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"No more pencils, no more books, no more teachers..." It's summertime and the last thing on most people's minds is being a student.
Even if you're not in summer school, there is one type of student that we should all strive to be -- fall, winter, spring and summer -- a student of Aaron (brother of Moses and the first High Priest of the Jewish people).
For the students of Aaron love peace and pursue peace, love one's fellow creatures, and endeavor to bring them closer to G-d.
This Shabbat afternoon, we study once again the first chapter of Pirkei Avot -- the Ethics of the Fathers. We read there: "Be one of the students of Aaron -- loving peace and pursuing peace, loving your fellow creatures, and bringing them near to the Torah."
Aaron's uniqueness can be seen not only in his lifetime, but in his passing, as well.
Aaron's death was mourned by the entire Jewish people, men and women, for everyone appreciated his patient endeavors to spread peace and harmony among them.
At times, the Midrash tells us, Aaron would even bend the truth a little in order to engender peace between friends, relatives, husbands and wives.
This teaching is directed to every member of the Jewish nation; every Jew is urged to emulate Aaron's behavior and to reach out to others with love and care. But unlike many of the other teachings in the Ethics which are merely conveyed as suggestions, this teaching is phrased as a command. Thus, it is something every one of us should aspire to.
As professional students of Aaron, our study doesn't end here, however. For, the teaching is worded, "Be one of the students of Aaron." This serves as a reminder that one must realize that there are other "students," and one's own favorite path in bringing about love and unity among the Jewish people is not the only possible approach.
The Talmud teaches us that every person has his own unique personality, thus every person will have his own unique way to generate peace, love and inspiration. Part of our responsibility in this area is to remember that while we are carrying out the teachings of Aaron, we must show respect and love for those who are working toward the same goal but in a different manner.
"Loving your fellow creatures," is a surprising choice of words, for Hebrew has many words that mean "person." Chasidic thought explains that the word "creatures" refers to human beings whose only redeeming feature is that they are G-d's creations; this is their sole virtue. Thus, even "creatures" are deserving of our love.
The Rebbe explained that this teaching is particularly relevant these days, for we need to accustom ourselves to the spirit of the Redemption.
In the past, love of one's fellow creature was necessary as a preparation for the Era of Redemption. Since the exile came about because of unwarranted hatred, we would nullify the reason for the exile by spreading love among our people. This in turn would cause the exile itself to cease.
Since, however, we have already completed all the spiritual matters necessary to bring Moshiach, "We can assume that the reason for the exile has also been already eradicated," the Rebbe stated. At present, therefore, the emphasis on love of your fellow creatures comes primarily as a foretaste of the Era of the Redemption.
And through living in the spirit of the Redemption, accustoming ourselves to this way of thinking, and more significantly, to this form of conduct, we will hasten the actual coming of the Redemption. May this take place in the immediate future.
This week's Torah portion, Pinchas, details the manner in which the land of Israel was to be apportioned between the twelve tribes.
The Torah states: "According to the mouth of the lot shall the inheritance of each be divided."
Our Sages explain that the words "mouth of the lot" are to be taken literally, commenting that "the lot itself would cry out and announce, 'Such and such borders are designated for this particular tribe.' "
Axiomatic in Judaism is the principle that G-d never performs even the tiniest miracle without reason. Why then was it necessary for the natural order of the world to be abrogated and for the lot to speak? Why wasn't a "regular," non-talking lot sufficient to divide the land?
Although the lot may seem to be only a technicality in the decision-making process, the fact that it is emphasized so frequently in the Torah indicates that, in actuality, it has far greater significance.
When the Torah states that "nevertheless, through the lot shall the land be divided," its intent is that solely through the means of the lot shall it be divided, and not in any other manner.
In order to make this point absolutely clear to all, a miracle was necessary.
And yet, this explanation is not completely satisfactory, as the directive to apportion the land by lot was not issued as a specific mitzva of the Torah. The lot was, after all, only the method by which the land was divided.
However, it must be understood that every aspect of Torah has a Divine purpose. Thus, even one's preparations to perform a mitzva take on added significance.
Because the Torah states many times that the land was to be divided by lot, the lot itself had to be perfect in all details, including the choosing process itself --- the epitome of which occurred when the lot spoke up and announced the results!
"Conquering the land" is an eternal concept applying in every age and place.
A Jew is obligated to "conquer" the physicality of Creation and transform it into "the land of Israel" --- a vessel for holiness.
This service must be complete in two respects: all of the land must be conquered, i.e., no aspect of the physical world is to be left outside the realm of holiness, and the conquest itself must involve all of a person's capabilities, i.e., his thought, speech and deed.
Furthermore, the Torah teaches that the Jew must make no distinction between this service and the preparations that are made for it. Even the tiniest detail of our service of G-d contains a higher significance, and must be performed with the utmost care and in the most perfect manner.
"Conquering the land" in this manner serves as preparation for the ultimate settlement of the entire land of Israel, with the full and final Redemption with Moshiach.
Adapted from Sefer HaSichot 5751, Vol. 2 of the Rebbe
by Frida Sossonkin
In the summer of 1962, the government suddenly closed and sealed the mikva in Tashkent that was located in the backyard of the shul. Several weeks later I heard that there was a mikva available. I asked my friend about the rumor and she told me that when I would need it she would go with me.
The night that I had to go to the mikva I prepared myself and off we went. Soon we came to the backyard of the shul. My friend called the woman who used to work in the mikva who lived in the same courtyard. She went to the side of the old mikva, lifted a cover on the ground, and uncovered a well. (A mikva is kosher only when the water is connected with a "living" source of water). Since Tashkent is in the mountains where it seldom rains, they had to dig very deep to make the well.
It was summertime and the Rabbis said we could use this well as a temporary mikva until they could find a secret place to build a permanent one. They put a table on the bottom of the well, and connected two long ladders and put them on the table in the well. The temporary mikva was ready.
When I stepped down, the cold air of the well hit me. As my toes touched the water I automatically pulled out my foot because the water was as cold as ice. I cupped some water in my hands and wet my feet with the cold water. I tried again to put my foot in the water, but it was impossible. I decided to give up, to leave the well without immersing myself. I knew that it was not proper, but I would wait until a proper mikva was built.
At that moment I heard two other women entering the yard to use the mikva. From their talking I recognized the voice of my friend Zlata. I realized that if they saw me coming out of the mikva without having immersed they would go straight home. I now felt three times the responsibility I had felt before these women came. I decided to immerse in this mikva no matter what.
I had once heard that when one of the great Sages studied Torah, he would bite his fingers in deep concentration until blood would come, but because he was so involved in his studies, he didn't feel the pain and he didn't see the blood. I knew that if I could completely distract my attention and concentrate on something else, I would not feel the cold and I would be able to immerse my entire body in the ice cold water.
And so, I began to think about one day in my life -- 21 Shevat, 5711 (1951). My husband, Reb Asher (of blessed memory) had been arrested by the KGB nine months before. The KGB ran a powerful and cruel regime and this was its most bitter year. They arrested thousands of innocent people, especially Lubavitcher Chasidim.
During the first month, I was able to bring kosher food for him three times (once every ten days). When I came the fourth time with the food, I was told that he had been sent away to another city for interrogation. Where? They "didn't know"...
The next day I received a note to come to the interrogator on Friday. I went. Finally in the afternoon they brought me to the interrogator who interrogated me for four hours. And then, he allowed me to leave! I was able to come home and light my Shabbat candles on time. The next Friday they interrogated me again. During that year they arrested many Chasidim and I was very worried about what would happen to my children. Every time I went out of my house I knew that a KGB agent was following me. I could not meet, or talk to my friends. I could only talk to G-d.
Eight months passed and I still didn't know the whereabouts of my husband. I didn't know if he was still alive. Nine months after my husband was arrested, on 21 Shevat, 5711, I lost my two children in a fire.
Standing on the steps of the ladder, down in the well, deeply engrossed in the events and emotions of that day, I no longer "felt my body" and I jumped into the water. I didn't feel the cold. I knew how to swim, and I wanted to swim out of the water to the surface of the well, but I couldn't because there wasn't any air in my lungs, and I couldn't breathe. I begged G-d to help me and to save my life for the sake of my husband and our third (now only) child (my husband came home in 1956 and in 1957 our son, until 120, was born). I suddenly found myself on the surface of the water.
I finished immersing and came out of the well. I touched my body and it was ice cold. Only slowly did my blood begin to circulate. When I came out, Zlata went down into the well. I stopped to listen. Suddenly, a cry came out from the well: "It's too cold. I can't take it. I'm going out." Then she began to weep, and so did I, and still weeping, she immersed herself. She came out and said that she would never come to this mikva again. The other young woman went quietly into the mikva, immersed herself quietly and came out.
I was proud and relieved. After that night Zlata permitted the Rabbis to build a mikva in her yard, and with G-d's help, we also built a mikva in our kitchen. The building of our mikva took place with much self-sacrifice and many miracles.
Even though the communists (may their names and memories be erased) closed the only mikva in Tashkent, with G-d's help and with the self-sacrifice of many Jews, we kept the mitzva of family purity and we were able to build two secret mikvas.
In 1964, thank G-d, we miraculously came out of Russia. We left our home to a Lubavitcher family. They promised us they would take care of the mikva and the mikva remained open for women.
In 1967 there were two earthquakes in Tashkent. All the buildings around our home collapsed. But our house with the mikva remained standing.
Reprinted from the N'Shei Chabad Newsletter
Study about the Holy Temple
During the "Three Weeks" between 17 Tammuz and 9 Av it is customary to study topics relating to the Holy Temple.
"This study should be carried out in anxious anticipation of the Holy Temple being rebuilt. We should study about the Holy Temple with the awareness that in the very near future, we will see what we are studying about in actual reality.
(The Rebbe, 24 Tammuz, 5751)
DON'T OVERDO IT
5 Tammuz, 5743 (1983)
continued from previous issue
It may be asked, if it is a "release" for the soul, why has the Torah prescribed periods of mourning, etc.
But there is really no contradiction.
The Torah recognizes the natural feeling of grief that is felt by the loss of a near and dear one, whose passing leaves a void in the family, and the physical presence and contact of the beloved one will be sorely missed.
So, the Torah has prescribed the proper periods of mourning to give vent to these feelings and to make it easier to regain the proper equilibrium and adjustment.
However, to allow oneself to be carried away by these feelings beyond the limits set by the Torah --- in addition to it being a disservice to oneself and those around, as well as to the neshama [soul], as mentioned above, would mean that one is more concerned with one's own feelings than with the feelings of the dear neshama that has risen to new spiritual heights of eternal happiness.
Thus, paradoxically, the overextended feeling of grief, which is due to the great love for the departed one, actually causes pain to the loved one, since the neshama continues to take an interest in the dear ones left behind, sees what is going on (even better than before), rejoices with them in their joys, etc.
One thing the departed soul can no longer do, and that is, the actual fulfillment of the mitzvot, which can be carried out only jointly by the soul and body together in this material world. But this, too, can at least partly be overcome when those left behind do a little more mitzvot and good deeds -- in honor and for the benefit of the dear neshama.
More could be said on the subject, but I trust the above will suffice to help you discover within you the strength that G-d has given you, not only to overcome this crisis, but also to go from strength to strength in your everyday life and activities in full accord with the Torah.
In your case there is an added G-d-given capacity, having been blessed with lovely children, long may they live, with a strong feeling of motherly responsibility to raise each and every one of them to a life of Torah, chupa [marriage] and good deeds, with even greater attention and care than before, and in this, as in all good things, there is always room for improvement.
Now to conclude with a blessing, may G-d grant you much Yiddishe nachas from each and every one of your children, raising them to Torah, chupa and good deeds in good health and peace of mind, and in comfortable circumstances.
P.S. I do not know if you were aware of it when writing your letter on the 3rd of Tammuz. But it is significant that you wrote the letter on the anniversary of the beginning of the geula [redeeming] of my father-in-law of saintly memory --- an auspicious time for geula from all distractions and anxieties, to serve Hashem wholeheartedly and with joy.
TELL ME WHAT THE REBBE SAID: VOL. 2
This collection for children takes ideas from the public addresses and published works of the Rebbe and presents them in a form that children can understand and relate to.
Using stories and parables, author Malka Touger illustrates the Rebbe's thoughts on a child's level. Acclaimed by educators, it conveys insights on the holidays and the weekly Torah portion.
Available in Jewish bookstores or through the publishers, Sichos in English, by sending $12.95 to SIE, 788 Eastern Parkway, Bklyn NY 11213.
BOUND L'CHAIM BOOKS
Bound volumes of this past year of L'Chaim are available. A limited number of copies of the fifth year and the sixth year are also still available. (Sorry, there are no longer copies of the first through fourth years).
To purchase your copies send $25 (plus $3 shipping per book) to: L'Chaim Books, 1408 President St., Bklyn, NY 11213
A chasid of the Tzemach Tzedek (the third Chabad Rebbe) wanted desperately to move to the Holy Land. The Tzemach Tzedek told the chasid that his mission lay rather in the place where he was then living, and he should "make this place the Holy Land."
When the Rebbe mentioned the above at a gathering, he explained that this directive is for every place and every time, including here and now. What it means is that we should work to make our surroundings a place where Judaism and G-dliness are openly revealed.
That a person finds him or herself in a certain place at a certain time is not a mere accident but has a specific Divine purpose.
There is a mission and intent for every moment and every place and that purpose is to transform this world into G-d's dwelling place.
To quote the Rebbe, "Effort has to be invested into each place, and every situation, reflecting within it the ultimate intention, that it become part of G-d's dwelling, as will be revealed in the Holy Land in the Era of the Redemption."
The Rebbe then explained that every person has as his inheritance his own "portion" of the world. Thus, everyone possesses an individual responsibility to make his portion of the world the Holy Land. No person's portion of the world resembles another's.
Each person lives in a particular place and has a specific and individual mission there. Similarly, each day and more particularly each moment, is associated with a specific Divine mission. And therefore, to prepare the world at large for the Redemption, each person must "Make this place -- his individual portion of the world -- the Holy Land."
One might ask how turning his own place into "the Holy Land" will affect the rest of the world? Even more strongly, the person wonders, "How can I bring about the Redemption?"
By a Jew fulfilling his mission and infusing G-dliness into his portion of the world, this will have an effect on the world as a whole, for each portion of the world includes within itself the entire world at large.
The Rebbe concluded by saying, "By fulfilling the intent associated with his individual portion of the world, he can bring the entire world to a state of fulfillment."
My offering, My bread for My sacrifices (Numbers 28:2)
The "offering" that G-d values over all others is "My bread for My sacrifices" -- giving bread and tzedaka to the needy, as it states, "Give the hungry man of your bread."
(Rabbi Pinchas of Koritz)
And on the fifteenth day of this month is the feast; seven days shall unleavened bread be eaten (Numbers 28:17)
The festivals of Passover and Sukkot, which fall during a time of year in which [agricultural] work is not done, last for seven and eight days respectively.
Shavuot, however, which occurs during the land's peak season of labor, is only one day (two days outside of Israel). From this we learn how careful the Torah is with people's money!
Therefore, I give him My covenant of peace (Numbers 25:12)
When Pinchas killed Zimri and the Midianite woman, he thereby placed his own life in danger. For, according to the principle, "If someone comes to kill you, rise up and kill him first," it would have been justifiable homicide had Zimri slain Pinchas in self-defense.
And if he has no brothers, then you shall give his inheritance to his father's brothers (Numbers 27:10)
Why doesn't his inheritance go to his father? Isn't a father a closer personal relation than an uncle? Rather, the Torah goes out of its way not to mention the possibility of a son passing away during his father's lifetime...
Our Sages tell us that the Holy Temple was destroyed because of baseless hatred amongst Jews. The atonement: love of one Jew for another without any particular reason.
Here are two stories illustrating the cardinal mitzva of Ahavat Yisroel.
Once the two great Torah Sages, Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish and Rabbi Abbahu, students of Rabbi Yochanan, were traveling from Tiberias, where the Academy was located, to the city of Caesarea.
Many students from all over the land of Israel and even from other lands flocked to the great Torah center of Tiberias, to study at the feet of the greatest Torah giants of the time.
Caesarea was an international center populated not only by Jews, but also by the highest echelons of Roman society as well -- aristocracy and wealthy merchants.
These Romans built beautiful palaces and lived an ostentatious and raucous lifestyle. They enjoyed theaters, sports, and the cruel spectacle of wild animal fights in which hapless prisoners were torn limb from limb.
Sadly, there were Jews who fell under the influence of the Romans, attending their theaters and joining in their vulgar entertainments, until some of them even deserted the path of Torah.
Rabbi Abbahu had once lived in Caesarea, and the closer he drew to the city, the more he longed to be back in the Academy in the company of the Sages. He remembered the unholy atmosphere of Caesarea with revulsion, and suddenly he wanted to turn back to Tiberias.
"Perhaps we shouldn't continue on our trip," he said to Rabbi Shimon. "The city of Caesarea is not the kind of place where we should spend our time. There are so many Jews who have strayed from Torah, it hurts me to see them."
Suddenly, Rabbi Shimon dismounted from his donkey, and without a word of explanation, he scooped up a handful of sand and placed it in Rabbi Abbahu's mouth!
Rabbi Abbahu was shocked. What could Rabbi Shimon be thinking to do something like this to him? He couldn't speak for some time as it was difficult to clean his mouth from the gritty sand. When he finally could speak, he turned to his colleague and asked, "Why did you do that to me?"
Rabbi Shimon replied, "G-d is pained when anyone speaks ill of the Jewish people. The Jews are His beloved children, and just as parents love their children, even when they disobey them, G-d also loves His children even when they sin, and he doesn't want to hear bad reports about them. If you see that the Jews are sinning, you should rebuke them and help them return to the proper paths."
Rabbi Abbahu accepted this harsh lesson from Rabbi Shimon with humility. He became one of the greatest defenders of his people, especially before the Roman rulers.
Many times he succeeded in persuading the Roman Emperor to revoke evil decrees which were so common during that difficult period. Under his beneficent influence, even Caesarea developed into a city where Torah could blossom again.
The great Sages of the Talmud lived in an era of prodigious accomplishments in Torah. Life in the great Academies was vibrant with intellectual striving, but of equal importance was the students' development of exemplary personality traits, such as respect and love for one another.
Once, the senior students of Rabbi Judah the Prince were gathered around him listening intently to his lecture. Rabbi Judah suddenly stopped speaking and gazed around the room, focusing his eyes on each of his students. No one understood what had happened.
"Whoever has eaten garlic, leave the room at once!" he exclaimed. Rabbi Judah had such a strong aversion to the odor of garlic that he was unable to continue teaching.
Rabbi Chiyya Hagadol, one of the most prominent of all the great rabbis present, rose from his place and left the House of Study. The students looked at one another in wonder, for it was well known to Rabbi Chiyya that his teacher disliked the smell of garlic and he would never have shown such disrespect for him.
Fearing that Rabbi Judah would suspect his great student, all the other students present also rose and left the study hall, except for one.
The one who remained was Rabbi Shimon, Rabbi Judah's son, who saw how very upset the entire incident had left his father.
Rabbi Judah couldn't bear to think that the learning had stopped for the whole day because of one student.
Rabbi Shimon decided to speak to Rabbi Chiyya the following day. "It was your fault that my father interrupted the lecture and we missed out on a whole day's learning!"
Rabbi Chiyya replied to him with this explanation: "You must know that I would never do anything to upset my teacher and master. I certainly would never do something which I know he abhors. However, I was concerned how the guilty person would be able to extricate himself. How embarrassed he would be to leave the House of Study. I knew that if I were to leave, all the others would follow suit, and the guilty party would then be able to leave undetected. In spite of the fact that precious Torah learning would be lost, that was preferable to one of my colleagues being shamed in front of everyone."
That day Rabbi Shimon learned an important lesson from Rabbi Chiyya -- how important the honor of another Jew should be in one's own eyes.
Wherever there are Jews, they will assemble.
They will come from the north, from Spain, and from China, where Yanadav ben Rechev's descendants were exiled. They will not suffer hunger, thirst, sun, or excessive heat on the way.
Furthermore, G-d will flatten mountains and clear paths before them, and all the valleys will become plains.
(Pesikta Rabbati 32:10)