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L'Chaim
February 14, 1997 - 7 Adar I 5757

456: Terumah

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The Weekly Publication For Every Jewish Person
Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.


  455: Mishpatim457: Tetzaveh  

The Jewish People  |  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 Jewish People

People love to find grammatical and typographical errors in the printed word. It is with great glee that readers report to writers and editors of newspaper, magazine and various other printed media.

L'Chaim, of course, is no stranger to errors and its staff is used to readers approaching them by diverse means -- phone, mail (snail and electronic) and in person -- when a mistake is spotted.

And so, when a sharp-eyed and very educated reader questioned the grammatical accuracy of writing "the Jewish People has" (appearing on the front page of L'Chaim #452), we put on our super-sleuth hats. We discovered that it is, in fact, accurate to consider "Jewish People" as singular or plural; both are correct.

While English dictionaries unambiguously define "people" as a plural noun, English textbooks, such as New College Grammar, by Mason Long, categorizes it as a "collective noun," which is singular:

"Concrete nouns also contain a third class of nouns known as collective nouns. A collective noun denotes a collection of persons, places, or things, regarded as one. The objects which are thus collected into one term have some characteristics in common, enabling us to regard them as a group.... The most important question that arises with regard to a collective noun is whether the verb used with it should be singular or plural. It may be said that, strictly speaking, a collective noun is always singular, but that the verb, in some exceptional instances, and for special reasons, may be plural."

The exceptional instances and special reasons are when the group is revealing its diversity, such as when there are differences of opinion or disparate activities.

A basic teaching of Chasidic thought is that everything we see or hear is a lesson in our service of G-d.

Although one might consider the question of defining the term "Jewish people" as singular or plural seemingly trivial, there is actually a deep lesson we can learn from this discussion.

Judaism has always acknowledged that there are divisions amongst the Jewish people. When Moses addressed his last words to the Jewish people, he stated: "You are all standing before G-d, your L-rd -- your leaders, your tribal chiefs, your elders, your law enforcers, every Israelite...even your woodcutters and water drawers."

Moses was defintely speaking to a most diverse crowd. And yet, when that same Jewish people, years earlier, encamped at Mount Sinai, awaiting the Giving of the Torah, their encampment is referred to in the singular -- "he encamped." This means that they were totally united, "like one person with one heart," as the commentators explain.

Saying that the Jewish people is singular is not denying the fact that we have varied occupations, positions, opinions, physical qualities, emotional attributes, intellectual capabilities, etc.

When writing "the Jewish people have" we are acknowledging the differences amongst our people. These differences, however, do not have to cause disunity, dischord, devisiveness or discomfort. For, at the same time as we are plural, we are also singular, we are one, intrinsically and essentially united.

Although New College Grammar was published in 1935(!), the unity of the Jewish people is something that will never be outdated.


Living with the Rebbe

This week's Torah portion, Teruma, contains the commandment to fashion a menora for the Sanctuary. "And you shall make a menora of pure gold."

Maimonides, one of the greatest Torah scholars of all time, drew a detailed diagram of the menora which greatly helps us understand what it looked like. The diagram shows us the shape of the menora's branches, the location of its "flowers" and "bowls," and many other details.

Maimonides depicted the menora's bowls (which were actually tiny cups) in the shape of triangles. A cup is similar to a triangle as it is usually wider on the top and narrower on the bottom.

Surprisingly, however, Maimonides drew the bowls of the menora upside- down! All 22 of the bowls are depicted as inverted triangles, the wider part on the bottom and the narrower part at the top.

Thus, according to Maimonides' drawing, the bowls of the menora were designed as if to pour their contents out.

What does this teach us? Why were the bowls of the menora upside-down?

In truth, the bowls are symbolic of the function of the menora and, by extension, the Holy Temple.

A regular menora or candelabrum is designed to illuminate the inside of one's home. The menora in the Sanctuary, by contrast, was designed to illuminate the outside. Even without the menora the Temple was well lit. The reason it was kindled was to illuminate the world at large and demonstrate that G-d's Presence rested upon Israel.

The windows of the Holy Temple were fashioned according to the same principle. These unique windows were opaque from within yet transparent from without. Unlike other windows they did not draw light inside, but carried the light of the Holy Temple outward.

Similarly, a regular cup is designed to contain liquid. But the bowls of the menora were inverted, shaped like cups that pour their liquid out for those who are thirsty!

The true purpose of the Temple (and the menora) was to shine the light of holiness upon the entire world, not to contain it within its walls. Both its windows and the bowls of the menora expressed this concept, reflecting their primary function of imbuing the world with a holy illumination. For the Holy Temple is the place which lights up the entire world.

From this we learn an important lesson: The light of Torah and mitzvot must not be kept to ourselves. Rather, we must always strive to share it with others, thereby illuminating the world at large with holiness.

Adapted for Maayan Chai from Likutei Sichot vol. 21


A Slice of Life

Batsheva Oberlander
by Tzippy Robinson

Batsheva Oberlander, Italian-born and Brooklyn-educated, describes the enthusiastic response of the Hungarian Jewish community when she and her husband, Baruch, first arrived in Budapest in August, 1989.

"People were running to attend the classes we were offering because they had been denied even the basics of a Jewish education for so long." Thus, for the past seven years since its establishment, activities at the Chabad Center in Budapest have been aimed at quenching this thirst for knowledge.

Batsheva describes the marks that Nazism and Communism continue to leave on the Jewish community of Budapest: "People are still very paranoid, and they are afraid to admit publicly that they are Jewish. They will come up to my husband and say things like, 'I'm what you are,' or 'I'm the same as you.' They can't bring themselves to say, 'I'm Jewish.'"

Although Rabbi Oberlander is a native of Brooklyn, his parents are from Hungary. Thus, he arrived in Hungary with a command of Hungarian and an understanding of Hungarian customs. Having Hungarian-born parents also led to one touching incident.

A man arrived at the Chabad House and told Rabbi Oberlander his name. A minor amount of research disclosed that this man was actually Rabbi Oberlander's third cousin.

The Oberlanders are very active with university students, and Rabbi Oberlander teaches accredited courses at the Eotvos Lorand Tudomany Egyetem University on Jewish law ethics and Jewish business ethics. Another project they are working on is a Jewish Law Library which is being facilitated by a grant from Hungarian-born businessman George Soros.

"When I'm asked if our job is to make people Lubavitch," say Baruch, "I explain to them that our job is to make people more knowledgeable about their Judaism, to make them more aware of and involved in mitzvot, to make a positive connection to Judaism. Unfortunately for some people here, the only connection to Judaism is because of the neighbor who keeps on saying, 'Zsido, zsido -- Jew, Jew.' So I tell them, 'Why do you have to be Jewish because of your neighbor? Be Jewish because of yourself!' "

"We want to make sure to reach both the general public and each individual," Batsheva explains, "because one will lead to the other." Toward this goal, they publish two magazines, a weekly called Good Shabbos (Batsheva describes it as "something like L'Chaim"), and another published every other month called Egyseg, which means "unity."

Good Shabbos has a basic format that includes Jewish laws and customs, the weekly Torah portion, and stories. Egyseg deals with one specific topic each issue, such as tefilin or an upcoming holiday, and discusses various customs and stories about that topic. It also includes a chapter of the Tanya (the magnum opus of the first Chabad Rebbe) translated into Hungarian.

In order to make Judaism more accessible to the Hungarian population, the Oberlanders also devote much time and energy to printing translations of basic Jewish books. Batsheva explains the need to do this, saying, "People wanted to learn, to know, and there were no books to refer them to. We printed a Hungarian translation of the siddur (prayerbook), and it literally became a bestseller. When it appeared on bookstore shelves, people just grabbed it. People are learning how to pray from it, like a text book."

The siddur includes information on what to do during the various prayers so that people will feel more comfortable about attending services.

To date, 5,000 copies of the siddur have been sold. Chabad of Hungary recently printed a Hungarian translation of the Torah. Next, they plan to print Hungarian translations of the Machzor (Rosh Hashana/Yom Kippur prayerbook) and Passover Hagada.

Batsheva runs the fledgling school, which is in its second year. There are two kindergarten classes and plans are underway to start a first grade next year. The curriculum includes Judaic Studies (taught in English at the parents' requests) as well as the standard Hungarian curriculum. The school provides nourishment for the body as well as the soul, with hot kosher lunches. It is interesting to note that the building used for the school once housed a Communist military kindergarten, and it was considered a top-secret facility (like anything else involving the Communist military) to the point that those living nearby had never been inside. One can imagine the curiosity it aroused when Chabad reopened the building for their school. Educating the children will hopefully stem the growing problem in Hungary of intermarriage.

The neighborhood where the Oberlanders live used to be the Jewish ghetto. People often tell them their memories of living in the area during the war. There are many shuls, evidence of the thriving Jewish community before the war, but those that once had thousands of congregants are now lucky to make the prayer-quorum minimum of ten.

Rabbi Oberlander became the rabbi of one of the remaining shuls, called Chevra Shas, that had a small, aging congregation and built up the regular Shabbat minyan.

Baruch and Batsheva Oberlander's success in reaching out to the Jews of Hungary is a living testimony to the strength of the Jewish people and the endurance of the Torah. The Nazis were defeated and Communism fell, but the Jewish community in Hungary is alive and growing stronger every day.


A Call To Action

Sing & Pray

Which prayers do you remember best from Sunday school or Hebrew School? Probably the ones that you learned with tunes.

"Song is a medium of ascent and also a medium for revelation... Our prayers, which are referred to as 'song,' should be accompanied by singing."

(The Rebbe, 11 Shevat, 5752)

If you pray regularly, try singing some of your prayers. If you aren't in the habit of praying regularly, start today with the Shema or another simple prayer. For a very simple, beginner's prayer book (with transliterated text) send $1 to: My First Siddur, c/o NCFJE, 824 Eastern Pkwy, Bklyn, NY 11213


The Rebbe Writes

Erev Rosh Chodesh Adar 1, 5733 [1973]

It has been often noted that the time element in any event of Jewish life, especially one connected with Torah and Chinuch [Jewish education], has a special relevance and message. This rule also applies to the fact that we are in a leap year, containing two months of Adar.

The underlying reason for periodic "leap years" in our Jewish calendar is that our calendar is determined by the lunar year, which is about 11 days shorter than the solar year. But inasmuch as the Torah requires us to observe our festivals in their due season -- Pesach [Passover] in the spring, Succot in the autumn, etc.-- a periodic adjustment is necessary to make up the deficiency between the lunar and solar years.

Herein also lies an important lesson. For not only does the extra month fully make up the deficiency, but it usually provides also an advance "on account" of the following year.

The lesson is two-fold: A person must, from time to time, take stock of his accomplishments in the past, with a view to ascertain what he has omitted to do. The first principle to remember is, therefore, that it is never too late to make good past deficiencies. Secondly, it is not enough to make up a deficiency; it is also necessary to make an extra effort as an advance on account of the future, and continue from strength to strength.

If this is true in all human affairs, how much more so in matters of Torah and mitzvot and, especially, in the area of Chinuch -- the vital link in the preservation of our eternal Torah and heritage and the continuity of our people.

Moreover, in the present day and age it is quite obvious that Torah- true Chinuch is the only way to ensure that our children, boys and girls, will remain ours, and that they will grow up and flourish like the proverbial tree planted by water, with deep strong roots that can withstand all wind and storms, and will not fail to bear good fruits and the fruits of fruits to all generations to come.

In the spirit of the above, may each and all of us take a "leap" in our advancement of Torah and mitzvot as well as in our endeavors to strengthen true Yiddishkeit [Judaism] in general, and Torah-true Chinuch in particular, to the fullest extent of our capacity to meet the challenge of our present critical times.

With blessings for hatzlacha [success] and good tidings


10th of Adar 1, 5733 [1973]

Rabbi Hodakov has conveyed to me your telephone messages, and I will again remember you in prayer for the fulfillment of your heart's desires for good in all the matter which you mentioned over the telephone.

May G-d grant that you should have good news to report, especially now as we are in the auspicious month of Adar. Which also reminds us that we are in a leap year, with an added month to make up for the deficiency between the lunar year, on which our Hebrew calendar is based, and the solar year, which determines the four seasons, since our festivals must occur in their due season. This is also a meaningful lesson that a Jew can, and must always strive to, make up for any past deficiencies.

It is also significant that the added month is the one of Adar, which is a month of increased joy for Jews since that first Purim, when, as Megilat Esther [the book of Esther] tells us, "for the Jews there was light, joy, gladness, and honor."

These words, by the way, are included in the Havdala [the prayer at the end of Shabbat] which we make at the beginning of each week, to which are immediately added the words, "so be it for us." May G-d grant that it should be so also for you and yours in the midst of all our people.


What's New

NEW CENTER IN PARANA, PERU

Two months ago, the Chabad-Lubavitch Center in Parana opened its doors to serve the local Jewish community of 2,000 people. The first project of Rabbi Moshe and Batya Blumenfeld upon their arrival in Parana was to open a mini-camp for children during the summer vacation in December and January. The Parana Lubavitch center brings to 41 the number of Chabad-Lubavitch institutions serving Argentina's quarter of a million Jews.

CHABAD IN CENTRAL AFRICA

Rabbi Shlomo and Miryam Bentolila, the Rebbe's emissaries in Zaire since 1991, organized the Kinshasa Jewish community to send food packages to the Rwandan refugees when the refugees began returning home recently. The Bentolilas, though headquartered in Kinshasa, extend their outreach efforts to all of central Africa.


A Word from the Director

This Friday, the seventh of Adar, is the birthday and yahrzeit of Moshe Rabbeinu (Moses).

Jewish teachings (Shmot Rabba) state that "Moshe is the first redeemer and he is also the final redeemer." This does not mean that Moshe himself will be the "final redeemer." For, Moshe belongs to the tribe of Levi, while Moshiach is from the tribe of Judah.

However, many traditional sources view the redemption from Egypt as the prototype of the Final Redemption, based on the verse in our Prophets: "As in the days of your exodus from the land of Egypt, I will show you wonders."

In this way, Moshe -- who was the leader of the Jewish people in his generation -- is the prototype of every Jewish leader and ultimately, of Moshiach.

Thus, for example, in Egypt, first G-d appointed the redeemer -- Moshe. He spoke to the Children of Israel, telling them that G-d had remembered them and that the time had come for them to leave Egypt. Only afterward did Moshe redeem the Children of Israel and take them out of Egypt. Similarly, first Moshiach informs us that the time of the Redemption has arrived, and only afterward does the actual Redemption take place. (Sfat Emet)

In one of his Kabbalistic works, Rabbi Chaim Vital describes Moshiach as a Tzadik, a human being born of human parents, and writes that he will receive the soul of Moshiach that has been stored in the Garden of Eden. Rabbi Chaim Vital then explains how this may be compared to Moshe and his progression to self-perfection.

The Chasam Sofer, as well, describes Moshe, the first redeemer, and then compares him to the final redeemer, "And when the time comes, G-d will reveal Himself to him, and the spirit of Moshiach, which has been hidden in the higher worlds until his coming, will light upon him.

May we merit Moshiach's coming NOW!


Thoughts that Count

Let them take for Me an offering (Exod. 25:2)

Would it not be more correct to say, "They should give an offering"? When a Jew gives charity, he is not only giving, but he is also receiving merit for the mitzva, through which he will get back from G-d ten times more than he gave. Thus, by giving for the Tabernacle, the Jews were "taking" from G-d much more than they gave.

(Efriyon)

They shall make an Ark 2 1/2 cubits in length, 1 1/2 cubits in width, and 1 1/2 cubits in height (Exod. 25:10)

All of the measurements of the Ark included fractions. The Ark, which contained in it the Tablets, represents Torah study. The measurements teach us that people who learn Torah must always bear in mind that regardless of how much they learn, they do not master it all. The extent of their knowledge is only a fraction of the vast teachings and depth of the Torah.

(Klei Yakar)

And you shall make the boards for the Tabernacle (Exod. 26:15):

The boards for the Tabernacle were made of acacia wood from trees which Yaakov had planted in Egypt. He told his children to take the wood with them when they left Egypt. Though the wood was over 200 years old, the Jews didn't send for fresher wood from a nearby country. This teaches us on what the true foundation of a Jewish home ought to be based.

When each new generation sets up their homes, they often think they have to update and modernize their ideals. By mentioning the wood that Yaakov had planted so long ago, the Torah is telling us that a Jewish home should be based on the tradition and heritage of our ancestors.

(Targum Yonatan ben Uziel)

You shall make a table of acacia wood two cubits long, one cubit wide, and one cubit and a half in height. (Exod. 25:23)

Inviting guests and feeding the needy are both great mitzvot, but very often people overspend on lavish table expenses in order to make a good impression. They may do this at the expense of giving charity or paying tuition. The Torah teaches us that the "width" (expansiveness) should not exceed one's material "height."

(From Our Ancient Treasures)

Adapted from Vedibarta Bam by Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky


It Once Happened

The story of Moses taking the Children of Israel out of the land of Egypt is well-known, but long before he emerged as the redeemer of the Jewish people, his life was full of wonders and miracles.

Times were bitter for the Jews. Their favored status as Joseph's people had long ago been replaced by the degradation of a harsh and cruel slavery. Pharaoh's star-gazers had foreseen the birth of a baby boy who would one day lead the Jewishs laves to freedom, but would die because of water. Pharoah would forestall that possibility by ordering the death by drowning of every boy born to the Jews. He would make sure the Jews would never leave Egypt.

Jewish women refused to despair. They beautified themselves and went out to the fields where their husbands labored in the burning sun. "Do not despair, do not give up hope," they would tell their husbands. "G-d will not forget us forever." They gave birth in secret, hiding the babies as long as possible. Yocheved and Miriam, popular midwives, were commanded to kill the babies, but what could they do, they dissembled, "The Jewish women give birth quickly, before we can even get to them.

Soon, it was Yocheved's turn to hide her precious little boy. For a few months she succeeded, but she knew the attempt was futile. The Egyptians had spies everywhere. When there was the slightest suspicion, they would bring an Egyptian baby into the Jewish house and pinch it to make it cry. It was impossible to quiet the Jewish baby who would wail in response. Then the soldiers would seize the child from his helpless parents and toss him into the Nile.

Yocheved had an idea. In a desperate attempt to save her son's life, she set him afloat in a little reed basket, which she lovingly prepared to withstand the waters of the Nile.

"Go and watch your brother, and see what will happen to him," she instructed Miriam. Obediently, she stood on the banks of the Nile where she watched her beloved brother's fate unfold.

Batya, Pharaoh's daughter, had just come down to the river to bathe and, startled by a baby's cry coming from the direction of some reeds, she sent her servant girl to fetch the semi-hidden basket.

When she opened it, a bright light emanated from the child's face and he peered at her with a mature intelligence. She knew it must be a Hebrew child, but she couldn't bear the thought of this beautiful boy being killed.

"Go, bring me a wet-nurse," she commanded, but when the Egyptian woman arrived, the starving baby refused to drink. At that point Miriam saw her chance. "If you wish, I will bring a nurse from the Hebrew women," she offered, and without a moment's pause, Batya agreed.

And so, G-d's plan unfolded in unexpected ways. Yocheved was not only able to bring up her beloved child in her own home, but she had the explicit permission of Pharaoh's daughter -- she was even paid for her "services."

Moses was a beautiful child -- radiant, intelligent, the favored child on whom the princess lavished her love and attention. One day, the young child was brought to a royal banquet -- the first time he witnessed such a gala event. Everyone assembled sparkled in all their finery. Suddenly, baby Moses reached out his little hand and seized, of all things, the king's golden crown. And what's more, he set the glittering symbol of kingship on his own tiny head!

The shocked gasps were audible throughout the great hall. The king's advisors saw that this act boded ill for the monarchy. "Put the child to death before he grows up and seizes your throne!" they said. But then one other voice was heard, that of Jethro, the Priest of Midian, a highly respected sage and great magician.

"Your majesty, it is a known fact that every child will reach out for a glittering object. Why should you assume that this child is intelligent enough to discern the great meaning of your majesty's crown. Why should you take away your daughter's beloved child if this is just a childish whim? I suggest that you put him to the test: Put before him a piece of burning coal and your crown. See which he will grab. If he reaches for the coal, which is shinier than the golden crown, you will know he has no understanding of his actions."

Jethro's advice seemed sensible enough, and a burning coal was brought and put in from of the child. Moses, however, was not a child like all others; he knowingly extended his hand toward the crown. Suddenly his hand moved, pushed by an angel, and he seized the coal and put it into his mouth. He screamed in pain, and Batya's heart jumped -- Moses was hurt, but he would live. The proof was incontrovertible, the child simply liked glittering objects.

Moses, the great redeemer of the Jewish people, was raised in the king's palace, tutored in the ways of royalty and even bounced on his would-be murderer's own knee, until the time arrived for him to begin his mission.


Moshiach Matters

The Tzemach Tzedek, Rabbi Menachem Mendel (the third Chabad Rebbe), once said that Moshiach will delight in the company of unscholarly, self-sacrificing Jews. A unique chamber will be set aside for them, and they will be envied by the greatest intellectuals.


  455: Mishpatim457: Tetzaveh  
   
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