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It offers squeaky-clean fun and spotless facilities. Every one of your childhood fantasies and grown-up dreams comes true there. You might even have a chance to meet one of your favorite cartoon characters or heroes.
It's Disneyland and millions of people each year from all over the world flock to its utopian 200 acres of adventure and fun.
We all want to escape -- at least temporarily -- and surround ourselves with a world that is only peaceful, loving, clean, and healthy, where only good exists and where differences are unimportant.
Throughout the years, millions and millions of people have escaped, albeit temporarily, to this "dream world" thanks to Disney. People shell out thousands of dollars, some saving up for years, to get there. They are propelled, in part, by their belief that such a world can only be experienced in Disneyland, never in reality.
Well, wake up and smell the coffee.
Disneyland, and its affiliates or clones around the world, isn't totally imaginary. The hopes and aspirations behind the illusion -- a world of peace, harmony, health, cleanliness, and good -- are the true reality of our existence in this world.
For, the ultimate purpose of the creation of this world, as stated in the opening verses of the Torah, is the Messianic Era. The true reality of this world is a return to the Garden of Eden, to G-d, to good, to the glory of the Jewish people.
It is the world that we are living in now that is an illusion.
The Hebrew word for "world" itself, hints at this. World is olam, from the root helem, meaning "hidden."
The world and its physical nature hides the ever-present hand of the Creator; it hides the intrinsic goodness of people, and it hides our understanding of our purpose in this world.
But -- and here's a simplified way to make the utopian quality of Disneyland a reality -- if we imagine ourselves in Disneyland and behave accordingly, we will begin to uncover the true quality of the world.
In Disneyland people smile at each other and are (basically) polite. In Disneyland people are considerate and clean up after themselves. (There's not much graffiti there, right?)
In Disneyland there is a spirit of comraderie, harmony, peace. In Disneyland boo-boos are kissed away as there are much more exciting things to attend to.
Of course, Disneyland isn't the Messianic Era. G-d's wisdom, mitzvot and Divine plan for the universe are not readily discernible there. But, we have to leave something up to the imagination...
This week's Torah reading, Shelach, contains several seemingly disparate elements: an account of the 12 spies; the laws pertaining to idolatry; the story of the Jew who gathered wood on Shabbat.
Rashi, in his commentary, explains the connection between idolatry and the desecration of Shabbat: "[This comes to teach that] desecrating Shabbat is akin to worshipping idols, for both are the antithesis of all the mitzvot."
This, however, is insufficient to explain the juxtaposition of both these concepts with the central theme of this week's Torah portion -- the story of the spies who went to investigate the land before the Jewish people's entry into Israel.
Idolatry is one of the gravest sins. In fact, "one must give up one's life rather than transgress." Throughout the ages Jews have forfeited their lives rather than deny their belief.
Interestingly, this occurred even when all that was demanded of them was a small external demonstration of reverence, such as bowing down before a graven image.
At first glance this would seem to be inconsistent.
Doesn't the sin of idolatry involve an inner belief, G-d forbid, in any entity besides G-d? What is so terrible about an insignificant gesture that has no meaning whatsoever to the one who performs it?
This, however, constitutes a clear demonstration of one of the most fundamental principles in Judaism: "The deed is the main thing."
A Jew's motivations are important, but his actions are what count the most in our physical world.
A Jew who makes an outward gesture of idolatry is therefore committing idolatry, no matter what he may be thinking at the time. The commandment to "give up one's life rather than transgress" refers to the physical gesture, not the ideology behind it.
Moreover, it is this principle that explains the connection to the Jew who gathered wood on Shabbat.
The Midrash tells us that the Jew's intent was pure, "for the sake of Heaven." When G-d decreed that the generation of Jews who left Egypt would not be allowed to enter Israel, some people may have thought they were thus absolved from performing mitzvot. The wood-gatherer desecrated the Sabbath with full knowledge that he would be punished, in the hope that others would learn from his example.
The man's intent was to strengthen Sabbath observance, not to desecrate it. From a strict halachic standpoint, because he did not actually need the wood he gathered, he would not be worthy of punishment. But "a judge can only base his decision on what his eyes see."
His deed, accordingly, was the main thing and is the underlying principle that ties in this account with the others in this Torah portion.
Adapted from Likutei Sichot of the Rebbe, Vol. 28.
The Freeman Family
by Chaya Esther Ort
Chaya Aidel Freeman has been living in Crown Heights for the past fifteen years, and is an active member of the community.
When did you first become interested in Torah?
In my last year at college. I had just come back from Israel. I was in a Master's program at Harvard studying Neurolinguistics. I was in the first all women's class at Harvard in 1976. It seemed that everyone had blond hair and blue eyes. After spending a year in Israel, the contrast was quite stark. I felt like I was experiencing some culture shock.
Describe the first encounter that you had that piqued your interest in Judaism.
After my year in Israel, I was searching for something Jewish.
I enrolled in a biblical language course hoping to find another Jew there. As luck would have it, the course was held in a Gothic church and was taught by a Lutheran minister. Although I took this as an elective course, it was a required course for becoming a Lutheran minister. There were fifteen men who were becoming Lutheran minsters and me.
This was me looking for something Jewish! Can you imagine? But I couldn't get out of it. I sat next to one blonde-haired, blue- eyed guy. I carried books in a bag I had gotten in Israel with Hebrew writing on it. Everyday this guy saw my bag and so he figured I was Jewish.
One day he walked out of class alongside me. He said, "I know you're Jewish. G-d gave the Jewish people the Torah and that makes you special. You should try to find out what that means for you as a Jewish woman."
So I bought all these Jewish women's books. At the time a Jewish feminist women's magazine had just come out. I read a lot of what was then avante-garde Jewish thought about feminism and mysticism.
One day in the Harvard library I was looking at the magazines and student newspapers and I saw a half a page ad for a weekend with Chabad in Crown Heights.
I was going home to the New York area over winter break anyway so I called a friend who was delving into her Jewish roots to ask her if she wanted to go to this weekend with me. She had been encouraging me to light Shabbat candles or do other Jewish things, which I sometimes did. We went.
Among the speakers were Rabbi Manis Friedman, Professor Yaakov Brawer and Dr. Shaina Sara (Susan) Handelman. Shaina Sara came up to me and said, "Men and women are equal. It's just that they are a little different."
That simple statement made quite an impression on me.
So that's when you started getting serious about Yiddishkeit?
Yes, and I moved to Crown Heights when I got a job teaching special children at HASC (Hebrew Academy of Suffolk County on Long Island).
Do you feel you are still able to use your talents and express yourself as a Chasidic woman?
Initially Yiddishkeit was very all encompassing so I didn't focus on my academic talents and abilities. For the first ten years or so of my married life, I put my energy into being a homemaker, wife and mother. After that I realized that once you are a mother and you tackle rearing children academics is easy.
At a certain point we needed a second income. I had quite a few sons and I wanted an outlet for their energy. I wanted a place where people could come and just be able to have a good time, so I started a mini-gym.
Tell me about the "Freeman Family Band."
My husband was always a one man band and he got little gigs here and there all over Brooklyn. We started the children on music at four.
Yossi was six and one day he said to his father, "How about making a band with me?" Two months later a gig was offered to them at a local Baal Teshuva Yeshiva, Hadar HaTorah, for their annual dinner. Everyone was impressed that a six year old could play many complicated nigunim -- Chasidic melodies. And then it just evolved. All the kids got involved. Yossi plays lead piano, Yitzy plays drums, Chani plays bass piano, Shneur plays harmonica. From the beginning we always had the idea that we should use our music to help bring Moshiach.
What is the theme of your music?
The Rebbe said to do everything you can to bring Moshiach and music being our unique talent we want to use this vehicle to bring simcha - joy - into people's lives. This special unity of our family can send repercussions throughout the world.
Reprinted from the Machon Chana Alumni Journal
Give a Shir LaMaalot to Someone You Love
In 5747 the Rebbe called for the reintroduction of the ancient custom of adorning the labor and delivery room, and afterward the bassinet, with Psalm 121, known as Shir LaMaalot which states our "declaration of dependence" upon G-d for our well-being, and His commitment to guard us.
If you are expecting a child or know someone who is, you can get a free, full-color Shir LaMaalot card by writing to LFJME, 1442 Union Street, Bklyn, NY 11213 (718) 756-5700 (outside NY: 800- 860-7030).
Shavuot eve, 5734 (1974)
To All Boy Students and To All Girl Students
Summer vacation is approaching, and no doubt you are all looking forward to making the most of it. I would like to make a suggestion to you in this connection.
The summer recess is meant to give you an opportunity to strengthen your health of body and soul, which, of course, go hand in hand together. For Jewish boys and girls to be truly healthy means, first of all, to have a healthy neshama (soul). And a Jewish soul derives its health from the Torah and mitzvot, which are "our life and the length of our days," as we say in our prayers.
Needless to say, life and health must be continuous, and one cannot take a "vacation" from them.
The Torah and mitzvot are to the Jewish soul what breathing and nourishment are to the body. A healthy person seldom thinks about the vital necessity of breathing and food. However, on certain occasions one becomes acutely aware of these things. For example, when one swims under water and holds his breath, then comes up and feels the urge to fill his lungs with fresh air. Or, after a fast-day, when the body has been temporarily weakened from lack of food and drink -- one immediately feels the invigorating effect of food and drink.
Now, during the school year, when a great deal of time that could be spent in studying the Torah and doing mitzvot is taken up with other unavoidable occupations, such as the study of English and arithmetic, etc., the soul gets somewhat undernourished. At such times, your soul "holds its breath," so to speak, which makes it more eager to get back to Torah and mitzvot whenever time is available.
Comes the summer recess, and your soul can now breathe more freely and more fully, for you are then released from those other unavoidable studies and occupations.
Thus, the summer vacation gives you an opportunity to apply yourselves to Torah study and Torah activities with the utmost eagerness and enthusiasm -- not only to make good use of your free time, but also to make up for lost time during the past school period, and, what is not less important, to give your soul a chance to fortify herself and "take a deep breath" for the school period ahead.
As a matter of fact, the summer vacation seems to be so well planned for this purpose, for it is a time when you can devote yourselves to Torah study and Torah activities in particularly agreeable circumstances: in a relaxed frame of mind and in pleasant natural surrounding of sunshine and fresh air.
Moreover, it comes soon after the Festival of Shavuot, the Season of Receiving Our Torah at Sinai.
As you know, this Festival comes after the days and weeks of Counting the Omer, in memory of the eager anticipation of our ancestors, from the day after they left Egypt until receiving this greatest Divine gift -- the Torah and mitzvot -- seven weeks later. This should provide an added measure of inspiration to last through each and every day of the summer vacation and, indeed, through the year.
I urge you, dear children, to make the most of your summer vacation in light of all that has been said above. Think about it, and put it into effect -- in the fullest measure, and G-d will surely bless you with a happy and healthy summer, happy and healthy both spiritually and physically.
16th of Tammuz, 5715 (1955)
I was gratified to receive your report of your Mesibos Shabbos [groups for children on Shabbat] work, which I trust will continue to grow, like all things living where the sign of life is to be seen in growth and development.
At this time of summer, I trust you and your co-workers in the Mesibos Shabbos have not overlooked the possibilities of Mesibos Shabbos work during the school vacation time. For although, on the one hand, many children are away in camps, etc., those remaining in the city have so much more time on their hands and the responsibilities as well as opportunities are correspondingly increased to give them good influence and instruction in matters of Yiddishkeit.
If you have not yet worked out a summer program of activity, it would be well to call a special meeting of this purpose, and I will be glad to hear what plans you have made, and may G-d bless you with success.
MOSHIACH IN KHARKOV
The Rebbe's emissaries in Kharkov, Ukraine, are publicizing the Rebbe's message of the imminent Redemption and what every person can do to get ready with posters on Kharkov's "Metro" system.
TWO NEW CENTERS IN ISRAEL
Two new Chabad Houses opened recently in Israel. Rabbi Yosef and Chana Dahan established a Chabad Center in Atniel, Yishuvei Har Chevron and Rabbi Daniel and Chana Stone have opened Chabad of Kiryat Ben Guryon in Cholon.
Registration in day and overnight camps under the auspices of Chabad-Lubavitch around the world has reached a record number this year, partially due to the opening of new camps in Berkeley, California; the Crimea; Palermo, Argentina; and Malvern, Australia.
The 28th of the Hebrew month of Sivan is the 54th anniversary of the arrival in the United States of the Rebbe and the Rebbetzin.
Twenty-eight in Hebrew letters spells Ko-ach, meaning "strength." The Rebbe explained this means that strength and permanence are contributed to the entire day, and this in turn gives strength to every Jew to carry out his preparation for the ultimate redemption.
The Rebbe went on to explain that it was in "770" (Eastern Parkway) that the spreading of the wellsprings of Chasidut, the prerequisite to Moshiach's revelation, reached its most complete expression.
He referred to 770 using the Talmudic term "Beit Rabbeinu Shebebavel" meaning literally "the house of our Master in Babylonia," which our Sages refer to as the location of the Holy Temple in exile, so to speak.
"Not coincidentally," explained the Rebbe, "770 has the numerical value of the Hebrew word 'poratzta' meaning 'and you shall spread forth.' And it is from 770, explained the Rebbe, that the first revelation of the Third Holy Temple will take place, encompassing the entire building from its lowest levels until its rooftop.
The rooftop is the place where Moshiach stands and announces, 'Humble ones, the time for your redemption has come.' The rooftop of the Holy Temple," continued the Rebbe, "refers to the miniature sanctuary of the Diaspora -- Beit Rabbeinu, which represents the Holy Temple of Jerusalem."
It is also not coincidental, the Rebbe pointed out, that "770" is the numerical value of "Beit Moshiach" -- the House of Moshiach.
May we all go together with the Rebbe and 770 and all the miniature sanctuaries -- every shul and every Jewish home, for that matter -- to the actual site of the Third Holy Temple in Jerusalem, now.
Every one a ruler ("nasi") among them (Numbers 13:2)
The Hebrew word "nasi" is composed of the words "ein" ("nothing") and "yeish" ("something"). A Jewish leader who is humble and considers himself "nothing" is the only kind of leader who is truly "something." Likewise, a leader who thinks he is "something" is not a true leader at all.
(Degel Machane Efraim)
And we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight (Numbers 13:33)
Relating how they were perceived by others was actually one of the sins of the spies. Reporting that they felt "as grasshoppers" is one thing, but saying that the feeling was mutual was another. For one should not care about this at all...
(Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk)
Only rebel not against G-d (Numbers 14:9)
Nothing in the spies' report encouraged open rebellion against G-d. On the surface, they were merely reporting facts.
Nonetheless, Calev and Joshua responded by cautioning them not to rebel. For the fear and trembling they expressed in the face of the land's giant inhabitants and walled cities was what constituted their rebellion.
As King David stated in Psalms, "G-d is with me; I will not fear what man may do to me." Believing in G-d causes a person to cease fearing man.
You shall offer up the first part of your dough for a gift (Numbers 15:20)
The mitzva of separating challa teaches an important principle in the education of our children: The "first part" of the school day, i.e., the early hours of the morning, should be utilized as a "gift" for "offering up" --- set aside for studying holy Jewish subjects, as opposed to secular ones learned later in the afternoon.
In the year 1812 Napoleon stood at the pinnacle of his career.
He had successfully swept through Europe and his conquests were the conversation of kings and peasants alike.
Finally, his campaign led him to the gates of Russia and the vast, primal giant lay before him. In Russia he would meet a double foe, the huge armies of the Tzar and perhaps, a more dangerous and formidable enemy, the vicious frigid winds and snows.
Opinions of the Emperor were divided: the so-called "enlightened" Jews looked forward to his victory with high hopes for the emancipation of the Jews. The Torah-faithful looked with fear and suspicion upon the man who was regarded as a danger to the survival of their way of life.
In his sweep eastward, Napoleon passed through the town of Volozhin where the tzadik Reb Chaim lived. The town was deserted, the wealthy gentile inhabitants having fled before the approaching troops. Only the Jews remained. Napoleon sent his officers through the town to locate and appropriate lodgings.
Since the finer houses were tightly locked and barred, they made their way into the Jewish quarter.
One of the officers spotted a light in one of the buildings, which, unbeknownst to him, was a study hall.
When he entered, he saw a man sitting by the light of a candle, leaning over a large tome, deeply engrossed in his studies.
The officer addressed the man in German: "We have heard very amazing things about the rabbi of your town. The Emperor Napoleon wishes to meet him."
"Reb Chaim is here, sitting before your Excellency," replied Reb Chaim. "However, I do not perform any wonders, I merely spend my time studying our Torah."
The soldier listened politely, but then answered in a stern tone, "Remain here until the Emperor summons you, or else you will pay the consequences."
Not long after, Reb Chaim was escorted to the house where Napoleon had set up command. The Emperor entered and engaged Reb Chaim in conversation: "I do not believe that you are any kind of a miracle worker, but I do believe that you are a man of rare wisdom and insight. On that basis I would like to have your opinion as to how my campaign in Russia will end. What will be the result of my advance into Russia?"
Napoleon could see in Reb Chaim's eyes a distinct unwillingness to respond. Who could know the wrath that could fall upon him? Napoleon reassured him: "Please, speak your mind freely, without fear."
Reb Chaim looked at the Emperor and replied, "Your Majesty, we Jews fear only G-d, for it is His hand that directs the entire world, even the ways of worldly kings. I will answer your question with a story: There was once a nobleman who traveled on a journey in a great carriage pulled by four strong horses.
Suddenly, one of the horses fell in the mud. In his desperate effort to stand, he pulled the other horses down into the mud, and with them, the carriage, driver, and passengers.
"A moment later a peasant farmer happened by in his cart pulled by three skinny horses. When these horses saw the other horses struggling and neighing in the deep mud, they panicked and would have also slipped into the mire, but the farmer quickly whipped them and they righted themselves.
"The nobleman had been watching the whole scene and he cried from his carriage, 'Why is it that your skinny nags pulled your wagon out of the mud, whereas my strong horses are unable to pull out my carriage?'
"'If your Excellency will forgive my asking, where did you get your horses?'
"'Why these are the finest horses money can buy. One is an Arabian, one is a Persian, one is a pedigreed Hungarian and the fourth is from a famous Russian stable.'
"'Well, that explains it. You see, your horses all come from a different part of the world and don't feel any connection to one another. My horses, on the other hand, are just plain horses. But they come from the same family and the same stable, so they're like brothers. When I whip one, the others jump to his side.'
"Sire," continued Reb Chaim, "your army is great and vast, composed of soldiers from many different lands. Princes and kings from the world over have joined your forces. The Tzar's army is nothing by comparison. They lack the weaponry, the fine uniforms and training your soldiers have. The difference is that they are all from one people and one land and their loyalty is entirely to the Tzar and the Motherland."
Reb Chaim had made his point in the gentlest, but clearest way. Napoleon had new food for thought, but the thoughts were disconcerting. The truth of Reb Chaim's words were soon borne out in the terrible, humiliating defeat which Napoleon's troops suffered in Russia, a defeat from which the Emperor never recovered.
This is the actual time of the "footsteps of Moshiach."
It is therefore imperative for every Jew to seek his fellow's welfare -- whether old or young -- to inspire the other to return, so that he will not fall out -- G-d forbid -- of the community of Israel who will shortly be privileged, with G-d's help, to experience complete redemption.
(The Previous Rebbe)