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L'Chaim
April 4, 1997 - 26 Adar II 5757

463: Shemini

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Published and copyright © by Lubavitch Youth Organization - Brooklyn, NY
The Weekly Publication For Every Jewish Person
Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.


  462: Tzav464: Tazria  

Attitude  |  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

Attitude

Surely you've seen the t-shirts and pins that abound today stating "I don't need your attitude, I have one of my own."

Most likely, the person wearing this message is tired of being confronted by people with negative, angry attitudes, whether a fellow commuter on mass transit, a cashier at the supermarket, or a customer service representative for a local utility company.

People with attitudes seem cold as ice, but if you've ever tried saying a few caring words, you were probably surprised to see the frosty exterior melt like a popsicle on a 100 degree day.

"You look like you've had a really hard day" will often get you a sigh of appreciation and a peek under the veil of coldness and anger.

But why should we put ourselves out and be compassionate toward a surly person?

Because, in these last few moments of life as we know it here in this imperfect world, we can practice honing our interpersonal skills.

Kindness, compassion, and consideration are what our attitudes will be all about in the times of Moshiach.

In the Messianic Era, the inherent goodness and G-dliness that everything contains, will be revealed. We can help reveal that latent quality even now by making sure our Attitudes are caring toward our fellow human beings. Even if their Attitudes make them seem despicable and unworthy of compassion, we should respect them simply because they are G-d's creatures, and if G-d tolerates them, we should, too.

Sometimes, displaying a Moshiach Attitude takes no time at all. Like when you flash a smile at someone as you pass them on the sidewalk, or when you say a heartfelt "thank you" as you're given your change. At other times it might take a moment, but not much more, to let your Moshiach Attitude shine through: Letting someone with one item go ahead of you in the supermarket line; helping a little, old lady cross the street (yes, there are still little, old ladies who need help crossing the street!); calling a parent or sibling to say, "I was thinking of you."; not cutting someone off in traffic just to get to your destination a half a minute earlier. But those moments are timeless and well spent.

Practicing a Moshiach Attitude now is a sure-fire way to get ready for and actually hasten the perfect world we've always dreamed of.


Living with the Rebbe

Last week, in the portion of Tzav, Moshe commanded Aharon and his sons to ready the Sanctuary's altar for G-d's holy Presence.

These preparations took seven days to complete, and are referred to as the seven days of consecration, as it states, "From the door of the Tabernacle of Meeting you shall not go forth seven days... seven days shall your consecration last."

At long last the much-anticipated day arrived. In the very first verse of this week's reading, Shemini, Moshe informs the Jews that the Divine Presence is about to descend: "And it came to pass on the eighth day that Moshe called...and said...for this day G-d will appear to you."

Indeed, it was a great day for the Jewish people, for it marked the commencement of an entirely new era in which G-d's Presence would rest in the Sanctuary.

Nonetheless, although this was the first day of the new era, we see that it is called "the eighth." Why? The term "eighth" expresses the day's unique advantage. In fact, the number eight alludes to a distinct and important attribute.

As a general rule, in Jewish thought the number seven belongs to the realm of nature, whereas the number eight corresponds to the realm of holiness.

The physical world (and the entire natural order) is based on a cycle of seven: seven days of the week, seven years of the Sabbatical cycle of working the land, etc.

The number eight, by contrast, connotes a holiness that is super- natural, a level that transcends the natural order. Some examples: brit mila (circumcision) is performed on the eighth day after birth; the highest level of holiness occurs on the eighth day of Sukkot, on Shemini Atzeret; and the harp that will be played in the Third Holy Temple will consist of eight chords. Similarly, the Divine Presence descended upon the Sanctuary on the eighth day of consecration.

Yet the words "on the eighth day" indicate a relationship to the days that preceded it, for the level of "eight" can only be attained after the preparation of "seven."

One mustn't think that G-d will bestow these higher levels of holiness without effort. A Jew has to prepare himself properly before meriting this more exalted level of Divine revelation. Indeed, it was only after seven days of intense preparation that the Jewish people became worthy of the supernatural holiness that descended on the eighth day.

At present we are anticipating the building of the Third Holy Temple in Jerusalem. In the Messianic era we will experience the highest level of holiness, alluded to in the eight strings of Moshiach's harp. At the same time we must realize that the attainment of this level is dependent on our actions now, during these last few minutes of exile.

Adapted by Maayan Chai from Likutei Sichot, vol. 3


A Slice of Life

Predestined
by Susan Weintrob

For several months, I wanted to visit the Lubavitch community in Crown Heights. My husband was uncertain about my going. We discussed it, but came to no conclusion. My husband, a violinist, had an upcoming trip to Canada for concerts. He told me he would think about it while he was gone. I wasn't patient, and during the two and a half weeks that he was gone, I brought up the topic many times during our telephone conversations. He still felt uneasy about the trip, and he voiced his concerns. Brooklyn could be dangerous, he felt. And how would he and the kids manage without me? I didn't want to go if my husband didn't feel comfortable with my trip.

While on Vancouver Island, some family and friends of another performer came to stay to hear some of the concerts. Out one night with them, my husband noticed that one other man also was not eating. Sure enough, the man told him that he was kosher. The person he was with interrupted, "He's not really that kosher. He's just ethnically kosher." My husband politely made no response, but wondered at the meaning of the remark. That person was eating beef, and no matter how much she enticed her companion to taste it, he wouldn't.

During the course of the dinner conversation, he found out that his fellow kashrut observer put on tefilin and prayed every morning. "Do you do it just ethnically?" my husband joked. The man smiled. He began to talk to my husband about putting on tefilin and urged him to begin doing so. My husband confessed that he never had before, but he decided he would learn when he arrived home in Indiana.

When the concerts were over, my husband boarded his plane in Canada. The flight had a layover in Minneapolis. As he was walking to the gate in Minneapolis to the flight that would take him to Indianapolis, he saw ahead of him a bearded man with a yarmulke. The man had taken a seat near where my husband had to wait, so my husband sat down next to him and introduced himself.

It turned out that the man was a Lubavitcher shochet - ritual slaughterer - Zalman Schmukler, from Los Angeles. Zalman was studying the Torah portion. After exchanging pleasantries, Rabbi Schmukler asked my husband if he had put on tefilin that day. My husband told him no, that he had never actually put on tefilin. However, he had just talked about learning how with an individual in Canada, who put tefilin on each day and encouraged my husband to do so. My husband said to Zalman, "I told him that when I returned home, I would learn how."

Zalman asked my husband, "Why wait until you get home? How about now?" My husband looked around the waiting area and said, "Here?" Then he turned back to Rabbi Schmukler and said, "Why not?" So right there, in the Minneapolis airport, my husband learned how to put on tefilin.

After Zalman had put his tefilin away, he told my husband that the reason that he was sitting there in the airport was because he had missed his flight. It had never happened to him before, and he couldn't understand why it had happened this time. Rabbi Schmukler looked thoughtfully at my husband and said, "Now I know why I missed my flight. It was to meet you."

My husband was extremely moved. He was later to learn that this was a Chasidic philosophy. We don't know why we are put on earth. It may be for many reasons, or just for the events of a single moment. We never know when these important moments will occur, and therefore, we must always react to each one as if it was the moment for which we were created.

My husband called me from the airport, after Rabbi Schmukler had caught his flight. He related the entire story to me. "Buy your ticket for New York," my husband told me. "It's time you visit Crown Heights."

My visit to Brooklyn this summer was a turning point in my life, as I knew it would be. I had never known it would be for my husband as well. I can only thank the airlines and a certain shochet from L.A. who was sure that meeting my husband was predestined.

Reprinted from the N'shei Chabad Newsletter


A Call To Action

A Second Seder

In this country it is customary to arrange communal Sedarim. Generally, however, only one communal Seder is arranged and not two. It is important that those who hold communal Sedarim should hold communal Sedarim for both nights. If the reason is that there are not enough funds for two, the first Seder should be held in a simpler manner to allow for a second Seder to be held. Furthermore, there is enough time that, if the proper efforts are made, enough funds can be raised to allow both Sedarim to be celebrated in the proper manner.

(The Rebbe, 8 Nissan, 5751)


The Rebbe Writes

Rosh Chodesh Nissan, 5735 [1975]
Translation of a letter from the Rebbe

The highlight of the month of Nisan -- the month of Geula [Redemption] -- is the festival of Passover, which is denoted in our sacred liturgy as z'man cheiruseinu, "Festival of our Liberation."

In the plain sense, cheiruseinu means "our liberation," i.e. the collective liberation of all the individuals belonging to our people. However, as we can see from a similar text, z'man simchaseinu -- "Festival of Our Rejoicing" -- the Alter Rebbe [the first Chabad Rebbe] interprets the plural form (also) in a dual sense: the rejoicing of the Jews and the rejoicing of G-d. Accordingly, the term "our liberation" may also be understood in a dual sense: the liberation of the Jews from Egyptian bondage as well as the liberation, as it were, of the Shechina [Divine Presence], as this is indicated in the Hoshana prayer: "You saved the people and G-d..." and in the words "v'hotzeisi eschem" ("I will liberate you") which, according to tradition, may be read also "v'hotzeisi itchem" ("I will be liberated with you).

This means that Jewish liberation, individually and collectively, is two-fold: the Jew's liberation and the liberation, as it were, of the Shechina, of the G-dliness that is in every Jew -- the Divine soul, which is a spark of G-dliness itself.

The said liberation is reflected in, indeed achieved through, the Jew's daily conduct in a manner of true freedom and expansiveness (true because it is rooted in Toras Emes, the Law of Truth), in both aspects of his life.

To elucidate the above:

The events and concepts of Yetzias Mitzrayim [the Exodus from Egypt] and z'man cheiruseinu present many didactic aspects of moral instruction for the Jewish people as a whole and for every Jew individually, at all times and in all places, as in the case of all matters of Torah, the source of eternal values and instructions.

The moral lesson of Yetzias Mitzrayim, which we are commanded to remember every day, is that every Jew must constantly strive to free himself from mitzrayim [bondage], from all restraints and inhibitions that limit the fullest Jewish expression and development, for he could be better and finer were it not for various impediments.

Obviously, the first thing is to free oneself from the evil practices of Mitzrayim, in the area of "turn away from evil" (the don't mitzvot) and from hindrances in the area of "do good" (the do mitzvot) in the actual conduct of the everyday life.

At the same time, there is in every "do mitzva" which one fulfills, and every "don't mitzva" which one heeds, the al-pi-din [according to the law] and lifnim meshuras hadin [going beyond the letter of the law], which is also an imperative of our eternal Torah. And since all matters of Torah and mitzvot, good and holiness, derive from, and were commanded by G-d, the Infinite, they are also infinite.

Hence, however satisfactory one's level of Yiddishkeit [Judaism], Torah and mitzvot, it could be -- and therefore must be -- better and higher, in accordance with the principle that "all things of holiness should be on the ascendancy" (maalin b'kodesh).

If one makes no effort and does not strive hard, to advance to a higher level, beyond his habitual routine which becomes second nature (teva, fixed form, imprint) -- he has not yet achieved true freedom.

This then, is one of the basic teachings of Yetzias Mitzrayim, z'man cheiruseinu: the liberation from Egypt was a double one: the physical liberation of the Jews from Egyptian bondage, coupled with the liberation of their Jewish soul, as it is written, "Draw and take unto yourselves" -- "draw back from idolatry"; reject it completely.

And although both were achieved with a "high hand" -- including inner freedom, yet, upon their departure from Egypt, the Jews immediately began their steady rise, each day rising to a higher spiritual level and true freedom, until they attained the highest level of freedom with the receiving of the Torah, as our Sages observe: charus al haluchos [engraved on the tablets] -- [to be read] cheirus al haluchos [freedom through the tablets].

May G-d grant that just as at the time of the Exodus from Egypt, "the children of Israel went out with a high hand" -- with self-esteem and free spirit, so may also today, every Jew everywhere order his daily life in complete freedom, with dignity and joy.

And may we very soon merit to welcome our righteous Moshiach, with the true and complete Redemption.


What's New

CHABAD OF MIDTOWN

As the world capital of finance, culture and art, millions of people visit Manhattan. Chabad Lubavitch Midtown Center is in the heart of midtown Manhattan and a five minute walk from most major hotels. In addition to a vibrant Shabbat program which includes delicious Sabbath meals, there are daily minyanim, classes and programs throughout the week. The Center is located at 509 Fifth Avenue and can be reached at (212) 972-0770.

GOOD DEED LINK

Be part of a "Good Deed Link." Congregation Beth Sholom Chabad in Mineola, Long Island (N.Y.) has initiated a project in the aftermath of the national viewing of Schindler's List. Explains Rabbi Anchelle Perl of Chabad, "So many people having watched Schnindler's List now see that one person can make such a difference for good. We are going to create a chain made up of 6 million Good Deed Links."

Each good deed will link to the memory of one of the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust. Every one is invited to submit a note, stating a choice of a good deed and a paper clip. The paper clip will be used to link the "good deed" to this unprecedented chain of six million links for good. The chain is expected to reach 140 miles long.

A special ceremony and exhibition will mark the completion of the "Good Deed Chain" on June 18, 1997 at Congregation Beth Sholom Chabad. The response so far, according to Rabbi Perl, has been tremendous.

"This is grass roots at its best," he adds. Send your note and paper clip to: Good Deed Chain, 261 Willis Avenue, Mineola, NY 11501. For more information about how to get involved further, call (516) 739- 3636 or email rabbi@rabbiperl.com


A Word from the Director

This Shabbat is Shabbat Mevarchim, the Shabbat before the new month. Literally translated, it means a Shabbat in which we bless the upcoming month. This Shabbat Mevarchim is special because it is the Shabbat before the month of Nisan, which is often referred to as "the month of Redemption."

On the surface, calling Nisan the month of Redemption is explained by the fact that Nisan is the month in which we celebrate Passover, the holiday which commemorates the Jews' redemption from Egyptian slavery. But the month of Nisan is also connected to the Final Redemption, as our Sages say, "In Nisan, our people were redeemed, and in Nisan, they will be redeemed in the future."

This Shabbat represents the transition from the month of Adar to the month of Nisan. Both months contain within them commemorations of miraculous events. In Adar we celebrate the downfall of Haman and the victory of the Jewish people, and in Nisan we celebrate our freedom from slavery.

The difference between the events is that the miracles of Purim occurred within the natural order of the world, while the miracles of Passover transcended the natural order. The story of Purim can be traced through a natural sequence of events. But by cloaking miracles in the natural order of the world, we are actually elevating the natural order.

That is our true purpose on this earth, to elevate the physical to the spiritual and have G-dliness revealed on this plane.

Another concept that the two months have in common is redemption. Adar celebrates redemption from Haman's wicked decree, and Nisan celebrates the redemption from Egypt.

Shabbat is also a kind of redemption, a weekly redemption from mundane cares and worries to a place of light, joy, song and Torah-study. May all of these redemptions be stepping-stones to our complete, final, and ultimate Redemption, the coming of Moshiach.


Thoughts that Count

Moshe said to Aharon, "Come near to the altar." (Lev. 9:7)

Aharon was hesitant and fearful of approaching the altar. Moshe told him to come near as he had been chosen for this position. The fact that he was reluctant made him the most suitable for the job, for fearing Hashem means being careful in all that one does.

(Degel Machne Efrayim)

Every raven according to its kind (Lev. 11:15)

The raven is forbidden to be eaten, yet the dove is kosher. This is because what we eat has an effect on our character. During the time of Noach the raven proved itself to be heartless and selfish while the dove was revealed to be modest and compassionate. At first the raven was sent from the Ark to find dry land, but instead it busied itself looking for food while everyone on the Ark was anxiously awaiting its return. Afterwards, Noach sent a dove which carried out the mission properly.

(R. Dov Aryeh Berzan)

And the ostrich (Lev. 11:16)

The exact words of the Torah are "the daughter of the ostrich." Ostriches live on sharp, dry objects which cause their flesh to become dry and hard. However, the meat of a baby female ostrich is still tender, and is considered edible, thus we are forewarned.

(Chizkuni)

And the stork (Lev. 11:19)

The Hebrew word for "stork" is "chasida," which means kind. It is thus named because the stork shares its food with its friends. Jews are forbidden to eat birds and animals that have adverse character traits. Yet the stork, with its kind, sharing nature is forbidden! A person who, like a stork, only shares with those he likes and ignores the needs of others, is not considered a kind person. We are forbidden to eat the stork to prevent us from acquiring this negative trait.

(Chidushei Harim)

From Vedibarta Bam by Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky


It Once Happened

In the course of this long and bitter exile the Jews have suffered many trials and tribulations at the hands of gentile monarchs who sought to line their treasure chests with Jewish money.

Once, in the kingdom of Bohemia, King Wenzel found himself in a predicament common to the aristocracy -- he needed gold! And as always, he turned to his Jewish subjects to fill his coffers.

The Jewish community was accustomed to the cruel demands of the king, but this time the demand was more exorbitant than ever. Reb Shmuel, the leader of the community, was presented with an ultimatum: "In eight days, the Jews of Prague must hand over the sum of 20,000 pieces of silver. If you fail to do so, the king will withdraw his protection from the Jews of the realm."

Panic spread throughout the community, as word of the royal edict became known. Not long before, dozens of Jews had been massacred by wild mobs. If not for the intervention of the king's soldiers, who knows how many more would have died? The city elders calculated the total worth of the community. Even if the Jews sold all of their possessions, they could never hope to meet the king's demands.

Then Reb Shmuel stood up. "I am a descendant of King David and I am sure that his merit will protect me. I will intercede before the king."

The next day, all the congregation gathered to pray for Reb Shmuel's success. As for himself, Reb Shmuel had a plan. Together with his beautiful and intelligent daughter Reb Shmuel headed for the palace, but first, he had one stop to make.

Many years before, as he traveled through the forest, Reb Shmuel chanced upon a leather casket. Upon examination he realized it belonged to the local landowner, and he rode off to return it to its rightful owner. The grateful nobleman offered a reward, but Reb Shmuel refused, saying, "Our Torah teaches that we are obliged to return lost objects."

"I will never forget your kindness, and I am at your service if you ever need a friend," the noble swore.

Now was the time to collect this debt. Reb Shmuel explained the situation to his noble friend.

"As you are aware, the king does not receive Jews without their being summoned. However, he is always interested in beautiful women. Perhaps he will receive your daughter," replied the noble.

This is exactly what Reb Shmuel had expected when he framed his plan.

Days later, all eyes focused on the young Jewish woman as Rachel entered the king's throne room.

"Ah, so you wish to speak to me. Well, I will hear you, but first, you must kiss this bridegroom who stands before you," and the king pointed to a large Christian statue which stood behind his throne.

"Your majesty," Rachel replied, "it is customary for the groom to approach the bride, and so I will wait for him to come to me."

The king laughed out loud at her clever response. "I see she is not only beautiful, but very bright. Allow the Jewess to speak!"

"Your Majesty, my father asks permission to say four words to the King."

"Four words! What could he say in only four words?! Very well, admit him, but if this is a joke this day will be your last!"

Reb Shmuel entered and stood before the throne. "G-d said to Satan!" he pronounced in a booming voice.

The king waited to see what would follow, but Reb Shmuel said nothing. "Very clever, Jew. Well, go on now and explain yourself."

"Your Majesty, these words are from the book of Job, when the L-rd condescended to speak to the lowest of the angels, Satan. Therefore, Sire, I infer that Your Majesty will deign to speak with me, the lowest of your subjects."

"Well said. Since you compare G-d and myself, I shall speak with you."

Then Reb Shmuel threw himself at the king's feet, beseeching him to rescind his onerous demand. When Reb Shmuel had finished, the king spoke: "I will forgive the Jews this time. But, tell me, what do you wish for yourself? Every messenger wants something for himself."

"No, Your Majesty, I desire nothing for myself at all." "No, that is not acceptable. It will not be said that King Wenzel fails to repay any good deed. From this time forth, you will be admitted to my presence at will, and you will be the official representative of the Jews in the royal court."

And then, as an afterthought, the king asked, "What is your name, Jew?" "My name is Shmuel," he replied.

"Shmuel is your given name. From this day, I decree that your family name will be that of the angel to whom G-d spoke. You and your descendants will forevermore be called 'Satan.'"

And so, to this day, descendants of this brave and righteous man who risked his life and that of his beloved daughter to save the Jews of Prague bear the strange last name of Satan or "Stein".


Moshiach Matters

The Midrash (Tanchuma, Nitzavim) states: "Israel will not be redeemed until they become one assembly." King David's Psalms end with the words, "All the soul will praise G-d," using the singular for the word "soul." The message is, "If all of us are united as one soul, with one heart, one goal, one dream, then we will eventually bring all of the Jews to say, "Praised is G-d."

(Rabbi Moshe Sherer)


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