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You know that spring is here when you get up one morning and there's that special spring scent in the air. It's not the crispness that bounces off of a person who has walked in from the winter cold, nor is it the dampness we inhale from the leaves and earth in the fall, and neither is it the heat that you can literally smell in the summer. It's that special spring aroma.
We associate scents with a lot of different things. But can you imagine someone telling you that there's such a thing as a "Jewish scent"?
It's not unusual for us to expect to "see" signs of a home being Jewish -- starting with a mezuza on the front door (and hopefully on all of the required doors therein) and including Jewish artwork, Jewish objects and Jewish books.
But how many of us ever considered it important for a Jewish home to "smell" Jewish? Yet, many of us do associate certain scents and aromas with Jewish holidays or observances!
Who can resist the urge to smell the etrog-citron when blessing the lulav and etrog on the Sukkot holiday?
The Rosh Hashana aromas of brisket and tzimmes, challa and gefilte fish help us fondly recall previous family gatherings of years gone by to welcome the New Year.
Chanuka brings with it the scent of frying potato latkes and burning wicks in the Chanuka menora.
And in the weeks preceding the holiday of Passover, as soon as the first person notices that "spring is in the air," many Jewish homes are filled with the smells of Lysol and Windex, ammonia and bleach.
These scents, of course, are just a prelude of the much more enticing fragrances to come: the sweet charoset; the charred, roasted bone; wine in abundance; crispy matza; soup; gefilte fish; fruit compote.
Judaism teaches, "Which sense does the soul enjoy but not the body? This is the sense of smell." In other words, smell is spiritual.
Thus, we attempt to revive a person who has fainted with smelling salts, because scent reaches the essence of the soul, which is never unconscious. The soul, which is revitalized by the scent, then infuses new life into the body. At the Havdala ceremony performed after Shabbat has ended, we make a blessing on aromatic spices, and then smell them, to refresh our souls which are saddened by the loss of the special Shabbat dimension.
Whereas other senses convey only a partial impression of that which the sense perceives, the sense of smell symbolizes the ability to reach to the essence of all things.
It's not surprising, then, that when we really want to get to the bottom of a particular matter, we speak in terms of "sniffing around" or "smelling" the situation out. The sense of smell is truly, very deep.
This year, with the approach of Passover, let's fill our homes with Jewish scents. As they reach to the essence of our souls, they will make more and more sense!
The second of this week's two Torah portions, Pekudai, relates how Moses made a personal account of all the silver and copper that was donated to build the Sanctuary. The purpose of this inventory was to remove any doubt that the donations were not being utilized for their intended purpose.
The Midrash, however, relates that Moses came up short when tallying the amount of silver: 1775 shekalim of silver were unaccounted for. At that moment, a heavenly voice rang out and proclaimed, "The 1775 [shekalim of silver] were used to make the hooks of the pillars." In this way G-d declared Moses to be beyond all suspicion, as it states, "Not so My servant Moses; in My entire house he is [the most] faithful."
A question is asked: If G-d's sole intent was to attest to Moses' honesty, why was it necessary for him to make an account in the first place? Why couldn't a "heavenly voice" have proclaimed Moses' faithfulness without his having to actually go through the process of counting?
We learn from this that there was a deeper intent behind Moses' taking inventory, a purpose that went beyond merely tabulating the amounts of precious metals that were donated or to remove suspicion.
Rather, Moses played an integral role in the function of the Sanctuary itself, as will be explained.
Although the Sanctuary was erected with the contributions of individuals, at the same time, it was a product of the Jewish people as a whole. This transformation -- from a collection of donations made by disparate individuals into an entirely new, collective entity -- was brought about by Moses, the leader of the generation.
When an individual Jew makes a contribution, his state of mind is an important factor. Some people make a donation willingly and with all their heart, while others are more hesitant. Moses, however, the Jewish "king," whose "heart is the heart of the congregation of Israel," was able to combine and unite the singular contributions and turn them into a collective whole.
One of the reasons the Sanctuary is called "the Sanctuary of testimony" is that the Divine Presence resting within it attested to G-d's having forgiven the Jewish people for the sin of the Golden Calf.
Moses, the only Jew who remained absolutely untainted by the sin, was thus the only person who could effect this transformation and cause G-d's Presence to dwell in the physical world.
Adapted from Likutei Sichot of the Rebbe Vol. 26
From a speech by Rabbi Yisrael Haber
My schooling and maturation took place in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, yet I had no contact with the Rebbe and Chabad during those years.
Soon after our marriage, my wife Miriam and I flew from Dallas to Alaska to be responsible for Alaska's Jewish military personnel and general Jewish population. I was the only Rabbi for the state and we were the only Orthodox couple. Alaska's U.S. Senator was determined that his Jewish constituency not be deprived of a Rabbi, and he informed the Pentagon that whatever it would take to secure a Rabbi/Chaplain, the government was to provide. Not knowing this, I was surprised when, upon telling the Pentagon that we would not go to Alaska unless there was a mikva, we were told that they would help us immediately.
On our way to Alaska, we traveled to Minnesota to visit relatives. They told us that even though they kept a kosher home, we might feel more comfortable eating at the recently opened Chabad House in S.Paul.
Off we went to the Chabad House where we were welcomed by two emissaries of the Rebbe, Rabbi Moshe Feller and Rabbi Gershon Grossbaum.
After hearing that we were going to a new frontier, they wanted to know all the details. They asked us if the Rebbe knew all about this. We promised to write a letter to the Rebbe about our plans. Then they asked how they could help us in Alaska. I couldn't believe they were actually asking us; they themselves were also in a desert called Minnesota. I told them that our major problem was a mikva and Rabbi Grossbaum told me that there was no problem: he could build a mikva.
The door to Chabad opened slightly. I wondered who these people were and why would they want to help me? Once in Alaska, my wife flew monthly on a C-130 military transport to the closest mikva 1,800 miles each way until the mikva was finished. But a mikva was taking shape and on an Air Force base no less!
History was in the making as a young Lubavitcher Chasid left his family in Minnesota and came to Alaska to build the mikva at Elmendorf Alaska Air Force Base.
I asked many questions about Chasidut in general and Chabad in particular. How do they get so involved in so many things, and even in Alaska? I had never encountered this in all my years of Jewish life. A short while later, I got a two-page letter from the Rebbe in the mail. How did the Rebbe have time to write and encourage us all the way in Alaska?
A private audience with the Rebbe was arranged for us in 1978, while we were on a short visit to New York. Arriving at "770" at 11:00 p.m. on a cold winter night, someone met us and ushered us inside.
Before I had time to think, Rabbi Groner greeted us and told us that we were next. How should one act and what should one say? After all, our purpose was to ask the Rebbe for a blessing for children. Looking around in mild panic, I spied Reb Laibel Bistritsky right behind me; I knew Reb Laibel from my childhood. "Haber," he said, "you had to go all the way to Alaska to finally come to 770?"
With that, the door suddenly opened. When the Rebbe greeted us I became much more at ease. For twenty-seven minutes (which felt like one minute) the Rebbe outlined many programs and activities that he wished us to fulfill in Alaska.
He spoke of the important work that Miriam was doing in special education though no one had ever told the Rebbe that she was in that field. He asked Miriam to try to get all the older women there to go to the mikva, many of them for the first time ever. Finally the Rebbe blessed us that our sons should grow up to be not only chaplains, but Rabbis of great cities. We left the Rebbe's room and were unable to speak for many minutes.
Three-quarters of a year passed. Sitting in my office in Alaska the door of the office opened just as the telephone rang. I beheld two young Lubavitcher Chasidim in my doorway as I heard my wife on the phone telling me that we were expecting a baby. Not only had the Rebbe's blessing been fulfilled, but he had sent two emissaries to be there at the very moment of its fruition. The two young men became lifelong friends of mine and little by little we became Chasidim of the Rebbe.
Today, our sons serve as examples to their friends in the Golan and help many youngsters draw closer to Chabad. For more than thirteen years we have been "the" Chabad family in the Southern Golan. While working in education, [ed: Rabbi Haber was appointed by the Israeli Ministry of Education as a supervisor of its psychology department] we have provided Chabad activities on a part-time basis.
This past year, thoughts regarding my work and goals as an emissary of the Rebbe in the Golan crystallized. The special missions that the Rebbe has asked me to carry out, my being asked by many Chabad institutions to speak, my wife being a featured speaker regarding her work in Alaska and the Golan, and more, made me realize that I must provide a full-time Chabad House for the Golan. Our Chabad House has become a reality. It serves the entire southern Golan and is located just two kilometers from the Syrian border.
At the outset of the political cloud hanging over the Golan -- where 32 synagogues from the times of the Mishna and Talmud have been found, where more than 17,000 Jews in 32 communities have been living -- I wrote to the Rebbe relaying the worries of the residents of the Golan.
The Rebbe's response, received within hours, was not to be afraid and to stay put. The next day we merited another reply and a request to publicize the following: "The Lubavitcher Rebbe calls to all residents of the Golan to be strong and not to be afraid of the recent happenings, to remain in their places and to keep strong in the mission of settling the complete Holy Land, until the righteous Redeemer, Amen."
[Ed. note: There is a flourishing Chabad House today in Anchorage Alaska headed by Rabbi and Rebitzen Greenberg]
Celebrate Your New House or Help a Friend Celebrate:
It is a Jewish custom to hold a festive meal and rejoice at a "dedication of the house," i.e., to hold a housewarming. "Inviting friends to one's new home to celebrate at a gathering at which Torah thoughts and Chasidic teachings are expounded, will be beneficial both materially and spiritually."
(From a letter of the Rebbe)
7th of Kislev, 5732 
I am in receipt of your letter of November 1st, pursuant to the problem of the demonstrations and the harm they cause.
I am gratified to note that in conveying my thoughts in regard to this issue, your memory has served you very well. I would only like to add one point, to which I merely alluded in our conversation and which might therefore have escaped your memory.
It is this: If demonstrations of this kind have always been damaging to the cause, although the organizers of such demonstrations could be excused in their erroneous assessments -- there is no longer such an excuse at this time, when a considerable number of people are permitted to leave that country. This is certainly no time to concentrate efforts on provoking and antagonizing those who control exit permits.
A further point is in response to the statement of the Rabbi you quoted, to the effect that when one wages war, losses are to be expected.
Apart from the fact that this is a callous statement, the essential point is that this might be an argument in a case where the war was forced and there was no choice but to fight back. However, when people who are in the free countries directly incite such a war, knowing that it will not affect them, but will definitely affect their brethren who are in dire straits and captivity -- the argument that losses are inevitable needs no commentary.
There is yet another point. I have not touched upon it during our conversation, but it could also help evaluate the extent of the real concern of the organizers and demonstrators.
It is a well-known fact that those who have succeeded in obtaining exit permits and have emigrated, find certain difficulties in settling down, both in regard to economic as well as spiritual and religious problems. One might have expected that all these demonstrators who apparently were so concerned to help get them out, would be the first to rally to their support, to render every possible assistance to these new immigrants. Yet I have not heard anyone of them take any kind of action in this direction.
Most appalling is the fact that many of these immigrants find it difficult even in Eretz Yisrael [the Land of Israel] to conduct their Jewish way of life, for which they fought so hard and with such self- sacrifice in the country from which they came.
To cite one example: There are Jews who were born under the Communist regime fifty years ago, and grew up under that regime, and never ate chametz [leaven] on Pesach. Yet I know of a case where such a Jew, having come out of Russia just before last Pesach, was placed among chametz eaters, and ate chametz that Pesach for the first time in his life!
The case was publicized in various newspapers, but I have not noticed any reaction on the part of a single member of the group of organizers and demonstrators, not to mention that no action whatever was taken by them.
To our great regret there are many similar cases, where the religious needs of the new olim [immigrants] were not only ignored, but violated. However, I do not wish to speak of such shameful things on the part of fellow Jews, and the reason I mentioned the above case is only because it was well publicized and is generally known.
To conclude on a good note, I trust that you found all the members of your family well and getting ready to observe Yud Tes Kislev and Chanukah in the proper manner...
MULTI MEDIA MEGILA SLIDE SHOW
The reports are in and the multi-media slide show produced by Tzivos Hashem especially for Purim '96 was a tremendous success.
Used in dozens of Chabad Houses throughout the U.S., the slide show was enjoyed by children and adults alike.
The show presented the story of the Megila pictorally as the Megila was simultaneously read at the Purim gatherings.
Tzivos Hashem is the largest Jewish children's organization in the world with over 500,000 members.
Membership is free and open to children under the age of Bar or Bat Mitzva. To join or enroll a child send the child's name, date of birth and address to Tzivos Hashem, 332 Kingston Ave., Bklyn, NY 11213.
The Rebbe said the following on this Shabbat, 46 years ago.
"In the last series of Chasidic discourses that the [Previous] Rebbe wrote, he anticipated everything and hinted at everything. [According to the unauthenticated notes of a listener, the Rebbe said: "I search among the subjects explained in these discourses for the answers to all the questions beings asked."]...
"The [Previous] Rebbe says this of our present time -- the final era before the Redemption, the era in which the task of separating the sparks of G-dliness in this world and returning them to their source comes to an end. As the Rebbe wrote, now is the era preceding the Redemption, and the mode of spiritual service now required is a mode of victory, with an unquestioning acceptance of the yoke of heaven.
"In order that victory be secured in the current battle, 'secret treasures, which have been locked away for generations,' have been squandered -- i.e., all the teachings and episodes which the Rebbe revealed in recent times, and which had been hidden and sealed from generation to generation, until the generation of the Baal Shem Tov and his mentor.
"Because no one adequately took all these treasures to heart, their revelation is a veritable squandering, all for the sake of victory."
In another of his earliest talks, the Rebbe suggests that we pour over the latter talks of the Previous Rebbe from his final years in order to find guidance and our orders on how to proceed.
Jewish teachings explain that when a great Sage makes a statement about another great teacher he is, in reality, saying the same about himself. Thus, we must take the Rebbe's advice and pour over his most recent teachings, those from the years of 5750, 5751 and 5752 (1990- 1992). In these most recent talks, the Rebbe's declaration that "The time of our Redemption has arrived," shows clearly that we have entered a new stage in the pre-Redemption era. And the Rebbe's instructions to publicize this and other statements and messages are also contained in these talks.
May we very soon no longer have to review the Rebbe's talks, but hear Torah from the Rebbe himself.
And on the menora itself were four cups, shaped like almond blossoms, with its knobs and flowers (Exodus 37:20)
According to Maimonides' detailed drawings, the 22 cups of the menora were "upside down," that is, the wider, open part of the cup was on the bottom, while the closed, narrower part was at the top.
The windows of the Holy Temple were similarly inverted -- narrower on the inside and wider on the outside.
Why? The function of the menora was to illuminate -- not just its immediate surroundings, but the entire world. Light did not filter in from without; rather, light spread from the Temple outward.
A regular cup is a vessel for drinking; an inverted cup pours its contents out for others -- hence the symbolism of the menora's cups.
(Likutei Sichot Vol. 21)
These are the accounts of the Sanctuary (Mishkan), the Sanctuary of the testimony (Exodus 38:21)
Commenting on the destruction, our Sages said that G-d did not take the Holy Temple from the Jewish people permanently, but is holding it as a mashkon (collateral--a play on words) which will one day be returned.
Furthermore, the repetition of the word [`Sanctuary'] in the above verse alludes to the two Temples that would be destroyed before Moshiach establishes the Third and Eternal Holy Temple, speedily in our day.
(The Rebbe, Shabbat Parshat Mishpatim, 5752)
All the work of the Sanctuary of the Tent of Meeting was finished, and the children of Israel did all that G-d commanded Moses (Exodus 39:32)
Once the Sanctuary was completed, sacrifices could then be brought to serve as atonement for sins. Nonetheless, the Jewish people continued to keep all the Torah's commandments, even as they brought their offerings.
(Rabbi Shlomo Kluger)
And Moses blessed them (Exodus 39:43)
What was Moses' blessing? "May it be G-d's will that the Divine Presence rest on the work of your hands."
In other words, holiness and G-dliness must be brought into all aspects of a Jew's life -- not just his spiritual relationship with G-d, but even his business dealings with his fellow man.
Many years ago, in the time when the Holy Temple stood, there lived in Jerusalem two storekeepers named Rabbi Elazar ben Tzadok and Abba Shaul ben Botnit.
The two men were neighbors and friends and had known each other most of their lives. But in addition to being friends, they shared a wonderful and rare character trait -- absolute and strict honesty.
It is related in the Talmud that as a favor to their fellow Jews, these two men would prepare stores of wine and oil before every holiday so that the people of Jerusalem would have what they needed to celebrate the holidays properly.
Tens of thousands of Jews would stream into Jerusalem for the holidays and would be welcomed into homes throughout the city. With so many guests, it was no wonder that their gracious hosts would sometimes run out of oil or wine during a festival.
Whenever that happened, they could go to Rabbi Elazar or Abba Shaul and take what they needed. Of course, no money would pass hands on a festival, but there would be no lack of those two necessities to prepare for the festive meals.
Even during the intermediate days of the pilgrimage festivals of Sukkot and Passover, the two generous merchants would prepare in advance and make their goods available to those in need so that they could spend their time studying Torah.
Not only did they practice these deeds of great kindness, but even on regular workdays they were outstanding in their adherence to the mitzva of honesty. When they would finish pouring the contents of one of their containers into a customer's container, they would sit their container on top of that of the customer and allow the dregs of the jug to drip into the customer's receptacle. Only then were they sure that they had given the customer everything that was due him.
Despite their stringencies, the two rabbis feared that a bit of oil and wine would still cling to the edges of the jugs. So what did they do? Each man had a special container into which he would pour the last tiny drops. Over many years, they accumulated three hundred barrels of oil and three hundred barrels of wine.
One day, they decided to bring all of these barrels to the Holy Temple. After all, they did not consider it their property, yet they could not give it to the customers either. They decided to consecrate it to the Holy Temple. When the porters arrived, they were met by the treasurers of the Temple.
"What have you brought?" they asked.
"We have brought three hundred barrels of wine and three hundred barrels of oil for use in the Holy Temple. It has taken us many years to accumulate it, allowing it to drip from the sides of our jugs. We did not want to benefit from anything which does not belong to us, and we couldn't give it to our customers."
"It was certainly not necessary to collect those small leftovers," remarked the treasurers. "Your customers understand that tiny drops adhere to the sides of your jugs, and they expect there to be some waste."
"Nevertheless," the men continued, "We don't want anything that is not rightfully ours."
"Since you wish to keep such a high standard, we will accept your offering. The oil and wine will be used for the good of the community. We will sell them and from the profits we will dig wells for the pilgrims to have water on the festivals. The residents of the city will also be able to use them. So you see, even your own customers will benefit from your offering, and your own minds can be at ease."
The two merchants left the precincts of the Holy Temple with hearts full of joy, knowing that they never departed from their customs of strict honesty and kindness.
It is incumbent to await the coming of Moshiach every single day, and all day long... It is not enough to believe in the coming of Moshiach, but each day one must await his coming... Furthermore, it is not enough to await his coming every day, but it is to be in the manner of our prayer "we await Your salvation all the day," that is, to await and expect it every day, and all day long, literally every moment!