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L'Chaim
May 17, 1996 - 28 Iyar 5756

418: Bamidbar

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Published and copyright © by Lubavitch Youth Organization - Brooklyn, NY
The Weekly Publication For Every Jewish Person
Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.


  417: Behar-Bechukosai419: Shavuos  

"Love your fellow as yourself"  |  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

"Love your fellow as yourself"

Your best friend loves to play chess. If it were your choice you'd play Othello. But you play chess whenever he wants. Afterall, that's what he loves to do and you're his good friend.

Your significant other shlepps along with you to an event that is not half as important to her as it is to you. When asked afterward if she had a good time she responds: "If he [the significant other] had a good time, then I had a good time."


Chasidim of the first Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Shneur Zalman, once asked him: "Which is the superior Divine service, love of G-d or love of the Jewish people?"

Rabbi Shneur Zalman replied: "Both love of G-d and love of the Jewish people are equally engraved in every Jew's neshama, ruach and nefesh [different levels of the soul]. It follows that love of the Jewish people is superior, however, for you love whom your beloved loves."


The Baal Shem Tov taught: "Love your fellow as yourself" is an interpretation of and commentary on "Love G-d your G-d." He who loves his fellow-Jew loves G-d, because the Jew has within themselves a "part of G-d above." Therefore, when one loves the Jew -- i.e. his inner essence -- one loves G-d.


Time and again throughout Jewish history, we see examples of how love of another (which, as indicated above, is a true expression of love of G-d) supersedes the more usual way of expressing our love of G-d.

A prime example is at the very beginnings of Jewish history, when our Patriarch Abraham had just circumcised himself. The Torah tells us that G-d was performing the mitzva of "visiting the sick" and was speaking with Abraham. Yet, when Abraham saw travelers in the distance, he immediately asked G-d to "wait" while he attended to the needs of these three strangers traveling in the hot, dry dessert.

A story is told of the same Rabbi Shneur Zalman mentioned above.

One year on the holy day of Yom Kippur, Rabbi Shneur Zalman suddenly left the synagogue where his Chasidim had gathered to pray and spend the holiday with him. At a distance, a few chasidim followed him and saw that he entered a cabin at the end of town. There lay a woman who had just given birth and was too weak to care for herself. The Rebbe went into the forest, chopped wood, kindled a fire, cooked soup, fed it to the woman, and only afterwards returned to pray with his congregation.

Similarly, Jewish mystical teachings directs us to verbalize our love and responsibility toward every Jew immediately before we begin expressing our love of G-d (through prayer) by saying: "I hereby take upon myself the mitzva of 'Love your fellow as yourself.' "

Practically speaking, though, it's downright easy to "love" a Jew whom we've never met, or one whom we have met who lives half-way around the world. But ultimately, the primary efforts of our love for another should be focused on Jews in our very own communities.

Rabbi Shneur Zalman explained that the mitzva of loving our fellow Jew extends to any Jew, even if you have never met him. But, how much more so does it extend to every single member of the Jewish community where you live.

Permeate your life with love for G-d by loving your fellow Jew.


Living with the Rebbe

As this week's Torah portion, Bamidbar (literally "in the desert") suggests, the Torah was given to the Jewish people in an uninhabited wilderness.

A desert is a vast expanse of land to which all people have the same claim. A desert is not considered private property in the same way a house or tract of habitable land can be bought and owned by individuals.

Likewise, the Torah does not belong to any one Jew, but is the eternal inheritance and possession of all. Thus each and every Jew is able (and obligated) to study it and apply it to his daily life.

The desert is a place of dust, earth and sand. Vegetation cannot grow there and it is devoid of inhabitants. We too must strive to be as humble as the dust; the Torah is incompatible with haughtiness and pride. Indeed, our Sages stated, "Who is he who upholds the Torah? One who makes himself as the desert."

In the desert, the most important necessities for sustaining life are absent. There is neither water, food nor clothes. Rain does not fall, nor are there any edible plants or fruit-bearing trees. Obviously, there is no place to buy or make clothing either.

Throughout the 40 years of the Jewish people's wanderings through the desert they relied on the merit of tzadikim, righteous people, for these necessities. In Moses' merit, G-d caused the manna to fall. In the merit of Miriam, Moses' sister, a well provided them with drinking water. In the merit of Aaron, Moses' brother, G-d protected the Jews from harm with the Clouds of Glory. These clouds also ironed their clothes, which grew along with them and always fit perfectly.

We learn from this that when it comes to learning Torah, concerns for food, drink and clothing must play no part. Our job is to study Torah and observe its mitzvot, while relying on G-d to provide us with our needs.

Lastly, the desert is a place of great danger. Wild animals roam about freely, and snakes and scorpions lurk under rocks and inside crevices. Yet it was precisely there that G-d chose to reveal his holy Torah. Until Moshiach comes and ushers in the Final Redemption (may it happen immediately), the Jew is likewise in an extremely dangerous environment -- the exile.

The "snake," the Evil Inclination, is constantly trying to entrap him and cause him to sin. Thus it is precisely during the exile that the Jew must strive to connect himself to the Torah, and to perform its commandments to the best of his ability.

Adapted from Likutei Sichot of the Rebbe Vol. 1; Hitva'aduyot 5745


A Slice of Life

My Trip
(Continued from last week)

by Rabbi Yosef Wineberg

Before my next trip to South Africa, the Rebbe instructed me explicitly: "It would be worthwhile to inquire about Jews in Madagascar and to travel there for a day or two."

I tried to explain that the reason I hadn't gone during the previous trip was that the Rebbe told me only to inquire... The Rebbe smiled and said; "Probably then, too, there were Jews there." I then understood that I had to actually travel there.

In Johannesburg, the Chief Rabbi of South Africa informed me that an Israeli consulate was established in Madagascar. The Rabbinical Court of Johannesburg requested of them to send us the names and addresses of Jews in Madagascar.

Several weeks passed and there was no response. I decided to travel there myself. I obtained the required visa and was told that there weren't any flights from Johannesburg to Madagascar; there was one only from Nairobi, Kenya. Also, the flights were only twice a week, one of them being on Shabbat. I had no choice but to request to be on the "waiting list" until I could get a place.

While waiting, I received a call telling me that the well-known Dr. Chaim Shaskes had arrived that day in South Africa. He had passed through Madagascar and met a Jewish doctor who was born in Vitebsk. When Dr. Shaskes heard that I planned to travel to Madagascar, he told me that there was nothing to go there for, and that I could write this to the Rebbe in his name.

I told him that I would travel there in any case. "Although you say you did not find Jews there, I'm sure there are Jews. I would appreciate only that you give me the address of that doctor so at least I have one Jewish address on that distant island."

Meanwhile, I had to travel to Capetown. When I returned to Johannesburg on Thursday, I immediately inquired "What's new with Madagascar?" This time there was a definite reason for traveling there. "We did not succeed in getting you a reservation on the flight from Nairobi to Madagascar, but now we know for sure that there is reason to travel there," Rabbi Elowy informed me.

Two days earlier, a letter arrived at the Rabbinate of Johannesburg from a Jew in Madagascar requesting that they send him kosher canned meat. "I'm here with my wife and son six months already," wrote the Jew, "and we cannot obtain kosher meat." Rabbi Elowy said that he informed him that next week someone would come from Johannesburg to Madagascar and would bring him kosher meat.

Only a few moments before takeoff I was told that there was room on the plane, but the airline could not guarantee me a place on the flight back. Although it was close to Rosh Hashana and I wanted to be back in New York for Yomtov, I was certain that there was nothing to fear: the Rebbe had said that I was traveling for "a day or two."

When I deplaned, a man approached me and introduced himself. "I am Mr. L., who wrote to the Rabbinate in Johannesburg," he said. "I assumed you would be arriving on this flight."

We got into his car and I gave him his kosher meat. He told me that he works in Madagascar as an agricultural expert for a French company. He also heard that an Israeli consulate was established here, but wasn't able to find anyone. "I know of no other Jew in this city beside myself." But I already knew that there was another Jew there whom Dr. Shaskes had met.

I explained to Mr. L. that he was actually on a mission to bring holiness to this place through the observance of mitzvot. He listened with suspense and joy and agreed to help me locate other Jews.

We went to the Israeli consulate. The place appeared full of life. The Consul had just returned from Israel, and the deputy-consul greeted us with joy. When we entered the building I noticed that the doors had no mezuzot. The Deputy-Consul said with regret that "the mezuzot did not arrive yet ." I took a mezuza from my briefcase and affixed it to the doorpost with a blessing.

The Deputy-Consul had discovered another three Jewish families there. We immediately arranged an event for all the Jews we had located at the home of one of the families.

I affixed a mezuza on the host's doorpost. They all stood around me excitedly. Two of the three families, both from Iraq, told me that they had been living on this island 11 years and throughout the entire period, never had any matzot for Passover.

We spoke about Jewish education for the children. Mr. L. told them that he knew how to read Hebrew and that he once learned Torah and Mishna. I suggested that he serve as a teacher of their children, and they agreed enthusiastically.

"We feared that our children would never know that they are Jews," they said emotionally. I again explained to Mr. L. that he had a mission. So, on an island where there were "no Jews," there suddenly appeared a tiny Jewish community with a little Jewish school and a teacher.

I prepared to fly back. I suggested that during Rosh Hashana they all meet together, and one of them blow the shofar that I left with them. I returned to the hotel where I noticed a person staring very intently at me. I smiled at him and then he came over. He spoke German and asked who I was. It turned out that he was Jewish. He knew the three Jewish families here, but he did not know that they were Jewish just as they did not know that he was Jewish. I told him about the arrangements that were made for Rosh Hashana. He was very excited and promised to attend.

The Jewish families, the Deputy-Consul, Mr. L. and the Jew I had met in the hotel, gathered on Rosh Hashana, prayed fervently, and heard the blowing of the shofar.

The Rebbe's office maintains a steady contact with Madagascar. There is someone who thinks about those distant Jews.


A Call To Action

Get Ready for Shavuot

The coming days must be used in preparation for "the season of the giving of our Torah."

In particular, based on the concept that our children are the "guarantors of the Torah," efforts should be made to bring all Jewish children, even those of a very young age, to shul on Shavuot to hear the reading of the Ten Commandments. Even though the children may not appreciate what they hear, their presence has an influence on the source of their souls.

(The Rebbe, 24 Iyar, 5750)

For a Shavuot Holiday Guide - Please write to: listserv@chabad.org and in the "Subject:" or "Body of Letter" type in the word "Shavuot".

The Rebbe Writes

THE JEWISH DIFFERENCE

25th of Iyar, 5712 [1952]

Rabbi S. Carlebach,

Recently you brought to my attention a letter addressed to you by ------, a student at Colgate University, Hamilton, New York. In this letter the writer professes to be a true scientific thinker and an unbeliever in the supernatural; he also asserts that all facts seem to be in contradiction to the existence of G-d, professes to be a "liberal Jew," etc., etc.

Not knowing the background of this student, nor the field of science in which he specializes, I cannot deal with the subject in detail, especially in the course of a letter.

There are, however, several general observations that I can make, which the said student has apparently overlooked, and which he would do well to consider carefully:

  1. Science does not come with foregone conclusions and beliefs with the idea of reconciling and adjusting facts to these beliefs. Rather the opposite, it deals with facts, then formulates opinions and conclusions. To approach a subject with one's mind made up beforehand is not true scientific thinking but a contradiction to it.

  2. Science requires that no conclusion can be valid before a thorough study and research was made on the subject. The question therefore presents itself: How much time and effort had the above-mentioned writer devoted to the study of religion to justify his conclusions on the subject?

  3. A fact is considered any event or phenomenon testified to by witnesses, especially where the evidence is identical and comes from witnesses of varied interests, education, social background, age, etc. Where there is such evidence, it is accepted as a fact which is undeniable even if it does not agree with a scientific theory. This is the accepted practice in science even where there are several reliable witnesses and certainly scores of them, hundreds and thousands.

The Divine Revelation at Mount Sinai was a fact witnessed by millions of people, all of whom reported it to its minutest detail, accurately, for the whole people of Israel stood at Mount Sinai and witnessed it.

We know that this is a fact because millions of Jews in our day accept it as such, because they received it as such from their own parents, and these millions in turn received the evidence from the previous generation, and so on, in an uninterrupted chain of transmitted evidence from millions to millions of witnesses, generation after generation, back to the original millions of witnesses who saw the event with their own eyes.

Among these original witnesses there were many who were initiated in the sciences of those days (viz. Egypt), many achievements of which are still baffling nowadays; among them were philosophers and thinkers, as well as ignorant and uneducated persons, women and children of all ages. Yet all of them reported the event and phenomena connected with it without contradiction to one another.

Such a fact is certainly indisputable. I do not believe that there is another fact which can match it for evidence and accuracy.

To deny such a fact is anything but scientific; it is the very opposite of science.

Parenthetically, it is unfortunate that this basic difference between the Jewish religion and those of others is so little known, for the Jewish religion is the only one that is not based on a single founder or a few, but is based on the Divine Revelation witnessed by all the people, numbering several millions.

This answers also ------'s statement that "the acceptance of the Torah as being the only truth is dangerous" since "its authors were only men... and as men they could not have been infallible."

Jews accept the Torah precisely because it was given by G-d, not by man, and it was given in the presence of millions of people who had seen it and heard it with their own eyes and ears. That is why the Torah is the absolute truth, for G-d is absolute.

I an enclosing an extra copy, should you wish to forward it to your correspondent.


What's New

THREE M'S

The final Women's Rosh Chodesh Gathering of the "spring semester" took place recently at New York University. Sponsored monthly by Chabad at NYU, this month's event was entitled "Mitzvot, Miracles and Moshiach" and featured an inspiring talk by Yocheved Lipsker of Morristown, New Jersey. For more info about events and classes sponsored by Chabad at NYU call (212) 998-4945.

L'CHAIM TEENS

"L'Chaim Teens" sponsored by Chabad Center of Northwest New Jersey, meets every Sunday at 7:00 p.m. at the Chabad Center in White Meadow Lake. Art projects, discussion groups and field trips, all in a down- to-earth Jewish atmosphere, are held for teenage girls. For more info call (201) 625-1525.


A Word from the Director

This Shabbat we bless the new month of Sivan. The theme of the month of Sivan is intertwined with the main festival of the month, Shavuot.

On the first day of Sivan the Children of Israel encamped in the wilderness of Sinai ready to receive the Torah. Concerning this the Torah states, "And Israel encamped there..." using the singular form of the verb "encamped" regarding which our Sages teach us that this means that the people were like one person with one heart.

Though many other times when the Jews made camp there was strife and contention, when they encamped to receive the Torah they were totally united.

Thus, it is clear that one of the pre-requisites for receiving the Torah -- and every year at this time we prepare to receive the Torah once again -- is to enhance and foster unity amongst the Jewish people.

The "easy way" to become more united with other Jews is to follow two essential teachings of our Sages: "Love your fellow as yourself; Judge every person favorably."

Where is the place to start? The place to start is with ourselves and our own families. This, of course, doesn't mean that we have to perfect these relationships before we can extend the teachings to others, but it is certainly the correct pl ace to start as "charity begins at home."

If we keep these fundamental teachings in mind we will certainly foster Jewish unity in our own little world which will ultimately impact on the entire world.


Thoughts that Count

He who learns from a colleague a single chapter, a single Torah law, a single verse, a single statement or even a single letter, must show him honor (Ethics of the Fathers, 6:3)

This teaching refers to a colleague whose conduct is not above reproach. When a person's own conduct is flawed, it is natural that despite the rational self-justifications that stem from self-love, he would recognize his own failings and humbly look down on himself.

One may not, however, view a colleague from whom he has learned Torah concepts in such a manner. For even when the other's conduct is unworthy he should be honored for the sake of the teachings he communicated.

(The Rebbe, Parshat Bamidbar 5738)

Rabbi Meir said: Whoever occupies (osek) himself with [the study of Torah] for its own sake merits many things (Ethics, 6:1)

The Hebrew word for "occupies" relates to the word for "businessman," "baal esek." A person's occupation with the study of Torah must resemble a businessman's preoccupation with his commercial enterprise. Just as his attention is never totally diverted from his business, so too should the Torah always be the focus of our attention.

(Likutei Sichot, Vol. XVII)

Whatever the Holy One, blessed be He, created in His world, He created only for His glory (Ethics, 6:11)

A heretic once came to Rabbi Akiva and demanded proof that G-d created the world. "Come back tomorrow," Rabbi Akiva told him. The next day, when the heretic returned, Rabbi Akiva asked him what he was wearing. "A garment," the man replied. "Who made it?" the Rabbi asked. "The tailor," was his answer. When Rabbi Akiva demanded proof, the heretic demanded, "How can you not know this?" Said Rabbi Akiva, "And what about you? How can you not know that G-d created the world?" Our Sages commented: "Just as a house indicates a builder, a garment indicates a tailor, and a door a carpenter, so too does the world tell of the Holy One that He created it."

(Midrash Tanchuma)


It Once Happened

The Jewish Ghetto of Prague was suddenly stricken by a terrible sickness, which spread throughout the homes of the ghetto. The young children lost their appetite, grew pale and weak, and suffered from high fever.

All the medicines known to the doctors in the ghetto did not help. The poor children suffered terribly, and a few of them passed away. Rabbi Loewe, the holy Rabbi of Prague, ordered a two day fast and continuous prayers to plead for help and forgiveness.

"No doubt, we have brought this disaster upon ourselves with our failure to fulfill His Divine commands to the best of our ability. Perhaps, if we pray from the bottom of our hearts, G-d will reveal to us the cause of this trouble, and t he means of curing our sick children. G-d always prepares the cure before He sends the illness."

All the Jewish men and women of Prague fasted and prayed. But nothing happened and no sign from heaven came to indicate that their prayers and fasting had been answered.

It was past midnight, and Rabbi Loewe's mind kept wandering back to the terrible tragedy that had befallen his own community, and for which there seemed no help in sight. It was a long, long time since he had made use of the "Golem" he had created and formed out of clay with the help of the Sacred Name. But now, as he kept pondering the serious situation that had already cost young lives, he finally decided to call on the Golem.

The Golem appeared and obediently awaited his master's command. Rabbi Loewe said to him: "A dreadful disease has struck our children, and no doctor has been able to help us. Go out among the creatures of the earth and ask as to who knows what cure there is."

With a heavy sigh, Rabbi Loewe returned to his prayers. If there was any cure, G-d would certainly reveal it to the Golem, who received his very life and power from the Divine Name. After what seemed like a long time, the obedient Golem reappeared before Rabbi Loewe.

"Have you brought me the cure?" the Rabbi asked anxiously. "I scoured the heavens and earth until I came to the spirit of heat which causes the fever of man to rise. When I asked him why he was creating all this sorrow for the people of our community, he replied; 'I have been ordered to do so by the angel of G-d. It is not up to me to question G-d's providence. But I advise you to check the mezuzot of the houses of the community. For, wherever the name of G-d protects the Jewish house properly, the children are safe.' "

"Why, I should have thought of that myself," Rabbi Loewe reproached himself. The Rabbi sent for all the members of the Rabbinical Court and told them: "Go quickly and see if there is anything wrong with the mezuzot of the stricken houses." They returned with their report: "We have found that the mezuzot of all these houses had been written by Rabbi Moshe Sofer, but strangely enough, there is a faded letter in the Divine Name in each of them!"

"Rabbi Moshe Sofer, of blessed memory, was the holiest man of our entire community. Why should his mezuzot have faded. There could only be one explanation. We must investigate whether there is any blame on the community concerning Reb Moshe, or his family, or his grave. Something must be at fault, or else his mezuzot would not have faded."

Early the next morning the Rabbi himself went to the home of Reb Moshe. It was quite obvious that utter poverty was the lot of its occupants. Everything needed repair. Rabbi Loewe pledged himself on the spot to make up for all this neglect of one of the community's most faithful and holy servants.

He knocked at the door, and a weak voice answered: "Who is there?"

After he had identified himself, Rabbi Loewe entered the dark, cold, bare room. In one corner, on a sack of straw sat the widow; on a sack in the other corner were two of the Sofer's three children. "Aren't you supposed to get a weekly pension from the community?" Rabbi Loewe asked the widow.

"I got the pension the first two months. Ever since then I have not received a penny. We are living from the little my oldest boy earns by collecting rags and selling them to the junk dealer."

Within a short while the family was provided with food, clothing and whatever else they needed. Then Rabbi Loewe called the members of the council together. It was found that the sexton who was supposed to deliver the pension to the widow had kept it for himself, knowing that the woman would not complain.

In the meantime, all the mezuzot were made kosher again, and the mysterious disease, which had ravished the children of the Prague ghetto, stopped as suddenly as it had come. No doctor knew how and why. But Rabbi Loewe knew. He made sure that the injustice to the widow and children was fully made good. He also ordered that all the mezuzot of all Jewish homes be checked regularly, at last once a year.


Moshiach Matters

A Jew who is steeped in "awaiting his coming every day" seeks the link of every mitzva and of every festival with the coming of Moshiach. For it is in the days of Moshiach that the true essence of every mitzva and of every festival will be fully revealed.

(The Rebbe, Miketz, 5751)


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