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L'Chaim
July 11, 1997 - 6 Tamuz 5757

476: Chukas

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The Weekly Publication For Every Jewish Person
Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.


  475: Korach477: Balak  

The Red Heifer  |  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

The Red Heifer

From the London Telegraph to the Boston Globe to the New York Times, major newspapers have run stories about the political fallout from the birth of a calf. Not just any calf, mind you. The young heifer which is attracting so much attention, as it munches on a few blades of grass in a kibbutz near Haifa, Israel, is completely red.

The various newspaper reports express concern that the appearance of this calf, born around Passover this year, could provoke an international incident.

Why all the fuss? In the Torah portion which we read this week, we are told of how the ashes of just such a rare calf are required to purify one who has come in contact with a dead body.

When the first and second Holy Temples stood in Jerusalem, it was necessary for Jews to undergo such a purification before ascending on the Temple Mount to participate in the service of the Holy Temple. And it will be necessary for the entire Jewish people to undergo this purification before participating in the service of the Third Holy Temple.

In his Jewish legal book, Mishna Torah, Moses Maimonides relates that, beginning with Moses, nine red cows were slaughtered at various points throughout history. The tenth will be offered by Moshiach who will lead the Jewish people to the rebuilding of the Holy Temple which was destroyed nearly 2,000 years ago.

All the excitement aside, the hullabaloo certainly serves to remind us of the important message of the Red Heifer. The sprinkling of the ashes was necessary for the purification of a Jew who had come in contact with a human corpse. The defilement caused by an encounter with death is symbolic of a Jew's spiritual distance from the Creator and source of all life. The sprinkling of the ashes of the Red Heifer reminds us that the service of a Jew must always be filled with vitality, life and enthusiasm.

Impurity relating to a corpse, which is in essence the absence of vitality, signifies a situation in which one loses sight of one's bond to G-d, the Source of Life. By contrast the Torah tells us "You who cleave to the L-rd your G-d are all alive today."

There is a profound link between the precept of the Red Heifer and the Messianic redemption.

Mitzvot signify life: Observing the commandments enables a person to attach himself to G-d and draw spiritual vitality from the Source of All Life. Sin signifies death: Violating G-d's Will disrupts attachment to the Creator, thus bringing about the "impurity of death."

Both the red heifer and the Messianic redemption effect purification. For just as the ashes of the red heifer are used for removing a legal state of impurity, the Final Redemption with Moshiach will purify the entire people of Israel, from any trace of deficiency in their bond with G-d.

Without doubt, our own spiritual renewal and reconnection will bring even closer the renewal of the entire Jewish people with the coming of Moshiach and the rebuilding of the Temple, may we see it happen now!


Living with the Rebbe

Our Sages discuss the clouds of glory, the well and the manna we read about in this week's Torah portion, Chukat.

The clouds of glory surrounded the Jews and guarded them. They protected them from the wind, killed snakes and serpents, leveled the mountains as they walked through the desert and cleaned their clothes.

The manna was the food the Jewish people ate in the desert. It had any taste a person wanted; each individual experienced a different flavor when he ate it. Ingested and assimilated into the Jew's physical body, it became part and parcel of their flesh and innermost being.

The well, provided by G-d in the merit of Miriam, supplied the Jews with water. Water, although not a food in its own right, is nonetheless the means by which nourishment is transported to all parts of the body.

Allegorically speaking, these three phenomena -- the clouds, the manna and the well -- are also found in Torah. Like the clouds, the Torah protects us from without. Like the manna, it enriches our inner being and becomes united with it. And like water, Torah is the means by which these inner and outer qualities are conveyed to all Jews.

Let us look at each of these phenomena individually:

The manna, which permeated the Jew's inner essence, was not given in an equal manner or in equal proportions to everyone. Righteous people were given manna that was ready to eat; the wicked had to grind and cook it to make it edible. Why? Because internally, every Jew is different.

For one Jew, reciting "Shema Yisrael" is enough to fulfill the mitzva of learning Torah, yet another must sit and study a whole day! The Torah's demands are dependent on a person's individual situation and circumstances; his obligations are in exact proportion to his ability.

The clouds, by contrast, surrounded all the Jews equally, without distinction. The clouds protected everyone, in a place rampant with snakes and scorpions. The desert is symbolic of this world, in which people often encounter difficulties. Similarly, the Torah encompasses all Jews, protecting every member of the Jewish people. The essence of the Jewish soul is the same in every Jew. Likewise, the Torah belongs equally to all of us.

Lastly, water flows from a high place to a low place. (In fact, the Torah has descended from the very highest of spheres to the lowest -- the physical world in which we live.) It conveys the Torah's "manna" and the Torah's "clouds of glory" to every Jew. And when a Jew reads the Torah, he receives its "manna" and "clouds" -- even if he does not understand the meaning of the words.

Adapted by Maayan Chai from Likutei Sichot, Vol. 2


A Slice of Life

My Transformation
by Meir Meiri

I was born in 1956, at the peak of the kibbutz movement in Israel. Life on the kibbutz was very strict and its ideology colored all aspects of our daily life, from the fact that we were raised apart from our parents to the atheism instilled in us by our teachers. Judaism, they drummed into our heads, is something that belonged to a bygone era. Religion is obsolete in today's society. There is no G-d! We could have been in Russia for the Communist-style education we received.

My mother's grandfather had been a rabbi in Europe, but her own father had rejected religion. My father had been observant up until his Bar Mitzva. For both of my parents the ideology of socialism was a replacement for religion. Whenever I had a question about Judaism they supplied the answer, but they were always sure to emphasize that such things had nothing to do with us.

When I was 15 years old, I began to think about a Higher Power. The older I got, the more I thought about it. I was very drawn to books on spirituality and parapsychology. Slowly but surely it began to dawn on me that every person turns to this "Higher Power" when he's in trouble. Whatever beliefs I held, however, had nothing to do with changing my actual behavior; the transition from avowed atheist to believing in something was radical enough.

I became a lot more familiar with Judaism when I was in the army. There was one soldier who used to make kiddush on Friday nights for us, and I enjoyed it immensely. I also liked listening to the religious soldiers praying.

I liked the idea that on Shabbat you make kiddush, you wash your hands and make a blessing before you eat. You aren't just stuffing yourself. I loved that every member of the family sat around the table. Each person was important!

Back at the kibbutz I started to make kiddush on Friday nights. This wasn't a "religious" act, mind you, it was a "spiritual" one.

I finished my military service in 1977. Many of my friends were going abroad but I preferred to go home. I knew that I stood at a spiritual crossroads. On the one hand I recognized this supernatural "Higher Power," but at the same time there was still a physical world to contend with.

A few years after I got out of the army I had an accident with a piece of farm equipment. I was in the middle of a field when it caught my sleeve and my arm was severely injured. It took half an hour to get help by tractor. Not many people recover from that kind of accident, but when I did, I was stronger in my belief than before.

But I was still yearning for the truth. I decided that the time had come to go abroad. I went to live with the Indians of North America. Those were really spiritual people, I thought, who incorporated their beliefs into their daily existence. I ended up working in a sort of rehabilitation center for Indians, which was designed to bring Indian youth back to their traditions. One day I was walking through a little village in southern Mexico, a yarmulke perched on top of my ponytail, when a young man came over to me and invited me to his home. His whole family was in the process of converting to Judaism. They were delighted when they found out that I was from Israel. I didn't really understand why non-Jews would want to become Jews. But the fact that they considered Judaism so important made a lasting impression on me.

The turning point came when I found myself in Cincinnati on the eve of Shavuot, having hitchhiked all the way from Texas. The Rebbe's emissary in Boston had given me a list of emissaries all over America, and I decided to contact Rabbi Sholom Ber Alperowitz, who was an emissary in Cincinnati at the time. The Alperowitzs were very gracious and welcomed me into their home.

I started to accompany the rabbi when he went to the homes of new Russian immigrants who wanted to make their kitchens kosher. It was amazing to see a respected rabbi roll up his sleeves and scrub pots and pans in preparation for the kashering.

Another incident that made a deep impression on me was at a "Redemption of the Firstborn" ceremony. Before making several l'chaims, Rabbi Alperowitz warned me that he was easily affected by liquor, but I was entirely unprepared for his transformation. In went the alcohol, and out came holiness. Loosened by the liquor, he began to urge the people, in words that truly came from his heart, to do mitzvot, to connect to the Creator, to take advantage of their new- found religious freedom.

It was the first time in my life that I had ever seen a person who embodied such truth. There was no doubt in my mind that Chabad was what I was looking for.

And then, the war in Lebanon broke out. I flew back to Israel expecting to be called up any minute, but it turned out that my entire troop had disbanded.

As I was already back in Israel, I decided to investigate various yeshivot in Israel and ended up in a Chabad yeshiva in Tzefat. The yeshiva there was a very warm and loving environment.

I came to the Rebbe for the first time right before Purim of 1984. Words cannot describe how excited I was at the thought of finally being in the Rebbe's presence. I attended my first farbrengen [Chasidic gathering] and I could not believe it when the Rebbe nodded in my direction during the singing in between his talks. I assumed he was indicating someone else. It was only when he did so a second time that I realized he meant me!

I decided to stay in New York for the upcoming school year to study in the Rebbe's neighborhood. When the year was over, I returned to Israel and moved to Kfar Chabad. The following spring I married my wife, Chana. Today, we live with our children in Kiryat Gat, Israel.

Reprinted from Beis Moshiach Magazine.


A Call To Action

Nurture Your Spiritual Garden:

"Now that the summer is upon us it is most appropriate to deal with the matter of education of children, after all, it was for this more than anything else that the Previous Rebbe was arrested and incarcerated. Children must be enrolled in Torah camps where they will receive proper Torah education during the summer months so that it will be apparent on the children that they are truly part of the Jewish "garden.'"

(The Rebbe, 1988)

Call your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center to find out about the closest Torah camp.


The Rebbe Writes

8th of Tammuz, 5738 [1978]

This is to acknowledge receipt of your letter of the 13th of June, on behalf of yourself as chairman of the committee.

I was gratified to read in your letter about the favorable impact of Lubavitch in South Africa, and in your city and congregation in particular. I trust that this good influence finds the fullest expression in actual deeds, namely in promoting matters of Yiddishkeit [Judaism], Torah and mitzvot, in your community, in accordance with the saying of our Sages that, "The essential thing is the deed." And in matters of Torah and mitzvot, even one good deed is very important, since "one mitzva leads to another mitzva."

Even more important it is where Jewish education is concerned, especially as I note that your shul is situated on a campus of, and used by, a Jewish Day School of approximately 1,000 children, and where your congregation has been blessed with many families, adults and children -- may their number grow. For, as I have had occasion to emphasize this many times, every beneficial influence on a child is like the benefits and care given to a young seedling, which multiplies in due course many times over, when the seedling becomes a full-grown fruit-bearing tree.

As we are approaching the auspicious anniversary of the liberation of my father-in-law of saintly memory on the 12-13th of Tammuz, I trust that you know the history and significance of this date. The main point of it is that he has shown what a Jew can achieve when he is absolutely determined to live up to his commitment to Torah and mitzvot regardless of the circumstances. And there is no need to spell out what these circumstances were under the Communist regime 50 years ago.

And although who can compare to his stature, nevertheless having accomplished what he did, he has made it easier for all those who would follow in his footsteps. Certainly those of us who are privileged to live in incomparably happier circumstances, where one does not have to endanger his life, G-d forbid, to observe the Torah and mitzvot, and whatever difficulties there may be are for the most part imaginary and can certainly be overcome, so that in the final analysis it is mainly a matter of one's own will and determination.

This makes it the duty and privilege of every one of us to do all one can, by example and precept, to spread Yiddishkeit, Torah and mitzvot, in one's surroundings, and it is certain that every such effort is bound to be blessed by G-d with hatzlacha [success].

P.S. With regard to your writing about your desire to visit me with a group from your congregation, I regret that for the present "yechidut" [a private audience with the Rebbe] has been suspended for reasons beyond my control. I trust, however, that before long it will be resumed and it will then certainly be a pleasure to meet with you personally.


7th of Tammuz, 5735 [1975]

I was pleased to receive a report through the visitors from London about your activities and the work of the various committees.

On the basis of your achievements in the past, one can surely be confident that these will stimulate you to even greater accomplishments in the future, in accordance with the saying of our Sages, "He who has 100, desires 200, and having achieved 200, desires (not only a similar increase, but) 400." And if such is the case in material things, how much greater should be one's spiritual aspirations.

At this time, in proximity to the 12-13th of Tammuz, the anniversary of the geula [redemption] of my father-in-law of saintly memory, the history and significance of which you all surely know, I trust that each and all of you will be inspired by these auspicious days.

One of the main points is that this anniversary demonstrates how much a single Jew can accomplish in matters of Torah and mitzvot, even under the most adverse circumstances. And although none of us can compare to him, we should remember that after he had blazed the trail and shown the way, he has made it easier for every Jew to follow in his footsteps. It should, of course, also be borne in mind that none of us have to face any such difficulties and dangers as he had to face day after day. There is surely no need to elaborate on the obvious.

May G-d grant that you should always have good news to report.


What's New

JEWELS RELEASES

Jewish Perspectives on the Birthing Experience, Rationale/Reasons, and A Message of Blessing for Mother and Child are three pamphlets that have recently been published by JEWELS/LEFJME. If you are interested in receiving a complimentary copy of any of these pamphlets contact them by calling 800-860-7030 or write to: JEWELS/LEFJME,312 Kingston Ave., Bklyn, N.Y. 11213

Good Morning America

Chabad-Lubavitch in Cyberspace is the subject of Good Morning America (ABC-TV) to be aired on July 14, 1997 in the 8:00 am series, as they explore how religion uses the Internet to spread its message.


A Word from the Director

The 12 day of Tamuz (July 17, 1997) marks both the birthday of the Previous Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, and his liberation from Soviet prison and exile.

When the Bolshevik revolution succeeded in overthrowing the Czarist regime in 1917, it set about destroying religion. Judaism, and particularly Chabad, was a prime target. The Previous Rebbe, devoted himself to keeping the flame of Judaism alive in the early days of Communist Russia.

So powerful was the Previous Rebbe's impact that at one point he was even offered a deal by the Communist government! He would be allowed to continue to support rabbis, ritual slaughterers, etc., and even continue to encourage Jews to attend prayer services on one condition: He had to stop educating the children in the ways of the Torah.

To the Previous Rebbe this was unacceptable, and he refused, saying, "If there are no kid goats, there will be no adult goats..." Without the proper Jewish education for our children, we as a nation, cannot survive. And even when the Previous Rebbe reached the shores of America, he continued to strengthen Jewish life by establishing schools here as well.

The Previous Rebbe showed great courage and determination when it came to preserving the Jewish way of life through Jewish education. He stood up to both Communist oppression and to those here in America who told him that it couldn't be done, that yeshivot couldn't thrive in this modern new world. His legacy, Chabad schools the world over, has outlived Soviet Communism and at the same time continues to prove that those who doubted him were wrong.

The Previous Rebbe was a living example of his teachings. His strength and courage were not for his own personal needs, but for the spiritual needs of the entire Jewish people.

Let us stand strong together, and demand from G-d the thing we need most, the arrival of our righteous Moshiach and the true and complete Redemption.


Thoughts that Count

This is the statute of the Torah... and they shall take to you a red heifer (Num. 19:2)

In speaking of the laws of the red heifer, the Torah states, "This the statute of the Torah," not just the statute of the red heifer. The red heifer has the power to purify one who was defiled, yet those who partake in the preparation of the red heifer become defiled. The verse is teaching us one of the basic lessons of the Torah, that we are obligated to help our fellow Jew, even if it requires sacrifice.

(The Rebbe)

And Miriam died there and she was buried there (Num. 20:1)

It is significant to mention both facts, that Miriam died and she was buried. During the forty years that the Jews wandered in the desert as a punishment for speaking ill of the Land of Israel, every year those people who were between the ages of twenty and sixty at the time of the exodus would dig graves for themselves and went to sleep in them. Those who were meant to die did, and those who did not die returned to their tents. Therefore, Miriam was the only person at that time who died before she was buried.

(Sh'nei Ham'orot)

G-d said to Moses and Aaron, "Because you did not believe in Me to sanctify Me in the eyes of the Children of Israel, therefore you will not bring this congregation into the land I have given them." (Num. 20:12)

Aaron was punished, as well. For, Moses hit the rock twice and Aaron should have stopped him after the first time, telling him that the commandment was to speak to the rock and not to strike it.

(Shaar Bat Rabim)

From Vedibarta Bam by Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky


It Once Happened

Once Mar Zutra travelled to a certain city with many of his students. A wealthy Jew who lived in that city invited them all to stay at his house as guests for Shabbat.

The host treated them with the greatest respect, serving them wonderful meals, and honoring the Torah which they discussed.

Among the treasured possessions of the host was a beautiful silver goblet of rare workmanship, which he used for kiddush and havdala -- the service after Shabbat, separating Shabbat from the rest of the week. After Shabbat, as the servants were cleaning up and putting everything away, a cry suddenly arose in the household. The goblet was missing. Everyone looked high and low for it, but to no avail. It had vanished.

Everyone was bewildered. Mar Zutra and his students also helped in the search. But the goblet was not to be found.

The host was very upset. Reluctantly he said, "I am afraid that our precious goblet has been stolen!"

Mar Zutra was deeply troubled. Was it possible that one of his students had done such a terrible thing?

The students looked at one another with serious faces. They hoped that the thief would be discovered quickly. They did not want to be suspected of stealing. Everyone went to sleep with a troubled heart.

The next morning the students woke up and prepared for prayers. Immediately upon arising, each one carefully did the mitzva of washing his hands. Mar Zutra watched them with approval.

Then he noticed that one of the students wiped his hands on another student's cloak. Mar Zutra called the student aside, and said to him sternly, "Admit that you are the thief!"

"Rebbe, how can you say that?" the student protested.

"I saw you wiping your hands on another student's garment!" Mar Zutra said. "If you don't care about his garment, why should you care not to steal as well?"

"But I couldn't find my towel, and the garment will soon be dry. I didn't really damage it."

"Nonsense!" Mar Zutra said. "If you couldn't find your own towel, why didn't you wipe your hands on your own shirt instead? You pretend to fear G-d when you wash your hands, but you really are a thief! Your own actions betray you!"

The student's belongings were searched, and the goblet was discovered. Since he had been careless in one little thing, Mar Zutra had rightly understood that the student was a thief.


Rabbi Yehoshua ben Chananya lived in Rome, and was recognized everywhere for his wisdom. At that time, the Romans were in the midst of a long drawn-out war against the Parthians.

One day the Roman emperor saw Rabbi Yehoshua and began to speak to him rudely. "Rabbi, it is said that you are a very wise man. And your Jewish Sages teach that a wise man is even superior to a prophet. Is it true? Are you wiser than a prophet? Can you tell me what I will dream tonight?"

Rabbi Yehoshua replied sharply, "Your Majesty, tonight you will dream that you will fall into the hands of your despised enemies, the Parthians. They will torture you and force you to do hard labor!"

The emperor was shocked. Rabbi Yehoshua went on, "After you are captured, your enemies will throw stinking garbage at you with a golden rod."

Now the emperor was really angry. "You lie, old man! I ought to have you killed. But I will let you live to see how foolish your words are. In my life, I have never had a dream in which I was so put to shame."

Without another word, Rabbi Yehoshua left the emperor.

Alone, the emperor wondered about what the Jewish Sage had said. "What did Rabbi Yehoshua mean?" he thought. "My army is ten times larger and more powerful than the Parthians. How could they defeat me and take me captive? It makes no sense. And what is that golden rod?"

The emperor continued to ponder Rabbi Yehoshua's words. As he did so, he became more and more agitated. "Could there really be any truth to his words?" the emperor wondered. "Could his wisdom be prophetic? Am I fated to fall into the hands of my enemies?"

As the emperor envisioned Rabbi Yehoshua's words coming true, he began to tremble with fear. "Oh woe!" he cried. "I would rather die than be defeated in battle and captured!"

His mind was awhirl. Rabbi Yehoshua's sharp words kept ringing in his ears, haunting him, following him wherever he went. Fear dulled his appetite and made him unable to concentrate on affairs of state.

When he finally lay down to sleep, fatigued and nervous, the emperor tossed and turned until he fell into a fitful sleep. Even in his dream he could not get the words of the Sage out of his mind. He saw himself in chains, tormented by his enemies who threw garbage on him with a golden rod. It was just as Rabbi Yehoshua had predicted.

The following morning, he called for the Jewish sage and admitted that indeed he was correct. Rabbi Yehoshua explained his students that a person dreams at night what he thinks about during the day.

The lesson we can glean from this is to surround ourselves with positive images and thoughts during the day, so that we can have a good nights rest, refreshing our bodies so we can serve Hashem the next day with inner peace and happiness.

Reprinted from the Tzivos Hashem Newsletter


Moshiach Matters

The liberation of the 12th of Tammuz will lead us to the ultimate redemption. Every salvation bears the name "redemption," as such it has a common denominator with every other salvation. Thus, the redemption of the Nasi [leader of the generation] is associated with the ultimate and true redemption; through our increased efforts to disseminate Torah and strengthen Judaism the master [Moshiach] will come.

(The Rebbe, 14 Tammuz, 1987)


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