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Devarim Deutronomy

L'Chaim
July 21, 2000 - 18 Tamuz, 5760

628: Pinchas

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  627: Chukat-Balak629: Matot-Masei  

It Pays To Be Thorough  |  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

It Pays To Be Thorough

You're expecting some guests.

You clean the bathroom, straighten out the books on the bookshelf, dust the furniture, and hide all the bits and pieces in your junk drawer and clutter closet. Everything looks fine from the outside.

And then, like a bolt of lightning, it hits you. How could you have forgotten that among the guests will be your mom, a neat-nut if you ever saw one? Just doing the outside, surface stuff won't be enough.

So you start cleaning a little more seriously. You clean out the fridge, straighten up your bedroom (you were just planning on closing the door), and wash out the bathtub. Then run to get some of Mom's provisions: decaffeinated tea, bran flakes, and spring water.

***

"Next year in Jerusalem" "I believe with perfect faith..." smashing a glass under the chupa... At different moments in our lives, consciously or unconsciously, we have prayed for the Redemption.

Throughout our lives, the mitzvot we have done have helped to hasten the Redemption--the ultimate purpose for the creation of the world. Our mitzvot--those between ourselves and G-d and those between ourselves and our fellowmen--have been effecting spiritual changes in the world which will eventually lead to the spiritual and physical perfection of the world in the Messianic Era.

What does all of this have to do with guests and cleaning?

In our regular day-to-day lives, we straighten a little, take the garbage out, load up the dishwasher, do the laundry. We listen to a friend's tale of woe, give a coin to a street person, visit a sick friend, drive the kids to Hebrew school.

At special times, when "guests" are coming, we clean a little more vigorously and straighten a bit more enthusiastically. We go to a seder, light a Chanuka menora, hear the sounding of the shofar.

Then, there's now. Not just any guest is coming, a very close relative will be arriving soon. And special measures need to be taken. We know we need to clean the insides--the insides of our fridge and the inside of the tub. We go beyond the closed doors of our bedrooms and closets and straighten those up, too.

A special guest will be arriving soon, a close relative to every one of us--Moshiach. It should hit us like a bolt of lighting: We have to do more than we've done in the past. We have to clean up the insides and behind the closed doors. We have to do more mitzvot, go to classes, read about Moshiach and the Redemption. We have to go out of our way to have in our house the "necessities" that this special guest would like to see there: mezuzot on our doors, Jewish books, a tzedaka box in a place of importance. And we have to try to live like the Redemption is already here by being kinder, more considerate, less competitive, more truthful.


Living with the Rebbe

In the Torah, the laws of Shabbat and Yom Tov are enumerated in two different Torah portions, Emor and Pinchas.

At the end of Emor the Torah states, "And Moses declared (vayedabeir) the festivals of G-d to the Children of Israel."

At the end of this week's Torah reading, Pinchas, the Torah states, "And Moses said (vayomeir) to the Children of Israel according to all that G-d had commanded."

What is the difference between "declaring" and "speaking," and what are we to learn from this distinction?

The Torah portion of Emor deals primarily with the prohibition against labor on Shabbat and holidays, and enumerates the particular mitzvot that are associated with each of them, such as matza on Pesach, the sukka and the Four Kinds on Sukkot, etc.

The Torah portion of Pinchas, by contrast, deals primarily with the various sacrifices that are offered on Shabbat and festivals.

The commandments contained in Emor are thus mitzvot that we can perform at all times, regardless of whether or not the Beit Hamikdash (Holy Temple) is standing. Refraining from work on Shabbat and observing the particular mitzvot of each holiday is something that is done by the Jewish people even in exile.

The bringing of sacrifices, however, is dependent on the existence of the Beit Hamikdash. In exile we can only study the Torah verses that refer to them, and recite them in prayer. When a Jew studies these laws, G-d considers it as if he has actually brought that particular sacrifice. For example, when we study the laws of the olah (burnt) offering, G-d considers it as if we had actually offered an olah in the Holy Temple.

When speaking of the obligations and prohibitions that apply in any era, the Torah uses the relatively harsh word "vayedabeir"; when speaking of the sacrifices we can only bring in the times of the Beit Hamikdash, the Torah uses the softer and more gentle term, "vayomeir." In doing so, G-d is entreating us to involve ourselves in the study and recitation in prayer of these laws, even when they are not applicable in the physical sense.

May it be G-d's will that in the merit of our study of the laws of sacrifices, we will very soon be able to actually offer them on the altar of the Third Beit Hamikdash, speedily in our days.

Adapted from Volume 18 of Likutei Sichot


A Slice of Life

B.C.P. (BEFORE CELL PHONES)

Michoel Friend

by Tzvi Jacobs

Seems like ages ago, the days before cell phones, but it was only five years ago, July 16, 1995. I was waiting at a mall entrance just outside of Rochester, New York. Waiting and waiting.

"Where's Michoel?" I said to myself. Michoel had wanted to visit some friends but would be leaving Buffalo, New York, at 1:00 pm and would meet me at 2 pm. I wished I could call him. But who had cell phones in those days? Certainly not Michoel or me.

Michoel could have stayed in Buffalo longer, but I had to be at work the next day. Such a heart of gold. I hope he's all right. The Three Weeks of mourning had begun the previous day. This year the 17th day of Tammuz fell out on Shabbat, so the fast was pushed off until today, a sunny Sunday.

"Excuse me," I said to the teenaged boy ambling towards the mall. "What time is it?"

The startled boy stopped and stared at me from behind the bangs that covered most of his right eye.

"What time is it?" I asked again.

With effort, he focused on his watch. "Ten till three. Are you a rabbi?"

"No, not a rabbi, but I'm Jewish," I said with a smile. "Do you have a Jewish mother?"

"Yeh, both my parents are Jewish, but we aren't religious."

"Religious, not religious, you still have a holy soul that needs is to be nourished," I said, reaching into my tefilin bag. Before Andy knew it, I had wrapped the leather straps around his left arm and his forehead, and he was saying the Shema ("Hear, O' Israel ") prayer. I asked him to pray that my friend makes it safely to the mall.

As I unwrapped the leather straps from Andy's arm, I told him about the 17th of Tammuz, when Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the Ten Commandments. When Moses saw the Jews worshipping the golden calf, the holy letters flew off the sapphire tablets and the precious tablets crashed against the rocks.

"See you've been busy," a voice whispered from behind me.

"Michoel, thank G-d, you made it."

"Sorry, I'm late. Who's your friend?"

I introduced Michoel to Andy, and gave Andy my phone number in Morristown and off we went.

When Michoel wasknown as "Michael" and working on his doctoral degree in psychology at the University of Buffalo, he had met Rabbi Heschel Greenberg, one of the Rebbe's emissaries there. By the time Michoel graduated, he was fully observant and ready to settle down.

"Think we'll get to Binghamton in time?"

Michoel had said that he didn't mind driving today but he wanted to make sure we prayed the afternoon service with a minyan. No mitzva is small, especially when you're a baal teshuva [a "returnee" to Judaism], age 29, and anxious to find your bashert (intended match). On a fast day, the gates of Heaven are open, ready to receive one's heartfelt prayers. It was already 3:40 p.m.

"Well, it's going to be tight. Do you want to try to find a minyan in Syracuse?"

Michoel shook his head "no" and pushed on the gas pedal a little harder.

"Be careful, Michoel. Your father's not a judge in New York State." Michoel's father was a judge in Morristown, New Jersey. I had heard of Judge Friend way before I had met Michoel.

On that ride Michoel told me about how his American born grandfather became the first Jewish mayor of Clifton, New Jersey. Michoel went with his family to a Conservative synagogue and later felt a desire to experience more. After college, he travelled around the U.S., lived on a kibbutz in Israel, and eventually returned to the United States and enrolled in a doctoral program at the University of Buffalo.

"Binghamton, 27 miles," the green sign said. I had stopped at the modest, one-story, brick shul in Binghamton three or four times during the past five years. Usually I have to ask directions; this time we wouldn't have time to get lost.

The blue sky was fading, a hint of pink moved up above the trees. It would be a miracle if we got there for the beginning of mincha.The highway curved. "Binghamton, next 3 exits," the sign read.

"Take this exit, Michoel. Go down a mile."

The road looked familiar. "Riverside Drive, that's the street, turn right." We turned and I peered at the street sign. "I think this is it. Keep going. The shul is on the left. There it is. Beth David."

We jumped out of the car and darted across the street. I saw a man standing behind the tall glass window, anxiously waving us in. Looks like they need us for a minyan, I thought.

As we briskly walked in, they opened the Holy Ark and took out the Torah scroll. I glanced around and saw about a dozen men and teenaged boys. Before we even had a chance to sit, they asked Michoel his name and called him up to the Torah. Afterwards, they called me up. The sun was setting and everyone prayed the afternoon service.

After the service, I approached the man who had been anxiously waving us in. "I thought maybe you needed us for a minyan. But I see you had a minyan without us."

"Of course, we had 13 men. Didn't you call to say you needed a minyan?"

"No, it wasn't us."

"Someone called from the highway, just outside of Syracuse. He said that he needed a minyan, and pleaded that we should wait for him. We were supposed to start services at 7:50; we held up the minyan 15 minutes and started when we saw you. You didn't call?"

"No, at least not by phone."

Those were the days, before cell phones. Someone heard Michoel's call, many times over.

During that coming year, Michoel found a job in his field, met his wife, and married - and he still catches many a minyan.


What's New

RUSSIAN LANGUAGE PUBLICATIONS

Since its founding in 1979, Bris Avrohom has provide material and spiritual assistance to Jews who have emigrated from the former Soviet Union to the tri-state (NY, NJ, CT) area. To this end, Bris Avrohom has published books in Russian or Russian/Hebrew to allow all Jews to participate fully, year round, in all Jewish prayer services, holiday and traditional observances. Titles available include: The Tehillat Hashem prayerbook, Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur Machzor, the Five Books of Moses, Five Books of Moses with Commentary, Passover Hagada, Tanya, Jewish Mourning and Funeral Guide. For more information call the Bris Avrohom Center at (908) 289-0770.


The Rebbe Writes

Rosh Chodesh Menachem Av, 5743 [1983]

Dr. - M.D., F.R.C.P.

Greeting and Blessing:

I received your letter of the 19th of Tammuz, and I appreciate your thoughtfulness in writing to me in detail about our esteemed mutual friend. No doubt you have already heard from your patient, who has kept in touch with me.

I am most gratified to note the personal attention and concern you have shown towards your patient. There is certainly no need to emphasize to you how important it is for the patient - also therapeutically - to know that his doctor is taking a special interest in him. This is all the more important in a case of a sensitive person, and especially as our mutual friend is truly an outstanding person who lives by the Torah, and particularly, by the Great Principle of the Torah V'Ohavto L'Reacho Komocho ["You shall love your neighbor like yourself].

The above, incidentally, is particularly timely in connection with the present days of the Three Weeks, which remind all Jews to make a special effort to counteract, and eventually eliminate, the cause which gave rise to the sad events which these days commemorate, and hasten the day when these sad days will be transformed into days of gladness and rejoicing.

Wishing you Hatzlocho [success] with this patient and all your patients, and in all your affairs.

With blessing,

14th of Tammuz, 5728 [1968]

Greeting and Blessing:

I received your letter of the 5th of July, which reached me with some delay.

You are quite right that I was surprised at the tenor of your letter. For although such a mood would be quite understandable in regard to another person, it does not harmonize with a believing Jew. As we have talked about it many times, there is every reason to hope with certainty that all the difficulties and setbacks in the Parnossoh [livelihood] situation will be overcome.

You should be quite strong in your Bitachon [faith] in G-d that the time will come - and may G-d grant that it should be very soon - when both of you will realize that the difficulties and trials of the past were Divine blessings in disguise and will be able to say, "I thank Thee O G-d for having been "angry" with me" (Isa. 12:1), for you will see how much G-d's kindnesses have recompensed you for the past, in regard to Parnosso, good name, etc., and above all, in the area of true Yiddish Nachas [Jewish pleasure] from your children.

With blessings,

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, com memorating the sad events which led to the destruction of the Beis Hamikdosh [Holy Temple] 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 [additional prayer said on Sabbath and holidays] Prayer: "Be cause 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 [exile], every one of us must work all the harder to bring Jews closer to the Torah and Mitzvos. Thus, every effort in this direc tion brings all the nearer the appearance of Moshiach Tzidkeinu [Our Righteous Moshiach], who will usher in the true and complete Geulah [Redemption]. May it come speedily in our days.

With blessing,


Rambam this week

18 Tamuz 5760

Prohibition 81: extinguishing the altar fire

By this prohibition we are forbidden to extinguish the fire on the altar of the Holy Temple. It is contained in the Torah's words (Lev. 6:6): "Fire shall be kept burning upon the altar continually; it shall not go out."


A Word from the Director

The interval between the 17th of Tamuz and the 9th of Av is known as the "Three Weeks," the period in which the Holy Temple was destroyed. After the destruction, G-d showed the prophet Ezekiel an image of the Temple and commanded him to convey its likeness to the Jewish people.

"Master of the universe!" Ezekiel protested. "The Jews are scattered and dispersed among their enemies. How can You command me to describe the Temple to them? Are they in any position to actually rebuild it? Why don't You wait until the exile is over? Then I will go and convey Your message."

Answered G-d: "Why should the building of My House be nullified just because My children are in exile? Reading about it in the Torah is as great as actually erecting it. Go and tell them that they must study the Torah's verses about the Temple's structure. As their reward, I will consider it as if they are actually engaged in its construction."

The obligation to build the Temple is not abrogated by our being in exile. When Jews study the laws pertaining to the Temple's appearance and service, G-d deems it as if we are actually working to erect the physical Temple. The commandment to build the Temple is a perpetual mitzva that applies in all times and places. During the Three Weeks, our study of these subjects is intensified.

Maimonides writes in his Laws of Kings that the Third Holy Temple will be built by man, i.e., by Moshiach. The Midrash, however, states that it will be built by G-d and descend from heaven. How do we reconcile this apparent contradiction?

Those elements that are clearly delineated in the Talmud will be constructed by human hands; the components that are written about in Ezekiel (which are beyond our comprehension, as the language is cryptic and esoteric) will be built by G-d. And because G-d Himself will participate in the building of the Third Holy Temple, it will endure forever as a lasting edifice.

May the merit of our increased Torah learning make it happen immediately!


Thoughts that Count

Our father. was not in the company of those who gathered together against the L-rd in the company of Korach; but died in his own sin, and had no sons.And Moses brought their cause before the L-rd (Num. 27: 3; 5)

Moses was reluctant to judge the case of the daughters of Tzelofchad, lest their claim that their father was not "in the company of Korach" be misconstrued as a "bribe" that would invalidate his decision. He therefore turned the matter over to G-d, allowing Him to judge it directly. (Minchat Chinuch)

Let the L-rd, the G-d of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation (Num. 27:16)

Years later, in the times of the Prophet Samuel, the Jewish people would make another request for a Jewish leader when they demanded, "Give us a king." Moses asked G-d to appoint a head "over the congregation," whereas the later request was for a leader who could be easily manipulated by the people. (Degel Machane Efraim)

Who may go out before them, and who may go in before them, and who may lead them out, and who may bring them in (Num. 27:17)

A true Jewish leader is one who does not alter his opinions according to popular demand. Only a leader of such stature has the power to "lead the Jewish people out" of all difficulties, and "bring them in" to the realm of holiness. (Even HaEzel)

It is a continual burnt offering (olat tamid), which was ordained at Mount Sinai (Num. 28:6)

The words "olat tamid," which mean literally "continually rising upward," allude to the "concealed love of G-d" that is an essential component of the Jewish soul. It is derived from the Jewish people's experience at Mount Sinai, when the revelation of G-d's Essence was so intense that from that point on it became an integral part of their very being. (Ohr HaTorah)


It Once Happened

The Kaiser of Austria once had a Jewish minister named Rabbi Shimshon. The Kaiser respected him greatly, and enjoyed the Viennese Rabbi's company. One day the topic turned to the Jewish people. "How is it," the Kaiser asked, "that such an intelligent and hardworking people is still in exile? No other nation can hold a candle to the Jews' endurance. It just doesn't make sense."

The Rabbi sighed deeply before responding. "Your Excellency," he replied, "I'm sorry to say that the reason is baseless hatred and jealousy. That is what is preventing them from being redeemed." The Kaiser nodded his head, but had difficulty accepting this answer.

One day, during a particularly cold winter, the Kaiser went out hunting. Deeper and deeper into the forest he went, until eventually he was lost. Night fell, and the Kaiser was alone in the pitch darkness. Seeing a faint light in the distance he started to walk toward it, but a river blocked his way. With no other choice, the Kaiser removed his clothes and swam across.

The Kaiser reached a small village and knocked on the doors. "Only a lunatic would go around in a thin shirt in such bitter cold," the villagers thought as they peered through the cracks suspiciously. No one was willing to admit a wet and disheveled stranger into his home.

The Kaiser was on the brink of despair when a door was suddenly opened by a Jew, who was filled with pity at the sorry sight. He invited the stranger inside and ran to fetch him a hot drink.

"Maybe he's a robber!" the Kaiser heard the Jew's wife whisper. "No matter," the husband replied, "he's still a human being."

The Kaiser asked for something to eat, whereupon the Jew served him a whole meal. "You'll see, he's not going to pay," the Kaiser heard the wife complaining. "Nonetheless, he's still a human being," the Jew said.

The Kaiser went over to the stove to warm his frozen limbs. Removing the Jew's fur coat from its hook, he asked his host if he could wear it. "Just watch," the wife warned her husband. "He's going to bolt outside. The whole thing is a ruse to steal your coat." "Don't worry," the Jew reassured her. "I'll stay up all night learning and watch him." Within minutes the Kaiser had fallen fast asleep.

The next morning the Kaiser asked where he could hire a wagon and driver. The Jew told him that he owned a wagon, and would be happy to deliver his guest to his destination. "Be careful," his wife whispered before they left. "Make sure he doesn't kill you and steal both the wagon and the horse!"

But the Jew paid no attention to his wife's warning. The two men climbed into the wagon and set off. "Where would you like me to drop you off?" the Jew asked. "In the palace courtyard," the stranger answered. "The palace courtyard?" the Jew replied nervously. "It's against the law - surely we'll be punished." The man assured him that nothing bad would happen.

When they reached the palace gates the stranger suddenly jumped off the wagon and ran inside, still wearing the Jew's fur coat. At that second the wagon was surrounded by guards, who arrested the Jew and took him into custody. "My wife was right," the Jew thought to himself. "Not only did he steal my coat, but now I'm in even bigger trouble."

The trembling Jew was led before the Kaiser, who was now dressed in royal garb. The Jew recited the blessing upon seeing a king, but kept his eyes averted. "Don't you recognize me?" the Kaiser asked him. "I - I've never seen your Excellency before," the Jew stammered.

"But I know you very well," the Kaiser replied. "I know where you live. I can even describe your house." The Kaiser proceeded to enumerate the Jew's humble furnishings. "No one is as wise as our Kaiser," the Jew mumbled.

"A whole night I spent in your house, and still you cannot recognize me?" the Kaiser finally asked in exasperation. The Kaiser then related the story of what had happened the night before, how no one but the Jew had opened his door and offered him refuge.

"How much do I owe you for your hospitality?" the Kaiser asked. "Would ten silver coins be enough?" The Jew was silent. "Fifty? One hundred?" the Kaiser continued, but the Jew didn't open his mouth.

"A thousand? Ten thousand? Maybe you'd like a large property with fields and orchards?" The Jew stood there and said nothing.

The Kaiser was running out of patience. "If you don't answer me, I will not give you a penny more than you deserve for my food and lodging!" The Kaiser's simple suggestion allowed the Jew to find his tongue. "Your Excellency," he said, "I have one request. I derive my livelihood from buying and selling notions. But there's another Jew in the next town who comes to my village every week and competes with me. Perhaps you can order him to stay away from my customers?"

The Kaiser was astonished and shook his head. "The Rabbi was right," he said, "when he told me that jealousy is the cause of the Jews' continued exile. This Jew could have been a wealthy landowner, but the only thing that interests him is getting rid of his competition."


Moshiach Matters

You are our G-d; You are our L-rd; You are our King; You are our Deliverer; You will save us. You will arise and have mercy on Zion, for it is time to be gracious to her; the appointed time has come! (From the Ein Kelokeinu prayer)


  627: Chukat-Balak629: Matot-Masei  
   
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