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Devarim Deutronomy

June 6 , 1997 - 1 Sivan 5757

471: Bamidbar

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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.

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Children  |  Living with the Rebbe  |  A Slice of Life  |  A Call To Action
The Rebbe Writes  |  What's New  |  A Word from the Director  |  Thoughts that Count
It Once Happened  |  Moshiach Matters


by Rabbi Yisroel Rubin

Grownups say the darndest things... about children.

"Childish," "a terror," "mischievous," "Children should be seen and not heard," "What can you expect from a child?"-- are typical comments about children.

But Judaism thinks the world of children. The same Talmud that respects age also says: "The world exists only in the merit of children." "The world stands on the pure breath of innocent children learning Torah." And "The Torah study of children supersedes the building of the Holy Temple." In fact, we would have no Torah and no Shavuot holiday were it not for the children.

The Midrash relates that prior to giving the Children of Israel the Torah, G-d demanded that the Jews name a guarantor. G-d wanted assurance that the Torah would not be short-lived, but would be transmitted from generation to generation.

Israel's first choice was our forefathers. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were great men, but could not qualify as guarantors. Yichus (glorious ancestry) does not ensure that Judaism will live on in its descendants.

The Jewish people then offered the Prophets as guarantors. But that was not an acceptable choice either, Ezekiel and Isaiah were great and inspired visionaries, but preaching alone cannot assure the continuity of Jewish life.

Finally, the Jewish people hit on the right thing. We offered our little children as guarantors to transmit the Torah, to keep Judaism alive from generation to generation. Only with this choice did G-d consent and agree to give us the Torah.

This is where the beautiful custom of bringing children to shul on the first day of Shavuot originates. Because of their role and importance, all children, even infants, should be present as the Ten Commandments are read from the Torah scroll.

Children and Torah. Where would we be without them?

Psychologists have discovered what Torah has known along: a person learns more in infancy and childhood than he will for the rest of his life. At a tender age our attitudes and personality traits are shaped for adulthood. That is why educating our young children is our highest priority for survival. Rabbis, shul presidents, and organizations are all important, but only our children can ensure our continuity -- a Jewish tomorrow. They are our key to the future.

From the cradle, every Jewish child should be introduced to the beauty of Jewish life. It is crucial that parents take the first opportunity to involve children in the joy of a mitzva -- putting a penny in a charity box, lighting a Shabbat candle, and even decorating the crib and playroom in a Jewish way.

A rich selection of Jewish books, toys, games, computer software and videos that will hold a child's interest are available today. These creative tools make Judaism fun in the minds and hearts of our children.

Let's remember to bring our children to shul on the first day of Shavuot, so we can be at their side when the Ten Commandments are read. And may we all take pride in our children.

Rabbi Rubin is director of Chabad of the Capital District, Albany, NY

Living with the Rebbe

In this week's portion, Bamidbar, we read about how Moshe, Aharon and the leaders of the tribes conducted a census of the Jewish people at G-d's command. "Take a census of the congregation of the Children of Israel... you and Aharon... and with you there shall be a man of every tribe."

Counting the number of citizens who reside in a particular country is something that is done all over the world. There are no stringent requirements for becoming a census-taker; anyone may do so.

A census-taker goes from house to house writing down the number of residents on a special form. Other pertinent details are also recorded: a person's age, his occupation, etc. After tabulating all the data, the exact number of residents in the country is arrived at.

The census of the Jewish people in the desert, however, was conducted in an entirely different manner. The census-takers were not unemployed or simple folk; rather, they were the most important people in the entire nation -- Moshe, Aharon, and the heads of each tribe!

Moshe was asked by G-d to conduct the census. G-d wanted Moshe, the consummate Jewish leader and teacher of Torah, to abandon all his other affairs and go from tent to tent, counting the number of Jews over the age of 20!

But why was Moshe chosen for the task? Why did it have to be Moshe, Aharon and the tribal leaders -- the Jews with the highest status -- who conducted the census?

The answer is that appointing only the most prominent individuals expressed the intrinsic value and tremendous significance of the Jewish people. Counting Jews is an act of great consequence; not just anyone is permitted to do so. Each and every Jew is so precious that only people with the stature of a Moshe, an Aharon or a leader of a tribe may take their number.

Conducting a census of Jews is not a secular activity, it is a holy one.

Every single Jew is holy, a "veritable part of G-d above," and counting the members of a holy nation is a mitzva. This was reflected in the way the census was taken. The census-takers were required to wear their Shabbat finery as they made their rounds from tent to tent. The census was a serious affair.

Counting, in and of itself, is a mundane task, but when it comes to counting Jews it is a holy matter.

So too is it with all the worldly affairs and daily activities of the Jew. Because of his unique spiritual nature, even his mundane activities take on a higher significance. Eating, drinking, managing a Jewish household and educating one's children -- all these are uplifted and transformed into holy pursuits, for each and every Jew is invaluable to G-d.

Adapted for Maayan Chai from Hitva'aduyot 5745

A Slice of Life

The Shabbat
by Sarah Zeitlan

The idea had occurred to me often in years past, usually around this time of year. Yet this year seemed different. I was teaching a unit on Shabbat to my Sunday School class just as I had for the last several years. We learned about lighting the Shabbat candles, making the kiddush over the wine, saying the hamotzi over the challot, eating special Shabbat foods, singing Shabbat songs and more.

We would often make different crafts: a kiddush cup, candle holders, a challah cover, and a Shabbat song book. We made these things with the hope that the students would use the projects at home.

Here is where my thoughts grew deep, for in my own home we had no Shabbat to speak of. Friday might was just like every other night; kids running in and out of the house from one extracurricular activity to the next and a quick dinner (usually take-out).

And again, like every other year when I taught this Shabbat unit, I felt I was teaching about something that I had truly never experienced.

I decided to do something about it; I was going to turn our mundane Friday nights into a Shabbat experience for my family. Now, I knew that this would take a bit of coordinating, so I started early in the week.

Sunday night, I discussed the idea with my husband. He was sold when I promised to make him chicken soup, just like his mother makes. My two children, on the other hand, being the teenagers that they were, were going to take a bit more convincing, for as I already predicted, the idea of a family Shabbat dinner was not their idea of an ideal Friday night activity. So I resorted to bribery.

My son, age 16, loves two things: mashed potatoes and driving. So I promised to cook him up some mean mashed potatoes and let him use my car on Saturday night. I told my daughter, age 14, that for a special occasion she could borrow my sweater with the pearls, the one that had always been off limits to her. This was a bit extreme, even for me, but I wanted everything to be perfect.

Now I am not a woman of leisure; I work full- time, plus I teach on Sundays. So I didn't exactly have days to shop and cook an extravagant Shabbat meal. I just kept my menu simple: chicken soup, roasted chicken, mashed potatoes and zucchini. Oh, and with a little help from Duncan Hines, chocolate chip cookies for dessert. I also bought ready-to-make challot from the freezer section of the grocery store. All I had to do was thaw and bake. Everything was simple, yet I found something special in the planning and cooking for this Shabbat. I felt as if I spent every day of the week looking forward to Shabbat.

Finally, the big night arrived. I had polished up my Bubby's silver candlesticks, usually only seen on special holidays, and I looked at my Jewish calendar to make sure we were beginning Shabbat at the proper time. Then, I did something very special. I asked my daughter to join me, and together we lit the Shabbat candles. I think she, too, felt something special as we recited the blessing together. And right behind us stood my husband and my son answering "Amen" to our blessing.

We gathered round our kitchen table, now transformed into a Shabbat table, and my son recited the kiddush from his siddur. He used the kiddush cup that he had received for his Bar Mitzva. After we each had a taste of the wine, we did the traditional hand washing and then my husband said the hamotzi over the challot.

I felt a certain calmness come over my family. Usually, our nightly dinners were hurried. In fact, these days, we didn't even always eat together; with what late nights at the office, basketball games, and school projects. But tonight, my loved ones were sitting down to a true family dinner -- a Shabbat dinner. The meal was delicious, if I do say so myself. But even better than the food was the conversation.

My family was all sitting around one table, talking (not arguing) to each other about what had happened during the week: work, school, world events, sports...anything and everything. Although I was an active participant, in some ways I felt like an onlooker slowly observing a transformation from the mundane to something very special -- from a week-night to Shabbat.

After dinner we retired to the family room. But we didn't do what you might expect -- we didn't turn on the "tube." Instead, my husband said, "Anyone up for a board game?" I was shocked, but pleased. I couldn't remember the last time the four of us had sat down to a game together. Usually, our quality time was popcorn and a video. But let me tell you, we had more fun playing that game than I can remember in ages. What had I been doing all these years? Teaching my students about something I could only begin to imagine yet had never really experienced? I was not, however, about to regret the past. I would only look to the future.

I am proud to say that it has been three months since that first Shabbat meal -- three months filled with weekly Shabbat dinners in my household. I no longer need to use bribery to get my children to participate. In fact, I knew just how far we had come when my daughter asked me, "Mom, can I bring a friend over to share Shabbat with us?" I felt so proud at that moment. "Of course!" I answered.

All I can say is that G-d knew what He was doing when He gave us the gift of Shabbat. I now know that no matter how hectic our week is, no matter how little time we get to spend together as a family, we always have Shabbat to look forward to, to catch up with one another and ourselves, to forget the business of every day and to spend time thinking about G-d and family.

Reprinted from The Jewish Spark, published by the Judaic Resource Center of Iowa.

A Call To Action

Be there:

G-d chose the Jewish children as the guarantors of the Torah, therefore even very young children and infants should be in shul to hear the Aseret Hadibrot [the Ten Commandments]. In many shuls the Aseret Hadibrot are read at several times so that parents and children will find a convenient time to attend. It is also important to prepare the children ahead of time, by telling them how important receiving the Torah is.

(Likutei Sichot)

The Rebbe Writes

22nd of Iyar, 5726 [1966]

To All Participants in the Annual Dinner of the Merkos L'Inyonei Chinuch in Detroit, MI

Greeting and Blessing:

I send greetings and best wishes to the esteemed chairman, committee members, and all participants in this annual event. May the Almighty bless your efforts to make it the success it deserves in every respect.

It is noteworthy that this year's Anniversary Dinner takes place in the meaningful days of the counting of the omer which serve as a preparation for Shavuot, the festival of Matan Torah.

Our Sages tell us that when G-d was about to give the Torah on Mount Sinai, He requested guarantors to ensure that the Torah would be studied and observed. All guarantees were rejected, until Moshe Rabbeinu [our teacher] declared, "Our children will be our guarantors!" Without this guarantee, not even Moshe Rabbeinu could have received the Torah. Henceforth it became the responsibility of Moshe Rabbeinu, and, indeed, of all Jews to see to it that the Torah and Torah-way of life would be perpetuated through our children.

Thus we are taught that no matter how great a man may be, and however important the task in which he is engaged, the Torah education of our children takes precedence, and none may be excused from participating in work and effort dedicated to Torah-true Jewish education.

It is also significant that this year's Annual Dinner is taking place in the week of the sedra [Torah portion] Bamidbar, "Numbers" as this fourth Chumash is called after the sedra, because it begins with the Divine commandment to number the Children of Israel.

This portion of the Torah is always read on the Shabbat before Shavuot -- an indication that when it comes to receiving the Torah, all Jews must stand up and be counted, for each and every Jew has a Divinely given share in the Torah and is soulfully bound up in the holy Torah. We are also forcefully reminded that no single Jew must ever be given up as "lost."

The above-mentioned basic tenets are truly exemplified in the work of the Merkos L'Inyonei Chinuch in many parts of this country and the world over. Fortunate indeed is the Jewish community of Detroit to have the Merkos in its midst, and to have also many devoted friends and dedicated partners in this very vital endeavor.

May the Almighty bless each and every one of you with success in your efforts in behalf of our children -- "our guarantors" for the perpetuation of our Jewish way of life and, indeed, for our survival and happy future.

Isru-Chag HaShavuot, 5739 [1979]

Blessing and Greeting:

I received your correspondence, and may G-d grant the fulfillment of your heart's desires for good in the matters about which you wrote.

I trust you had an enjoyable Shavuot -- Z'man Mattan Torateinu, the Season of the Giving of Our Torah -- in that the inspiration will be with you in all the days ahead throughout the year.

The designation of Shavuot as the Festival of Matan Torah is significant in that -- among other things -- it conveys the concept that the Torah was given as a "matana," a gift. For unlike a sale or barter -- involving an exchange of value for value, or an award or prize -- for a special effort or merit, a gift is given freely and graciously, without previous effort on the part of the receiver.

Needless to say, if the giver of the gift is a very distinguished person and, moreover, the receiver is a person of humble station, it makes the gift even more precious, and the receiver cherishes it all the more, treats it with honor and pride, and takes good care of it.

Reflecting on the above, and remembering that the Giver of the Torah is G-d Himself, and the Torah and mitzvot are the most precious gift which G-d gave us to keep as our Torah, and that we received it out of pure love, without effort on our part -- should surely make every one of us most appreciative and grateful, and absolutely determined to cherish and honor it.

As to how we have to honor the Torah -- this is clearly indicated in the Torah itself: by conducting our everyday lives in full accord with the spirit and letter of the Torah, with the accent on the actual fulfillment of its mitzvot, for the essential thing is the actual deed.

May the inspiration of Z'man Matan Torateinu permeate every aspect of your daily life in an ever-growing measure.

What's New

and other stories

The Three Gifts is one of the many fascinating stories in this rich new collection for young readers. Edited by David Sholom Pape, children are sure to enjoy the variety and excitement of these carefully chosen tales of long ago and adventures of today.

Illustrations by David Berg, Yosef Dershowitz and Norman Nodel. HaChai Publishing.


The long-awaited fourth volume of Vedibarta Bam ("And Your Shall Speak of Them"), on the book of Bamidbar ("Numbers"), is now available. The book, compiled by Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky, is a collection of selected Torah insights, thought-provoking ideas , homilies and explanations of Torah passages. Available by sending $16 to: SIE, 788 Eastern Pkwy, Bklyn, NY 11213.

(We are going to begin featuring selections from this book weekly. If you are not yet subscribed to W-10, please do so now.... send an e-mail to: and in the Subject or Text write: subscribe w10)

A Word from the Director

This week on 6 and 7 Sivan (corresponding to June 11 and 12 this year) we will be celebrating Shavuot, the holiday on which we commemorate the receiving of our Torah.

There is a connection between this week's Torah portion, Bamidbar, and Shavuot. The word "Bamidbar" means "in the desert." A desert is an uninhabitable place, the opposite of the life-giving atmosphere that the Torah brings into this world. Nevertheless, giving the Torah in a desert transforms the desert into a place of stability and tranquility. This shows us the ability of the Torah to transform and elevate the physical world.

Each year, when we celebrate the holiday of Shavuot, we are receiving the Torah as if it were new. Therefore, we must approach our Jewish education in the same way. We must realize anew that the Torah is the purpose of Creation, and renew our dedication to grow Jewishly. When a Jew concentrates wholeheartedly on his Torah study to the point that nothing else exists for him while he is thus engaged, he becomes one with the Torah, a single indivisible, united entity.

This emphasis on Torah study is also related to this week's Torah portion, which describes the census taken of the Jews.

The Torah counts 600,000 Jewish souls, which correspond to the 600,000 letters in the Torah. Despite this multiplicity, both the Torah and the Jewish people are a single indivisible entity. The one people are connected to One G-d through His one Torah. This is the ultimate expression of G-d's love for the Jewish people.

Just as the Torah has the power to transform an uninhabitable place to a place compatible with life, so too does every Jew have the power to change the world around him by turning away from evil and doing good. When a Jew is involved in Torah study, he transforms the negative around him into positive.

On this holiday of Shavuot, while rejoicing in the precious gift of our holy Torah, let us pray fervently and ask G-d to send us Moshiach, so that we may all be able to learn Torah in a world completely transformed into a place of holiness.

Thoughts that Count

Two Shavuot -- two promises

The word Shavuot, along with meaning "weeks," for it is the holiday that comes after counting the omer for seven weeks, also means oaths. On this holiday two promises were made. First, G-d promised that He would not exchange the Jewish people for any other. Second, we promised that we would not exchange G-d for another.

(Book of Our Heritage)

Eating dairy foods on Shavuot

The numerical value of the Hebrew word for milk--chalav--is equal to 40, which corresponds to the 40 days that Moshe spent on Mt. Sinai.

(Rabbi Shimon of Ostropol)

A time to eat and rejoice

Pesach and Sukkot, which commemorate physical events, may be celebrated in a purely spiritual manner, while Shavuot, which celebrates a spiritual event, must be celebrated in both a spiritual and physical manner. This is to teach us that at the time G-d gave us the Torah, the entire physical world was affected, and holiness permeated every corner of the world.

(Likutei Sichot)

Self Esteem and Humility

The giving of the Torah is not merely an event of the distant past, but is something we are meant to relive every day. The study of Torah should be approached with fire and enthusiasm, as if we had just received the Torah today. The fact that G-d chose the smallest mountain on which to give the Torah teaches that we need humility in order to accept the Torah, but the fact that G-d chose a mountain, as opposed to a plain or valley, teaches us that we also need self esteem, pride in our Jewish heritage.

(The Rebbe)

It Once Happened

One Shavuot morning an elderly Chasid posed a question to his fellow Chasidim who had traveled from great distances to be with their Rebbe in Belz.

"Our trip here to Belz was a difficult and arduous one. But once we are here, our Rebbe will not be with us. He will undoubtedly be in the World Above experiencing spirituality on a far higher level than we can even imagine. Therefore, I ask you, what is the point of our coming here to be with him?"

The other Chasidim listened, but had no answer. And so, they all decided to enter into the Rebbe's room and pose the question directly to him. Although in Belz, no Chasid would dream of entering the Rebbe's room without having first been summoned, this question so plagued them that they gathered their courage to enter.

Standing before their Rebbe, the delegation asked the troublesome question and waited for the Rebbe's reply. He told them the following:

"It is true that if a person hears Torah thoughts from his Rebbe and learns them and then translates them into action in the service of G-d, then he retains his connection to his Rebbe and remains together with him in the World Above. But that is not all. Even if a person completely forgets the words his Rebbe spoke, but at the time was spiritually aroused by those words, he retains his connection.

"There is a hint of this in the words of the hymn, Akdamut, which we say today, for it says, 'Pure when you hear the praise of this melody, Your places will be fixed in this company." This means that even those who are pure only when they hear, they too will remain together with the holy company."

The Chasidim left the Rebbe's room comforted and uplifted by his encouraging words.

The Shavuot prayers had ended and the Chasidim of Reb Chaim of Sanz had gathered to receive the Rebbe's blessings and to hear him recite kiddush and partake of some wine and cakes. They lingered, waiting for the elderly Tzadik to complete his lengthy prayers until he finally emerged from the shul.

Reb Chaim had become legendary for his great compassion for the poor and needy and his generous dispensing of charity, but still, his followers were surprised at his words as he took his place at the table.

"When I was a young man, I used to deliver a carefully honed discourse every Shavuot to a group of great scholars. Now, however, I am an old man, and I don't have the strength for that kind of learned give and take. Instead, I will deliver to you only a very short word: I need one thousands reinish for a needy cause, and I will not recite Kiddush until you decide between yourselves how much each of you will bring to me. I need the money in cash, as soon as the holiday is over. I leave you to arrange it between yourselves. At that, the Rebbe left the room.

The Chasidim had no choice but to discuss how to meet their Rebbe's demand. Four of the wealthiest divided the entire amount between themselves, and a delegate was sent to the Rebbe to assure him that the matter was taken care of. Only then did Reb Chaim make Kiddush.

No sooner had the holiday ended than the entire sum of money was given to the Rebbe who handed it to a certain pauper who needed it for a dowry for his daughter.

The son of the Maggid of Mezritch, Reb Avraham, was called the Malach, "the Angel." It was related by his grandson, Reb David Moshe of Chotkov, that once his grandfather visited a certain scholar named Rabbi Feivish of Kremenets. Although the entire town turned out to greet the great tzadik, he stood with his face averted from them. He stood gazing out a window at a high mountain in the distance.

Although the townsfolk longed to hear some holy words of Torah from him, he remained rooted to the spot deep in meditation. One of those gathered there was a scholarly young man from a renowned family. Unfortunately, his self-esteem outstripped even those two qualities.

A fervent opponent to Chasidut, he assumed that this rabbi, whom the Chasidim esteemed so highly, was simply and purposely ignoring and slighting the scholars who had assembled to honor him. This, the young man could not abide.

Clearing his throat, the young scholar spoke. "Honored Sir, would you so kindly explain to us why you are staring so intently at that mountain, which is, after all, you must admit, no more than a pile of dust?"

The Malach didn't lose a beat in relying to the young man. "That is exactly what is so amazing to me. How is it that a mere pile of dust can inflate itself so tremendously that it can assume the shape of a proud mountain?"

With that comment, he effectively silenced the young man, and taught him a valuable lesson at the same time.

Moshiach Matters

Whoever achieves perfection in these traits; in that his eye sees the good in all, and he is modest; he is worthy of sovereignty. In this manner G-d fashioned David to be His anointed king. And this is to be the character of Moshiach, the son of David, who will speedily be revealed to us.

(The Book of Our Heritage)

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