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February 25, 2000 - 19 Adar I, 5760

608: Ki Tisa

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  607: Tetzaveh609: Vayakhel  

Life's Changes  |  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

Life's Changes

by Yehudis Cohen

For some, news of breakthroughs in computer software brings a glint to the eye and a fumbling of the fingers into the wallet to draw out the plastic once again.

Take word processing, for instance. Until recently, up-to-date word processing program software automatically corrected spelling errors, underlined grammatical mistakes, and suggested possible texts depending on the type of document one was creating. Enter voice recognition software. It won't get you coffee but once it learns to recognize your voice, it will "type" as you dictate.

Until a month ago, I was quite happy with my ten-year-old word processor. It ran on MS Dos, didn't use a mouse and had no fancy menus. I was happy with it and had no reason to change.

That is, until early in January when funny characters started creeping into my files and corrupting my hard (soft) work. Alas, it wasn't a virus, it was the dreaded Y2K bug and I was forced to CHANGE!

Most people are reluctant to change. But change is very often necessary. So how do we change? In a chemical reaction, the introduction of a new catalyst into the process, however minute the quantity of this new catalyst may be, can change the whole tempo and form of the chemical process, or start an entirely new process altogether.

If we want to make changes in our Jewish living but don't know where or how to start, the first thing to do is to add a catalyst, a new mitzva to our Jewish routine. You'll be pleasantly surprised to see how something as simple as putting a few coins in a charity box daily (except Shabbat and holidays), saying the "Shema" prayer before retiring at night, or putting a mezuza on your door, can bring a new momentum to your life or start an entirely new process.

Adding one mitzva at a time, slowly but surely, is generally the way to go to effect smooth growth and lasting change.

This modus operendi also applies to personal growth in general. The Torah tells us that the conquest of the Holy Land was to take place by stages. The same applies, in a deeper sense, to the personal conquest of the self.

When it comes to personal advancement in self-improvement, or in Jewish observance, the best method is gradual conquest, step by step, and stage by stage, rather than by means of drastic changes.

Of course there are certain situations and matters where a drastic change may be necessary, but by and large steady progress is better than progress by fits and starts.

You don't have to passively wait until a pesky bug forces you to change or buzzes around you long enough to make you want to change. Let the desire to reconnect with your roots and build a better world be the catalyst for change.

Living with the Rebbe

This week's Torah portion, Ki Tissa, continues with G-d's instructions to Moses during his 40 days and 40 nights on Mount Sinai. Throughout this time, "bread he did not eat, and water he did not drink."

How is it possible that Moses abstained from food and drink for such an extended period of time? Jewish teachings offer numerous explanations, among them the following three explanations: The first explanation is that Moses retained his normal human nature during the 40 days and nights he spent on Mount Sinai. His body continued to require food, drink and sleep. However, G-d effected a miracle, and Moses was able to function despite these deprivations.

The second explanation is that this was no miracle, but rather a rare and unusual natural phenomenon. When Moses went up to Mount Sinai to receive the Torah, he was in an extremely elevated state of joy and concentration. His intellect and spiritual capabilities were so empowered that they simply "overrode" the need for food and drink. Moses' physical body was hungry and tired, but he did not sense its wants because of his exalted spiritual state.

The third explanation is that when Moses went up to Mount Sinai, his physical nature was transformed into that of an angel. In the same way that an angel neither eats or drinks, Moses' physical body became so refined and elevated that it had no need for such things. According to this explanation, Moses felt no hunger, thirst or fatigue, for he had ascended to a higher plane where such concepts are meaningless.

In truth, all three explanations are true, "the words of the living G-d." Moses went up to Mount Sinai on three different occasions, and each explanation refers to one of them.

The first time Moses went up to receive the First Tablets of the Law, G-d made a miracle, and he didn't need to eat or drink. In the same way that the Tablets were miraculous - "the work of G-d," "the writing of G-d" - Moses' body ceased to function according to the laws of nature.

The second time Moses ascended Mount Sinai, to atone for the sin of the Golden Calf, he was so engrossed in prayer on behalf of the Jewish people that he didn't perceive any physical wants, and was able to exist without food or drink.

The third time, when Moses went up for the Second Tablets, he was so spiritually elevated that he reached the level of an angel. Indeed, it is for this reason that Moses merited to receive the "rays of glory" after his third and final stay on Mount Sinai: Moses' physical body had become so highly refined and pure that the light of the G-dly soul shone through to illuminate "the skin of his face."

Adapted from Likutei Sichot, vol. 36

A Slice of Life

Jury Duty: A Piece of Kugel

by Steve Hyatt

I don't think I'd be telling any family secrets if I admitted that I am a creature of habit. I don't particularly like change. I live a very orderly life. When I leave for work I repeat the same routine every day. I say good-bye to my wife Linda, pet Louie the wonder dog, get in the car, turn on the same jazz radio station, back out of the driveway and go to work. When I come home I turn the radio to "Doctor Laura," recount the day's events in mind, and get the mail.

Recently, after I opened my mailbox I noticed an official-looking letter from the Marion County Court House. I tore it open and found I had been summoned to appear for jury duty. The subpoena indicated that this was going to be a serious case, and if selected, I would be on the jury for two to three weeks.

When I arrived in court several weeks later I found 400 other "candidates" sitting or standing in the room. One look at the crowd and I exhaled a sigh of relief. I figured I had a better chance of getting on "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" than getting selected for this jury. Two days later I found out that I was the twelfth and final one selected. The judge, a rather serious and intimidating looking woman, peered down at us from the bench and informed us that we'd begin each day "PROMPTLY" at 8:30 a.m., break for lunch promptly at noon, start promptly again at 1:15 p.m. and adjourn for the day, at you guessed it, promptly at 5:00 p.m.

Visions of showing up late and being held in contempt of court started flowing through my mind. But I look at jury duty as a serious responsibility, so I rearranged my schedule to ensure I would make all of the judge's deadlines. The trial began at 8:30 a.m. on a Tuesday. True to her word the judge ran her courtroom by the clock. Each day for the first three days we were in at 8:30 a.m. and out at 5:00 p.m.

As I walked out of the court house Thursday night thinking of the day's events, a little voice inside my head began to ask, "What about Shabbat?"

"What about Shabbat?" I thought. My wife Linda would light the Shabbat candles, I'd make Kiddush over the wine, say "HaMotzi" over the two challas, have a wonderful dinner, and say the Grace After Meals, same as always. But as I looked around I saw that it was pitch dark outside. Suddenly I began to panic. I realized that if we adjourned on Friday right at 5:00 p.m., I wouldn't be home before the start of Shabbat.

I had been so caught up in the excitement of the trial, I had never considered what time we'd get done on Friday. My pulse began to race! I knew what I should do, but I didn't think I had the courage to do it. The little voice kept telling me, "Go talk to the judge, she'll understand." Understand! Heck, there are more elk in Oregon then there are Jews. In New York a judge might understand. In Los Angeles a judge might understand. But in Salem, Oregon, there was no way a judge would understand Shabbat!

Before I continue I have to tell you that of all the lessons I've learned, of all the experiences I've had, and of all the Jewish holidays I've celebrated since discovering Chabad, I have grown to love Shabbat the most. I love everything about it. The traditions, the smells, the kugel, the davening (praying), the conversation, the rest and relaxation. I love Shabbat! So it was with a heavy heart that I walked into the courtroom Friday morning. I knew what I should do, but I was afraid of the severe-looking judge sitting behind the bench. I just couldn't muster the courage to do the right thing.

I kept thinking how Rabbi Vogel used to encourage me to tell my boss in Delaware that I had to take a few days off for Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Pesach, Shavuot, Simchat Torah and Sukkot. The first year it was hard to approach my boss and ask for the time off. But as my confidence grew and time passed it became easier, or as we say in Delaware, it was "a piece of kugel!" But this situation seemed more intimidating.

As the day progressed I listened intently to the testimony but I tortured myself during the recesses. The voice kept telling me to go see the judge but I was too embarrassed to do so. Finally about two-thirty that afternoon the judge ordered a 15-minute recess. The jury filed off to our little room for coffee and small talk. After a few minutes the judge's bailiff came into the room, looked me right in the eye and asked if there was anything she could get us.

Without thinking I rose from my chair and asked her to tell the judge that I was Jewish and that Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath, starts at sundown and I was wondering if she could let us go an hour early so I could make it home before sundown.

The bailiff looked at me with confusion. She told me she'd ask, but she didn't think the judge would let us out early because she is known for sticking to a tight schedule. The minutes ticked by until finally the bailiff came back and told us the judge was ready to reconvene in the courtroom. We went back to the jury box and sat down. The judge looked at the jury and said, "Ladies and gentlemen, we are going to continue for another 75 minutes and then promptly adjourn for the day at 4:00 p.m. She explained that one of the jury members needed to get home by sundown for religious reasons. She went on to tell us that the individual in question should remind her next week too, just in case she forgot.

When the clock struck four the judge stopped the proceedings, told us to report back on Monday "promptly" at 8:30 a.m. and dismissed us for the day. As I walked by the judge's bench she looked down at me, smiled and softly whispered, "Good Shabbos, Mr. Hyatt."

Good Shabbos indeed! The kugel was mighty tasty that night!

What's New


Rabbi Anschelle Perl, director of N.C.F.J.E. of Nassau County and Rabbi of Congregation Beth Sholom Chabad in Mineola, New York has created a unique and meaningful ceremony for the Bar or Bat Mitzva repast. As part of this Cup of Blessing-Kos Shel Bracha ceremony, small cups of wine are poured into a larger cup of wine by family and friends while blessing the Bar/Bat Mitzva child in various ways, such as "a cup of compassion," "a cup of wisdom," prosperity, good health, Torah learning, etc. When the "Cup of Blessing" is filled, he/she recites the blessing "Borei Pri Hagafen" and sips from the wine as everyone present wishes him/her "l'chaim." For more information on this ceremony call (516) 739-3636 or e-mail

The Rebbe Writes

strong and viabLe jewish communities

17 Menachem Av, 5737 [1977]

Greeting and Blessing:

Thank you for your letter of July 23. I am pleased to note that you recall our discussion. However, your inference from the recent black-out in support of your thesis is debatable.

At any rate, following the example of your letter, I will also make reference to a recent event in support of my position. I Have in mind the visit of Prime Minister Menachem Begin, and no doubt you also had an opportunity of meeting him and have evaluated the results of his visit to the USA.

One of the obvious elements of the Prime Minister's visit is that it has demonstrated once again how vitally important it is for our people in the Holy Land to have strong and viable Jewish communities in the outside world. For, however, important Aliyah [immigration to Israel] is, it would be a mixed blessing if it were to erode the Jewish voice and influence in such strategically important countries as the USA and others.

And speaking of the importance of Jewish communities in the Diaspora, the emphasis is not merely on numbers as they appear in a national census, but also and primarily on the quality of the Jewish population and leadership, namely, the extent to which Jews identify themselves with Jewishness and Jewish causes. Here again, as I pointed out in our discussion, it is not enough just to write a check - however indispensable financial assistance is, but it must be an even more meaningful identification and personal commitment, touching deeply every Jew and reflecting in his daily life as a Jew. Such identification is not limited to the home and synagogue or when one is in the society of fellow Jews, but it must be evident everywhere, even among non-Jews, and even in the White House, with truly Jewish self-respect and avowed trust in G-d, the Guardian of Israel, and with pride in our Jewish heritage and traditions - as was so eminently expressed in word and deed by Prime Minster Begin. It is the general consensus that this worthy deportment of the Jewish representative during his first encounter with the President of the USA had an immensely favorable impact and has established a personal rapport between the two leaders which will hopefully have far-reaching beneficial results also in terms of American support.

I trust you have followed closely the highlights and details of this visit and compared it with those of his predecessors. Here, for the first time, came a Jewish Prime Minster who declared in a loud and clear voice that he comes strengthened by the prayer of his fellow Jews at home and abroad and trusts in G-d and the eternity of his people that his mission will be successful. And, as you surely know, when he sat down to break bread with President Carter, he made sure that it would be a Kosher meal, and he put on a Yarmulka and made a Brocho and explained to the President the meaning of it. All of which has earned him the respect and admiration of the President and of all other who came in contact with him. Even from a pragmatic statesmanlike viewpoint this approach is bound to be a sure winner, though, regretfully, it has not been recognized by his predecessors.

To conclude on the concluding note of your letter, may G-d bless you with strength and wisdom to use your good offices and influence in the said direction, especially in view of your prominent position in the Jewish community.

With kind regards and with esteem and blessing,

Rambam this week

7 Adar I 5760

Positive mitzva 3: love of G-d

By this injunction we are commanded to love G-d, i.e., to contemplate His commandments and works so that we may obtain a conception of Him, and in doing so, attain absolute joy. It is derived from the words (Deut. 6:5): "And you shall love the L-rd Your G-d."

A Word from the Director

Why is the Final Redemption different from all other redemptions?

As it is human nature to judge things according to familiar frames of reference, it is important to clarify those points that set the Final Redemption with Moshiach apart from all other periods of exile and redemption experienced by the Jewish people.

Take, for example, the Jewish people's redemption from Egypt. The Exodus did not bring the Jews permanent release from physical and spiritual bondage; generations later, they were still forced to undergo several more cycles of exile and liberation.

Then there was the miraculous salvation of Purim in the times of Mordechai and Esther. Although the redemption of Purim eliminated the immediate threat of extinction, the freedom of the Jews was not absolute. The Talmud states, "Notwithstanding [the great miracle], we were still slaves to King Achashveirosh."Thus it was not a complete redemption, as it allowed the Jews to undergo hard times even afterward.

The Final Redemption with Moshiach, however, will be different in essence from all other redemptions in that it will utterly negate the concept of exile, and usher in an era of peace that will last forever. Simply put, the Redemption will be of such magnitude that the phenomenon of exile itself will become impossible.

The reason for this is that a certain amount of self-preparation is necessary in order to reach this level. Our generation, is preparing and getting ready for Moshiach. After thousands of years of dedication to Torah and mitzvot, the Jewish people is truly deserving and does not have to rely on G-d's "charity." In fact, the Final Redemption may be considered just payment for all our service throughout the exile, and for that reason it will also be eternal and everlasting.

May it happen at once.

Thoughts that Count

And the Children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations (l'doroteihem) (Ex. 31:16)

The word "l'doroteihem" is written without a vav, and thus can also be read "l'diratam," "in their homes." On Shabbat, the Jewish home is entirely transformed. When a Jew's house is ready for Shabbat - when his table is set, and the Shabbat candles illuminate the atmosphere - the Divine Presence rests upon it. (Yalkut Reuveini)

The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less than half a shekel (Ex. 30:15)

"The rich shall not give more" is a mitzva that many wealthy people are very meticulous in keeping. In fact, it is rare to find one who has ever transgressed. (Derashot El Ami)

The above verse can also be interpreted to mean "the rich will not be increased, and the poor will not be lessened." The wealthy person must realize that he will not increase his fortune by being miserly. Similarly, a poor person will not become poorer if he gives to charity. (Imrei Shefer)

And Aaron called out and said, A feast unto the L-rd is tomorrow (Ex. 32:5)

How could Aaron, who was extremely righteous, have lied by referring to the making of the Golden Calf as "a feast unto the L-rd"? Actually, we see that his words were prophetic, as the day on which the Golden Calf was made (and the Tablets of the Law subsequently broken by Moses) was the 17th of Tamuz: Although in our times that date is observed by fasting, when Moshiach comes it will be transformed into "a time of joy and gladness, and a cheerful feast to the house of Judah" (Zachariah 8:19). (Maayana Shel Torah)

It Once Happened

When Aryeh, the son of the famous Torah giant Rabbi Yaakov Yehoshua (author of the work Pnei Yehoshua) reached marriageable age, his parents were overwhelmed with offers from numerous matchmakers. It was only natural, as a bridegroom from such a distinguished family was a real catch. And everyone, of course, assumed that Aryeh was a Torah scholar in his own right.

But in fact, such was not the case. The son of the famous scholar was not intellectually inclined, and that was putting it mildly. The young Aryeh was very far removed from the world of Torah study and erudition.

Aryeh was a simple boy who had not been blessed with any particular aptitudes or talents. Nonetheless, he was an amiable fellow who was well-liked by all who knew him. In truth, it wasn't easy being the son of a famous Rabbi. Aryeh often found himself in unpleasant situations when people tried to engage him in scholarly discussions; the only way he could extricate himself was by changing the subject.

As a child, Aryeh had shown great promise. Many people remembered how the young boy had demonstrated a surprising diligence and capacity for concentration. But something had obviously happened as he grew older. No one ever saw him opening a book, and his knowledge seemed to be quite limited.

But the matchmakers would not be deterred. All of the finest families competed for Aryeh as a son-in-law, although no one scrutinized the young man himself. With such a prestigious father, they figured, why even bother?

Eventually one of the matchmakers' offers was accepted, and the girl's father, a wealthy Torah scholar in his own right, was overjoyed.

A few days before the wedding the bridegroom's family set out for the girl's town, where the ceremony was scheduled to take place. All of the town's important personages came out to welcome them, led by the girl's father. It wasn't every day that such an important guest graced their village, let alone married into one of their own families.

After the usual exchange of pleasantries the prospective father-in-law turned to Aryeh and brought up a certain topic in Torah, wishing to hear his thoughts on the subject. It did not take long to discover that the young man had no idea what he was talking about. He was as far from being a Torah scholar as east is from west.

The father was horrified. It was unthinkable to allow his daughter to marry a young man who could barely read. The wedding was immediately called off, and the situation was terribly embarrassing for all involved. The Pnei Yehoshua and his son set out on the road for home, deeply distressed and mortified by their humiliating experience.

On the way home they stopped in Berzan, where they were greeted warmly by Rabbi Yechiel Michel Halperin, the Rabbi of the city. The Rabbi was delighted to open his home to such a distinguished figure and his son. But he could not help noticing that his guests seemed troubled. When he asked them what the matter was, the whole sad tale came pouring out. The Pnei Yehoshua let out a deep sigh.

Rabbi Yechiel Michel looked closely at the despondent Aryeh. There was something more about the young man than met the eye.

"I have a daughter named Rachel," Rabbi Yechiel Michel said suddenly. "She is a G-d-fearing and pious young woman. I would be very honored if you agreed to a match with your Aryeh."

The unexpected offer was immediately accepted by the Pnei Yehoshua and his son. Overnight, the dark cloud that had hung over their heads was gone.

The wedding took place amidst great festivity and celebration, and the young couple set up household in Berzan. In truth, many of the townsfolk shook their heads in wonder at the strange match. They just couldn't understand why their Rav had allowed his daughter to marry such a simple fellow.

But as time passed, it ceased to be a topic for conversation. Then one day, Aryeh went to the synagogue for the afternoon service and found it in an uproar. Everyone was involved in a heated argument over a certain point in Torah.

"What happened? What's going on?" Aryeh asked, but no one bothered to respond. There was no point; it didn't even pay to explain it. Finally, Aryeh found someone who told him that that morning, the Rabbi had posed a very deep and complicated question during his daily Torah lesson. No one was able to come up with an answer.

When Aryeh heard what the question was he was surprised. "Why, that's simple!" he said, and without further ado uttered a few words that quickly solved the problem.

It was so silent in the study hall that you could have heard a pin drop. Everyone was astonished by the simplicity and brilliance of the answer, let alone by the fact that it had come from Aryeh.

Once his secret was out there was nothing Aryeh could do about it, although at first he regretted it deeply. Quite unintentionally, he had revealed himself as the great Torah scholar he really was. With the passage of time he was appointed head of the local yeshiva, and later achieved renown with the publication of his magnum opus, Pnei Aryeh.

Moshiach Matters

"Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy." (Exodus 20:8) The commentator Rashi explains that this means we must remember the Sabbath day constantly. The same applies to the era of the Messianic redemption. It is referred to as "the Day that is entirely Shabbat and repose for life everlasting." Throughout the prseent "week days" of the exile, we must constantly remember and remain conscious of that "Shabbat Day." We must now prepare ourselves and everyone, and everything around us, for the upcoming Shabbat of the Messianic era. (The Rebbe)

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