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This Shabbat marks the beginning of the month of March...
Hey, wait a minute. In a Jewish publication, shouldn't we reserve our discussions for Jewish months and not "secular" months?
A famous teachings of the Baal Shem Tov is that from everything a person sees or hears -- whether in the realm of holiness or the seemingly secular -- we can learn a lesson in his G-dly service. So, what can we learn from March?
Most of us know the saying, "March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb." And the juxtaposition of the lion and the lamb brings to mind a time of world-peace. So powerful is this image of lion and lamb connoting world-peace that a grass-roots group of parents who promote non-violent toys for children call themselves the Lion and the Lamb.
In truth, when our prophets speak of the ultimate world peace in the Messianic Era, they state, "The wolf will dwell with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the kid..." The prophet continues, "...And the lion will eat straw as the ox."
One might ask, "Is this allegorical, or will animals that were previously adversaries actually co-exist peacefully?" That's a good question! (Every sincere question is a good question, actually.)
According to the opinions of many of our great Sages, these prophecies should be taken literally. Nachmanides documents this stand profusely, although he maintains that their fulfillment will not necessitate great changes in Creation because, "Initially when the world was created, prior to the sin of Adam, animals were not predatory. Only after Adam's sin did their natures change..."
Similarly, Radak declares that animals were not originally predators, as G-d created only one male and one female of each species. If either one would have been killed, the species would have become extinct.
However, there are other great thinkers whose opinions differ. No less a giant than Maimonides declares: "Do not presume that in the days of Moshiach the nature of the world will change, or there will be innovations in the work of Creation. Rather, the world will continue according to its pattern."
How are we to understand Maimonides' words, knowing that he established as one of the 13 principles of Judaism the belief in the resurrection of the dead, an act that is certainly a change in the nature of the world?
The Rebbe explains that there are two stages to the Messianic Era. In the first stage, "the coming of Moshiach," everything will go according to its natural pattern. In the second stage, the actual Redemption, we will experience supernatural and miraculous occurrences.
However, it is possible, according to the Rebbe, that we could by-pass the first stage and go straight to the miracles--if we are meritorious.
Differing opinions aside, whichever way it's going to happen, let it just happen already!
This week's Torah portion, Tissa, relates that G-d gave Moshe the Tablets of the Law as soon as He finished teaching him the Torah -- on the fortieth day after Moshe ascended Mount Sinai. The purpose of teaching the Torah to Moshe was that he, in turn, would impart it to the Jewish people; the Tablets were likewise to be given to the Jewish people.
What were the Jews doing while Moshe was on Mount Sinai? As we learn in this weeks portion, on the thirty-ninth day of Moshe's absence the Jewish people made the Golden Calf, a very serious sin.
Thus we see that despite their sin, G-d continued to learn Torah with Moshe so he could teach it to the Jews. G-d gave Moshe the Tablets after they had made the Golden Calf.
From this we derive a very important lesson about how to relate to other people.
G-d did not stop teaching Moshe when the Jews transgressed. On the contrary, He continued learning with him until the entire Torah had been taught, and even gave him the Tablets of the Law.
We too must emulate G-d's actions. If we want to have a positive influence over another person, that they strengthen their observance of Torah and its commandments, the other person's spiritual standing is irrelevant. It is forbidden to stop teaching someone Torah or cease trying to bring him closer to Judaism even if he continues to sin, G-d forbid. On the contrary, we must try even harder to exert a positive influence. And when we do, both the "giver" and the "taker" will surely benefit. Indeed, G-d acted in the same manner even when it came to the destruction of the Holy Temple.
The Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed because of the sins of the Jewish people. And yet, the Jewish people were sinning for a long time before it was actually destroyed. Despite their transgressions, G-d refrained from taking this drastic step for many years.
Why? G-d wanted the Holy Temple to continue to exist for as long as possible. Although the Jews were sinning, He gave them ample opportunity to repent and prevent the destruction from occurring.
We too must always help our fellow Jew to preserve the spiritual Temple in his heart. We must never withhold spiritual aid and assistance. Even if the other person does not conduct themselves properly and sins, we must always continue to fortify their spiritual Sanctuary. In this manner we will merit the building of both the spiritual Sanctuary that exists within every Jew, as well as the Third Holy Temple by Moshiach, speedily in our day.
Adapted for Maayan Chai from Likutei Sichot, Vol. 11
The Train Ride
by Paul Deutschman
There are two different explanations of what happened as a result of a subway ride taken by Hungarian born Marcel Sternberger on the afternoon of January 10, 1948.
Some people will say that Sternberger's sudden impulse to visit a sick friend in Brooklyn and the dramatic events that followed were part of a string of lucky coincidences. Others will see the guiding hand of Divine Providence on that day.
Here are the facts:
Sternberger, a New York portrait photographer living in a Long Island suburb, has followed for years an unchanging routine in going from his home to his office on Fifth Avenue. A methodical man of nearly 50, with bushy white hair, guileless brown eyes and bouncing enthusiasm, Sternberger always takes the 9:09 train to the city.
On the morning of January 10, he boarded the 9:09 as usual. En route he suddenly decided to visit a friend who lived in Brooklyn and who was ill.
"I don't know why I decided to go to see him that morning," Sternberger told me.
Sternberger went to his friend's house and stayed until mid-afternoon. He then boarded a Manhattan-bound subway for his office.
"Just as I entered the car," Sternberger told me, "a man sitting by the door suddenly jumped up to leave and I slipped into the empty place.
"The passenger on my left was reading a Hungarian-language newspaper and something prompted me to say in Hungarian, 'I hope you don't mind if I glance at your paper.'
"The man seemed surprised to be addressed in his native language, but he answered politely, 'You may read it now. I'll have time later on.'
"During the half-hour ride to town we had quite a conversation. He said his name was Paskin. A law student when the war started, he had been put into a labor battalion and sent to the Ukraine. Later he was captured by the Russians and put to work burying the German dead. After the war he had covered hundreds of miles on foot, until he reached his home in Debrecen, a city in eastern Hungary.
"When he went to the apartment once occupied by his family, he found strangers there. He went upstairs to the apartment he and his wife had once had. No one had ever heard of his family.
"As he was leaving, the son of some old neighbors, ran after him. Paskin went to their home. 'Your whole family is dead,' they told him. 'The Nazis took them and your wife to Auschwitz.'
"A few days later, he set out again, stealing across border after border until he reached Paris. He had managed to emigrate to the United States in October 1947, three months before I met him.
"His story seemed familiar. A young woman whom I had met had also been from Debrecen: she had been sent to Auschwitz; from there she had been transferred to work in a German factory. Her relatives had been killed in the gas chambers. Later, she was liberated by the Americans and was brought here in the first boatload of displaced persons in 1946. I had taken her address and phone number, intending to invite her to meet my family and thus help relieve the emptiness in her life.
"It seemed impossible that there could be any connection between these two people, but when I reached my station I stayed on the train and asked, 'Is your first name Bela?'
"He turned pale. 'Yes!' he answered. "I fumbled anxiously in my address book. 'Was your wife's name Marya?'
"He looked as if he were about to faint. 'Yes! Yes!' he said.
"I said, 'Let's get off the train.' I led him to a phone booth. He stood there like a man in a trance while I searched for the number. It seemed hours before I had Marya Paskin on the other end.
"I told her who I was and asked her to describe her husband. She seemed surprised at the question but gave me a description. Then I asked her where she had lived in Debrecen and she told me.
"I turned to Paskin and said, 'Did you and your wife live on such-and- such a street?'
"'Yes!' Bela exclaimed, white as a sheet. "'Try to be calm,' I urged him, 'and talk to your wife!'
"He nodded his head, his eyes bright with tears. He took the receiver, listened a moment, then suddenly cried, 'This is Bela! This is Bela!' and began to mumble hysterically. Seeing that he was so excited, he couldn't talk coherently, I took the receiver from his shaking hands. I began talking to Marya, who also sounded hysterical. 'Stay where you are,' I told her. 'I am sending your husband.'
"Putting Paskin into a cab, I told the driver Marya's address, paid the fare and said goodbye."
Bela Paskin's reunion with his wife was a moment so poignant, that afterward neither he nor Marya could recall anything about it.
"I remember only that when I left the phone I went to the mirror to see if my hair had turned gray," she said later. "The next thing I know, a taxi stops in front of the house and it is my husband. I was happy for the first time in many years .
"Even now it is difficult to believe. We have both suffered so much. Each time my husband goes from the house I say to myself, 'Will anything happen to take him away from me again?'"
Her husband is confident that no overwhelming misfortune will befall them. "Providence has brought us together," he says. "It was meant to be."
Skeptical persons will no doubt attribute the events of that memorable afternoon to mere chance. But was it chance that made Sternberger suddenly decide to visit his friend, and hence take a subway line that he had never been on before? Was it chance that caused the man sitting by the door of the car to rush out just as Sternberger came in? Was it chance that caused Bela Paskin to be sitting beside Sternberger, reading a Hungarian newspaper?
Was it chance -- or did G-d ride the subway that afternoon?
Reprinted from Reader's Digest, 1949
To help establish a Jewish home as a charitable home, one in which its inhabitants are imbued with kindness and compassion, one should make charity "built-in." This can be done by affixing a charity box (pushka) to a wall of the home, preferably the kitchen, and putting tzedaka into it regularly.
The Rebbe explained, "The charity box should be affixed to the wall or cabinet of the kitchen. In this way, the pushka literally becomes a structural part of the home, making the act of kindness a foundation of the home. The pushka should be highly visible so that when friends and neighbors visit, they will notice it and perhaps adopt this practice as well. It is appropriate that the contents of the pushka be used to provide meals for poor people or to be donated to any needy institution.
10th of Nissan, 5741 
To all the Participants in the International Symposium on Jewish Mysticism Sponsored by the Lubavitch Foundation London, England
I was pleased to be informed of the upcoming Symposium on Jewish Mysticism, and extend prayerful wishes for its success. And success, or rather hatzlacha in its true Jewish concept, is rooted in the Torah, which insists on the primacy of action -- "the essential thing is the deed."
Mysticism, in general, has a variety of connotations, but Jewish mysticism must necessarily be defined in terms of specific topics that have to do with the nistar [hidden] of Torah -- one of the two primary facets of the Torah: nigleh and nistar, the revealed and the hidden.
Needless to say, there can be no dichotomy between the two, because it is One Torah, given by One G-d, to the "one people on earth."
According to the Baal Shemtov's interpretation, the words "one people on earth allude to the mystic nature of the Jewish soul that is endowed with the capacity to reveal the oneness in the multiplicity of earthly things.
Jewish mysticism teaches that the purpose of the soul's descent to earth is to reveal the harmony that is inherent in the created world, beginning with the small world, namely, man -- a creature of nigleh and nistar, of a body and soul. Inner personal peace and harmony can be achieved only through the supremacy of the soul over the body, since in the nature and scheme of things, the body can be made to submit to the soul -- willingly, and in the case of the true mystic even eagerly; but never vice versa.
Jewish mysticism helps to realize the said purpose of the soul by teaching it how to recognize the spirituality of matter, and that in every physical thing, even in the inanimate, there is a "soul," which is the creative force which has created it -- a being out of non- being -- and continuously keeps it from reverting back to its former state of non-existence.
It is this "spark" of G-dliness that is the true essence and reality of all things, and this spark is released and revealed when physical matter is used for a sublime purpose or deed in accordance with the Will of the Creator, as, for example, in the performance of a mitzva (tefilin made of leather, etc.).
One of the aspects of Chabad is to reveal and expound the esoteric aspects of the Torah and mitzvot so that they can be comprehended by the three intellectual faculties -- chochma, bina, daat [wisdom, understanding, knowledge], and reduced to rational categories, down to the actual performance of the mitzvot, showing how, in the final analysis, G-d can be "comprehended" better by action (the performance of mitzvot) than by meditation, which is one of the cardinal differences between Jewish and non-Jewish mysticism.
As we are about to celebrate Pesach [Passover], the Festival of our Freedom, we are reminded that yetziat mitzrayim [the exodus from Egypt] (in the sense of metzarim, constraints) is a continuous process of Jewish living, gaining an evergrowing measure of true freedom through the everyday experience of Torah and mitzvot with emphasis on actual deed.
Bound volumes of L'Chaim from the eighth year are still available, as well as from the seventh year. We are in the process of binding our ninth volume and it will be ready soon. To purchase bound volumes of the seventh or eighth years send your name and address along with $28 per book ($25 plus $3 shipping), made payable to Lubavitch Youth Organization to: L'Chaim Books, 1408 President Street, Bklyn, NY 11213. L'Chaim books make great gifts! To have a copy sent to a friend as a gift, include your own greeting card or the text of your greeting, together with the receipient's address and your check. For shipping fees outside of the U.S. call (718) 778-6000 or you can e-mail us at: (firstname.lastname@example.org).
16th ANNUAL AWARDS DINNER
Congregation Levi Yitzchok-Lubavitch will hold its 16th annual dinner and Chabad of South Broward Award Ceremony on Sunday evening March 9, 1997 at the Terrace Oceanside Ballroom in Hallandale Florida. Cocktails at the dinner will begin at 5:00pm with the reception at 6:00pm. Dinner donation is $90.00 per person. Rabbi Yosef Y. Kazen, Director of Activities of Chabad-Lubavitch in Cyberspace will be the guest speaker. For reservations and information contact Chabad of South Broward County - Congregation Levi Yitzchok at: 954-458-1877.
PURIM HOLIDAY GUIDE
You can receive your Purim Holiday Guide via e-mail (email@example.com) and request G-1 or by regular mail, by writing to Chabad-Lubavitch - 770 Eastern Parkway - Brooklyn, NY 11213 - and asking to put on their mailing list.
On the 16th day of the month of Adar, the Previous Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, became a citizen of the United States in the year 5709 (1949).
In a move indicating the government's tremendous respect, the Previous Rebbe was not required to for to the government offices to receive his citizenship. Rather, citizenship was conferred upon him in his offices at 770 Eastern Parkway, World Lubavitch Headquarters since his arrival in the United States in 1940.
After greeting the delegation from the government, the Rebbe said: "In connection with what is taking place today, the Midrash states that after Abraham was commanded to 'Go out from your land, the place of your birth, from your father's house, to the land I will show you,' and he came to Aram Naharayim, 'he saw the people there eating and drinking and he said: I hope I don't have a portion in this land.' When Abraham reached the border of Tzur he saw the people involved with weeding and hoeing and he said, 'O that my portion should be in this land!' G-d then said to him, 'To your children I will give this land.'
"Similarly, after all my journeys and travels from place to place and from country to country, by Divine Providence I have now found the rightful place from whence the dissemination of Judaism and the spreading forth of the wellsprings of Torah will be directed -- here in America."
After he finished speaking, the Previous Rebbe signed the official papers and parted from the delegation with a broad smile.
However My Sabbaths you must observe (31:13)
Shabbat is expressed in plural, because according to the Talmud, two angels accompany a person on his way home from the synagogue on Friday night. One angel is good, and the other is evil. When the angels enter the house and find a home filled with the Shabbat atmosphere and a table set with Shabbat candles and challah, the good angel blesses the family that they should merit the same spiritual atmosphere the next Shabbat. Reluctantly, the evil angel answers, "Amen." Thus, the proper observance of one Shabbat is a source of blessing to observe another Shabbat.
When you take a census....every man shall give G-d an atonement for his soul....This they shall give....a half-shekel. (Exod. 30:12-13)
Moshe could not understand how money can accomplish forgiveness for the soul. G-d showed Moshe a fiery coin which weighed a half-shekel, and He explained that a coin by itself cannot atone for a grave sin. However, if one gives with warmth and enthusiasm that comes from the fiery core of the Jewish soul, then a coin can truly become the cause of forgiveness.
The Israelites shall keep Shabbat, to make the Shabbat an eternal covenant for their generations (Exod. 31:16)
The word for "their generations," "ledorotam," can also be read "ledirotam," which means "their dwelling places." The Torah is teaching us that the Jewish people should strive to make the Shabbat beautiful and majestic in their homes.
Aharon announced, "Tomorrow there will be a festival to G-d." (Exod. 32:5)
The golden calf was made on the sixteenth day of the month of Tammuz, and on the seventeenth of Tammuz Moshe came down from heaven. Upon seeing the golden calf, he broke the tablets. Many years later, also on the seventeenth day of Tammuz, our enemies penetrated the wall that surrounded Jerusalem and proceeded to destroy the Holy Temple. Since then, the seventeenth day of Tammuz has been a fast day, but the prophet Zecharya tells us that when Moshiach comes, the seventeenth of Tammuz will be a day of rejoicing. This is the festival that Aharon is referring to, the future holiday of the seventeenth of Tammuz, which, after Moshiach comes, will be "a festival to G-d."
(Mayana Shel Torah)
Adapted from Vedibarta Bam by Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky
The disciples of the Baal Shem Tov stood in the field. They had just ended their devotions and they were watching as their master approached a gentile shepherd who was guarding his sheep. He stood amid a stand of trees playing a wooden flute.
"Here, my good man," said the Besht, as he handed the shpherd a coin. "Please, be so good as to play that tune once again." The shepherd raised the flute to his lips and the melody he played was the most beautiful, haunting tune the disciples had ever heard. The shepherd was about to continue his concert when he suddenly lowered his hand and said, "I don't know what happened. I just completely forgot the melody."
As the Baal Shem Tov and his students left the meadow, the Besht said, "It's a good thing that the shepherd forgot the tune. This melody which you just heard was one of the tunes played by the Levites in the Holy Temple. When the Holy Temple was destroyed that melody went into captivity amongst the nations, where it remained until it came to this shepherd. Just now, when the shepherd played it for us I was able to release it from its foreign exile and allow it return to its spiritual source."
Reb Zisel was down on his luck. It was not only one misfortune that had befallen him, but an entire legion which had attacked him with gusto. And so, he traveled to the famed rebbe, the Baal Shem Tov to beg for a blessing. But when he finally arrived, the Besht looked at the sad man and said, "I am very sorry. I would like to help you, but I can't for it seems that Heaven itself is preventing me."
The man was shocked. He begged and implored, but his importuning was of no avail. The tzadik had no power to intervene on his behalf. Suddenly, as if on impulse, the Besht rose and took a book from the shelf and opened it at random. It happened to be a volume of the Talmud, and he spotted the line "He who takes a penny from Iyov will be blessed."
Turning to Reb Zisel, the Besht said, "These words must be significant for you. The Talmud is teaching us that when a person is worthy, a blessing rests on the charity his gives, so that the recipient gains an added benefit from it." And the Baal Shem Tov began to think who he might know of that had this special ability to infuse his charity with blessing.
After some thought, the Baal Shem Tov recalled Reb Shabsai Meir of Brod. He was now quite wealthy, but he had not always been so. However, even when he had little money, he gave charity with an open hand, one might even say lavishly. His other distinguishing feature was the depth and earnestness of his prayer. And what did he ask for, but continuing and increasing wealth -- and not for himself, for he needed very little. No, he wanted wealth to be able to continue distributing charity to the needy. G-d heeded his prayers. Not only did he grow steadily wealthier, but the money he gave out had in it the blessing that it truly benefitted its recipients.
"Reb Zisel," said the Besht, "You must go to Reb Shabsai Meir in Brod and spend a Shabbat with him. When you leave, be sure that he gives you some charity money; this money has a special blessing in it."
Reb Zisel followed the advice he was given and went to Brod where Reb Shabsai Meir happily hosted him for a Shabbat. At the conclusion of the Shabbat Reb Zisel received money from the tzadik, and the unique blessing was indeed transferred to him. From that time forth, good fortune become a familiar companion, and his sorrows were only a memory.
We see in recent years how the verse "Moshe gathered... the Jews" is occurring literally -- the ingathering of the exiles of Jews from all over the world, who are returning to the Holy Land. The current number of Jews ascending to the Land of Israel is incomparably greater than that of previous generations."
(From a talk of the Rebbe, Shabbat Vayakhel, 5752-1992)