Tzedaka - Charity | Living with the Rebbe | A Slice of Life | A Call To Action
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It Once Happened | Moshiach Matters
"Lend a Hand! Donate your Cashback Bonus check to the Make-A-Wish Foundation," Discover card members were encouraged at the end of December.
"Your small change can bring hope to so many children. Our Change for Children appeal sponsors a different children's healthcare programme every few months.... Please help us to continue by placing your spare change (whatever currency) in this envelope and seal before handing to a member of the cabin crew," Virgin Atlantic invited their passengers.
"Please don't let your neighbors suffer through another cold winter... We need your help! With your generous contribution, we can continue to help our neighbors to stay warm. Please think of the children and the elderly," Heartshare Neighborhood Heating Fund suggested to Brooklyn Union Gas Customers.
Isn't it wonderful? Everywhere we turn, we are being solicited for charity!
There's no sarcasm intended here. It's truly heartwarming to see how big businesses have taken on the causes of those in need. And it's even more inspiring to see that they are facilitating our participation in these worthwhile endeavors. No longer do we need to rely on chance meetings with indigent beggars or receiving fundraising letters in the mail to give charity. Just by going about our day-to- day lives, we are being reminded of others who have less than us.
It's never been easier to give charity. Just place your spare change in an envelope, sign over that bonus check, or use the postage-paid envelope to help do your bit.
What is so important about charity--tzedaka--that we see the concept permeating our lives?
The significance of charity is not the money itself, but the energy that a person has invested in earning the money. For most of us, the money we donate has been acquired through performing a job.
Jobs come in all shapes and sizes. But even the most menial labor involves cerebral activity, albeit on a low level. And even the highest-calibre research involves physical action, though in a minor way.
So, a person's entire being is embodied in that money which he is now giving to charity; by giving charity we literally give of ourselves.
This concept it true even for one who is "born into" wealth or who wins millions in the lottery (it should be by all of us!). For, even if the money has not been acquired through expending our life force and energy, still and all the money could have been used for food or clothing, which are necessary for one's life. In this way, even a retired billionaire who plays golf all day is still giving of his life for charity.
It's not surprising, then, that charity is called "the mitzva" in the Talmud. And it's also not surprising that the Talmud teaches that "charity brings the Redemption nearer" and that "the Jews will only be redeemed because of charity."
In this week's Torah portion, Tetzaveh, the Torah speaks of the Sanctuary's golden altar. Last week's portion dealt with the altar of copper.
The Mishna explains that the altars cannot become ritually impure. According to one opinion, this is because the altars are like earth, which can never acquire ritual impurity. A second opinion holds that the altars cannot be defiled as they are only a covering for the earth they contain; the altars are of secondary importance to their essence, which is always pure.
In the allegorical sense, every Jew is a "Sanctuary" in which the Divine Presence dwells. And just as the physical Sanctuary was made up of various components and vessels, so too is the spiritual Sanctuary comprised of the Jew's "vessels": intellect, emotions and feelings, etc.
A Jew will sometimes have inappropriate thoughts, i.e., thoughts which are contrary to the will of G-d, in conflict with the Torah and its commandments. When that occurs, the "vessels" of the Jew's Sanctuary are defiled, and he must look for a way to purify them. The impure thought must be removed and "cleansed," and the "vessel" restored to its former status.
People fall into two main categories of economic standing: rich and poor. Rich people are likened to the Sanctuary's golden altar; poor people, to the copper altar. However, both rich and poor possess the same essential point, the Jewish spark that is always whole and wants to carry out G-d's will.
In the spiritual Sanctuary, the Jewish spark is equivalent to the altar. It is the truest and most essential part of the Jew's makeup, the part that can never become impure.
Thus, both "golden altars" and "copper altars," Jews who are rich and poor in the spiritual sense, are equal when they remember that they are "altars" -- when their Jewish spark is aroused and their desire to fulfill G-d's will is revealed.
The altar, the inner essence of the Jew, is always pure, like the earth that is trodden upon by all. When a Jew's entire being is nullified before G-d and his only aspiration is to do what G-d requires of him, he can never become impure. According to the second opinion of the Mishna, the altars do not acquire impurity because they are only a covering, of gold or of copper. A wealthy Jew may be so involved with his business that he fails to fulfill G-d's will. A poor Jew, because of his poverty, may also sometimes transgress. Yet in all Jews the essential spark is always pure. For wealth or poverty is only a covering superimposed over the Jew's essential nature. While the outer covering may become sullied, the inner essence remains untouched; for the Jew's true desire is to fulfill the will of G-d.
Adapted for Maayan Chai from Likutei Sichot, Vol. 3
Amigo... how about these?
by Dr. Dovid Lazerson
Our oldest son's Bar Mitzva was approaching and we were looking forward to it with excitement and enthusiasm. However, I must admit that we approached this event with some mixed feelings. My sister's son Benny, who had also just recently turned thirteen but had not celebrated his Bar Mitzva, was going to be coming to the Bar Mitzva together with all of our other nieces and nephews. Until now, we had always managed to provide a pair of tefillin for our nephews when they turned Bar Mitzva and we wanted to do the same for Benny.
My wife Gittel had gone into a local Judaica shop and found that the "bottom line" price was much more than we could scrape together. Gittel decided to order a velvet tefillin bag with Benny's name personalized on it (the custom-ordered embroidering takes six days) in the hope that somehow we would get tefillin for him.
The following Sunday, which was Chanuka eve, I headed to a neat shop on 7th Avenue in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn to pick up some last minute gifts for the family. To my surprise, the usually serene area was bustling. I couldn't find a parking spot, and since it was a bitter cold day, I kept circling around the block. Twenty minutes later I realized that I had no choice but to park several blocks away.
I parked the van and began running the four long blocks to the warm store. But as I jogged past the local school my eye caught sight of a small flea market. The place was filled with racks of sweaters and jackets. Five minutes, and a mere few bucks later, I was the proud owner and wearer of a thick, fleece lined, suede leather jacket.
As I turned to leave and take care of the real business at hand, a voice called out to me:
"Hey, Mister! Can you please come here a minute?"
I walked over to his area. He had tables laid out with old buttons, rusty knives, LP's from the 50's and 60's, an old Erector set.
"Maybe you can translate this for me?" he said, displaying a Hebrew plaque.
I guess he had noticed my beard and yarmulke.
It was a prayer for peace, from the prayerbook, and he was very grateful for the translation. I bought the plaque for a couple of bucks. Then, as I turned to walk away, he announced, "Wait a minute! I got more Jewish stuff too!"
I turned back as he reached into a box and pulled out a bulging velvet tefillin bag.
"This is special," he grinned, "no?"
"No," I said, shaking my head slowly back and forth, "nothing special about these things."
"Huh? I thought this is something important to you Jews!"
"Yeah," I said, feigning my disinterest, "we use them for praying. But every Jew's got these." I hoped that my indifference to the tefilin would help discourage this guy, or any of his friends, from "finding" tefilin in the future.
I began fingering through his old rock collection. "Howd'ya get these things anyhow?" I asked. "Nowhere special, you know what I'm saying?"
"Yeah. Well people now use much bigger ones. They ain't worth nothin'."
"How much you willing to pay for 'em?" he finally asked. "Why would I want to do that? I got my own already." He began biting his lower lip.
"Tell you what, amigo," he said. "They cost me five bucks. They're yours for five bucks. You have to pay at least what I did."
"Alright. I'll do you a favor."
A minute later I was finally in the store of my original intention. But I hardly noticed the merchandise or the warmth. I was too busy examining this amazing pair of five dollar tefilin! Unfortunately, there was no name or number inside the bag for me to identify the original owner.
They looked pretty new and in decent shape. Now the big question was, were these five dollar "flea market" tefilin kosher?
The next morning, with great anticipation, I dropped them off at a local scribe.
A few days later, on the day Benny arrived, we presented him with his very special tefilin and beautifully embroidered bag as his Bar Mitzva present. The tefilin were very kosher indeed. He said the blessings together with our Bar Mitzva boy, Aharon Moshe.
"Are these really my tefilin?" he asked, all wide-eyed. I thought of the tefilin bag that Gittel had ordered with great hope, of the lack of parking which caused me to park blocks from my intended store, of the flea market that just happened to be there on that Sunday, of the "amigo" who must have noticed my yarmulka and beard, of the tefilin he happened to have. I shook my head in amazement.
"Yeah," I said, "these tefilin are really meant for you!"
The biggest miracle came a few days later when my sister, Benny's mother, called from their home in the Berkshire Mountains.
"Benny stayed home from school today with a sore throat," she told us. "After some hot tea he asked for his tefilin and put them on. He looked up the blessings in a siddur you gave us a couple of years back."
Hashem [G-d] truly guides our footsteps. May he lead all of us on the happy path of Torah and mitzvot.
Light Shabbat Candles
Jewish women, and girls beginning at the age of three, should light candles on the eve of Shabbat and Yom Tov, as has been the custom of Jewish women since the times of our Matriarchs.
"Every Jewish daughter, as soon as she comes to the age of Jewish education [3 years of age], should light a candle each Sabbath and Yom Tov eve, and through the lighting of Shabbat candles we will merit the fulfillment of G-d's promise, 'If you will keep the lights of the Sabbath candles, I will show you the lights of Zion,' in the complete and true Redemption."
(The Rebbe, 5735-1975)
7th of Adar I, 5725 
To the participants in the Camp Emunah Reunion
Your Annual Reunion -- an important event at any time -- has added significance this year in that it is taking place in close proximity to Purim-Katan, which reminds us of the Miracle of Purim.
Two important highlights of the Miracle of Purim have a special connection with your gathering:
Firstly, according to the Sages of blessed memory, Haman's cruel decree was nullified in Heaven at the moment when Jewish children gathered around Mordechai, their hearts filled with love and devotion to G-d. So inspired were they by the saintly Mordechai that, together with him, they were prepared to give their very lives for G-d and for the Torah.
Secondly, the actual deliverance from the hands of their would-be murderers, and the complete change of their position from sadness to gladness, came about through the efforts of a woman--in whose honor the Megilla [scroll] is called after her name. Our Sages emphasized the important role of the Jewish women in the Miracle of Purim, saying--"the women, too, had a part in that miracle."
The above two highlights are combined and reflected also in your reunion of the madrichot [counselors] and the children.
Every one of the madrichot should consider herself -- as Esther did in her time -- as if the whole future of the Jewish people depended on her. And every one of the children should likewise remember that their deeply felt love and loyalty to G-d, His Torah and mitzvot has the power to destroy all evil plans of the enemies of our people. In this way you will fulfill the words of Megillat Esther:
And these days are remembered and kept in every generation, and every family, and every country and every city; and these days of Purim shall not depart from among the Jews, nor shall their remembrance perish from their children.
With blessing for your success spiritually and materially
Erev Shabbat Kodesh Bereshit, 5747 
Chaplain Brig. Gen. Drazin
Dept. of the Army
Office of the Chief of Chaplains
Washington, D.C. 20310
This is to acknowledge receipt of your letter of the 22nd of Oct.
Many thanks for the good news it contained, particularly about your talks and lectures on the Seven Noachide Commandments on a number of occasions, and that these were well received, even enthusiastically. I am certainly gratified that you in tend to continue doing so.
There is, of course, no need to emphasize to you the importance of promoting these Seven Noachide Commandments among gentiles. In our day and age, it does not require much imagination to realize that, by way of example, had these Divine Commandments been observed and adhered to by all the "Children of Noach," namely, the nations of the world, individually and collectively, there would not have been any possibility, in the natural order of things, for such a thing as a Holocaust.
I trust that you have your major speeches on tape, and that you would publicize them in a suitable publication that could serve as a source, as well as an inspiration, for others to disseminate these Seven Commandments.
In keeping with a good old Jewish custom, I take the liberty of making a reservation in regard to your statement, at the conclusion of your letter, to wit: "Although I am not a Chasid, I try to follow the ways of the Rambam," etc.. As I surely mentioned to you during our conversation, the dissemination of the Seven Noachide Laws among non- Jews, is clearly stated in the Rambam as a duty and obligation of Jews, wherever and whenever possible (Code, Hil. Melachim, chs. 9 and 10).
May Hashem grant that the declaration of our Sages, "He who has 100, desires 200," etc.. be fulfilled also in connection with your said activities, namely that you should continue using your good influence in a manner that would be doubly effective, and then doubly again, from "200 to 400" (and not merely by another increment of 100).
Wishing you again the utmost Hatzlacha [success] in all your good efforts, particularly in the above.
REMEMBERING THE FORGOTTEN
The Prison Department of the Lubavitch Youth Organization publishes a monthly newsletter entitled, Reaching Out.
This newsletter is sent free of charge to Jewish inmates in the Federal and State Penal systems in the United States and in Canada.
In addition, L.Y.O. receives numerous requests from Jewish inmates who would like to receive a free subscription to L'Chaim. If you would like to help sponsor a L'Chaim subscription for a Jewish inmate, send contributions to: L'Chaim Sponsor, 1408 President Street, Bklyn, NY 11213.
A recent letter from an inmate in Canada reads: "Could you please send me a free subscription of L'Chaim for this year? This will give me strength spiritually."
If you know of someone who would like to receive Reaching Out, please send his name and address to L.Y.O./Reaching Out, 305 Kingston Ave. Bklyn, NY 11213, or by e-mail to: email@example.com
Being that this year is a leap year, containing two months of Adar, the 14th day of the first Adar is known as Purim Kattan, the 'small' Purim.
Until our present fixed calendar was established, the Sanhedrin (highest rabbinical court) would decide whether the year would be a leap year. They very often postponed this decision until the last minute to see if the plants had begun to sprout and there was enough time for it to grow in order to bring the Omer, as well as if the roads were dry enough for those who were travelling to Jerusalem for Passover would otherwise be unable to arrive in time for the holiday, etc. After Moshiach comes, the Sanhedrin will again decide each year whether to add a second Adar.
Likewise, there is also a Shushan Purim Kattan, a 'small' Shushan Purim, on the 15th day of the first Adar. The Jews of Shushan, the capital city of Persia, fought their enemies on the 13th and 14th of Adar and celebrated on the 15th, unlike the Jews who dwelled in other regions of the Babylonian Empire, who fought only on the 13th and celebrated on the 14th.
In a talk by the Rebbe five years ago, the Rebbe explained the relevance of a Jewish holiday named for a city in the Diaspora. It is the task of every Jew to refine the material environment of the world, to transform the mundane into the holy. By naming the holiday Shushan Purim, we are transforming the Persian capital into something positive.
The lesson of Shushan Purim can be applied to the rest of the year. This task that we have been given, to elevate the physical into the spiritual realm, is a daily, hourly, constant assignment. Money, the truest symbol of materialism, is simply currency. But when money is given to charity, then it has been elevated to something holy.
Eating, a purely physical act, can be transformed into a spiritual act when one looks upon the act of consuming food as a means of refueling in order to have the energy to perform mitzvot.
We must continue with the task of elevating the physical to the spiritual until the ultimate fulfillment of that goal, the arrival of Moshiach.
Pure olive oil, pressed for the light (Exod. 27:20)
The first drop of oil pressed from an olive is the finest, and that was the oil used to light the menora in the Holy Temple. The remaining oil in the olive was used for meal offerings. This is the reverse of what is normally done.
Usually, one would use the best oil for cooking and the cheaper oil for lighting. The menora is a symbol of spirituality. It represents Torah and mitzvot. Unfortunately there are some who might plead poverty when they have to spend money for Torah or mitzvot, but spend lavishly on personal pleasures. We learn from this that for Torah and mitzvot one should spend money for the best and the purest, and for personal pleasure a Jew should practice restraint and learn to suffice with less.
And you shall command the Children of Israel (Exod. 27:20):
The name of Moshe is not mentioned in this Torah portion because Moshe died on the seventh day of the month of Adar, which usually falls during the week that this Torah portion is read.
Now you shall command (Exod. 27:20):
The word used for command, "tetzaveh," is related to the word "tzava'ah," which means "will." Just like a parent leaves a will and testament for his children, so too G-d is telling Moshe that there will be a time when he will not be with the Jewish people, and he should leave the following instructions for future generations.
They should take for you pure olive oil, pressed for the light, to kindle the lamp continually (Exod 27:20)
It seems unnecessary to add "to kindle the lamp continually." During the entire 830 years that the first and second Holy Temples were standing, the menora was lit every day. The phrase "to kindle the lamp continually" hints to the third Holy Temple, which will last forever.
Adapted from Vedibarta Bam by Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky
Rabbi Chanina bar Chama was one of the first generation of great Talmudic Sages who followed the redaction of the Mishna by Rabbi Yehuda Hanassi [Rabbi Judah the Prince]. By the time he came from his native Babylonia, to study under Rabbi Yehuda Hanassi, Rabbi Chanina was already a very accomplished scholar and was received with great warmth and friendship. He developed strong ties with his teacher and many of his fellow disciples, particularly with Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi.
During those turbulent and dangerous times, it was often necessary to send Jewish dignitaries to plead with the Roman government on behalf of the Jewish people. Rabbi Yehoshua and Rabbi Chanina were often chosen to appear before the Roman emperor. When one of the emperor's advisors asked him why he would rise in honor of these Jews, he replied, "They have the appearance of angels."
Rabbi Yehuda passed away and was succeeded by his son, Rabban Gamliel, who, according to his father's instructions, seated Rabbi Chanina in the place of greatest honor at the academy. However, Rabbi Chanina's tremendous modesty prevented him from taking that place. Only when the elderly sage, Rabbi Efes passed away did Rabbi Chanina occupy it.
According to the teaching of our Sages that we should not make the Torah "an ax with which to dig," Rabbi Chanina went into business dealing in honey. When he succeeded, he opened and supported a Torah academy in his town of Tzippori. He never ceased trying to bring the people closer to G-d and would often reprimand them; this, of course, caused some resentment.
Once, there was a severe drought in the northern part of Israel where Tzippori was situated. At the same time, in the southern part, where Rabbi Yehoshua lived, ample rain fell as soon as Rabbi Yehoshua prayed. The people of Tzippori complained, saying that the drought continued only because Rabbi Chanina didn't pray for them enough.
In response, Rabbi Chanina sent for Rabbi Yehoshua. When he arrived, a public fast was declared and prayers were said for rain. When no rain fell, the people finally understood that the fault was not Rabbi Chanina's, but their own, and they resolved to correct their behavior.
Rabbi Chanina was known as a gifted healer who was well-versed in the use of various kinds of herbs and also the antidotes to snake poisons. He frequently advised people to be careful not to catch colds and to take care of themselves and not neglect treating any disorder.
His Torah teachings and the example of his mitzva observance had a profound influence on his generation. He observed the Sabbath in a manner which showed his love and devotion to the mitzva and when the Shabbat departed he marked it with a Melave Malka -- a feast for the departing out the Sabbath Queen.
Although he lived through very difficult and trying times, he accepted all his suffering -- losing a son and a daughter -- with love of G-d and an abiding faith. He lived a long life and even when he was very old he was unusually fit. It is said that at the age of eighty, he was able to put on his shoes while standing on one foot. When asked to what he ascribed his good health, he replied that he was always careful to show respect to Torah scholars as well as for the elderly, even if they were not learned.
Before Rabbi Chanina passed away, Rabbi Yochanan, his disciple, (who compiled the Jerusalem Talmud) went to visit him. On the way, word reached him that his master had died and he tore his clothes in mourning. Rabbi Chanina was so loved and respected among the Jews of his time that he was given the honorary title, "Rabbi Chanina the Great."
Adapted from Talks and Tales
Our Sages teach: "Moshiach will come only when the mind is otherwise occupied."
In truth, this is the highest form of expecting Moshiach. We must await Moshiach regardless of our understanding of the benefit we will derive from his coming. We must cast aside all thought of material or spiritual gain, focusing on only one thing: With the coming of Moshiach, the Divine intent of creation -- that G-d will have an abode in this world -- will be fulfilled.