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Most of us don't spend much time thinking about umbrellas, unless we're stuck without one and it's raining. But, if you've ever had the edifying opportunity to contemplate an umbrella, you might come to realize the similarity between umbrella as and Jewish education.
The obvious place to start is at the level of not having any umbrella (or Jewish education). We don't even realize the deficiency until we need it. This usually doesn't happen until we are stuck in a storm. A raging storm of emotions can be set off by a tragedy, or more positively, a Jewish simcha such as a wedding, brit, Bar/Bat Mitzva. In many of these cases, without a sound Jewish background, we have no idea of customs, laws, history, protocol, etc.
Then, of course, there is the umbrella that you pick up on the street for $3.99 when it is already raining. Even if it doesn't last more than a week, at least it will keep me dry today, we think. But with strong winds it turns inside out, or the spokes start coming undone from the cloth. It's not much use, but it gives us a false sense of security.
That's the Jewish education we get when we begrudgingly attend Sunday school or Hebrew school just until the Bar/Bat Mitzva or Confirmation. It gives us a sense of security to think that at least we know something about our 3,300 year old Jewish heritage.
Then there is the sturdy, long lasting umbrella, the kind we might even go back for if we think we may have left it behind. Once upon a time, this umbrella came only in basic black. But today, you can find it in every shapes and color.
Once upon a time, a Jewish education might in fact have seemed rather dull and stodgy, like the basic umbrella. But today it comes in every version one can imagine. Exciting teachers, innovative material, reputable schools, and a plethora of courses for adults and children who can't study full time all contribute to the wealth of Jewish educational opportunities available in the 90s and into the next millennium.
Today, more than ever, there is no reason whatsoever, for any Jew to be stuck at a bus shelter waiting for a storm to pass. Pick up a sturdy Jewish education. You'll be amazed at how it's always there when you need it.
The name of a Torah portion alludes to the common thread that runs through the entire narrative. Thus, although this week's Torah portion, Emor, contains many different ideas, the name itself is significant and expresses the central theme of all of them.
The literal meaning of the Hebrew word "emor" is "say." It implies an ongoing action, a perpetual commandment that applies in all places and in all times.
Emor teaches us that thought is not enough; a person must carry the thought process one step further and express what he is thinking in speech as well. Speaking requires the person to weigh and assess his thoughts, working them over in his mind until he comes to a satisfactory conclusion.
Yet why is merely thinking insufficient? Because as human beings, we cannot know what is going on in someone else's mind; if our thoughts are not expressed verbally, no one else can derive any benefit from them. Thus the Torah commands us to "say" -- to reveal our good thoughts and ideas, and to share them with our fellow man.
In accordance with the commandment "And you shall love your fellow as yourself," a Jew is obligated to share whatever good he possesses with others. Good thoughts, thoughts that have meaning and significance, are in this category, for expressing them can bring enjoyment, enlightenment and encouragement to our fellow Jew.
The way in which our thoughts are expressed is also important. The Jew is required to convey them in an effective and pleasant manner so they will have the desired effect on the listener.
Significantly, the name of the Torah portion is Emor (say), and not Daber (speak). Daber is a harsher term, implying the use of strong language to convey a point. Emor, by contrast, implies a softer kind of speech, and a more pleasant way of communicating.
The commandment to reveal our thoughts to our fellow man and exert a positive influence on others must be carried out in a tender and loving manner. Threats and intimidation have no place in the Jew's vocabulary. Every Jew without exception is worthy of being addressed with affection and respect, regardless of their spiritual standing or actions.
This then is the lesson of this week's Torah reading: Having good thoughts is not enough. In order to have a positive influence on others we must reveal them verbally, and in the most pleasant manner possible.
Adapted for Maayan Chai from Hitva'aduyot 5742
Continued from last week.....
by W.J. Walter
I don't usually buy a daily paper, they're so expensive in Ireland, but the Irish Times was looking at me as if pleading to be bought. At home I opened it and the first thing I saw was "Rabbis On Mission To Lapsed Irish Brethren!" The two rabbis "hoped to meet all of the 300 Jews who had drifted away and were spread around the Republic."
This was for me! Not that I particularly liked being classed as a lapsed Irish brother, but I would swallow that for the sake of having a rabbi in the house! Anything for some face-to-face contact.
Best of all, these two rabbis were Chabadniks. And they were bringing books. I looked forward to a feast of learning -- but only if I could let them know we were here.
A lot of telephoning found them at last and they promised to come. Another call -- from them this time -- to finalize arrangements for their visit. "What is the name of your city?"
"We have no city. We have a village with one shop and four pubs. It is called Leitrim."
"What is the name of your street and what is the number of your house?"
"We live on a country road with no name, and houses here have no names or numbers. Everyone knows everyone else by name. We are not numbers. Just ask for us at the shop."
I came round to the shop and told Seamus that I was expecting two rabbis, and they would likely call in. "And don't be teasing them. No jokes about bringing us out a pound of bacon! They may not understand Irish humor."
"Will they have beards and ringlets?"
"You can depend on the beards but I wouldn't bank on the ringlets. And they will be dressed in dark suits." I showed him the cutting from the paper and told him what it was about.
"Oh, G-d help you!" he sympathized, "If you have the Missioners with you, they'll be into hunting out sin, and giving out Hell and Damnation and giving you a terrible time." And he looked really sorry for us.
"Not at all." said I, "Jews aren't like that. We'll have a grand time! We're looking forward to it!"
I sat down by the gate watching for them, afraid they'd miss the house, and then the evening chill sent me indoors. So I sat in the library watching for a car. At last a white car turned in and paused as if unsure that it was right. I hurtled out the front door with all the eagerness of youth and hobbled down the steps with all the arthritis of my 70 years! The driver's door opened and I was swept into the arms of the younger rabbi, Mendy Harlig.
A slightly older rabbi, Yossi, emerged from the other door and also greeted me with great warmth.
Then Anne came from the kitchen and there were introductions all round. That evening we had a real, genuine farbrengen [Chasidic gathering] and we sang Chasidishe nigunim [tunes] and the rabbis and I danced round the table. We laughed and danced and drank l'chaim and, because I am a sentimental old fool, I wept from pure joy. We talked about tzimtzum [G-d's contraction of Himself when He created the world] and about the Rebbe and we drank another l'chaim. We talked about Moshiach, about Chabadniks we knew, and about Jewish law. We sang more nigunim and they seemed surprised to find that we knew most of them and could lead off with one or two that they had not heard.
Mendy, who had been driving all day, fell asleep over the table and we talked on. At last, at about two in the morning, we sent them up to bed.
In the morning I got up at about seven, as usual, in case they needed help -- but they were not moving very early. After we all davened and breakfasted it was decided that they would like to see a bit of the country, and Anne took them out in the car while I stole half an hour's sleep. On their return, Yossi and I made a start on learning some Tanya while lunch was being prepared. Neither of them had ever been down a cave before, so in the afternoon, I took them across the border where there are some wonderful caves near Enniskillen.
This impressed them very much and they had photographs taken of themselves in what is called the Moses Walk, a dry path between two walls which keep back the waters of an underground lake. Yossi learned a lesson from that experience and he told us, but I forget what it was. I was too much impressed by the lesson I learned, that despite water and soil, nothing can live without light. So we cannot truly live without the Light of Torah.
When we got home, I took them to a friend's farm where they could see the milking of the cows and thus have supervised milk.
Two hours later they emerged, splattered with various agricultural substances, but happily bearing two precious bottles of unquestionably kosher milk.
Yossi and I had another try to get a bit more Tanya into us. Mendy went off early to bed that night -- I cannot imagine why! -- and Yossi and I talked on until Anne came home about midnight.
In the morning they pushed off early for Galway where they were to give an interview on local radio. I hope they made it! Three cultures met, Irish culture, American culture and Yiddishkeit -- and Yiddishkeit united us. Beautifully!
Brighten the World
"Women have a unique role in educating their children, specifically in the area of teaching their daughters to light Shabbat candles, as this is a woman's mitzva. By doing so, they will increase the light in their own homes, and in turn, increase the light of the world." -- The Rebbe, 28th of Iyar, 5751 (1991)
According to the Midrash, our ancestress Rebecca began lighting candles at the age of 3 years. In the past, many had the custom of having their young daughters, beginning from age 3 or even earlier, light Shabbat candles. The Rebbe has greatly encouraged the revival of this custom.
Erev Shabbat Kodesh
Rosh Chodesh Iyar, 5735 
20th Annual Convention
National Council of Neshei U'Bnos Chabad
On the occasion of the forthcoming convention, taking place on the weekend of Pesach Sheini, I send greetings and prayerful wishes that the Convention should, with G-d's help, be crowned with hatzlacha [success] in the fullest measure.
One of the teachings of Pesach-Sheini -- as my father-in-law of saintly memory pointed out -- is that in matters of Yiddishkeit [Judaism] one should never give up, and it is never too late to rectify a past failing.
This principle has also been one of the basic factors in the work of the Rebbe's-Nesiim [leaders] since the beginning of Chabad, who dedicated themselves with utmost mesirat-nefesh [self-sacrifice] to bring Jews closer to Torah and mitzvot, regardless of their level of Yiddishkeit, and not to give up a single Jew.
The task of bringing Jews closer to Yiddishkeit is especially relevant to women, for it obviously requires a special approach in terms of compassion, loving-kindness, gentleness, and the like -- qualities with which women are generally endowed in a larger measure than men, although all Jews without exception are characterized as rachmanim and gomlei-chasadim, compassionate and practicing loving-kindness.
The theme of the Convention, "Bringing Light Into the World -- The Obligation and Privilege of Every Jewish Daughter," is especially fitting in many ways, including this detail in light that it illuminate its environs regardless of the state of things, all of which are equally illuminated, and in a benign and friendly manner. This is the way Torah-Or [Torah-Light] illuminates every Jew in every respect, as it is written, "Its ways are ways of pleasantness, and all its paths are peace."
May G-d grant that the convention be carried through with hatzlacha, and should inspire each and all the participants to carry on their vital work in a manner full of light and vitality, and in an ever- growing measure...
1 Iyar, 5711 
This is to acknowledge your letter of Nisan 13, and to thank you for your good wishes for Pesach [Passover]. I trust you had an enjoyable and inspiring Yom Tov.
Pesach ushers in sunny and warm springtime. In nature, spring brings forth to the surface the natural forces which were hidden during the winter, and out come the blossoms, which turn into ripe fruits later on.
Applying this idea to the human element, there can be a state of "winter" of apparent unproductivity in the life of a person. But no Jewish man or Jewish woman should consider themselves -- and certainly should not be considered by others -- as having terminated their usefulness, even though a long time of fruitlessness has elapsed.
Given the proper inspiration and stimulus, the state of "winter" can easily and suddenly be changed into "spring" and blossom time, which will eventually ripen into good fruits for G-d and man.
The significance of "springtime" in Jewish life is suggested by the festival of Pesach which we have just celebrated, as indicated in the Torah: "You are going forth (from Egypt) this day, in the month of spring."
For two hundred and ten years the children of Israel lived in Egypt, in physical and spiritual slavery, stagnating in the abominations of Egypt. It did not seem that there could be a revival of Jewish life. Yet, there came the Exodus in the middle of the month of spring, and the children of Israel were quite free, so free in fact that in a very short time they became worthy of receiving the Torah -- the zenith and completeness of the entire universe.
The Annual Convention of the Association for Jewish Outreach Professionals (AJOP) will be held Sunday - Tuesday, May 11-13, 1997 at the Homowack Hotel in upstate New York.
AJOP brings together outreach professionals and synagogue rabbis interested in outreach to the Jewish community. The convention will be preceded by a special Shabbos retreat for laypeople, discussing involvement and volunteerism in Jewish outreach.
On Monday Afternoon, Yosef Kazen, Director of Chabad-Lubavitch in Cyberspace will host one of the workshops, sharing his experience and insights to using the Internet for spreading Yiddishkeit.
LAG B'OMER PARADES
This year, Lag B'Omer falls on a Sunday (May 25). This means that Chabad-Lubavitch Centers around the world will be making special programs filled with fun and excitement for the entire family. In the New York Metro area the main event will begin in front of 770 Eastern Parkway with floats, bands, clowns and a parade. The program will continue throughout the afternoon on Empire Blvd., where there will be lots of fun for everyone. For school or group reservations or for general information call Tzivos Hashem - (718) 467-6630.
KABALA OVER COFFEE
Every Sunday at the Chabad Center of Northwest New Jersey (White Meadow Lake) you can learn Kabala while sipping your coffee. The class is appropriate for beginners to intermediate level. For more information or other class offerings, call the Center at (201) 625-1525.
DON'T BE A STRANGER AMONG US
Walking tours of the warm and hospitable Chasidic community of Crown Heights, Brooklyn, are available through the Lubavitch Youth Organization. Visit Lubavitch World Headquarters, see a scribe in action, take a tour of a state-of-the-art mikva, and much more. For reservations and more information call Rabbi Epstein (718) 953-5244.
The Rebbe teaches us about a common thread that runs through this week's Torah portion, Emor, and the previous two Torah portions, Acharei and Kedoshim. All three portions speak about every Jew's obligation to sanctify G-d's name, and how the sanctification of G-d's name is connected to the sanctification of the Jewish people.
The three Torah portions refer to three different phases of this mitzva. Acharei speaks of sanctifying G-d's name within the realm of holiness, Kedoshim speaks of sanctifying G-d's name by separating oneself from negative influences, and Emor speaks of sanctifying G-d's name by using the material world for spiritual purposes.
These three phases are connected to the chapter of Pirkei Avot that we read this Shabbat. The first verse of the chapter states:
"Reflect on three things, and you will not come to sin: Know from where you came, and to where you are going, and before Whom you are destined to give an account."
Know from where you came: Our soul is a part of G-d which is brought down to this world. This refers to sanctifying G-d's name where His holiness is revealed.
Where you are going: As we proceed with our lives we become involved with the material world and mundane affairs, which can be used for good and holy purposes.
Before Whom you are destined to give an account: When a person realizes that he will have to stand before G-d to give an account of his actions, he will separate himself from negative and evil influences.
May G-d grant us that soon, with the coming of Moshiach, we will live in a world free of negative influences, where the material is elevated to the spiritual, and G-d's holiness is completely revealed.
The festivals of G-d, which you proclaim them to be holy convocations, these are My festivals (Lev 23:2)
The word "them" appears to be superfluous. During the holidays we are obligated to rejoice, but we should also be sure to invite the needy to the festive meals. "Them" refers to the underprivileged who need to be invited.
And you shall count for yourselves the day after Yom Tov (Lev. 23:15)
In counting sefira, the days between Pesach and Shavuot, we learn about the importance of time. Counting the days before Shavuot, the day on which we received the Torah, is a preparation for receiving the Torah, which emphasizes the value of time. Every Jew is obligated to occupy as much time as possible in Torah study, and not waste time that could be used for this purpose.
Until the morrow of the seventh week you shall count fifty days...You shall make a proclamation on this very day; a holy convocation shall there be unto you (Lev. 23:16,21)
Shavuot commemorates the season of the giving of the Torah, but there is no mention of a specific date when the Torah was given. G-d did this so that one should not limit Torah to a certain time. Every day a Jew should view himself as having just received the Torah on that very day.
You shall dwell in booths seven days (Lev. 23:42)
On the Festival of Ingathering, when we harvest the crops, we are commanded to dwell in sukot, booths. A sukka is a temporary dwelling place; a person is obligated to move from his permanent home into a sukka to impress upon him that true security is provided by G-d. A person who harvests an abundant crop may forget the true Source of his wealth. Dwelling in a sukka reminds him that affluence and success are temporary, and he is dependent on G-d.
From: Vedbarta Bam - by Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky
The saga of Sephardic Jews who were forced to flee the Old World for the New to escape the hand of the Inquisition is one of faith and fierce determination.
The story of the Pereiras is a proud tale of one such family who sought refuge from the transplanted Inquisition in Brazil, in the Colonies of the newly forming United States.
The patriarch of the family, Don Jose Pereira, was a wealthy goldsmith who had successfully plied his craft in every location his family had lived. Now that he had arrived in New York with his wife and eleven children, he was denied permission to work by the local Dutch governor. His eldest son, Isaac, was also a skilled goldsmith, and he decided to try his fortune and relocate in the freer climate of Boston.
There, he settled with his young family and established himself as a talented silversmith, creating objects of great beauty which were eagerly sought after by the wealthy English colonists. As the years passed, Isaac became a member of the growing Jewish community in Boston. It was his desire that his son, Jacob, follow in his footsteps as a silversmith. Jacob, however, showed no inclination for the craft. On the contrary, he was fascinated by the world of books and scholarship. Eventually, his father accepted the fact that his son would follow another path.
Jacob decided to attend the University of Salerno and at the same time, pursue higher learning in Jewish subjects. He spent ten years in Salerno, where he studied under the direction of a noted Jewish physician and scholar. After that period of time, he returned home, an idealistic young doctor.
Upon his arrival, he became especially close with his cousin, Jose Pereira, a fiery young ballistics expert, who had a strong desire to aid his adopted country. Both young men joined the revolutionaries, and when Washington was in the throes of planning his strategy against the British General Howe, they requested an audience with him.
Jose spoke very directly to General Washington, telling him, "Your honor, pray forgive me, but I think your tactics may lead to disaster. I know the territory on both sides of the East River well, and I dare say that bravery and strategy notwithstanding, our troops, ill equipped and poorly trained as they are, do not have a chance against Howe, who, I am told, is right now advancing on our men."
Washington was furious at the audacity of the young Jew, but after a few minutes of discussion, perusing maps of the area, the General became convinced of his superior knowledge. Unfortunately, Jose's words were born out; only his advice prevented the worst from occurring.
General Washington followed the advice of the young Pereira and dared a quick, bold move of his troops across the river on the night of August 29, 1776. At the head of his company spread over a wide area on the Brooklyn side, Jose deceived the British by maintaining a cross- fire and constantly changing attacks and withdrawals, luring the British away from the scene of the crossing. Tragically, Jose himself lost his life, as he carried out the cover-up operation.
As the last contingent of Washington's troops waited to be ferried across the river, the British pressed in from all sides. It was then that Jose took the action which turned the tide of battle. Disguised as a farmhand, Jose made his way to the Hollings farm, where the largest powder magazine was hidden in the barns and sheds.
Soon, the British were startled by explosions which rocked the night and ripped huge gashes in the earth. The third and fourth explosions broke the British attack and the revolutionaries were saved for the time being. It was never discovered how Jose accomplished this feat single-handedly.
Jacob Pereira had so impressed General Washington that he was asked to join his staff. In the bleak days and weeks of fighting which followed, Doctor Pereira exerted a strong influence on the thinking of General Washington. When General Washington abandoned his headquarters at Morristown that winter, he reluctantly gave Doctor Pereira permission to return home to Boston. There, the young doctor established himself successfully as a physician and scholar of note. In Boston, his erudition was greatly valued by both the members of the Jewish community and the scholars of Harvard University, who consulted him often.
His proudest memories, however, were the few months which he had spent in the company of General Washington.
In the future, all the predictions of the prophets will be fulfilled. Their prophecies concerning the Redemption of Israel and the doom of the nations will prove to be faithful and accurate.
(Arugat Habosem on Psalm 96)