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Devarim Deutronomy

L'Chaim
June 4, 1999 - 20 Sivan, 5759

571: Beha'alotcha

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


  570: Nasso572: Sh'lach  

The Only Child  |  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

The Only Child

Are you an only child? If not, did you ever wish you were?

For people from multi-sibling families, being an only child conjures up images of having your parents' undivided attention, not having to share your possessions, having your own bedroom, not needing to vote in order to decide where to go on family outings.

On the other hand, the life of an only child can also be a bit boring. There are no "live-in" friends to play with or to make long, rainy Sunday afternoons a little more exciting. No co-conspirator for family pranks. No one to complain to when Mom and Dad are being "unreasonable." No big brother or sister to stick up for you in school or little sibling to show off to your friends.

There are certainly benefits and disadvantages to being either an only child or one of many. However, there is a kind of mystique that goes with being an only child. And though, of course, we know that in families blessed with more than one child, love is not "divided" amongst the children, still, somehow, we can also appreciate that when there is a situation of an only child, the parents' love, aspirations, attention, and hopes are highly concentrated on that one child.

The Baal Shem Tov said that every Jew is as precious to G-d as if he or she were G-d's only child.

"That sure sounds nice," one might think, "but what does it do for me and what does it require of me?"

Being an "only child" has a lot of plusses. It means that G-d is always there and always listening. It means that I can ask for a lot of things (though G-d is not over-indulgent and sometimes the answer will be "no"). It means that I am very important and what I do makes a difference, as the Talmud teaches, "Every person is an entire world." It means I can hold my head up high, I'm "somebody."

Being an "only child" also brings with it responsibility. G-d is counting on me, He's putting His hope in me and I have to try to live up to G-d's expectations.

Remember, thought, that the Baal Shem Tov said that every Jew is an only child. So a huge part of this very nice teaching is that there are a lot of other "only children" out there. And each one of them is an entire world, each one is a "somebody." Each one deserves respect and love (which, as noted above, are unlimited).

Children in general, and an only child in particular, play "make-believe," creating invisible friends and fantastic situations. The Rebbe said that we are poised at the threshold of the Redemption. When we cross that threshold, it will come naturally to respect and love not only every Jew, but all of creation. Until then, may it commence very soon, let's be "childish" and make-believe.


Living with the Rebbe

When the Baal Shem Tov asked Moshiach when he would come, Moshiach responded: "When your wellsprings will have spread outward." To better understand the concept of "spreading the wellsprings [of Torah] outward," let us examine the physical properties of a well:

A well's water gushes spontaneously from its source without waiting for the thirsty person to come and drink. Its waters flow far and wide, drenching and saturating everything with which they come in contact.

Similarly, when the objective is bringing the "waters of Torah" to other Jews, we cannot wait until they come and ask to drink of its knowledge. The Torah, the sustenance of life itself, must be brought to wherever Jews are found.

This approach originated with Aaron the priest, who "loved peace and pursued peace, loved his fellow creatures and brought them nearer to Torah." Aaron did not wait until others took the first step, but went "outside" to draw them closer to Judaism.

Significantly, Aaron "brought them nearer to Torah," not the other way around. The Torah's principles were never altered or compromised to fit a given situation. Rather, each individual Jew was brought to the Torah, the same true and eternal Torah that has stood immutable for thousands of years.

This characteristic service of Aaron is alluded to in this week's Torah portion, Beha'alotcha, literally "When you light the lamps." As kohen gadol (high priest), Aaron's job entailed kindling the menora in the Sanctuary.

A candle is symbolic of the Jewish soul, as it states, "the candle of G-d is the soul of man." Aaron's function was to light the candle, i.e., ignite the soul of every Jew, for every Jew possesses a G-dly soul, no matter how concealed it may be. By lighting this "candle," Aaron revealed the flame that burns inside each and every one of us.

Furthermore, Aaron made sure that the candle would continue to burn without his assistance. It is not enough to uncover the G-dly soul that exists in the recesses of every Jewish heart; the soul must be so aroused that it continues to burn with love of G-d and seeks perpetually to reunite with its Source above.

"Spreading the wellsprings outward" thus requires that we go "outside," beyond our own "four cubits," to awaken the hidden spark of G-d that is the birthright of every Jew. For no matter how hidden it may seem to be, all that is necessary is that we find it and fan its flame until, like a candle after the match which lit it has been removed, it continues to burn by itself.

Adapted from Likutei Sichot, Volume 2


A Slice of Life

Vignettes

Rabbi Shalom Paltiel

by Rabbi Shalom Paltiel, the Rebbe's emissary in Port Washington, New York

Recently, I stopped at a gas station. The attendant, a young man sporting long hair and an earring, was Jewish and we started talking. I offered to help him put on tefilin. He eagerly agreed, adding that he hadn't put on tefilin since his Bar Mitzva.

While this young man was wearing the tefilin and saying the "Shema," a car with several observant Jews pulled up. They were horrified to see this "hippy" wearing tefilin in the middle of the gas station and made their displeasure known to me.

"Do you know who this young man is?" I asked them. "He is a descendant of the great Rebbe of Zanz!"

The critics were taken aback. "Oh! In that case," they said, "if he possesses such special heritage, it is admirable that you encourage his involvement."

As their car began pulling away from the station, I knocked on their window and said, "Actually, I don't know whether or not he descends from the Rebbe of Zanz. But I do know for sure that he descends from our great Patriarch, Abraham. Surely, with such a pedigree he is worthy of being reached out to with a warm, welcoming message of Judaism."

***

by Prof. Velvl Green, Ben Gurion University

A professor of mathematics came into my study one day. Though an avowed agnostic, he said to me, "I've just calculated that it's impossible for the human eye to have evolved in the five billion years that they give us." He continued, "the person who believes in evolution is the one making the leap of faith."

Science doesn't contradict the Torah. Science teaches us that when the Torah says, "I will provide," G-d is right. Last year was the first time in human history that enough food was grown to feed every living person on the planet. Theoretically, no one on this earth should have to starve. G-d provides. And that's what science says.

When G-d says, "I have created the world," "I will care for you," "I will heal you," it is truth. And science proves this truth. When the doctor heals a patient, G-d has healed and science proves that the person is healed.

Before birth, a baby lives in its mother's womb surrounded by water. It doesn't breath. Its lungs are collapsed, folded between the two upper chambers of the heart. There's a hole in its heart so the blood circulates. And there's a tube connecting the aorta to the pulmonary artery.

Within ten minutes of birth, its lungs have to expand, the hole in its heart has to heal, the tube has to seal off. In fact, 67 different steps have to happen in sequence so that the baby can go from a creature that lives in water to an oxygen-breathing baby. Miraculously, these things take place routinely every minute of every day.

That is science, when we understand what happens and we know that no human being or scientist could have developed or engineered this sequence. If a company had tried to build it, it wouldn't work.

Indeed, if we knew what goes on in our very own lives, if we knew what goes on in the birth of a baby, we would bow and thank G-d forever. All of the vast scientific studies that have been made over the past hundred years keep pointing to the concept of order and sequence, and therefore, in my opinion, a Creator.

There has never been a rabbi who has ever said to a scientist, "stop searching." There's never been a rabbi who has said to him, "quit looking." Because the ultimate believer of truth-and the Torah is all truth-will ultimately believe that anything you find in nature that is true will reflect and react to the glory of G-d.

When I was younger, I worked for the NASA program. And I looked for life on Mars. We spent hundreds of millions of dollars looking for life on Mars-for which, if you haven't been thanked as taxpayers before, let me thank you.

During this time I asked the Rebbe, "Is this right? Can I really do this? Other religions say you shouldn't search. And the Torah doesn't say there's life on Mars."

The Rebbe replied in Yiddish, "Professor Green, you should look for life on Mars. And if you don't find it there, you should look elsewhere. Because for you to sit here and say that G-d didn't create life elsewhere is to put limits on G-d, and no one can do that."


What's New

FORTY-FIRST FLIGHT

Pictured are two brothers from Gomel, Belarus, who arrived on Chabad's Children of Chernobyl's forty-first flight. The flight, carrying 21 children from Belarus and Ukraine, commemorated the 13th anniversary of the 1986 Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster, which has resulted in a 200 times increase in thyroid cancer and a 83% increase in birth defects. Since 1990, Chabad has brought to Israel 1,728 Jewish children from regions contaminated by radiation.

SUMMER PLANS?!

Torah Teen Resort is entering its third successful summer. Run by NCFJE, the "organization with a heart," this four week camp for teenage boys in the Catskill Mountains offers all of the amenities of a regular overnight camp experience as well as hands-on Jewish living. Limited spaces are still available for summer '99. For more information call 1-800-33-NCFJE or email them at torahteen@juno.com. You can also visit their website: www.members.tripod.com/torahteen . To find out about day camps in your area or overnight camps call your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center.


The Rebbe Writes

8th of Tammuz, 5725 [1965]

...It is not easy to adequately clarify in a letter the problem which you pose in your letter, namely the relative importance of self advancement in Torah vis-...-vis efforts to bring Jews closer to Yiddishkeit... However I will attempt to clarify this matter for you briefly by means of the well-known story of Hillel the Elder (Shabbos 31a), where he formulated the essential gist of the whole Torah in the words, "What is hateful unto thee, do not do unto others."

Accordingly, suppose we ask the student of the Kolel, who claims that it is right for him to sit and study the Torah, disregarding the plight of his fellow Jew who is in need of help to be brought (closer), to Yiddishkeit, on the basis that he will help him some years later: How would you feel if the situation were reversed? That is to say, suppose you were born in a non-religious family, and under the influence of the circumstances you are not only unaware of a Kolel, but even of a Yeshiva Ketano; yet you have reached a stage where you feel that you want to identify yourself with the Torah and Mitzvos and Jewish way of life; no one is taking an interest in you, but there is a boy who is sitting in a Kolel, desi-ring to advance his own knowledge of the Torah; you appeal to him to help you, but he says: "Sorry, I still wish to advance my own knowledge of the Torah; I will see what I can do for you a couple of years from now."

Now, if the Kolel boy, not of the illustration but the real one, will justify the attitude of his counterpart in the illustration, then he will be truthful to the principle of Hillel the Elder. If, however, when "The shoe presses his own foot" he would cry out in pain, but is prepared to ignore the plight of his fellow Jew, then he ought to do a great deal of serious introspection.

...In our days unfortunately it is not a question of raising the level of Torah knowledge among Jews, it is rather a question of Pikuach Nefesh, actually saving Jews that they should remain Jews in the very plain sense of the word.

Obviously Pikuach Nefesh takes precedence over everything else.

Sometimes when one hasn't got the time to study a particular movement or Shita [way], it is possible to get an insight into the meaning and significance of the Shita by its founder. The Lubavitcher Shita to help a fellow Jew, even at self-sacrifice, began with the Alter Rebbe, author of the Shulchan Aruch which has been accepted by all Jews, not because he was the Rebbe of Chabad, but because he was one of the most outstanding Torah scholars of his day.

This Shita has been continued from generation to generation, down to my father-in-law of saintly memory, who received Smicha at the age of 17 and who was also a great Torah scholar, though he never boasted about it. He, too, would have preferred, under other circumstances, to sit and learn Torah day and night. Yet when a terrible crisis arose in Russia, and a new regime took over power, a ruthless regime which openly declared war against religion in general, and the Jewish religion in parti-cular, and when almost everybody else fled for his life, leaving Jewish communities without spiritual guidance and support, it was my father-in-law of saintly memory who rose single-handedly to the defense and preservation of Torah and Mitzvos in Soviet Russia, and he was the only one who supported the Yeshivos there, regardless of whether they were Chassidic or non-Chassidic, and who provided facilities to teach even a child of a communist parent in some remote place. And if at this time there are thousands upon thousands of Jews shomrei Torah and Mitzvos in Soviet Russia, it is only due to the real self-sacrificing efforts of my father-in-law of saintly memory and his disciples who actually suffered persecution and torture, as is well known.

As a matter of fact you can also cite your own father as a living example of this Shita. For, he too, had a choice of either sitting in a Kolel and advancing his own knowledge, or to go out and do what he is now doing to help save scores of Jewish families that they should remain within the Jewish fold. And, with G-d's help, many boys of those families are now sitting in Kolelim and are learning Torah.

Finally, one simple test as to the sincerity of the critics of the Lubavitcher Shita is this: Are they indeed dedicating 100% of their time to the study of the Torah, or are they taking time out to carry on debates and argumentations, to read newspapers and to do other things, which, although innocent in themselves, are time-consuming, and this time could be applied to helping other Jews in need of help? I venture to say that the argument that they do not wish to join in any such activities as Lubavitch is engaged in, because of devotion and dedication to the study of the Torah, is rather questionable. . .


Rambam this week

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

21 Sivan

Prohibition 361: castration

By this prohibition we are forbidden to castrate a male of any species, man or beast. It is contained in the last words of the verse (Lev. 22:24), "You shall not offer that which is bruised, or crushed, or torn, or cut," which tradition explains as meaning "neither shall you do thus to yourselves."


A Word from the Director

Ninety-seven years ago today, the 20th of Sivan, Yeshiva Tomchei Temimim was closed by special order of the Russian government. The yeshiva, which had been established to counter the new and foreign ideologies that threatened the Jewish people from within, was a favorite target of proponents of the Enlightenment. Indeed, on this occasion their slander succeeded, but only for a very short while, as we see in this excerpt from the Previous Rebbe's diary dated 21 Sivan, 5662 (1902):

"Yesterday, a messenger arrived around six o'clock with a letter stating that at twelve noon a police captain, his lieutenant, and three officers had burst into the great study hall of the yeshiva and ordered everyone to stop learning. They wrote down all the students' names, then ordered that the place be evacuated. The captain then instructed that the windows be closed from the inside, and when everyone had exited, the front door was locked. A wax seal was affixed to the official order, with strict instructions not to open it.

"The action had been initiated by the Regional Minister of the Enlightenment, who had issued an order to immediately close all yeshivot founded by Rebbe Schneersohn."

What was the reaction of the Previous Rebbe, the administrator of Tomchei Temimim? He simply made a new entrance.

"After arriving [in Lubavitch] and evaluating the situation, I instructed Yankel the builder to construct a small platform with a flight of stairs leading into the front window. He also made three steps going down on the inside. ...I put a metal can on top of the wax seal so that it wouldn't break. By seven in the morning the yeshiva was open as usual.

"When my grandmother Rebbetzin Rivka passed by the yeshiva on her way to shul she became upset, afraid that I had done something illegal. But the next day a telegram arrived granting permission for the yeshiva to reopen."


Thoughts that Count

When you light the lamps (Num. 8:2)

"Do not think," G-d said to Moses, "that I am commanding you to kindle these lamps because I need their illumination. Rather, the purpose is to give the Jewish people merit if they fulfill My instructions diligently. As reward for lighting these lamps before Me, I will provide you with a Great Light in the World to Come. (Bamidbar Rabba)

And Aaron did so (Num. 8:3)

As Rashi explains, "This is to give credit to Aaron, who did not deviate [from what he was commanded to do]." Indeed, it is commendable when teachers and educators live up to the same high standards they expect their students to uphold. When a teacher's personal life is in consonance with what he preaches, his influence on his students is that much greater, and his words are accepted without undue effort. (She'eirit Menachem)

By the mouth of the L-rd they encamped, and by the mouth of the L-rd they journeyed forward (Num. 9:23)

A Jew should always mention G-d's name in connection with all his deeds and actions: "Boruch Hashem" ("Blessed is G-d"); "Be'ezrat Hashem" ("with G-d's help"); "Im yirtzeh Hashem" ("if G-d so wills it"), etc. (Shaloh)

Then set forward the standard of the camp of the children of Dan, the rear guard of all the camps (Num. 10:25)

Rabbi Michel of Zhlotzov used to begin his prayers very late in the day. He offered an explanation: When the Jewish people traveled through the desert the tribe of Dan was last, behind all the others. Their job was to pick up and return all the lost items that their brethren had dropped along the way. On the spiritual level, their function was to elevate all the prayers that had been uttered without the proper intentions. I am just following their example.


It Once Happened

Rabbi Nachum of Chernobyl felt the suffering of his fellow Jews deeply. Whenever he was not engaged in Torah study or prayer, he would devote himself to helping his fellow Jews in any way he could. Although he was a poor man himself, he would collect large amounts of charity to distribute to the needy. He spent much time traveling through towns and villages to discover what spiritual or physical needs he might be able to fill for his beloved brethren.

Rabbi Nachum was concerned not only with the lack of material possessions, but also the spiritual poverty which endangered his Jewish brethren's holy souls. In every place he visited, Rabbi Nachum would ask, "Do you have a shul? Do your children have a teacher? Is there a mikva here?" After he identified the needs of the community Rabbi Nachum set about raising funds.

On one of his travels, Rabbi Nachum visited a small village which had no mikva. The villagers had to travel a distance to a larger neighboring town. In the winter, when the roads were often muddy, these trips were nearly impossible. Of course, Rabbi Nachum resolved to have a mikva built for the village.

When he returned home, Rabbi Nachum approached a wealthy member of his congregation with a startling proposition: "If you will pay for a mikva in the village I have just visited, I will sell you my portion in the World to Come." The rich man was stunned by Rabbi Nachum's offer but accepted it immediately.

When his Chasidim heard about the unusual arrangement, they were shocked. How could the Rebbe have done such a thing? Seeing the questions in their eyes, Rabbi Nachum explained to them: "According to the teachings of the Torah, every Jew must love G-d with 'all you heart, with all your soul and with all your might.' It has been explained that the phrase 'with all your might' means with all your money. Like every other Jew, I recite this verse every evening and every morning, and I wonder, 'How can I, a Jew who owns nothing and has no money fulfill this command? When I profess to love G-d with all my material means, what can I possibly be saying? Am I lying to myself?'

"This is what I have concluded regarding my situation. Although I may not have money, I do have one very valuable possession, and that is my portion in the World to Come. I have found that people are willing to put a price on anything. There are even such people who will put a price on the after-life. Since that is the case, and I cannot fulfill my duty to love G-d with 'all my might' in any other way, then I am obligated to sell this property to meet my obligation."

***

Menachem Mendel of Kosov (1768-1825) was a figure of great stature, who founded a number of Chasidic dynasties. As is the case of many outstanding personalities, he had many followers and he also had opponents.

There was one Jew in Kosov who was bitterly antagonistic to the Rebbe. This man took great pleasure in interfering with any of the Rebbe's projects.

Thus, it was a great shock when one day the Rebbe's "emeny" showed up at his door. "I must speak with Reb Menachem Mendel," the man demanded. The attendant showed him to the Rebbe's room and closed the door behind him.

No sooner were they alone than the man opened up his heart and poured out his problem: "I have a daughter of marriageable age, and I have no money for a dowry. Rebbe, please advise me how I can solve this problem."

"How much money do you need for a proper dowry," asked the Rebbe.

The man mentioned a very large sum. At once, the Rebbe opened his drawer and withdrew all the money he had. He put on his desk what amounted to several hundred gold coins, a huge amount of money, which he had amassed over some time. The man accepted the money and left, freed from his terrible burden.

It wasn't long before people found out about the amazing act of kindness on the Rebbe's part. The Rebbe's own brother. Reb Yitzchak, was infuriated when he heard about the incident, and he decided to go and reproach his brother face to face.

"I can't believe what you have done!" he railed at his brother. "You, who watch every penny when it comes to the needs of your own family have just given away a fortune to a man who has been your greatest opponent for years! I just cannot understand you!"

Rabbi Menachem Mendel was not surprised at his brother's reaction. "My brother, you should know that you are not the first one to condemn my action. But just as I ignored my first critic, I will ignore you, too! You must believe me when I tell you that I had good reasons for what I did."

His brother was a bit taken aback that someone else had the temerity to question the rebbe, and asked, "You mean to say that someone else was here before I came, someone with the same criticism? Tell me, who was it?"

"There was someone else," the Rebbe assured him. "It was my evil inclination. He came and tried all of his cunning arguments to convince me not to give this money. It seems he was very displeased about this unbelievable opportunity which came to me out of the blue, and he used all of his wiles to dissuade me from this mitzva. However, just as I have told you, I told him that his arguments were of no use. I did what I had to do."


Moshiach Matters

The Redemption will occur in a generation whose only merit is their yearning for Moshiach. It will not matter that the Jews may be on a more inferior spiritual level than prior generations, and are compared to a willow, which has neither taste nor scent. (Sefat Emet Sukot, Rabbi Yehuda Leib Alter of Ger)


  570: Nasso572: Sh'lach  
   
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