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L'Chaim
March 19, 1999 - 2 Nisan, 5759

561: Vayikra

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Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.


  560: Vayakhel-Pekudei562: Tzav  

Y2K: MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING!  |  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

Y2K: MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING!

by Rabbi Israel Rubin

Just when we thought we had everything figured out and under control, the year 2000 looms ahead - the confusion of the Century. having entrusted our destiny to computerized technology, people around the world are worried about the approaching Y2K calamity.

Yea, as we walk into the shadow of Y2K, doomsday alarms are already ringing. Behold, all the wise men have been summoned to save us from the scourge of the upcoming plague, - computer wizards concoct and input formulas to placate the powers that be. Alas, time is short, and all men, women and dot.coms in the land scurry hither an hither to avert being struck on that fateful day when 99 changes to 00.

Virtual Nothing

Let us not underestimate the potential power of 00. It doesn't amount to anything in today's digitalized world, yet 00 is full of meaning and symbolism.

To the mathematician, 0.0=0x0=02 represents an enigma: how can a round, rolly polly zero ever be a square?

To a jeweler, 00 is a symetrical set of bangles, while to a prisoner they are tight handcuffs. To the sports minded, 00 designates a bike path, or a game in which neither team scored, while a bird watcher sees two wise owl eyes.

Joking aside, Y2K syndrome in our mind-set and attitude. Our problem goes beyond misprogrammed computers, for it involves misguided people and misplaced values.

Basically, the Y2K problem is a failure to recognize value in 00. Expecting instant gratification, we discard seemingly '"worthless" items without seeing the full picture and broader connection.

Obsessed with zeroes, the Nihilists lose sight of the larger number, which quickly add up to hundreds, thousands and even millions. They don't realize that the humble, non-pretentious and self-effacing zero enhances the value of it's peers tenfold. Even people with six figure salaries will gladly welcome an extra zero that happens to roll in.

In the beginning, G-d created the world ex nihilo, something out of nothing, but the Nihilists turn around and make nothing out of something. let us work in eh reverse, as did many of our immigrant grandparents who arrived here in the beginning of the century. They came to this country without a penny in their pockets, and sweated their way to success.

May the memory of their positive work ethic to make something out of nothing, prevent us from foolishly turning something into nothing. Judaism believes that everything in life, however small or insignificant, has purpose and meaning, and we look forward each day to Moshiach and the Redemption, the commencement of which is anothing but nil.

Rabbi Rubin is the director of Chabad of the Capital District, Albany, New York and editor of The Jewish Holiday Consumer from which this article was reprinted.


Living with the Rebbe

As we learn in the Torah portion of Vayikra, a korban chatat (sin offering) must be brought for a sin which is committed unintentionally. A korban asham taluy (trespass offering for doubtful guilt) is brought if the person is not sure that he has committed a sin.

For example: A person was presented with two portions of fat that look alike. After eating one of them he learns that only one portion was kosher; the other was treife, and he is not sure which one he ate. In this instance he is required to bring an asham taluy, for there is no way to determine if a sin was committed.

A korban asham taluy is a more expensive offering than a korban chatat. To explain why:

The purpose of an offering is to arouse a Jew to return to G-d in repentance. If a person is sure that he has sinned, he feels a genuine regret and repents completely. If, however, there is doubt in his mind (as the possibility exists that no sin was really committed), it is much more difficult for him to experience regret and return to G-d with a whole heart. Accordingly, the offering he must bring is more costly than the one he would be required to offer if his sin were a known fact.

These korbanot were brought for sins that were committed unintentionally. At first glance this does not make sense, as it would seem that a person should not be held accountable for an involuntary action. Nonetheless, we see that such a person is obligated to bring an offering, as his soul needs to undergo refinement.

The very fact that a person has come to sin - even unintentionally, without forethought - is proof that his spiritual standing is not what it should be. For if a Jew conducts himself properly he will never transgress, and not even accidentally, as it states, "No evil will happen to the just."

Those things a person does "accidentally," without plan and without intention, are indicative of his essential nature. The actions we perform automatically, without thinking, reflect our true leanings and tendencies. They indicate those areas toward which we are most inclined.

A tzadik (righteous person) naturally performs actions that are good and holy. If, G-d forbid, a person commits a sin, even by "chance," it shows that he derives at least an infinitesimal degree of pleasure from negative things. Thus a person is required to bring an offering for any sin he commits, even those that are committed without his volition.

(Likutei Sichot, Volume 3)


A Slice of Life

THREE LITTLE WORDS

Rabbi Kranz

by Rabbi Yossel Kranz

"It's mine."

"No, it's mine."

"It is not, that's my game."

"Here we go again," I thought to myself. "One of them will come crying to me any moment now."

This time it was my 7 year old, Mendel. I tried to explain to him that although the game was his, he is the oldest and has to set an example for his siblings about sharing. "Okay, I'll share," he said tearfully, "but it's still mine."

My wife Nechomi was out-of-town and I was holding down the fort for a few days. "How does she deal with this everyday?" I asked myself, not for the first time.

Actually, I was enjoying the time alone with my children and I figured I was getting to be pretty good at the "dad thing," but their territorial stakeouts were getting to me. I was beginning to hate the word "mine."

That night, after the kids were in bed, I decided to unpack some of the sefarim (Jewish books) that my mother had recently given me which were from the library of my father, of blessed memory.

I opened the first volume and noticed that written on the flyleaf was my father's name and the Hebrew letters lamed, hay, vov.

In an instant, I was transported back to my childhood, to the time when I was given my first siddur (prayerbook), one that was to be mine exclusively.

My father watched as I slowly wrote my name in Hebrew on the flyleaf. How carefully I penned the words Yosef Baruch Eliyahu Kranz. (I have a long first name!)

When I was done, I proudly showed it to my father. "You're not finished yet," he said. "You have to write lamed, hay, vov next to your name."

My father explained that these three letters are an abbreviation for the words "LaHashem Haaretz Umloah." Loosely translated it means, "The world and everything in it belongs to G-d."

He told me that the siddur was not "mine," it was a gift from G-d who provides everything for us. "It is only yours to take care of," my father said.

From then on, every book that I bought included not only my name on the inside, but the three letters, lamed, hay, vov.

Holding my father's volume in my hand, I slowly came back to the present and realized I had never taught my children this powerful custom.

The next morning, I sat my children down and explained to them about lamed, hay, vov and how we would write these letters on all of their possessions.

"There's no such thing as 'mine,'" I told them. "There is only 'LaHashem Haaretz Umloah.' "

Three little words connecting three generations in acknowledging G-d's connection in all of our lives.

Thanks, Dad.

Rabbi Kranz is the director of Chabad- Lubavitch of Richmond, Virginia.

Ed.'s note: In a special address to children, the Rebbe urged every child to make his or her room a miniature "Holy Temple" by having Jewish books, such as a prayerbook and Bible, and a charity box in the bedroom. The Rebbe instructed the children to write their names and the letters lamed, hay, vov on the books and the charity box.


What's New

L'Chaim Books

Bound, hardcover volumes of the 11th year of L'Chaim are now available. To purchase a copy send $25, plus $3 shipping and handling (payable to LYO) to: L'Chaim Books, 1408 President Street, Brooklyn, NY 11213. A limited quantity of bound volumes from years 7-10 are also available at the same price.

CHASIDIC LIGHT IN THE SOVIET DARKNESS

Yechezkel Brod unfolds his gripping life's story as a Chasidic boy living through the years of Stalinist terror in the Soviet Union. He had only one wish-to study Torah. But to do that he had to leave his parents' home at a tender age and wander far and wide through the vast Soviet empire. This is a personal life story but also the living depiction of an entire heroic period in our people's history, which until now had remained virtually unknown to the world. In simple but heartfelt words, the author colorfully describes the wonderful Jews and outstanding Chasidic personalities who kept alive the flame of Jewish life under almost impossible conditions. Distributed by HaChai Publishing

PROCEEDING TOGETHER

This books is the third volume of translations of the earliest talks of the Rebbe after the passing of the Previous Rebbe in 1950. Uttered in eloquent humility, before the Rebbe officially accepted the leadership of Chabad-Lubavitch, these "whispers from another world" reverberate serenely in the ears of many an earnest listener today. Translated by Rabbi Uri Kaploun and published by Sichos in English.


The Rebbe Writes

16 Adar, 5712 [1952]

. . . I have duly received your letter of the 8th of Shevat, but this is the first opportunity to answer it. Should there be any good news in the meantime, you will no doubt let me know.

You seem to be disturbed because you feel that you have not attained the proper level in Torah and Mitzvos and cannot see the tachles [purpose] etc., which makes you downhearted.

Leaving the details of your complaints aside, I wish to make several observations:

1. A feeling of dissatisfaction with one's self is a good sign, for it indicates vitality and an urge to rise and improve one's self, which is accomplished in a two-way method: withdrawal from the present state, and turning to a higher level (see Sichah [talk] of my father-in-law of sainted memory, Pesach 5694).

2. If the urge to improve one's self leads to downheartedness and inertia, then it is the work of the Yetzer Hora [evil inclination], whose job it is to use every means to prevent the Jew from carrying out good intentions connected with Torah and Mitzvos.

The false and misleading voice of the Yetzer Hora should be stifled and ignored. Besides, as the Baal Hatanya [author of the Tanya, Rabbi Shneur Zalman - founder of Chabad Chasidism] states (Ch. 25), even one single good deed creates an everlasting bond and communion with G-d (ibid., at length). Thus, a feeling of despondency is not only out of place, but is a stumbling block in the worship of G-d, as is more fully explained in the above and subsequent chapters of Tanya.

3. With regard to understanding, or lack of understanding, of the tachles, the important thing required of the Jew is contained in the words of the Torah: "For the thing is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth and in thy heart (and the tachles is) to do it." Understanding is, generally, the second step. The first step is the practice of the Mitzvos. (See enclosed copy of my message to a study group).

My prayerful wish to you, as you conclude your letter, is that the next one coming from you will be more cheerful.

8th of Nissan, 5722 [1962]

I trust that during the time since our meeting much has been accomplished in the matters which we discussed. More over, I hope that the difficulties which seemed to exist at the time turned out to be much less formidable than anticipated, and that this will therefore stimulate greater and much more rapid advancement, especially as when one is determined to do the right thing, one receives special help from On High, as our Sages assure us.

With the approach of Pesach, the Season of Our Freedom, may G-d grant every one of us a greater measure of freedom from all manner of anxiety and difficulty, so as to be able to serve Him with joy and gladness of heart without hin-drance, in good health physically and spiri-tually, which go hand in hand together.

Wishing you and yours a kosher and happy Pesach,

12th of Nissan, 5739 [1979]

This is to acknowledge receipt of your letter of the 9th of Adar, which reached me with considerable delay. May G-d grant the fulfillment of your heart's desires for good.

As in all good things, there is the assurance of Yogato u'Motzoso [he worked hard and succeeded].

If you will let me know also your mother's Hebrew name, as is customary, I will remember you in prayer when visiting the holy resting place of my father-in-law of saintly memory.

With reference to your writing "I do not 'hold' by a Rebbe now. My allegiance is to the Yiddishkeit with which I grew up," etc. - of course, what is expected of you, as of every Jew, is that the daily life and conduct should be in accordance with the Torah, Toras Chaim [the Torah of life], and this is the very essence of Yiddishkeit. However, inasmuch as the Torah is described as "longer than the earth and wider than the sea," it is normal that no individual, however proficient he is in Torah and Mitzvos, and however educated he is, isolates himself from others, from whom he can learn a better and deeper understanding of Torah, at any rate, in those areas where he has not yet attained the highest level. This is the function of a Rebbe, a teacher and instructor who have in their sphere of learning devoted more time and attained a higher level of knowledge, etc.

Wishing you a Kosher and inspiring Pesach.


Rambam this week

3 Nisan 5759

Positive mitzva 185: destroying all idol worship

By this injunction we are commanded to destroy all idol worship and its temples by every possible mode of destruction: to shatter, burn, demolish, cut to pieces, etc. It is expressed in the words (Deut. 12:2): "You shall surely destroy all the places"; "You shall break all their altars" (Deut. 7:5); and "You shall break down their altars" (Ex. 34:13). This injunction applies only in the land of Israel.


A Word from the Director

The second of Nisan is the anniversary of the passing in 1920 of the fifth Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Shalom Dovber, known as the Rebbe Rashab.

Before his passing, the Rebbe Rashab told his son and successor, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok (the sixth and previous Rebbe), "I am going up to heaven; my writings I am leaving for you."

A scant perusal of the Rebbe Rashab's writings brings to light the following gems:

"A single act is better than a thousand groans. Our G-d lives, and Torah and mitzvot are eternal; quit the groaning and work hard in actual spiritual work, and G-d will be gracious to you."

"Cherish criticism, for it will place you on the true heights."

"When Moshiach will come, then we will really long for the days of exile. Then we will truly feel distress at our having neglected our avoda (spiritual work); then will we indeed feel the deep pain caused by our lack of avoda. These days of exile are the days of avoda, to prepare ourselves for the coming of Moshiach, speedily in our time, amen."

"And this is the main thing in these last moments before Moshiach, that we don't go according to our intellect and our reasoning. Rather, we should fulfill Torah and mitzvot above and beyond what reason dictates."

"The avoda of serving G-d according to Chasidut comprises all kinds of levels... the level of "corpse" does not need much elaboration; but, thank G-d, there is also "revival of the dead" in spiritual work. A corpse is cold; there is nothing as frigid as natural intellect, human intellect. When one's natural intelligence comprehends a G-dly concept, and the emotions latent in intellect are enthused and moved by the pleasure-within-intellect-that is true revival of the dead."

May we immediately merit the Final Redemption, when all righteous Jews (and all Jews are considered righteous!) will be resurrected with the Revival of the Dead.


Thoughts that Count

And if you bring a meal-offering baked in the oven (Lev. 2:4)

In order to become closer to G-d, a person should arouse his innate, fiery love of Him by contemplating the greatness of the Creator. For in the same way that an oven's heat causes the liquid to separate from the dough, so too does a burning love of G-d separate a person from his attraction to material things and strengthen his connection with the infinite. (Likutei Sichot)

And it shall be that when he has sinned and is conscious of his guilt, he shall restore that which he took by robbery (Lev. 5:23)

Our Sages note that whenever the Torah uses the phrase "And it shall be," it indicates joy and happiness. But what possible joy can there be in a discussion of robbery? Rather, the positive point in this verse is that the robber "is conscious of his guilt." It is a good thing that he recognizes the need to repent of his sin and bring an offering to atone for his misdeed. (Ilana D'Chayei)

And if he denies unto his neighbor that which was delivered to him to keep, or in pledge, or in something taken by violence...he shall give it to the one it belongs to on the day he confesses his sin (Lev. 5:21, 24)

The Torah advises the robber to return whatever he stole on the same day that he admits his crime. The longer he waits, the harder it will be for him to give it up. (Maadanei Asher)

And the priest shall make atonement for him...for anything of all that he may have done to trespass thereby (le'ashma ba) (Lev. 5:26)

"Le'ashma ba" is an acronym standing for "La'keil asher shavat mikol hamaasim bayom hashevi'i" - "to G-d, Who rested from all His deeds on the seventh day." This is an allusion to our Sages' dictum that "Whoever keeps the Shabbat properly is forgiven all his sins." Thus, even in exile, when we have no physical Holy Temple in which to offer sacrifices, our observance of Shabbat atones for sins in the same way. (Tiferet Shlomo)


It Once Happened

Rabbi Moshe Leib Isserles [the Rema] and Rabbi Chaim, the brother of the Maharal of Prague were dear friends all their lives. When Rabbi Isserles assumed the office of Chief Rabbi of the Rabbinical Court of Cracow, Rabbi Chaim accompanied him and served as an adjunct in his rabbinical duties.

After the tragic death of Rabbi Chaim's wife and the year of mourning, it would have been customary to begin the search for a suitable match. When Rabbi Chaim made no attempt to remarry, it was assumed that he was waiting for Rabbi Moshe's intervention, but Rabbi Chaim had his own plan. He contacted a matchmaker and stated his requirements: He wanted a modest woman, with the means to support a Torah scholar and a private place where he could study undisturbed. He also required that neither his wife nor her family would reveal Rabbi Chaim's true identity.

Not long after, the matchmaker came up with the perfect match. The good woman was the daughter of a baker, and both she and her father agreed to all of Rabbi Chaim's conditions. A special room was filled with many holy books, and the couple was betrothed in utter secrecy.

A few weeks later, Rabbi Chaim came to his friend and said, "I want you to know that I have decided to travel to my home town to visit my elder brother."

Rabbi Moshe was shocked and deeply saddened by the news. He tried to dissuade Rabbi Chaim, but he refused to discuss his decision. When Rabbi Moshe saw that his words had no effect, he said, "If there is nothing I can do to change your mind, I will at least send you off with great honor."

Rabbi Chaim kept his own counsel and quietly implemented his plan. Rabbi Moshe prepared a great celebration to mark his friend's departure. When it drew to a close, Rabbi Moshe tearfully accompanied his friend several miles on the way before they parted.

Now came the next phase of his plan. Rabbi Chaim assumed a disguise so effective, he was virtually unrecognizable. He returned to his father-in-law's house in Cracow by a circuitous route, and there a simple wedding was performed. Although the townsfolk thought it odd that the baker made no wedding feast, they soon forgot it in the crush of everyday concerns. Rabbi Chaim and his wife lived harmoniously, and from that day forth, he remained in his room studying Torah and never venturing out.

A few years later a terrible plague broke out in Cracow. The townsfolk went to Rabbi Moshe to ask if this could be a punishment for some unknown sin. After some investigation, his attendants brought the rabbi a shocking report. The baker's daughter was suspected of living with a man without having had a proper marriage. Rabbi Moshe ordered the man brought to him at once.

Although when Rabbi Chaim arrived at the rabbinical court, he tried to keep his face averted, his friend recognized him at once. Rabbi Moshe led Rabbi Chaim into his private chambers and fell weeping with joy into his arms. But when he looked up, his friend was laughing.

Rabbi Moshe stared at Rabbi Chaim and said: "I will ask you just three things: Where were you before you came to the baker's house? What is the truth about the sin they are speaking of? Why did you laugh?"

"Let me reply. When I served the community's needs, I suffered, for I had no time to study the Torah as intensively as I wished. Now I can follow the dictates of my heart. As for sin, there is none. I have been happily married for two years. My only problem was the gnawing thought that perhaps I was sinfully proud of my accomplishments. I prayed to G-d for a humble heart, but I had not anticipated the correction would come through such humiliation! I laughed because I saw you weep, and then I knew that my punishment was fulfilled."

Rabbi Moshe called his servants: "This man is no sinner, he may leave in peace."

That night Rabbi Moshe couldn't stop thinking about the day's events. Rabbi Chaim had removed himself from all worldly matters and spent his days and nights sitting in a barren room studying Torah. He had to go see this for himself. Late the following night, he stood outside Rabbi Chaim's room. Listening closely, he could hear his friend's voice, but there was another voice as well. Finally, he knocked on the door and announced himself.

"Enter," he was told. There was Rabbi Chaim, sitting alone at a table. "Who else was here with you?" Rabbi Moshe inquired, but he received no reply.

"I order you to reply!"

"If you command me as the rav, I must obey. The other voice you heard was that of the Prophet Elijah, who comes here to teach me."

When he heard this, Rabbi Moshe became faint. "Ask him what sin I have committed that I don't merit to learn from him."

"Tell Rabbi Moshe Isserles," the prophet replied, "that he has committed no sin. But the spiritual and the grandiose cannot mix. Rabbi Moshe occupies himself with his holy rabbinical service to the community and he must conduct himself in a manner befitting the honor of his position. I can come only to those whose good deeds are hidden from the public eye."


Moshiach Matters

The word "redemption" applies only to one who emerges from darkness into light...We note in the long history of ours that troubles and dark sorrows become a basis for salvation and light; and the darker the troubles were, the greater was the light which came afterwards. The future redemption will also burst forth from the midst of darkness... And when will that moment be? In the month of Nisan, for G-d has appointed it as a time of redemption. (Book of Our Heritage)


  560: Vayakhel-Pekudei562: Tzav  
   
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