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Devarim Deutronomy

L'Chaim
July 2, 1999 - 18 Tamuz, 5759

575: Pinchas

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


  574: Chukat-Balak576: Matot-Masei  

Talking Rocks  |  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

Talking Rocks

Did you know that pet rocks were the rage about 20 years ago? And why not? You could take your pet rock anywhere and not have to worry about it disturbing anyone or making a mess. There weren't any expenses involved once you'd purchased your pet rock-no food, no kitty litter, no license, just you and your pet rock. And, even better than a virtual pet, you could forget about your pet rock for weeks or even months, and it would still be there for you when you decided to renew the relationship.

There was only one drawback with pet rocks. They never respon-ded to their owners' outpouring of love and attention. Pet rocks simply had hearts of stone!

Perhaps, though, in the Pet Rock Era, we were the ones with hearts of stone. Perhaps the pet rocks, and any rocks for that matter, did respond but we just didn't hear them!

Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, the Previous Rebbe, taught: "Walking in the street one must think words of Torah. When someone goes about not occupied with Torah words, then the stone he treads on exclaims: 'Clod! How dare you trample on me! How are you any higher than I am?'"

In the Messianic Era, however, we will have no such problems of not being able to hear these declarations. The Prophet Habukuk said concerning that time: "A stone in the wall will cry out and a beam from the tree will respond." Chasidic philosophy explains that this means that although at present, inert creations are mute and though trodden upon remain silent, in the Messianic Era they will speak. For, at that time, the G-dly energy within everything will be revealed and actualized. Then, a rock or stone in the ground will cry out: "If a person was walking along without thinking or speaking words of Torah, why did he trample upon me?"

Chasidut goes on to explain that this patch of earth had been waiting for millennia, ever since the Six Days of Creation, for its special moment. All types of living beings have been treading upon it all this time, but it is waiting for someone to walk on it while discussing Torah. If they do not say words of Torah, the earth will protest: "You too are just like an animal."

The Midrash explains that in the Messianic Era, stones in walls and house beams will also no longer be mute. They will reveal all that they heard and saw.

At first glance this might seem a bit far-fetched. However, one need not look any further than forensic science to realize how credible the above scenario truly is.

At the scene of a crime, detectives may dust for fingerprints. Even the cleanest fingers leave traces. The fingerprints are there but we don't see them. At least not until the environment is changed which allows the fingerprints to be revealed.

Similarly, our actions - good or otherwise - leave spiritual prints, so to speak. Though we can't see them, they are there. Today, a fingerprint on an object "talks" when dusted with a special powder. In the Messianic Era, the prints left on rocks, beams and walls will talk as the G-dly energy within everything is revealed. May it take place immediately.


Living with the Rebbe

In the beginning of this week's Torah portion, Pinchas, G-d rewards Pinchas for having "zealously taken up My cause among the Israelites and turned My anger away from them." The reward was the priesthood: Pinchas and his descendents would be kohanim. "I have given him My covenant of peace...a covenant of eternal priesthood to him and his posterity after him."

Our Sages tell us that "Pinchas is Elijah." Like Pinchas, Elijah the Prophet was a zealot, chastising the Jewish people when necessary. Similarly, as reward for "zealously taking up My cause for G-d, the L-rd of Hosts," G-d granted Elijah a "covenant of peace" - that he would personally attend every brit mila ceremony.

On a deeper level, the term "covenant of peace" alludes to the relationship ("treaty") between body and soul. This connection was particularly apparent in Elijah, as his soul never departed from his physical body. As the Torah relates, instead of passing away, Elijah ascended heavenward "in a tempest"- both the soul and physical body.

How was Elijah able to do that? The answer lies in the concept of refinement. Elijah's physical body had been completely purified to the point that it no longer obscured the underlying spirituality of the soul, and itself constituted a vessel for holiness. Accordingly, there was no need for Elijah to die and be buried. The body itself could ascend and absorb all the spiritual revelations of the higher spheres.

In this respect, Elijah was even superior to Moses. Moses' physical body was certainly holy; in fact, "the house filled with light" the moment he was born, illustrating how his physical being was not an impediment to the light of the soul.

Nonetheless, Moses passed away and was interred, as this light never completely permeated his body to the extent that it was fundamentally transformed. While he was alive, Moses' body allowed the light of the soul to shine through, but it remained essentially physical.

This helps to explain why Elijah the Prophet will be the one to herald the Final Redemption, as the whole meaning of Redemption is the definitive refinement of the physical world and its transformation into a vessel for holiness. Indeed, in the Messianic era, "The glory of G-d will be revealed and all flesh shall see [G-dliness]." "Flesh" - the material plane - will be able to perceive "that the mouth of G-d has spoken."

The power to effect this transformation was granted to Pinchas; had we been worthy, the Final Redemption would have occurred immediately upon the Jews' entrance into the Land of Israel. Due to various negative factors this was not the case, and we are still waiting. But thank G-d, Elijah's announcement of Moshiach's arrival is imminent, along with the era of complete Redemption it signifies.

Adapted from Likutei Sichot Vol. II


A Slice of Life

LIGHTENING UP

by Raizy Sanderson

From a speech at the 44th Annual Lubavitch Women's Convention

I grew up in a traditional Jewish home in Charlotte, North Carolina. Despite the fact that Charlotte is not exactly a Judaica capital, somehow my parents managed to stress the importance of Judaism.

From the time I was a young girl, I went to shul with my father every Saturday. Eventually I started attending afternoon Hebrew School and was very enthusiastic about my studies.

When I entered 5th grade my mother started teaching in the pre-school at the Chabad House in Charlotte, under the directorship of Rabbi Yossi and Mariasha Groner. I loved going with my mom to the Chabad House.

The summer after my mother started teaching there I attended the Chabad summer camp, Gan Izzy. That summer I experienced my first Shabbat at a special Gan Izzy Shabbaton. It was fantastic! By the time camp ended, I asked my parents if we could start to keep kosher.

As my mother became more involved in the pre-school and moved from teacher to assistant director to director, she began spending more time at the Chabad House. I was always eager to go with her in the evening or on Sundays, when she went to the Chabad House to catch up on work or prepare for the following day.

Throughout junior high and high school I kept up my contact with the Groners and the camp counselors who came from Crown Heights each summer to work in Gan Izzy.

For my mom, teaching in and eventually directing the pre-school wasn't "just a job." She became close with the Groners, thanks to their warmth, their genuine interest in others, and their respect for all Jews regardless of differences in observance, levels of Jewish education, etc.

As the relationship between my mom and the Groners grew, they invited us to go with them to Crown Heights, Brooklyn, for a Shabbat.

That Shabbat I was able to attend a real farbrengen with the Rebbe. Though I didn't understand what the Rebbe was saying, the singing and camaraderie were moving. I also had never seen so many Jews gathered together in one place as I did in "770" that Shabbat. If someone had told me that 10 people can squeeze into the space of one I wouldn't have believed it. But in 770, that's the norm.

On Sunday I received a dollar to give to tzedaka and a blessing from the Rebbe. I can still see the Rebbe's blue eyes looking through me.

I came back to Crown Heights one more time while still in high school. That visit reinforced within me the desire to find a college that had a large Jewish population and a kosher dining hall (though I was not yet keeping kosher). I decided on Towson University in Baltimore, Maryland.

Not more than three weeks into college I was asked to help organize a Jewish learning program. I did not know what we would learn or even how to pronounce the name for the special one-on-one learning program but I organized it anyway. As I got others involved in the "chavrusa" program, I was also learning and growing. Soon I started eating exclusively in the kosher dining hall. My mother had specially purchased for me new pots and pans as well as a little oven so I could keep kosher at home as well. Slowly I started taking on other mitzvot, like davening (praying) daily and observing Shabbat.

In my junior year I met Rabbi Eli and Nechama Backman, who had opened a Chabad House the year before at the University of Maryland, in College Park. After my first Shabbat in their house, Rabbi Backman said I was welcome back anytime and "my" bed was waiting for me. Being the only Jewish person who observed Shabbat in the dorms of Towson U. I took him up on the offer and returned regularly.

I began contemplating dropping out of college to study Torah full time, but the Groners and my parents convinced me to finish my degree. The Backmans suggested I at least partially "quench my thirst" for full-time Torah study by spending the summer studying at Machon Chana in the Mountains. It was 6 weeks of learning, 6 weeks of fresh air and 6 weeks that I knew would have to last me the whole year. After just a few weeks there, I knew Machon Chana would be seeing more of me.

Last summer I got my degree in early childhood education. When September rolled around I came to Machon Chana in Crown Heights to study Torah full-time.

From the moment I walked into the Machon Chana dorm I was a different person. Though Southerners, myself included, really are much slower than New Yorkers in speech and in pace, they can still be anxious and tense. In college I was a walking stress-ball. In Machon Chana I learned to lighten up and have fun.

Whoever said that the college years are the best years of your life never came to Machon Chana. After 2 months, I was amazed at how much I had grown. So was my father. He could not understand how I had learned to translate Chumash and read the strange Rashi Hebrew letters so quickly. The teachers in Machon Chana are not just there to teach; they invite students for Shabbat and stay after class to discuss personal issues with them. Machon Chana cannot be summed up in a few words. The school is too dynamic.

I would like to thank my parents, who have been so supportive of me in my journey into Torah study and spiritual growth. I thank the Groners and Backmans for always being there. I thank the Rebbe for creating a place for young women to learn and grow in a nurturing environment. Through the Rebbe's foresight and the staff's hard work there are alumnae all over the world bringing Jews closer to their heritage. I thank Hashem for guiding me on this path.


What's New

MAZAL TOV

For centuries it has been customary to adorn the birthing room and the baby's cradle with Psalm 121 (Shir Lama'alot). The Psalm states our declaration of dependence on G-d for our safety and well-being, and His commitment to guard us at all times. If you are expecting a child or know someone who is, you can get a free, full color print of the Psalm by calling LEFJME at 800-860-7030 or 718-756-5700 in the NY Metro area.

candle lighting hotline

It's easy to find out what time Shabbat candle lighting time is anywhere in the U.S. if you have the zip code and a touch-tone phone. Just dial 1-800-SABBATH. From New York City call (718) 774-3000 (also available online at: www.chabad.org/shabbos/). A project of the Lubavitch Women's Organization Candle Lighting Division.


The Rebbe Writes

26 of Tammuz, 5743 [1983]

Greeting and Blessing:

I received your correspondence.

In general, I have already expressed my opinion on the matters about which you wrote, and will again remember you in prayer for the fulfillment of your heart's desires for good.

Now that we are in the period of the Three Weeks, commemorating the sad events which led to the destruction of the Beis Hamikdosh and the dispersement of our people, we are reminded that every one of us has to do all in one's power to minimize and eventually eliminate the cause that brought about the Destruction and Exile. The only cause of it is clearly spelled out in our Mussaf Prayer: "Because of our sins we have been exiled from our land." If alienation from the Jewish way of life, the way of the Torah and Mitzvos has been the cause of the Golus, every one of us must work all the harder to bring Jews closer to the Torah and Mitzvos. Thus, every effort in this direction brings all the nearer the appearance of Moshiach Tzidkeinu, who will usher in the true and complete Geulah. May it come speedily in our days.

With blessing,

24th of Tammuz, 5739 [1979]

I am in receipt of your letter of the 17th of Tammuz, in which you write about two happenings recently, connected with Tzitzis and Tefillin.

In general, there are so many clear and specific instructions and teachings in the Shulchan Aruch [Code of Jewish Law] connected with these two basic Mitzvos, that there is no need to look for other interpretations.

However, since you wrote to me and requested some explanation, I want to emphasize what is mutual and common to Tzitzis and Tefillin. Our Sages declare that the whole Torah has been compared to the Mitzvah of Tefillin, and of Tzitzis it is written, "And you will see it and remember all G-d's Mitzvos." Thus, the common denominator of the two happenings that you mentioned, namely in connection with Tzitzis and Tefillin, is to emphasize forcefully the need to strengthen adherence to all the Mitzvos in the everyday life and conduct, and since you are a Yeshiva student, it is particularly indicated that there should be a growing measure of devotion and diligence in the study of the Torah.

A further point - in view of the fact that every Jew is duty-bound to do all he can to spread and strengthen Yiddishkeit [Judaism] in his surroundings, and one of the most effective ways of doing it is through showing a shining example, the above-mentioned increased efforts on your part in matters of Torah and Mitzvos will have a good influence all around you, and at the same time enable you to fulfill more fully the Mitzvah of V'Ohavto L'Reacho Komocho [love of your fellow Jew].

Wishing you Hatzlocho [success] in all above,

With blessing,

7th of Tammuz, 5721 [1961]

I received your letter of the 23rd of Sivan, in which you write about the various plans as to where the wedding should take place, etc.

First of all, it is obvious that the wedding must be in accordance with the Shulchan Aruch. Therefore, the plan which would not be in accordance with it obviously cannot be considered.

Another point I wish to emphasize is that there is some misconception that a wedding must entail burdensome expenses, etc. For, although our Sages stated that it is a great Mitzvah to participate in a wedding and to add to the joy of the bride and bridegroom, they certainly did not mean to say that it is necessary to spend excessive amounts of money, but only that the Simcha itself should be a happy and hearty one.

A further point to bear in mind is that if it is the general principle of the Torah that all things should be done in a manner of friendliness and peace, it is certainly true in such a matter as a wedding. And as long as the problems are resolved in accordance with the Shulchan Aruch, all other details should be carried out in a spirit of mutual conciliation.

May G-d, Whose benevolent Providence extends to everyone individually, grant that all details be worked out in the best possible way.

With blessing,


Rambam this week

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

21 Tamuz

Prohibition 42: wearing a garment of wool and linen

By this prohibition we are forbidden to wear a garment woven of wool and linen, as the priests of the idols used to do. It is contained in the Torah's words (Deut. 22:11): "You shall not wear shaatnez (mingled stuff), wool and linen together."


A Word from the Director

Continuing our Shabbat afternoon study of Ethics of the Fathers, a collection of our Sages' wise sayings and advice, we read in Chapter Six:

"All that the Holy One, Blessed Be He, created in His world, He created solely for His glory, as it states: All that is called by My Name, indeed, it is for My glory that I have created it, formed it, and made it. And it says: The L-rd shall reign forever and ever."

G-d created a very complicated world, with an almost infinite number of details. (To us it seems infinite; to Him, it's finite!) How would one even go about estimating how many things exist? How many molecules are there in the universe? And yet, not one subatomic particle is superfluous. Each tiny detail contains something special and unique that doesn't exist elsewhere. For this reason, every facet of creation reflects G-d's glory in a different way. Each aspect of the world is a unique expression of His glory.

As explained by Chasidic philosophy, the Mishna itself alludes to the "four worlds": "All that is called by My Name, indeed it is for My glory" corresponds to the world of Atzilut; "I have created it" corresponds to Briya; "I have formed it" corresponds to Yetzira; "and made it" refers to our own physical plane, the world of Asiya.

Axiomatic in Judaism, however, is that all planes of creation are dependent on our Divine service. Every detail (that's us) is charged with increasing G-d's glory, by studying His Torah and observing His mitzvot. By drawing G-dliness down into the material world and imbuing it with holiness, we illustrate how each aspect of the world is a vehicle for His glory.

When Moshiach comes, the revelation of G-d's glory within creation will reach its culmination, when "the L-rd shall reign forever and ever." May we all recognize the important role we play in the process, and rededicate ourselves to serving Him accordingly.


Thoughts that Count

The Torah portion of Pinchas, which enumerates all the festivals of the year, is usually read during the Three Weeks [between the 17th of Tamuz and the 9th of Av]. This is because in the Messianic era, the 17th of Tamuz will be the "first day of Yom Tov," the 9th of Av will be the "last day of Yom Tov," and the Three-Week period will be "the Intermediate Days of the Festival," as it states (Jeremiah 31:13): "And I will transform their mourning into joy." (On Intermediate Days, the Torah reading reflects the holiday being celebrated.) (Rabbi Yisrael of Ruzhin)

Pinchas ...was the one who zealously took up My cause (literally "was jealous with My jealousy") (Num. 25:11)

The motivation behind Pinchas' deed was completely pure and for the sake of heaven, without any personal desire for vengeance. This is similar to G-d's "jealousy," for He has mercy on all His creations and chastises those whom He loves. Pinchas was therefore "jealous with My jealousy," i.e., without personal motivation or consideration. (Rabbi Yehoshua of Kutna)

And it came to pass after the plague (Num. 26:1)

In general, whenever the Torah uses the phrase "and it came to pass," it indicates trouble. But what kind of trouble could there be in the cessation of a plague? Rather, the problem was that Pinchas appeared only after the plague. Had he stepped up earlier, 24,000 lives would have been saved. (Beit Yosef)

Let G-d, the G-d of all living souls, appoint a man over the community (Num. 27:16)

Most people think that as the generations of mankind decline, inferior leaders are more than adequate. Yet the exact opposite is true: the lower the generation, the greater the leader required to guide it along. The sicker the patient, the more skilled the physician must be to cure him. (Chidushei HaRim)


It Once Happened

History books are replete with accounts, real or imaginary, of famous kings, politicians and soldiers, but it is rare that we are afforded a glimpse into the life of ordinary people who lived long ago. The journal of a Jewish woman named Glueckel who lived in 17th century Hamburg is a rare and wonderful treasure, from which we can gain insight into what life was really like in the distant past for a Jewish wife and mother.

The years directly preceding her birth and her early childhood were marked by chaos. The Thirty Years' War continued on, decimated Europe and created colossal upheaval throughout society. When Glueckel was only three years old, the Jews were expelled from Hamburg. They fled, and relocated to the nearby city of Altona. No sooner had they mended their torn lives, when, only seven years later, they were driven back to Hamburg by the army of Sweden.

Jewish life, however, continued in its time-honored traditions. Young Glueckel was enrolled in a cheder (Jewish school) and there she enjoyed studying the Bible and many other parts of Torah. What emerges from her later diaries is the picture of a bright, educated woman, conversant with the topics of her day and knowledgeable of that literature written in the German dialect which would later emerge as Yiddish that she could have encountered.

As was the custom then, Glueckel was married at the age of 14 to Chaim, a young scholar and businessman from the small town of Hamelm. The couple spent the first year of marriage there, and Glueckel was already active, teaching the local women what she had learned in her studies.

The following year, Glueckel and Chaim moved to the port city of Hamburg, which was then one of the great centers of world trade. The young couple had a rocky start, filled with difficulties, but within several years, their business became very successful. The energetic and enterprising young couple became quite well-to-do, and they lived a satisfied, comfortable life. Glueckel was not only a very competent household manager, but with her keen mind, she took an active interest in her husband's business. As they became more and more successful, Glueckel and Chaim rose in social status; they even developed close contacts with the various German aristocratic courts, which existed in the centuries when there was no unified central government in the region. In those unstable days, it was vitally important to sustain good relations with the rulers, for danger always threatened from the dark halls of power. Jews under attack looked to their co-religionists for helpful intercession in those perilous situations.

Because of their wealth and social status, Glueckel and her husband were able to make successful matches for six of their children with the most illustrious families in German Jewish society. At the wedding of their eldest daughter, a number of members of the aristocratic Court of Brandenburg (from which later descended the German Imperial family) were in attendance.

Glueckel's account of her marriage and child-rearing days is full of adventure and describes the enormous challenges which faced Jews in those dangerous times, when exile and persecution could overtake them at a moment's notice. In 1689, when Glueckel and Chaim had been happily married for 29 years, Chaim died, leaving his wife with twelve children, eight of them unmarried. Glueckel responded with the faith and courage that characterized her life. She assumed management of her husband's business, with all the perils that entailed, and set about raising her children alone. In her diary, she records her plans, writing that after the marriage of her last child, it was her desire to sell her business and move to the Holy Land. There, she envisioned spending the remainder of her life helping the less fortunate.

Unfortunately, her desires were not realized. Her business suffered a decline, and she was forced to reconsider her projected plans. Glueckel married a second time. Her new husband was a wealthy businessman from Metz, a well-established Jewish community, where she set about starting a new life. Sadly, just when life might have become easier for her, her new husband's business failed. Just two years after their marriage, he lost everything, including whatever Glueckel had brought with her.

Glueckel was suddenly thrust into a life totally bereft of the comforts she had always known. In the face of such obstacles, her innate buoyancy and optimism surfaced, and Glueckel remained the same faithful Jewish woman she had always been. Her last years were devoted to recording her memoirs, which she left to us as an enduring and fascinating record of life in 17th century Germany, as well as snatches of Torah wisdom and teachings she left to her children. The diary was discovered by one of her sons, Moshe, who was a rabbi. He copied his mother's records onto parchment, thus providing us with a priceless record through which we meet a remarkable woman whose wisdom and courage enabled her to survive the calamities of life and emerge spiritually and emotionally unscathed, to serve as an inspiration to future generations.


Moshiach Matters

Rabbi Akiva and three of his colleagues were walking near the site of the ruins of the Holy Temple. Suddenly they saw a fox coming out of the former Holy of Holies. The other rabbis began weeping at this demonstration of the fall of Israel's glory, but Rabbi Akiva laughed. When asked why he was laughing. He answered, "Seeing the fulfillments of the prophecies about the desolation of the Holy Temple makes us even more certain that the prophecies about the coming of Moshiach would also be fulfilled. "Akiva, you have comforted us!" they responded. (Talmud, Tractate Makot)


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