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L'Chaim
March 21, 1997 - 12 Adar II 5757

461: Vayikra

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Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.


  460: Pekudei462: Tzav  

Purim.  |  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

Purim.

Imagine that we had simply written the word, "Purim" and had suggested that people reach back into the recesses of their minds for memories.

What would you think of? Hamentashen? Grogger to drown out Haman's name? Dressing up in costumes?

Purim is a time for fun and laughter, for holy frivolity. It's a time when "Purim Torahs," or humorous explanations of verses in the Megila, are shared, such as the following: A nasty person who did not like the town rabbi decided that Purim would be an opportune time to let the rabbi know just what he thought of him. To fulfill the mitzva of mishloach manot [gifts of food], he bought a few pounds of chopped liver which he placed on a platter and molded into the form of a certain curly - tailed animal. The man then sent it to the rabbi. When the rabbi received it, he took a portrait of himself, put in on a platter, and sent it to the "friend" with the following note:

"I have often wondered about the seemingly extra word in the Megila concerning gifts of food to friends. The Megila states 'That they should make them [Adar 14 and 15] days of feasting and joy, and of sending portions a man to his friend, and gifts to the poor." (9:22) I was always confused about why the word 'man' was necessary. It would have been sufficient to say, 'sending portions to friends.'

"After receiving your thoughtful package, my question was answered. The Megila is teaching that the portions you send should be 'a man'-- the type of person you are. Obviously, you fulfilled the mitzva accurately and sent me a description of yourself. To reciprocate, enclosed is my picture so you may have a vivid description of me."

All joking aside, sending mishloach manot to friends is one of the special mitzvot of Purim. Another special Purim mitzva is that of giving charity. Although giving charity is always a great mitzva, giving gifts to the poor is emphasized on Purim.

In the Maimonides' teachings about Purim, he states that it is better to increase in gifts to the poor than in sending portions to one another. But, if tzedaka is so important, why was mishloach manot mentioned first (in the above-mentioned quote) seemingly signifying its greater importance.

The answer to this question is not a "Purim Torah," nor is it a laughing matter. What Maimonides is trying to teach us is that when giving charity to the poor it is very important to be extremely careful not to embarrass the recipient. When Mordechai instituted Purim as a day of giving gifts to the poor he was concerned that it should not become renowned as a day when poor people receive hand- outs, possibly causing them embarrassment. Thus, he also instituted the exchanging of food presents among friends so that an observer would be unable to distinguish gifts to the poor from gifts to friends. To camouflage the gifts to the poor, the Megila preceded the commandment with the order to send portion to friends.

All of this technical talk coalesces into one theme: Jewish unity, which is fostered by actions that are caring, compassionate, loving, respectful, and kind.

Haman was able to convince King Ahasuerus to implement his evil decree to annihilate the Jewish people by stating that we are "one nation, scattered and dispersed among the nations." Though we were still identified as "one nation" we were scattered and dispersed, we lacked harmony and unity amongst ourselves. We lacked love and compassion for our fellow Jews.

To counteract Haman's claim Esther told Mordechai, "Go gather together all the Jews," emphasizing the importance of unity. Thus, when Haman's evil plans were foiled, Mordechai instituted, for all generations, the mitzvot of sending food gifts to friends and giving charity to the poor.

Happy Purim!


Living with the Rebbe

The Book of Vayikra deals primarily with the korbanot (sacrifices) that were brought in the Sanctuary and the Holy Temple. These sacrifices were among the most important features of the Temple service.

The first sacrifice to be offered each morning was the korban tamid (perpetual offering). The daily service concluded with another one that was offered at dusk.

The korban tamid teaches us the proper order of service -- perpetual service -- that is required of every Jew. G-d does not demand that we sacrifice everything we possess, that we bring all our belongings to the Temple in Jerusalem. In fact, the perpetual offering consisted of one lamb, a small amount of oil and wine, and a little flour and salt. Thus, it was composed of all levels of creation: a lamb, representing the animal kingdom; wine, flour and oil from the vegetative kingdom; and salt, which is inanimate.

The korban tamid was brought on behalf of the entire Jewish people, but each Jew was not required to bring his own individual offering. Rather, the sacrifices were purchased with a special fund to which all Jews contributed. By donating a tiny sum of money, every Jew was able to participate in the twice-daily service.

G-d does not want us to give Him everything and leave nothing for ourselves; quality is much more important than quantity. The question is not how much we have given or invested of our efforts, but how we have done so. G-d requires that we give Him only a small amount, but He wants us to do so willingly, with joy and with enthusiasm. The actual contribution each individual Jew made to the perpetual offering was almost insignificant, but if it was given with a whole heart, it was sufficient to merit G-d's blessings.

Despite its name the perpetual offering was made only twice a day, at specific times. When a Jew begins the day with a "korban," from the Hebrew word meaning "to draw near," its effect carries over throughout the day. It becomes a "perpetual offering," and is not limited to a specific time.

When a Jew wakes up in the morning, the very first action is to say "Modeh Ani," the equivalent of the perpetual offering. The person addresses G-d as "the living and enduring King," declaring his/her subservience and willingness to serve Him. Beginning the day in this manner ensures that his conduct will have the same effect as the korban tamid, and the entire day will be infused with a longing to draw ever closer to G-d.

Adapted for Maayan Chai from Likutei Sichot, vol. 3


A Slice of Life

PURIM
by Anna Gottlieb

I was charmed, touched, surprised, gladdened by the spectacle unfolding in the streets. There were queens and kings and clowns and gypsies, hobos and princes, bakers and brides. There were boys and girls and men and women, balloons and music and candy and fruit. And good cheer, high spirits, laughter, broad smiles. In kitchens and living rooms, on front stoops and backyard patios -- everywhere in the clear cool air there were sounds of celebration.

Purim.

And we were a part of it. I was a part of it. Delivering mishloach manot [gifts of food traditionally given on Purim] on a sunlit afternoon.

"What a wonderful idea," I'd said when first my son and daughter had informed me of this custom to present a gift of fruit and sweets.

"On Purim, Ma, Jewish children are supposed to dress in funny clothes and give out packages of candy and stuff to at least two friends," my daughter had explained. "And people might bring their mishloach manot to our door. But that is not what counts. What matters is the giving. That's the mitzva," she had said. And I'd been touched by her words and proud of the ease with which she and her brother seemed to comprehend, to accept, to fit into this Jewish way of life.

In the days preceding Purim, both my daughter and son discussed the Megila [story of Purim] with me. They were thrilled when we accepted an invitation to attend a Purim seuda [meal] at a teacher's home. They made hamamtashen with their maternal grandparents. They prepared for a carnival in school. They helped to wrap the packages of mishloach manot. And they included me. They encouraged me. They taught me. They enabled me to understand the concept of Purim.

And thus I was charmed, touched, surprised and gladdened by the aspect of Purim overflowing in the streets and struck by the fact that I was a participant in this spectacle of joy.

From the book, Between the Lines, by Anna Gottleib, published by Bristol, Rhein and Englander.


PURIM
by Chaya Gray

Each year at the Chabad House at the University of California campus in Berkeley, there is a huge, exciting, not-to-be-missed Purim party. Everyone and everything is flying high at the party, including the pinatta filled with kosher candies that is part of the Purim festivities. A highlight of the party is when the winner of the costume contest is announced.

Rabbi Yehuda Ferris, the director of the Chabad House and himself in costume, announces the winner with great fanfare. Some of the costumes are very elaborate and ingenious, while others are fairly typical. Though, in truth, nothing is typical in Berkeley, California.

I will never forget the Purim party a few years ago when the announcement was made that "Steve the Gypsy" was the winner of the costume contest. The laugh was on all of us when we found out that Steve's Gypsy get-up was not a costume, but the way this nice, yet slightly misguided, Jewish guy dressed.

How had Steve the Gypsy gotten to the Purim party?

It all began with Lea, a young woman who had started coming around to the Chabad House. She, like many other young people her age, enjoyed hanging out with the characters on "Telegraph Avenue"--home to wanna- be hippies. She met Steve the Gypsy on Telegraph Avenue and as soon as she found out that he was Jewish, she insisted that he come with her to the Purim party that night.

Steve must have been in the right spirit on Purim, because he wasn't miffed at all that he had won the costume contest. In fact, far from being turned off by the honor of winning the costume contest, the Purim party was the first of many visits to the Chabad House and a turning point in Steve's life.

After that initial encounter, he kept coming back. He was interested in and inspired by everything he saw and learned. He started to learn Tanya (the basic book of Chabad Chasidic philosophy) with Rabbi Ferris and drank in its mystical yet practical teachings. He was like a sponge.

Steve is now fully observant (as is Lea). He calls the Ferris' every year from wherever he is to keep us up to date on his life.

And whenever Purim draws near, and I start thinking about my family is going to dress up on Purim, I always think of Steve the Gypsy, and how Purim has the special ability to take off the costume which is covering the spark burning in every Jewish soul.


A Call To Action

Give Gifts of Goodies:

One of the five special mitzvot of Purim is that of giving gifts of food--mishloach manot--on the day of Purim, itself. To fulfill this mitzva properly, there should be two different types of ready-to-eat food. This mitzva is actually mentioned in the Megila which we read on Purim. Many volunteers from Chabad-Lubavitch Centers visit nursing homes and hospitals on Purim to distribute Mishloach Manot. If you would like to be a part of this special mitzva, call your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center.


The Rebbe Writes

7th of Adar, 5728 [1968]

To All Participants in the Opening in the New Lubavitch Community Centre in London,

Greeting and Blessing:

The opening of the new Lubavitch Centre and attending events taking place in the week of Purim, will surely be imbued with the sublime spirit of those auspicious days.

The essential aspect of Purim is the miraculous escape of the Jewish people from the decree which, as the Megila [Scroll of Esther] tells us, threatened the annihilation of the entire Jewish people, "young and old, infants and women, in one day."

According to our Sages of blessed memory, the decree was nullified when Mordechai gathered 22,000 Jewish children, and so inspired them, by word and education, that they were prepared to give up their very lives rather than depart from Yiddishkeit [Judaism].

The relevance of the Purim events to our day is pointedly emphasized by the Baal Shem Tov, whose disciple and successor [the Maggid of Mezerich] was the teacher of the Alter Rebbe, author of the Tanya and (Rav's) Shulchan Aruch [Code of Jewish Law], and the father of the Chabad-Lubavitch system.

Referring to the Mishna (Megila 17a), the Baal Shem Tov declared that the words, "He who reads the Megila 'backward' does not fulfill his duty," allude also to "one who thinks that the miracle of Purim was 'back in those days,' but not now."

Thus we are reminded emphatically that all the events that took place on Purim are equally applicable today. And although no such decree, G-d forbid, now hangs over our people, and, on the contrary, Jews can, thank G-d, live in peace and even prosperity, the secret of Jewish survival remains the same: it is to be found in the kosher education of Jewish boys and girls to the degree of mesirat nefesh [self- sacrifice] for Yiddishkeit.

This precisely is the basic function of the Lubavitch Centre: to gather Jewish children -- children in the plain sense of the word, as well as "children" in terms of knowledge of G-d, His Torah and mitzvot -- in order to reveal their inner soul and true essence, that they should recognize that, "You are children of G-d, your G-d," and should continue to forge the golden chain of their ancestral tradition to the point of veritable self-sacrifice for the preservation of the Jewish way of life, the way of Torah and mitzvot.

Such mesirat nefesh includes, of course, also complete dedication to helping others, both spiritually and materially.

We have seen these features personified by my father-in-law of saintly memory, the leader of Chabad-Lubavitch of our generation, as they came to light in his eventful life, from his earliest youth. (Thus, for example, at the age of eleven he was arrested and imprisoned for coming to the aid of a Jew harassed by a Russian official.).

May G-d grant that the new edifice be filled to capacity with "our young and old, with our sons and with our daughters," who will follow in this path and in this spirit.

It is impossible to overstate the extraordinary zechut [merit] of all those who have lent a hand in the erection and the equipment of the new centre, and who have been and will continue to be its ardent supporters and participants in its activities. For every good deed by any of the youngsters who are educated within its walls and atmosphere will be attributable to the everlasting credit and zechut also of the builders and helpers of this great institution.

With esteem and blessing for much hatzlacha [success] and good tidings in all above, and for a joyous Purim

[signed]


Erev Purim, 5741 (1981)

To All Participants in the Chanukat Habayit [dedication] of the New Synagogue "The Persian Jewish Center of Brooklyn"

Greeting and Blessing:

I was very pleased to be informed of the Chanukat Habayit [dedication] of the New Synagogue and Center, which is to take place the day after Shushan Purim, and may G-d grant that it be with the utmost Hatzlacha [success].

The importance of the event, as well as its timely relevance to Purim, are self-evident. As everybody knows, the Miracle of Purim occurred in Persia, as related in detail in Megilat Esther [the story of Esther]. And ever since, "these days (of Purim) are remembered and observed," every year by all Jews everywhere -- in the spirit of the first Purim, which brought about a renewal and resurgence of Jewish commitment to the Torah and mitzvot, as if they had just been received from G-d at Sinai.

What makes the event even more relevant is the fact that the new Synagogue and Center will serve the spiritual needs of the Persian Jewish children in the area. For, as our Sages tell us, the miracle of Purim was brought about by the Jewish children in Persia in those days, who bravely disregarded the threats by the wicked Haman, and gathered around Mordechai Hayehudi [the Jew] to study Torah, absolutely determined "not to kneel or bow down" to any force that would alienate Jews from the way of the Torah.

By the Grace of G-d we live here in a country where Jews do not face a Haman. But the forces of alienation are nevertheless very strong and very active. We must therefore do all we can to ensure that all our Jewish children will be able to resist the influences of the environment, and will always remain devoted and dedicated to the Jewish way of the Torah and mitzvot.

The new synagogue and center is certainly a notable achievement in this direction, and a source for great rejoicing, not only for the Persian Jewish community, but for all our Jewish people. And through redoubled efforts to provide Torah-true education for all Jewish children and to spread and strengthen Yiddishkeit [Judaism] in general, we are assured of "Light, joy, gladness, and honor" in the fullest sense of these terms, and of speeding the true and complete Geula [redemption] through Moshiach Tzidkeinu very soon indeed.

With esteem and blessing,

[signed]


What's New

PURIM PARTYING

The Chabad Centers in Manhattan (Chabad of the Upper East Side, Chabad of the Upper West Side, Chabad of Midtown, Chabad of Lower Manhattan, Chabad Mitzva Tanks) have joined together to throw the Purim party of a life-time. The Sunday afternoon Purim extravaganza will take place at the Manhattan Day School on East 75th, and will include a costume contest, music, outrageous food, a puppet show and arts and crafts for the kids, clowns and, of course, the reading of the Megila. For more in formation and reservations call one of the above listed Chabad Houses or (212) 864-5010.

EVERYONE COUNTS

Thanks to the Tiferes Z'keinem organization, thousands of Jews of all ages -- in nursing homes, hospitals, and "shut-ins" -- will hear the Purim Megila read and enjoy traditional Purim treats. Tiferes Z'keinim sends volunteers to read the Megila and bring Purim cheer throughout the New York Metro Area. Over 130 hospitals and nursing homes will be visited this year. To contact Tiferes Z'keinim call (718) 604-2022.


A Word from the Director

This week, in addition to the regular Torah portion that we read on Shabbat, we also read Parshat Zachor, which describes how Amalek attacked the Jews who were on their way from Egypt to Israel. Reading Parshat Zachor reminds us of what Amalek did to us, and it also reminds us of the Divine commandment to destroy Amalek.

Our Sages tell us that we should read Parshat Zachor on the Shabbat before the holiday of Purim. This is significant, as Haman was a descendant of Amalek, and Purim celebrates the downfall of Haman and the nullification of his evil decree to destroy the Jews. However, the commandment to destroy Amalek applies to every Jew in every generation, because Amalek doesn't just pose a physical threat to the Jewish nation, but a spiritual one as well.

The battle against Amalek is an internal battle. In order to fulfill the mitzvot properly, one must do so with warmth, joy, and enthusiasm. Amalek symbolizes coldness, performing deeds simply out of habit, which can lead to doubt, G-d forbid. Our task is to do the mitzvot wholeheartedly, with joy and gratitude to G-d for giving us the opportunity to serve him. In this way, every one of us at every time is destroying Amalek.

This Shabbat is the actual date of the Fast of Esther, though we do not fast on Shabbat we do fast on Thursday before Shabbos, instead. The Rebbe speaks about a fast day as a day to emphasize the commandment to "Love your fellow man as yourself." This is carried out by one of the mitzvot of Purim, the mitzva of giving charity. The Rebbe goes on to further state clearly that Moshiach's arrival will be hastened by giving charity.

May we all have a joyous and festive Purim, and may all of our good deeds increase so that we may, as a nation, be elevated to the highest spiritual level, when Amalek will be completely obliterated and we will proceed to the Third Holy Temple.


Thoughts that Count

If one's offering is a burnt-offering from cattle... (Lev. 1:3)

The service of the sin-offering is performed before the service of the burnt-offering, but the Torah mentions them in the opposite order. This is because the burnt-offering is an atonement for sinful thoughts or ideas, which precede the actua l wrongdoing, for which the sin- offering is an atonement.

(Korban Ha'ani)

They shall throw the blood on the altar all around...and the fats (Lev. 1:5, 8)

Both the blood and the fat are offered on the altar. This teaches us how to properly carry out the mitzvot. Blood symbolizes excitement, speed, and activity. Fat symbolizes laziness and inactivity. When performing a mitzva, one should do so with excitement and speed. But if one is, G-d forbid, tempted to sin, one should respond by being "lazy" and inactive.

(Sha'ar Beit Rabim)

When a ruler of a tribe sins (Lev. 4:22)

The previous verse ends with the words "it is a sin offering of the assembly." The connection between the two verses shows us that the obligation of a leader is to guide and reprimand the people. His actions set an example, and if he acts improperly, so will his followers. Therefore, he will not only have to atone for his own sins but for those of the people whom he was supposed to have been guiding.

(Chida)

If a person commits a trespass and sins unintentionally [deriving benefit from] the holy things belonging to the Holy Temple...or by lying to his fellow regarding a pledge or a loan...He shall repay its principal and add its fifth to it. (Lev. 5:15, 21, 24)

Our Sages advise setting aside a fifth of one's earnings for charity, which can either be given to the Holy Temple or to individuals. When one derives benefit from property set aside for the Sanctuary or tries to take money from his friend, he has acted contrary to the advice of our Sages, and as a punishment he not only returns the principal, but also one-fifth.

(Klei Yakar)

From Vedibarta Bam by Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky


It Once Happened

World War I was into its second year and the Jews of Poland were suffering tremendous deprivation. It was almost Purim and the town of Radin was plunged into darkness and despair. The rabbi of the little town was Rabbi Yisroel Meir Hacohen, the saintly Chofetz Chaim, a great leader of world Jewry in the early years of the century.

During this black year, conditions in Radin steadily worsened. Food was scarce, taxes were high, and worst of all, most of the young men had been drafted into the military, never to be seen again.

At the approach of Purim, one Jew came to the Chofetz Chaim and asked, "Rebbe, our lives are so miserable this year. Our sons are off at the front. How can we be expected to celebrate Purim in this joyless, suffering world?"

The Chofetz Chaim knew that the man was speaking from his own pain and his fear for the life of his own young son who was one of the draftees.

"Don't worry, my friend," the Chofetz Chaim said. "Even in these terrible and troubled times, we must not lose our faith in G-d's salvation. Even now, we must rejoice in the thought of the great miracles which He did for our people on Purim.

"Once many years ago when I was a young man in Vilna, it was Purim time and the Tzar had issued a bitter decree. He ordered that the Jews must provide double the usual number of young men for the military draft. As you know these draftees, the Cantonists, were little more than children, and were pressed into military service for twenty years. After that long period of time, they often remembered nothing of their Jewishness and were totally lost to their families forever. That year, the draft fell out on Purim and the Jews of Vilna were in virtual mourning.

"However, in spite of their sorrow, the Jews of Vilna performed the mitzvot of Purim -- they distributed Shalach Manos -- gifts of food to their friends, and tzedaka -- charity to the poor. Their only consolation was in reading the Megilas Esther, recounting the miracle of Purim, when G-d brought a sudden and wondrous salvation to His people.

"It wasn't long, though, until things became even worse. The Tzar issued yet another decree against the Jews, ordering them to provide still more young men for the Russian army. All the greatest rabbis and Jewish leaders of the time petitioned the Tzar to rescind this terrible decree, but all their pleas were to no avail. The young men were chosen and ordered to report for military service the following Av, the month in the Jewish year when both Temples were destroyed, the month especially marked for tragedy.

"The orders were drawn up and ready for the Tzar's signature which would finalize the fate of the young men. It took only a second for the Tzar to affix his name to the document, but as he reached out to blot the wet ink, his hand accidentally knocked over the ink bottle, and it spilled over the paper, obliterating his name.

"The Tzar was shocked at his mistake. In his mind it seemed an omen from Above, and so he stubbornly refused to have the document redrawn. And so, these young men were freed from the terrible fate which had awaited them.

"The month of Av [which coincides roughly with August] had already begun when word of the sudden miraculous reprieve reached the Jews of Vilna. The young men, who had already prepared to leave Vilna quickly unpacked. Their families breathed a joyful sigh of relief, realizing how close they had come to losing their precious sons and brothers. That year the month of Av turned from mourning to rejoicing for the Jews of Vilna.

"How can we tell whether it was the rejoicing of the Jews in Vilna on that dark Purim when the evil decree was issued that had in it the spark of their redemption the following Av? Perhaps our joyous celebration of Purim now will be the seed of a great redemption which will follow in the same unexpected way, as G-d redeems His people once again."


Moshiach Matters

Just as Israel's redemption in those days was brought about not through our own merit, but through Divine mercy, likewise do we demonstrate through our manner of rejoicing on Purim that we do not rely on our own merits but only on G-d's compassion.

(Book of Our Heritage)


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