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The dictionary defines judgment as, "The forming of an opinion, estimate, notion, or conclusion, as from circumstances presented to the mind." Forming judgments is basic to the very fabric of human existence.
We are called upon to "judge" or evaluate people and situations every day. And yet, aphorisms abound about how unwise it is to judge our fellow man. We are told: "Don't be judgemental," "Don't judge a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes," "Don't judge a book by its cover." Who could imagine that judging another favorably brings great benefit to the "judge"?
The Talmud teaches that "He who judges his fellow man favorably, is himself judged favorably." (Shabbat 127b) This means that on a Divine level, G-d will also judge the person in a favorable manner.
In connection to this concept is a Jewish teaching that explains that after 120 years, when a person enters the World of Truth, he is shown a "video" of the deeds and actions of another person and is told to pass judgment. Then, he is shown a "video" of his own life. Suddenly he realizes that he performed the same deeds and actions committed in the first "video"; the judgment previously passed on the other person is his own.
Judaism does not tell us to be non-judgemental. We are encouraged to be very judgemental but to judge favorably. At every opportunity we should judge -- favorably. Rabbi S.R. Hirsch declared: "Better that a hundred should be judged too favorably than that one should be wronged in judgment."
The famous codifier of Jewish law, Rabbi Moses Maimonides, goes one step further. He states: "If there is a person you do not know to be either righteous or wicked, and you see him doing or saying something which might be interpreted either favorably or unfavorably, interpret his action favorably and do not suspect him of evil."
Though coming to these types of conclusions might seem more than a little difficult, our Sages offer us practical advice on how to implement this plan of positive action. "Judge every person -- kol adam -- on the scale of merit," the Mishna (Avot 1:6) teaches.
"Kol Adam" can be interpreted also as "the whole person" i.e., "Judge the whole person on the scale of merit." Do not see only his faults, but look at the whole person and you will surely find good in him to judge him favorably (Sfat Emet).
When confronted with another person's seeming reprehensible action or deed, consider the entire person. Certainly he has redeeming qualities; assuredly there is a reason for this lapse; or possibly it is not a faux pas after all, but rather the observer's lack of omniscience.
In this week's Torah portion, Naso, we read of the offering brought by the princes of each tribe of Israel upon the completion of the Tabernacle: "And it came to pass on the day that Moshe had finished setting up the Tabernacle...that the nesi'im (princes) of Israel brought their offering...six covered wagons and 12 oxen, a wagon for two of the princes, and for each one an ox."
The contribution of the nesi'im, the leaders of each tribe, consisted of the wagons that were to carry the Tabernacle and the oxen that pulled them. The 12 nesi'im contributed six oxen; that is to say, each nasi contributed half an ox.
At first glance this seems like a small contribution. Why weren't the nesi'im more generous with their offerings? The Tabernacle was an extremely heavy structure consisting of numerous large and varied components. Why then were they content to offer just half an ox each?
The Tabernacle was built according to strict specifications. No element of the entire Sanctuary -- not even the smallest detail -- was superfluous. Every item served a distinct function, including the wagons that transported it from place to place. Thus, because the number of wagons required to carry the Tabernacle was specifically six, no more than that number could be contributed by the nesi'im. Furthermore, the wagons had to conform to an exact set of dimensions, no more and no less.
Our Sages declared: "Nothing created by the Holy One, Blessed Be He, in His world was created in vain"-- a principle that applies in every time and in every place. Every detail in the vast universe has a specific function, and not one element has been created without a purpose.
Just as every part of the Tabernacle was necessary and played an integral role, so too must every aspect of our inner "Sanctuaries" -- our own individual talents and abilities -- be fully utilized and taken advantage of. All of a Jew's inner strengths and capacities must be used to fulfill his Divine mission in life. After all, G-d does not endow us with these talents for nothing.
Time, too, is something we must utilize properly.
Each and every moment we are granted is precious. Even if 23 hours and 59 minutes of the day have passed and only one minute remains, it too must not be wasted. For time itself falls into the category of things we are obligated to use the fullest.
Adapted for Maayan Chai from Likutei Sichot, Volume 28
Excerpts of answers from a questionnaire given out to graduating seniors by the Chabad House of SUNY, Binghamton, New York From the Chai Times, a publication of the Chabad House of Binghamton
Michael Berg, Political Science, Adjunct in School of Management
When I think back to my experiences as a Jewish student at Binghamton it seems that there is one common theme, Chabad. Since my first Friday night at school almost four years ago, Chabad has always been there to help me meet other Jews. No matter what your Jewish background is, Chabad is a place where you can go and feel comfortable. It is impossible to imagine being Jewish at Binghamton without Chabad.
Lauren Michelle Berk, Political Science and PPL (Philosophy, Politics, and Law)
As a Reform Jew, I came into B.U. with a limited knowledge of Judaism. In the classroom setting, I learned something about history and customs, but the classroom was where I learned the least about Judaism. I started going to Chabad because I was curious and very lost within this diverse college culture. In Chabad I found a family that taught me so much about my heritage, and this enabled me to have a greater appreciation for the different people I encountered.
The Chabad House is a place where people can meet and learn about things together. I found it offered me a place to go on Friday night where I was always supported by my "second family." Rabbi and Rivky Slonim are two of the kindest people I have ever come into contact with, and they have always been supportive and understanding. They are the "parents" of the Jewish community, and they have always offered their guidance and assistance.
Michele Follick, Applied Social Science
My first weekend at B.U. freshman year, I went down to Chabad having no idea what it was about. I met a lot of great people including Rivky, the Rabbi and their children. The atmosphere was comforting and made the adjustment to college life easy. It is now four years later and I can't imagine my life at school without Chabad. Not only have I kept the friends I made there, but my knowledge of Judaism has been brought to a higher level. Friday night services have become a part of my life and showed me a religious side of Judaism that makes me want to learn more.
Amir I. Goldstein, Computer Science
When I first came to Binghamton I was a little worried, being a transfer student and all. I wasn't able to meet my friends freshman year like everyone else. My worries, however, came to an end as the first Friday night of the semester rolled around. About half of my floor in the dorm was going to Chabad, and naturally I joined them. Little did I know that these would be the same bunch of guys that I would share a house with for the next two years and stay friends with after college. I guess the one thing I will remember about Chabad is how it brings people together and ignites new friendships in a religious and relaxing atmosphere, at least that's what happened in my case. Because of my strong religious background it wasn't the religious activity that affected me but rather, the fact that Chabad brings Jews of all types together. I can remember countless times when I would say, "Wow, I didn't know he/she was Jewish," which in my opinion, is what Chabad is all about.
The reason why so many people come back to Chabad is that Rabbi and Rivky Slonim care about each and every one of us as if we were their own children. No matter if it is the first or fortieth time, if you're religious or not, they always have a warm welcome for you.
Danielle Gorlitsky, Mechanical Engineering
I come from a Conservative Jewish family. I have always wanted to learn more about Judaism, but found it difficult. When I arrived at B.U. a friend told me about the Chabad House. I went with her one Shabbat night. I have been going ever since. I took some classes with Rivky, in which I learned to read Hebrew, and I am currently taking a class to learn how to keep kosher. I have definitely become more aware of the wonderful Jewish culture that surrounds us.
Elyse Kossin, Math
The Chabad House has been a tremendous force throughout my college experience. To pick out a specific event that is most memorable is hard, since every experience I had connected with Chabad was incredibly meaningful to me. I am thankful to have had such a warm and friendly place to go for Shabbat and holidays while away from home. I can never express in words the appreciation I feel towards Chabad for their generosity, hard work and wisdom that I have tried to take advantage of as much as possible. I have learned so much from Chabad and have made connections and friendships that have been, and will always be, so special to me. What I think makes Chabad so incredible, though, aside from being a remarkable place of learning and worship, is that they welcome with open arms, any and every Jewish student, regardless of his or her background, who wishes to take advantage of any service offered, even if it is only a delicious Shabbat dinner. This is so important on a college campus, and I consider myself fortunate to have been able to enjoy such hospitality for the past four years.
Joel K. Lynn, English Literature/Rhetoric
My most memorable experience at the Chabad House was my first time there. It was my second day as a college freshman, and amidst the chaos of the new surroundings, new people, and a new start in life, I found myself in a room with over 200 other people celebrating the familiar holiday of Shabbat. From then on I knew that Chabad would play a vital role in my four years at Binghamton -- not only as the religious center, but as place to find warm food, warm smiles, and warm hearts.
Benjamin Poserow, Physics/Computer Science
Before I came here, Judaism was not a part of my life at all. But, I saw during my years at this university that Judaism is a beautiful religion that has truly enriched my life. I have definitely grown as an individual as a result.
The first time I saw a Simchat Torah celebration with Chabad I thought the participants had a few screws loose somewhere. However, after joining in, I saw how wonderful, fun and joyful it is to be Jewish, and I was truly part of something special.
Rabbi and Rebbetzin Slonim have been more than friends to me throughout my college years, and they made me feel as if I were truly part of their family, truly special. Between asking questions in person with the rabbi, going to Shabbat services and dinners at the Chabad House, and all my other contact with the Slonim's, they have given me so much. For this acceptance, genuine caring and compassion, I am enormously grateful.
Books and Boxes
In 1978, the Rebbe urged every Jewish child to have his/her own prayer book and charity box. Imagine the impact these possessions can have on a child's outlook. Owning and using a prayerbook teaches the child the importance of thanking G-d for all the good he/she has and that his/her prayers matter. A charity box teaches the child that there are people less fortunate and that it is our responsibility to help them.
27th of Shevat, 5723 
Your letter of January 14th reached me with considerable delay. You posed a number of questions regarding our Torah and mitzvot, faith and traditions, etc.
Needless to say, it is difficult to discuss adequately in a letter such questions as you raise. Since you write that you had occasion to spend time with Lubavitcher students, I trust you discussed with them some of these questions, and perhaps may have another opportunity to discuss them further. However, inasmuch as you have raised these questions, I will attempt to answer them briefly.
- How can one be certain of the authority of the Tanach [Bible] and all its particulars?
The answer to this is based on common sense, and if one approaches the question open-mindedly and without prejudice, one must come to this conclusion.
To put it very briefly, going back from our present generation to preceding generations, we have before us the text of the Tanach as it was transmitted from one generation to the other by hundreds of thousands of parents of different backgrounds to their children.
Even during the times of the greatest persecutions, and even after the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash [Holy Temple], there always survived hundreds of thousands of Jews who preserved the text of the Tanach and the traditions, so that the chain has never been broken.
Now, assume that someone would come today and wish to add a new chapter or new section to the Tanach, declaring this new addition to be of the same antiquity and validity as the other parts of the Tanach. It is clear that no one would accept it on the grounds of the simple question: If this is truly a part of the Tanach, how is it that we have not had it before? The same would apply to any questions to the dating of any particular section of the Tanach, which itself contains a record of the prophecies beginning from Moshe Rabbeinu [Our Teacher] to the latest prophets Zecharia, Haggi, and Malachi.
You mention, in passing, certain theories by certain Bible critics. But, as you know, it is not a case where these people have a different tradition from ours, going back to all those ancient generations, but it is rather a case where this one or that one has come up with theories or hypotheses which are not only speculative, but have shown to be unscientific as well as illogical. For, according to them, it would be a case where thousands upon thousands of Jews have at one point or another suddenly changed their views or attitudes toward the Tanach in radical ways. With all the arguments about superstitions or hypnosis, etc., such radical changes by hundreds of thousands of people of different backgrounds in different parts of the world, etc. are simply very far-fetched and most illogical.
Furthermore, there is a basic difference between our Jewish tradition and those of other faiths, such as Christianity or Islam. For, whereas in the latter cases, the traditions go back to one individual or a limited number of individuals, our traditions go back to a revelation, which was experienced by a whole people at once, so that at no time did we have to place our trust in the veracity of one, or a few, individuals.
- You mention the existence of other ancient codes among other ancient peoples, which are in many respects similar to the laws of our Torah.
I do not see what difference or contradiction this can have to the authenticity of the Torah. The point is that when a similarity of ideas is found between two peoples, it is necessary to ascertain which derives from the other. More important still is not so much the similarity as the difference. Thus, you mention Mesopotamia, and presumably you have in mind the Code of Hammurabi. A careful comparison will show at once that the similarities are only superficial, but the differences are basic. For the Code of Hammurabi is permeated with a spirit of extraordinary cruelty, as, for example, in regard to the penalties for theft, etc., and the same is true of other similar codes, whereas the underlying principles of the laws of the Torah are merciful. However, the essential thing is, as mentioned earlier, that there is no proof whatever that the laws of the Torah have been derived from ancient codes.
In this connection, you also mention the similarity of the custom found in the Torah as well as in ancient Mesopotamia, that when a wife could bear no children to her husband, she could take her maidservant and give her to her husband for a wife, with a view of adopting the children, etc. Here again, I do not see what difficulty this similarity of custom presents. For, even today, you may find similarity of custom between the most observant Jew and his non-Jewish neighbors as long as it is not in conflict with the Torah.
For, to be authentically Jewish, it is not absolutely necessary to reject every possible similarity of custom or habit which might prevail in the society, but rather to bring a spirit of holiness into a custom or practice which is otherwise not in conflict with the Torah.
- You ask, granted that the Torah is being accepted as of Divine origin, how is it possible to be certain of the validity of the Oral Law, and of the traditional interpretation of the Torah?
This question is also not difficult to answer. Inasmuch as you are a university student, I will give you an example from science.
As you know, modern science has made all sorts of discoveries and opened new fields, such as electronics, etc., which are based on the science of mathematics, the basic principles of which were known thousands of years ago, as is well known and admitted. Needless to say, the mathematics of old had no idea or conception of electronics, but there is no contradiction here, only the application of old principles and methods of deduction to new fields or branches of science. Therefore, the traditional interpretation of the Torah is already contained in the Torah itself, and is nothing but a continuation of the written Torah, so that only both together do they constitute one living organism.
In this case, too, we can apply the argument from common sense, as mentioned above. For it is unthinkable to assume that at any particular time there arose a new school of thought which claimed to give a new interpretation to the Torah which was in conflict with the accepted traditions of the past. No one would accept such a radical change, and certainly it could not be accepted by the whole Jewish people. For, it is not a case where a particular professor is studying with a group of students, but the study and interpretation of the Torah has been going on in numerous yeshivot and academies, all of which presented a remarkable degree of unanimity.
To be sure, we will find differences of opinion in Mishna and Gemara, but the important thing is the resulting decisions, which became unanimous in the Halacha [Jewish law]. Thus, we also find in the Torah itself a difference of opinion, on occasion, between Moshe Rabbeinu and others, but it is the final outcome of such differences that is important.
We also find a difference of opinion between the first Jew, Abraham, and his wife Sarah, in which case there was Divine directive that Abraham was to follow Sarah's opinion. Therefore, the integrity of the whole tradition and Oral Law is in no way challenged by differences of opinion which are mentioned in the Talmud, which are in themselves methods of deduction to arrive at the final decision, or psak din [legal ruling].
I trust you know the dictum that the important thing is not the discussion but the deed. Therefore, my intention in writing you the above is not for the purpose of discussion, but is an effort to remove the confusion which seems to bother and seems to interfere with your duties as a Jew -- to live up, in your life, to the Jewish way of life, the way of the Torah, which is called Torat Chaim, the Law of Life, and all the mitzvot whereby Jews live a full life worthy of its name. It is only a matter of will and determination, and we have been assured that he who determines to purify himself a little by his personal efforts, receives a great deal of help from On High.
The Chabad-Lubavitch Library is presenting its latest Exhibition on Activism - featuring the Chabad-Lubavitch Activity of "Shlichus" and the Mitzvah Campaigns. Hours: Sunday-Thursday 12:00-5:00 Friday, 12:00-2:00 - From: May 25 1997 - Lag B'omer 5757 To: Nov 30 1997 - Rosh Chodesh Kislev 5758. Location: 770 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn New York 11213 - Tel. (718) 493 -1537 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
or visit their website (in Hebrew and English) at: www.chabad.org/library
This display features the variegated activities of Chabad-Lubavitch, through the "Shlichus" and Mitzvah Campaigns that the Rebbe initiated, developed and expanded over a fifty year period.
Shabbat adds an element of completion to the days of the previous week. Therefore, this Shabbat is the completion of the holiday of Shavuot, the holiday which celebrates the giving of our holy Torah.
We also see a connection between this week 's Torah portion, Naso, and the holiday of Shavuot. The word "Naso" means "to lift up," and the Torah portion begins with the commandment to "lift up the heads." The Rebbe explains that this alludes to the ability of Torah study to elevate our intellectual faculties, and also that the act of fulfilling the mitzvot can be further elevated through Torah study.
How should we approach our Torah study?
The Torah, itself, states, "On this day, the children of Israel came to Mount Sinai." It should have said "on that day." But using the phrase "on this day" teaches us that we regard the Torah as if it were just given to us "on this day," that we should learn Torah with joy and enthusiasm, as if we have just received it.
The giving of the Torah is also connected to this week's chapter of Pirkei Avot, which begins, "Moshe received the Torah from Sinai and conveyed it..." This verse teaches us how the Torah was first brought down to this world and continues to be passed from one generation to the next.
The chapter then goes on to state how the Torah continually influences the world at large, with the verse, "The world stands on three things, on Torah, on Divine Service, and on deeds of kindness." The ultimate purpose of the world is to make it a dwelling place for G-d. It is through these three things -- Torah study, serving G-d, and acts of kindness -- that this will occur.
We hope and pray that we will soon be blessed with the coming of Moshiach, who will lead us into a world that is truly a dwelling place for G-d.
They shall confess the sin that they committed (Num. 5:7)
The commandment to confess one's sins is the cornerstone of the mitzva of repentance. By mentioning it in connection with the sin of stealing, we learn a lesson. G-d gives every person a certain measure of strength and energy to be able to perform the mitzvot. By using that energy to commit a sin, he is "stealing" from G-d.
Speak to Aharon and his sons, saying, "So shall you bless the Children of Israel (Num. 6:23)
According to Jewish law, when the kohen recites the Priestly Blessing he must raise his hands and stretch them out. This teaches us that when someone is in need, we must do more than wish him well and bless him with whatever he needs. We must "raise our hands" and stretch them out -- we must actually do something to help them.
(Fun Unzer Alter Otzer)
On this day Netanel son of Tzur offered...he brought his offering (Num. 7:18-19)
This section of the Torah portion speaks about the offering brought to the Tabernacle by the leader of each tribe. Only for Netanel the son of Tzur is it written, "he brought his offering," because he was the one who suggested that all of the leaders bring offerings. Therefore, the Torah stresses that he brought his offering, he received full credit for the idea.
On the tenth day, the leader of the children of Dan... (Num. 7:66)
The tenth day of Nisan was set aside especially for the tribe of Dan, because when Yaakov blessed his children, he blessed Dan with the power of earthly judgement. The tenth day of Nisan always falls on the same day of the week as Rosh Hashana, when G-d judges mankind. Therefore, the leader of the tribe associated with earthly judgement brings his offering on a day which is connected with Divine judgement.
From Vedibarta Bam, compliled by Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky
Once, two young men traveled to visit Rabbi Shmuel of Lubavitch, the Rebbe Maharash. They both wished to speak with him on the subject of how better to serve G-d. One young man was very learned, and the other, while not a very learned man, possessed a simple, yet pure faith in G-d.
The first man entered the study of the Rebbe for yechidut [a private audience]. He approached the Rebbe and asked him how he could improve his G-dly service, especially in the area of prayer. The Rebbe Maharash told the man to always hold a prayer book when he prayed, and that he should look at every word while praying. The young man told the Rebbe that he felt he could concentrate better when he pulled his tallit over his head, closed his eyes and prayed.
The Rebbe exclaimed, "Fool! Are you going to say 'Haleluka' [a portion of the morning prayers] on a beam?" The young man left the Rebbe thoroughly confused. What could the Rebbe have meant by suggestion that he prayed "on a beam?"
The young man asked some of the elder chasidim if they could decipher the meaning of the words, but they were unable to help him. After pondering the matter for a few hours, the young man suddenly realized to what the Rebbe had been referring. He remembered that once, while praying, he noticed a beam that ran the entire length of the synagogue. The young man decided to walk the entire length of the beam while saying the "Haleluka" prayer. He wanted to see if he could begin the prayer at the beginning of the beam, and reach the end of the beam at the conclusion of the prayer. Now he understood what the Rebbe meant; his concentration during prayer would be greatly improved by using a prayer book for every word.
Then the second man came to the Rebbe, and the Rebbe told him that at every opportunity he should learn the complete Tanach [the books of the Torah, Prophets, and Hagiography]. He should study it in Yiddish translation, in order that he should be able to comprehend fully what he was reading. The Rebbe emphasized that he should utilize as much free time as possible in learning Tanach, while journeying on business trips and even between customers. The man took this upon himself, and devoted as much free time as possible learning Tanach in Yiddish.
During one winter, the man went away on a business trip, and as usual, spent every free moment studying the Tanach. He returned home a few days later after his business had been completed. After greeting his wife, he looked in on his child peacefully sleeping in his bed. Begin that it was a freezing, cold night, the father placed his heavy cloak which he had just removed on the sleeping form of his child, in order to keep the child warm. He then proceeded to discuss the various details of his trip with his wife. After they finished their conversation, they went to check on the baby. Upon doing so, they realized that the child was not breathing. He had suffocated under the heavy cloak!
The father shook the child back and forth, hoping to start the child breathing again, but to no avail. The wife ran to get a doctor. When she returned home, an amazing sight met her eyes. There was her husband sitting and playing with their child, as if nothing had happened. How could her husband, who was by no means a doctor, revive their child? When she inquired as to how he had done this, he told her about a portion of Tanach that he had learned while on his trip. The portion dealt with the prophet Elisha, and it documents how Elisha revived a dead child by laying atop the child and breathing into his mouth. So this man, with his pure and complete faith, figured that if this worked for Elisha it would work for him, too.
All those who knew the man and knew of his conversation with the Rebbe Maharash, realized the meaning of the Rebbe's instructions. It became clear that this miracle came about in the merit of his following the Rebbe's directive to constantly study Tanach, and also in the merit of his unwavering faith in G-d.
When the earth was cursed at the time of the sin of the Tree of Knowledge, many flourishing fruit trees became barren; thenceforth entire species of trees brought forth only brambles and thorns. The Talmud teaches, however, that all of these barren trees will eventually produce luscious fruit and that those who behold this wonder will sing joyously in the times of Moshiach.
(Alshich on Psalm 96)