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Devarim Deutronomy

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   568: Bamidbar

569: Shavuos

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3 Tammuz

573: Korach

574: Chukat-Balak

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Devarim Deutronomy

May 14, 1999 - 28 Iyyar, 5759

568: Bamidbar

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

  567: Behar-Bechukotai569: Shavuos  

Never Say Never  |  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

Never Say Never

"Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau." Irving Fisher, Professor of Economics, Yale University, 1929.

"Everything that can be invented has already been invented." Charles H. Duell, Commissioner, U.S. Office of Patents, 1899.

"I think there is a world market for maybe five computers." Thomas Watson, Chairman of IBM, 1943.

"The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a 'C' the idea must be feasible." A Yale University management professor responding to Fred Smith's paper proposing overnight delivery service. (Smith went on to found Federal Express)

"But what is it good for?" Engineer commenting on the microchip at the Advanced Computing Systems Division of IBM, 1968.

"Drill for oil? You mean drill into the ground to try and find oil? You're crazy." Drillers who Edwin L. Drake tried to enlist to drill for oil in 1859.

"Louis Pasteur's theory of germs is ridiculous fiction." Pierre Pachet, Professor of Physiology at Toulouse, 1872.

"The observant Jew will be extinct by the year 2000." From the article "The Vanishing American Jew" in the now defunct Look Magazine.

"This 'telephone' has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us." Western Union internal memo, 1876.

"Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible." Lord Kelvin, president Royal Society, 1895.

"If I had thought about it, I wouldn't have done the experiment. The literature was full of examples that said you can't do this." Spencer Silver on the work that led to the unique adhesives for 3M "Post-It" Notepads.

"Moshiach? Soon? Even before the 'new' millennium? Impossible." A skeptic in 1999.

Living with the Rebbe

As this week's Torah portion, Bamidbar (literally "in the desert") suggests, the Torah was given to the Jewish people in an uninhabited wilderness.

A desert is a vast expanse of land to which all people have the same claim. A desert is not considered private property in the same way a house or a tract of habitable land can be bought and owned by individuals.

Likewise, the Torah does not belong to any one Jew, but is the eternal inheritance and possession of all. Thus each and every Jew is able (and obligated) to study the Torah and apply it to his daily life.

The desert is a place of dust, earth and shifting sands. Vegetation cannot grow there and it is devoid of inhabitants.

We, too, must strive to be as humble as the dust, as the Torah is incompatible with haughtiness and pride. Indeed, our Sages stated, "Who is he who upholds the Torah? One who makes himself as the desert."

In the desert, the most important necessities for sustaining life - water, food and clothes - are absent. There is no rainfall, and no edible plants or fruit-bearing trees. Obviously, there is no place to buy or make clothing either.

Throughout the 40 years of the Jewish people's sojourn through the desert they relied on the merit of tzadikim, righteous people, for these necessities. In the merit of Moses, G-d caused the manna to fall. In the merit of Miriam the Prophetess, Moses' sister, a well provided the Jews with drinking water. In the merit of Aaron the High Priest, Moses' brother, G-d protected the Jews from harm with the Clouds of Glory. These clouds also laundered their clothes, which grew along with them and always fit perfectly.

We learn from this that when it comes to learning Torah, all other concerns fall by the wayside. Our job is to study Torah and observe its mitzvot, while relying on G-d to provide us with our needs.

Lastly, the desert is a place of great danger. Wild animals roam about freely, and snakes and scorpions lurk under rocks and in crevices. Yet it was precisely there that G-d chose to reveal His holy Torah.

Until Moshiach comes and ushers in the Final Redemption (may it happen immediately), the Jew is likewise in a dangerous environment - exile. The "snake," the evil inclination, is constantly trying to entrap him and cause him to sin. Thus it is precisely during the exile that the Jew must strive to connect himself to the Torah, and to perform its commandments to the best of his ability.

Adapted from Likutei Sichot, Vol. 2, and Hitva'aduyot 5745

A Slice of Life

Coincidence? I think Not!

Rabbi Choni Vogel and Steve Hyatt

by Steve Hyatt

One of the first discussions I had with Rabbi Choni Vogel when I ventured into Chabad of Delaware, was about coincidence. I said it was very coincidental that after all these years I had to come to Delaware to discover my Jewish roots and learn about my people. Immediately he said, "Shlomo Yakov, nothing is coincidental. All things that happen are G-d's will, you just don't always know why, at that particular moment, they happen. Sometimes it takes days, months, years before you see how and why things happen. Sometimes you go a lifetime and never truly understand, but NOTHING is left to coincidence!"

As my spiritual journey has been unfolding I've had myriad experiences that I would have previously chocked up to coincidence. However, as my spiritual view of the world has been evolving, so is my view of G-d's direct impact on my life.

One such incident occurred after a very special Shabbat spent at Chabad. I was there to participate in the Bar Mitzva of the Rabbis'oldest son, Levy Yitzchak. Family members from around the world descended on Wilmington, Delaware to celebrate young Levy's special day. If you've never participated in a Bar Mitzva at Chabad, you don't know what you've been missing! Energetic prayers, delicious food, saying "l'chaim," dancing, singing and "farbrenging" all combine for an experience that electrifies one's soul and makes one proud and thankful to be a Jew.

Rabbi Vogel's oldest brother David told those in attendance that the power of the farbrengen (Chasidic gathering) is enormous. He told stories of miraculous events that have occurred throughout the course of time after evening-long farbrengens with the Lubavitcher Rebbe. I remember sitting, listening and thinking, "These are inspirational stories but I am not quite sure I've seen many miracles in my life."

I now realize that it all depends on how you define a miracle. If you're waiting to see the Delaware River divide into 12 parts or for manna to fall from the sky each morning, with a double portion on Fridays, you may have to wait awhile. But if you take time to look out your window and wonder at the intricacy of a snowflake falling on your porch or ponder the miracle of the birth of a child, then maybe you've seen a few miracles and never truly appreciated them.

Unfortunately, my return travel plans to Oregon forced me to leave Rabbi Vogel's long before the farbrengen was over. I said my goodbyes, went back to my hotel and then off to the airport. If all went well, I'd arrive back in Portland in time to don talit and tefilin and say the morning prayers. That is, if all went well.

Of course, it didn't! My connecting flight in Atlanta that was suppose to get me home by 9:00 a.m. was suddenly delayed. As I spent hours in the airport waiting for another flight, it suddenly dawned on me that I wouldn't make it home early enough to say the morning prayers. I'd have to daven (pray) in the AIRPORT!

Over the last 18 months I had never missed a morning putting on my tefilin. Week in and week out, with the exception of Shabbat and holidays, I faithfully and gladly observed this mitzva.

However, I had never done so outside of my home, hotel room or the shul. I certainly had never put them on in front of 10,000 strangers in the Atlanta airport! Now I really began to stress out.

I could tell you a good story and say I found a place, put them on and davened without a care in the world, but that would be a lie. Almost in tears, I apologized to G-d and said I just couldn't do it, I just wasn't ready. I couldn't get myself to put my talit and tefilin on in public. I asked for forgiveness and walked toward my gate, ashamed of myself for my lack of courage and obvious conviction.

As I plodded to the gate, the morning light began to pour through the airport windows. There didn't appear to be another human being in the "E" terminal at that hour of the morning. As I walked past gate E7, I saw a very familiar and comforting site. Standing next to the window, facing east, was a short, middle-aged man. Nothing very unique about that unless you consider the fact that he was wrapped in a long talit, was wearing his tefilin and was obviously davening!

I couldn't believe what I was seeing. This may be a very common sight in New York or Jerusalem, but Atlanta? Here I was beating myself up for my lack of courage and suddenly out of nowhere, a Jewish man of conviction and devotion appeared. I looked around. People were walking by on their way to the gate and not one paid the slightest attention to my davening brother. He went about his business and they went about theirs. I smiled and asked myself what I was embarrassed about. The truth is, sometimes a person needs an example before he can overcome his own fears.

I suddenly felt empowered. I was ready to face my fears and pray to my G-d. Just as I began to unzip my talit bag I heard an announcement, "Flight 427 to Portland is now ready to board!" This was almost miraculous as the flight was supposed to be delayed for another three hours.

I zipped up my bag, took one last look at the figure of inspiration and ran to the gate. I boarded the plane, sank into my seat and jetted off to Portland. The plane touched down at 9:00 a.m., I found my car, drove home and was davening by 10:30 a.m.

Some miracles involve the parting of a sea or manna falling from heaven. Others are as simple as seeing one lone Jew in an airport praying to his G-d, setting an example for another conflicted young man who possesses the desire but not necessarily the immediate ability to overcome his fears. With all the billions of human beings in the world G-d took a moment to send Shlomo Yakov Ben Moishe Pincus a message.

Coincidence? I think not!

What's New


Gan Israel Day Camps and Camp Chabads have been providing children around the world with memorable summer experiences for over 4 decades. The camps, run by local Chabad-Lubavitch Centers, offer children a rich summer experience in a secure environment. In addition, the camps give children a deep sense of pride in their Jewish heritage. Call your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center for more info about a day camp near you.


Toward a Meaningful Life is a new weekly radio show broadcast in NY, NJ and CT on Sundays from 6 - 7 p.m. Featuring Rabbi Simon Jacobson the show aims to bring spiritual relevance to people of all backgrounds. Hear it on 1050 AM.

The Rebbe Writes

4th of Sivan, 5720 [1960]

I received your letter of the 20th of Iyar.

With regard to the establishment of a Yeshiva in your place, I believe I wrote to you clearly that the fact that there is no possibility at this time to establish there a Lubavitcher Yeshiva, does not exclude the possibility of other groups establishing a Yeshiva there.

You ask whether I personally dictate my letters. Needless to say, I do indeed personally dictate my letters in detail, and furthermore, before they are sent off I read them over again to make sure that they have been transcribed to my satisfaction.

As we are approaching the Festival of Shovuos, the Season of Our Receiving the Torah, which this year happens to be also the 200th anniversary of the Histalkus [passing] of the Baal Shem Tov, I am sending you the enclosed copies of my messages which I hope you will make good use of in your efforts to strengthen Yiddishkeit in your community and to have a good influence on Jewish youth in particular, wherever it may reach.

Hoping to hear good news from you both in regard to your own advancement in the Torah and Mitzvos, as well as in your influence on others, and wishing you a happy and inspiring Festival of Sho-vuos, the Season of Our Receiving the Torah with joy and Pnimius [inwardness],

10th of Iyar, 5725 [1965]

I was pleased to receive your respective letters written towards the end of the month of Nissan.

Needless to say, every additional effort in matters of Torah and Mitzvos, and in the dissemination of Yiddishkeit in gen-eral, will bring additional Divine blessings.

With regard to the question of daven-ing [prayer], you surely know that there are various customs insofar as women are concerned. However, this is only as far as the women themselves are concer-ned. But if, as you write, this also has a bearing on the Chinuch [Jewish education] of the children, this gives added reason to adopt the custom which would be most valuable for the children, even though the religious community where you lived previously did not demand it.

Besides, there is nothing more conducive to attune the mind and heart towards the consciousness of G-d's Presence than regular prayer, where the first condition is, "Know before Whom thou art standing." Fostering this consciousness is very helpful for the attainment of peace of mind and general contentment. For through prayer and direct personal contact with the Almighty, one is reminded every day that G-d is not far away, in the Seventh Heaven, but is present and here, and His benevolent Providence extends to each and every one individually. This point has also been greatly emphasized by the Alter Rebbe [Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidim] in his book of Tanya, where he urges everyone to remember that, "Behold, G-d is standing near him." With this in mind, there is no room left for any anxiety or worry, as King David, the Sweet Singer of Israel, said, "G-d is my shepherd, I shall not want," "G-d is with me, I shall not fear," etc. Thus, this is no longer a theoretical idea, but becomes a personal experience in the everyday life.

As requested, I will remember in prayer those mentioned in your letter.

5th of Iyar, 5726 [1966]

I am in receipt of your letter of the first day of Rosh Chodesh Iyar. I will remember you in prayer for the fulfillment of your heart's desires for good in all the matters about which you write, especially that you should have a complete and normal pregnancy and delivery of a healthy offspring in a happy and auspicious hour.

I want to take this opportunity to express my gratification at the fine feelings which your husband has for you, as is indicated in his letter to me, from which I see that he has in you a true mate and help. This obviously gives him a good frame of mind to carry out his duties and activities, both at home and outside, with confidence and peace of mind.

May G-d grant that in all these good things both of you should advance from strength to strength, especially in the essential aspect of bringing up your children to a life of Torah, Chuppah [marriage] and Good Deeds, in good health and ample sustenance. Included in the above is also the fulfillment of your heart's desires for good to take an active part in the activities of the Neshei Chabad and the Shiurim [Torah classes], etc.

Rambam this week

In memory of Yosef Yitzchak ben Shlomo Shneur Zalman yblc't

29 Iyar 5759

Prohibition 355: having relations without marriage

By this prohibition a man is prohibited to have relations with a woman without duly contracted marriage. It is contained in the Torah's words "There shall be no harlot of the daughters of Israel" (Deut. 23:18) and "Do not profane your daughter, to make her a harlot" (Lev. 19:29).

A Word from the Director

This Shabbat we study Chapter Six of the Ethics of the Fathers, a compendium of advice and counsel from our Sages. It contains the following Mishna:

"Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said: Each and every day a Heavenly Voice goes forth from Mount Choreb...there is no free man except one who occupies himself with the study of Torah, and anyone who occupies himself with the study of the Torah becomes elevated."

Obviously, this "Heavenly Voice" is not heard by the ears; it is a spiritual call that arouses the Jew to study Torah. Similarly, there are other "Heavenly Voices" perceived by the soul that awaken the Jew's spiritual consciousness and stimulate an intense longing for G-dliness.

A spiritual awakening can have physical manifestations, as we see from the Book of Daniel. "And I alone, Daniel, saw the vision, and the people who were with me did not see the vision. Yet a great trembling fell upon them." The Talmud explains that even though the people around Daniel did not see the vision with their physical eyes, their "mazal" perceived it on a higher level, causing a "great trembling."

To explain: Not all of a person's soul is invested in his physical body. In fact, only a small portion or "reflection" of the soul is in the body, whereas the soul's essence, or "mazal," remains Above.

Because of its closer proximity to G-dliness, the essence of the soul perceives these Heavenly Voices quite clearly. It is much harder for the "reflection" of the soul down below to hear them, due to the coarseness and concealment of the physical body. Nonetheless, these Heavenly Voices are never completely muffled, for the "mazal" in the higher spheres hears them at full volume.

Whenever a Jew feels a sudden, unexpected urge to return to G-d with a sincere desire and whole heart, it is because of these "Heavenly Voices" that call out to him from Above. May G-d grant us the resolve to always act on these positive impulses, and bring Moshiach's arrival that much sooner.

Thoughts that Count

And G-d spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai (Num. 1:1)

The Midrash relates that G-d gave the Torah to the Jewish people via fire, water, and in the desert, to teach us how a Jew merits to acquire its learning: Fire is symbolic of the fiery enthusiasm and craving for G-dliness that exists within the heart of every Jew; water is symbolic of the temperance and clarity of thought necessary for Torah study; and the desert symbolizes the need to put aside all worldly pleasures that might interfere with the attainment of perfection. (Shem MiShmuel)

From 20 years old and upward, all that are able to go forth to war in Israel (Num. 1:3)

A person becomes fully responsible for his acts at the age of 20, when the real battle with the evil inclination first begins. At that age, one is considered sufficiently equipped to be "able to go out to war" against the evil inclination and win. (Admor of Gur)

The tribe of Zebulan (Num. 2:7)

In enumerating all the other tribes according to their grouping by banners, the Torah states "and the tribe of so-and-so." The tribe of Zebulan, however, is listed without the word "and" preceding it. The reason is that the Zebulanites engaged in commerce to support the tribe of Issachar, whose members studied Torah as a livelihood. Lest we conclude that they were somehow inferior to Issachar because of this arrangement, the Torah refers to them simply as "the" tribe of Zebulan, to indicate that whoever supports Torah learning is considered an important entity unto himself. (Baal HaTurim)

And the number of the Children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or counted (from the haftorah)

How can any number exist that cannot be measured or counted? Rather, the Jewish people cannot be counted when they obey the will of the Creator, but are subject to counting when they do not. (Tractate Yoma)

It Once Happened

The villagers were buzzing with excitement. One of their children was to become a Bar Mitzva and there was so much to be done. In the small village there were no professionals called in to prepare a feast for a simcha [happy occasion]; every woman helped out. So, Malka, the baker's wife agreed to bake the challas; Chanchie, the fisherman's wife would supply the herring; Rivka, a neighbor of the host, would make a huge pot of chicken soup and so on, until there was not one woman in the whole village that wasn't busy preparing some dish for the simcha.

When Rivka volunteered to cook the chicken soup, it was out of pure love for her dear neighbors, for they had lived in harmony and friendship since long before the Bar Mtzva boy was born. Indeed, Rivka had watched the boy grow from a new-born infant through his toddler and childhood years, until now he had blossomed into a fine youth. She was proud that her soup would be one of the prominent dishes at the feast. Since this was such a special occasion, no expense was spared in procuring the finest ingredients, and although money was usually hard to find in the village, Rivka splurged on the finest, fattest hens for her soup. When all the ingredients had been assembled, Rivka stood with the neighborhood kitchen maid who was hired to assist in the preparations and meticulously peeled and washed and diced each carrot and onion - everything had to be perfect for her creation.

The knock on the door brought Rivka scurrying to see who it was. After all, excitement was in the air, maybe it was a guest who needed something or another neighbor conferring on her special dish. The kitchen maid was proud to be a part of this great effort which absorbed the entire town. What else could she do to help, she wondered. Then she spied a half a bottle of milk left over from breakfast. "Why not add it to the soup?" she thought and she poured it in, ignorant of the terrible calamity she had just created.

When Rivka returned and lifted the lid of the soup pot to give it a stir and a sniff, she immediately noticed that it was the wrong color. Spying the empty milk bottle, she put one and one together and frantically asked the maid if she had added milk to the soup. She replied that she had, was there some problem?

"What now?" Rivka thought in a panic. The soup was not kosher and she couldn't possibly make another pot. Her kerchief askew, she dashed out the door and ran to the rabbi of the town. With tears spilling down her flushed cheeks she told the entire sorry tale. "Oh, Rabbi, the whole simcha depends on my soup and now it's ruined! I spent my last penny on the finest hens and there's no money to buy more chickens!"

The rabbi listened attentively to her tale of woe, and as he led her to the door he said in assuring tones, "Don't worry, the soup will be a great success, and I will be there to enjoy it together with the whole village." The woman stopped weeping abruptly. She had heard right, but what could the rabbi mean? She couldn't fathom his words, but she left comforted.

The rabbi at once sent for the milkman and sternly questioned him, "How much water did you add to the milk today, Yankel?"

The milkman was caught and began to weep. "I'm sorry, Rabbi, but I'm too poor to make ends meet if I don't cut the milk with water. Today, a little more than usual, maybe three-quarters water."

With that information, the law was clear: the quantity of actual milk in the soup was less than one sixtieth of the total volume of the soup and it was therefore nullified according to Jewish law. The soup was kosher. The Bar Mitzva party was the most joyous that had been celebrated in the town in years, and Rivka's sumptuous chicken soup was part of the festive repast.

* * *

When Reb Mordechai, the son of the Belzer Rebbe, received a draft notice, he wrote a kvittel [a note asking for a blessing] to his father, the Rebbe. He carried the note to his father, begging that he interecede in the heavenly realms on his behalf and pray that he be exempted from military service, which was then twenty years exile from everything he held dear.

The Rebbe took the paper, and upon reading its contents, he uttered a sigh so profound that the Rebbetzin in the next room shuddered when she heard it. What, she wondered, had her husband seen in his holy vision? Could it mean that her beloved son would not be exempted from the draft?

She rushed into the room with tears in her eyes and said, "My husband, hundreds of young men have come to you for blessings to be exempted from the military, and your prayers have succeeded. How could it be that your own son will be taken from us? Pray for him as much as you did for the others!"

"You misunderstand the reason for my sigh. When I read my son's kvittel, I was afraid that I felt his own situation more deeply than that of the other boys who wrote to me. That is why I sighed, because I might have taken my son's plight more to heart than that of any other child."

Moshiach Matters

Glory and might will be granted the righteous in the Time to Come. In what way? The Holy One, blessed is He, will sit in His house of study, and the eternally righteous will sit before Him, each radiating light according to the amount of Torah he possesses. (Tanna DeVei Eliyahu ch. 8)

  567: Behar-Bechukotai569: Shavuos  
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