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Devarim Deutronomy

Breishis Genesis

Shemos Exodus

Vayikra Leviticus

   663: Vayikra

663: 11 Nissan

664: Tzav

665: Shmini

666: Sazria-Metzora

667: Achrei Mos-Kedoshim

668: Emor

669: Behar-Bechukosai

Bamidbar Numbers

Devarim Deutronomy

April 27, 2001 - 4 Iyyar, 5761

666: Sazria-Metzora

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  665: Shmini667: Achrei Mos-Kedoshim  

Moving To Moshiach  |  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

Moving To Moshiach

By Yehudis Cohen

Do you remember a time when there was something new going on in your life? Attending a different school, getting married, having a baby, moving to a new neighborhood, redecorating your house?

If you're like most people, this new aspect of your life was all-consuming, at least for awhile.

I can relate. We recently moved. "It has a lot of potential," the real estate agent had said with a smile when he showed us the house for the first time. Seven months later, with workers still leaving their power drills out for my children to find and with the fumes and sounds of work going on around me as I try to concentrate on my work, I can relate.

"All-consuming" meant that wherever I went and with whomever I spoke, eventually (sooner more often than later) I would somehow bring "the house" into the conversation. It was always on my mind. Not that I ever planned to blab about it to total strangers while waiting in line at the supermarket or bore my friends who were sick of hearing about it. But I was so involved with choosing paint colors (did you ever realize how many shades of white there are?) and light fixtures and sending out change of address notifications and packing boxes that I was literally consumed by "the house."

Which doesn't mean that I didn't work on L'Chaim and cook supper and organize monthly women's programs. But now everything was colored by my involvement with - on a constant basis - fixing up, moving into and unpacking "the house."

It occurred to me a few weeks ago that my obsession with the house was a glimpse of what the Rebbe meant when he said that everything we do should be infused with the intention of bringing Moshiach and the awareness that we are on the threshold of the Redemption.

Through studying Torah in general and topics connected with Moshiach and the Redemption in particular, the Rebbe said we hasten the Redemption - an era of inner harmony and international peace, an end to poverty and sickness, and unbounded knowledge. But even more, we actually begin to "live with Moshiach." The desire for the Redemption would take up much of our head-space and bubble over into our conver-sations.

This fixation with Moshiach (or in my case, "the house") does not mean that we disengage ourselves from any healthy pursuits in which we currently participate. On the contrary, we should continue our activities and infuse them with thoughts and talk about Moshiach and the Redemption. "Mei-siach"-"from talking" has the same Hebrew letters as "Moshiach." By studying and then sharing what we've learned with others about Moshiach, we live, breathe, sleep and think the hopes and aspirations of the Jewish people for the past two thousand years.

Living with the Rebbe

The name of a Torah portion is indicative of its contents and theme. The name of the first of this week's two readings, Tazria (literally "when [she] shall conceive") is therefore surprising at first glance, as the entire portion deals with the affliction of leprosy rather than conception and birth. In fact, the Biblical plague of leprosy was the most severe form of spiritual uncleanliness, leading our Sages to declare, "The leper is considered as if dead."

Tazria, however, is an allusion to the positive, inner purpose of all the afflictions and punishments that are prescribed in the Torah, as will be explained:

G-d is the epitome of goodness and loving-kindness. He doesn't punish anyone for the sake of being punitive. His sole intention is to refine and purify the person, to remove the "shell" that was created by his sins, and to elevate him to a higher level. All of the Torah's punishments, even the most stringent, are for the ultimate good of the recipient.

This is also the inner intention of the Biblical plague of leprosy (tzara'at), as distinguished from the modern day illness known as Hansen's Disease. As Maimonides explains, the physical manifestations of tzara'at were miraculous in nature, and were visited on an individual for the sin of lashon hara (gossip). "The first symptoms would appear on a person's house; if he repented, the house would be purified. If he persisted in his wickedness until the house was destroyed, the leather garments in his house would begin to change... If he persisted in his wickedness until they had to be burned, the clothing he wore would be afflicted." It was only if a person did not return to G-d after all these warnings that any symptoms of tzara'at would appear on his body.

Once this happened, the afflicted person had to temporarily leave the rest of society and dwell in isolation. The purpose of this period of separation and reflection was to transform the former sinner into a new entity, one that was purified and refined.

The name of the Torah portion, Tazria, thus reveals the true objective of all the Biblical plagues: the "birth" of a new being, a purer and holier Jew.

This is also the inner meaning of the Jewish people's exile. During the exile, we "sow" mitzvot and good deeds that they may "grow" and flourish when Moshiach comes. The reward we will receive in the Messianic era will not be dissociated from our present service; on the contrary, it will be the natural outgrowth of all the "seeds" we are planting now.

May we merit to see this immediately.

Adapted from Volume 22 of Likutei Sichot

A Slice of Life

Ariel Sharon and the Rebbe: Part I

It was shortly after the Six Day War in 1967 when a group of Chabad Chasidim set up a tefilin stand in front of the newly-liberated Western Wall in Jerusalem. Among the tens of thousands of Jews who put on tefilin was Ariel Sharon.

Among those present that day at the Wall was Rabbi Chaim Gutnick of Australia, who was visiting Israel. When Rabbi Gutnick had a private audience (yechidut) with the Rebbe not long afterward, he told the Rebbe about having seen Sharon. "Nu, and what happened next?" the Rebbe had asked.

Unfortunately, a terrible tragedy took place in the Sharon household only a few weeks later. Ariel Sharon was at home with his two sons, Omri and Gur, when all of a sudden a shot rang out, followed by a scream. "Gur was 11 years old," Sharon later recalled. "Just minutes before he had walked into my room, given me a mock salute and announced that he was going outside to play. I heard the shot, walked outside and found him on the ground, blood pouring from a wound over his eye. I picked him up and ran. I could see that he was dying in my arms.

"This is something a person thinks that he can never overcome, that it is impossible to continue with your life. At that moment, your whole world is destroyed. I thought so, too. The pain is constant and unrelenting; it is always there. But people are tested all the time. Some people are able to withstand even the very worst trials and continue to function. I was fortunate to have the strength to do this."

When Rabbi Yitzchak Gansburg, a Chasid living in Kfar Chabad, heard about the accident, he visited Sharon to perform the mitzva of comforting a mourner. As he recalls:

"When I got there it was early evening. Arik's house was filled with army generals, including Chief of Staff Yitzchak Rabin. As soon as he saw me he called me over into a side room and asked me what I, as a religious person, thought about the tragedy.

"I said to him, 'Look, I'm only a simple Jew. I don't know what to tell you. The only thing I suggest is that you write to the Lubavitcher Rebbe. He will give you the right answers.'

"He didn't understand why he should suddenly write the Rebbe a letter. I explained that the Rebbe is the leader of the entire Jewish people, and that every individual Jew's pain is the Rebbe's pain. He decided to write a letter that very night. I told him I would come back the next morning to pick it up."

The next day Rabbi Gansburg arrived with several other Lubavitchers. "First we prayed the evening service and Sharon said Kaddish. Then he gave us his complete attention. He told us that his son Gur had a real Chasidic neshama (soul). We left him a talit and tefilin and a prayerbook. When we told him that the Rebbe had asked about him during yechidut, he said that he had been very emotionally inspired while standing at the Wall. Before we left he asked us to please ask the Rebbe to write him a few words of encouragement, as the tragedy had affected him to the depths of his being. His close friend Zev Amit walked us to the door and told us that Arik had been looking forward to our visit."

The Rebbe's letter of response to Sharon was sent to Rabbi Gansburg, who personally delivered it to him. "Sharon read the letter very carefully and we discussed it for an hour and a half."

It was around that time that the Jewish Agency sent Sharon to the United States. When Rabbi Gansburg heard about the impending trip, he suggested to Sharon that he take the opportunity to meet the Rebbe in person.

Upon his return from America, Sharon told Rabbi Gansburg about his first yechidut with the Rebbe. "Before I went in to the Rebbe," he told Rabbi Gansburg, "I assumed I would be meeting a Chasidic Rabbi whose only field of expertise was in Torah. I was astounded when the Rebbe began to talk about defense issues so authoritatively one would have thought he was a general in the IDF! He spoke about the different kinds of weapons in use by the Israeli forces. The Rebbe even asked me why we were using a certain gun instead of a superior model. The Rebbe was so thoroughly familiar with all our military vehicles it was as if he was receiving daily intelligence updates!"

The newspaper Maariv ran an article about this first encounter between the Rebbe and Sharon:

"This past Thursday, General Sharon had a very instructive meeting with the Lubavitcher Rebbe. The meeting began at 1:00 a.m. and concluded at 3 in the morning. The Lubavitcher Rebbe demonstrated an unusual degree of knowledge about Israel's military, security and politics, as well as international relations, particularly the goings-on in Washington. The Rebbe also showed an extremely detailed knowledge of the battles of the Six Day War.

" 'Our greatest mistake,' the Rebbe told General Sharon, 'would be to withdraw from our new borders... We must stop trying to please the gentiles. This approach has never helped, and it will never help. There must be no hesitation on the part of Israel. We must uproot the exile from Eretz Yisrael.'

"The Rebbe added, 'If the government were to decide that the newly-liberated territories should be settled, and issued a call to world Jewry to that end, I am sure that a half-million young Jews would respond to the challenge.'

"Regarding the various solutions now being put forward involving either full or partial withdrawal, the Lubavitcher Rebbe said that these plans are liable to cause a worsening of tensions in the future. 'These are solutions that defy the natural order,' the Rebbe declared. In his opinion, the current borders of Israel are its natural borders.

"The Rebbe added painfully that everything that goes on in the Israeli government is immediately known to the world at large. 'Why doesn't the Israeli army state its opinion [about the borders] forcefully?' he asked General Sharon. 'It's a political issue...' Sharon replied. The Rebbe responded with a dismissive wave of the hand. 'It is not a political issue, it is a matter of security. I believe in full faith that we can and must settle the territories.' "

Continued in next issue.

Reprinted from Beis Moshiach magazine.

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The Rebbe Writes

18th of Iyar, 5720 [1960]

Greeting and Blessing:

I received your letter of the 27th of Nissan, and I was very pleased to read in it that your visit in London was enjoyable and beneficial to you. I trust that you will be in communication with your friends there...

With reference to your general frame of mind, I believe I have written to you before about the importance of having absolute faith in G-d, by which I mean the sense and feeling that G-d's Benevolent Providence watches over all the daily affairs of every individual and in every particular. If you will take time out to reflect upon your own affairs you will undoubtedly see how the Divine Providence has participated in them...

We are at present in the period connecting the Festival of Pesach, the Season of our Freedom, with the Festival of Shavuoth, the Season of our receiving the Torah. Both Festivals complement each other in that they brought to the Jewish people not only freedom from moral and physical slavery, but also good health and freedom from all kinds of distractions and difficulties, in order to be able to serve G-d in good health and with a happy frame of mind.

With blessing,

20th of Iyar, 5726 [1966]

Blessing and Greeting:

I am in receipt of your letter of May 9th, in which you write about your son and his emotional state, etc.

You are certainly quite right in thinking that he should not be taken out of the Yeshiva and placed in a public school. Those who think that this change would help his state of mind are very much mistaken, for the effect upon Jewish children in general, and your son in particular, would be in the opposite direction.

As for the question of where there is a Jewish place where he could be accom-modated, it would be well for you to inquire from the Torah u'Mesorah organization in New York City or similar organizations.

When you write to me next, please mention his Hebrew name and also your Hebrew name, as is customary in such a case, and I will remember him in prayer.

With blessing,

P.S. With regard to seeing me personally, it is not necessary, inasmuch as my advice to you would be the same as mentioned above.

12th of Iyar, 5729 [1969]

Prof. - , M.D., Ph. D.
Department of Neurology

Greeting and Blessing:

I duly received your letter in connection with the "Evening with Chasidism" which was arranged by the Friends of Merkos in the Twin Cities.

Although the letter reached me with some delay, after I had already received reports on the success of the affair and the warm response that it had evoked, I was very pleased to receive your letter and to note your personal interest and leading participation in the activities of the Friends of Merkos. However, this acknowledgment is intended to be more than a matter of protocol, for the important thing is that the affair should have continuity, since the response was primarily in the form of aroused interest and by way of introduction to practical things to follow. And although you and your friends are surely doing everything possible in this direction, I trust that these lines will add some stimulation, in accordance with the saying of our Sages, "Encourage the energetic." An important outcome of this and similar affairs is the raising of funds for physical facilities to carry on important youth activities and functions. All the more so that soon vacation time will be with us, and it will be necessary to intensify these activities, for which suitable premises are, of course, a first prerequisite.

I am confident that your personal efforts, as well as the concerted efforts of all the Friends of Merkos in the Twin Cities, will meet with the deserved success, especially as we have the promise, "He who is determined to purify himself and others (according to the emphasis of the Alter Rebbe [Rabbi Shneur Zalman], founder of Chabad) receives help from On High."

Considering the vital cause, the help from On High should be very considerable.

I take this opportunity to express my gratification also at your reporting on Rabbi Feller's inspiring leadership, and of the growing number of fellow Jews who take advantage of the educational activites of Lubavitch. No doubt your good self and other faculty members set a fine example to others.

May you all go from strength to strength in this direction.

With blessing,

Rambam this week

4 Iyar 5761

Prohibition 62: swearing a vain oath

By this prohibition we are forbidden to swear a vain oath. It is contained in the Torah's words (Ex. 20:7): "You shall not take the name of the L-rd your G-d in vain." This means swearing that an existing object is not what it is in fact; that something exists which is impossible; swearing to violate any of the Torah's commandments; or swearing to a self-evident fact.

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

It is traditional to study Ethics of the Fathers on Shabbat afternoons in the weeks between the holidays of Passover and Shavuot. Accordingly, this Shabbat we focus on Chapter 2, which contains the following Mishna:

"Rabbi [Yehuda HaNasi] said: Which is the right path that a person should choose for himself? ...Be as careful in [the performance of a seemingly] minor mitzva as of a major one, for you do not know the reward given for the mitzvot."

The Torah contains a total of 613 command-ments. Some of them are very particular and pertain to a specific time and place, such as the law that all fourth-year fruits of certain species grown in the Land of Israel be brought to Jeru-salem and eaten there. Other mitzvot are broader in scope, such as the prohibition against making images for the purpose of worshipping them.

In general, mitzvot are divided into three categories: statutes, testimonies, and judgments. Statutes are commandments that are entirely above and beyond our understanding. We do not know why we are supposed to observe them.

Testimonies are commandments that we would never have come up with on our own. But once G-d commanded us to obey them, we can under-stand their rationale. They "make sense" to us.

Judgments are commandments that are compelled by logic, rational laws we would want to keep even without the Torah. Human understanding alone would have led us to realize their necessity.

The difference between all these categories of mitzvot- minor and major, rational and not - stems from how much we as human beings are able to understand the "why" behind them. In terms of their essence, however, all mitzvot are an expression of G-d's will, and are the same. The common denominator is that when a Jew does a mitzva he connects himself to G-d, and in this respect all mitzvot are alike. The converse is also true: If, G-d forbid, a Jew transgresses even a tiny "little" one, the damage he inflicts affects the entirety of his connection to G-dliness.

So, "Be as careful in [the performance of a seemingly] minor mitzva as of a major one," for "big" or "small," you're still making G-d happy by doing what He wants.

Thoughts that Count

When a woman conceives and gives birth to a male, she shall be impure for seven days (Lev. 12:2)

In principle, spiritual impurity is caused by the departure of holiness. A holy place or object becomes unclean when the sanctity that once rested on it is no longer there. (It is for this reason that a dead body is considered impure, i.e., the soul that animated it has departed.) Our Sages taught that only G-d holds the "key" to the miracle of birth; only He can "open" the womb or keep it closed. Every birth is therefore a manifestation of holiness, after which the sanctity departs, creating a state of spiritual impurity.

(The Kotzker Rebbe)

Upon the completion of the days of her purity for a son or for a daughter (Lev. 12:6)

Up until the "completion of the days of her purity" the newborn is referred to as a "male" or "female"; only afterward does the Torah call the baby a "son" or "daughter." According to the Torah, 30 days must elapse before a neonate is considered out of danger.

(Meshech Chochma)

And on the eighth day shall he be circumcised (Lev. 12:3)

"How great is the Sabbath," it states in the Midrash, "that an infant isn't circumcised until he has passed [at least one] Shabbat." Another explanation: Experiencing the Shabbat sanctifies the infant, rendering him worthy of entering the Covenant of Abraham.

(Yalkut Yehuda)

On the day of his purification he shall be brought to the kohen (priest) (Lev. 14:2)

Why does the leper have to be brought to the kohen on the same day he is purified? The Biblical plague of leprosy was the consequence of the sin of lashon hara (gossip); when a person habitually engages in a certain behavior, it becomes second nature. On the day the leper was purified, the urge to fall back into his old habits was aroused. He was therefore brought to the kohen for an infusion of strength to be able to resist it.

(Rabbi Hershel)

It Once Happened

"Where will we be staying?" Reb Yeshaya Berlin asked Rabbi Shmuel of Lubavitch (known as the Rebbe Maharash, fourth leader of Chabad, whose birthday was this past Wednesday, 2 Iyar) upon their arrival in Paris.

"At the Alexander Hotel," the Rebbe replied. The Chasidim accompanying the Rebbe on this special trip were surprised. The Alexander Hotel was famous as one of the most luxurious establishments in the city. Members of royalty and other high-ranking dignitaries were its usual guests. "Common" people, no matter how wealthy, never dreamt of crossing its threshold. Yet this was where the Rebbe wished to stay.

The Rebbe then told the Chasidim that he would do the talking, as none of the other members of his entourage spoke French. In fact, the Rebbe Maharash was fluent in many foreign languages, among them Russian, French and Latin. He was also extremely well read in a wide range of subjects and disciplines, in addition to his outstanding scholarship in both the revealed and esoteric aspects of Torah.

At the front desk of the hotel the Rebbe announced that he was interested in reserving a suite of rooms. "There are several suites available at present," the clerk replied, "at a cost of 200 francs per night." It was an almost unimaginable sum of money in those days.

But the Rebbe wasn't satisfied. "Perhaps you have something better?" he inquired. "I wish to stay on the same floor as the game room," the Rebbe insisted. The clerk consulted the register for a moment. "You're in luck," he told the Rebbe. "There's an empty suite next door to the casino." He then quoted a price far higher than 200 francs. The Rebbe asked to reserve three rooms - one for himself, two for the rest of his entourage - but the Chasidim were in no financial position to stay at the Alexander, and found lodging elsewhere.

The Rebbe went up to his quarters and remained there for several hours. In the meantime, the Chasidim came back from their hotel and waited outside the Rebbe's room.

The Rebbe's face was very serious when he eventually opened the door. Much to everyone's astonishment, he then strode purposefully over to the hotel's gambling casino and went inside.

Needless to say, the players at the gaming tables were unaccustomed to guests of the Rebbe's stature joining them in their pursuits. Eyebrows were raised throughout the hall. Trailing after him, the Chasidim were just as baffled as the gamblers. But, from long experience they knew that Rabbi Shmuel certainly had his reasons.

At one of the tables sat a young Jewish man, engrossed in a game of cards. In front of him was a goblet of wine, from which he sipped every now and then. The Rebbe walked over and sat down next to him.

For the first few minutes the Rebbe said nothing and the man continued playing. Then the Rebbe suddenly stretched out his arm and placed a hand on the young man's shoulder. "Young man," the Rebbe said, "it is forbidden to drink the wine of gentiles."

The Rebbe paused a moment to let his words his words sink in. "Non-kosher wine dulls the mind and the heart," he continued, adding the admonition, "Be a Jew." Without further ado the Rebbe stood up, wished him a good night and left the casino.

The Rebbe Maharash was clearly very agitated. Reb Yeshaya Berlin later commented that he never saw the Rebbe in such an emotional state.

A few hours later the young Jewish man was seen making inquiries as to the whereabouts of the gentleman who had spoken to him in the casino. The Chasidim rushed over to show him where the Rebbe was staying, and he was admitted.

The private conversation that ensued lasted several hours. The next morning, the Rebbe Maharash left the hotel.

"It has been many generations since such a pure soul has come down to earth," the Rebbe later explained, referring to the young man. "Unfortunately, it had fallen into the depths of kelipa [the forces of evil]."

Whatever was discussed, the encounter proved to be a turning point in the young man's life. No longer estranged from Yiddishkeit, he returned to full observance of Torah and mitzvot soon afterward. Today, his descendents are G-d fearing, religious Jews.

This was the extent of the Rebbe Maharash's love for his fellow Jew, even one he had never met before.

Moshiach Matters

Why do our Sages describe Moshiach as a "metzora" (one afflicated with a disease resembling leprosy, where blotches form on the skin) and the Holy Temple as "a house afflicted with 'leprosy' "? Since there are blotches of evil in the world that prevent the light of redemption from being manifest, the power of these lights is turned inward and is reflected in the leprous blemishes to be visited on Moshiach and the Temple. Ultimately, however, "the metzora will be purified" and the inner light identified with him will be expressed throughout existence. Then, "the spirit of impurity will be removed from the earth."

(From Keeping in Touch by Rabbi E. Touger)

  665: Shmini667: Achrei Mos-Kedoshim  
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