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"A new technique significantly reduces salmonella in chickens by providing protection..." read a recent front page article in The New York Times.
The procedure involves administering a product called Preempt, a mixture of beneficial microbes that occur naturally in chicken. Preempt, which contains 29 beneficial bacteria, is sprayed on newly hatched chicks. "The birds peck their wet feathers and ingest the bacteria, which begin to grow inside the chicks' intestines. Any salmonella ingested later cannot compete with the 'good bacteria' and thus passes harmlessly through the intestines," the articles continues.
So what do Preempt, chicks and salmonella have to do with the price of rice in China, or with Jewish living, for that matter?
Just think Jewish Education instead of Preempt and Jewish children instead of fuzzy little baby chicks and you'll get the picture.
When Jewish children are given a Jewish education from birth (!) they are provided with protection against many of society's ills. And one needn't worry that a child can overdose on Jewish experiences, holidays, events, sights, scents and knowledge. For, like the "good bacteria" in Preempt, the chicks' systems retain only as much as needed.
How much does it cost? Preempt treatment, according to estimates, would add 2 cents a pound to the retail price of chicken. The earliest stages of children's Jewish education, what you provide them with from birth until they enter a Jewish day school, is invaluable yet inexpensive. Surrounding a child with Jewish scents - chicken soup on Friday night, cheese blintzes on Shavuot, cleaning solutions in the days before Passover - is not an expensive proposition. Neither is it costly to envelop a child in the strains of Jewish music, with Jewish music cassettes and CDs numbering in the hundreds. Jewish visual stimulation can take the form of posters with the Hebrew alphabet, pictures of the Holy Land, drawings depicting Jewish living. And saying prayers with a young child, like the Shema or blessings before eating, is absolutely free.
"That's all well and good," one might be thinking, "before the child is school age. But formal Jewish education can be expensive!" Thank G-d, today many Jewish organizations and philanthropists are committed to making a Jewish education affordable for every Jewish child. It might take some legwork, but financial assistance is often available.
Preempt may also reduce or eliminate disease-causing bacteria other than those which produce salmonella. Similarly, by providing a Jewish child in his or her earliest years with the basics of Jewish living, one can reduce or eliminate a child 's propensity to the most common "afflictions" of society and other "conditions" as well.
One of the leaders of the Preempt project stated that to produce a healthier chicken "there is a need for an integrated program that carries all the way through the process from farm to store. For Preempt to be beneficial requires cooperation in all parts of the industry," he cautions.
Let no one think that Jewish education, which certainly begins in the home, stops at the home's threshold. Or that once a child begins his or her formal Jewish studies the parents and the home are out of the picture. We're not a bunch of chickens laying eggs to be hatched and raised in communal chicken coops. Our children need an integrated program that carries all the way through the process from birth, to school, to young adulthood and beyond.
As the Agriculture Secretary described Preempt, and this certainly is true of the importance of beginning a Jewish education early: "This is just one piece of a larger puzzle, but it is an important step."
The name of a Torah portion indicates its content. Thus, although this week's portion, Shemini (lit. "Eighth"), speaks of many different topics, all are somehow related to the central theme of eight.
The "eighth" referred to in Shemini is the eighth day of the Sanctuary's consecration. In last week's portion we read about the first seven days of consecration, but they are not mentioned here. Interestingly, the end of Shemini deals with a subject seemingly unrelated to the concept of eight: the signs distinguishing a kosher animal from a non-kosher one.
This leads to an obvious question: Why would the first seven days of consecration, a logical lead-in to the concept of eight, be omitted, but a topic that is seemingly unconnected to this theme be included in Shemini?
To explain: The name of our portion is not "The Eighth Day" but rather "Eighth," for it alludes to a broader principle. The number eight is symbolic of a level higher than this world, denoting that which transcends creation. There are many things in the physical world that occur in "sevens"; the number seven belongs to the natural order. Spirituality, by contrast, is higher than the physical world and the number seven, and is thus represented by the number eight.
The intent behind the creation of the world is that it become permeated with G-d's Divine light, a process that is accomplished when Jews observe Torah and mitzvot. The world was created for the purpose of combining the "eight" - spirituality - with the "seven" -the material world, which is another way of saying bringing G-dliness into creation.
Understanding this concept helps to clarify why the seven days of consecration are not mentioned in Shemini. During these days, Moses, Aaron and his sons readied the Sanctuary for the service that would be performed there, working within the natural order, i.e., the number seven. Shemini, however, represents a higher level - the level that follows the seven days of preparation. For it was on the eighth day that the Divine Presence came down to rest on the Sanctuary - the successful fusion of spirituality (eight) with the material world (seven).
The subject of kosher and non-kosher animals teaches us that every detail in the world relates to our service of G-d. Even the animals were created by G-d for the purpose of enabling the Jew to refine both himself and the world at large. Accordingly, this topic is directly related to the number eight and the Torah portion of Shemini, for it expresses the concept of bringing G-dliness into the physical world through mitzvot.
In the Messianic era, G-d's glory, which is higher than creation, will be so obvious that human beings will be able to perceive it with the fleshly eye. At that time the Divine Presence will dwell in the physical world - which is why Moshiach's harp will have eight chords and not seven, like King David's.
Adapted from Likutei Sichot, Volume 17
Checking the Mezuzot
by Robin Zeiger, Ph. D.
Reprinted from The Richmond Jewish News.
Although I never personally met the Lubavitcher Rebbe, one memory will forever live on in our family because of one very special long- distance interaction more than 5 years ago.
After many years of infertility and while pregnant with our eldest daughter Eliana, we decided to ask the Rebbe for a blessing. He wrote us back with what seemed at the time a strange response. The Rebbe suggested that we have the 16 mezuzot we had just placed in our new home in Richmond examined by a scribe to be sure they were still kosher.
After taking down all of the mezuzot and driving over two hours to Silver Spring to a sofer (scribe), we discovered that there were some mistakes in the scrolls in the words dealing with "my children" and "my house." The experience was awesome and awe-inspiring. Although we are not Lubavitchers, it was then that Jonathan and I forged a very special connection with the Rebbe, whom we had never met.
I didn't realize how important this one interaction was until last winter, which was a very difficult one for our family. My mother-in- law traveled from Israel to undergo open-heart surgery. The very week she was admitted, my father was unexpectedly admitted to the hospital after he fell at home. His stay at the hospital was quite long and necessitated surgery to install a heart pacemaker as well as long term rehabilitation for his legs. My mother-in-law's saga was ongoing for 5 months. The long and the short is that she had to go through surgery twice, because her surgically replaced heart valve was leaking.
Right before my mother-in-law was scheduled to undergo surgery number two, Jonathan and I thought back to the advice of the Rebbe of 5 years ago. We found ourselves utilizing his advice once again. It was as if his words and wisdom spoke to us. We decided it couldn't hurt to check our mezuzot. It was time, anyway.
Tradition dictates that mezuzot should be checked twice in seven years to guard against aging and fading. The words on the scroll must be perfectly legible and correct.
Once again, I drove the 2 1/2 hours to our trusted sofer, Rabbi Malka, in Silver Spring. Once again Rabbi Malka found some very important and poignant mistakes. For those of you who are familiar with the words of the Shema prayer contained in the mezuza, you guessed it. We found a couple of mistakes in the words for "heart." My sister and brother-in- law in Israel took down my mother-in-law's mezuza. There was a hole right through one of the scrolls. (My mother-in-law had a hole in her heart valve!) We had to go for broke. Once again, I drove to Silver Spring. By now, Rabbi Malka was getting used to seeing me as a regular customer. He was even beginning to tell me his own mezuza stories. This time I brought my parents' mezuzot.
By the way, for those of you who are still non-believers and think that a sofer can be influenced by the circumstances, Rabbi Malka knew nothing about my parents or their condition. In fact, he thought that he was looking at the mezuzot of my mother-in-law.
He was then puzzled when he found several mistakes in the words baderech (while walking on the way). My father's main medical problems revolved around his non-functional legs. His entire hospitalization had been precipitated by falling and his rehabilitation centered around learning to walk better. The experience, once again, was awe- inspiring. I know there are some of you out there who are skeptical and probably think my story is just too "weird" and that this Jewish News columnist has finally lost it. But my family has been transformed forever.
The Rebbe taught us a newfound respect for the power and importance of the mezuza in the life of a Jew.
A mitzva or mitzvot selected from the daily study of Maimonides' Sefer HaMitzvot.
30 Nisan, 5758
Positive Mitzva 26: Priests Blessing Israel
By this injunction the kohanim (priests) are commanded to bless their fellow Jews. It is derived from the verses (Num. 6:22-26): "So shall you bless the Children of Israel; say to them, The L-rd bless you and guard you. The L-rd make His countenance shine upon you and be gracious to you. The L-rd turn His countenance toward you and grant you peace."
(In the Land of Israel the Priestly Blessing is invoked every day, but in the Diaspora only on festivals during the Additional Service.)
8th of lyar, 5731  To the Students of the Girls Division of the Grammar School Lubavitch House, Stamford Hill London, England
Blessing and Greeting:
I was pleased to receive the special Pesach [Passover] edition of your school magazine "Schoolainu." I hope you will send me also the future editions.
On the basis of the teaching of the Alter Rebbe that a Jew has to live in accordance with the times - the times and seasons of the Torah as reflected in our Jewish calendar, the present days of sefira [counting the 49 days between the second night of Passover until Shavuot] have a timely message for each and every one of us.
As you surely know, our Sages tell us that the origin of the counting of these days goes back to Yetziyat Mitzrayim [the Exodus from Egypt], when our ancestors, immediately after leaving Egypt, began to count the days and weeks to the great day of Mattan Torah [the Giving of the Torah, i.e., Shavuot]. For Moshe Rabeinu [Moses] had told them that the whole purpose of their being freed from Egyptian bondage was in order that they should receive the Torah at Mt. Sinai, and they eagerly and impatiently looked forward to it, counting each day that brought them nearer to that great moment.
On the basis of this, G-d later made it a mitzva for Jews to count these days of the omer, which connect Pesach, the Festival of Liberation (from physical slavery) with Shavuot, the Festival of Mattan Torah (true spiritual freedom).
If our ancestors were so eager to receive the Torah even though they hardly knew anything about it, how much more so, after Mattan Torah, must Jews appreciate the Torah and mitzvot, especially we, in our generation, who know what the Torah and mitzvot have meant for our people throughout the past generations.
Needless to say, that the appreciation and love of the Torah and mitzvot must express themselves in the daily life, in accordance with the teaching of our Sages that "the essential thing is the deed." By this is meant that the daily conduct should be such that it is clearly seen to be the result of the teaching and instruction of the Torah (Torah-hora'a), including every aspect of the daily life at home and in the school, etc. Where there is a will and determination to this effect, hatzlacha [success] is assured, as our Sages tell us that "nothing stands in the way of the will."
May G-d grant that you should have good news to report in all the above, and that you should go from strength to strength in your advancement.
7th of Iyar, 5741  Greeting and Blessing:
I duly received your letter of the 1st day of Rosh Chodesh Iyar and, as requested, will remember you for the fulfillment of your heart's desires for good.
There is surely no need to remind you that there is always room for advancement in matters of Torah and Yiddishkeit [Judaism], which is a must for its own sake, but is also the way to widen the channels to receive G-d's blessings in all needs.
The present days of sefira are particularly auspicious for such advancement, in preparation for the festival of Mattan Torah [the Giving of the Torah i.e., Shavuot]. In this connection, it is noteworthy that in counting the days of the omer, we do not use the ordinal numbers (second day, third day, etc.) but the cardinal numbers (two days, three days, etc.).
This indicates that the advancement in matters of Torah and mitzvot is not just a matter of rising to a higher level, but at the same time it implies retention of all previous achievements in a cumulative way. Thus we say "shnei yamim" rather than "yom sheni" - the difference between two days and the second day.
With prayerful wishes for hatzlacha to you and yours,
I GO TO SCHOOL
A warm and cozy book about school for the very youngest children. From playtime to clean up, from tefila (prayer) and learning to story time and snack, every child will agree: School is fun. This newest book from HaChai Publishing is delightfully written and illustrated by Rikki Benenfeld. I Go to School is available at your favorite Judaica store.
THE CHASSIDIC DIMENSION
Volume four of The Chassidic Dimension condenses over one hundred of the Rebbe's published talks, allowing the reader to appreciate the main thrust of the original. Each essay is connected to one of the weekly Torah readings or festivals and is self-sufficient. Adapted by Rabbi Sholom Ber Wineberg, emissary of the Rebbe in Kansas/Missouri. Available at your local Judaica store or through the publisher, Sichos In English, by sending $17 to S.I.E., 778 Eastern Pkwy., Bklyn., NY 11213.
Generations is the name of a series of lectures by Chasidic scholar Shimona Rut Tzukernik containing Kabalistic insights on Jewish Womanhood. The premier volume of three tapes explores the Biblical women Eve, Sara, Rebecca, Rachel, Leah, Osnat, Yocheved, Miriam and Esther. Produced by Jewels/Lubavitch. To order call (800) 860-7030. In NYC (718) 756-5700.
This Tuesday, 2 Iyar, marks a significant event in the world's countdown to Moshiach. On that day 56 years ago (in 5702 - April 19, 1942), the first letters of a unique Torah scroll, written specifically for the purpose of "greeting our Righteous Moshiach," were inscribed.
In truth, the project had been initiated by the Previous Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, several months before on Simchat Torah, but for various reasons the actual writing was delayed until 2 Iyar, which is also the birthday of the fourth Chabad Rebbe, the Rebbe Maharash, Rabbi Shmuel.
On 2 Iyar, 5702 the Previous Rebbe wrote:
"By Divine Providence and in the merit of our holy Rebbes, the opportunity to perform an extremely exalted mitzva has fallen to me: to arouse the world to immediate repentance and prepare it for immediate redemption by writing a Torah scroll expressly for greeting our righteous Moshiach. This was to have been done by me personally, but on Simchat Torah, while delivering a talk on the importance of loving one's fellow Jew, a thought occurred to me: Was I justified in concealing the truth and preventing others from participating in this great and holy endeavor? Thus I decided to announce it publicly, and with G-d's help I intend to write this special Torah scroll for Moshiach, may we greet him speedily in our days."
In fact, the Previous Rebbe insisted on paying for the entire undertaking himself. All monies that were donated he transferred to Merkos L'inyonyei Chinuch, the educational arm of Lubavitch.
It took many years for the Torah scroll to be completed, but on 9 Shevat, 5730 (January 16, 1970) it was formally installed in 770 as Jews from all over the globe took part in the proceedings.
After placing the Torah in the holy ark, the Rebbe pronounced the "Shehecheyanu" blessing and ate a new fruit, thanking G-d for having "granted us life, sustained us and enabled us to reach this occasion." May it be G-d's will that we all recite this blessing very soon, thanking Him for bringing us His Righteous Moshiach.
And it was on the eighth day that Moses called Aaron and his sons, and the elders of Israel (Lev. 9:1)
Each and every day Aaron, his sons and the Jewish elders would come to Moses to be taught Torah. Yet that particular day they didn't go on their own and had to be summoned, as they had a premonition that something bad was going to occur. (Indeed, Nadav and Avihu would die.) It states in Proverbs, "The heart knows its own bitterness," to which the Talmud adds, "A person may not see, but his mazal sees."
(Rabbi Shlomo Kluger)
These are the animals you may eat...whichever divides the hoof (parsa) and chews (literally "brings up") the cud (geira) (Lev. 11:3)
The Hebrew words parsa and geira have more than one meaning. Parsa is related to the word meaning to cut bread, and the geira is an ancient coin that weights one-twentieth of a shekel. From this we learn that one of the primary distinguishing marks of a Jew is that he willingly shares his bread with the poor and distributes charity freely.
(Rabbi Zev HaMagid)
Whatever goes upon the belly...you shall not eat...they are an abomination (Lev. 11:42)
This is an allusion to the primeval serpent in the Garden of Eden and a reminder not to be arrogant. For indeed, the serpent walked upright until it was cursed by G-d and humbled...
(Maayana Shel Torah)
You shall sanctify yourselves and be holy, because I am holy (Lev. 11:44)
"Whoever is careful [about keeping the laws of kashrut] brings holiness and extra purity upon himself, cleansing his soul for the sake of G-d."
(Maimonides, The Laws of Forbidden Foods)
Fire came forth from before G-d and it consumed them, so that they died before G-d. (Lev. 10:2)
What was the failing of Nadav and Avihu, the two sons of Aaron, that they were killed by a Divine flame when they offered an unauthorized fire? They desired to be one with G-d spiritually (through the sacrifice) rather than remain in this physical world. The spiritual high was not brought down into practicality.
(Rabbi Sholom Ber of Lubavitch)
Once the Rav of Brisk, Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveichik, was traveling and stopped at a Jewish-run inn in Benowitz. It was the Rav's custom to travel incognito, dressed like a common peasant, so when he knocked on the door of the inn he received no special treatment. The weather was frigid and when Rav Yosef Dov saw the lights of an inn he was relieved. Finally, he anticipated a warm fire and a bed on which to stretch out his very weary body.
He knocked expectantly on the heavy wooden door, but to his surprise, the Rav received an altogether different kind of greeting. When he opened the door, instead of welcoming the frozen man inside, the innkeeper brusquely said, "I am expecting a party of travelers to arrive any time now, and I have no room for you." Despite the bitter, biting cold, the innkeeper was about to slam the door in the face of the frozen Jew. Rav Yosef Dov began to plead with him. "Please, let me come in. I don't even need a bed. Just a warm spot on the floor will do. Please, don't turn me out on this terrible night. Why, it's possible I could even die in this cold." After a few moments of this kind of pleading the innkeeper couldn't refuse, and so, he admitted the Jew into his premises. He led the man through the brightly lit central room with its blazing fire and showed him to a cold, dark corner of the hallway. There the poor Jew was permitted to curl up on the floor and rest.
Once he was settled on that spot, the Rav Yosef Dov removed a candle from his pocket and began to study Torah by its light. It wasn't more than a few moments before the innkeeper came raging into the hall, crying, "You can't light a candle here! You are keeping the other guests awake! Put it out immediately!"
Without a word, Yosef Dov obliged and put out the candle. Then he continued learning by heart. He was quickly immersed in his thoughts and the cold, hard floor ceased to bother him. Many hours went by and very late into the night the sound of horses and carriages could be heard approaching. The rumble stopped outside the inn door and the innkeeper ran out to greet his guests.
In came a group of Chasidim accompanying their Rebbe, Reb Aharon of Koidenov. Removing their greatcoats, the men sat around the blazing fire, rubbing their hands together and warming themselves. Reb Aharon prepared to pray the evening service. As he stepped across the room to wash his hands he noticed a huddled figure lying in the dark hall.
He studied the form for a moment and then cried out, "Reb Yosef Ber, is that you? What is the Rav of Brisk doing lying on the floor?!"
When the innkeeper heard Reb Aharon's exclamation of horror, he began to tremble all over. His knees felt weak and he saw black before his eyes. Overcome with shame and remorse, he thought back to how he had treated this great man. After he recovered from his shock, he slowly approached the Rav. With downcast eyes, he said in a very small voice, "Rebbe, please forgive me. I didn't know it was you or I would never have treated you in such a disgraceful manner."
Reb Yosef Dov replied with a smile, "Of course, I forgive you. You needn't worry about that. However, I am making one stipulation." The innkeeper nodded his head vigorously. "Of course, Rebbe, anything you wish." He was ready to do any penance, give any sum to charity, anything to receive the forgiveness of the renowned Rav.
"I will forgive you on the condition that you travel to Brisk and spend two weeks as a guest in my home."
The innkeeper agreed at once. Within several weeks he arrived in Brisk and was warmly welcomed into the Rav's home. For two weeks the innkeeper observed the Rav's every movement. He watched the great care with which the Rav cared for each Jew who entered his study, burdened with questions and problems great and small. He took note of how gently the Rav treated the poor and despondent and he learned many a lesson about the art of hospitality.
When, after two weeks, the innkeeper returned to Benowitz, he had learned his lessons well. It wasn't long before his inn earned a well- deserved reputation. It became known far and wide as the place where every guest was treated with the greatest kindness and hospitality. The innkeeper never forgot the two weeks he spent as a guest of the Brisker Rav, Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveichik.
When Moshiach comes, a Jew will get up in the morning to get ready to pray - and his prayers will well forth spontaneously. Throughout the day, likewise, every spare moment will be utilized for the study of Torah and for the service of G-d. And everything will come so naturally and simply, without any effort.
(Transmitted by oral tradition from an elder Chasid)