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                         L'CHAIM - ISSUE # 670
                           Copyright (c) 2001
                 Lubavitch Youth Organization - L.Y.O.
                              Brooklyn, NY
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   Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.
        May 25, 2001            Bamidbar           3 Sivan, 5761

                             Jewish Camping

Think back to a recent vacation. Do you remember all of the excitement
surrounding the plans for every aspect of the trip? The other people
with you (family? friends?) agreed on all of the where's, when's and
how's, so making plans was a breeze, right?

Probably not. Often, "dream" vacations turn into nightmares as each
participant pushes to have his own expectations, desires, budget and
interests met.

When the Jewish people journeyed from Egypt toward Mount Sinai, there
were millions of people travelling together. The actual travelling could
accurately be described as a dream turned nightmare. But something
utterly unique happened once they reached Mount Sinai.

"They had journeyed from Refidim and had come to the desert of Sinai,
camping in the desert; and Israel camped there before the mountain," the
Torah says (Ex. 19:2).

Our Sages note that the verse uses a plural form for "journeyed...had
come... camping..." and a singular form for "Israel camped there" - as
one person, with one heart. By virtue of this unity they received the
Torah. G-d said: "As they hate dissension and love peace, and they have
become a singular encampment, the time has come to give them the Torah!"
For "the purpose for which the whole Torah was given is to bring peace
upon the world, as it is said, 'Her ways are the ways of pleasantness,
and all her paths are peace "' (Proverbs 3:17).

People differ physically and mentally. Individual distinctions, however,
need not separate and divide. They complement and supplement one
another. Joining and harmonizing the differing yet complementing aspects
in everyone thus leads to a higher-ultimate-unity and perfection.

The Jewish people at Sinai sensed this ultimate and absolute unity
joining them together. In that frame of mind, therefore, "as one person,
with one heart," they jointly desired and anticipated receiving the
Torah, and that is when G-d gave it to them.

It is likewise with the Redemp-tion. Of the Messianic era it is said
that "the preoccupation of the entire world will be solely to know G-d."

All knowledge of G-d derives from the Torah. Moshiach's ultimate
function, therefore, will be to "teach the entire people and instruct
them in the ways of G-d, and all nations will come to hear him." He will
reveal novel understandings of the presently hidden, unknown and
esoteric teachings of the infinite Torah, allowing people "to attain
knowledge of their Creator to the extent of human capacity." In order to
make it possible for the world to partake in these new revelations, the
Messianic era will thus be a time of peace and harmony, with "neither
famine nor war, neither envy nor strife."

As we look forward to the Redemption, we must prepare for that new
revelation even as we had to prepare for the revelation at Sinai. We
must overcome all differences that may lead to dissension and
divisiveness, to become as "one person, with one heart" by concentrating
on that which unites us, on the common denominator we all share. Peace
and harmony will surely hasten the universal and everlasting peace of
the Messianic era.

             Adapted from Living With Moshiach by Rabbi J. Immanuel
                  Schochet, published by Kehot Publication Society.

This Shabbat we begin reading from the Book of Numbers, whose Hebrew
name, Bamidbar, means "in the desert." There are many places in the
world that, from a Jewish perspective, are "deserts." Lacking even the
most basic necessities of a Jewish community, the surrounding atmosphere
is not one of Torah and sanctity. From a physical standpoint it might be
a luxurious garden spot, but in the spiritual sense it is a "desolate

A Jew finding himself in such a location might think that it is
impossible to lead an authentic Jewish life under these conditions. He
might even begin to compromise his Judaism, at first relinquishing those
elements he doesn't consider "essential," yet gradually giving up things
that really are. "Here it is different," he may say to himself. "A Jew
cannot be expected to behave the same as if he lived in a traditional,
Jewish neighborhood."

However, when we consider this week's Torah portion, the fallacy of such
thinking becomes apparent. The Torah relates how the task of carrying
the numerous components and vessels of the Sanctuary was divided among
the Levite families. It describes how the journeys were conducted and
how the Sanctuary was erected in every location the Jewish people
encamped. Indeed, it is quite astounding when we remember that all this
occurred in a barren wilderness, devoid of human habitation.

How was this possible in a place without life, let alone any trace of
holiness or Judaism? And yet, the very first thing the Jews did upon
arriving in an encampment was to erect the Sanctuary, immediately
transforming it into a holy place where they could serve G-d!

The Torah thus teaches that G-d has not limited the power of holiness to
operate only under certain specific conditions. Wherever a Jew goes, be
it a "desolate wasteland" in the physical or spiritual sense, he has the
ability to establish a "sanctuary" to G-d, to sanctify that place and
spread the light of Torah and mitzvot.

All that is necessary is to allow the inner light of the G-dly soul to
illuminate, to light up the correct path to follow. The Jew will then
see how all obstacles and difficulties will disappear, until he too will
reach the "Holy Land."

This concept, which applies to all Jews, is especially relevant to
Jewish women. In the same way that the Jewish women were the first to
contribute to the physical Sanctuary, so too do they play a unique role
in erecting a spiritual sanctuary to G-d. As the "akeret habayit," the
core and mainstay of the home, the Jewish woman has the unique ability
to establish a Jewish tone in the home, and the strength to protect her
family from negative influences.

                            Adapted from Volume 2 of Likutei Sichot

                             SLICE OF LIFE
                           Chaim's Bar Mitzva
                         By Rabbi Yossy Goldman

I wouldn't call it your typical Bar Mitzva. There was no reading from
the Torah by the Bar Mitzva boy and no chanting the haftorah. Yet, it
was awesome and awe-inspiring, heart-warming and heartbreaking; it was
Chaim's Bar Mitzva.

Chaim was born a healthy child to healthy parents. A precocious redhead,
he was a bundle of energy. Then, out of the blue, at the age of one and
a half, Chaim contracted a "virus" and started shaking uncontrollably.
Batteries of tests followed, visits to specialist, but things went from
bad to worse. "It will go away," said one expert. "The same way it came,
the same way will it go," said another. "Be patient," said a third.

That was over a decade ago. Chaim is still plagued by "the virus." He is
still shaky, spilling things a dozen times a day. His condition is a
constant weight on the shoulders of his loving, dedicated parents; a
daily and nightly burden on his siblings. All of them have learned to be
masters of patience. Their tolerance levels are remarkable. Somehow,
they accept Chaim's difficult behavior.

Chaim goes to a special school. In the summer, he attends a remarkable
overnight camp where children with special needs are given a vacation by
angels in human form who give up their vacations to be counselors at the
now-famous Camp HASC.

The easiest thing for Chaim's parents would have been to hold a small,
quiet Bar Mitzva party for their special son. A low-profile kiddush at
shul and a little private party for close family and friends would have
been quite acceptable under the circumstances. But Chaim's parents are
made of different stuff. They made the bold decision to celebrate
Chaim's Bar Mitzva in the same way they had celebrated the Bar Mitzvas
of their two older sons - a hall, a catered affair, a band, the works.

The extended family wasn't sure it was the right decision. Would Chaim
be able to cope with the stress of being on center stage? Would he
perform? Would he behave?! But the decision was made and his parents
stuck with it.

The Shabbat meals were hosted at home. Chaim's mother served lavishly.
Guests spoke at the table, words of Torah, words of wisdom, and many
beautiful blessings filled the atmosphere.

Chaim wore a new black hat that he was quite proud of. On Shabbat
morning in shul, Chaim was called to the Torah. With his father standing
by his side, he recited the blessings on the Torah relatively clearly
and articulately. The atmosphere at lunch was much more festive. One
hurdle passed.

The camp counselors who came to spend Shabbat with the family took turns
speaking at lunch. Each one told how it was a privilege for him to be
part of these special children's lives and how their own lives had been
enriched from the experience. They thanked Chaim and his friends for
teaching them to appreciate the blessings most of us assume are our

I felt humbled; so small, so ordinary. Here was true greatness. These
were real-life heroes, regular guys who stood above the mediocre crowd.

Then came Sunday to the big party. Hundreds of guests attended. To see
Chaim's face shine every time one of his classmates arrived was a study
in simcha (joy). The first dance began. Chaim and his special friends
danced the hora together with Chaim hoisted onto his counselor's
shoulders. Soon Chaim and his friends were all up on shoulders screaming
with joyous delight, faces radiant.

Have you ever danced and cried at the same time? Dancing, crying,
singing, and weeping, a kaleidoscope of emotions whirled around in my
heart, confusing my brain. My handkerchief was wet, saturated with tears
of joy, tears of sadness.

The lead singer sang a song from Psalms, "Hazorim b'dima b'rina yiktzoru
- Those who sow in tears shall reap with joy." I was reminded of the
Chasidic interpretation: "Those who sow in tears with joy, they shall
reap." When Chaim said a short Dvar Torah, part of the traditional
Chasidic discourse said at Lubavitcher Bar Mitzvot, I felt a tangible
fulfillment of that verse. His folks must have worked very hard to help
him achieve that momentous milestone.

I was called upon to speak. I put aside my notes and recalled a visit
some years back by a group of Israeli soldiers to the U.S.A. These were
soldiers who had been wounded in Israel's wars. Some were paraplegic,
others maimed, each one a holy soul in a broken body. They had elected
to give up a night on Broadway to visit with the Rebbe. The big shul
downstairs at 770 Eastern Parkway was cleared, ramps for wheelchairs
installed and the Rebbe came down to speak to these soldiers, each of
whom had given so much for our people.

The focus of the talk was how when a person is, G-d forbid, deficient in
one faculty, he is compensated in another. When individuals are
physically challenged, said the Rebbe, G-d gives them extra strength in
the spiritual realm. You should not be called "handicapped," but
"metzuyanim," those who excel!

Chaim is a metzuyan, I said. Tonight we have witnessed excellence. He
may not be able to perform the same as you and I; he may not possess the
skills you and I routinely take for granted. But Chaim excels at many
things, including making the rest of us more aware, more sensitive and
much more humble.

As a Rabbi of a large congregation, I'm called upon quite often to
speak. There have been some very difficult speeches over the years. But
none were as difficult for me as my speech at Chaim's Bar Mitzva. You
see, Chaim is my brother's son.

                  Rabbi Goldman lives in Johannesburg, South Africa

                               WHAT'S NEW
                         Shavuot Across America

Tzivos Hashem has arranged a Shavuot Competition for children throughout
North America. Any child who goes to the synagogue on the first day of
Shavuot (May 28) and listens while the Ten Command-ments are being read
from the Torah can be entered in a raffle to win one of ten scooters.
Contact your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center for a contest brochure or
enter online at Children can also participate
by mailing their  name, address and parent's signature that they
attended synagogue and heard the Ten Commandments to: Shavuot
Competition, 332 Kingston Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11213. Or fax the above to
(718) 467-8527.

                            THE REBBE WRITES
                   Erev [eve of] Shavuos, 5735 [1975]

Greeting and Blessing:

At this time before Shavuos, the Festival of Mattan Torah [the Giving of
the Torah], I send you and yours my prayerful wishes for a happy and
inspiring Yom Tov [holiday] and the traditional blessing to receive the
Torah with joy and inwardness, and may the joy and inspiration be with
you throughout the year.

No doubt you received my previous correspondence. I trust that this
letter will find you in good health and spirits - which is also relevant
to Shavuos. For, as our Sages of blessed memory tell us, before G-d gave
the Torah to our people at Sinai, all those who were in ill-health were
cured and invigorated. This is also understand-able, since a healthy
Jew, physically, can better understand and follow the Torah and Mitzvos
and accomplish all that he has to.

By extension to the other end, it follows that a Jew is duty-bound to
take care of his health, since the health of the Neshomo [soul] depends
largely on the health of the body, and both are required to accomplish
the maximum. This is particularly important in the case of a person whom
Divine Providence has given a special standing in the community, to be a
source of inspiration to many. I am pleased to know that Mrs. - is a
true helpmate.

Wishing you again a happy and joyous Yom Tov,

With blessing,

                                *  *  *

                    Rosh Chodesh Sivan, 5738 [1978]

...I take this opportunity of expressing my regret that - for reasons
you are aware of - it was impossible to talk things over with you
personally and at length, nor to meet your younger daughter. However,
when Jews meet at a Farbrengen [Chasidic gathering] dedicated to Torah
and Yiddishkeit [Judaism], in a sacred place of Tefilah [prayer] and
Torah study, especially one that had been graced by the presence of my
father-in-law of saintly memory for ten years - this unites Jews and
brings them closer together than a personal conversation.

Apropos of the above, and in connection with the forthcoming Festival of
Mattan Torah, the unity of our people is directly related to it, as our
Sages interpret the words, "and Israel encamped there facing the
Mountain" (Yisro [Exodus] 19:21), taking note of the use of the singular
person - k'ish echod b'lev echod, "like one person, with one heart."
(Rashi, from Mechilta). It was the first time since the departure from
Egypt that the Jewish people felt truly united, and G-d said, "Now they
are fit to receive the Torah."

At first glance it seems extraordinary that a whole nation could be so
united as to be described "like one person with one heart," especially
as it has been said that "people differ in their outlooks as they differ
in their looks," and there are various walks of life and interests. But
the explanation is found in the words, "facing the Mountain." For, when
the Jewish people were about to receive the Torah, they were all of like
mind and heart, and all so eager to receive the Torah and its Mitzvos
that in the light of it everything else paled into insignificance, and
thus they all truly became like one person with one heart.

Since the Torah was given not only to our ancestors coming out of Egypt,
but the souls of all Jews of all future generations were present and
joined in "na'aseh v'nishma" ["we will do and then we will understand"],
the reading of the portion of Mattan Torah on Shovuos - most solemnly
and with a Brocho [blessing] before and after - inspires every one of us
to relive this experience, and rejuvenates the powers of every Jew to
renew his, and her, commitment to Torah and Mitzvos with increased vigor
and vitality and joy. May it be so with you and yours and all of us in
the midst of all our people.

Wishing you and all your family a joyous and inspiring Yom Tov, and the
traditional blessing to receive the Torah with joy and inwardness,

With blessing,

                            RAMBAM THIS WEEK
3 Sivan 5761

Positive mitzva 127: the first tithe

By this injunction we are commanded to set aside a tithe (which goes to
the Levites) from the land's produce. It is contained in the Torah's
words (Num. 18:24): "For the tithe of the Children of Israel, which they
set apart as a gift unto the L-rd." The commandment is only obligatory
in the Land of Israel.

                        A WORD FROM THE DIRECTOR
                         Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This Monday and Tuesday (May 28th and 29th) we will celebrate the
holiday of Shavuot, which commemorates the Giving of the Torah 3313
years ago. Before the eyes of the entire Jewish people,

G-d descended upon Mount Sinai and uttered the first of the Ten
Commandments: "I am the L-rd your G-d Who took you out of Egypt."

Of all the things G-d could have said at this climactic moment of Divine
revelation, why did He choose to remind the Jews that He had taken them
out of Egypt? Wouldn't it have been more "dramatic" to refer to Himself
as the Creator of heaven and earth, or something equally as "big"? Isn't
the fact that G-d created the world more significant than the Exodus
from Egypt?

As Chasidic philosophy explains, from a certain perspective the answer
is no. The world was created (and continues to be sustained) ex nihilo,
"something from nothing." To a human being this is indeed miraculous,
but to G-d, Who is infinite and without limitation, it is "no big deal."

The Exodus, by contrast, was an even greater miracle. In order to take
the Jewish people out of Egypt, G-d had to alter the natural laws He had
already set in place, and to perform supernatural wonders. G-d had to
expend even more power, as it were, to break through the boundaries and
limitations He had already established.

We see this on the personal level as well. It is relatively easy to
accustom ourselves to follow the right path from the beginning, but much
harder to change negative habits that are already ingrained.

However, when G-d took our forefathers out of Egypt, He gave each and
every Jew throughout the generations the ability to transcend personal
limitations. This power to overcome negative behaviors and serve G-d to
the fullest was rooted within us with the Giving of the Torah, and has
been part of our inheritance ever since.

As we celebrate Shavuot, let us accept the Torah anew with an active
consciousness of the Giver of the Torah, realizing that the Torah is the
purpose of the entire creation. In this manner, we will bring peace and
tranquility to each individual Jew and to the world at large.

                          THOUGHTS THAT COUNT
And the L-rd spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the Tent of
Meeting (Num. 1:1)

"In the wilderness of Sinai" teaches that a Jew should be as humble as
Mount Sinai, the smallest of all the mountains; "in the Tent of Meeting"
teaches that he should be joyous, as the word for "Meeting," "Moed,"
also means festival. The greater one's humility, the more genuine joy he
will experience at having merited to be able to serve G-d.

                                      (Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk)

                                *  *  *

Take a census (literally "lift the head") of all the congregation of the
people of Israel (Num. 1:1-2)

Moses' counting of the Jews caused the Divine Presence to rest among
them. Every Jew realized that he was part of an exact, specific number,
and that he, the individual, had the power to influence the fate of the
entire nation. Similarly, Maimonides writes (in his Laws of Repentance):
"Every person should consider himself...half innocent and half guilty,
and the whole world as if half meritorious and half culpable. If he does
one mitzva, he tips the balance to the side of merit and brings
salvation and relief both to himself and entire world." Thus by arousing
them to repentance, the census caused G-d's Presence to dwell among the
Jewish people.

                                              (Shnei Luchot HaBrit)

                                *  *  *

In most years, the Torah portion of Bamidbar is read on the Shabbat
immediately before the holiday of Shavuot. This is because the main
preparation for the Giving of the Torah is the mitzva of "And you shall
love your fellow as yourself," Jewish unity, which Moses' census
accomplished and underscored.

                                                     (Beit Avraham)

                                *  *  *

Every man shall camp by his own flag, according to the sign of his
father's house (Num. 2:2)

According to our Sages, every individual is obligated to ask himself,
"When will my deeds reach the deeds of my forefathers?" This does not
mean that a Jew has to worry about exactly emulating the Patriarchs, but
that his behavior should at least "touch" (the Hebrew word for "reach"
comes from the same root) the high standards ("sign") they set for him,
and strive to follow in their ways.

                                                       (Sefat Emet)

                            IT ONCE HAPPENED
Ruth was a princess, the daughter of the King of Moab. Yet despite her
exalted status she was able to see the vast difference between the idol
worship of her countrymen and the G-dly laws that were followed by the
Jewish people.

It was a time of widespread famine, and many people in the land of Moab
were dying of hunger. The storehouses of the wealthy Moabites, however,
were filled with grain, with a surplus left over for planting. The rich
made very sure to guard their warehouses and fields from the starving
riffraff. The poor were forbidden to touch the grain upon pain of death.

The kindly princess was horrified by the depravity of her people and
appalled by their unwillingness to help the needy. Suddenly, all the
luxuries of the royal palace were repellent. Having made the
acquaintance of a small Jewish family that had come to Moab from Beit
Lechem, she was very impressed by their way of life. When a family
member, one of the sons of Elimelech and Naomi, asked her to marry him,
she willingly gave up her life of privilege and joined the family of
poor émigrés. Even after her husband died Ruth remained devoted to her
Jewish mother-in-law, Naomi.

Eventually the famine in Beit Lechem ended, and Naomi decided to return
home. By that time Ruth was so bound to her mother-in-law that she
refused to be parted from her. Naomi tried very hard to dissuade Ruth
from following. She explained the many obligations she would have to
assume as a Jew, and the numerous conscriptions the Torah's 613
commandments would impose on her. She was also quite frank about the
punishments Ruth would face as a Jew for transgressing those
commandments, but Ruth held firm. "Do not entreat me to leave you or to
keep from following you," she replied simply, "for wherever you go, I
will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my
people, and your G-d my G-d." These were words that emanated from a pure
heart, and from a very lofty soul. Ruth was a giyoret tzedek, a
righteous proselyte, in the true meaning of the term.

Indeed, Ruth never regretted her decision. On the contrary, when she
arrived in Beit Lechem she was even more convinced of the justice and
compassion of Jewish law. In the Land of Israel, poor people weren't
chased from the fields. One time when Ruth, tired and hungry, sat down
to rest in the middle of a barley field she heard a friendly voice
calling out to her in welcome. The voice belonged to Boaz, the owner of
the field, who invited her to glean as much grain as she wished. He also
offered her protection and water to drink.

Ruth was very grateful and gathered several bundles. She was about to
depart when Boaz advised her to wait another short while, as soon the
harvesting would begin and she would be able to take "pei'a."

"What is pei'a?" Ruth asked. "According to the Torah," Boaz explained,
"when the owner of a field harvests his grain, he is not allowed to
touch the pei'a, or corner. This section must be left for the poor, and
the wandering stranger who does not have what to eat."

When the harvest began, Ruth was very busy collecting even more grain.
Soon her knapsack was almost filled to bursting. Again she was preparing
to leave when Boaz advised her to wait. His workers, he explained, would
soon start binding the grain into sheaves, and she could benefit from

"What is leket?" Ruth asked. Boaz replied that according to Jewish law,
if the sickle misses some stalks of grain and they fall from the
reaper's hand, he is not allowed to pick them up. These stalks are
designated for the orphaned and poverty-stricken, the widow and wayfarer
who have no other source of sustenance.

In the end Ruth returned to her mother-in-law with enough grain to last
them a very long time. Only now did Ruth fully appreciate the Torah's
laws and understand how holy and precious they are. Not only did the
Torah provide for widows and orphans, but it also looked after strangers
who were outside the existing social structure in a foreign land.

With love and devotion Ruth the Moabite cleaved to the Torah and to the
Jewish people. Indeed, her reward was great: The wealthy Boaz, one of
the Judges of Israel, took her as a wife, and she merited to become the
"mother of royalty" with children, grandchildren and her great-grandson
David, the anointed of G-d, sitting on the Jewish throne.

Moshiach, too, is a descendent of Ruth, may he be immediately revealed
and redeem the Jewish people and the world at once!

                            MOSHIACH MATTERS
From Akdamut, a liturgical poem recited responsively on Shavuot before
reading the Ten Commandments: "Of the great things He will do for me
when redemption shall arrive; when He will bring me light, and you will
be covered with shame; when His glory will be revealed with power and
with grandeur, He will repay in kind to the haters [of the Jews] and the
isles. But righteousness to the people who are beloved and, abundantly
meritorious, When He brings total joy, and pure vessels to the city of
Jerusalem as He gathers in the Exile."

               END OF TEXT - L'CHAIM 670 - Bamidbar 5761

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