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L'Chaim
June 19, 1998 - 25 Sivan 5758

523: Shelach

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The Weekly Publication For Every Jewish Person
Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.


  522: Beha'alosecha524: Korach  

Nuclear Arms To Plowshares  |  Living with the Rebbe  |  A Slice of Life  |  What's New
The Rebbe Writes  |  Rambam this week  |  A Word from the Director  |  Thoughts that Count
It Once Happened  |  Moshiach Matters

Nuclear Arms To Plowshares

Oak Ridge, Tennessee, 20 miles outside of Knoxville is ready for Moshiach. Sort of.

At least that is what one might think when reading a New York Times articles discussing the hundreds of acres of machinery, buildings and soil at this huge weapons enclave and former nuclear arms plant that are being cleaned up, decontaminated and rented by private businesses.

What is of lasting interest here is not necessarily exactly which companies are benefitting, how many acres are being cleaned-up, how much money the government and private sector are saving and making via this unique partnership. Rather, what is unique is the relative comfort with which the secular and oft cynical media quotes ancient Biblical prophecies to describe modern phenomena.

Perhaps the reference to the Biblical prophecies of the Messianic Era when covering such stories is the true front-page article.

The Baal Shem Tov taught that everything a person sees or hears can be a lesson in his spiritual growth. Thus, we should try to look beyond the fact that a vast complex which provided enriched uranium for the first atom bomb and turned out components for nuclear weapons for years afterward will house a brain cancer treatment center built around a small nuclear reactor, as well as less altruistic and more lucrative enterprises.

These efforts are a foreglimpse of the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy as quoted so aptly by The New York Times that, "they shall beat their swords into plowshares... Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, nor will they learn war any more."

Describing disarmament in general as "turning swords into plowshares" results from the heightened desire for the coming of the Redemption and anticipation of the peace and harmony which will permeate the world in the Era of the Redemption, according to the Rebbe.

In fact, in January, 1992, when the President of the USA, and a few days later, a meeting of major world leaders, announced an intention to significantly reduce arms budgets in favor of the more peaceful needs of agriculture, the Rebbe declared that this is a foretaste of Isaiah's prophecy.

The pattern of events in the world at large, the Rebbe suggested not only gives us a foretaste of the Redemption but also demonstrates the nature of the activities necessary to hasten its coming. The unity, cooperation and sharing espoused, in this most current case, by the US government and private enterprise (as well as foreign companies investing in or aiding the clean-up of Oak Ridge) reflect thrusts that are fundamentally necessary in preparing the world for the Redemption.

To allow for the revelation of the Redemption, unity is necessary. This unity must be expressed, not only on the level of feeling, but also through concrete acts within the context of our daily lives, in our homes, neighborhoods and communities. This is implied by our Sages' statement, "Great indeed is charity, for it brings the Redemption near." Sharing with our neighbors and seeing to their material welfare reflects how the bonds of unity that we share permeate every dimension of our existence.

These efforts should also be accompanied by "spiritual charity," - sharing knowledge. For the increase of knowledge will herald the fulfillment of another ancient prophecy in the times of Moshiach when "One person will no longer teach another .... for they will all know Me."

The Rebbe concluded his talk by saying that the climate in the world at large and in our individual communities in particular is ripe for these ideas to be shared, accepted and implemented. It would seem that even The New York Times would have to agree!


Living with the Rebbe

As we read in this week's Torah portion, Shelach, among the reasons cited by the 12 spies for not wanting to enter Israel was the claim that "our young children will be prey." G-d quelled their fears with an assurance: "And the young children of which you said would become prey, I will bring them in, and they will know the land."

In mentioning their children, the spies wished to emphasize just how dangerous it would be to enter the land of Israel, which was populated by mighty people. Their strategy was to arouse the Jews' natural feelings of pity for their young and their desire to protect them.

G-d's reply addressed exactly this concern. Even the youngest Jewish children would merit to enter the land and to work it.


Our Sages state that a baby must be given a large quantity of food when it is fed, as most of it ends us being crumbled. In fact, a baby wastes more than it manages to swallow.

In the spiritual sense, Torah is the "food" of the Jewish soul. It is the "bread" from which it derives its nourishment. This sustenance is given to every Jew - young and old, great and small in knowledge.

The adult learns Torah diligently, and the understanding he acquires is reflected in practical deed when he performs the Torah's mitzvot in the most beautiful manner possible.

A child, by contrast, crumbles more than he manages to ingest. The child in knowledge learns Torah, but he doesn't put all of his attention or efforts in his studies. Accordingly, much of what he learns is soon forgotten, as it has not been properly assimilated.

When the spies declared, "Our young children will be prey," they were referring to children in the allegorical sense - Jews whose study of Torah is conducted in an imperfect manner. The spies worried that because the Jews would have to work hard to cultivate the land, the amount of time left over for learning Torah would be relatively short, and the study itself would be flawed. In Israel, the Jewish people would become so preoccupied with simple labor that they would be reduced to "children" when it came to Torah knowledge. The spies, in essence, were voicing their concerns about themselves.

Not to worry, G-d assured them. G-d loves Jewish children, both in the literal sense and Jews who have just set out on the path of Torah study. In fact, when Jewish "children" set aside fixed times for learning Torah and observe mitzvot in an especially beautiful manner, their service is even more pleasing to G-d than that of the generation of Jews in the desert.

Adapted from Likutei Sichot, Volume 13


A Slice of Life

From Mexico City to Barranquilla
by Yehudis Cohen

Boxes take up nearly the entire living room, waiting to be shipped to Barranquilla, Columbia. Eliyahu and Cirel (pronounced Tzirel) Swued are joining Rabbi Yossi and Chani Liberov, the Rebbe's shluchim (emissaries) in Barranquilla, to help strengthen Jewish life among the 250 Jewish families in this South American city.

The Swueds will be teaching in the Jewish school in Baranquilla and will be giving afternoon Hebrew School classes for children who attend public school. In addition, Eliyahu will shecht (ritually slaughter) the chickens and meat for the community and will rotate with Rabbi Liberov going to a farm to obtain kosher milk.

I have asked Eliyahu, before he leaves, to tell me about growing up Jewish in Mexico City.

"My father and mother, Chaim and Miriam Swued, were both born in Argentina, though my father's father came there from Syria and my mother's family came from Poland. They came to Mexico City in 1970 from Argentina," begins Eliyahu. "My father became a Chasid of the Rebbe through the influence of Rabbi Berel Baumgarten. My father pursued his rabbinic studies in the Lubavitcher Yeshiva in New York. He came in 1958 and studied there for six years until he returned to Argentina. In Argentina he met my mother. After they got married they were offered various positions in Argentina, Israel and Mexico. My father asked the Rebbe what to do and the Rebbe told him to accept the position of head of the yeshiva in Mexico City. After about a year my father became a Rav in the Sephardic community.

"Today," explains Eliyahu, "Jewish life is vibrant in Mexico City. But when my parents arrived there was a minimal amount of Jewish observance. My father used to shecht chickens at home and distribute them in the community. They used to have to go to the farm to obtain kosher milk and they made their own cheese. Now there are restaurants and even hotels that are kosher."

Eliyahu explains that in Mexico City and its suburbs there are more Ashkenazic Jews than Sephardic Jews but that the Sephardic Jews are more traditional. There are a number of different communities within the Sefardic population.

Jews, most of whom are in the clothing industry, are well-accepted in Mexico, according to Eliyahu. Although Jews do not hold any public office they have connections to high government officials. "When my parents came to Mexico there were very few men who wore yarmulkas on the street. Many of the Jews, particularly those who had come from Europe, were very sensitive about displaying outward signs of their Judaism and simply wanted to blend in with the rest of society.

Today, Jewish observance is growing as it is in Jewish communities everywhere. It is not a strange sight to see men with yarmulkas and even beards."

Aside from the Swueds and Rabbi and Mrs. Zalman Liberson, there were no other Lubavitcher families in Mexico when Eliyahu was growing up there. "The Rebbe never agreed to the opening of an official Chabad- Lubavitch Center in Mexico, for reasons best known to the Rebbe, but my parents and the Libersons were there with the Rebbe's blessings and encouragement." In fact, recalls Eliyahu, because of the many difficulties in raising children permeated with Torah and Chasidic values in Mexico City in those days, the Swueds asked the Rebbe a number of times if they could leave Mexico. Each time, the Rebbe told them no.

"It was very hard, especially for my mother," says Eliyahu. "But the last time my parents asked the Rebbe if they could leave, the Rebbe told them that he took responsibility for us upon himself."

Over the years, the Swueds have brought groups of people to the Rebbe a number of times. Eliyahu remembers his father telling him about a couple who went with them to the Rebbe. They had two children who had died soon after they were born. The Rebbe told the couple that G-d would surely bless them if they kept taharat hamishpacha (the laws of Jewish marriage) and if the wife lit candles in honor of Shabbat and Jewish holidays. The couple had a baby boy and named him Yosef Yitzchak after the Previous Rebbe, at the Rebbe's request. The couple had another child who also, thank G-d, remained alive and healthy. But a third baby passed away soon after birth. When speaking with the parents, Rabbi Swued found out that they had stopped fulfilling the mitzvot the Rebbe instructed them to uphold.

Another amazing story Eliyahu heard from his father was about a woman who came to Rabbi Swued's office to speak with him. When the woman walked in and saw a picture of the Rebbe on Rabbi Swued's desk she fainted. When she regained consciousness she told Rabbi Swued, "This is the man who saved my life." She had once almost drowned when she felt herself being pulled out of the water by a man with a long white beard whom she had never seen before or since. The woman recognized the man as the one in the picture on Rabbi Swued's desk.

The five Swued children (Eliyahu has two older and two younger sisters) all left home at Bar or Bat Mitzva to pursue a more rigorous Jewish education outside of Mexico. The girls came to Beth Rivkah Schools in Brooklyn and Eliyahu went first to study in the Lubavitcher yeshiva in Los Angeles. "In L.A. it was hard for me because as soon as my classmates heard I was from Mexico they saw me differently; in L.A., all of the Mexicans they knew were menial laborers."

Today, Eliyahu's two older sisters and their families are shluchim in Argentina and Montreal and his younger sisters are hoping to go on shlichut as well. When they do, they will be joining the more than 3,000 families of the Rebbe's emissaries who are doing everything they can to enhance Jewish life in communities large and small and help prepare the world for Moshiach.


What's New

CAMP FUND

Help Jewish Children spend their vacation time in summer day camps and overnight camps with your donation. Please send your tax-deductible gift to: Central Organization for Jewish Outreach - 770 Eastern Parkway Suite 407 - Brooklyn, NY 11213. Your gift will be added to the Camp Scholarship Fund and distributed to the various day/overnight camps in your behalf.

L'CHAIM BOOKS

The newest volume of bound L'Chaims (issues 453 - 506) from our tenth year, is now available. To purchase a volume send $25 (plus $3 s & h): L'Chaim Books, 1408 President St., Brooklyn, NY 11213. Limited quantities of L'Chaim books from years 6 - 9 are also available at the above price.

SUMMER PROGRAM

Ohr Tmimim Men's Yeshiva in Kfar Chabad, Israel is offering a special study and tour program from July 1 - 30. Participants will embark on a journey of discovery into the basics of Talmud, Chasidut, Jewish law and Jewish mysticism as well as explore the land of Israel. For more info contact Rabbi Tuvia Bolton at 972-3-960-6826 or E-mail ohrtimimm@netvision.net.il


The Rebbe Writes

To Jewish Students and School Children Everywhere G-d Bless You All!

Greeting and Blessing:

Vacation time is approaching, to release youths and children, boys and girls, from Yeshivahs, Talmud Torahs, Day Schools, etc., for a long summer recess.

The importance of a restful vacation is obvious. However, certain aspects of vacation time should be examined carefully. Is vacation time a stoppage of study, or is it a transition from one form of activity to another?

In all living forms, there is no such thing as a stoppage of life, followed by a completely new start, for a stoppage of life is death, and cannot serve as a temporary rest period. There can be a transition from one form of activity to another, but not a cessation or stoppage.

For example: The two most vital organs in our body are the heart and the brain. The heart is the principal seat of "physical" life; the brain is the principal seat of "intellectual" life. Because the heart and the brain have supreme control of the body, they are called "the Sovereigns of the body."

Now, these organs not only do not cease to operate in a living body, but they do not even undergo a radical change in their form of activity. And inasmuch as the actions of the other organs are being led by the activity of the heart and brain, it follows that the other organs of the body, though they may seem to be in a state of inactivity, as in the case of sleep, do not in reality stop working.

This is even more obvious in the case of breathing. We find that during sleep, breathing is slowed down considerably, but it never stops, for the "breath of life" must always be there.

Similarly in the case of students, boys and girls, studying our Torah, Toras Chaim - "The Law of Life," restful vacation does not mean interruption and stoppage of Torah and Mitzvos, G-d forbid. It means only just another way of furthering their course of study, a period during which they renew their mental abilities and increase their capacities for a more intensive study later on.

Therefore, my friends, bring light and holiness into your vacation time, by remembering always that it is the time of preparation in order to improve the quality and quantity of your studies during study-time to follow. But let it not remain so only in your thoughts and intentions; be always united with our holy Torah in your everyday actions and conduct. Let not a single day pass without the "breath of life" provided by the "Torah of Life." Let every one have appointed times for the study of Chumash, Mishnah, Gemoro, and so on, each one according to his or her standard of Torah education.

At this time, I wish everyone who is resolved to use his or her vacation in this productive "living" way - much success, as well as on returning to normal study later on.

With blessing,


Rambam this week

Rambam for 25 Sivan, 5758

Negative mitzva 356: Remarrying a divorced wife after she has remarried

By this prohibition a man is forbidden to remarry his divorced wife after she has been married to another. It is contained in the verse (Deut. 24:4): "Her first husband, who divorced her away, may not take her again to be his wife."


A Word from the Director

On the 28th day of Sivan (this year June 22, 1998), is the anniversary of the Lubavitcher Rebbe's arrival on American soil in 1941.

The Rebbe and Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka's escape from German-occupied France was fraught with danger. The only possible route at the time was to travel by ship to Portugal, cross over the border with Spain, then from Barcelona continue on to the United States.

The Nazis, may their name be erased forever, fired at every passing ship, and the Rebbe's vessel came under attack several times. When the ship finally sailed into the New York harbor it was truly a miracle that it had safely navigated the seas.

For reasons of ill health, the Previous Rebbe was not able to personally greet his daughter and son-in-law. Instead, he appointed a delegation consisting of four prominent Chabad Rabbis to serve as his emissaries. On the night before the ship was due to arrive the Previous Rebbe summoned them and said, "I will reveal to you who my son-in-law is: Every night he recites Tikun Chatzot; he knows the Babylonian Talmud by heart with the commentaries of the Ran, the Rosh and the Rif; the Jerusalem Talmud and its commentaries; the writings of Maimonides and Likutei Torah. Now go out and welcome him!"

The actual reunion between the Rebbe and Previous Rebbe would not take place for another three days, and the Previous Rebbe requested that he see his son-in-law and daughter separately. The Rebbe later explained why: "[The reason] was that my father-in-law was a man of profound feeling; one can imagine the intense emotion it would have caused had we gone to see him immediately, and together. Chasidut demands that the head rule over the heart; thus, despite his pain, he waited several days until seeing us."

So began a new chapter in the dissemination of Torah and mitzvot and another step forward toward Moshiach.


Thoughts that Count

This land is very, very good... only rebel not against the L-rd (Num. 14:7-9)

The Land of Israel is unique, for it simultaneously embodies two opposites: On the one hand, its sanctity enables the individual to reach levels of holiness not attainable anywhere else in the world. Yet at the same time, if a person allows his evil inclination to rule, he will become even more degraded than if he lived elsewhere.

(Rabbi Moshe Tzvi of Savran)

If the L-rd delights in us, then He will bring us into this land (Num. 14:8) Another way to interpret this verse is "If the L-rd's desire is within us" - if the desire and will to cleave to G-d is truly in our hearts, then "He will bring us into this land" - raise us up and cause us to be successful.

(The Admor of Modzhitz)

Pardon, I beg you, the iniquity of this people (Num. 14:19)

When Moses prayed to G-d to forgive the Jews for making the Golden Calf, he cited the merit of their righteous forefathers. In fact, Moses believed that this merit would stand them in good stead regardless of their sin. But when the spies spoke ill of the Holy Land and rejected the land of the Patriarchs, Moses refrained from mentioning it.

(Rabbeinu Bechaye)

Of the first of your dough ("arisoteichem") you shall give to G-d a gift (Num. 15:21)

Another meaning of the Hebrew word "arisa" is cradle or crib. This means that a person must never say, "It doesn't matter what I do in my youth; when I grow older I can always repent and fear G-d." This is not the way of the Torah. Even in the "cradle," a Jew's existence must be sanctified and lived according to G-d's directives.

(Avodat Yisrael)


It Once Happened

The town of Berdichev was buzzing with the news of the death of a certain very wealthy Jew. The townspeople, however, didn't shed a tear, for this man, who had been so blessed in his life, shared not a penny of his great wealth.

The Chevra Kadisha (burial society) planned to compensate the community for his miserliness; they would charge the man's heirs a high price for the burial. When they presented their demands to the man's children, they were shocked at the sum, and insisted that the case be heard by the rabbi of the town - none other than the saintly Rabbi Levi Yitzchak.

When the heirs and the representatives of the Chevra Kadisha appeared before Rabbi Levi Yitzchak, they were surprised to see the depth of his grief at the passing of the rich man. He not only ruled in favor of the heirs, but he said that he would be sure to attend the funeral.

Of course, when the news spread throughout the town that the Rabbi would be attending, every other Jew made certain that he would be there as well. As a result, the entire town closed up and every able - bodied man and woman came out to accompany the deceased to his final rest. Needless to say, they were full of curiosity as to why this stingy man was receiving so much respect.

When the funeral was over, people approached the rabbi and asked the reason for such a show of honor to such a person. "No one knew him like I did," was his reply. "Everyone took him to be a miser, but I came to discover his true character through three legal cases which I was called upon to decide. If you have the time, I will tell you about it.

"The first case concerned a wine merchant who acted as an agent for all the other merchants in the town. They would give him the money to purchase the wine, and he would receive a commission for his trouble. Well, once, just as he was about to go to make his purchase, he realized that the money was missing. The shock of losing the money of so many others affected him so badly that he went into shock and passed out. A doctor was summoned, but the poor man could not be revived. Suddenly a man stepped out of the crowd and announced that he had found the missing money. The merchant was instantly revived by the good news.

"Not too long after, another man came forward and said that he had really found the lost money, but he had succumbed to his evil inclination and kept it. When he heard about the person who had claimed to have found it and had in actuality parted with such an enormous sum in order to save the life of a stranger, his conscience troubled him. Now, he wanted to return the money to the generous donor.

"That man, however, refused to accept it. He didn't want to relinquish his mitzva of saving a person's life. The culprit insisted that I hear the case and make a ruling. My decision was that the donor - the man whose funeral we just attended - was not required to accept the money.

"The second time I met him was when a man came to me with a similar demand. He wished to repay a generous benefactor, but the benefactor refused to accept the money. In this case, a poor man had fabricated a story to placate his wife while he would be away in a distant town trying to 'strike it rich.' It so happened that he had no money to support his family and he told his wife to go to a certain wealthy man in the town and demand payment every week for a fictitious 'salary.'

"She innocently went and asked for what she thought was her due, and the rich man, understanding the delicacy of the situation, paid her for many months. When the husband returned, having succeeded in making his fortune, he insisted on repaying his benefactor. He, however, replied that his business was solely with the wife, and he had nothing to do with the husband. Again, I ruled in his favor; he was entitled to keep his mitzva.

"Finally, the third time I met him was after a very wealthy man who had gone bankrupt asked this man for a loan. 'Who will be your guarantor?' the rich man asked.

"'My only guarantor is G-d Alm-ghty,' he replied.

With a smile, the rich man said, 'He is a Guarantor I can really trust!'

"When the day arrived for the man to repay his loan, he failed to appear. Several months later, however, he did come, begging forgiveness for his lateness. 'You owe me nothing,' the rich man answered. 'Your Guarantor was very honest, and He paid me very well with a large, unexpected profit. Therefore, you owe me nothing.'

"Again, the recipient of his largesse appealed to me, but I, once again, ruled in favor of the deceased. He was not required to accept repayment of his loan, if he refused to do so. So, my friends, you see, your assessment of the deceased was very wrong. He was no miser. On the contrary, he was a great and saintly person who practiced the giving of charity on the highest level - that of giving quietly, with no fanfare and no public acknowledgment. Just as the deceased stood in my court and accepted my verdicts three times, he is now standing before the Heavenly Court, accompanied by his mitzvot, which are testifying to his saintliness before that highest court."


Moshiach Matters

"To recount Your benevolence in the morning and belief in You during the nights." (Psalm 92:3) The Maharal of Prague explains this verse from Psalms to mean that recounting G-d's benevolence in the "morning" of the Redemption comes about through belief in G-d and G-d's Redemption through Moshiach during the nights of exile.


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