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Do you remember sitting in geometry class, trying to figure out when in Life, if ever, you were going to use all of the information you were learning about figuring out degrees of angle, circumferences of circles, measurements of hypotenuses?
For a young child, "learning" math means addition and subtraction. For a high school student, a math class might be in trigonometry or calculus. For adults, well, we all carry our personal organizers with us and can conveniently flip them open to figure out exchange rates, how much we'll end up with if we win the $25 million lottery and take it all at once rather than stretching it out over ten years, or what the cost of that nice suit in the window would be at 30% off.
Modern mathematics is based on knowledge that has accumulated since the days of the early Greeks and the philosopher Euclid. The whole field of mathematics is based on the general rules which they formulated, though these are constantly being revised and expounded upon.
The same is true of our holy Torah. Originally expounded as a set of general guidelines and principles, it contains instructions as to how it should be studied in order to arrive at the correct conclusions. The entire framework of the Torah was given to millions of people simultaneously at Mount Sinai 3310 years ago.
Throughout the generations, our Sages followed these guidelines, thereby arriving at their conclusions in the authentic Torah manner. All resulting rulings are based on the eternal principles received by Moses from G-d Himself. Therefore, if one wishes to resolve an issue that arises in contemporary society, he can do so by adhering to the Torah principles that continue to guide us today.
Let's get back to mathematics. We would hardly consider it wise to say that if a young child learns how to add and subtract, that will suffice for his entire life. What of fractions, percentages, not to mention multiplication and division. Similarly, the basic Torah principles that almost every Jewish child learns at some point - that G-d is one, that Jews don't worship idols, that the Ten Commandments forbid stealing, murder and enjoin us to honor our parents - are not sufficient for us to experience Jewish living as adults. Jewish education throughout one's entire life, is integral to living Jewishly.
A final basic principle of Judaism: There is one, simple mathematical equation where arithmetic and Torah do not come up with the same solution. According to the rules of addition, 1 plus 1 plus 1 equals three. According to Torah they equal 1 ! When is this the case? Jewish teachings declare that the one Jewish people plus the one Torah plus the One G-d "kula chad," are totally one.
There is an intrinsic bond between each Jew and his/her brother and sister that makes us one. And we are essentially bound together with the Torah and with G-d. This oneness will be totally revealed in the Messianic Era, make it commence immediately.
In this week's Torah portion, Tisa, we read that when Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the Tablets of the Law he saw the Jewish people sinning with the Golden Calf. With everyone watching, he threw the holy Tablets down and broke them. The Midrash relates that Moses later regretted what he had done. G-d said to him, "Do not be aggrieved. The first Tablets contained only the Ten Commandments, but the second Tablets I will give you will have much more! For together with the second Tablets the Jewish people will receive halachot (laws), midrashim and agadot (homiletic interpretations), and the entire Oral Torah!"
Why didn't G-d include these things when He gave the first set of Tablets?
To explain: In order to receive G-d's Torah, a person must be humble. Only through humility does he become an appropriate vessel to contain it.
This is what we say in our prayers: "And may my soul be like dust to all; open my heart to Your Torah." When we feel ourselves to be as lowly and humble as the dust, our hearts are opened to accept the Torah.
At Mount Sinai, G-d chose the Jewish people from among all the nations of the world, "lifting us up above all tongues." Thus the Jewish people felt themselves exalted; they were filled with self-importance and lacked the modesty and humility which is necessary to receive the Torah.
When Moses broke the Tablets before their eyes the spirit of the Jewish people was also broken. Profoundly humiliated, their hearts became filled with a sense of their own lowliness; they became "like the dust of the earth."
At that moment the Jews became worthy of receiving the entire Torah - not only the Ten Commandments, but all of the Torah's various aspects and levels!
In fact, as Rashi, the foremost Torah commentator, notes, G-d praised Moses for what he had done. "More power to you for having broken them!" G-d declared. G-d thanked Moses for having broken the first Tablets. For Moses' action caused the Jewish people to be humbled, and as a direct result, worthy of receiving the entire Torah.
In this light we can better understand the Talmud's statement that the fragments of the first Tablets were kept inside the Ark in the Holy Temple together with the intact second set.
Why were the broken fragments included? To remind us that we cannot receive G-d's Torah without humility. Arrogance and pride are emotions that preclude a person from being a proper vessel. When Jews bear this in mind, our hearts are opened, and we can receive G-d's Torah.
Adapted from Likutei Sichot, Volume 26
"The Chasidic Horse Trainer"
by Dov Baron
Gedalia Goodman was born in South Bend, Indiana, and grew up in an observant Jewish home. However, when his family moved to Miami, Florida, Gedalia started drifting away from Judaism.
Gedalia started training horses in the early '60s and received his trainer's license in 1964. But horse training had not been his original career choice. Gedalia relates, "I had been in the army for over a year and was a good cryptographer. They wanted me to stay and promised to promote me, but it wasn't for me. I didn't want to be cooped up. I received job offers from the Pentagon, General Electric, Westinghouse, and RCA. But none of these prospects excited me. After leaving the military, I studied accounting and psychology. Still, I didn't feel satisfied."
While in college, Gedalia would visit the racetrack. "I liked the horses and being outdoors. One day, a friend introduced me to a horse trainer. Soon I was spending my days at the track learning the business and taking my courses at night." For the next ten years, Gedalia was a highly successful horsetrainer. Even back then he was referred to as "Rabbi" at the track because he never came on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. However, it was not until Gedalia had children, and wanted them to have a proper Jewish education, that his journey back to Torah began.
Gedalia became friendly with a rabbi who taught in his children's school and he answered many of Gedalia's questions. The rabbi introduced Gedalia to some Lubavitcher yeshiva students and Gedalia began studying Chasidic philosophy with them.
At the track, people began to notice the change in Gedalia. Although not yet fully observant, Gedalia stopped working on Shabbat. Eventually, Gedalia and his family moved to Israel, where Gedalia continued with his Torah studies.
The Goodmans returned to the United States in 1984. One of the Rebbe's emissaries suggested to Gedalia that he get back into horse training; he would be like an emissary to those Jews who owned racehorses and traveled in those circles.
When Gedalia's wife, Miriam, first heard the suggestion, she was reluctant. Relates Gedalia, "It would be a radical change from a life of spirituality in Israel back to jeans and horses in America." Gedalia wrote to the Rebbe about the suggestion and the Rebbe's reply was, "If she [Miriam] agrees, then definitely do it." Miriam agreed.
Soon after that, the Goodmans had a private audience with the Rebbe. Gedalia remembers the Rebbe saying, "You should draw all those who are near to you, closer to you, to Torah and mitzvot and Yididishkeit. Help them to be strong in their foundation in Yiddishkeit like you are strong, and to be happy like you are happy." Gedalia thought to himself, "Like me?! I'm new to Lubavitch."
Gedalia realized that this was going to be the hardest thing he ever did. His old contacts wanted nothing to do with him now. After a year, he still had not found work. "On the phone I had offers. But when we met face-to-face and they saw I was religious it was a different story."
Gedalia recalls one occasion in particular. "I had found a horse that I liked very much and was looking for an investor. I called a person I had trained for years ago. 'Where have you been?' he asked me. 'If you like the horse you can pick up a check tomorrow in my office.' When I went into his office, he took one look at me and wouldn't give me the check. Later, I found someone else to buy the horse. That year, the horse made $275,000."
Gedalia was so disheartened that he wrote to the Rebbe that he was going back to Israel. But the Rebbe gave him a blessing to stay and continue with his horse training. Finally, Gedalia got a break. He was invited to a horse farm through the help of a Chabad rabbi. After being at the farm a week, the owner told Gedalia, "Honestly, I did this just to appease the rabbi. But I learned more from you in one week than I have from being in the business for 25 years!"
This person had thought it was a joke - a Chasid training horses. He ended up giving Gedalia a horse to train so he could renew his license. This was the start of his successful new career. He became the talk of the business. He traveled around the world purchasing and training horses, and everywhere he went the media picked up the story of the "The Chasidic Horse Trainer."
The Rebbe continued to encourage Gedalia, reminding him that one of the most important things was for him to be successful and to be seen in public as a religious Jew. When Gedalia wrote reports to the Rebbe detailing his experiences, he received replies thanking him for the nachas (joy) he was giving the Rebbe.
When Gedalia traveled to Argentina, the media publicity preceded the race. On the day of the race several Jews approached him, telling him that they had come just to see him. One older man said that he had specially flown in from another part of the country. Tearfully, the man related that since the Holocaust he had lived in a small town and had not even known that religious Jews still exist.
Chasidim have always attempted to learn lessons from events around them. Gedalia has learned many lessons from his trade. Among them:
"A race horse must have a sense of confidence, a winning attitude. A horse may be strong, healthy and fast, but if he doesn't have self- confidence, a winning attitude, he is not a race horse. Today, many Jews lack this trait. When a Jew faces the outside world, to accomplish the maximum, he or she must have a winning attitude.
"Training horses," says Gedalia, "also reminds us of the importance of spending time and effort with our children and their Jewish education." Gedalia rattles off a long list of what goes into the daily care and training of every horse and then comments, "So much effort must be put into each horse in order to produce a winner. How much more should be invested in our children!"
Adapted from Beis Moshiach and The Spark (Iowa)
Rambam for Adar 18 5758
Negative Mitzva 288: It is forbidden to punish or fine a person based on the testimony of one witness. This mitzva is based on the verse (Deut. 19:15): "One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin." The Torah instructs us against declaring a person guilty and punishing him based on testimony given by only one witness, even if that witness is very trustworthy.
Rambam for Adar 19, 5758
Negative Mitzva 286: It is forbidden to accept testimony from a wicked person. This mitzva is based on the verse (Ex. 23:1): "Do not put your hand together with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness." A witness must be a trustworthy person. The judge is not permitted to accept the testimony of a dishonest person and use it in considering the case.
11th of Nissan, 5733 
...The true Jewish concept of Divine Providence is - as indicated in the plain sense of the term - that it is continuously active, every day and in every detail, and that supernatural (miraculous) Divine Providence is not limited to revealed miracles, but that also in the ordinary daily life there is miraculous intervention, except that "the one to whom a miracle occurs does not recognize his miracle."
It will be well to add some pertinent points, and to bring out the practical message of the whole thought, in addition to the explanation of the above-mentioned basic Jewish tenet, relating it to actual conduct, since "the essential thing is the deed."
Supernatural (miraculous) direction can take two forms:
- revealed miracles, such as the miracles which accompanied the Liberation from Egypt, this is to say, miracles which are entirely above and beyond the natural order, and at complete variance with nature;
- miracles on the order of the miracle of Purim, which was "clothed" in natural "garments."
The miracles of the Exodus from Egypt - beginning with those that took place in Egypt, right up to and including the liberation of an entire people, "young and old, sons and daughters," after centuries of enslavement in a land from which even a single slave could not escape; an Exodus, moreover, with "upraised arm" (in broad daylight and with honor) and "with great substance" - these were events which everyone clearly saw as revealed miracles.
Different was the miracle of Purim, for although also in this case there were miracles, to the extent of a complete "reversal" of circumstances, culminating in extraordinary triumph, nevertheless, the miracle of Purim was "clothed" in natural developments: Esther becomes queen; Mordechai gains a place "at the gate of the palace" and saves the king from an assassination plot; Esther intercedes with the king to annul the decree, etc. Although every event individually, and especially the congruence of all the events, "in those days at this season," into a predesigned pattern, was obviously miraculous.
Divine direction within the natural order, likewise, takes two forms:
- direction that "outwardly" is entirely natural;
- direction in which Divine Providence is clearly in evidence.
An example of the former, is the course of sowing and reaping: To plant, and later to harvest, is entirely natural, so much so that in order to discern Divine Providence also in this natural order, one must ponder deeply about the way in which this Providence, extending to every detail, causes the congruence of a variety of natural phenomena - such as winds, rains and sunshine, etc., each in the right time and the right measure - to produce the desired results.
The second, an easily discernible form of Divine Providence, is what people commonly call "success," "good-luck" (mazel), "windfall," and the like. These terms do not say what the thing is, but rather what it is not, namely, not personal achievement, i.e. not the result of special intelligence or hard work. However, the Torah, called "Torat Emet," tells us the real truth, that such mazel is the gift of Divine Providence, the Divine blessing in the three general areas of human needs, namely, "children, life and sustenance," real and extraordinary nachas (joy) from children, exceptional good health, and extraordinary hatzlacha (success) in parnasa [livelihood].
This, then, is the point to be learned from the distinction of the month of Nisan as "This month shall be unto you the first of the months." By ordaining the Jewish people to count all the months of the year from Nisan, the month whose significance is contained in the fact that "in it you came out of Egypt" through the intervention of revealed Divine miracles, the Torah teaches us that such is the essence of the Divine conduct of the Universe throughout all the months of the year, whether it expresses itself in revealed miracles, or in miracles which are dressed in "natural" garments, or when Divine Providence is in evidence - or it is totally obscured by the natural order - in each of all these forms it behooves the Jew to know and remember that G-d is the Creator of the world and the sole and exclusive Master of the world, and that He directs the whole world in all its details; certainly the "small world" (microcosm), i.e. man, everyone, and in all details of his and her daily life.
In light of the above, it is self-evident, that every detail of a person's life, however "small" it may be, is subject to Divine directive, and it must be carried out in accordance with that directive, i.e. the will of the One Whose Providence extends also to that particular detail. Nothing can override it, or change it.
Our apologies to our readers and the author of Bringing Heaven Down to Earth for any misconceptions that might have been created in the process of adapting and condensing portions of the book for L'Chaim issue #505.
Bringing Heaven Down to Earth: 365 Meditations of the Rebbe by Tzvi Freeman is available at your favorite Judaica store or by calling 800- 247-6553.
WAS THIS REALLY NECESSARY?
We've all had moments, ranging from comic to tragic, when we've felt exasperated by life. Chava Willig Levy, a writer, lecturer and parent who gets around in a wheelchair, certainly has. With humor and compassion she explores the Jewish concept of "this too is for the good." The lecture, entitled "Was This Really Necessary?" is part of Chabad at NYU's monthly women's gatherings and will take place on Wed., Mar. 25, 7:00 p.m. at the Bronfman Center, 7 East 10th St. in NYC. For more info: (212) 998-4112.
According to Jewish law, we begin studying the laws of an upcoming holiday 30 days before that holiday begins. We have just celebrated the holiday of Purim, which precedes Passover by 30 days. Thus, in a very practical sense, Purim and Passover, and all of the days in between, are connected.
In addition to Purim and Passover being connected, they also have something very important in common. Jewish children had a great influence on what happened to the entire Jewish people at both of those times in Jewish history.
Concerning Purim, the Midrash tells us that Haman's wicked decree was abolished in the merit of the Torah study and prayers of the Jewish children. G-d accepted their pure and heartfelt prayers and brought about the Purim redemption. Regarding Passover, the Talmud tells us that despite the bitter slavery they endured, the Jewish people raised a very special generation of children. This is best illustrated by what happened at the splitting of the Sea. Our Sages teach that the children recognized G-d first - even before the adults.
What significance does all of this have for us today?
Since Passover is the time of freedom and redemption, Jewish children and the Jewish child within each one of us must use these days between Purim and Passover to prepare for Passover in a manner that shows true "freedom." This can be accomplished by freeing ourselves of our limitations (the Hebrew word for "limitation" - "maytzarim," is etymologically related to "Mitzrayim" - "Egypt"). We will then be able to fulfil mitzvot with joy and tranquility.
The Talmud states that in the month of Nisan we were redeemed (from Egypt) and in the month of Nisan we will be redeemed once again.
Let us not have to wait another two weeks until Nisan, but rather, may we be redeemed immediately through Moshiach, NOW!
However, My Sabbaths you must observe. (Ex. 31:13)
Shabbat is expressed in plural, because according to the Talmud, two angels accompany a person on his way home from the synagogue on Friday night. One angel is good, and the other is evil. When the angels enter the house with the person and find a house filled with the Shabbat atmosphere and a table set with Shabbat candles and challah, the good angel blesses the family that they should merit the same spiritual atmosphere for the next Shabbat. Reluctantly, the evil angel answers, "Amen." Thus, the proper observance of one Shabbat is a source of angelic blessing to observe another Shabbat.
When you take a census... every man shall give G-d an atonement for his soul...This they shall give... a half-shekel. (Ex. 30:12-13)
Moses could not understand how money can accomplish forgiveness for the soul. G-d showed Moses a fiery coin which weighed a half-shekel, and He explained that a coin by itself cannot atone for a grave sin, but if one gives with warmth and enthusiasm that come from the fiery core of the Jewish soul, then a coin can truly become the cause of forgiveness.
The Israelites shall keep Shabbat, to make the Shabbat an eternal covenant for their generations. (Ex. 31:16)
The word for "their generations," "ledorotam," can also be read "ledirotam," which means "their dwelling places." The Torah is teaching us that the Jewish people should strive to make the Shabbat beautiful and majestic in their homes.
Aaron announced, "Tomorrow there will be a festival to G-d." (Exodus 32:5)
The golden calf was made on the 16th of Tamuz. On the 17th of Tamuz Moses came down from heaven and, upon seeing the golden calf and the celebration, he broke the tablets. Many years later, also on the 17th of Tamuz, our enemies penetrated the wall that surrounded Jerusalem and proceeded to destroy the Holy Temple. Since then, the 17th of Tamuz has been a fast day. However, the prophet Zechariah tells us that when Moshiach comes, the 17th of Tamuz will be a day of rejoicing. This is the festival that Aaron is referring to, the future holiday of the 17th of Tamuz, which, after Moshiach comes, will be "a festival to G-d."
(Mayana Shel Torah)
Adapted from Vedibarta Bam by Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky
Rabbi Shmuel Hanagid lived in Spain during the Golden Age which preceded the terrible Inquisition. The son of a spice merchant, his brilliance attracted the attention of a scribe named Elisaf who took the boy in as an apprentice. Under the tutelage of the scribe, Shmuel learned the Hebrew and Arabic languages and became an accomplished scribe and copyist of manuscripts. Soon his services were in great demand, and people flocked to his door with their poems, documents and manuscripts of every description.
Shmuel developed his skills to a fine degree and also became learned in Jewish law and Agada. He devoted half of his time to Torah study and the other half to his profession and the study of the natural sciences.
Eventually, his reputation became known to the king of Granada, Habus ibn Machsan. The king took him into his service, first as royal scribe and advisor, and then, when his talents became apparent, as his prime minister and general of his armies.
Shmuel Hanagid grew in power and wealth, but he never forgot his origins and never forgot that he was above all, a Jew, devoted to G-d and the Torah. He still found time to continue the practice of penmanship and he even wrote poems in praise of the art to which he owed his high position.
Among his most prized possessions was a small Torah scroll which he had written for himself. He carried this Torah with him into every battle.
Rabbi Shmuel had sons whom he imbued with a love of the scribal arts. At the age of only eight his son Joseph was accomplished enough to copy his father's book of poetry, entitled Minor Psalms. Another son, Elisaf, copied his second book Minor Proverbs at the age of six. It had been Shmuel's intention to give his third book, Minor Ecclesiastes to his son Judah to copy, but tragically, the boy passed away before he could accomplish the task. His heartbroken father copied the work himself and dedicated it to his beloved son.
During the years in service to the king, Rabbi Shmuel fought many successful battles. During one battle, he lost the manuscript of his third book, Minor Ecclesiastes, which deeply upset him. When he retired from his wars, Rabbi Shmuel Hanagid settled down to his study and his manuscripts. It was not long before Torah students from all over came to him complaining about the great dearth of books. Of course, the printing press had yet to be invented, and books were reproduced by hand-copying.
Rabbi Shmuel responded with a brilliant solution: he established a school for scribes in his own home. Soon copies were appearing throughout the Jewish world. Rabbi Shmuel made sure that these copies were bound beautifully, befitting the holiness of their contents. Torah study received a great boost due to this increase in learning materials.
So many applicants arrived to learn the art of copying that Rabbi Shmuel developed a method of ascertaining the character of the person standing before him. He would ask the person for a sample of his handwriting and from that he could tell what kind of person he was. One day a man came and asked to be admitted into his school. As was his way, Rabbi Shmuel asked for a sample of his writing. At once he declared, "You are a plagiarist!" The man was shocked to hear Rabbi Shmuel's pronouncement, but he was honest enough to readily admit his guilt. In response to the man's admission Rabbi Shmuel replied, "I am glad to hear that you admit your wrongdoing. I am sure that you can mend your ways, and I will admit you to my school if you promise to forswear committing the same act." Of course, the man gladly agreed and became one of Rabbi Shmuel students.
Many years later, that same student came to Rabbi Shmuel with a manuscript of the Tractate Baba Metzia which he had copied. Rabbi Shmuel was pleased and remarked that it was obvious that the man had truly mended his ways. The man broke down in tears of joy. He then took his bag of manuscripts and presented one of them to his teacher. To his utter amazement, it was a copy of his lost manuscript Minor Ecclesiastes.
The former student explained that he had met a man who boasted of having written a book of wonderful poetry, and proceeded to recite them. Rabbi Shmuel's student recognized them as the work of his master. He carefully memorized them and then lovingly and faithfully transcribed them. Now, he was presenting the volume to the true author, Rabbi Shmuel Hanagid, who couldn't have been more pleased. He knew for certain that his student had reformed completely and he now had his precious manuscript back in his possession.
Adapted from Talks and Tales
"'L'Alter l'geula - Immediately to the Redemption' must be the purpose of our repentance and our prayers, of our hopes and deeds. All other hopes and deeds are illusory dreams... we must prepare heart and soul to greet our righteous redeemer... L'alter l'geula, be prepared for the imminent Redemption!"
From a public notice of the Previous Rebbe, published the eve of Rosh Chodesh Sivan, 5701-1941