The Leap Year | 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
by Yrachmiel Tilles
When we Jews have a leap year we do it right: we add an additional month seven times every nineteen years. Because the solar year outpaces the lunar year by 11 and 1/4 days each year, at the end of every 19 year cycle, we achieve convergence of the solar and lunar vectors. Not only is this year, 5757, such a 19th year, it is a most special one, as you will realize if you divide 5757 by 3.
There is a lot that could be said about this. I'll restrict myself to two points: one about the "pregnant" year as the leap year is called in Hebrew, and one about the thirteenth month.
- Day in, day out, always rising in the east and setting in the west, the sun is a dependable incandescent source of heat and light, even on cloudy days. As such, the sun symbolizes the power that Jewish constancy can generate: praying on a regular basis, whether you feel like it or not, studying Torah every day and night without fail, celebrating Shabbat and the Festivals, etc.
The delicate silvery moon appears nightly in a different location, and wearing an altered shape. Its phases of New, Quarter, Half, and Full are all palpable indicators to our bemused gaze of the moon's pulsating cycle. Thus, the moon represents the excitement of change and innovation. Each day the Torah should feel new, our prayers fresh, every Shabbat exciting, etc., all as if we had never done them before.
Some Jews overbalance towards "sun style," allowing the power built up by the regularity of their observances to beguile them into being satisfied with dry habit. Other are "moon men," letting the excitement and high times they occasionally achieve seduce them into ignoring the necessity for a basic level of daily commitment and consistency.
The idea, of course, is to combine and harmonize the sun and moon forces, for we all need the positive qualities of both. This year, as no other, can provide the inspiration to do so. For eighteen years on the Jewish calendar, either the sun or the moon has been leading the race. In the nineteenth year, and especially this year of all nineteens, balance, "the best of both," is achieved.
- Interestingly, the added thirteenth month has the same name as the twelfth month: Adar. Thus, every "pregnant" year we have an Adar I and an Adar II. Two full months of all that Adar implies. How extraordinary!
Adar, which contains the festival of Purim, is the official lucky month of the Jewish people. That's even built into Jewish law, where it is recommended that litigation with a non-Jew should be scheduled for Adar. It's also the official happy month-in the Code of Jewish Law it is written: "As soon as Adar begins, increase in joy!"
For sixty days (which began back on Feb. 6th, at 5:15 p.m.) it is a mitzva to be extra happy. I hope that all our readers will take this mitzva seriously. If you want to be super-religious about it, you should be increasingly happy each day even in comparison with the previous day of Adar. May G-d help all of us to accomplish this by hastening our ultimate joy: the revelation of Moshiach and the final redemption.
Yrachmiel Tilles is one of the founders and directors of ASCENT Seminars in Safed, and editor of ASCENT Quarterly.
This week's Torah portion is Pekudei, the last Torah portion of the Book of Exodus, which immediately precedes Vayikra, the first Torah portion of the Book of Leviticus.
Accordingly, an intrinsic connection exists between the two:
At the end of Pekudei we are told that a cloud descended upon the Sanctuary. The purpose of a cloud is to conceal; the cloud prevented Moshe from entering the Sanctuary.
The theme of Vayikra, by contrast, is revelation. "G-d called to Moshe" -- to reveal Himself to him.
Sequentially, the revelation of Vayikra follows the concealment of Pekudei. And a revelation which comes after a concealment is much more obvious than one which occurs without a prior concealment.
In the service of man, the revelation that follows a period of concealment is teshuva (repentance; literally "return"). Before the person did teshuva he was estranged from G-d, distanced from His Torah and mitzvot, i.e., in a state of concealment. His act of teshuva, his return to G-d, constitutes the revelation.
Indeed, we find that Jews who repent of past misdeeds (baalei teshuva) merit a higher revelation of G-dliness than those who were always righteous! For the revelation which follows a concealment is a more exalted one.
When a person does teshuva, his "deliberate sins are considered as merits." As our sages declare: "In the place where baalei teshuva stand, even the completely righteous cannot." The tzadik is successful in completely banishing evil. But a baal teshuva, someone who returns to G-d with all his heart, transforms the evil he has done into good -- so much so that even his deliberate sins are considered as merits! By doing teshuva, he turns darkness into light. This is the revelation that follows the concealment.
What can we learn from this? That regardless of our present spiritual condition we must never despair! We must never think that our spiritual state is so lowly that no hope exists. On the contrary: It is precisely after a period of concealment that the highest revelation of G-dliness is possible!
Past generations of Jews were on a much higher spiritual level than our own, but they were further removed from the Redemption. Our generation, however, is the generation of Moshiach's coming. Because the greatest revelation of the Redemption follows the lowest descent, we must take heart and strengthen ourselves in advance of the light about to break forth. In this manner we will soon merit the true and complete Redemption -- the revelation that follows the concealment -- when "the night will illuminate as the day."
Adapted for Maayan Chai from Likutei Sichot, vol. 1
As a youth, Rabbi Naftuli Estulin studied in the underground Lubavitcher yeshiva in Russia. He and his fellow students lived in constant fear of detection and dreamed of going to a place where they could practice Judaism openly.
Once, when one of the Rebbe's emissaries came to Russia, all of the yeshiva students wrote to the Rebbe for his blessing that they be able to leave Russia. The Chasidim baked these notes into a cake in case the emissary would be searched. The emissary returned to New York and brought the cake to the Rebbe, who said that it was the sweetest cake he had ever received. Shortly afterwards, Naftuli and the other students were permitted to leave Russia.
After studying for a year in Israel, Naftuli was ready to study in the Rebbe's yeshiva, "770," in Crown Heights. But, beyond the obvious problems of acclimation to a new setting, Naftoli had trouble finding his "place" in the yeshiva.
When the Rebbe was informed of Naftuli's plight by one of the elder Chasidim, the Rebbe looked at the chasid with surprise and said: "Why is he discouraged? He will be an "Atamanom Buded" (a term meaning "heroic leader").
In 1970 Naftuli married. He and his wife, Faige, wanted to be the Rebbe's emissaries. Naftuli was offered a position to be the kashrus supervisor in a new kosher restaurant in Milan, Italy. He would also spread Judaism throughout the city. Naftuli wrote to the Rebbe twice concerning the position but did not receive a reply. Finally, Rabbi G. M. Garelik, who had made the offer, wrote to the Rebbe describing the offer and asking if it was appropriate. The Rebbe replied that G-d had not worked miracles to take Naftuli out of Russia so that he could become a kashrus supervisor or work in similar jobs.
In 1971, Rabbi Shlomo Cunin, the head emissary in California, heard that large numbers of Russian Jews would be permitted to emigrate. He found sponsors for an outreach program in Los Angeles to connect Russian Jews to their heritage.
Rabbi Cunin contacted Naftuli and described the project. Naftuli was excited and immediately wrote to the Rebbe. He did not receive an answer. A few days passed and he wrote again, but the Rebbe did not reply. Naftuli went to Rabbi Hodakov, the Rebbe's secretary, and requested that he ask the Rebbe, and clarify the matter.
Late that night, when Naftuli returned to Rabbi Hodakov, he said: "The Rebbe told me that in your letter you wrote about what you want. Your wife was not mentioned at all, nor did she sign."
Naftuli went home and told Faige the Rebbe's answer. Naftuli wrote again to the Rebbe and this time both of them signed. The Rebbe replied immediately, advising him to accept the position.
Before they left for California, the Rebbe told the Estulins that their first responsibility was to spread Yiddishkeit to Jews coming from Russia, Czechoslovakia, and other countries behind the Iron Curtain, and beyond that, to spread the wellsprings of Chasidut throughout California.
By the mid-seventies, the wave of Russian immigration was a reality. Thousands of Russian Jews settled in the Los Angeles area, and Naftuli was occupied day and night with providing them with their material and spiritual needs.
In 1978, Naftuli opened a facility for the immigrants in the area where most of the Russian Jews originally settled. Two years later, when the center of the Russian Jewish community moved to West Hollywood, Naftuli opened another facility there. In addition, he had had to take the entire burden of fundraising on himself.
Naftuli's building was small, only 3,000 sq. feet. It contained a shul, a kitchen, a library, classrooms and offices. And in the summer, it also served as the center for a camp for hundreds of children. It was constantly teeming with activity .
In the spring of 1991, Naftuli asked the Rebbe for a blessing that he be able to build or acquire a larger building and to somehow find $500,000, the amount he estimated for a down-payment. The Rebbe replied that he would soon receive even more than he could possibly have expected.
That summer, while the day camp was in session, a man walked into Naftuli's shul, looking for a minyan for the afternoon services. They told him that the minyan would be later. In the meantime, he stayed and watched the children eat lunch. Naftuli introduced himself to the visitor who started asking about the camp: "The kids seem to be having fun, but everything is so crowded."
Naftuli explained that he would love to have a bigger facility, but he couldn't afford it.
"Maybe I can help," the man said. "Let's take a walk and see if there is any suitable property."
Naftuli could not believe what he was hearing. He had never seen this man before. As they walked, the man told his story. His name was Harry Rubinfeld. His daughter was being treated in a hospital nearby. He had been born in Czechoslovakia. (Naftuli suddenly remembered the Rebbe's words about Jews from Czechoslovakia). After the war, he had immigrated to America, and found work in California. He had saved some money, and had invested in real estate. Slowly but surely, he had amassed capital and had put together a considerable nest egg. His wife had recently passed away and he was thinking of making a large donation in her honor.
When he'd seen the immigrant children eating lunch, he had remembered his own days of hunger as a child and his difficulties in finding a place in American society. It occurred to him that he would like to dedicate a building for the children .
Mr. Rubinfield noticed a large garage for sale. "This looks like a good location," he told Naftuli. "I'll return to the shul. Find out what they want."
Naftuli walked into the garage and was impressed. The property was huge, 12,000 square feet. The location was perfect. But, the owners were demanding as a down payment alone $500,000.
Naftuli returned to his shul and conveyed the information to Mr. Rubinfeld. "I was thinking of giving $400,000, but I was impressed by the children and I was impressed by you." Mr. Rubinfeld wrote out a check for $50,000 on the spot and place d $450,000 in escrow to be given over upon the completion of the sale.
With the down payment, Naftuli was able to negotiate regarding the price. He called many Russian Jews whom he had helped over the years and received pledges of close to one million dollars. He began renovating the building and transforming it into a center of Jewish activity.
Today, working from the renovated facility, Naftuli exclaims: "My life story is an advertisement for Moshiach. It shows that the Redemption is a real possibility, and that by following the Rebbe's vision and accepting the mission with which he has charged us, each one of us can find success that exceeds our highest expectations."
From To Know and To Care, vol. 2 (soon to be published by SIE).
Make Others Happy:
As we are in the midst of the 60 days of happiness comprised of the two months of Adar, we should endeavor to make others happy. The Rebbe explained, "We should proceed to spread joy and happiness in the most literal sense, making efforts to assure that the members of one's household and similarly, all of those with whom one comes in contact, experience great joy. And this will lead to the ultimate joy, the coming of the Redemption. May it take place in the immediate future."
Rosh Chodesh Adar II, 5738 (1978)
As you surely know, the special additional Torah portion, Parshat Zachor, which is read on the Shabbat before Purim, contains the commandments to remember what Amalek, the arch enemy of our Jewish people, did to our people when they were on their way to receive the Torah at Sinai.
Amalek's unprovoked and stealthy attack was calculated to shake their belief in G-d and dampen their enthusiasm for His Torah and mitzvot.
Haman, a direct descendant of Amalek, was driven by hatred of the Jews, because "their laws were different from those of any other people," as the Megilla states. Likewise did all subsequent Amalekites and Hamans of all ages hate the Jews.
But "Amalek" -- in a wider sense -- represents all obstacles and hindrances which a Jew encounters on his, or her, way to receive and observe the Torah and mitzvot with enthusiasm and joy in the everyday life.
And so Parshat Zachor comes to remind us, and never forget, that "Amalekites" exist in every generation and in every day and age, and that we must not allow ourselves to be deterred or discouraged by any Amalekite in any shape or form.
If the question be asked, "Why has G-d done thus?" Why should a Jew be confronted with such trials and difficulties? The answer is, that every Jew has been given the necessary powers to overcome all such "Amalekites," and he is expected to use them, in order to demonstrate to himself and others that nothing will deter him, nor dampen his fervor, in the observance of the Torah and mitzvot in accordance with G-d's Will.
And once he recognizes that whatever difficulty he encounters is really a test of his faith in G-d, and resolves firmly to meet the challenge, he will soon see that no "Amalek" of any kind is a match for the Divine powers of the Jewish soul.
Indeed, far from being insurmountable obstructions, they turn out to be helpers and catalysts for ever greater achievements, having been instrumental in mobilizing those inner powers which would have otherwise remained dormant.
This is also forcefully brought out in the Megilla, in the example of Mordechai the Jew, who "would not bend his knee nor bow down" before Haman.
As a result of this indomitable stance, not only was Haman's power totally broken, but many enemies be came friends, as the Megilla tells us that "many of the peoples of the land were becoming 'Jewish,' for the fear of Mordechai fell upon them!"
May G-d grant that each and all of you should go from strength to strength in emulating Mordechai the Jew, advancing in all matters of Judaism, Torah and mitzvot, with joy and gladness of heart, and may you all be blessed with a full measure of "light, joy, gladness, and honor," both in the plain sense as well as in the inner meaning of these terms in accordance with the interpretation of our Sages -- "Light -- this is the Torah... Honor -- this is tefillin" -- since the Torah and mitzvot, though a "must" for their own sake, are the channels and vessels to receive and enjoy G-d's blessings in all needs, materially and spiritually.
Wishing each and all of you a happy Purim, and may its inspiration be with you every day throughout the year.
BNEI NOACH CHAPTER
Chavurath Bnei Noach from Ft. Worth, Texas has an active internet website - www.flash.net/~bneinoah - and will help you establish a Bnei Noach Chapter in your community.
MAOS CHITIM FOR PESACH
Helping the needy for Pesach is a great Mitzvah and needs coordination well in advance of Pesach - this year - April 21 in the evening.
You can send your donations to: Machne Israel/Maos Chitim - 770 Eastern Parkway - Brooklyn, NY 11213, or to Chevrah Simchas Shabbos V'YomTov (C.S.S.Y.) 593 Montgomery Street - Brooklyn, NY 11225.
The Previous Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, arrived in America on the 9th of Adar, 5700 (March 19, 1940). Though weakened in body -- he was confined to a wheelchair -- he was not weakened in spirit.
The Previous Rebbe announced upon his arrival that he was going to open the first Chabad-Lubavitch yeshiva in America. He said, "America iz nisht andersh -- America is not different [from Europe]." Just as yeshivot had dotted the European landscape for centuries, so too would they flourish here in America.
Upon hearing this, many people came to the Previous Rebbe and tried to dissuade him, citing examples of prominent rabbis who had also tried to establish yeshivot in America and had failed. The Rebbe replied, "I did not come to America to relax, but rather, Divine Providence brought me to America to start rebuilding Judaism. He refused to go to sleep that night until he was assured that the yeshiva would open as he wished. The following day, Tomchei T'mimim Lubavitch Yeshiva in Brooklyn opened with ten students.
The Previous Rebbe wrote and spoke at great length about the process of education and the momentous task that is bestowed upon teachers. In "The Principles of Guidance and Education," the Previous Rebbe describes the process of introspection and refinement that an educator must undergo in order to properly guide his/her students. He also explains how a teacher must carefully examine each individual pupil's character and tailor his/her teaching style to best educate the student with both love and firmness.
Contrary to the old saying that "Those who can, do, and those who can't, teach," the Rebbe shows us that only a person with a truly fine, exceptional character can properly carry out the task of teaching the next generation.
The Rebbe explains that the arrival of the Previous Rebbe on our shores marked the beginning of the primary efforts to spread Chasidut and Judaism to the outer reaches of the world at large. We should intensify our efforts to carry out the service begun on the 9th of Adar, namely, to spread the light of Torah to the entire world, until the Redemption comes and this world is revealed as G-d's dwelling.
The Tabernacle of testimony... (Exod. 38:21)
There were 479 years from the time that the Tabernacle was built in the desert until the construction of the first Holy Temple. The Hebrew word for testimony, Ha'eidut, has the numerical value of 479. This teaches us that for 479 years the Tabernacle served as a testimony to G-d's dwelling among the Jewish people.
And they made the holy garments for Aharon, as G-d had commanded Moshe. (Exod. 39:1)
The words "as G-d commanded Moshe" are repeated 18 times in this Torah portion. Eighteen is equal to "chai," life. The Torah shows us that throughout his entire life, Moshe continuously strived to do as G-d commanded.
All the work of the Mishkan was completed and the Jewish people did according to all that G-d commanded Moshe. (Exod. 39:32)
According to Jewish law, when one is involved in doing a mitzva, he is exempt from doing other mitzvot. When the Jews were preoccupied with building the Tabernacle, there were many mitzvot that they let pass. When the work on the Tabernacle was finished, the Jews resumed performing all of the mitzvot, which G-d had commanded through Moshe.
Moshe saw all the work... and Moshe blessed them. (Exod. 39:43)
Moshe's blessing was, "May His Divine Presence abide in the work of your hands." Moshe was blessing the Jews that when they are involved in "the work of your hands" -- their regular daily activities and preoccupations -- even then they should conduct themselves in such a way as to merit that the Divine Presence would feel comfortable to be among them.
Adapted from Vedibarta Bam by Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky
The Maggid of Ostrow had passed away and Rabbi Yaakov Yosef, the Rav of Polonya, also known as the "Toldos," arrived to apply for the position. Although Reb Yaivi, the young son of the late rav accompanied him as he made his petition to the city elders, his application was, nonetheless, refused.
In spite of the negative outcome of the interview, Reb Yaivi invited the scholar home where a feast had been laid out in the guest's honor. When the meal had ended and the young man was accompanying the Toldos on his way, the older scholar remarked with a bitter irony, "And so, does Ostrow still exist!?"
Reb Yaivi looked at this distinguished guest and replied, "Are you saying that because you were not chosen to be the new rav of the city? Perhaps you heard a heavenly decree saying, 'Yosef is the ruler over the land' and you thought it referred to you, but you see, my name is also Yosef!"
"Is that so?" asked the Toldos. "In that case, it is my mistake, and obviously it is appropriate that you assume your father's position. I am going to request that the city fathers invest you as rav of the city immediately."
His word was swiftly enacted, and Reb Yaivi became the new rav of the city of Ostrow with the blessings of the Rav of Polonya. As soon as the Toldos returned to his home, he sent Reb Yaivi a beautiful crystal goblet as a gift.
Reb Yaivi treasured the goblet and used it to make kiddush for many years. One year, just before Simchat Torah, a bird flew in through the window and alighted on Reb Yaivi's goblet and it cracked. Reb Yaivi evinced no particular emotion over the loss, but later that night, he sent for his attendant and said, "Find me someone going to Berdichev after the holiday ends."
At the end of the Yom Tov, a young Chasid appeared in the rav's room ready to follow his instructions. "On your way to Berdichev, I want you to stop in Polnoya and tell the rav very clearly and in these exact words that the crystal goblet broke. Promise me you will do as I ask you."
The Chasid promised and then he boarded his coach and asked the driver to tell him when they reached Polonya. The Chasid promptly fell asleep. When he awakened they had passed Polonya.
"Didn't I ask you to wake me up?" cried the Chasid.
"Well, no matter now, it's too late. Just relax, mister, the next stop is Berdichev."
"What! That's impossible! I had urgent business in Polonya. You must turn around at once!"
But the driver was adamant and when the Chasid saw that no amount of pleading would budge him, he jumped out of the moving carriage. Catching his breath, he turned and began the trek back to Polonya. There he was met by a large crowd of men and women weeping and reciting Psalms.
The rav of the town was near death, but the Chasid only knew that he had a mission -- to relay his rav's message. But how could he gain entry to the room? Suddenly he got an idea. "I have a medicine for the Rav!" he shouted at the top of his lungs.
At once, the crowd parted and he entered the sick room. "Rav Yaivi sent you regards and asked me tell you that the crystal goblet has broken."
The rav lifted his feverish eyes. "The cup is broken? Thank G-d."
Immediately the fever subsided and within a few days, the Toldos had completely recovered.
Another Simchat Torah came and this time the Toldos was lying on his deathbed. Thoughts flew through his mind. He recalled the enigmatic words of his master, the Baal Shem Tov so many years before. "You will leave this world on Simchat Torah, but first you will lose your position as rav."
"How could that happen," he wondered at the time. One year he had been very ill, but when he had heard that the crystal goblet had broken, he knew that was a sign of reprieve.
Then the prophetic words were realized, and in such a strange way.
It was Simchat Torah and he was looking out of his window when a gang of drunkards happened to pass by. What a way to "celebrate" the holy day, thought the Toldos to himself, and he cried out to them: "What do you have to celebrate anyway? Have you spent the whole year immersed in Torah study?"
But one responded, "But you have surely studied Torah all year. And if my brother makes a wedding, am I not entitled to dance as well?"
The rav had to answer, "You are correct."
To which the man replied, "Aha! So I am right! Well, if that's the case, you don't deserve to be rav and I hereby depose you!"
The Toldos was shocked. What a chutzpa to speak to him that way! But soon he became thoughtful, for hadn't this lout just pronounced his death? And as the Baal Shem Tov had spoken, the Toldos left this world together with the Yom Tov and was mourned by his entire congregation.
We must anticipate that G-d will hasten the Redemption by some strategy or other, whether by virtue of the tremendous anguish we have suffered, or by some other means. Perhaps this is the hidden meaning of "in its time, I will hasten it" -- that is, G-d will hasten the period of "in its time" itself.
(The Chofetz Chaim)