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Devarim Deutronomy

L'Chaim
July 18, 1997 - 13 Tamuz 5757

477: Balak

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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.


  476: Chukas478: Pinchas  

The Computer  |  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 Computer

A computer does not perform any functions that a person could not accomplish by himself. However, it can calculate in a matter of seconds what would ordinarily require weeks, months or even years for a person to do.

Because the process of arriving at these calculations manually is so complicated, a person could easily make a mistake and reach an incorrect conclusion. Therefore, the advantage of using a computer is that one will always reach the correct conclusion if the data has been entered properly.

This suggests an interesting parallel in our approach to mitzvot. We need not wait until we fully understand the commandments, such as donning tefilin or lighting Shabbat candles, but can perform them in the manner of "First we will do and then we will understand." One may argue: "Since G-d created man with a brain, how can it be demanded of someone that he perform mitzvot without completely understanding them?"

Furthermore, if the Torah is true, what do we have to fear from investigation? Certainly the person will conclude that the Torah and its precepts are valid and a commitment to Torah is sure to result. Why shouldn't a person first try to fathom the Torah through intellect?

However, this reasoning would be equivalent to someone choosing not to use a computer, but instead taking a piece of paper and a pencil and attempting to complete a complex calculation. If he values his time, he will acknowledge that others more competent than he have already made these computations and will instead rely on the computer to do the work quickly and efficiently.

Of course one should use his G-d-given faculties to understand. However, why waste our time repeating someone else's work when we can use their calculations as a starting point and utilize our own abilities more fully to reveal deeper and more intricate concepts.

Just as a person can make use of a computer because of the skills and expertise of the individuals who developed its hardware and software, so too with the performance of Torah and mitzvot.

Over the course of tens of generations, many luminaries have expounded on the various facets of the Torah and its mitzvot. It is certain that the people engaged in this process did their work without bias, since they revered it as the epitome of holiness and they devoted their entire lives to this quest.

If one wants to confirm the calculations for himself--by all means. However we need not wait until we fully understand every aspect of the Torah with our own intellect. We can rely for now on the wisdom of the Sages who have already analyzed and interpreted it, and can therefore begin immediately with the action that precedes the detailed understanding.


There are those who claim that at the time the Torah was given, phenomena that would be discovered in later generations were not yet known, so the dictates of the Torah are not relevant in reference to these matters. To refute this, we can take another lesson from the computer.

A person may use a computer to calculate things undreamed of by its inventors. The conclusions derived are nonetheless valid.

The same is true of the Torah and mitzvot. Although the Sages did not know all the developments that would emerge over the course of time, since the Torah encompasses all aspects of the world's existence, we can legitimately apply its teachings to situations that occur in modern times.

Adapted from a talk of the Rebbe by Rabbi D. Polter in Listening to Life's Messages.


Living with the Rebbe

The prophecy of Bilaam, contained in this week's Torah portion, Balak, concerns the End of Days -- the Messianic era. Based on the verses of Bilaam's prophecy, Maimonides rules that a person who does not believe in the coming of Moshiach denies the entire Torah. Believing in Moshiach and actively anticipating his arrival is a fundamental principle in Judaism incumbent upon all Jews.

The prophecy of Bilaam foretold of two anointed kings. The first was King David, who delivered the Jewish people from their enemies; the second is Moshiach, a descendant of King David, who will redeem the Jewish people from our present exile. Some of the verses of Bilaam's prophecy pertain to King David, while others pertain to King Moshiach.

Significantly, both King David and King Moshiach are referred to as "Moshiach which means "the annointed one."

The knowledge of the existence of a prior Moshiach makes our belief in the arrival of the final Moshiach that much stronger.

Our faith is further reinforced by the fact that Bilaam's prophecy was said about both Moshiach's. For just as the first part of his prophecy was fulfilled in its entirety, so too are we assured that the second part will ultimately be fulfilled, and King Moshiach will usher in the Messianic era.

In reference to King David, Bilaam declared, "A star shall step forth out of Jacob." Concerning King Moshiach, he foretold, "and a scepter shall arise out of Israel." Israel and Jacob are both names for the Jewish people. Jacob (Yaakov) is related to the Hebrew word for heel, eikev; Israel (Yisrael) comes from s'rara, meaning authority and rule.

In this we see the superiority of Moshiach over King David, for the name Israel expresses a more noble quality than the name Jacob. Indeed, in the Messianic era, the Jews will be known as "Israel."

Concerning King David, Bilaam said, "He will smite the corners of Moav." King David subdued the Moabite people and ruled over them. Moshiach, however, will rule over all the nations of the world, as it is written, "He will break down all the sons of Seth." In the Messianic era, the Jewish people will be ascendant over all other nations and peoples.

Bilaam continued: "Seir shall also be an inheritance." An inheritance is something which is passed on from one person to another, without conflict or the need to wage war.

Similarly, in the Messianic era, the gentile nations will be pleased to help the Jewish people and will willingly participate in the worship of the one G-d, as Maimonides writes, "[Moshiach] will amend the entire world, to serve G-d together...All will call on the name of G-d in unison."

Adapted for Maayan Chai from Likutei Sichot, Vol. 18


A Slice of Life

In honor of the Previous Rebbe's birthday on 12 Tammuz and his miraculous release from Soviet imprisonment on that day, we present short anecdotes told by the Rebbe during the year after the Previous Rebbe's passing. They are culled from the earliest talks of the Rebbe and are published by Sichos in English under the title "Proceeding Together." In these stories, "Rebbe" refers to the Previous Rebbe.

[Ed's note: 12 Tamuz corresponds to July 17 this year. The 13th of Tamuz is the day the Previous Rebbe left the Prison. Both days are celebrated by Chassidim.]

When the Rebbe Rashab [Rabbi Sholom Ber, fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe] was very ill in the year 5657 [1887], the medical specialists in Moscow told him that he had only a few months to live. Hearing this, he told his wife, the saintly Rebbetzin Shterna Sarah, that he had decided to travel to Eretz Yisrael [the Land of Israel].

The Rebbetzin asked him, "And what will you do with your Chasidim and with Chasidut?"

Replied the Rebbe Rashab, referring to his son, the Rebbe: "Why, I'm leaving him!"

And the Rebbe was then seventeen years old!


In the early years, whenever the Rebbe Rashab traveled anywhere, he did not give his son the key to the cabinets in which he kept his manuscripts; only in later years did he do so.

On one such occasion the Rebbe entered the room where his father's papers were kept, and came upon a number of sheets of paper written by [his father's father,] the Rebbe Maharash. Having earlier accustomed himself to copy his handwriting, he took up a goose quill, as his grandfather had often done, and on one of those sheets he composed an explanation of a philosophical concept in Chasidut. Then, since he was deeply engrossed in his further perusal of his grandfather's manuscripts, his own composition was left among them when he left the room.

His father, the Rebbe Rashab, returned from abroad, lighted upon this sheet, and told his son: "This is a happy day for me; I've discovered a Chasidic discourse of my father's that I hadn't known about!"

The Rebbe said nothing in reply. A few weeks later, when his father mentioned it again, he thought over ways of remedying the situation and decided to raise the subject at yechidut [a private audience] with his father.

Entering his father's study, he was so agonized over the whole matter that he burst into tears and could not utter a word. Then, in response to his father's question, he explained that he had done something and did not know how he could possibly find atonement for it -- and told him the whole story.

"Not so terrible," replied his father.


This winter I once entered the study of the Rebbe. His head was leaning on his hand; he was deep in thought, and he said that he wanted to go to Eretz Yisrael.

I said, "How can one go? There is so much work to be done here!" The Rebbe reflected for a moment and said, "Nu--a nice thought." In his thoughts he was already in Eretz Yisrael.


When my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe, was leaving Vienna, he was accompanied to the railway station by a number of German Jews. As departure time drew near, one of them consulted his precise watch and informed the Rebbe, "One minute left! "

Replied the Rebbe, "So there's still time to do teshuva [to repent]."


The Rebbe Rashab and the Rebbe once visited the shul of the Maharal of Prague [in 1908]. The Rebbe wanted to go up to the attic in which the golem is to be found. He bribed the shammes, took a ladder, and climbed up.

(When the Rebbe recounted this episode I asked him what he saw up there; there was no reply.)

When the Rebbe Rashab heard about this he reprimanded his son severely, and after some time told him, "I had months of work!" (evidently, to forestall any possible ill effects.)


A certain Californian timber dealer once entered the study of my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe, for yechidut. After receiving replies to his business questions he proceeded to ask about the education of his children, but the directive which the Rebbe gave him in reply was not to his liking.

The Rebbe said: "Consider. When it came to the timber business, in which I have never engaged, you traveled a great distance to ask for my advice. But when it comes to the education of your children, which is my occupation -- and which was also the occupation of my ancestors -- you don't accept my advice?!"


A Call To Action

Reach Out

When blessing the Jewish people with the Priestly blessing, the Kohahim (priests) extend their hands over the congregation. This teaches us that our prayers that others be blessed with peace, health, fulfillment, etc. for others cannot be merely "lip service." We must DO something to help another Jew, as well.

(The Rebbe)


The Rebbe Writes

8th of Adar I, 5719 [1959]

I received your letter and was sorry to read in it that you failed in your last exam. May G-d grant that you will make good in your next exam.

It is curious that immediately after the matter of the exam, you write about your religious troubles, and evidently you see no connection between the two, despite the fact that I have, in the past repeatedly, called your attention to the interrelationship of all one's experiences with one's status in Torah and mitzvot.

If you will reflect on your experiences regarding your progress in secular study in the past two years, you will surely convince yourself that the connection is a real one, and it surprises me that you do not notice it, even though you write about one immediately after the other.

Let me again emphasize that when I say that additional efforts in matters of Torah and mitzvot will bring you additional Divine blessings in all your undertakings (including your exams), I mean by such "efforts," above all, the actual practice of the mitzvot in everyday life, and next also the strengthening of your faith.

The very fact that your religious troubles, i.e. your weakened faith, have immediately reflected themselves in a way for which there is no apparent "scientific" explanation -- for what scientific connection can there be between faith in G-d and an examination in applied science -- only goes to show that "scientific" explanation is not always a reliable method.

You write that although many apparent contradictions between religion and science have been explained to you in a way that they could be acceptable to you individually, you find it hard to accept them in total. You attribute this difficulty to your background, which taught you to think for yourself at every phase, having been brought up in public school and high school, instead of in a yeshiva atmosphere. But it is not your being trained to think for yourself that is your difficulty, but your inability to think straight in this matter, because of the prejudice which you acquired -- consciously and even more subconsciously -- during those formative years, which you spent in an atmosphere which was alien to the point of view of the Torah, while the Torah viewpoint has only come to you recently. It is therefore not surprising that whenever any detail comes up which apparently is in conflict with your former attitude, you find it difficult to accept, in the belief that everything must strictly conform to your former viewpoint, without stopping to examine whether that viewpoint represents truly scientific criteria.

I believe I pointed out to you during our discussion that the behavior of any individual is, in 90% or more of his actions, determined not by rational forethought, but by habit and by faith in the authority of other people. Just consider your own actions, from the moment of your awakening in the morning until you go to sleep at night.

Ask yourself which and how many of them you perform on the basis of scientific analysis or any kind of premeditation!

And here is another point to bear in mind. Precisely from the point of view of modern science -- more than at any time in the past -- it is clear that there can be no real conflict whatsoever between science and faith.

Modern science upholds the view that there are no longer any immutable physical laws, that everything is relative, and that the so-called laws are no more than probabilities. Modern science no longer claims absolute certainty in the physical world. The fact that a certain thing behaves in a certain way today, is no conclusive evidence that the same thing behaved in the same way 5000 to 6000 years ago, or that it will behave in the same way a thousand years hence unless all other things are equal, including all external physical conditions of atmosphere, outer space, temperature, pressure, etc., etc., not to mention human nature which is also changeable.

And even, all things being equal, modern science will say that the past behavior of a certain thing in a certain way still offers us no certainty that it will behave that way, but only that "chances" are that it will.

Clearly, therefore, modern science cannot presume to judge with any degree of certainty the truth which our religion proclaims. The most science could say is that these truths are more or less probable. Obviously, there is no room here to speak of any conflict between science and faith....


What's New

BEACONS ON THE TALMUD'S SEA

Beacons on the Talmud's Sea is a sampler of the Rebbe's distinctive approach to the study of the Torah constructed to convey the unique flavor of the Rebbe's insights. His teachings on various Talmudic passages have been adapted and presented in this volume in free- flowing English, with thorough notes and explanations. Available at Jewish bookstores or from the publisher, Sichos in English by sending $18 to SIE, 788 Eastern Pkwy, Bklyn, NY 11213.

TZIVOS HASHEM NEWSLETTER

Free of charge for kids under the age of Bar and Bat Mitzva, the Tzivos Hashem Newsletter arrives in your home five times each year. The stories, puzzles, and mitzva missions will entertain your children and delight you with their kosher fun. For a subscription send your children's names (include Hebrew names if possible), birth-dates and address to Tzivos Hashem Newsletter, 332 Kingston Avenue, Brooklyn, New York 11213 or email: tzivos@aol.com


A Word from the Director

In the event Moshiach does not come, the fast of the 17th of Tammuz will be observed Tuesday, July 22nd. In this instance, the act of fasting recalls tragic events and brings us to repent for the misdeeds that caused those events as well as our own repetition of those misdeeds.

The first tragic event to take place on the 17th of Tammuz was when Moshe descended from Mount Sinai and witnessed the Children of Israel sinning with the Golden Calf, which led him to destroy the Tablets. Later on there were tragedies involving the destruction of both the first and second Holy Temples.

In the time of the first Holy Temple, on the 17th of Tammuz the priests were no longer able to bring the daily sheep-offering, as enemy soldiers had surrounded the city of Jerusalem. When there were no more sheep left in the city, their enemies prevented them from getting more.

During the second Holy Temple, on the 17th of Tammuz the walls around the city of Jerusalem fell and the enemy soldiers broke into the city. Both Temples were destroyed on the 9th of Av, exactly three weeks after the 17th of Tammuz. Therefore, the 17th of Tammuz begins the period on the Jewish calendar known as "The Three Weeks." It is a time of mourning, when we schedule no weddings and refrain from listening to music.

Within this sad time also lies hope. One of the many beliefs of the Jewish people that have withstood the test of time is the belief in the coming of Moshiach and the rebuilding of the Holy Temple. As we read about the destruction of our glorious Holy Temple and we mourn its loss, we should be inspired to improve in the areas of learning the Torah and doing its mitzvot, knowing that in doing so, we are bringing the world closer to its purpose, the arrival of Moshiach and the rebuilding of the Holy Temple.


Ed Note: The Rebbe suggested a number of years ago that one should learn the laws of the Beit Hamikdash during this 3 week period. "Seek out the welfare of Jerusalem" is a book published by Sichos In English (sie100@aol.com) and is available from them. Selections from this book will be mailed out to subscribers to the Chabad-Lubavitch in Cyberspace list of G-2. If you are not on this list (g2) please send an email to: listserv@chabad.org and in the SUBJECT write: Subscribe g2.

Thoughts that Count

Behold, a people has come out of Egypt, behold it has covered the surface of the earth (Num. 22:5)

Balak told this to Bilaam, a former advisor to Pharoah. When Pharoah feared that the Jews would multiply and take over the land, it was Bilaam who advised him to enslave the Jews and throw the Jewish boys in the Nile as a means of decreasing their number. Balak came to him and told him that his ideas hadn't worked, that the Children of Israel had thrived and grown in Egypt.

(Ohr Hachaim)

So now, I beseech you, come and curse this people for me, for it is too powerful for me (Num. 22:6)

When Balak said "for me," he meant, "make something happen to me," because he knew that Ruth, from whom King David and Moshiach would descend, would come from Moav. Therefore, he told Bilaam to make something happen to him, so that there would be no Ruth, no David, and no Moshiach. He knew that this would be the greatest curse on the Jewish people.

(Chomat Anach)

Behold, it is a nation that will dwell in solitude and not be reckoned among the nations (Num. 23:9)

Bilaam was amazed at the Jewish people's ability to thrive despite constant persecution. He attributed their success to the fact that they keep themselves separate from the other nations. By assimilating ourselves we do not gain acceptance and recognition from other nations, for our survival depends upon our being 'a people apart.'

(Likutei Betar)

Now, flee to your place (Num. 24:11)

Balak had agreed to pay Bilaam a large fee for the job of cursing the Jews. Bilaam, expecting this large fee, had lived in a luxurious fashion in the city of Moav. Having failed in his task, he would not be receiving the money. Bilaam advised him to flee, to run away from his creditors.

(Fun Unzer Alten Otzer)

From Vedibarta Bam by Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky


It Once Happened

Once, in the time of Rabban Gamliel, there was a wicked non-Jewish judge who wanted to undermine the authority of the rabbinical court. He spread stories everywhere about how fair and honest he was, so that the Jews would come to him to have their cases tried rather than go to the rabbinical court.

Rabban Gamliel and his sister devised a plan that would reveal to one and all the judge's dishonest character. That night Rabban Gamliel's sister approached the judge's home. The judge was surprised to see her there, and inquired as to how he could help her.

"I have a case that I wish for you to try, " she replied. "My father recently passed away, and my brother, Rabban Gamliel, has taken all the money and property for himself. I have received nothing.

"Why don't you go the Jewish courts?" asked the judge.

"I would surely lose," she answered. "My brother is an important, highly regarded member of the Jewish community. And besides, according to the Torah a daughter does not inherit anything if there are sons."

"What would you like me to do?" the wicked judge asked her.

Reaching under her cloak, she pulled out a beautiful golden lamp and placed it before the judge. "I want you to summon my brother to your court," she said. "I know I can rely on you that justice will be done."

"Go in peace," said the judge. "I will see to it that justice is done."

The next day Rabban Gamliel received a summons to appear in court with his sister. A large crowd of Jews and non-Jews gathered to witness the case.

"Rabban Gamliel," said the judge, "why do you not give your sister a share in your father's inheritance?"

"Our Torah states that a daughter does not inherit if there are sons," Rabban Gamliel answered.

"Since your Temple was destroyed Torah law is no longer the law of the land," the judge declared. "Roman law must be obeyed now. By Roman law sons and daughters divide the inheritance equally.

Rabban Gamliel appeared very solemn while his sister looked very happy.

The next day the judge heard a knock on his door. This time it was Rabban Gamliel. "Please accompany me to the courtyard," said Rabban Gamliel. "I want to show you a wonderful Libyan donkey which I inherited from my father. It is truly a beauty, without equal. I would like you to have it as a gift. Perhaps you will find a way to reconsider the ruling you handed down against me yesterday."

The judge recognized the animal as one of great value, and he would be pleased to acquire it. However, he remembered the golden lamp that he had already received from Rabban Gamliel's sister. He turned to Rabban Gamliel and told him, "I will have to study the law again. Perhaps I will find a solution."

A few hours later Rabban Gamliel and his sister were once again summoned to appear before the judge. Word quickly spread through the town, and a large crowd turned out to witness this unusual turn of events.

The crowd was silent as the judge entered. The judge addressed Rabban Gamliel and his sister. "I have been studying many law texts with regard to this case, and I have found one that states, `We cannot add or take away anything from the law of Moses.' In light of this, I must retract my original ruling and decide in favor of Rabban Gamliel, who informed me that the Torah says that a daughter has no claim on her father's inheritance."

"Oh wise judge!" cried out Rabban Gamliel's sister. "Let the wisdom of your ruling shine like the golden lamp I gave you!"

Rabban Gamliel smiled. "That is impossible my dear sister. I gave the judge a beautiful donkey which kicked over your golden lamp."

Everyone started to laugh. The judge, realizing that his true nature had been revealed, fled the room. From then on, he ceased to try to undermine the rabbis' authority.

Reprinted from the Tzivos Hashem Newsletter


Moshiach Matters

Nine red heifers were prepared...: the first was prepared by Moses, the second by Ezra, and there were seven from the time of the Ezra until the Destruction of the [second] Holy Temple. The tenth will be prepared by the King Moshiach -- may he speedily be revealed! Amen, may this be G-d's will!

(Maimonides, Laws of the Red Heifer, 3:4)


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