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Devarim Deutronomy

Breishis Genesis

Shemos Exodus

Vayikra Leviticus

Bamidbar Numbers

   621: Bamidbar

622: Shavuos

623: Nasso

624: Beha'alotcha

625: Sh'lach

626: Korach

627: Chukat-Balak

628: Pinchas

629: Matot-Masei

Devarim Deutronomy

L'Chaim
June 8, 2000 - 5 Sivan, 5760

622: Shavuos

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


  621: Bamidbar623: Nasso  

One Heart  |  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

One Heart

Who ever heard of a person with two hearts? In the annals of medical history, was such a case ever reported?

When describing a pivotal part of the Jewish people's preparations for the giving of the Torah (celebrated on the festival of Shavuot, June 9 and 10 this year), the Torah states: "And Israel encamped in front of the mountain." The word "encamped" is written in the singular form in Hebrew. This is because, Jewish teachings explain, they encamped "as one person with one heart."

But let's be realistic. How should they have encamped, as one person with two hearts?

The verse and its commentary teach us that a prerequisite for the singular event of the giving of the Torah was that the Jewish people unite into one singular entity.

But why was the analogy of the heart used rather than the mind?

Is it so impossible to imagine that once, in the entire history of the Jewish people, we were "single-minded" or at least "like-minded"?

Although Jews are generally "of two minds" (or three or four.) surely at the time of the giving of the Torah we were united body and soul, heart and mind.

Perhaps, in typical Jewish style, this question can best be answered with another question. Do you know any physicians who smoke? Do you, perhaps, know any oncologists who smoke? Certainly these doctors are aware of the studies and may even have treated people who, G-d forbid, suffer from the ravages of smoking. And yet, what their minds know does not (necessarily) influence their behavior. To impact on one's lifestyle, it is not enough to know something; a person has to feel it, as well.

So, too, with the receiving of the Torah. Of course, Torah study and mitzvot observance should not be approached in a "mindless" manner. However, when our ancestors accepted the Torah from G-d, they did so with the words: "We will do and we will listen (i.e., we will begin by doing the mitzvot and then study and learn why we are doing them).

On an intellectual level, they had different opinions or approaches. And that's okay. The Talmud states unequivocally "No two opinions are the same." Even when Moshiach comes there will be different opinions and approaches, because that's the way it's meant to be! But on an emotional level, they were totally one. They had feelings for one another and they had feelings for the Torah.

As we relive the giving of the Torah this year, we should grow in ways that will foster positive feelings toward Torah and mitzvot, and toward other Jews. Our Jewish living should be filled with joy and enthusiasm that encompasses those around us, especially the young people with whom we interface. We should bring ourselves and our children to the synagogue on Shavuot to hear the Ten Commandments read and to receive the Torah once again, like one person with one heart.

May we imminently experience the true singularness of the Jewish people in the Messianic Era.


Living with the Rebbe

The giving of the Torah to the Jewish people on Shavuot occurred in Sivan, the third month of the year. (The Torah counts the months beginning with Nisan, when the Jews went out of Egypt.)

This fact is significant, for there is an essential connection between the number three and the Torah itself.

Commenting on the special significance of the number three, our Sages stated: "The three-fold Torah [the Five Books of Moses, Prophets and Writings] was given to the three-fold nation [Kohanim (priests), Levites and Israelites] in the third month [Sivan]."

Every month of the year is characterized by its own unique service of G-d.

The first month of the year is Nisan. It was in Nisan that the Jewish people left Egypt and merited an extremely intense revelation of G-dliness. During Nisan, the Jewish people is guided from "Above." Just as it was G-d Who initiated the Exodus and revealed Himself with wonders and miracles, so too is our Divine service during Nisan "directed" from Above, independent of our initiative.

The service of the month of Iyar, by contrast, entails a great deal of effort on the part of the Jew. Every day of the month we count the omer, in preparation for the giving of the Torah on Shavuot. Counting the omer enables us to refine our midot (character attributes) and ascend, step by step, the rungs of spiritual achievement. Because this service originates from "below," the progress we make is entirely dependent on our individual effort.

Nisan and Iyar, the first and second months of the year, are therefore symbolic of opposite and even contradictory approaches to the service of G-d. The first approach, alluded to by the month of Nisan, is in itiated by G-d, Who arouses us to serve Him and leads us in the right direction. In Iyar, however, it is we who must supply the initiative.

These opposite thrusts are resolved and integrated into a comprehensive whole in the month of Sivan, the third month of the year, with the giving of the Torah. The Torah unites G-d, the Giver of the Torah, with the Jewish people, its recipient.

By studying Torah, the Jew achieves a union of his own limited intellect with the infinite wisdom of G-d, thus creating a third entity: a true unification and bond between G-d and Israel. The giving of the Torah and the month of Sivan thus share an inner and essential connection.

Adapted from Volume 2 of Likutei Sichot


A Slice of Life

ON A WING AND A PRAYER

by Steve Hyatt

The flight from Oregon to Rhode Island was like many of the myriad other flights I'd taken in the past. I had just finished my kosher Mexican chicken dinner, with pasta and mixed vegetables, a miniature challa, a delicious chocolate cake and, of course, the half-frozen canned fruit that never seems to thaw out no matter how much they "nuke" it in the onboard microwave oven.

The first five hours of the flight had been uneventful. It was a crystal clear evening without a cloud in the sky. I had just finished saying Mincha-the afternoon prayers-in the back of the plane and I was anxiously anticipating spending the upcoming festival of Shavuot with my Mom and Dad.

The pilot ordered us to buckle our seat belts, stow away our tray tables and return our seats to an upright position. Just as I snapped the metal seat belt buckle closed, a noticeable vibration shook the entire plane. Our "uneventful flight" suddenly turned into a terrifying encounter! Another more violent shock-wave struck the plane with horrifying force. A palatable fear invaded the cabin. I looked out the window to my left and the clear sky had turned into a tumultuous tower of cumulonimbus storm clouds!

We were so close to the runway that it looked as if we could reach down and touch the landing lights. The plane simultaneously started to roll up and down like a roller coaster and sideways like a salmon swimming upstream.

Sheer terror swept through the cabin like a raging river. People were crying, praying and shrieking out loud as the plane continued to be tossed about like a paper airplane in the middle of a hurricane. I started praying to Hashem to protect us and deliver us to safety. I began reciting every single Hebrew prayer I had memorized since I had begun davening (praying) two years ago. I started with the Shema, moved to Ashrei, recited every part of the Amida and Aleinu I could remember and when the plane continued to be tossed about like a paper doll I said the blessings for the lighting of the Chanuka candles. Anything that popped into my mind became a prayer to G-d to save us.

The woman seated next to me was sobbing in long, terrifying wails. Just as it appeared we were going to crash, the pilot regained control of the aircraft and aborted the landing. Redirecting power to our engines he pointed the nose of the aircraft straight up and we took off like an arrow shot upward from a bow. The plane literally screamed through the storm, toward the promise of calmer skies. At the moment it appeared the plane couldn't take any more, we smashed through the storm and into calmer skies. As suddenly as the terrifying force of nature had seized us, the terror was over and we were flying safely through the heavens. The pilot's voice came through the overhead speakers and he informed us we were not going back to Providence but instead we were going to Boston, about 15 minutes away.

No one protested. The only sound you could hear were the sobs of relief and fear that still clung to the cabin. When we landed in Boston applause erupted. We were safe and alive, thank G-d!

After about 30 minutes on the ground, the plane was gassed up and we took off for Providence. Fifteen minutes later the wheels touched down and we walked from the plane into the arms of our tense but loving families. The nightmare was over. I took a moment and thanked Hashem for delivering me from this horrifying experience.

During the automobile ride to my parents' home in Connecticut I reflected on my reaction and those of my fellow passengers during the worst part of the encounter. I guarantee that each and every one of us was pleading with G-d to spare our lives. Promises were made and oaths of future good behavior were assured. At that one terrifying moment G-d was as real to us as the seats we were sitting in. For three horrible minutes we knew in our hearts there was only one force in the universe that could save us. It wasn't the pilot, the air traffic controller or the Boeing engineer who had designed the plane. No, only G-d could deliver us from imminent danger.

Yet as soon as we touched down and the danger was over, I'd wager that most of us tucked our faith back into the inner recesses of our minds. Like a comfortable old sweater that we only take out on cold, blustery days, we put our trust in G-d and our tangible closeness to Him back in the closet until the next time we needed it.

I remember thinking that each and every day we have a new opportunity to connect with G-d and express our appreciation for His many blessings and gifts. It's a shame that many of us wait until we are in personal danger or the depths of despair before acknowledging His presence.

Throughout the Shavuot holiday and since then, one thought has consistently come to my mind. When the plane was rocking and rolling and we all feared the worst, I never felt alone. I was afraid, but I never felt alone. I knew that G-d had a plan for me; I'd just have to wait and see the results of that plan. No doubts, no reservations, no questions.

That absolute, unconditional, unshakable faith empowers you to face and embrace the challenges of life. Chabad of Delaware's Rabbi Vogel likes to say, "Shlomo Yaakov (my Jewish name), no one ever said a mitzva has to be easy. Sometimes it's hard to get out of bed on a Sunday morning and daven. Sometimes it's difficult to tell your boss you can't play golf on a Saturday. Sometimes it's frustrating to pass on that jumbo shrimp cocktail. But by choosing to perform G-d's commandments, you build, bit by bit, a tower of faith that will guide you through the most difficult moments of life. Like a lucrative investment, the mitzvot you perform today will pay huge dividends throughout your life. It's an investment no money market fund can ever match."


What's New

SIXTEEN CENTERS TO OPEN

Ten Jewish Community Centers will be erected within the next year in the former Soviet Union followed by another six centers soon after. Each community center will incorporate a synagogue, mikva, library, soup kitchen, kosher restaurant, computer rooms, gym and more. Some of the centers will be the result of total renovations of former synagogues. Although more costly than building from scratch, there is symbolic significance in the old structure or location. The project is the result of a partnernship between the Jewish communities in the former Soveit Union, their longtime benefactors-the Rohr family and Mr. Lev Leviev-and Chabad-Lubavitch. The ten cities included in phase one of this project are: Moscow, S. Petersburg, Samara, Nizhny Novgorod, Yekaterinburg, Khazan, Dnepropetrovsk, Novosibirsk, Khabarovsk and Alma Ata. Of those scheduled to follow thereafter, five are in various cities across Russia and one in Ukraine.


The Rebbe Writes

Rosh Chodesh Sivan 5715 [1965]

It is surely unnecessary to elaborate on the close relationship between the physical and the spiritual, which even modern science has become convinced of.

Physically, at this time of the year, we find Nature again in full bloom. After a period of hibernation, it springs back to life with renewed vigor and vitality, faithfully reproducing the same elements which characterized the same period a year ago, and two years ago, and all the way back to the first seasons of the Nature cycle.

In our religious and spiritual life, also, we have the seasons and festivals which recur year after year, and reproduce the same spiritual elements which first gave rise to them. Thus, at this time of the year, with the days of Sefirah connecting the festival of Passover (physical freedom) with its culmination in Shovuos (spiritual freedom), we can - if we are sufficiently prepared and attuned to it, relive the experiences of our ancestors who actually witnessed the Revelation and accepted the Torah at Sinai. What a long way our ancestors covered in the course of but 50 days; from the abominations of Egyptian "culture," in which moral depravity and polytheism reigned supreme (as recent archeological discoveries have amply brought to light) to pure monotheism at Mount Sinai, where the Jew receives the Torah with the call of Na'aseh v'nishma. Na'aseh first, i.e. complete surrender of man to G-d.

Through the medium of the Torah, G-d "descends" on Mount Sinai and the Jew ascends to G-d. The soul is released from all its fetters tying it down to earthly things, and on the wings of fear of G-d and love of G-d unites with the Creator in complete communion. It is then that it can fully appreciate the inner meaning of "I am G-d thy G-d, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, the house of bondage," and the rest of the Ten Commandments, till "Thou shalt not covet," i.e. not only refrain from taking what is not yours, but not even desire it.

This great rise from the abyss of Egypt to the sublime heights of Sinai was attained by pure and simple faith in G-d, from the day when parents and children, women and infants, several million souls in all, set out on the trek through the desert, not dismayed by the irrationality of it, but simply obeying the Divine call with absolute trust. This won special Divine favor in the words of the Prophet: "I remember unto thee the kindness of thy youth, the love of thy betrothal, thy going after Me into the wilderness." It is this faith that carried the Jews through the ages, an insignificant physical minority in the midst of a hostile world, a spot of light threatened by an overwhelming darkness. It is this absolute faith in G-d that we need nowadays more than ever before.

It is said, the whole sun is reflected in a drop of water. And so the whole of our nation is reflected in each individual, and what is true of the nation as a whole is true of the individual.

The core of Jewish vitality and indestructibility is in its pure faith in G-d; not in some kind of an abstract Deity, hidden somewhere in the heavenly spheres, who regards this world from a distance; but absolute faith in a very personal G-d, who is the very life and existence of everybody; Who permeates where one is, or what one does. Where there is such faith, there is no room for fear or anxiety, as the Psalmist says, "I fear no evil, for Thou art with me," with me, indeed, at all times, not only on Shabbos or Yom Tov, or during prayer or meditation on G-d. And when one puts his trust in G-d, unconditionally and unreservedly, one realizes what it means to be really free and full of vigor, for all one's energy is released in the most constructive way, not only in one's own behalf, but also in behalf of the environment at large.

The road is not free from obstacles and obstructions, for in the Divine order of things we are expected to attain our goal by effort; but if we make a determined effort success is Divinely assured, and the obstacles and obstructions which at first loom large, dissolve and disappear.

I wish you to tread this road of pure faith in G-d, without being overly introspective and self-searching, as in the simple illustration of a man walking: he will walk most steadily and assuredly if he will not be conscious of his walk and not seek to consciously coordinate the hundreds of muscles operative in locomotion, or he would not be able to make his first step.

Wishing you success in all above, and hoping to hear good news from you and yours,

With the blessing of a happy Yom Tov of Receiving the Torah with inner joy,


Rambam this week

6 Sivan 5760

Positive mitzva 121: gleanings for the poor

By this injunction we are commanded to leave gleanings. It is contained in the Torah's words (Lev. 23:22): "Neither shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest; you shall leave them for the poor and for the stranger." The commandment applies only in the Land of Israel.


A Word from the Director

One time when Rebbe Shalom Dovber of Lubavitch was asked to address a rabbinical assembly, he began with a quote from our Sages: "The Talmud states in Baba Batra." Someone in the audience immediately cited the page in the Talmud where the statement appears. "The Torah was not given," the Rebbe chided him, "so that people can demonstrate that they know exactly where something is written."

As we celebrate the revelation of the Torah on Shavuot, the central historical event that took place some 3312 years ago, it is fitting that we examine the concept of Torah study. The Torah was not given to man as a means of acquiring honor and respect; it was given to us as a means of attaching ourselves to G-d.

Chasidic philosophy explains that Torah, the sustenance of the Jewish soul, is likened to bread. If a person eats bread that isn't sufficiently baked, the body cannot digest it properly. When a Jew learns Torah that has been "baked" in the "fire" of love - that is, when he approaches the Torah out of a desire to draw closer to G-d and unite with Him - the knowledge he gains will be completely absorbed and internalized. But if his Torah study is insufficiently "baked," it does not become one with the soul and remains extraneous to his being.

In particular, the study of Chasidut, which delves into the essential nature of Torah and how it enables us to bond with the Infinite, imbues all of our Torah study with an added level of vitality. As the third Rebbe, the Tzemach Tzedek said, "Inner Torah [Chasidut] gives vitality to the revealed Torah. When one learns Jewish law and knows that after his 120 years on earth he will learn the same law in the Garden of Eden, it puts a little fire into him."

As we rejoice in this "time of the giving of our Torah," let us pray that we immediately merit "the new [dimensions of] Torah" that our righteous Moshiach will teach us, speedily in our day.


Thoughts that Count

Shavuot

Why is the festival of Shavuot referred to as "the time of the giving of our Torah," rather than "the time of our acceptance of the Torah"? "The time of the giving of our Torah" occurred only once in history, on the sixth day of the month of Sivan several thousand years ago. By contrast, "the time of our acceptance of the Torah" is an ongoing process, for a Jew accepts the Torah anew every day of his life. (Chidushei HaRim)

A Mutual Oath

The Hebrew word "Shavuot" is related to the word for oath, "shvua." On Shavuot, G-d and the Jewish people each took an oath: The Jews swore never to forsake the Master of the Universe for idolatry, G-d forbid, and G-d swore never to replace His chosen people for another nation. (Ohr HaChaim)

The Revelation of G-d's Infinite Light

When the Torah was given at Mount Sinai, the Essence of G-d's Infinite Light was revealed in the letters of the Ten Commandments. At the same time, G-d imbued every Jewish soul throughout the generations, in every age and in every location, with the power to draw down the same revelation through the study of Torah. (Sefer HaMaamarim Kuntreisim)

Belief in Divine Providence

Ever since the giving of the Torah, when the Jewish people heard G-d Himself declare, "I am the L-rd your G-d," the quality of emuna peshuta, simple faith, has been indelibly engraved upon the Jewish soul. It is with this pure faith that Jews believe that everything that happens in the world is directly controlled by Divine Providence. (Sefer HaSichot 5704)


It Once Happened

The Baal Shem Tov (who passed away on the first day of Shavuot) had yet to become famous. But for the few who had already heard of him, the little they knew was enough to arouse their opposition. Rumors abounded that the Baal Shem Tov was innovating dangerous new ideas contrary to the Torah, and all kinds of false accusations were spread about his teachings. Slanderers fanned the flames of controversy with unfounded and baseless gossip.

Rabbi Yaakov Yosef, the famous rabbi of Polana, was among those who had fallen prey to these half-truths and innuendoes. Believing the rumors to be true, he had publicly come out against the Baal Shem Tov.

Around that time a match was arranged between the daughter of a resident of Polana and the son of one of the Baal Shem Tov's followers, with the wedding slated to take place in the bride's hometown. As part of the agreement, the Chasid stipulated that the Baal Shem Tov conduct the marriage ceremony.

In the beginning the bride's father had no objection, but as the date of the wedding neared he worried that the Rabbi of Polana would disapprove of the Baal Shem Tov officiating. However, the bridegroom's father had been adamant. The only choice was to either fulfill the condition or break the engagement.

After much soul-searching the bride's father decided to consult with the Rabbi, and told him that he was willing to call off the wedding if that was what the Rabbi wanted. Rabbi Yaakov Yosef insisted that it wasn't necessary, and gave the young couple his blessing and good wishes.

The night before the wedding finally arrived. Rabbi Yaakov Yosef was in his study poring over a volume of Talmud but his mind kept wandering. For some reason, he was unable to focus. Suddenly it occurred to him that he should go and meet the Baal Shem Tov for himself. Didn't the Torah demand that a judge conduct a thorough investigation before pronouncing his verdict? How had he allowed himself to form an opinion about the Baal Shem Tov without even seeing him? He stood up and returned the volume to the bookshelf.

It was pitch black outside as the Rabbi made his way to the hall where the wedding would take place the following day. Peeking inside a window, he saw a crowd of people gathered around a middle-aged Jew. The stranger's face fairly radiated with goodness and nobility. "That must be the Baal Shem Tov," Rabbi Yaakov Yosef thought to himself, and pressed his ear against the glass to listen.

It was surprising how the Baal Shem Tov's words carried so clearly. "Your Rav is a very holy man," the Baal Shem Tov was saying, "but on two occasions he made a mistake in judgment." The Rabbi was startled to hear himself the subject of the discussion and paid even closer attention.

"The first time was a few weeks ago, when everyone in the Rabbi's house was busy preparing for Passover. To avoid getting in their way, the Rabbi decided to go up to the attic to study. A few hours later he was thirsty, and not wishing to disturb anyone, went down to the street to wait for a passing water-carrier. Sure enough, a few minutes later one walked by. But much to the Rav's indignation, the water-carrier didn't offer him a drink. The Rabbi took it as a personal affront, but unbeknownst to him the water-carrier was a hidden tzadik [righteous person], who was on his way to meet with some other hidden tzadikim."

The Rabbi was astounded, but there was no time to assimilate what he'd heard as the Baal Shem Tov continued:

"The other time was on the night of Tisha B'Av, when the Rabbi was sitting in the synagogue lamenting the destruction of the Holy Temple, long after everyone else had already gone home. The Rabbi reached such a state of mourning over the Jewish people's exile that he was suddenly overcome with a profound weakness.

"It was the moment the Satan had been waiting for. Disguising himself as an old wayfarer, he entered the synagogue and offered the Rabbi a juicy apple. He encouraged him to break his fast, reminding him that the Torah allows a person to eat on Tisha B'Av if his life is in danger. With a trembling hand the Rabbi took the apple and recited the blessing, but before he could bring it to his lips he realized what had happened and banished the intruder. True, he hadn't actually eaten the apple, but he had recited a blessing in vain. Till this day it remains a blemish on his soul."

How could the Baal Shem Tov have known these things? Rabbi Yaakov Yosef was horrified as pangs of conscience began to gnaw at him. "The Baal Shem Tov is a holy man, and I was greatly mistaken," he admitted to himself.

At that moment the Baal Shem Tov lifted his eyes and looked through the window. "Rabbi of Polana!" he called out. "If you wish to correct the blemish, come to me!"

That very day Rabbi Yaakov Yosef became one of the Baal Shem Tov's most fervent followers. His book, Toldot Yaakov Yosef, was the first to appear in print extolling the Baal Shem Tov's teachings.


Moshiach Matters

The Torah was given in a desert rather than in a place owned by Jews. A place of communal ownership corresponds to the level of Torah which is within the grasp of the Jewish people. The Torah was given in a desert in order to allude to the higher dimension of Torah which is completely beyond human grasp. In this way we receive the dimension of Torah which is completely united with G-d. This will be accomplished completely in the days of Moshiach, when (G-d says), "A new Torah will come out from Me" (Isaiah 51:4). The word "from Me" refers to the Torah as it is completely united with G-d.


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