is actually put to death.
Our Sages disagree as to which level constitutes a greater sanctification of G-d's name.
Maimonides maintains that the main part of the mitzva is actually giving up one's life, thereby publicly demonstrating the extent of the Jew's unshakable faith in G-d.
However, the Midrash (Torat Kohanim) maintains that when a Jew is willing to sacrifice his life and he is saved by a Divine miracle, G-d's name is sanctified even more. In such a case, not only does everyone recognize the Jew's absolute devotion, but G-d's Hand is openly revealed.
Moreover, according to the Midrash, the person whose life has been saved has an additional merit.
To illustrate, the Midrash cites two examples of kiddush Hashem, that of Chanania, Mishael and Azaria, who agreed to be thrown into the fiery furnace but were saved by a miracle, and that of two Jews by the names of Papus and Lulyanus.
"You are from the same nation as Chanania, Mishael and Azaria!" Maryanus told Papus and Lulyanus. "Let your G-d come and save you just as He did them!"
Papus and Lulyanus replied, "But they were righteous Jews and Nebuchadnezzar was worthy of witnessing a miracle. You, however, are an evil man, and we ourselves are worthy of death in any event because of our sins."
From this it seems that when G-d performs a miracle and a Jew's life is saved, that person possesses a great merit. The sanctification of G-d's name is therefore also commensurately greater.
However, both Maimonides and the Midrash agree that a Jew must never seek to sacrifice his life thinking that he will be miraculously rescued.
For Maimonides, this is because being saved at the last second detracts from the sanctification of G-d's name; for the Midrash, this is because "He who gives up his life with the intent of being saved by a miracle does not merit one." Relying on a miracle to occur actually prevents it from happening.
In the merit of learning these laws may we see the fulfillment of the verse, "My Great Name will be sanctified...and all nations will know that I am G-d" with the final Redemption.
Adapted from Likutei Sichot of the Rebbe, Vol. 27
"It occurred to me to make a conference devoted to the role of science in the era of Moshiach while reading a letter that the Rebbe wrote to a Jew in Israel who had described himself as a 'secular Jew.'
The Rebbe's reply contained the statement that with Jews everything is kadosh -- holy. For some Jews, their jobs require them to deal with spiritual matters only. For others, they are involved in secular matters but according to our holy teachings.
"The letter," continues Rabbi Shimon Silman, founder of the Rabbi Yisroel Aryeh Leib Research Institute on Moshiach and the Sciences, "was dated 13 Iyar, 5732 -- the 20th yahrzeit of the Rebbe's youngest brother, Rabbi Yisroel Aryeh Leib."
Rabbi Yisroel Aryeh Leib (known affectionately as "Reb Leibel") was a Torah scholar of the highest calibre. "He was a fascinating personality, totally devoted to the study of Chasidut, which he learned with legendary diligence," adds Rabbi Silman.
As a young man, Reb Leibel was a member of the household of the Previous Rebbe in Petersburg for several years. He was very popular among the chasidim who approached him with difficult questions in Talmud and Chasidut.
At this time he began studying mathematics in the academies in Petersburg where he organized groups of Jewish youth to learn Torah and observe mitzvot.
In the 1940's, Reb Leibel moved to Israel where he married. He continued his mathematical research and spent long nights studying Chasidut.
In 1948 he accepted a position in the Department of Theoretical Physics of the University of Liverpool in England. In this position he continued his research in mathematics and theoretical physics until he passed away on 13 Iyar, 5712 (1952). He is buried in Safed, Israel.
At the first conference, which took place in Minnesota in 1992 on Reb Yisroel Aryeh Leib's 40th yahrzeit, Dr. Paul Rosenbloom described his involvement in preparing for publication a paper written by Reb Leibel.
"The Rebbe had given Dr. Rosenbloom a paper," related Rabbi Silman, "and asked the professor to see if he could find someone to prepare it for publication. The professor could not find anyone but, when he saw how important it was to the Rebbe, he offered to do it.
"Dr. Rosenbloom persisted until the Rebbe agreed. At that point, the Rebbe revealed that the paper had been written by his brother. It was eventually published in the Journal of Approximation Theory under the title 'Location of Eigenvalues and Eigenvectors of Complex Matricies.' "
By the time Reb Leibel's 41st yahrzeit came around, Rabbi Silman and his family had moved from Minnesota to Crown Heights, Brooklyn. "I wrote to the Rebbe and asked him if I should organize another conference like the previous year's conference and if we should establish an institute. The Rebbe answered 'yes' to both questions."
At the second conference, Dr. Naftoli Berg, of blessed memory, who headed the Advanced Technology Office of the Army Research Center at the Pentagon spoke about "Physics and Technology in the Era of Moshiach" and about technological developments related to the prophecy that nations would "beat their swords into plowshares."
"Dr. Berg had yechidut [private audiences] with the Rebbe many times and in the course of those audiences had raised very specific and technical questions about science with the Rebbe," Rabbi Silman related. "Dr. Berg spoke about these interactions at the conference two years ago."
The topic of last year's conference is an interesting story in and of itself.
At the conference a pre-taped presentation was made by Dr. Alvin Radkowsky. Dr. Radkowsky had been the chief scientist of Admiral Rickover, developer of the United States Nuclear Navy.
He is developing a non-proliferative nuclear reactor which will be able to produce inexpensive nuclear energy with no possibility of it being used to produce weapons.
Dr. Radkowsky began working on this reactor following a yechidut with the Rebbe some 20 years ago in which many scientific matters were discussed.
"The lawyers for the Radkowsky Thorium Power Corporation had responded to an ad in the New York Times concerning the Rebbe's message that we are on the threshold of the Messianic Era," says Rabbi Silman. "The ad's sponsor put them in touch with me."
The ad related the Rebbe's words that military machines and personnel being used for peaceful purposes, and the cutback on arms production is a partial fulfillment of the Messianic prophecy "They shall beat their swords into plowshares..."
"Some of their scientists and the president of their corporation addressed the conference last year. They see their work as very closely related to the Redemption," adds Rabbi Silman.
The conferences are attended by professional and lay people alike. "We try to make it accessible to everyone," explains Rabbi Silman.
"The real reason for science," concludes Rabbi Silman, "is to prepare us for the Days of Moshiach. Even though, at times, science has been used in the past for negative purposes, ultimately G-d created it for His Glory which will be fully revealed in the Redemption, may it happen immediately."
The topic for this year's conference is "Revival of the Dead Through the Eyes of Science" and takes place on May 13 and 14. For more info contact Rabbi Silman at (718) 773-1987
Eat matza on the 14th of Iyar
It is customary to eat matza on "Pesach Sheini" (the second Passover) which corresponds to May 14 this year (1995).
This commemorates the "second chance" given to those who were unable to bring the Passover sacrifice on the 14th of Nisan -- Passover.
In the Days of Sefira, 5734 (1974)
The official opening of the New Wing of ... in these days of Sefira is truly in keeping with the mitzva of Counting the Days of the Omer, as reflected in the traditional text -- which calls for cardinal numbers ("two days," "three days," etc.) rather than ordinal numbers ("second day," "third day"), as might have been expected.
The idea behind this form of counting is that in all matters of holiness, the results and benefits are cumulative, thus establishing a stronger base for further and greater advancement.
Similarly, the New Wing -- a most welcome extension of pre-existing facilities -- goes beyond its added value, for it enhances the entire complex of the Centre,
By way of illustration, the weight that two persons can lift together is greater than the sum total of the individual capacities.
In the area of Torah education, the addition of such a facility as the New Wing is a significant contribution not only materially but also spiritually.
For, when the student sees that his school is expanded and flourishing, it strengthens his pride in it and stimulates him to greater achievement in his studies, whether his classroom is in the New Wing or in the older building.
And speaking of Torah education and the building in which it is based, there is a symbolic connection between the essential aspects of both.
For, to be sure, the external aspects of a building are important, and due consideration should be given to make the premises comfortable and attractive even at a glance. Yet it is self-evident that ultimately the most vital part of the building is its foundation, though people hardly even speak about it.
And, insofar as the foundation is concerned, the essential thing is that it should be made of the most durable material, which has been tested and is known to be resistant to the elements of change and erosion. It is of no concern what a bypasser or neighbor might think about the foundation's appearance.
This is especially true of Torah education:
To be sure, the external aspects of the premises are important and praiseworthy. Indeed, in regard to all mitzvot our Sages enunciated the principle of beauty, as witness the commentary on the words of the Torah, "This is my G-d, and I will beautify Him" -- "can a man beautify G-d? But I will make myself beautiful to Him through the mitzvot... a beautiful Sukka, beautiful tzitzit, beautiful tefilin..."
But one must not lose sight of the fact that the most important thing about Torah education is the quality of the Torah education itself -- to permeate the child with the kind of Torah education that will be his unshakable foundation upon which to build a truly beautiful edifice of adulthood, family life, and future generations.
It is surely in this Torah education that the Lubavitch Community Centre takes greatest pride, and deserves the utmost cooperation, both materially and spiritually.
Lag B'Omer, 5721 (1961)
I received your letter of the 8th of Iyar, and I was pleased to read in it your efforts to strengthen Judaism among the youth.
You write that you have been invited to lecture to a youth group, and ask for some suggestions in this connection.
You surely know my general principle, that the accent should be placed on action, in accordance with the teaching of our Sages, "The essential thing is the deed."
This applies to every activity, including lectures, which must bring some practical benefit to the participants in their daily lives in the actual fulfillment of the mitzvot.
Thus, while the actual background of the audience is not known, the emphasis should be placed on the need for religious practice and experience in everyday life, and not to limit it to special occasions or special days, such as the High Holy days, Shabbat and Yom Tov. For the greater part of life has to do with the everyday, and it is the purpose of Jewish life to bring sanctity even to the weekdays; in the everyday contact with the secular environment.
As we are now in the days of Sefira, connecting the Festival of Passover -- the season of our liberation, with the Festival of Shavuot -- the season of our receiving the Torah, we are especially reminded that true freedom can be accomplished only through the Torah and mitzvot, and on the principle of Naase [doing] before Nishma [understanding], again emphasizing that practice must come before theory.
May G-d grant you success in your activities to strengthen and disseminate true Judaism to the utmost of your ability and this will surely be the channel and vessel to receive G-d's blessings also in your personal needs.
STORY HOUR: Volume II
Everybody loves an exciting story. This collection of stories, favorites from The Moshiach Times, is sure to fire the imagination and inspire the hearts of readers, young and old.
In each tale, a moment of discovery reveals the greatness of seemingly ordinary people. Young and old, wise and simple, historic and modern characters each courageously face truth head on and emerge the better for it. So open this fascinating collection and let the story hour begin. - HaChai Publishing.
In the early weeks after the passing of the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe in 1950, the Rebbe found himself surrounded by bereft Chasidim who sought reorientation and reassurance.
He shared with them the thoughts which this unique volume has preserved for our times.
Though the Rebbe was offering guidance for the situation in 1950, he is in fact also offering us guidance for the situation that began on the third of Tamuz, 5754.
Many of the teachings in this book are so timely, that to people of our generation they seem to have been delivered especially for us. - Sichos in English
Pesach Sheini, the "Second Passover," falls on this coming Sunday, 14 Iyar -- May 14.
Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, the Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Israel, reminisced about a public gathering of the Rebbe's that he attended on Pesach Sheini:
"I once came to visit the Rebbe on Pesach Sheini with my late father-in-law, Harav Yedidya Frankel, of blessed memory. We attended a big farbrengen along with several thousand people, and were honored to sit with the elder Chasidim on the platform behind the Rebbe's chair.
"The Rebbe entered, striding quickly, and sat down in the center of the room. He then delivered a deep Torah lesson for four hours on the subject of Pesach Sheini.
"He introduced such original concepts and ideas that Harav Frankel pinched me from excitement! Harav Frankel had known the greatest scholars before the Holocaust, but he was most impressed by the Rebbe's depth, his brilliant insight and his amazing memory.
"During his discourse, the Rebbe quoted hundreds of sources throughout the Talmud, Rishonim and Acharonim, Zohar and Kabalah from memory, without looking up one note.
"The Rebbe focused on the origins of Pesach Sheini, when certain Jews who were impure or 'far away' had missed out on the Paschal offering. They demanded: 'Why should we be deprived?' So Hashem gave them a second opportunity, to bring the offering a month later, on Pesach Sheini.
"The Rebbe developed this idea on a very deep Talmudic level. He then proceeded to its spiritual dimension saying: 'So many Jews today cry out: "Why should we be deprived?" Some have been "far away," locked into ignorance by 70 years of communist rule, or were held captive in the impurity of assimilation.'
"The Rebbe cried out emotionally, 'These people cry out! If they do not do so personally, we cry for them, "why are we deprived!?"'
"Now, after the Rebbe's passing we cry out: "Why should we be deprived?! We pray that the Rebbe should be a good advocate for all of Israel to bring the redemption soon in our days."
Speak ("Emor") unto the priests (Leviticus 21:1)
The name of this week's Torah portion, Emor, contains a lesson for every Jew: "Speak" -- A person must always go out of his way to speak well of and find merit in others.
For, if criticizing one's fellow Jew only serves to arouse him to do more evil, how much more so does praise serve to reveal his inner goodness!
Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is Shabbat Shabbaton (a Sabbath of strict rest) (Leviticus 23:3)
The six working days are a preparation for the seventh.
Our Sages compare the first six millennia of the world's existence to the six working days of every week, for they serve as preparation, through Torah and mitzvot, for the seventh millennium -- the ultimate stage of the Messianic era referred to as "the day that is entirely Shabbat and repose for life everlasting."
On Shabbat there are two levels of holiness: the cessation of work, and an additional, more sublime level of inner peace that transcends mere cessation from labor.
This level, too, is derived from the six days of work, for it is a direct result of the good deeds one has performed throughout the week.
Similarly, the six millennia of service prepare the world not only for the first stage of the Messianic era when evil will be subdued, but also its final stage, when the "spirit of impurity will be forever removed from the earth."
(Maamar "Vayakhel Moshe" 5714)
And when you reap the harvest of your land... to the poor and to the stranger shall you leave them [the corners of the field] (Leviticus 23:22)
"Why is this verse suddenly inserted into a section of the Torah that deals with festivals?" asks the commentator Rashi.
After a person has given charity to the poor for Pesach and made the announcement, "All who are hungry may come and eat" at the seder table, he may think that he has sufficiently fulfilled the mitzva of tzedaka. The Torah reminds us that charity is a mitzva that applies throughout the year.
Rabbi Chaim of Sanz never turned away anyone in need, but when Shmuel needed to marry off his daughter, the tzadik just looked at him and refused to give him a penny. "I will give you some advice," said the Rebbe, "and I will provide you with a letter of introduction to a person in Vienna named Nachum ben Yosef.
You must get from him 500 gold rubles. Just remember one thing: Don't take even one penny less than that amount."
"But Vienna is a great city; how will I be able to find this person?" asked a stunned Shmuel.
"Don't worry. Just go into one of the shuls. There you will meet a man who will take you to him for five silver coins," replied the Rebbe.
The poor man soon found himself outside of the Rebbe's room, perplexed at his situation. The way to Vienna was very far; his pathetic old horse would never make it. He sat down on a bench and thought for a while. He decided to sell the horse and proceeded on the journey.
When Shmuel finally arrived in Vienna there were many shuls. He entered the first one and went up to the caretaker.
"Perhaps you know a person named Nachum ben Yosef?" Shmuel was afraid the man would laugh at him, but instead, he replied, "Yes, I know him and I'll lead you to him for five silver coins."
The traveler was thrilled with his good fortune. He gave the man the silver coins and a short time later they were standing in front of Nachum's house. Shmuel knocked on the door and a distinguished-looking gentleman invited him inside. Shmuel handed him the letter from the Rebbe.
"I don't understand why the Rebbe thinks I should give you such a tremendous sum of money. I will be happy to give you one or two rubles, but five hundred is out of the question."
"No," protested Shmuel, "The Rebbe told me that I am not to accept even a penny less than the entire sum, and I am following his instructions!"
"All right, I'll give you fifty rubles, but that's it."
"You don't understand. The Rebbe told me I have to get the entire five hundred, and I must do exactly as he told me!"
This continued for another half hour or so, with the gentleman offering a bit more, and Shmuel flatly refusing to budge. Finally, the Viennese gentleman was so frustrated he didn't know what to do. He wanted to honor the Rebbe's request, but five hundred rubles was a fortune! He decided to ask his wife's opinion on the matter.
After reading the letter from the Rebbe the woman said, "Please give him all the money he requests, and I will explain everything to you.
"Do you remember our trip to Budapest? When we were there, the Rebbe was also visiting. A wedding was about to take place, but none of the rabbis would agree to officiate because no one knew the groom. The bridal party was in a tizzy, not knowing what to do, when word was brought to them that the Rebbe himself would come.
"Finally the Rebbe arrived. He stood to the side, deep in thought, and suddenly asked that the bride's parents be brought to him. 'Tell me,' he asked, 'Did you ever have other children?'
" 'We had a little boy who drowned many years ago,' replied the father.
" 'Would you tell me how it happened?' asked the Rebbe.
" 'One day, we went on an outing to the countryside. The children went bathing in the river, and our son disappeared under the water. We ran, but by the time we came, there was no trace of him.'
" 'Do you remember if he had any particular distinguishing mark on his body?' asked the Rebbe.
" 'Yes,' answered the mother, 'He had a deep scar on his knee where he had once fallen on a tree trunk.'
"The Rebbe called over the bridegroom and asked him to roll up his trousers. Sure enough, there was the exact mark the mother had described. The parents fell on their son's neck with tears pouring down their cheeks. With the power of his holy vision, the Rebbe saved the brother and sister from a terrible transgression. Word of this miracle spread from town to town, and people flocked to see this tzadik with their own eyes.
"I was present at the time, and I also went to the tzadik. I offered to give him a large sum of money to distribute to the needy. At the time, I didn't understand his reply, for he refused to accept any money from me. He said that one day, one of his Chasidim would come and I could 'pay him back' then. Now I am asking you to give this man the entire sum of money that the tzadik requests from you."
The gentleman took the sum of money from a drawer and presented it to the Chasid. When the Chasid left, the woman turned to her husband and said, "There is one more thing I didn't tell you. The bridegroom in the story is none other than our own son-in- law, the husband of our daughter!"
When one says, "We hope for Your salvation," he should bear in mind that he will be asked after his demise, "Did you await salvation?" Therefore, he should intend to be among those who hope for redemption.
However, even though the vast majority of our prayers revolve around expecting redemption, one cannot reply affirmatively when asked, "Did you await salvation?" just because he recited these prayers. Rather, one must expect redemption hopefully and wholeheartedly.
(From When Moshiach Comes by Y. Chayoun)