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L'Chaim
April 14, 2000 - 9 Nisan, 5760

615: Metzora

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


  614: Tazria615: 11 Nissan  

Some Things Just Never Change  |  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

Some Things Just Never Change

Some things never change. Like matza! Year after year, matza always tastes the same. You'll never see a matza box flashing the words "new and improved" or "all new recipe." Flour and water can't taste much different than flour and water.

Change is taking place in the world around us so quickly that it's reassuring to know that there are things in our lives and in the world that are stable. They were the same yesterday as they are today and the same as they'll be tomorrow.

This consistency can be found in the Rebbe's assertion that ours is the last generation of exile and the first generation that will experience the long-awaited redemption for all humankind.

Long before the Rebbe accepted the leadership of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement 50 years ago and uttered the above words in his first public address, his thoughts were already absorbed with the idea of Moshiach and the Redemption. In a letter the Rebbe describes that even as a very young child, he envisioned the world as it would be in the Messianic Era.

The thread joining all of the Rebbe's public addresses is the drive to do another mitzva, to study another Torah concept, to hope and pray with a little more feeling in order to hasten the Redemption.

This effort intensified when the Rebbe, with his prophetic vision, and quoting an ancient Jewish text, declared that "the time for the Redemption has arrived," a time of peace, prosperity, harmony and knowledge, a perfect world.

Day after day the Rebbe said that we are poised on the threshold of the Redemption. The Rebbe pointed to events taking place around the world, as well as technological advances, as indications of, or precursors to, the Messianic Era.

The Rebbe encouraged everyone: "Open your eyes" to the reality of the Redemption. Make the Redemption your reality.

As we celebrate the Rebbe's 98th birthday, we also celebrate 50 years of the Rebbe's leadership. Fifty years in Jewish tradition is a jubilee, described in the Torah by the famous words, "Proclaim liberty throughout the land."

In this fiftieth year of the Rebbe's leadership, let's strive to experience true liberty, to really open our eyes to the reality of the good and G-dly in everyone and everything around us. This new vision, together with an additional mitzva, will surely bring the ultimate change to the entire world, the change from exile to Redemption, with the revelation of Moshiach, NOW!


Living with the Rebbe

This week's Torah portion, Metzora (literally "Leper") deals with the Biblical plague of leprosy and the various processes a person had to go through in order to become spiritually pure. Aside from its literal meaning, "Metzora" is also one of the names the Talmudic Sages used to refer to Moshiach, commenting on the verse in Isaiah (53:4): "Surely he has borne our sicknesses, and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, struck by G-d, and afflicted."

The name Metzora specifically relates to Moshiach as he exists in exile, prior to the Final Redemption. During this period, although he is already present in the world, he has not yet been revealed as King Moshiach. Moshiach's essential nature is the epitome of perfection, as he is described: "My servant is enlightened; he is exalted, lofty and highly elevated." Nonetheless, because he is still in exile and shares in the suffering of the Jewish people, he is termed "Metzora."

A Biblical commentator, the "Ohr HaChaim," explains that the purification process of the leper is symbolic of the process of Moshiach's revelation and the cleansing of the Jewish people from exile. The leper's "day of purification" corresponds to the day on which the Final Redemption will occur.

Furthermore, from the fact that Moshiach is called "Metzora," we learn the precise nature of his suffering before the Redemption. Chasidic philosophy notes that leprosy is an external affliction "of the skin of his flesh," rather than an illness that has already invaded the inner workings of the body. Accordingly, it symbolizes a condition in which a person's inner essence is whole, and the damage is limited only to his exterior.

Thus on a deeper level, "Metzora" signifies a person on the highest spiritual plane, whose powers of the soul have already been purified and refined. The Metzora's inner essence is pure; all that is left for him to do is to cleanse his "skin" - the very outermost layers of the body. Moreover, the Metzora's external affliction isn't really "his," but that of the Jewish people, as it states, "Surely he has borne our sicknesses."

This, in fact, is the condition in which we find ourselves now, at the very end of the exile and just prior to the Redemption. Outwardly, it appears as if the Jewish people is suffering from a variety of ailments, but our inner essence is actually pristine, having already been completely purified over the course of generations. The only thing left to be refined before Moshiach's revelation is our "outer layer." All other prerequisites for the Final Redemption are already in place.

May it happen immediately.

Adapted from Vol. 22 of Likutei Sichot, and the Rebbe's talk on Shabbat Parshat Tazria-Metzora 5751


A Slice of Life

A MYSTERIOUS EXPERIENCE

In 1954, the Rebbe initiated a campaign to give as many Jews as possible the privilege of eating Shmura Matza, special hand-baked matza, at the Passover seders. Lubavitcher Chasidim around the world eagerly promote this campaign and the Rebbe's emissaries send out boxes of Shmura Matza to hundreds of Jews in their community. This is the story of the ripple effect of one emissary's efforts.

By Stan Lapon

Once upon a time in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, there lived a very kindly and generous Lubavitcher rabbi named Rabbi Yisroel Shmotkin. Every year it was his practice, at Passover time, to mail out boxes of Shmura Matza in order to bring a true feeling of celebration to the Passover Festival. This is the story of four boxes of Shmura Matza.

The first box arrived at the home of a friendless, middle-aged accountant, who lived alone and whose sole companions were his tank of tropical fish. Since tropical fish were not known as big talkers, our accountant often sat at home at night listening to the radio and wondering. He remembered going to the door that afternoon to pick up his mail when he opened the door, a cardboard box fell at his feet. At first he thought it was a medium size pizza that had been wrongly delivered to his home, but when he opened it up and saw the letter inside, a smile came to his face, a rare one for that time in his life, and he said a special thanks to Rabbi Shmotkin, just for remembering him.

The next afternoon, the friendless little accountant again went to the door to collect his daily portion of "occupant mail." Again when he opened the door, another cardboard box fell at his feet. He examined it closely and again found that it was Shmura Matza from Lubavitch House. "Strange," he thought, "one box was a nice, but two seems a bit extravagant on the Rabbi's part."

"Maybe the Lubavitch have more money than I think," he said to himself, "perhaps I have been giving in excess," he noted in his accountant-like brain.

The afternoon after that, our sad accountant again went to the door for his mail. This time he noticed a certain trepidation in his step and a slight hesitation as he opened the door. You guessed it, in fell another box of Shmura Matza. Now you must understand that the accountant was very computer friendly and thought for a moment that maybe he was in some sort of Chassidic computer loop, like when the government forgets that it has sent you your tax refund and decides to send you the same tax refund every week for the rest of your life. "Why," he pondered, couldn't he get into a government refund loop, instead of a Shmura Matza loop. "Just my mazel," he said to himself, "everyone else gets money when there is a mistake, I get Matza." The afternoon after that, he went as usual to get his mail, opened the door and. you guessed it, in fell a fourth box of Shmura Matza. "Shmotkin is trying to tell me something," our accountant thought to himself, "but what could it be?

"Four boxes of Shmura Matza has to be a sign, like the four questions only more expensive," our little friend pondered.

"What shall I do, what shall I do." Finally, after an excess of soul searching, he decided to do exactly as Rabbi Shmotkin had done, to give the Shmura Matza away. Since he didn't know many people, he gave away two of the boxes to people at work, one to a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man and one to a Jewish man married a non-Jewish woman. The third box he took with him to his Seder dinner and the fourth he kept for himself.

The little accountant's Seder dinner was most depressing. His father's wife was quite ill and could barely sit at the table. Her days were not to be long it seemed to all assembled, who nodded among themselves with little knowing looks. When it came time to display and taste the first Matza, the accountant's stepmother brightened up. "Who brought the Shmura Matza to the Seder?" she asked rather strongly everyone thought.

"Why, I did," responded the little accountant.

"I really want to thank you," she said. "Every day to me is now very precious, and with this unexpected gift, you have done the impossible, for you have made this day somehow ever more precious to me than usual."

Everyone was beaming at the table and somehow a very sad and distant night had turned into a very close knit one.

"Rabbi Shmotkin is doing something right when they gives this Matza away," the accountant thought to himself.

Three days later when he returned to the office, the man he had given the Matza to approached the accountant almost before he had had a chance to have his morning coffee. "You know," he said, "that special Matza you gave me for Passover really fascinated my wife, who isn't Jewish. I don't attend a seder anymore, but when she saw how ancient the Matza looked she made me take down our dusty unused Bible and that very night, it happened to be Passover eve, she made me read out loud the entire story of the exodus."

Moments later, the woman to whom I had given the matza approached me. "I want to thank you for that Matza you gave us for Passover. You know every year my daughter, husband and I go to my parents house for a semi-seder. It's really just a meal, because my husband isn't much interested.

When our daughter opened the Matza box at the house and gave everyone a piece and then she read the rabbi's letter that came with the Matza out loud, you know, my husband said to me, she really likes this service stuff and he agreed to let me send her to Hebrew school. Before that night he was against the whole idea, I don't know what changed his mind, but I think the Matza had something to do with it."

Needless to say, I was in a state of shock for these revelations, and had a small feeling of guilt about hanging on to my own box. Look at the good I could have done for someone else, if I had given all of Rabbi Shmotkin's Shmura Matza away. But then I remembered how I felt when I got my first box and was kind of glad that I had set it aside.


What's New

FOR ALL YOUR PASSOVER NEEDS

The nearly 3,000 Chabad-Lubavitch Centers world-wide are ready to help you celebratePassover, the Festival of Freedom, in the most joyous manner possible. Centers offer pre-Passover holiday classes, public seders, information about where to purchase kosher-for-Passover foods, as well as the special hand-baked shmura matza (just like they ate in the Sinai desert!). Whether you'll be spending the holiday in Nepal at a massive Chabad public seder with over 1,200 participants, in Shang Hai with the local emissaries and a few dozen co-religionists or in the heart of New York City, call your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center (see www.chabad.org/shuchim.html) if you need assistance.


The Rebbe Writes

IMPORTANT ROLE OF CHILDREN

Erev Rosh Chodesh Nissan, 5729

It gave me great pleasure to read your letter of the 22nd of Adar, reporting on your visit in England, and enclosing also a copy of your article.

I may also note with particular pleasure that your report arrived together with/after reports from other quarters, both from London and Manchester, which speak of the extraordinary impression your appearances there have made, as well as those of Mrs. . . , and the shining example which both of you presented wherever you went, and during your various addresses and lectures. These reports are still coming in.

I trust that the good fruits of the seeds which you planted, and the fruits of fruits, some of which you have already seen, will further stimulate your work and contribution in this direction. It is, of course, quite natural for a person to gain encouragement in direct proportion to the success of his efforts and there is no end to the good, so that when a person has done his maximum one day, G-d provides additional capacities for even greater effort and accomplishment the next day.

It was good to see you at the Purim Farbrengen [Chasidic gathering], and no doubt your wife was present too, though I did not see you later, possibly because of the large gathering. May G-d grant that all matters should be in accordance with the words of the Megillah: "For the Jews there was light, joy, gladness and honor." May this be fulfilled also in the case of each and every one of us, in the midst of our people Israel, in accordance with the traditional text which we add to this quotation from the Megillah - "So may it be for us," at the termination of Shabbos and Yom Tov [festivals], when going back to the ordinary days of the week, and it is necessary to make Chol [mundane] into Kodesh [holy].

Should you remember additional details in regard to your visit in England, I trust you will not withhold the good and share them with me, and thanks in advance.

Needless to say, I appreciate very much your giving my personal regards to Chief Rabbi Yisroel Jacobovits and Prof. C. Domb.

Wishing you and yours a happy month of Nissan, and a Kosher and happy Pesach, and hoping to hear good news from you.

P.S. Needless to say, all prayerful wishes expressed above include "also" your wife and children. I trust you found the children well and happy, especially during the happy season of Purim, in which the children have a particularly important role, as is well known that the Gezera [decree] was nullified when Mordecai gathered Jewish children and taught and inspired them to the point of Mesiras Nefesh [self-sacrifice] for the Torah and Mitzvoth.

5th of Nissan, 5725 [1965]

Students of Class 7

I was very pleased to receive your letter of March 29th, and to read in it about the progress you are making in your study of the Torah and similar subjects. I was especially gratified to note that you are advancing in the fulfillment of the Mitzvoth in the daily life for this is, after all, the main purpose of the study of the Torah.

At this time, between the festivals of Purim and Pesach, you will surely remember the important part of the Jewish children in the two mentioned festivals especially. For, as our Sages declared, the miracle of Purim took place at the very time when Jewish children were gathered around Mordechai and were inspired by him to the utmost dedication and devotion to the Torah and Mitzvoth. As for Pesach, you surely know the importance of the "Four Sons" who are mentioned in the Haggadah, for whose benefit the Seder is mainly arranged. One of the important lessons here is that all Jewish children, whatever their background, should be gathered at the Seder table and taught the importance of Pesach and of the Jewish way of life in general. Those, like yourselves, who are fortunate to receive a Torah-true education so as to merit the title "Wise Son", have a special duty and privilege to serve as a living example to less fortunate Jewish boys, to bring them closer to their Father in Heaven and to the Jewish way of life, the way of the Torah and Mitzvoth.

The collection for Tzedoko [charity] for Mo'os Chittim ["wheat money," i.e., money for Passover needs] , which was raised in your class, is very welcome and a receipt is enclosed herewith. May it stand each and every one of you in good stead, to receive G-d's blessings in all your needs, and especially to bless you with success in your advancement in Torah and Mitzvoth.

Wishing you all, as well as your teacher and parents, a happy and inspiring festival of Pesach, the Season of Our Liberation,


Rambam this week

9 Nisan 5760

Positive mitzva 59: blowing the trumpets in the Sanctuary

By this injunction we are commanded to sound trumpets in the Sanctuary when offering any of the Festival sacrifices. It is derived from the Torah's words (Num. 10:10): "Also in the day of your gladness, and in your appointed seasons, and in your new moons, you shall blow with the trumpets." This mitzva was done by the priests.


A Word from the Director

This Sunday, 11 Nisan (corresponding with April 16 this year), we celebrate the Rebbe's 98th birthday. It is customary to recite daily the chapter in Psalms correspnding to one's years. Chasidic tradition encourages that one recite daily the Psalm of the Rebbe, as well. Thus, Jews the world over will begin reciting Psalm 99 this Sunday in honor of the Rebbe.

The Psalm speaks of the "wars of Gog and Magog" that will take place during the time preceding the final Redemption. It begins, "When the L-rd will be [revealed as] King, the nations will tremble; the earth will quake before Him Who is enthroned upon the Cherubim." The commentator Radak explains that after this cataclysmic war, G-d will establish the earth on the foundations of justice, and even the earth itself will exult.

The Psalm continues on the them of justice, stating, "Mighty is the King Who loves justice, You have established uprightness; You have made [the laws of] justice and righteousness in Jacob. The commentary Metzudat David clarifies this verse, saying that the Torah is uprightness, the Torah's rulings are justice, and by living according to what is contained within the Torah a person becomes righteous. All of these were given to the children of Jacob (the Jewish people) and are G-d's "work."

There are two ways a person can ask for things from G-d: a) with justice, for the person is deserving because of his conduct, and b) asking for G-d's charity and righteousness. Chasidut explains that even when a person is deserving, he should set aside his ego and ask for G-d's charity and kindness (righteousness). For, while justice is limited and meted out according to one's actions, G-d's kindness is unlimited.

As we celebrate the Rebbe's 98th birthday, may we set aside our egos and ask G-d to immediately bring the revelation of Moshiach and the eternal era of peace, prosperity and knowledge. Surely after 2,000 years of exile we deserve that the Redemption commence immediately and we need not wait for G-d's kindness; Divine justice demands that Moshiach be revealed NOW, amen.


Thoughts that Count

This shall be the law of the leper on the day of his cleansing (Lev. 14:2)

The reason the future tense is used, "this shall be the law," rather than the present, "this is the law," indicates that the purification process connected to the Biblical plague of leprosy should continue even after the individual has been pronounced clean. The sense of humility and meekness that were required for the person to be cured must be carried over into the everyday life, as our Sages said, "It shall be - perpetually and always." (Shem MiShmuel)

In an earthen utensil over "mayim chaim" (lit. "living waters") (Lev. 14:5)

Although the leper (who was usually afflicted with leprosy as a result of the sin of gossip) was obliged to feel humbled and contrite, great care had to be taken to make sure his spirit was not completely broken. The "living waters" of the Torah protected him from becoming too downhearted and reduced to spiritual inertia. (Sichot Tzadikim)

And he shall sprinkle upon him who is to be cleansed (metaher) from the leprosy seven times (Lev. 14:7)

Significantly, the Torah uses the reflexive form of the verb "to be cleansed" rather than the passive, "one who is being cleansed," to indicate that the person undergoing purification must take an active part in the process. The leper must sincerely repent of his misdeed and return to G-d with a whole heart, rendering him worthy of being brought before the priest. (Meshech Chochma)

And he shall slay the lamb in the place where he shall kill the sin offering and the burnt offering (Lev. 14:13)

The sin offering was slaughtered in the same place as the burnt offering (on the northern side), even though the burnt offering had a higher level of holiness. This was done to avoid embarrassing the sinner, as no one would know what type of offering he was bringing. (Sotah 32)


It Once Happened

The Baal Shem Tov's wondrous ways and teachings contributed a new dynamic to Jewish life. They emphasized the spirit beyond the letter of the law, breathing excitement and love into a Jew's relationship with G-d. The Baal Shem Tov's focus on the Torah's inner dimension and Divine Providence expressed the joy and ecstasy of Jewish tradition.

The Baal Shem Tov (the Besht) had two distinct types of Chasidim:

The Besht's elite student group included some very sophisticated scholars who had already mastered the entire Talmud, and had come to seek even deeper insights into the Torah's inner spiritual and esoteric secrets. The other followers were simple and unlettered folk, hard working laborers from small towns and villages, who streamed to the Baal Shem Tov for support and guidance.

It once happened that two of these types of Chasidim came to visit on the same Shabbat to spend time with their great Rebbe.

From the big city of Brod came Rabbi Nosson Leiventhendler, a wealthy linen merchant. Rabbi Nosson spent many hours daily delving into the Talmud, studying late into the night after his business hours.

Rabbi Nosson's high level of scholarship, however, was not matched by his emotional growth; he was neither charitable nor forthcoming to help others. His sole focus was on his own intellectualism, while the improvement of personal character was low on his agenda. Rabbi Nosson even wondered why his master showed so much interest in ignorant folk.

The Besht had often called Rabbi Nosson's attention to his personal attitudes, and urged him to work on character improvement. Rabbi Nosson, however, continued in his ways, and also raised his children in this manner.

From the village of Belishtzenitz came Reb Avraham, a simple laborer. Having only very basic Jewish knowledge, he could barely follow the Hebrew prayers. But what he lacked in scholarship, Reb Avraham compensated for with sincerity and devotion. He served G-d with all his heart, performing mitzvot with joy, and he worked to refine himself by always being helpful to others.

The Besht's lecture that Shabbat focused on a verse from the prophet Isaiah, where G-d admonishes: "Even when you spread your hands in prayer, I will conceal my eyes. Even when you intensify your prayers I do not listen, for your hands are filled with blood."

Torah and prayer are of great importance, said the Besht, but when there is "blood" on the hands, the person's Torah study and his prayer is of little value. This refers even to those people who do give charity, who do indeed "spread their hands," but they lack empathy and true concern for a poor person's plight.

Intense intellectual devotion is not considered a true service to G-d as long as a person's emotions for a fellow "are filled with blood," lacking genuine caring and sensitivity, the Baal Shem Tov explained.

The two students, Rabbi Nosson and Reb Avraham had both listened to the same message by the Besht, but their reactions were quite different.

Rabbi Nosson enjoyed the new interpretation of the verse, but his interest was merely academic. Reb Avraham, on the other hand, understood little about the complicated interpretations. But Reb Avraham knew that the Besht was urging increased concern for others, so Reb Avraham resolved to work harder in this area. All the way home, the Besht's words gave him no rest.

One year, on the night of Passover, the Baal Shem Tov spoke of the great pleasure that G-d derives from simple, well-meaning Jews, who can surpass even the higher levels of great Torah scholars.

To demonstrate the point, the Besht told his students sitting around the table to close their eyes and to place his hands on the shoulders of his fellow. The Baal Shem Tov completed the circle by placing his hands on the shoulders of the two disciples sitting next to him, and began to sing a soulful Chasidic melody.

Suddenly, a vision appeared to the students. They saw Reb Avraham sitting at his Seder with his wife and children, crowded around a simple table graced by only a few simple earthen vessels. The light was dim, but the faces of Reb Avraham and his family were aglow with the joy of the holiday, and with their love for one another. Despite the material poverty, Reb Avraham's seder was rich. The whole family celebrated the seder with great enthusiasm.

As that vision faded, another image appeared. The Besht's students beheld Rabbi Noson Leiventhendler's Seder. The large dining room was brightly lit, and the table was laden with the finest foods; but the mood seemed gloomy. The participants seated in the richly upholstered chairs were stiff, the atmosphere was indifferent, and the lack of feeling for one another was very evident.

The Baal Shem Tov then removed his hands, stopped singing and told everyone to open their eyes.

The Besht then elucidated his teaching by paraphrasing this verse from Proverbs: "Better to eat a dry crust of bread in peace, than to partake of fancy servings of meat in a house riddled with strife." Better to enjoy the simple Seder of Reb Avraham, than a big luxurious feast devoid of love and emotion. Although lacking the rich frills and trimmings, Reb Avraham offered his family true peace, serenity and love, which are so dear and precious to G-d above.

Adapted from the Ascent Seminars Weekly Story: www.ascent.org.il


Moshiach Matters

The spirit of G-d will rest upon him, a spirit of wisdom and understanding, a spirit of counsel and might, a spirit of knowledge and of the fear of G-d. He shall be inspired with fear of G-d, and he shall not judge with the sight of his eyes nor decide according to the hearing of his ears. He shall judge the poor with righteousness and decide with equity for the humble of the earth...Righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faith the girdle of his reins." (Isaiah 11:2-5)


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