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L'Chaim
March 6, 1998 - 8 Adar 5758

509: Tetzaveh

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  508: Terumah510: Tisa  

Purim Points to Ponder  |  Living with the Rebbe  |  A Slice of Life  |  Rambam this week
The Rebbe Writes  |  What's New  |  A Word from the Director  |  Thoughts that Count
It Once Happened  |  Moshiach Matters

Purim Points to Ponder

by Rabbi Yisroel Rubin

Although the hamantash has been around for years, it was considered a moot point in higher academic circles. Scientists found nothing in the hamantash but poppy, prune and other kinds of jam. Unfortunately, the hamantash's association with Purim prevented it from being studied seriously.

New research, however, has recently discovered heretofore unknown angles of the hamantash. A comparative study on Food Design showed that there was no point at all in eating many of the foods around. Eggs, falafel, latkas, matza balls, burgers and meat balls are all round. If there is no point in eating, the appetites of four point two billion people on earth would be affected.

The quest of the proper food pointed researchers in the direction of the hamantash. It surpassed all of their expectations. Not only did the hamantash have a point, it has a 200% increase of points-all at no extra cost. Three for the price of one! Among all food known to man, only the hamantash is endowed with this unique configuration.

There is more than one side to the hamantash, but let's not go off on a tangent.

Psychologists have found that life is one long series of appointments and disappointments. Disappointments in turn, are caused by going around in circles, the result of which is that people fail to see any point in life. Without a point in life, people wander aimlessly. This in turn leads some to contemplate points of no return.

The hamantash poignantly demonstrates that there is a point to life. It points us toward a definite aim and goal. It drives the point home, providing us with a sense of purpose and direction. Then there is also a very fine point, which psychologists refer to as the point of pointlessness. As the Talmud points out, "A person should rejoice on Purim to the point of not knowing the difference between Haman and Mordechai."

You might be wondering, "So, what is the point of all this nonsense? Isn't this stretching the point a little far?"

You have a very good point there. But we are not here just to score points. The primary point of this treatise is to point out the main point of hamantashen - to use them in the Purim observance of "Mishloach Manot" - sending food gifts to friends. This is such an important mitzva, that we have no alternative but to stress the point over and over again.

So without belaboring the point any further, let us give it to you point blank: Share the holiday spirit and promote Jewish unity by sending a food gift of at least two edibles, preferably including a hamantash, on the day of Purim, this coming Thursday, March 12 1998.


Living with the Rebbe

This week's Torah portion, Tetzaveh, opens with the commandment to kindle the menora. "And they shall bring you pure olive oil...to cause a light to burn always."

Our Sages tell us that Moses became perplexed when it came to making the menora. Unlike the other vessels of the Sanctuary, he did not understand how to form it. G-d instructed him to take the gold and cast it into the fire, and the menora took shape by itself.

But what was different about the menora? Why was Moses able to follow G-d's other instructions, yet he did not understand how to make the menora?

To explain: The menora was fashioned of pure gold. Its function was to light up the darkness of the world so everyone could see that the Divine Presence rested on the Jewish people. Indeed, the most sublime manifestation of G-d's Presence occurred within the Sanctuary, which was constructed of simple physical components.

At first glance it would seem more appropriate for G-d's Presence to be revealed through spiritual means, by Torah study or prayer. And yet, G-d's Presence dwelt precisely in a physical edifice, the Holy Temple.

In truth, this was the crux of Moses's question. How is it possible to reveal such a sublime manifestation of G-dliness through physical means? How can a menora fulfilling this function be fashioned from a material substance, gold?

G-d's answer was as follows: True, it is beyond man's ability to effect this; only I, G-d, can cause it to happen. All that is necessary is for man to throw the gold into the fire, and I will forge the menora. The Jewish people must contribute the physical materials for the Sanctuary, and I will fashion the House in which My Presence will rest.

Although the Sanctuary in Jerusalem has been destroyed, the spiritual Sanctuary that exists within the heart of every Jew remains intact and is impervious to damage.

G-d demands of every Jew: Make for Me a Sanctuary of gold! It's not enough for you to give Me your spirituality - to learn Torah, to observe its mitzvot and to pray. I want you to utilize the very best the material world has to offer.

True, G-d says, you cannot do this on your own, but I will help you. All that is required is that you cast your gold upon the fire-into the Divine spark, the G-dly flame that burns within the heart of every Jew.

When your gold - the very best of the material world - is thrown into the spiritual fire (the nature of which is to yearn for G-dliness), I will form it into a Holy Temple. In that way there will be an abundance of light in the world, and all will see that My Divine Presence dwells within you.

Adapted from Likutei Sichot, Volume 1


A Slice of Life

The Love for Judaism
by Jeffrey B. Schreck

About 80 miles southwest of S. Antonio, Karnes County, Texas, is not exactly a hotbed of Judaism. In fact, except for the private prison located there, Jews in Karnes County may very well be nonexistent. In the first half of 1996, Colorado began sending some of its inmates to private prisons in Texas to alleviate overcrowding. Among these were about half a dozen Jewish men.

The prison at Karnes County more closely resembles a warehouse than a modern penal institution. Inmates are housed in dormitory-style 'pods' with no privacy and none of the personal property, religious or otherwise, they had been allowed in Colorado.

As inmates are wont to do, we immediately started petitioning the administration for every hour of worship time or study time we could get. To its credit, the administration tried to meet the needs of the myriad religious groups competing for limited resources. We were eventually granted worship time of one hour on Friday afternoons, Shabbat morning and Saturday evening, at the close of Shabbat. We began holding services with an assortment of prayerbooks, one Bible and limited knowledge of Hebrew.

When a box of religious items arrived from a generous supporter in New York, we were told we couldn't have them, because they were not shipped in strict accordance with facility policy. This, along with some other minor disagreements, led us to the only logical course of action for a group of inmates; we prepared to file suit in federal court alleging religious discrimination. Into this arena came Rabbi Chaim Block of the S. Antonio Chabad.

Since most of us were fairly new to Torah observance, we decided we would delay any action until we could consult with a rabbi. About the only thing on which we agreed was that we would accept the rabbi's authority and follow his advice.

Rabbi Block had made the long drive to visit us once, and we anxiously awaited his next visit. When he arrived, we presented him with a copy of our formal complaint and waited as he read it. In the next moments, we learned why the Jewish people, during 2,OOO years of exile, have always looked to our rabbis for guidance. Rabbi Block allowed us to voice all our complaints against the prison administration. Only when we had all said our piece did he offer his advice; he asked us to do nothing while he spoke to the officials on our behalf. Furthermore, he strongly suggested we stop treating the authorities, especially the program manager, as adversaries and begin showing them the respect due their positions. He suggested we voice our appreciation whenever we received consideration from them. Although it would be several months before we realized it, this was to be the turning point for our group, the point at which we would grow from a group of men praying together to a real Jewish community bound together by love of Torah and one another.

One of Rabbi Block's first orders of business was to explain the basic tenets of Judaism to the prison staff who, until then, had had very little interaction with Torah observant Jews. As the warden and program manager came to understand the unique requirements of Torah observant Jews they quickly came to see that the request for worship times, special diets and holiday celebrations were not unreasonable.

Since kosher food was not available at this facility, we ate vegetarian diets. The more we grew in Torah observance and study, the more respect we saw coming from the staff, and the more we rejoiced at G-d's blessings.

As the staff grew accustomed to seeing men praying daily in our pods oblivious to the chaos around us, we were becoming accustomed to witnessing the power of Torah in our lives. Each of us grew daily in his love of Torah and in his love of his fellow Jew. We slipped, we stumbled, we fell, but somehow we kept getting up.

Our little community could never have grown in Judaism without the generous tzedaka of many people.

The owner of a Judaica shop in Brooklyn sent gifts of Chumashim (the Five Books of Moses), tefilin, talleisim (prayer shawls) and assorted books. From the Chabad-Lubavitch sponsored Aleph Institute program in Florida came prayer books, Chanukah menoras and candles, and Passover supplies. The list goes on. Even as I type this article, I just received word that a set of tefilin has been purchased and is on its way for the last of our members who doesn't have a set. Such generosity is truly humbling.

While the Karnes facility was not where any of us wanted to be, we all agreed that G-d had placed us there to get us out of our places of complacency in order to show us the miracles we witnessed in our lives there. Finally, after 18 months in Texas, we were returned to Colorado. Three of us were assigned to the same facility where we continue to grow as a community and keep in touch with our brothers elsewhere. Much to our surprise, our new facility serves kosher meals to those Jews who request them, and the program manager has gone out of his way to assist us.

We carefully guard the reputation for honesty and integrity our community has established. Occasionally, we look back on the year and a half we had been together and marvel at the growth we've seen in ourselves and one another. More importantly, we look forward to the time when we might leave this place and return to larger Jewish communities.

Will the Jewish community at large accept us?

Will there be room for us in a world that studies Torah someplace other then behind prison walls?

We have come to believe the answer is a resounding, "Yes!"


Rambam this week

12 Adar, 5758

Negative Mitzva 273: It is forbidden for a judge to distort justice while sitting in judgment.

This mitzva is based on the verse (Lev. 19:15) "You shall do no unrighteousness in judgement..." The Torah cautions a judge to be extremely careful and no t to judge unfairly.

Negative Mitzva 275: When judging, it is forbidden for a judge to be impressed by important people.

This mitzva is based on the continuation of the above verse (Lev. 19:15), "...nor honor an important person." A judge is not permitted to show extra respect and consideration for a person being judged just because he is important or rich.


The Rebbe Writes

Free Translation

In Proximity to Purim, 5736 [1976] To Jewish Students:

At this time, in proximity to Purim, you have given much thought to the story of Purim, as related in the Megila (the Book of Esther). This is just a reminder about the special significance of this festival for Jewish children and youths in all parts of the world.

The Megila relates how the wicked Haman rose to power and planned to destroy all the Jews, young and old, infants and women, that lived in all the lands of King Ahasuerus. It also tells how things turned out eventually, with Haman being hanged on the gallows he had prepared for Mordechai, the decree abolished, the complete change of the situation from one extreme to the other, which made these days into days of joy and festivity.

Our Sages of blessed memory relate the details of how it happened:

Mordechai and Esther, who knew what was happening, called upon all the Jews to fast and pray and return to G-d, to His Torah and mitzvot. And after Mordechai had gathered thousands upon thousands of Jewish children and taught them Torah, and inspired their hearts with love of G-d and love of the Torah to the point of mesirat nefesh (supreme self-sacrifice), then G-d annulled the decree and made Esther's efforts successful, so that "For the Jews there was light, joy, gladness, and honor."

Thus, the miracle of Purim came about through the merit of Jewish children and youths!

One of the reasons why the Torah tells us these details is to let everybody know, and everywhere and at all times (for the Torah is eternal) how great is the power of Jewish children who walk in the way of the Torah and mitzvot to influence the fate of our people everywhere.

Each and every Jewish boy and girl, wherever they are, who learn Torah and do mitzvot, add strength and power to all Jews everywhere including, especially, in those countries where our enemies do not permit Jewish children and youths to be taught Torah, and to fulfill the mitzvot. How fortunate you are that you are not in such a plight, G-d forbid, and that you can learn Torah diligently and fulfill the mitzvot to perfection, and it only depends on yourselves and your will!

And in your zechut [merit], all our people will benefit and will achieve, in the words of the Megila: "For the Jews there was light, joy, gladness and honor" so be it for us and for all Jews.

With love and with blessing for a joyous Purim,

12th of Adar II, 5714 [1954] To Jewish Women, Mothers and Daughters

In the coming days, connecting the festivals of Purim and Passover, it is incumbent upon every Jewish woman, wife, mother and daughter, to reflect on the important historical part which the Jewish woman had in these festivals, and what useful lesson may be learned therefrom.

Our Law requires the Jewish woman to participate in the special mitzvot connected with the festivals of Purim and Passover (such as the Megila, Hagada, etc.), expressly stating that she merits these privileges because of the special merits of Jewish women in helping bring about the wonderful deliverances "in those days at this season."

As for Passover, our Sages tell us at length in the Midrash that it was the Jewish women who kept up the courage and spirits of their men in the most trying times of Egyptian bondage, and who, moreover, raised the generations which were to receive the Torah at Sinai and later enter the Promised Land, the everlasting inheritance of our people.

The part played by Jewish women on these two occasions was somewhat different: in the case of Passover, the woman's influence was concentrated in the home and family, ("kevuda bat melech penima"), displaying all the true feminine Jewish virtues of modesty, piety and faith. In the case of Purim, Jewish women showed that where Divine Providence places her in a position of prominence and influence, she uses it wholly for the benefit of her people, and is ready to sacrifice her very life for it, in compliance with the instructions of the religious authorities.

The two festivals, Purim and Passover, are two everlasting witnesses testifying to the devotion of the Jewish woman to the Torah and mitzvot. These festivals are living testimony that both at home and outside the Jewish woman will do her utmost to help preserve the sacred traditions and institutions of our people, even with self- sacrifice where need be.


What's New

CELEBRATE PURIM!!

Chabad Lubavitch Centers world-wide will be sponsoring Purim celebrations beginning with the reading of the Megila on Wednesday evening, March 11 and continuing with throughout the day of Thursday, March 12. To participate in a Purim meal, party, Megila reading, or Mishlo'ach Manot (gifts of food) distribution contact your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center.

HOSPITALS & NURSING HOMES

In the New York area, under the auspices of Tiferet Z'Keinim, hundreds of New York area hospitals and nursing homes will be visited on Purim by volunteers who will read the Megila, distribute Purim packages, and help Jews get into the Purim spirit. For more info on this important organization's activities call (718) 604-2022.


A Word from the Director

The Megila, which we will read in just a few days on Purim, describes how Mordechai refused to bow down to the wicked Haman. Our Sages tell us that it is because Mordechai refused to bow down that he was called "Mordechai Hayehudi" He was given this title even though he was not from the tribe of Yehuda (Judah), but rather from the tribe of Benjamin.

"Yehuda" is from the word "hoda'ah," meaning "to acknowledge." The Talmud states that when a person rejects idol worship, it is as if he has acknowledged the entire Torah. By refusing to bow to Haman (and the idol he wore around his neck), Mordechai was acknowledging the truth of the entire Torah. For this reason, he is called "Mordechai Hayehudi." And it is for this same reason that all Jews, regardless of their tribe, are called "Yehudim"- Jews, for they acknowledge the truth of G-d's Torah.

The days of Purim teach us a lesson for all times: The Jewish people may be a minority in the world. They may be scattered among all the nations. But when it comes to Torah and mitzvot everyone must see that the Jewish people bow before no one. They do not bow before other nations or their beliefs, but stand tall with all their might for the Torah, the inheritance of the Jewish people.

This Shabbat is the ninth day of Adar. On this date in 1940, the Previous Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, arrived in the United States of America. Like Mordechai, the Previous Rebbe refused to bow down to the "idols" of communism, assimilation, and modernism. In fact, when he came to the United States and began implementing his many projects for the revitalization of Judaism, he was told by many people that he would not be successful with such traditional programs in the "Goldene Medina." To this comment, the Previous Rebbe resolutely responded, "America is not different."

The hundreds of Chabad-Lubavitch Centers throughout North America are testimony to the truth of the Previous Rebbe's words.

There is far more that unites the Jewish people than what divides us. On this holiday of Purim, may we acknowledge, recognize and focus on that which makes us "Yehudim," until we experience the ultimate unification of all the Jewish people with G-d, in the Final Redemption.


Thoughts that Count

And they shall take to you pure olive oil (Ex. 27:20)

The Jewish people has a unique power not possessed by any other nation: the inability to completely assimilate even if desired, just as olive oil is incapable of mixing with other liquids. This is the reason for the Torah's use of the reflexive verb in its prohibition against intermarriage - "you shall not intermarry": Such "marriage" is not considered marriage at all, for it just doesn't "take."

(Sefat Emet)

Beaten (katit) for the light, to cause a light to burn continuously (Ex. 27:20)

The numerical equivalent of the word katit is 830 - the exact number of years the two Holy Temples stood in Jerusalem. (The First Temple existed for 410 years; the Second, 420.) The Third Holy Temple, by contrast, will exist "to cause a light to burn continuously" - eternally and forever.

(Toldot Yitzchak)

And these are the garments which they shall make: a breastplate and an ephod (Ex. 28:4)

It is said that Rashi, the foremost Torah commentator, was once very perturbed when he stepped out of the study hall for a moment and saw a gentile noblewoman on a horse riding towards him. Later, however, when he was trying to find the right words to describe the ephod, he realized that it was exactly "like the kind of apron...with which the noblewomen gird themselves when they ride on horses." This too, had been part of the Divine Plan and had served a positive purpose.

(Maayana Shel Torah)

The names of the Children of Israel...six of their names on the one stone, and the names of the remaining six upon the other (Ex. 28:9-10)

The Jerusalem Talmud (Sota) relates that Benjamin's name was divided into two, "Bin" being engraved on one stone of the ephod, and "yamin" on the other. Indeed, the Aramaic translation of Yonatan renders this verse as "six names, although not complete ones."

This is also reflected in the Torah's description of Benjamin (Deut. 33:12) as "dwelling between his shoulders," i.e., that the name was divided between the two halves of the ephod.

(Meshech Chochma)


It Once Happened

The Purim of Basra

Basra is the second largest city in Iraq (next to Baghdad). Its Jewish settlement dates back over a thousand years. Nearly two hundred years ago, before the great exodus of Jews from Iraq, a miraculous salvation came to the Jews of that city, which led to the establishment of a special Purim to commemorate the event.

This miracle happened in the days of Suleiman Pasha, who governed Basra with justice and righteousness and treated the Jews kindly. Under the guidance of their leader, Rabbi Jacob ben Aaron, the Jewish community flourished. That is, until one day in Nissan, in the year 5534 (1774). On that day, Karim Khan, the Vizier of the Shah of Persia, arrived with a great army and besieged the city. Suleiman Pasha fought against Karim Khan, but could not prevail over him. A great famine spread in Basra and the city could no longer be defended. On the 27th day of Nissan the city fell into the hands of the invaders. The conquering soldiers robbed and pillaged the city, and many Jewish women threw themselves into the raging fires to escape the clutches of the barbarous hordes.

On the first day of the month of Iyar, Karim Khan established his rule over Basra. He imposed heavy fines on the people, particularly on the Jewish community, taking their leaders as hostages. Rabbi Jacob ben Aaron, with his wife and children, were sent as prisoners to the Shah in Shiraz, along with Suleiman and his family. And while Karim Khan and his men sat down to drink, the city of Basra was in despair.

Then, the Jews of Basra gathered in their synagogue, proclaiming a fast of repentance, and crying and weeping to G-d to save them from the hands of the wicked Karim Khan and his men. And G-d heard their cries.

The hearts of kings and rulers are in G-d's hands, Jewish teachings explain. G-d strengthened the heart of Karim Khan to seek more conquests and glory. Karim Khan went out to fight against the neighboring Arab tribesmen, but his army suffered defeat and retreated to Basra with great losses. Karim Kahn gathered a new army and went out to fight the Arabs again. But the Arabs ambushed them among the floods of the rivers and slaughtered them in great numbers. Karim Khan barely escaped with his life and returned to Basra with the beaten remnants of his army. The Persian Vizier lost no time in trying to gather a new army to fight against the Arabs. But his battle-weary soldiers had no heart to fight any more and they plotted to kill Karim Khan. On the 27th day of Adar, thirteen days after the original Purim, the wicked Persian Vizier was found dead, poisoned by the hand of his own servants.

News of the death of his Vizier and of the defeat of his armies reached the Shah. He ordered the remnants of his army to leave Basra under the cover of darkness and return to Persia in secret.

On the second day of Nissan, in the year 5535 (1775), the Jews of Basra rose up in the morning and discovered that not one of Karim Khans men remained in the city. Great was the rejoicing of the Jews of Basra at this miraculous deliverance from the hands of so wicked an enemy. They gathered in their synagogue to offer thanks to G-d for the miracle, and resolved to observe that day, year after year, as the day of the miracle.

It so happened that a saintly rabbi and kabbalist from the Holy Land was visiting Basra at that time. He had been sent as a special messenger by the Jewish community of Hebron to obtain financial support for the poor and needy of that ancient city. His name was Rabbi Jacob Elyashar (he was the grandfather of the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, Rabbi Jacob Saul Elyashar). Rabbi Jacob Elyashar composed a special scroll for the Jews of Basra, to be recited by them in the synagogue on this "Day of the Miracles," and to be followed by a special feast, with gifts to the poor, as on the day of Purim.

The Jews of Basra willingly accepted all his suggestions and incorporated them into the by-laws of the community, and ever since they observed the 2nd day of Nissan as a special Purim, "The Purim of Basra."


Moshiach Matters

Purim was a breakthrough in exile. After the great miracles celebrated during this festival, the Persian rulers granted permission to rebuild the Second Holy Temple. We commemorate this freedom by serving G-d with unparalleled joy. During this period, the entire Jewish nation prays that this celebration will mark the beginning of the rebuilding of the Third Holy Temple.

Based on Yerushalmi Megila, ch. 1, Law 5
From Time and Transcendence by Rabbi Fivish Dalfin


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