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On this past Shabbat of the holiday of Passover, in tens of thousands of synagogues around the world, the reading of the Haftora was from the famous Biblical passage of the "Valley of Dry Bones."
In this passage, the prophet Ezekiel is brought into a valley filled with bones. He is commanded by G-d to prophecize concerning the bones that they should have sinews, flesh and skin, and ultimately come alive. Ezekiel does as he is told and a host of people are resurrected.
Though there is an opinion in the Talmud that this passage is only allegorical, the majority opinion is that the bones were actually resurrected into bodies. In fact, in the Talmud (Sanhedrin, 92b) there is a discussion concerning what happened to the bodies after they were resurrected.
Rabbi Yose HaGalili says that they went to the Land of Israel, married, and had children. "Then Rabbi Yehuda ben Besaira stood up and said, 'I am descended from them and these are the tefilin which my grandfather bequeathed to me from them.'"
Skeptical? That's O.K. You're not alone. In fact, sprinkled throughout the Talmud are interactions between our Sages and Jews and gentiles who questioned the possibility of the future resurrection of the dead after the coming of Moshiach -- a fundamental belief of Judaism:
"An emperor said to Rabban Gamliel: 'You maintain that the dead will live again; but they turn to dust -- and can dust come to life?!'
"The emperor's daughter answered her father: 'If glassware, made by the breath of mere flesh and blood, can be reconstituted when shattered, then how much more so man, who was created by the breath of the Holy One, blessed be He.'
"A sectarian said to Geviha ben Pesisa: 'Woe to you, you wicked ones, who maintain that the dead will revive! The living indeed die, but shall the dead live?!'
"Geviha replied: 'Woe to you, you wicked ones, who maintain the dead will not revive. If those who never lived, now live, surely those who have lived, will live again!'"
"Resh Lakish contrasted two verses: One verse promises, 'I will gather them in... among them will be the blind and the lame' Another verse, however, states: 'Then shall the lame man leap like a hart, and the tongue of the dumb shall sing....' How [do we resolve the apparent contradiction]? The reply is: They shall rise with their defects and then be healed."
The Midrash (Koheles Rabba) describes the following interaction:
"Hadrian once asked Rabbi Yehoshua ben Chananya, 'From what will G-d resurrect man in the future world?' Rabbi Yehoshua replied, 'From the luz bone in the spine.' Once G-d has softened this bone with the Dew of Resurrection, it will become as yeast is to the dough, and from it the body will be built. The same body that decomposed will be reconstructed.
At the time of the Resurrection of the Dead, the luz bone will be "soaked" in the tal hat'chiya -- the dew of resurrection -- and the body will grow from it. (Sadly, there is proof that not even fire can destroy the luz bone, for eyewitnesses saw these bones in the Nazi crematoriums even after the rest of the bodies of the holy martyrs had been consumed and turned to ash.)
Nevertheless, it is difficult for us to conceive that this might actually take place in the most literal sense.
Enter cloning. From one microscopic molecule, soaked in a special "soup," an entire sheep grows. Its DNA serves as the prototype for the development of the entire being.
Perhaps the development of cloning at this specific moment in time, is another clear indication of just how close we are to the times of Moshiach and the Resurrection of the Dead. For technology and science are affording us the opportunity to visualize that which, until now, has been a abstract belief.
This week's Torah portion, Acharei, opens with the verse "G-d spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they came near before G-d and died."
The commentator Ohr HaChaim explains that Nadav and Avihu died because of an intense longing to be close to G-d. Their deaths occurred as a result of kelot hanefesh, that is, their souls were simply unable to remain in their physical bodies any longer.
Many Tzadikim of past generations also experienced a semblance of kelot hanefesh. The Chasidim of Poland used to tell the following story of the Rebbe of Modzhitz:
The Rebbe of Modzhitz possessed an incredible capacity for Chasidic melodies. Whenever he sang it was with great dveikut -- attachment to G-d.
Once, when he fell ill, his doctors advised that he undergo surgery, but they were reluctant to operate because his heart was weak and he might not be able to withstand the pain.
When the Rebbe heard their concerns he suggested that he sing a Chasidic melody. His intense concentration would render him unaware of his physical surroundings. The doctors could then operate and he would feel nothing.
And so it was. The Modzhitzer Rebbe sang a nigun, and the operation was performed successfully. The Rebbe was so absorbed in the melody and so attached to G-d that he had absolutely no perception of his physical body.
Another story is told about the Rebbe Rashab, the fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe, father of the Previous Rebbe:
Once, while staying in Vienna, the Previous Rebbe walked into his father's room and found him sitting on the sofa. The Rebbe Rashab's eyes were open, but it was obvious that he was oblivious to his surroundings. The Previous Rebbe left and returned an hour later, only to find his father still motionless. The Rebbe's state continued for hours, during which he seemed to be in another world.
When the Rebbe Rashab "awoke," he was not aware of what day it was, nor could he remember where they were.
Sometime later the Rebbe Rashab revealed that he had been meditating on a very deep Chasidic concept. The subject of his contemplation was later written about in a book.
The intensity of the Rebbe Rashab's deveikut had brought him to a state of detachment from the physical world. Even after his "return" he was unable to recall the date and where he was.
What happened to the Rebbe was similar to the kelot hanefesh of Nadav and Avihu, when their souls escaped the limitations of their bodies as a result of their deep attachment to G-d.
Adapted for Maayan Chai from Likutei Sichot, vol. 27
Reprinted from The Crown of Creation.
by Chana Weisberg
Almost thirty years ago, my father was asked to lecture to a group of Jewish and non-Jewish students in a city that neighbored Buffalo, New York. Although he was reluctant to accept, he was urged to do so by the Lubavitcher Rebbe who directed him to focus his lecture on charity, as charity is a universal responsibility of both Jews and gentiles.
He began his lecture by telling the following story:
During the time of the Tosfot Yom Tov [Rabbi Yom Tov Lipman Heller, Chief Rabbi of Prague and Cracow during the 17th century and author of a commentary on the Mishna], there lived a wealthy individual who ostensibly never contributed to charity. After this miser died, the Chevra Kadisha [Jewish burial society] felt that he was unworthy of being interred next to any upright and respectable individual. They buried him in an area of the cemetery called hekdesh, where society's outcasts were buried.
A few days after the funeral, there was a tumult in Prague. Two prominent members of the community, the butcher and the baker, who had previously been extremely charitable and generous, suddenly stopped distributing their funds.
The poor people of the city, who had always relied on the benevolent pair for their sustenance, were in an uproar. Emotions ran so deep that the matter was finally brought before the Tosfot Yom Tov.
The Tosfot Yom Tov asked the butcher and baker why they had so suddenly stopped their acts of charity. In reply, they informed the Tosfot Yom Tov that they were not personally wealthy.
"We were only able to give so much charity because the 'miser' who died just a few days ago constantly supplied us with funds for charity. He strictly warned us, however, not to disclose from whence the money had originated, since he wanted the great merit of performing the mitzva anonymously. Now that he is gone, we no longer receive the funds, and are, unfortunately, unable to continue with this worthy work."
The Tosfot Yom Tov was so impressed by the modest behavior of this unassuming "miser" that in his own will he requested to be buried next to this humble man.
When my father completed his lecture, a participant from the audience, a priest, approached him and asked him to repeat the story. My father, about to return to his hotel, arranged a time to meet with the priest the following day. Thinking that the matter would be forgotten, my father was surprised when the priest actually arrived.
My father repeated the story for the priest but was astounded when, after concluding the story a second time, the priest seemed terribly disturbed and begged him to repeat it yet a third time.
Finally, the priest divulged the reason for his agitation. "Rabbi Schochet, that charitable man in the story was my ancestor."
Skeptically, my father calmed the young man saying that there was no connection between him and the story, which took place over 100 years ago. "Furthermore," he told him, "you are a gentile, while this man was a Jew."
The priest looked intently at my father and whispered, "Rabbi, now I have a story to tell you!"
He began by describing his background. He had grown up in the state of Tennessee. His father was a major in the U.S. Army during the Second World War. In Europe, his father had met a Jewish girl and fell in love with her. He brought her back home as his war bride, and no one knew of her Jewish background. A short time after their marriage, the couple was blessed with a child, who they devoutly raised in the Catholic Church. The child grew up and attended a seminary where he eventually trained to become a priest. In his early adulthood, the priest's mother died. On her deathbed, she disclosed her secret to her astonished son.
After reciting the Shema prayer, she confessed, "I want you to know that you are Jewish." She informed him of his heritage and told him that his great-grandfather was buried next to the well-known sage called the Tosfot Yom Tov. She then recounted, almost verbatim, the story that my father had told in his lecture.
At the time, the priest, who was unaware of this information, imagined that his mother was delirious. Although he felt uneasy about his mother's parting words, it was only a temporary, fleeting emotion. As he got on with his life, he soon for got the entire episode.
"Rabbi," cried the priest, in a state of utter emotional turmoil, you have just repeated this story, detail for detail! You have just reminded me of my mother's parting words, and I realize now that the story must be true, or it wouldn't be so well known. Yet, what am I to do? I am a reputable priest with a large congregation of devoted followers."
My father offered to assist him in any way. He emphasized to him, however, that according to Jewish law, he was indeed Jewish. He encouraged him to explore his heritage, and he put him in contact with people in his city who could guide him. With that, the newly-found Jew departed. My father then understood why the Rebbe had suggested the topic matter.
He had no further interaction with the man, and did not hear from him again. Several years ago, when my father was on a visit to Israel. A Jew with a beard and a kipa approached him at the Western Wall and wished him "Shalom Aleichem [ Peace unto you]!" My father, who didn't recognize the individual, was completely taken aback when the man exclaimed, "Don't you recognize me, Rabbi Schochet? I am the former priest whom you met in Buffalo."
On the Shabbat before a new month (Shabbat Mevarchim) it is customary to say the entire book of Psalms. Concerning this custom, the Previous Rebbe said, "It is crucial for you, your children and your children's children."
About the greatness of reciting Psalms in general, the Tzemach Tzedek (Rabbi Menachem Mendel, the third Chabad Rebbe) said: "If you only knew the power of verses of Psalms and their effect in the highest Heavens, you would recite them constantly. Know that the chapters of Psalms shatter all barriers, they ascend higher and higher with no interference; they prostrate themselves in supplication before the Master of all worlds, and they affect and accomplish with kindness and compassion."
Even if one can't manage the whole book of Psalms, every little bit counts.
16 Tamuz, 5743 
This is in reply to your letter of June 20.
I must say that it is one of the most "amazing" letters I have ever received, based on a most amazing conclusion of a person who, after following the Jewish way of life for 17 years, has now decided that it was wrong because he did it for the sake of his wife and family.
Hence he feels impelled to make a radical change, although by his own admission the conclusion is not based on irrefutable proofs, but is solely motivated by "strong doubts" and insufficient knowledge about G-d and the need of observing His mitzvot.
Curiously, as strong as his doubts are about the past, there seems to him no doubt whatever about his future course; so much so that he has already initiated steps to put an end to his past 17 years' life and family.
Surely there is no need to point out that however wise a person may be, it is not always wise to rely entirely on one's judgement, since the wisest person may sometimes make a mistake, especially in a case where one is personally and deeply involved.
Moreover, by your own recognition, your conclusion is based on doubts, albeit strong doubts, but doubts nevertheless. If so, why all this haste to carry out your decision? Surely, before taking steps that from your viewpoint could possibly destructive to yourself and your family, don't you think you ought first to discuss your doubts and conclusions with knowledgeable friends, both frum [observant] and (if you so desire) not frum? After 17 years, a little more time wouldn't make all that much difference.
After all, when a Jew is in doubt -- lacking strong convictions about the need to do mitzvot, the logical way of thinking is as follows: If after further intensive study his convictions are strengthened, all the better. On the other hand, should he come to the conclusion that what he was doing was unnecessary, then the most he could regret would be the "inconvenience" of having spent a few minutes on putting on tefilin every weekday morning, or having deprived himself of non- kosher food, having kept Shabbat and Yom Tov [holidays], and so on.
But if he recklessly gives up his Jewish way of life, and eventually, sooner or later, he is bound to realize that the Torah and mitzvot and the Jewish way of life are indeed "our life and the length of our days," both in this life and eternal life -- then he will never forgive himself for having treated it so "lightly."
As for your doubts about the basics of Yiddishkeit [Judaism] -- there is a whole body of literature classical and contemporary (including in English) that deals with the subject. Much of it is based not on faith but on fact.
Suffice it to mention here, by way of example... that the Divine Revelation at Sinai, when G-d pronounced the decalogue and gave us the Torah, is one of the most scientifically established events in human history. It is based on the evidence and personal experience of 600,000 male adults, besides women and children, which has been transmitted in identical form from parents to children throughout the generations in an uninterrupted chain of tradition, further authenticated by virtually identical daily observances of the same mitzvot by Jews in all generations and in all countries of the world, and with such devotion and commitment that they were ready to make every sacrifice, even martyrdom, in their loyalty to the One G-d, one Torah, and one Jewish people.
Needless to say, the layman cannot be familiar with all the sources and has no way of verifying the facts. But what does a layman do in other areas, medical science for example? A patient may well have his doubts about the efficacy of a drug prescribed by his physician. Will he refuse to take it until he has been able to attend medical courses and learn all that his doctor has learned in his lifetime of studies and experience? Will he not rely on the authority of the medical specialist? If he has doubts about the expertise of one doctor, he can obtain a second opinion, and a third; but when all agree that he needs that medicine and the prescribed medical regimen, would he refuse to take that expert advice even if he still has "strong doubts" about it?
By the same token, if you will ask any "specialist" in Yiddishkeit -- a person who has dedicated his life to the study of Torah and actually lives by the Torah and mitzvot in his everyday life and conduct, what is the right thing for you to do, the answer will be the same, because Jews have only one Torah and one halacha [Jewish law].
Indeed, if in matters of physical health it is logical that na'aseh [we will do] must come before nishma [we will listen] -- how much more so in matters of the eternal soul (with which the well-being of the body is intimately connected).
I have taken time out to write to you at some length, even though it is also common sense, and it is not original with me, for you can find it, and more, in such sources as the Kuzari and other works of our great Jewish philosophers, because I have in mind the saying of our Sages, "There is no point in bewailing the past."
I trust the wrong actions you are contemplating and have already initiated as a result of your woefully erroneous conclusion, may yet be reversed, and that this letter may help you see your way clear to do what is good and proper, good and proper also for you and your family; which is also why this letter is being sent via Special Delivery...
NOTE: If you would like to obtain the Book of the Kuzari in English, I made a special arrangement with "Eichler's Judaica" in Brooklyn, NY. The cost is $18.00 for US residents and $24.00 for out of USA. You can call them toll free: 1-888-342-4537. To get this special discount price you must tell them the code: "YYK". You can write (order via e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org as well. But remember to give them the code YYK, otherwise the price will be higher.
Chabad Children of Chernobyl's 28th rescue flight carried 27 children, most from the Chernigov region in Ukraine, located only 25 miles from the "dead zone" surrounding the destroyed Chernobyl nuclear reactor.
This flight brings to 1,432 the total number of children evacuated by the program. Each of the newly arrived children suffers from a variety of ailments, foremost among them thyroid disease, respiratory and digestive problems, eye disease, headaches, and damaged immune systems. The children were brought to Kfar Chabad, Israel, where they receive state-of-the-art medical care, education, and room and board. They will be joined by their parents within three years.
This Shabbat we begin studying Pirkei Avot, the Ethics of the Fathers. Pirkei Avot is divided into six chapters, and on Shabbat afternoons from Passover through Rosh Hashana we study one chapter. Before studying each chapter, we recite the following verse:
"All Israel [Jews] have a share in the World to Come, as it is stated: 'And Your people are all righteous; they shall inherit the land forever. They are the work of My hand in which to take pride.'"
We see here the unique closeness which G-d feels toward every Jew. Every Jew, in G-d's eyes, is righteous and worthy of inheriting a portion in the land of Israel. (This inheritance will have practical implications in the Messianic Era.) Every Jew is the work of His hands and an object of Divine pride!
On this Shabbat, in addition to commencing the study of Pirkei Avot, we will also bless the new month of Iyar.
The month of Iyar carries within it a special message. The month before it, Nisan, contained the celebration of our freedom on Passover. The month following Iyar, Sivan, is noted for the holiday on which we celebrate the receiving of the Torah, Shavuot. From Passover until Shavuot we count the omer, the days from the festival of freedom until the celebration of receiving the Torah.
In Nisan and Sivan, we count the omer for only part of the month. Iyar is unique in that it is the only month during which we count the omer every single day. It is also the only month during which there is an additional, special mitzva proscribed for each day. The mitzva of counting the omer involves drawing holiness into this world, thereby preparing it for the arrival of Moshiach.
The counting of the omer also represents a cumulative effort because each day we say "Today is one day of the counting of the omer." "Today is two days..."; "Today is three days..."; etc.
Just as each day we count higher and higher until we reach the Giving of the Torah, so too, should we try each day to reach higher, to learn Torah and do mitzvot, until we reach the ultimate goal of the coming of Moshiach.
NOTE: The Spiritual Guide to the Counting of the Omer (49 Steps to Personal Refinement according to Jewish Tradition) is published by VHH (Vaad Hanochos Hatmimim) Cost: $7.95 - email to: email@example.com to order the book, or you can subscribe to receive the daily portion via email. Send e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org and in the SUBJECT line put in the words: Subscribe D2 . This will place you on our listserv to receive the Daily Hayom Yom, where we appended the text from the above mentioned book for each day of Sefira.
Upon the kohanim and all the people of the congregation shall he bring atonement. (Lev. 16:33)
The words "of the congregation" appear to be superfluous. The Torah could have just said "upon all the people he shall bring atonement." A congregation refers to a group of people gathered together. The Torah is emphasizing the importance of unity among the Jewish people. When the people are gathered together, we are able to beseech G-d to forgive our transgressions.
You should do My judgements, and you should keep my statutes to walk therein (Lev. 18:4)
The words "to walk therein" teach us a lesson. There are many people who are Torah observant in their homes, but when they are away they may become lax in their observance of Torah and mitzvot. The Torah is teaching us that even when "on the go," one should continue to be observant.
You shall keep my statutes and my laws....and he shall live with them. (Lev. 18:5)
The Torah emphasizes the words "and he shall live with them" to teach us a lesson on how we should approach our service of G-d. When a person is young, he will devote more time to making a living and other worldly matters, and less time to Torah and mitzvot. Only when that person is older and has more free time will he make Torah study a priority. "And he shall live in them" teaches us that we have to make Torah study a priority when we are still young, vibrant, and full of life.
From Vedibarta Bam by Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky
Although the farmer, Yankel, was as wise as could be in the ways of farming, in the vast sea of Torah, he could not swim a stroke. For his sons, however, he wanted better. He sent them to a nearby town which had a good cheder and yeshiva and the two boys learned assiduously until they became known as the brightest students of the school.
One day they happened to hear the Baal Shem Tov speak and from that time they became great adherents of his and went to Mezibuzh whenever they could steal away. Their father couldn't understand what they found so interesting there. "We want to hear the words of the famous Baal Shem Tov," they would reply.
Once Yankel's curiosity was so great that he decided to visit Mezibuzh himself. When he arrived, he quizzed the tzadik on his knowledge of farming, and when he seemed to know all the correct answers, the farmer was satisfied that the Besht was, indeed, a wise man. Over the course of time, Yankel also became a great admirer of the Baal Shem Tov and he traveled to Mezibuzh to seek advice.
When years had passed and the Yankel's daughter reached marriageable age, he decided to consult the Besht about finding an appropriate mate. "Send your sons to me and I will send them home with the proper husband for your daughter," the Besht advised the him.
The two sons arrived and traveled with the Besht to a distant town where the tzadik made inquiries about a certain young man named Shmerel. They remained in the town for several weeks, but the youth, Shmerel, was nowhere to be found. On the eve of the new month, when the townspeople had gathered at a festive banquet in honor of their distinguished guest, a wild-looking young man entered the hall. His manners were most uncouth, and he ran in and out just as quickly. This very youth was the one whom the Besht had been seeking, and although the two sons of the farmer Yankel couldn't understand what he could have possibly wanted with such a character, they duly informed him that they had found the boy.
The Besht was delighted and gave instruction that the boy be cleaned up and dressed properly and then brought before him. Shmerel was given the place of honor next to the Baal Shem Tov, and during the meal the Besht passed his handkerchief over the boy's face and commanded, "Give us a Torah discourse!" To the shock of all present, Shmerel began speaking and he expounded gems of Torah for the next few hours. The two brothers were very pleased with what they saw and heard and they set off for home with the yokel in tow.
The wedding was held immediately and throughout the entire week of celebration, the groom delivered marvelously impressive Torah discourses to the assembled guests. The brothers couldn't wait until the days of rejoicing were over and they could sit together with him and learn from his seemingly inexhaustible fountain of wisdom. However, they were to be profoundly disappointed.
The first week, when he failed to show up in the study hall, their sister replied only, "My husband is sleeping," or "My husband is very tired." The brothers then began to observe him closely and found that he didn't observe even the most basic Jewish laws and customs. They had to remind him to make a blessing when he ate, and he always forgot to wash his hands before partaking of bread. Something was very wrong.
They left for Mezibuzh and told the Besht what had transpired that week. "Let me explain," he said. "You see, there are celestial matchmakers as well as their earthly counterparts. It was determined in Heaven that Shmerel was to be your sisters husband, but it was a difficult match to arrange. How would a girl from a wealthy family with such scholarly brothers agree to marry a man like Shmerel? At first it was thought to make her deranged, but with her family fortune, she would still be able to make a good match in spite of the illness. Then it was suggested that the girl be deranged and her father die. It was then that I made my suggestion. I would take it upon myself to assure that the match be made. The only way to achieve my goal was to open the young man's mind to Torah wisdom, and in that way, endear him to you.
"If only Shmerel had been worthy of the knowledge, it would have remained with him forever, but alas, he was not. The Torah I put into him lasted only the seven days of blessing the marriage, then it was lost. But there is nothing to be done about it, for Shmerel is the mate who was destined for her from Above. Tell your sister to remain married to him and I will guarantee her fine children. As for you, continue to teach him and he will slowly improve and learn."
This story was often related by the Apta Rav, who would then add, that the descendants of this match are among his closest disciples.
A verse in Psalm 96 states: "Bring to Hashem, O families of nations," as a reference to the future Redemption, when all the gentile nations will offer gifts to Moshiach. Then Moshiach will tell them: "All I want of you is to bring me the Children of Israel, who are scattered among you -- bring to Hashem, O you nations -- the families of Israel in your midst.
(Midrash Shacher Tov)