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Devarim Deutronomy

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662: Vayakhel-Pekudei

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Devarim Deutronomy

L'Chaim
March 23, 2001 - 28 Adar, 5761

662: Vayakhel-Pekudei

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


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  661: Ki Sisa663: Vayikra  

Thinking About Spring  |  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

Thinking About Spring

Gardening supply stores have been encouraging us to think about spring for quite a while already. If you haven't yet ordered your seeds from Burpee, it's too late. Planning in advance and preparing for spring, way before the threat of frost is even over, is a necessity for the serious gardener.

Springtime also happens to bring with it one of the most colorful, widely observed, and vividly recalled Jewish holidays-Passover. In fact, one of the three names by which Passover is mentioned in the Bible is "The Holiday of Spring."

Our Sages enjoin us to begin preparing for each holiday thirty days before the festival begins. When our Sages made this suggestion, they had in mind learning the laws pertaining to the holiday. Many people use this 30-day guideline as a reminder that it's time to start at least thinking about cleaning the house for Passover

Cleaning for Passover and ridding the house of chametz (leavened foods) needn't include "spring cleaning." (Though for some, the smell of Murphy's Oil Soap or Lestoil are just as bound up with Passover as say, matza ball soup and horseradish.) But, you might be surprised to note that the cleaning connected to Passover has a spiritual side as well.

According to Chasidic philosophy, bread and chametz symbolize the egotism and haughtiness within each of us. Chametz puffs up like a haughty person's chest, swells like an egotistical person's head. Matza, on the other hand, is flat, low, humble. Even the fact that its flavor is bland and nearly tasteless, attests to its modesty.

Before Passover, when we are checking cabinets and corners, looking behind bookcases and inside briefcases for chametz, we are laboring at a job that requires minimal brain-work. Which means that we have plenty of time to contemplate whether we've been behaving like chametz or matza for the past year. And if we find that we are full of chametz, then pre-Passover cleaning time is the perfect opportunity to check the closets and corners of our own personalities in order to begin ridding ourselves of these traits.

More likely than not, most of us need these few weeks of preparation and cleansing in order to make sure that our homes, and we, are truly clean and ready for Passover.

But amidst all the physical and spiritual cleaning, don't forget to start making plans for where you'll be spending the seders. Also, check out your local supermarket or grocery store and see if they'll be stocking what you need for the eight-day holiday. If they don't have everything, find out who does. In addition, call your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center or Judaica store to order shmura matza-special handmade matza for at least the two seders (just like the Jews ate when they came out of Egypt).


Living with the Rebbe

While the last few Torah portions contained detailed instructions on how to erect the Sanctuary, Vayakhel (the first of the two portions read this week) interrupts the sequence and introduces a whole new topic.

In the beginning of Vayakhel, Moses gathers the Jewish people together and conveys to them G-d's command to keep the Sabbath: "Six days shall work be done, and the seventh day shall be holy, a Sabbath of rest to G-d."

As the Talmud explains, from the juxtaposition of this commandment we learn which types of labor are forbidden on Shabbat. These are the 39 categories of work that were required to build the Sanctuary.

Nothing in the Torah is coincidental. Every verse, word, letter and diacritical mark is intentional and significant. It is therefore obvious that an inner and essential connection exists between the Sanctuary and the Sabbath.

The 39 categories of labor prohibited on Shabbat are the "principles" - the root or source - of all the different types of work we perform in our daily lives. Everything that exists in the physical world is derived from its spiritual source. Every action and deed we perform throughout the week is therefore derived from the particular tasks that were involved in building the Sanctuary.

Yet in the same way that the Sanctuary is the source of all our physical labors, it is also their ultimate objective. The actions we perform on a daily basis may be simple and mundane, but their inner purpose is to bring sanctity into the material plane and establish a dwelling place for G-d in the physical world.

The Torah commands us, "Six days shall you work," which our Sages interpreted as a positive mitzva. In other words, working is not an option but an obligation, as it states, "Man is born to toil." It is for this reason that our prayers on weekdays are shorter than on Shabbat, i.e., so as not to interfere with our ability to work. G-d wants us to transform the world into a "Sanctuary" to Him through our exertion and effort.

How are we to do this? The Torah provides the answer: "In all your ways you shall know Him." Even our simplest and most mundane actions must be suffused with the knowledge of G-d. Everything we do - from eating and drinking to earning a livelihood - should be viewed as an integral part of our Divine service.

Although it was readily apparent that the Sanctuary was the place where the Divine Presence dwelt, the entire world has the same potential for transformation. Man's task is to bring this potential to fruition, by utilizing every minute for positive good deeds and actions.

Adapted from Volume 1 of Likutei Sichot


A Slice of Life

"It's Never Too Late"
by Steve Hyatt

Recently I was facilitating a diversity training session in Salem, Oregon, at Ganette Enterprises, where I work as a Human Resources professional. I always begin these sessions by asking the participants to introduce themselves and tell us something interesting about their names.

I started by introducing myself and telling the audience that my Hebrew name is Shlomo Yakov Ben Moishe Pincus. As in most classes, it served as a catalyst for a very energetic exchange between me and the participants.

At the conclusion of the session Jeff Gerson, a coworker, said, "I didn't know you were Jewish." He told me he was Jewish but didn't know much about Judaism and had never had a Bar Mitzva.

We spoke for quite a long time about my Jewish background, my experience with Chabad, and how my association with a number of the Rebbe's emissaries had set me on a course of study and exploration that has changed my life. I told him if he ever felt like exploring his Jewish heritage further, I would gladly introduce him to Rabbi Moshe Wilhelm, the Chabad Rabbi in Portland.

I gave Jeff copies of essays I had written chronicling my experience with Chabad and my personal journey of discovery (many of which have appeared on these pages). The next morning I received a beautiful e-mail from him thanking me for the stories and expressing his disappointment at how little he knew of his people and faith.

As soon as I finished reading his e-mail I immediately clicked onto the Amazon.com website and ordered for Jeff an extraordinary book by Herman Wouk, This is My G-d.

The book arrived the next morning and I promptly gave it to Jeff. Two days later he came to me. His eyes were ablaze with passion and excitement. He said, "Steve, I can't believe a man as learned as Mr. Wouk could write a book that explains the basics of Judaism so simply, clearly and concisely. How could a man who is on such a high level of knowledge understand what a person like me, with no knowledge at all, needs in a book? This is the book I've been looking for all my life."

I told him that had been exactly my reaction when Rabbi Chuni Vogel, of Chabad of Delaware, presented the book to me five years ago. It is, and continues to be, an extraordinary primer for someone who wants to learn but has never had the opportunity to do so and has no idea where to start. It was obvious that Jeff was inspired to learn more so I asked him if he would like to go with me to the Chabad House in Portland and have his first aliya, an opportunity to say a blessing over the Torah.

He looked very uncomfortable and said that he would love to but he couldn't read Hebrew. I told him not to worry, together we would learn the prayer necessary for the aliya.

Jeff was so excited he could hardly contain himself. He wanted to know if his wife and son could accompany him. With a big smile I told him he could bring anyone he wanted and we'd even have a big party afterward. We agreed to start studying, and with G-d's help, we would go to shul for his first aliya in January.

As Jeff got ready to leave I was overwhelmed by the need to ask a question. Summoning all of my courage, I asked, "Would you like to put on tefilin?"

"What's that?" he asked. I briefly explained what tefilin are and he said he would be glad to if I'd help him. Before he left we made an appointment to put on tefilin the next morning in my office.

Over the years, my job as a Human Resource professional has afforded me the opportunity to regularly visit the culturally-rich cities of New York and Los Angeles. On more than one occasion I have witnessed energetic, young Lubavitcher yeshiva students standing on street corners, pleasantly asking male pedestrians if they were Jewish.

If the person walking by happened to answer in the affirmative, the boys would politely inquire if he'd like to put on tefilin. Each time I saw this selfless act I marveled. How much love for a fellow Jew these young men had to continue to approach people, who many times clearly didn't want to be bothered. No matter how much I tried, I couldn't imagine possessing a tenth of the courage and enthusiasm these admirable young men demonstrate each Friday afternoon. But that day, I had had the courage to ask Jeff if he wanted to put on tefilin.

When Jeff popped in the next morning he told me that he had called his parents the night before. They were both very excited for him. His Dad told him that since he was about to take this wonderful step, he would send him the pair of tefilin Jeff's grandfather had used daily over 50 years ago!

Over the course of the next few minutes I helped Jeff put on my tefilin. First he put on a talit and I helped him say the appropriate blessing. Then I helped him place the first tefilin on his arm, after which he said the first blessing. We placed the second tefilin on his head, he said the second blessing and then the "Shema." When I told him he was done it was impossible to tell who had the bigger smile on his face, Jeff or I. I took a photo of Jeff and then we spent the better part of the next half hour talking about the experience.

This wonderful moment produced so much positive energy and joy. It was suddenly clear to me why those determined young yeshiva students spend their Friday afternoons trying to help their fellow Jews. Words are inadequate to express the joy of this mitzva. Yes, sometimes it's uncomfortable to approach a stranger or an acquaintance and ask if he'd like to perform a mitzva. But the rewards to everyone far outweigh the initial discomfort.

Jeff and I studied the blessings for his aliya. Every time we got together to study he was so excited he could hardly contain himself. When he finally stepped up to the Torah it was a moment neither of us would ever forget, but that's a whole other story. And at the kiddush that followed, Jeff discovered another hidden treasure I had not told him about earlier, Rebbetzin Wilhelm's delicious kugel!


What's New

Purim Partying

Bringing the Purim celebrations to Israeli soldiers on the front lines, Chabad Chasidim helped ensure that the soldiers could fulfill the mitzvot of Purim, including listening to the Megila, exchanging food gifts, and rejoicing in the holiday.


The Rebbe Writes

Motzoei Shabbos-Kodesh

Rosh Chodesh Adar, 5737 [1977]

To All Participants In the Multiple Inauguration Under auspices of Beit Chabad
Rua Chabad 60, S. P. Brazil

Greeting and Blessing:

I was pleased to be informed about the forthcoming Multiple Inauguration of the Synagogue, Mikve, Library and Rua Chabad in your community.

Each of these constructive achieve-ments would have warranted celebration, particularly in the present unsettled times; how much more so all together.

The function of the synagogue is to serve as a two-way link between created beings and the Creator, whereby man rises upward to G-dliness through worship and prayer, and brings down G-d's blessings materially and spiritually.

The Mikve is the foundation of Jewish family life, ensuring purity and sanctity of the family structure and the continuity of future generations.

The Library, with its books of sacred literature and the wisdom of our Sages, is an inexhaustible source of wisdom and virtue to illuminate man's path in life. Indeed, to make such books freely available to readers has been described by our Sages as "an act of everlasting benevolence."

And Rua Chabad, symbolic of the "Chabad Way," is to develop the intellectual potential of the soul into a harmonious synthesis with the emotions of the heart in the service of G-d and fellow-man, with true love, joy and inspiration, always mindful of the guiding principle that "the essential thing is the deed."

Our Sages said that "an auspicious event is destined for an auspicious day." It is significant that the said inauguration is taking place on Rosh Chodesh [the new month of] Nissan, the day which is historically associated with the inauguration of the sacred Tabernacle of old, and the first day of the Month of Geulo [redemption] - the liberation from bondage celebrated on Pesach [Passover], as well as of the future and final Redemption.

Great, indeed, is the merit of each and all who have a share in making the said inauguration a reality. May G-d bless each and all of you for your help in the past and even greater endeavor in the future, and bestow upon you and yours of His generous bounty, materially and spiritually.

With blessing,


3rd of Nissan, 5727 [1967]

Greeting and Blessing:

I just received the telephone message about your condition, and am awaiting good news about your treatment and relief. May G-d grant that you should have a speedy and complete Refuo [recovery], and that everything turn out to be for the good, the visible and obvious good.

Having entered the auspicious month of Nissan, the present time is particularly propitious for good tidings for all Jews, both materially and spiritually. Moreover, if at all times throughout the year a Jew is to serve G-d in good health and with joy and gladness of heart, this is particularly true for the month of Nissan, a time of considerable preparation for the forthcoming Festival of Liberation, especially the removal of Chometz [leaven] and the bringing in of Matzoh, with all that this signifies, including a thorough spiritual "spring cleaning." There is no need to elaborate on this to you.

I had intended to write to you these days in any case, but will now take advantage of this opportunity to express my gratification at the enthusiasm which your speech evoked at the gathering. . . I am also informed that it left a considerable impact on the audience.

Similarly, I have been informed about the success and lasting impressions of your other appearances.

There is a connection in this continuity of the above, since the inference is how much you can achieve in good health, both in your immediate and distant environment. Hence, it will surely stand you in good stead.

Hoping to hear good news from you in all the above, and wishing you and yours a Kosher and inspiring Pesach [Passover],

With blessing,


Rambam this week

28 Adar 5761

Prohibition 355: having relations without marriage

By this prohibition a man is forbidden to have relations with a woman without duly contracted marriage. It is contained in the Torah's words (Deut. 23:18) "There shall be no harlot of the daughters of Israel" and (Lev. 19:29) "Do not profane your daughter, to make her a harlot."


A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

The month of Nisan begins this Sunday, which our Sages termed "the month of mira-cles." In this month, we observe the holiday of Passover and celebrate the first historical redemption of the Jewish people from Egypt.

The Final Redemption with Moshiach, however, will come about because of two distinct factors: 1) the merit of the Jewish people earned by their service of G-d over the last few thousand years, and 2) simply because G-d has promised to bring Moshiach.

In this context we can better understand the controversy between our Rabbis over the most appropriate month for the Final Redemption. Some Sages held that "In Nisan [our ancestors] were redeemed [from Egypt]; in Nisan [the Jewish people] will be redeemed in the future." Others, however, insisted that the Final Redem-ption will take place in Tishrei (when Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Sukkot fall out).

Chasidut explains that Nisan is symbolic of the aspect of G-dliness that illuminates from Above, independent of man's service. We see this in the fact that the Jews were redeemed from Egypt in Nisan despite being spiritually unworthy. Tishrei, however is symbolic of man's service of the Creator and his transformation into a fitting vessel for G-dliness.

Our Sages' disagreement was based on whichever factor each considered most decisive: Those who believed that the Jews' spiritual status is more important held that the Redemption will occur in Tishrei, insisting that the Jewish people must be aroused to repentance and increased observance in order for Moshiach to come. Those who believed that G-d's promise is the determining factor held it will occur in Nisan.

How was it resolved? Actual religious law concurs with the latter group, ruling that "in Nisan they will be redeemed," for although the world will by then have already been transformed into an appropriate vessel for G-dliness, the revelation of holiness that will suffuse creation will far surpass any level man could have attained by his own effort.

The Rebbe has let it be known that the time for the Redemption is now. May we merit to see Moshiach's revelation immediately.


Thoughts that Count

Moses gathered all the congregation...and said to them: These are the words which the L-rd has commanded, that you should do them (Ex. 35:1)

As Rashi notes, this gathering took place on the day after Yom Kippur. On the holy day of Yom Kippur, everyone is in awe of G-d, suffused with a sense of peace and brotherly love for his fellow man. Moses gathered the Jews together immediately afterward to teach them that Jewish unity should not be limited to Yom Kippur, but should be felt throughout the year.

(Olelot Efraim)

This is the thing which the L-rd has commanded to say...whoever is of willing heart, let him bring an offering...gold and silver and bronze (Ex. 35:4-5)

In his Responsa, Rabbi Shlomo ben Aderet (the Rashba) writes that "it is a mitzva to publicize and make known those who do a mitzva." It is therefore incumbent upon us to "say" - announce publicly - the names of whoever donates money for "the thing, which the L-rd has commanded."

(Pardes Yosef)

Moses called Betzalel and Oholiav, and every wise-hearted man (Ex. 36:2)

Why didn't the "wise-hearted men" come on their own to Moses, and waited until he approached each of them individually? Because a person who is truly wise-hearted doesn't consider himself wise; when Moses issued his call, none of them thought he was talking to them.

(Ketoret Samim)

Of the hundred talents of silver were cast the sockets of the Sanctuary (Ex. 38:27)

The Hebrew root of the word for socket, "eden," has two meanings: 1) a base or doorsill, and 2) lord and master. Both meanings, however, are interconnected. This is alluded to in Rabbi Meir's statement in the Zohar: "He who is small is great; he who is great is small." A person who is as humble as a "doorsill" is truly noble, while one who lords himself over others and feels superior is truly lowly.

(Peninei HaTorah)


It Once Happened

"The time has come for me to depart this world," the father whispered to his son, Matzliach. "But before I die, I wish to impart to you something I was told by own father before he passed away: Choose one mitzva to observe with self-sacrifice and devotion, even if it means spending all your money. In the merit of this mitzva, G-d will protect you from all harm."

With tears in his eyes Matzliach promised his father to carry out his final wishes, and resolved to be particularly scrupulous about washing his hands in the ritual manner upon awakening. Indeed, Matzliach lived up to his promise, and was always very careful to observe this mitzva.

In the meantime Matzliach had become successful, with business dealings in many foreign countries. One time it became necessary for him to go on a business trip to a distant land. Aside from his talit and tefilin and a supply of kosher food, he made sure to take along a giant-sized water skin, so he could wash his hands wherever he went without difficulty.

As was common in those days, Matzliach joined a caravan of other merchants to cross the desert. The camels had only made it halfway through, however, when a terrible storm erupted. Blinding winds whipped up the sand and made it impossible to see where they were going. After a few days of wandering they realized that they had been going in the wrong direction. The wasted time meant that much of their precious water had already been used, and they would now have to pool their supply. As the head of the caravan explained, everyone would receive the same daily portion for the remainder of the journey.

This was not good news for Matzliach, who was forced to relinquish his water skin. And although he resolved to drink very little and use the rest for washing, the daily portion turned out to be a scant few ounces.

Matzliach went to the head of the caravan and explained his predicament. "I need more water to wash my hands," he said, but the camel driver only burst out laughing. "It is entirely out of the question," he told him. "In the middle of the desert washing is a luxury, not a necessity."

But Matzliach could still hear his father's words echoing in his head. "I will give you all my money for an extra allotment of water," he offered. The head of the caravan immediately agreed, and the money was divided among all the travelers. Everyone thought that Matzliach must have lost his mind when he handed over his knapsack filled with golden coins, but the Jew seemed happy with the arrangement.

Towards the end of the journey Matzliach decided there was no longer any reason for him to stay with the group. Without any money with which to conduct business, he left the caravan and set out on his own. That evening he found himself in a forest, and started looking for a spot to spend the night.

Matzliach was deep within the forest when he came across the remains of a campfire. The coals were still warm, indicating that it had only recently been abandoned. A short distance away he found a stream. He quickly bathed, drank to his heart's content and refilled his water bag.

At that moment Matzliach heard the sound of approaching footsteps and scrambled up the nearest tree to hide. When he looked down he saw a band of armed robbers, their arms filled with stolen booty and leading a prisoner along in chains. Matzliach could hardly believe his eyes: Their captive was none other than the head of the caravan, to whom he'd said good-bye that morning.

Matzliach watched as the robbers pushed aside a rock to reveal the mouth of a cave; one by one they entered and disappeared. Matzliach stayed awake the entire night. Towards morning he heard the robbers leave. When the last robber had disappeared over the horizon Matzliach climbed down, pushed the rock aside as he had seen them do, and stepped in.

His eyes were almost blinded by the treasure they encountered. Room upon room was filled with gems, precious stones and coins. Wandering about the cave, Matzliach found two prisoners in irons in a side chamber. One was the head of the caravan, who told Matzliach that their convoy had been attacked just moments after his departure. The other was the only son of the local sheik, who had led a group of soldiers on a failed mission to eliminate the band of robbers. All of the other soldiers had been killed, and the robbers were demanding a huge ransom for his release.

Matzliach immediately freed the captives and they escaped. The sheik was overjoyed to see his son, and on Matzliach's advice, dispatched another group of soldiers who this time captured the robbers and put an end to their terror.

Matzliach, of course, was amply rewarded by the sheik. But as Matzliach knew, everything had happened in the merit of his devotion to observing a mitzva scrupulously.


Moshiach Matters

Judaism sees mankind's ultimate goal as the coming of Moshiach when our entire people will return to the Land of Israel and fulfill the mitzvot of that land. It posits that the ultimate reward will be the Resurrection of the Dead, when all the souls of history will again return to physical bodies and live on this earthly plane. Instead of seeing the supreme peaks as being spiritual, in the mystic realms above our earthly experience, Judaism puts the emphasis here, in this worldly realm.

(From Keeping in Touch by Rabbi Eliyahu Touger)


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