High Tech - High Touch | Living with the Rebbe | A Slice of Life | Rambam this week
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It Once Happened | Moshiach Matters
"High-tech" used to be the way one would describe an office where the boss and the bookkeeper both had their own computers. In today's high- tech office, everyone has a computer with a PentiumII processor and everyone is wired to the Internet and world wide web. For some the dazzling explosion of technology is scary; others revel in it.
It seems that technology is here to stay and that most of us don't mind its intrusion into our lives. After all, we aren't discarding technology en masse in favor of going back to nature. Nor, for the most part, are we going in droves to vacation spots where we don't have access to technology's benefits.
Spending hours each day, tens of hours each week, interfacing with technology and not people, can leave us feeling teched out. High-tech creates the need for high-touch, getting back in touch with humanity.
What is touch? Touch is not necessarily becoming physically connected with someone or something, but rather being in contact, encountering, exploring, feeling (as in emotions).
What kind of high-touch pursuits can make a person feel fulfilled, help him "chill out," or become rejuvenated? Judaism has a lot to offer in these areas.
"High-touching" Jewish life means exploring what Judaism has to offer, connecting with one's Jewish roots, feeling the awesomeness and infinity of Jewish knowledge.
Shabbat is a perfect opportunity to chill out from the stresses and technology of the week. You might choose to spend it alone in quiet introspection and solitude. Or celebrate it together with a few good friends, sipping fine wine sanctified by reciting kiddush, delighting in fresh, warm challas which you have blessed by saying "hamotzee," and savoring an evening of stimulating table-talk.
Perhaps, for you, Shabbat is best experienced as a time to get back "in touch" with family and friends after a hectic week. Lively discussion, laughter, good food, spirited singing can all be part of a Shabbat dinner. Shabbat is an opportunity not only to really get in touch with people, but to get in touch with yourself.
Prayer is another high-touch Jewish experience. There are various ways to Jewishly experience prayer. Public prayer is a way to get in touch with people in your synagogue or neighborhood, to feel a sense of community and camaraderie, to sense the awesomeness of the Jewish people. Private prayer-the evening "Shema" or morning's "Modeh Ani," the moments when a man is wrapping tefilin or a woman is lighting Shabbat candles, when one is reciting Psalms for a relative or friend who is in a difficult situation, are an opportunity to get in touch with oneself and connect with G-d.
For more sustained moments of connecting to G-d through prayer one can learn Jewish mystical methods of meditation.
Jewish study comes in all shapes, forms and sizes to fit your needs today, next year and always. Formal or informal study sessions, with friends, family, or total strangers, or one-on-one study with a partner, can help your head get in touch with one of Judaism's most essential and unique commodities-the wisdom of the Torah.
Even before you feel the need to break away from high-tech, plan a Jewish high-touch experience. You'll be glad you did.
This Shabbat is unique as reflected by the fact that three scrolls are taken out for the Torah reading. We read the weekly portion, Vayikra, from one scroll, the Rosh Chodesh (New Moon) reading from another, and the special Hachodesh reading from the third scroll.
This is a rare phenomenon. There are many occasions when two Torah scrolls are taken out, but taking out three scrolls is extremely uncommon.
Significantly, each of the readings concerns the first of the month of Nisan, the date of this Shabbat. The portion of Vayikra was communicated to Moses on Rosh Chodesh Nisan, the day the Sanctuary was erected. The Hachodesh reading was also communicated to Moses on Rosh Chodesh Nisan (a year previously). Furthermore, it relates the mitzva of sanctifying the months and thus shows a special connection between the ordinary Rosh Chodesh passage and Rosh Chodesh Nisan.
Surely we can derive a lesson in the service of G-d from the above concepts.
The prayer recited when a Torah scroll is removed from the ark begins,
"Whenever the ark set out, Moses would say, 'Arise, O L-rd, and Your enemies will be dispersed; Your foes will flee before You.'"
This verse is relevant to every Jew, even in the present era, for every Jew possesses a spark of Moses within his soul. This spark brings about "Arise O L-rd," an increase in the service of holiness, and "Your enemies will be dispersed," the nullification of undesirable influences. Thus, taking out the Torah scrolls reflects both services of "turn away from evil" and "do good," the two prongs of our service of G-d, and endows that service with new strength and vigor.
Taking out three Torah scrolls represents a chazaka, a strengthening and reinforcement in regard to our service which is above the ordinary, the revelation of a miraculous pattern of conduct. Furthermore, the chazaka established by the three Torah scrolls on Rosh Chodesh Nisan does not relate to a miraculous sequence of events as it exists above the worldly plane, but rather to the service of drawing this miraculous source of influence into contact with the natural order, elevating our ordinary conduct.
This week's three readings can thus be seen as a progression. The Hachodesh portion introduces the concept of a miraculous order of conduct. The Rosh Chodesh reading describes how this miraculous order of conduct can influence our ordinary lives, and Vayikra reveals how this fusion of the supra-natural with the natural can become a permanent and fixed dimension of our existence.
May this chazaka lead to our service in the Third Holy Temple, where "we will give thanks to You with a new song for our redemption and for the deliverance of our souls."
The Rebbe, Parshat Vayikra 5751
Rabbi Pinchas Hirschprung, who passed away a few months ago, was considered one of the foremost Torah scholars of our generation. He was born in the town of Kokla, Poland, in 5672 (1912). His teacher, Rabbi Meir Shapiro, head of the yeshiva Chachmei Lublin, affirmed that at a very young age Rabbi Hirschprung knew 2200 pages of Talmud by heart.
Soon after his Bar Mitzva, Rabbi Hirschprung published his first scholarly work. He also began editing a monthly journal that contained original Torah concepts of the greatest Torah Sages of that time. Upon Rabbi Shapiro's passing, Rabbi Hirschprung was appointed to test the students applying to yeshiva Chachmei Lublin. (For the entrance exam, applicants were tested on 400 folio of Talmud with commentaries by heart.)
During the War, Rabbi Hirschprung managed to miraculously escape from a concentration camp. In 1941 he arrived in Montreal, Canada, where he eventually became the director of the Rabbinical Council and head of the Rabbinical Court of Montreal, as well as Chief Rabbi of Canada.
Rabbi Meir Plotkin, one of Rabbi Hirschprung's devoted students for over 30 years, relates the following story:
In the summer of 1965, I wanted to move to New York to study in the Lubavitcher Kolel (a yeshiva for married men) there. The Rebbe told me to stay in Montreal and to establish a Kolel headed by Rabbi Hirschprung. Though at the time Rabbi Hirschprung had only tenuous ties to the Rebbe and Chabad-Lubavitch, we approached him and he agreed. During that first year of the Kolel's existence, a great change began to take place in Rabbi Hirschprung's relationship with the Rebbe.
Close to the end of that first year, Rabbi Hirschprung travelled to Romania. A few months later, he related some of what had transpired at an audience he had had with the Rebbe just days after his return from Romania.
Before the War, Rabbi Hirschprung had had the great privilege of holding discussions with all of the Torah giants in Poland. After the War he had spoken with the Torah giants from Lithuania, and in America, he had spoken with all the Torah giants who had survived the War. The only great Torah scholar with whom he had not yet had a scholarly Torah discussion was the Rebbe. For, though by this time Rabbi Hirschprung had met numerous times with the Rebbe, the Rebbe always directed the conversation to communal matters and Jewish outreach.
Rabbi Hirschprung had therefore requested a special audience with the Rebbe in which they would exclusively "talk learning." The Rebbe consented and it was this audience that was scheduled for a few days after his return from Romania.
Rabbi Hirschprung related that from his youth he had a number of difficult questions which he had asked all the Torah giants and none had been able to satisfactorily answer his questions.
The Rebbe smiled at Rabbi Hirschprung and asked, "All the Torah giants you mentioned couldn't answer your questions and I can?"
Rabbi Hirschprung told the Rebbe that he was confident that the Rebbe could answer the questions. The Rebbe indicated that Rabbi Hirschprung could begin. The questions were on one of the most difficult sections of the Jerusalem Talmud. To Rabbi Hirschprung's surprise, it didn't seem as though the Rebbe was even concentrating on his questions. When Rabbi Hirschprung had concluded, the Rebbe said, "According to how you are explaining it, these are truly difficult questions. However, the difficulty is not in the Jerusalem Talmud but in the fact that you did not learn the topic properly."
The Rebbe proceeded to expound on the topic as though the Talmud was open in front of him, and showed that by understanding the passage properly, there were no questions.
Rabbi Hirschprung was amazed. Not one of the Torah scholars with whom he had discussed this difficulty in the past had thought there was no basis for the questions. Yet, the Rebbe had proven that the questions arose from not knowing how to understand the passage correctly in the first place.
Rabbi Hirschprung spent a long time asking the Rebbe many other questions. Then he told the Rebbe about a shochet [ritual slaughterer] whom he had met on his recent trip to Romania. Despite 40 years of Communist rule the shochet and his family continued to observe Torah and mitzvot.
The shochet told Rabbi Hirschprung that he feared for his children's spiritual lot. "Only one person can help,' he had cried to Rabbi Hirschprung, "the Lubavitcher Rebbe. When you go back to America go to the Rebbe and tell him that I ask him to take me and my children out of here. I have no doubt that he can do it."
The Rebbe became very serious and asked Rabbi Hirschprung for all the details. The Rebbe's face became somber. Finally, the Rebbe said: "My father-in-law sent people to places like this and I should take them from there? And who will replace him?"
Rabbi Hirschprung said that when he saw how the Rebbe took responsibility for this shochet in Romania, his family, in fact the entire Jewish population of Romania, "I felt that I had found the leader of the generation. I felt strongly that the Rebbe is the Moshe Rabbeinu [Moses] of our generation and nobody else. He is a true Jewish leader."
From that time forth, Rabbi Hirschprung's ties with the Rebbe in particular and the Chabad-Lubavitch community in general grew stronger. His students say that it was this private audience which transformed Rabbi Hirschprung into a chasid of the Rebbe in every sense of the word.
To be continued G-d willing in the next issue
Rambam for 1 Nisan, 5758
Positive Commandment 173: To appoint a king
The commandment to appoint a king from among the Jewish people, who will bring together our entire nation and act as our leader is based on the verse (Deut. 17:15), "You will appoint a king upon yourselves." This was one of the three mitzvot the Jewish people were commanded to fulfill when they would come into the land of Israel, the other two being to build G-d's Chosen House and to destroy the seed of Amalek.
11th of Nisan, 5720 
I received your letter of the 29th of Adar, and may G-d grant that you have good news to report on the matters about which you write in your letter.
As we are approaching the Season of Our Freedom, I trust that you will take time out to reflect on the significance of this great festival, recalling the enslavement in Egypt, which was not only a physical enslavement but also a spiritual one . Yet, because of the great faith of the children of Israel in G-d, they were liberated from bondage, and received the Torah, thus giving them true and complete freedom. The simple message of it is that no Jew should ever give up hope, and should always strive to free himself from the influences and limitations of the environment, as well as from internal temptations, and make steady strides along the path of Torah and mitzvot.
As for your personal problems, the best advice is that you should try to think as little as possible of your inner problems, until you completely dismiss them from your mind. This means not even thinking about their harmful aspects or how to overcome them, but completely disengaging your thoughts from those problems and engaging them in matters of Torah and mitzvot. Another good method is to try to be among people as much as possible.
... May the forthcoming Season of Our Freedom bring you true freedom from all the distracting thoughts and from all temptations and diversions, both external and internal, so that you can serve G-d with the fullness and gladness of your hear t.
Wishing you a kosher, happy and inspiring Pesach [Passover],
via telegram 6th of Nisan, 5734 
I am delighted to associate myself with the Pre-Dedication Celebration for the new Landow Yeshiva Center - Oholei Torah School.
The timeliness of the event is underscored by the fact that it is taking place in the auspicious days when the Nesi'im (Princes of the Twelve Tribes) brought their individual contributions to the dedication of the altar of the newly erected Mishkan (Sanctuary) in the desert on the way to the promised Holy Land. The connection is obvious, since every sacred House of Prayer and House of Study is termed Mishkan Me'at, a Sanctuary in Miniature.
Moreover, it is written in our sacred sources that the Mishkan is essentially indestructible, which, by extension, applies also to the sacred Houses of Study and Prayer. Indeed, our Sages declare that in the future (in the time of Moshiach) all Houses of Prayer and Study in the Diaspora will be transplanted into the Holy Land.
Reflecting on the eternal nature of the project that you, and we, are celebrating, it should even further "encourage the energetic" to make the utmost effort with the utmost joy and inspiration, for it is truly an everlasting investment bearing everlasting dividends.
Inasmuch as we are soon to celebrate the Season of Our Liberation, Pesach, may G-d grant that the new Center, which is designed to bring true liberation to Jewish children through Torah-true education, will bring true liberation from all negative aspects to each and all of the friends and supporters who are privileged to participate in the project, and the fulfillment of the prophecy of the Sages quoted above.
With esteem and blessing for a kosher and inspiring Pesach,
6th of Nisan, 5734
...No doubt my telegram message, as per enclosed, was received in good time. I hope and pray that the event will justify all expectations and more, and will serve as further inducement for even greater achievements, true to the oft-quoted saying of our Sages, "He who has one hundred, desires two hundred; and having achieved two hundred (is not satisfied with the same increment, but) desires four hundred."
I must apologize for not following up my reply to your previous letter to completion, which is due to pressure of duties, and, regretfully, duties connected with painful problems. However, I am glad to note from your letter that you have been proceeding along lines consonant with my suggestions, which are yet to come.
May G-d grant that the Season of Our Liberation which we are soon to celebrate will bring each and every one of us, in the midst of our people, a greater measure of liberation for even greater dedication to the tasks ahead, and to carry them out in circumstances of liberation from distractions, in a happy frame of mind and with gladness of heart.
With warm personal regards...
DON'T PASS OVER PASSOVER
What do New York City, Nepal, Los Angeles, Moscow and Kinshasa all have in common? They are just a few of the thousands of cities where Chabad-Lubavitch will have communal seders on both nights of Passover, this year Friday, April 10, and Saturday, April 11. If you or anyone you know would like to reserve a place at a Chabad-Lubavitch seder call your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center or Lubavitch Youth Organization at (718) 953-1000.
JEWISH CHILDREN'S MUSEUM
Tzivos Hashem, producer of the Jewish Children's Expo, has begun work on the first ever Jewish Children's Museum. The 50,000 sq. ft. Museum will be located next door to Lubavitch World Headquarters and near the Brooklyn Museum and the Brooklyn Children's Museum. It will be completed in the year 2,000.
The Mishna states two opinions as to when we must begin studying the laws of an upcoming holiday. One opinion is 30 days before the holiday, while the other is two weeks.
Although the first opinion is the accepted one, it is appropriate to also reassess and intensify our efforts two weeks before the holiday. Just as we must make an effort to study the Passover laws in advance of the festival, we must also make efforts to provide others with their Passover needs, giving money to maot chitim, the special charity associated with Passover. Concerning the special charity for Passover needs, the Rebbe said:
"Although surely one gave thirty days before Passover, as the Passover holiday grows nearer one must reassess and increase his donations.
"Similarly, in regard to the size of one's donations, one must reassess one's earnings and give according to the nature of the blessings G-d has provided. Giving in this manner will not cause a person any losses. On the contrary, as G-d sees the extent of one's generosity, He will provide him with more blessings. A person who gives without reservations and limitations will receive Divine blessings that know no bounds.
"The above is connected with the Prince who brought his offerings on Rosh Chodesh Nisan, Nachshon ben Aminadav. Aminadav can refer to generosity, the meaning of the word 'nadav.' Nachshon jumped into the sea, giving himself over with self-sacrifice, serving G-d without limitations. Thus, Nachshon ben Aminadav reflected how our generosity must be expressed without limitation, giving in a miraculous manner.
"This will transform everything undesirable. Just as Nachshon's jumping into the sea, caused the sea to split and led to the final and most complete phase of the Exodus from Egypt, so too, our unbounded gifts to tzedaka will bring near the redemption and indeed transform all the negative influences into good."
May the Rebbe's words be actualized immediately so that we can all celebrate together in the Holy Land.
And G-d called to Moses (Lev. 1:1)
The Hebrew word for "called," "vayikra," is written with a tiny alef, alluding to Moses' exceptional humility. As Reb Simcha Bunim of Pshischa explained, Moses was unimpressed by his own greatness. True, he had attained an extraordinary level of spirituality, but he saw himself as if standing on top of a high roof: G-d had given him his outstanding qualities, and thus his achievements were not the result of his own efforts. For that reason Moses waited until he was called to enter the Tent of Meeting.
He shall bring it, of his own voluntary will (Lev. 1:3)
Citing the Talmud, Rashi comments: "From this we learn that force may be applied. And what if it is against his will? The Torah states 'voluntarily'; the person is forced until he admits that he wants to comply." Coercion, it seems, is a legitimate way to obtain compliance. This is because, on the deepest level, a Jew's innermost desire is always to obey G-d's command. Outwardly he may protest, but in his heart of hearts he would rather overcome his evil inclination.
(Maimonides, Laws of Divorce , chap. 3)
And he shall remove its gizzard with its feathers, and throw it beside the altar...at the place of the ashes (Lev. 1:16)
The gizzard is disqualified from being offered because it receives its sustenance from "stolen" food (that the bird picks at indiscriminately). This teaches us that even the poorest person (who can only afford to bring a bird as a sacrifice) must refrain from helping himself to other people's money...
With all your sacrifices you should offer salt (Lev. 2:13)
The sacrifices are symbolic of the revealed part of Torah, which is likened to meat; the salt alludes to the esoteric part of Torah that deals with more abstract and spiritual matters. Just as salt preserves meat in the literal sense, so too does learning the innermost aspects of Torah ensure that the revealed part will remain preserved.
There was once a woman named Rachel who had no children. Her husband, Nosan, considered himself to be modern and disdained rabbis and their "antiquated" teachings. Rachel, however, believed differently, and whenever her husband was away on business she would visit the great tzadik Rabbi Meir of Premishlan to beg him to bless her with children.
For poor Rachel each visit was the same. She would wait for her turn and then make her request. Each time Rabbi Meir's reply was the same: "I cannot bless you unless you come together with your husband." And each time Rachel would return home sad, but not hopeless, for she believed that somehow salvation would come to her.
On one visit her faith was rewarded when Rabbi Meir replied, "Return home. When your husband returns from his business trip, tell him, 'Rabbi Meir of Premishlan commands you to come at once.' Of course, he will refuse, but when he does, tell him, 'On the day before yesterday, which was Lag B'Omer, you attended a gathering where you spoke disrespectfully of Rabbi Meir.' When your husband hears this he will certainly come, and then you will be blessed."
Rachel was at home when Nosan returned, and she immediately repeated Rabbi Meir's words. His response was the expected one, but when Rachel countered, telling him about his untoward comments about Rabbi Meir, his face flushed. How could the rabbi know such a thing, he wondered, and he at one resolved to visit Premishlan to find out.
Nosan was not, however, ready to endure the ridicule of his friends. He decided that instead of traveling straight to Premishlan he would make a detour through Lemberg, thus cloaking his true intentions in a bogus business trip. When he finally arrived in Premishlan and was admitted to Rabbi Meir's room, he announced his name and his request. Rabbi Meir responded, "Don't think I don't know that you came here via Lemberg. If you want my blessing, you must return home and then come here directly."
Nosan was completely amazed. How could Rabbi Meir have possibly known that? If he had such wondrous powers, he would do as Rabbi Meir said. To his wife's utter joy, Nosan returned home and announced his plans to spend Shabbat in Premishlan. When the couple arrived in Premishlan, Rabbi Meir was pleased to see them. On Shabbat, Nosan was honored with an aliya to the Torah for the passage which read, "There shall not be a sterile or barren one amongst you." He was so moved, that he was about to offer a large donation. Rabbi Meir interrupted him with the words, "Because he has promised to help a Yisrael [lit. Israelite]." Nosan was confused. What could Rabbi Meir's words mean?
When the prayers ended, Rabbi Meir explained his cryptic words. "One day you will have the opportunity to save a very holy Jew, at great personal risk. If you promise to help him, you will have a son." Without giving the matter a moment's thought, Nosan said, "I promise!" In due time, the tzadik's blessing was fulfilled, and Nosan and his wife were the parents of a baby boy.
A year or more passed and Nosan was on a business trip near the Austrian-Romanian border when he heard that the illustrious Rabbi Yisrael of Ruzhin was also there. He was fleeing the Russian authorities and had to somehow get across the border. This was obviously what Rabbi Meir had alluded to when he had made the promise.
True to his word, Nosan presented himself to Rabbi Yisrael and disclosed to him a plan to carry him across the border over a small, frozen river. Rabbi Yisrael agreed and they set off at midnight. Nosan knew the crossing well, but he was unaccustomed to heavy physical labor. Despite the bitter cold, sweat poured down Nosan's face. Carrying a grown man was harder than he had thought, and at each step he prayed that the thin ice would hold the weight of the two men and not crack, plunging them to a frozen death. Suddenly Nosan stopped walking. "Is anything wrong?" Reb Yisrael asked.
"Nothing is wrong. I just realized that we have reached the middle of the river. If I am to make my request, this is the time. Rebbe, I have committed many sins. I have scoffed and disregarded the teachings and precepts of the Torah. But before I continue, I want your promise that I will have a place in the World to Come. If you give me your promise, I will continue; if not, I won't go on."
Rabbi Yisrael replied at once, "Of course, I will give you my word. I am happy that at such a time you can have such thoughts!"
With that assurance, Nosan continued his dangerous progress across the icy darkness. It wasn't until many hours later that they arrived safely in the small, Austrian border town. It was Nosan's good fortune to have spread the news that through his efforts, the holy Ruzhiner was finally safe.
"In Nisan the Jews were first redeemed from exile. In Nisan in the future they will also be redeemed."
(Talmud, Rosh Hashana 11a)