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378: Matos-Maasei

Devarim Deutronomy

July 28, 1995 - 1 Menachem Av 5755

378: Matos-Maasei

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Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.

  377: Pinchas379: Devarim  

The Holy Temple Revisited  |  Living with the Rebbe  |  A Slice of Life  |  A Call To Action
The Rebbe Writes  |  What's New  |  A Word from the Director  |  Thoughts that Count
It Once Happened  |  Moshiach Matters

The Holy Temple Revisited

In the three weeks preceding the ninth of Av, the anniversary of the destruction of both the first and second Holy Temples in Jerusalem, it is customary to study laws and concepts dealing with this essential edifice.

The Holy Temple was symbolic of the quintessential person.

The main sanctuary had two rooms.

The inner room was the Holy of Holies which housed the Holy Ark.

The Ark contained the tablets with the Ten Commandments.

From this room emanated Divine Wisdom, corresponding to the human mind. (In synagogues throughout the world today, the ark -- symbolic of the Holy Temple's ark --contains the Torah scrolls.)

The outer room represented a person's face.

In the upper left of the outer room was the menora, and to the upper right was the golden table with twelve challahs.

The menora and the table on which the challahs sat correspond to a person's two eyes, which are to be used for two purposes. One is for intellectual pursuits symbolized by the light of the menora. Just as the menora's fuel was pure oil, so too should man strive for purity in his Jewish education.

The second purpose of one's eyes is for survival: to see and avoid pitfalls, to search out food in order to live -- symbolized by the challahs.

The challahs were not prepared every day, but baked on the Sabbath Eve, left on the golden table for one week, and replaced the following week.

The previous challahs -- which miraculously remained fresh -- were divided among the priests on Shabbat, and although each priest received only a small portion, it was enough to satisfy his desire for food. This teaches us that one should not pursue food for his own pleasure and indulge in hedonistic practices. One should eat for a higher and holy motive, sustaining himself so that he may serve his fellow man and his Creator.

In the center of the room was the golden altar upon which the incense was offered.

This corresponds to the nose in the center of the face. The incense was compounded from herbs and spices that had great mystical significance. It represented the spreading of peace and pleasantness among people. The offering of the incense was an atonement for gossip and talebearing. We learn from this that one should strive to make the world a better and more pleasant abode for G-d's Presence and His creations.

The opening of the sanctuary, representing the mouth, was located at the bottom of the outer room. Here the priests stood when they uttered the priestly benediction every morning: "May the L-rd bless you and keep you. May the L-rd cause His countenance to shine upon you and be gracious to you..." Like G-d, a person has the power to create with his words. He can negotiate peace or declare war. The lesson of the door of the Sanctuary is to use our words to create and bestow blessings upon our fellow man.

Outside the Sanctuary, in the center of the courtyard, stood the altar upon which sacrifices were offered and consumed.

This represents the stomach and internal organs of man.

Some sacrifices were offered as an atonement for a sin that was committed. Others were offered as a joyous thanksgiving offering.

As a general rule, the more grievous the sin, the less was eaten. The more joyous the occasion, the more was eaten and shared. The lesson for man is that the more he merits by performing the mitzvot, the more he will have to enjoy and share.

Adapted from: The Holy Temple Revisited, by Rabbi Leibel Reznick,
published by Jason Aronson, Inc.

Living with the Rebbe

The Sabbaths during the "Three Weeks" (the interval of time between the 17th of Tammuz and the 9th of Av), contain a unique dimension: They are within the period of lamentation over the destruction of the Temple and the exile of the Jewish people, yet it is forbidden to mourn on Shabbat, and on the contrary, it is a great mitzva to rejoice.

In truth, these special Sabbaths express the true good that is hidden within the exile. Seen superficially, the exile is only a negative phenomenon --- agonizing, painful and without merit.

On a deeper level, however, the exile contains a higher purpose, one which is only goodness and light --- the Final Redemption with Moshiach.

In fact, in the era of Moshiach, those days that were marked by the Jewish people as days of mourning will be transformed into days of rejoicing.

This principle -- that what we now perceive as cause for grief will ultimately be shown to be only good -- is reflected in the dual nature of these three Sabbaths.

This duality is further expressed in this week's two Torah portions, Matot and Masei.

In the Torah, the Jewish people are sometimes referred to as "shevatim" and sometimes as "matot," both of which are generally translated as "tribes."

Literally "rods" or "staffs," there is one important distinction between the two terms: although both signify a branch that has been cut from a tree, a "shevet" still retains its moisture and suppleness, whereas a "mateh" has already dried out and is therefore stronger and inflexible.

These two appellations allude to the Jewish soul's journey in this physical world.

Torn from its G-dly Source above, the soul is "cut off" from its roots, as it were. Sometimes it manages to retain its original Divine "moisture," yet other times it is so estranged from its G-dly Source that it appears to have "dried out" completely.

"Masei" ("Journeys") too, alludes to the soul's descent from the highest spiritual planes to this world, including the lowliest descent of all into the exile. And yet, the purpose of this descent is none other than ascent, thus the strong rod has a certain advantage over the flexible tree branch.

Matot and Masei remind us of the true essence of the exile experience, which is the great ascent and revelation of G-dliness that will be revealed precisely from within.

A Jew must always remember that the true purpose of the soul's sojourn in the physical world, as well as the Jewish people's travails in exile, is solely in order to reach the G-dliness of the Messianic era. This awareness in itself gives us the strength to overcome all difficulties and to fulfill G-d's will in the most trying of circumstances, leading all of Creation to its ultimate perfection with Moshiach.

Adapted from Likutei Sichot of the Rebbe, Vol. 28

A Slice of Life

At 7 a.m. every other Sunday, when most Jews are turning over onto their other side in bed, 18-year-old Mendy Goldberg and 25 of his classmates from the Lubavitch-affiliated Rabbinical College of America, travel from their Morristown campus to the Chabad House in Teaneck for a "Power Breakfast" intended to feed Jewish souls as well as their bodies.

Twice each month, Mendy and his friends daven, eat bagels and lox with the locals, and then pair off into learning teams (chevrusa) to study.

On one Sunday morning last month, Mendy's regular chevrusa partner from Teaneck was absent. Therefore, he began learning with a newcomer to the Power Breakfast. Together, they delved into the mysteries of the Chasidic philosophy of Chabad Lubavitch found in Tanya.

At the same time, other chevrusa teams were studying elements of Jewish law, the writings of the Rambam, the thoughts of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, or Mishna and Talmud.

"We usually let members of the local community decide what they want to study on any particular Sunday," explains Mendy, who hopes one day to become a rabbi and run his own Chabad House. He considers the teaching experience he and his classmates get at the Power Breakfasts to be valuable training.

Not all the community members who come to the Power Breakfast are from Teaneck. Charles Maslin, a 27-year-old attorney, travels to the breakfasts from Jersey City.

"A Power Breakfast is no ordinary bagels-and-cream cheese brunch," says Mr. Maslin, explaining that the food "is not the main course, but only the appetizer.

"The main course consists of something so sweet and delicious that it can hardly be described. It's a 'course' not only of the sort one studies in school, but also a course in life, a path that I have embarked upon," he says.

Mr. Maslin began attending the Power Breakfasts last September. "As I entered for the first time, I was greeted by a retinue of young men in black coats, black hats, fuzzy faces, and the warmest eyes I have ever seen," he recalls, adding that the first thing he learned "was that the entire essence of Chasidut could be summed up by one maxim: love your neighbor as yourself."

During the two weeks between his first and second Power Breakfast, Mr. Maslin took on the mitzva of putting on tefilin every morning.

"I began to feel the strength and power imbued within these tiny little 'boxes.' The warmth I felt each morning when I enwrapped myself with the long leather straps was not unlike the warmth I felt that first Sunday morning when I met my teacher for the first time and felt an instant kinship."

Mendy Lewis, his teacher from the Rabbinical College, "conducted himself with princely gracefulness and humble servitude. He was more well-versed in Talmudic Law than I was in common law and statutes."

After he sits for the bar exam this summer, Mr. Maslin, who grew up in the Reform movement, hopes to spend some time studying at the Rabbinical College himself.

Mendy Lewis, who just turned 18, is from London. He expects to stay at the Rabbinical College for another 18 months, but then wants to remain in the U.S.

According to Rabbi Naftali Brawer, Educational Director of the Teaneck Chabad House, the men who come to the Power Breakfasts range in age from 26 to 55. "But teenage boys are welcome, too," he said.

About two-thirds of the participants are from the Orthodox community.

That's what I love about studying with the Lubavitchers," says Michael Ross, a Fair Lawn resident who comes regularly to the Power Breakfasts. "You never know what anyone's background is. There is no discrimination or disapproval; there is only great love for Judaism and all Jews."

"I look forward to these Power Breakfasts with the anticipation I used to feel when I made a reservation at the Russian Tea Room," said Mr. Maslin.

A Call To Action

Make Torah Celebrations

As a further preparation for the Messianic Era, to reveal the positive qualities and joy that are latent in these Three Weeks, conclusions of Torah works (siyumim) should be held on each of the Nine Days including Shabbat, and this year, including the Shabbat of Tisha B'Av.

These activities will hasten the transformation of these days into days of celebration, when with true and complete joy we will proceed together with Moshiach, to the Holy Land in the true and ultimate Redemption.

(The Rebbe, 18 Tammuz, 5751)

The Rebbe Writes

Erev Shavuot, 5733 (1973)

Mr. Pinchas Kalms,

I trust you received my letter of condolence, and may G-d grant that henceforth our correspondence will be exclusively in matters of simcha [joy].

It is quite a long time since I heard from you directly, though of course, I have been inquiring and receiving reports from our mutual friends, including Prof. Yirmyohu Branover.

Needless to say, I am disappointed at the delay in the acquisition of a center in Jerusalem for the activities which are so vital and urgent. I hope and pray that the delay will also be for the good, in that it will be instrumental in acquiring an extra special place.

As we had occasion to mention in one of our conversations, when something is expected of a Jew, it is certain that he has been given the capacity to carry it out. And as in all matters of Torah and mitzvot, a Jew is given the capacity not only to live up to them in the fullest measure, but also to live up to the principle of maalin bakodesh, to advance in all matters of holiness, for growth is the sign of life in all living things.

It is surely unnecessary to emphasize at length the urgency of the project under discussion, for it concerns new olim [immigrants to Israel] from a certain country, who arrive in the Holy Land with a great deal of enthusiasm and receptiveness. But unless they be contacted soon after arrival and given the opportunity and facility to translate their inspiration into concrete and tangible experience in their daily life, they are in danger of being swept away by undesirable forces, with the result that their enthusiasm might quickly evaporate and give way to disenchantment, which would then make it much more difficult to set them on the right track. And although these "derailed" olim must also not be given up, and as our Sages of the Mishna declare, "To save even one Jewish soul is to save a whole world," nevertheless, it requires far less effort to do the job at the right time and thus being able to use the excess effort in saving so many more souls. I need not elaborate to you on the importance of conservation and the most efficient utilization of resources...

24th of Tammuz, 5733

Mr. Pinchas Meir Kalms,

...To begin with, I was truly gratified to note your keen interest and actual accomplishment in regard to the acquired premises in Jerusalem. May G-d grant that now that possession has been taken, the activities will proceed at an accelerated pace.

Time is, of course, of the utmost essence, for, as we have had occasion to emphasize it before, if the new olim are not taken care of immediately upon their arrival, the opportunity may be irretrievably lost, what with their getting involved with problems of housing, parnasa [livelihood], adjustment, etc.

Especially as these problems often bring them in contact with the ruling party controlling the purse strings, and consequently, to some extent at least, also under its influence. No need to elaborate to you on this.

Needless to say, I was especially gratified to read in your letter that you are very happy with your children's schooling at the Lubavitch School. May G-d grant the fulfillment of your best expectations in this as well as in all other areas, "out of His full, open, holy and ample Hand."

P.S. I trust you will not take amiss my following remarks. I am certain that all the matters relating to the year of mourning for your father, peace to him, are being carried out. I would like, however, to call attention to the custom of learning Mishnayot after each of the three daily prayers, apart from Mishnayot learned for his soul by others. While it is preferable to learn it from the original, the important thing is to understand the content, hence learning from a translation is in order. Also, it is customary to set aside a coin for tzedaka before Shacharit and Mincha [the morning and afternoon prayers] on weekdays. However, all these things should be done bli neder [without making a vow].

Now that we are in the period of the Three Weeks, of which it is written and assured that these days will be converted into days of gladness and joy, may this prophecy be soon fulfilled, both in regard to personal loss as well as the general loss of our people, both of which are intimately connected, as pointed out in the letter of condolence, and may we all soon merit to see the true and complete Redemption through Moshiach.

What's New


A recent update from the International Shluchim [emissaries of the Rebbe] Office headquartered in Crown Heights, features a list of ten couples who have accepted posts.

They are:

  • Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok and Mina Eisenbach who are establishing a new Chabad Center in Simsbury, Connecticut;

  • Rabbi Menachem Mendel and Adina Friedman who are opening a new Chabad Center in Givat Harder, Israel;

  • Rabbi Yossi and Nechama Harlig who are opening a new Chabad Center in Kendall, Florida;

  • Rabbi Levi and Devorah Leah Jaffe who are opening a new Chabad Center in Brisbane, Australia;

  • Rabbi Menachem Mendel and Faige Kaplan who will be teaching in the Chabad yeshiva in Detroit, Michigan;

  • Rabbi Hershel and Esther Kesselman who are opening a new Chabad Center in Southgate, London;

  • Rabbi Zalman and Bassie Marcus who are opening a new Chabad Center in Mission Viego, California;

  • Rabbi Yosef Chaim and Chani Rosenblatt who are opening a new Chabad Center in Givat Avni, Israel;

  • Rabbi Eli and Sarah Rosenfeld who are assisting the emissaries in Fort Lauderdale, Florida;

  • Rabbi Nitzan and Rivky Samchon who will be program coordinators in Gilo, Jerusalem.

Mazal Tov and good luck!


While a Bar Mitzva at the Western Wall is a dream of many, the reality presents many obstacles, especially if one is not familiar with arranging a simcha in Jerusalem.

Each year Chabad Tours & Hospitality Program helps dozens of families reach this milestone.

For more information please contact Rabbi Blumes, PO Box 14, Kfar Chabad, Israel, 72915. Or call (972) 3-9607-588 (fax 3-9606-169).

A Word from the Director

There are two approaches to the present period of the three weeks between the Seventeenth of Tammuz and Tisha B'Av, the period which commemorates the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Holy Temple.

One approach is to dwell on the awesomeness of those tragedies and the difficulties suffered by our people in the exile which followed.

The other approach, while not minimizing the extent of our nation's loss, puts the emphasis on the purpose of the exile. Heaven forbid to say that destruction and exile are ends in and of themselves. Rather, within the ashes of the Temple's destruction was kindled the spark of the Future Redemption.

In an ultimate sense, this was the purpose of the exile -- to prepare the Jewish people and the world at large for the higher and deeper level of fulfillment to be reached in that era.

There is no question that the second approach is the one more followed in the present age.

Our Sages declared, "All the appointed times for Moshiach's coming have passed; the matter is only dependent on teshuva."

We have already turned to G-d with sincere teshuva. Thus, when speaking of the readiness of our generation, the Rebbe used the allegory of a garment that is complete in all respects -- "and all that is needed now is to polish the buttons."

Surely, the almost fifty years of vibrant Torah activity that have followed since that statement was made, have been sufficient to accomplish that purpose.

We are standing on the threshold of the Redemption. Moshiach's coming is no longer a dream of a distant future, but an imminent reality which will very shortly become fully manifest.

Through living with the concept of Moshiach, we will hasten his coming and bring about the era in which these three weeks of Bein HaMeitzarim will be transformed from mourning into the celebration of the Redemption.

May this take place in the immediate future.

Thoughts that Count

Matot and Masei

Matot and Masei deal with the time when the Jewish people were about to enter the Promised Land, receiving final instructions before starting their new life.

One basic law contained in this Torah reading relates to the fundamental principal of kashrut: how to make vessels kosher, i.e., fit for use by Jews.

According to some authorities, this passage is also the source for the Torah's laws of Family Purity.

During these last few moments of exile we must be particularly vigilant with respect to these two commandments. For aside from their intrinsic significance as basic and perpetual principles of Judaism, they are also a special preparation and catalyst for our anticipated entry into the land of Israel with Moshiach.

(Living With Moshiach)

And Moses spoke to the heads of the tribes of the Children of Israel saying: "This is the thing which the L-rd has commanded" (Numbers 30:2)

Moses' intent was for the Jewish people to properly appreciate the directives of their leaders as "the word of G-d." For one must obey the ruling of our Sages just as we obey the words of the Living G-d.

(Torat Moshe)

We will indeed pass over armed before G-d into the land of Canaan (Numbers 32:32)

The ascent into the land of Israel must be conducted "before G-d," that is, in order to live a life of holiness and to preserve the sanctity of the land through the observance of Torah and mitzvot. For if not for the Torah, the land of Israel would have no advantage over any other country on earth.

(Avnei Ezel)

It Once Happened

Although it was late and they were already exhausted, the two elderly rabbis went from house to house through the Jewish community of Lvov.

They couldn't allow their personal needs to interfere with their mission, for they were involved in the holy mitzva of pidyon shevuim, ransoming Jewish captives.

They knocked on door after door soliciting funds to pay off landlords and creditors who had imprisoned poor Jews who were not able to repay their debts. Without help from their fellow Jews, these Jewish men, women and children languishing in crude prisons, would die.

Yes, not only were the men imprisoned, but a child, or entire families might be taken hostage. It was a well-known fact that Jewish communities would nearly bankrupt themselves to free their co-religionists from such a bitter fate.

So it was that the two rabbis arrived at the home of a very wealthy merchant, Reb Herzele. He welcomed them in, and when he heard why they had come, he immediately assured them that their mission was now completed. "Do not trouble yourselves further. I will take it upon myself to complete the sum of money that you require."

The rabbis were overcome with joy, knowing that the Jewish captives would soon be free, and they were about to take their leave when he begged them to remain. "Gentlemen, I beg of you, stay and join me for lunch. Then when you have eaten, we will settle up accounts, and you will leave content."

The rabbis were glad to have an opportunity to rest their weary bodies and refresh themselves. When they were all seated around the table, Reb Herzele began to speak. "I would like to tell you a story of an incident which occurred when I was a young man. It will perhaps explain to you why I am so anxious to fulfill the mitzva of helping my fellow Jews in distress.

"After my marriage, as is customary, my father-in-law supported my wife and me and later my children for several years so that I could continue my Torah studies. But the time came that I had to assume that responsibility myself. Having an inclination to business, and a knowledge of gems, I took five hundred rubles, my entire savings, and I went to the great fair that is held every year in Lashkowitz. It was my hope that once there, I would make a deal through which I could begin a business.

"I had never been to such a large fair, and I was amazed at the frantic activity and deafening noise-level. Suddenly, through all the din which surrounded me, one sound pierced my ears. It was the pitiful wail of a woman. I looked all around, and there, sitting on the ground, was a Jewish woman, weeping as though completely broken, with her hand out to each passerby.

"I went up to her and asked her why she was crying. 'I have an only daughter who was betrothed to be married. But the dowry required is five hundred rubles, and I have no way of raising that amount of money.'

"The misery of that poor woman touched the bottom of my heart. On impulse, I took my entire five hundred rubles and placed it in her hand. She immediately stopped weeping, and looked up at me with a look of shock mixed with profound gratitude. What could I do? I wished her well and walked on.

"Now, I really didn't know what I would do. I had just handed all of my money to a stranger and had nothing left with which to do business. As I walked, gazing at merchandise on display, my eye was caught by the most beautiful coral necklace I had ever seen. The dealer noticed my interest and asked, 'Are you interested in purchasing this fine piece?'

"I certainly am, but I don't have the money now," I replied.

"'You seem like a trustworthy person. I am willing to give it to you on consignment. You may bring me the money tomorrow.'

"I couldn't believe my good fortune. The necklace was worth a thousand rubles. I took it and went to another jeweler and offered my services as a broker. Then I went from jeweler to jeweler, acting as a go-between and collecting commissions as I went along. In that way, I earned a large sum of money from that one coral necklace. By the end of the day I returned to the first jeweler and paid him the money I owed him."

"'I was sure I could trust you,' he said, and he offered me new merchandise on the spot. I worked hard that whole week and made quite a nice sum of money on the second lot of jewelry. At the end of the week I went to repay my benefactor, but I couldn't find him anywhere. I searched all the alleys and corners of the marketplace, but he was nowhere. I asked everyone I met, but no one seemed to know who I was talking about.

"The following year when the fair was held again, I went back to look for my mysterious friend. Stopping by each booth, I asked each jeweler, 'Do you know an elderly man with a long white beard and a colorful turban who deals in precious gems ?'

"'We have never seen anyone of that description here. Your mysterious jeweler must have been Elijah the Prophet,' replied one merchant.

"This incident happened many years ago. I have returned to the fair in Lashkowitz every year since, but I have never been able to find the old man. I often wonder if he really was Elijah. Whoever he was, it was through his kindness that I have achieved the wealth you see today. I am still consumed with the desire to repay my debt. That is why I go out of my way to help people in need. With one act of kindness I was raised from poverty to riches. With my tzedaka I hope that I am worthy to perform the same mitzva for my fellow man."

Moshiach Matters

Moshiach will stand and pray, girding himself as a hero before Him Who spoke and the world was.

Moshiach will say before Him, "Master of all worlds! I remember worry and grief, darkness and gloom. I saw no light, I heard great disgrace, and I cried for myself. My heart broke, and my stomach failed. I did not do this thing for my honor or for that of my father's house. I did it for Your honor, Your nation, Your Temple, and Your children, who are enveloped in pain among the nations!"

(Midrash Rabbi Yishmael)

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