Holidays   Shabbat   Chabad-houses   Chassidism   Subscribe   Calendar   Links B"H
The Weekly Publication for Every Jewish Person
Archives Current Issues Home Current Issue
                         L'CHAIM - ISSUE # 675
                           Copyright (c) 2001
                 Lubavitch Youth Organization - L.Y.O.
                              Brooklyn, NY
                  Electronic version provided free at:
                    To receive the L'CHAIM by e-mail
                  write to:
                              Subscribe W1
   Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.
        June 29, 2001            Chukas            8 Tamuz, 5761

                      Reflections On Independence

Not only is the red, white and blue of the American flag a fine symbol
of patriotism, it also symbolizes the freedom and independence for which
the Founding Fathers of the United States fought so tirelessly over two
hundred years ago.

If you questioned a cross-section of the population on how they define
freedom, you would undoubtedly get a wide range of answers. Freedom to a
typical teenager is totally different from the "freedom" of a parent
whose children have all left home. And neither of these definitions will
have much in common with freedom as defined by someone who emigrated
from the former U.S.S.R. when it was still a communist country.

In Ethics of the Fathers Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi discusses how one can
become a truly free person: through studying the Torah. He quotes the
verse: "The Tablets [with the Ten Commandments] were the word of G-d,
and the writing was the writing of G-d engraved ('charut') on the
Tablets." Says Rabbi Yehoshua, "Do not read 'charut' but 'cheirut'
('freedom'), for there is no free person except one who occupies himself
with the study of Torah."

"What?" one might ask incredulously. "How can you call a 'religious' Jew
who learns and lives Torah free? Isn't he anything but free? His life is
filled with so many do's and don'ts. And," the person adds in a whisper,
almost conspiratorially, "aren't rules made to be broken? No," such a
person might conclude, shaking his head emphatically, "true freedom
means being able to do whatever you want whenever you want."

A cursory look each day at the front page of any newspaper or a glance
at a network news program will quickly highlight the fallacy of such
statements. For we are living in times when rules are constantly broken,
where people do whatever they want, whenever they want. And we are
anything but free.

Before we enter our car to return home each night from work, we check
the back seat. We buckle up to save ourselves as much from a fluke
accident as from drunk or drug-crazed drivers. We reset the car alarm
upon arriving home and open the door that has been double- or
triple-locked. This is freedom? It's certainly not the freedom envisaged
by the Founding Fathers of the United States who came to these shore
because they wanted freedom-freedom to practice their religion as they
saw fit.

According to the Midrash, if you fill your life with spiritual pursuits,
your soul will not be "enslaved" to your body. And even those material
needs that the body does have become elevated through one's spiritual

In the words of Rabbi Nechunya in Ethics of the Fathers, "Whoever takes
upon himself the yoke of Torah-the yoke of government and the yoke of
worldly cares are removed from him..."

A person who involves himself in Torah, says the Maharal of Prague,
elevates himself above the cares and concerns of this physical world and
is freed from the natural order of the universe. Thus, though a person
needs a livelihood in order to live, the "yoke" of making a living is
removed from him; it is put in G-d's "hands" and comes more easily.

In this week's Torah portion, Chukat, we learn that when the Jewish
people sinned by repeatedly complaining about Moses and Aaron, G-d
punished them by sending "fiery serpents." Moses, who was the epitome of
selflessness, prayed on the Jews' behalf, whereupon G-d instructed him
to "Make a fiery serpent and set it upon a pole. And everyone who is
bitten, when he sees it shall live." Moses followed G-d's instructions,
and fashioned a serpent of copper. "It came to pass, that if a serpent
had bitten any man, when he looked upon the serpent of copper, he

Our Sages explain that it was not the copper serpent that had the power
to revive or kill; rather, "When the Israelites looked upward, and
subjected their hearts to their Father in heaven, they were healed; if
not, they perished." The purpose of the copper serpent was to arouse the
Jews to repentance; once they repented, they were healed.

Chasidic teachings provide an even deeper dimension: A person who had
been bitten by a "fiery serpent" was already "dead," by virtue of having
already been injected with a poisonous substance. In other words, the
"serpent of copper" had to effect what was essentially a "resurrection."

However, the power to resurrect the dead could not come from the same
level of G-dliness that sustains "regular" life, as the person who was
bitten had already lost that particular source of vitality. His
"resurrection" had to be derived from an infinitely higher level,
described in Chasidic philosophy as "the aspect of abundant mercies of
the Divine Essence of Infinite Light, which is higher than the Source of

Thus in order for the bitten person to be healed, he had to rise above
the "regular" level of G-dliness that sustains life and access G-d
Himself, to Whom "life and death are equal." The bitten person's
repentance had to be so profound that it could transform death into

In fact, the "serpent of copper" expressed this concept of resurrection.
The snake itself is symbolic of death, as it was through the serpent
that death was introduced into the world in the Garden of Eden. In this
instance, however, the "serpent of copper" had the opposite effect,
saving people from death rather than killing them.

On the level of the soul, this "resurrection" is the service of turning
darkness into light, transforming the Evil Inclination itself into
goodness and holiness. By subjugating his heart to G-d, a Jew can turn
even deliberate sins into merits, thereby rendering himself a proper
vessel for G-d's infinite blessings.

                           Adapted from Volume 13 of Likutei Sichot

                             SLICE OF LIFE

                             Last Chapters

                            By Baila Olidort

Several months ago I volunteered to spend the night in the hospital with
a woman on a respirator, in a palliative care unit awkwardly named "Step
Down" for patients who, at least medically, it seemed to me, have
nowhere to go but "down." It was a call I received from one of the
area's Bikur Cholim groups [volunteer organizations devoted to aiding
the ill and their families]. The woman's husband refused to leave his
wife alone, they explained, and he has collapsed several times from
sheer exhaustion. She's been comatose for four months now, and they were
looking for people to relieve him.

I said yes immediately, afraid that if I thought about it first, I would
lose the courage. The idea of sharing a whole night with someone
straddling two worlds seemed awesome to me, so much so that I barely
slept the night before, as I lay awake considering this woman and her

Feeling tremendous compassion for the patient, I came to the hospital
naively determined to reach her, and coax her to consciousness, if only
for a moment. At her bedside, I read the day's Tanya and recited some
Psalms, imagining that the Hebrew letters and the words they form will
mysteriously nudge her out of her coma. I brought a charity box and
placed it near her bed, and in the early hours of the morning, put in
some tzedaka (charity) - a mitzva said to have life-saving potential.

We do not, of course, know with any certainty what transpires in the
mind or soul of the human being in the absence of normal consciousness.
What appears a pointless last chapter of life, may - if not rushed to
premature conclusion - be its most redeeming episode. Because while in a
coma, the soul may yet do teshuva (repent) and reach fulfillment - a
possibility that is decidedly lost once the soul finally departs the

But my direct encounter with this situation forced certain realizations
upon me, and I began to wonder about the absolute views of halacha
(Jewish Law) on life-extending measures. Is the view that promotes the
extension of even one additional moment of life, in its broadest
definition, perhaps simplistic, and oblivious to the nuances in cases
where all essential life has ebbed?

I was startled to find the patient with her eyes wide open and moving.
"Just reflexes," the nurse said to me casually. I peered closely into
her vacant eyes wishing to elicit a fleeting sign of the vitality that
once animated them. Alas, her spirit or soul, which I had imagined would
be more perceptible in the face of a waning physical existence, eluded
me entirely.

I wondered at the sustained effort devoted to groom so lifeless a body
over so long a stretch of time. Every two hours she is turned to prevent
bedsores. She is fed through intravenous tubes and must be suctioned
regularly. Her bodily functions are now managed by paid nurses. Once the
master of her dignity, she would have recoiled in horror, I thought, to
know that when she is no longer here-when all that defined her as a
distinct human being is no more, her body would not only be allowed to
languish, but be cajoled into languishing in an unnatural condition. And
I felt deep sadness, convinced that she would not have wanted her body
so exhaustively manipulated to keep her tethered to the netherworld of

So, for the first time I considered with more regard the argument
against excessive measures to prolong life where essentially, it is
over. It was no longer inconceivable to me that someone anticipating
such an end would stipulate against life-extending intervention. And for
the first time I realized that family members rejecting this kind of
intervention are not necessarily selfish or callous, but may be
sincerely motivated by concern for the patient and the desire to dignify
their loved one.

Last week, I received another call from the soft-spoken woman at the
Bikur Cholim. I wasn't sure what I'd say if asked to give another night,
or even just a few hours. The experience was exhausting and seemed
almost pointless.

But the lady from the Bikur Cholim wasn't calling to ask me for
anything. At the request of the patient's husband, she was contacting
the people who had given time, to thank them again and to let them know
that the patient had emerged from her coma.

Reprinted with permission from "Wellsprings," a journal devoted to
encouraging the expression of the inner dimension of Torah and the
Jewish soul, published by the Student Affairs Office of the Lubavitch
Youth Organization. Ms. Olidort is the editor of Wellsprings.

                               WHAT'S NEW
                         Additional Information

In response to inquiries after the publication of the letter/article
about the two boys murdered in Tekoa, Israel (Slice of Life: Dear
Grandpa,  issue #672) we would like to inform our readers that a fund
has been set up to help the families and to establish a memorial for the
boys. Tax-deductible donations can be sent to: The Koby and Yossi Fund,
Gush Etzion Foundation, PO Box 1030, Manchester, NH 03105, Attn: Gary
Wallin. The author of the article, Sara-Rivka Ernstoff, made aliya from
Sharon, Massachusetts five years ago. She is a free-lance writer,
teaches karate, home schools her children and is the president of N'shei
Chabad, Tekoa.

                       A Children's Torah Scroll

For nearly two decades, Jewish children the world over have united
through "purchasing" their very own letter in a Torah scroll being
written by a scribe in the holy city of Jerusalem especially for them!
To date, three "Children's Torah Scrolls" have been written and a fourth
is underway. Children under the age of Bar or Bat Mitzva can obtain a
letter and receive a beautiful full-color certificate from Israel
stating where in the Torah their letter is located by sending $1 (or its
equivalent in local currency) to: Children's Torah Scroll, POB 8, Kfar
Chabad 72915 ISRAEL. For more information visit

                            THE REBBE WRITES

                     Continued from previous issue

Fortunately, one has been able to clearly discern a new trend among our
young Jewish men and women, especially academic youth, who come closer
to the world of ideas and thought. Being children of The People of the
Book, of essentially spiritual and holy people, they are by nature and
heredity inclined, subconsciously at least, towards the spiritual. Their
disillusionment and dissatisfaction have prompted them to search for a
new way of life which would give them a slice of terra firma under their
feet, make their life meaningful and put their mind at peace with

Some of them have been fortunate in making fateful encounters, by design
or "accident" (everything is, of course, by Divine Providence) which
have put them on the right track. Others, unfortunately, are still
groping in the dark. It is the momentous duty and challenge of our day
to help these young Jewish men and women to find their way back to the
"fountains of living waters" to quench their thirst for life. We of
Lubavitch have made it our "business" to do all we can to help them. But
this, of course, is the duty and privilege of every Jew, since the
commandment "Love thy fellow as thyself" applies to every one of us.

Needless to say, the transition from one mode of living to another, is
fraught with trials and tribulations. Therefore, the sooner this
critical period is over, the better. It requires determination and
fortitude, and where these are not lacking (they are certainly not
lacking potentially, and need only be brought to the surface), the
difficulties will turn out to be much less insurmountable than they had
loomed at first. It may sometimes require an initial leap to break away
from the past, but then slowly but surely the going becomes increasingly
easier. One must try to shorten the birth pangs of the transition and
all the sooner emerge into the new-found world of Torah and Mitzvos,
which holds the key to inner harmony and peace, true fulfillment and

From what has been said above, you will readily understand what my views
are on the subject matter of your letter. You write about the clash
between your original decision to follow what you know as the right way
and your parents' reactions. But even from the parents' viewpoint,
surely their first and ultimate desire is to see their children happy.
Whatever their ideas of happiness may be, they surely realize that
without inner harmony and peace of mind, life is a very dismal thing.
Looking at the situation from their viewpoint, if you act under pressure
and accept a life of compromise, it is possible that for a time friction
will be avoided. But one must think in terms of a lifetime, not of
immediate expedience; and, as outlined above, and as clearly indicated
in your letter, this is the kind of life with which you will not be able
to make peace. Sooner or later your parents will notice, or
instinctively feel, that they had defeated their own objective.

The limitations of a letter must curtail the discussion. However, I
trust it will suffice in presenting salient points which you could
elaborate yourself.

Before concluding, I want to make reference to the person who figured in
your encounter, whose life may well serve as an illustration. As you
probably know, he was born and brought up, together with the rest of his
family under the Communist regime. There seemed no possibility, nor any
hope, in the natural order of things, to escape from there. One might
have concluded that the only thing to do under the circumstances was to
adjust oneself to the prevailing conditions; all the more so, since the
religious minority to which he and his family belonged was not only a
minority, but one which had been singled out for ruthless persecution by
a dictatorial regime, which could not be toppled by democratic
processes. Nevertheless, he and his brothers and family remained
steadfast and would make no compromise and concession. Now he and his
brothers have established their own homes in this free country on the
same foundations of the Torah and Mitzvos of their parental home under
the Communists, and they need not be ashamed of their past.

They realize that the freedom and opportunity which they enjoy here
impose upon them additional obligations towards their fellow-Jews. They
also realize that after such a large proportion of our people has been
brutally annihilated in the Second World War, the obligation of every
surviving Jew is so much the greater.

What has been said in this letter is by way of general analysis and
throwing some light on the situation and its solution. As for the method
how to bring it about, this must be decided upon in the light of the
personalities involved, as well as the circumstances and factors. A
friendly and pleasant approach, coupled with adequate firmness, is the
method and way of the Torah. It is also the most effective method.

With all good wishes, and with blessing,

                            RAMBAM THIS WEEK
8 Tamuz 5761

Prohibition 132: eating "piggul"

By this prohibition we are forbidden to eat "piggul" (literally "an
abhorred thing.") "Piggul" is a sacrifice that has been rendered unfit
through improper intentions at the time it was slaughtered or offered,
the person having had in mind to eat it or burn its parts on the altar
after the prescribed time has expired. It is contained in the Torah's
words (Ex. 29:33): "He shall not eat thereof, because they are holy."

                        A WORD FROM THE DIRECTOR
                         Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This Tuesday, Yud Beit (12) Tamuz, marks both the birthday of the
Previous Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, and his liberation
from Soviet prison and exile. Persecuted for keeping the flame of
Judaism alive in the early days of Communist Russia, the Rebbe was
eventually totally vindicated.

The redemption was not only the Rebbe's personal salvation, but involved
the entire Jewish people. As he later wrote, "The Holy One, blessed be
He, did not redeem me alone, but all those who love our holy Torah and
observe its mitzvot, and even those Jews whose only virtue is to be
called by the name of Israel."

Another special date this month is the Seventeenth of Tamuz, the fast
day that begins the three-week period of mourning over the destruction
of the Holy Temple.

The theme of Yud Beit Tamuz is redemption, while the theme of the
Seventeenth is exile. Yet both events are connected to and express the
inner meaning of the month of Tamuz as a whole.

A parable is given to explain: There was once a mighty king whose young
son soiled himself. Because of his great love for his only child the
king abandoned his other affairs and washed the boy himself, scrubbing
him thoroughly with hot water to make sure he was properly cleansed.
Although this caused the boy pain, the king's actions were actually an
expression of his intense love.

A single occurrence can thus simultaneously incorporate what appears to
be a contradiction. Both perspectives are true, but one is only

The theme of the Three Weeks is exile and punishment, but on a deeper
level its purpose is the exact opposite - to remove the Jew from exile!
The fast prompts us to repent and increase our performance of good
deeds, enabling its ultimate transformation into a joyous day of
celebration in the Messianic era.

Similarly, the Previous Rebbe's imprisonment had both an internal and
external significance. Externally, the Rebbe suffered greatly, but the
whole incident ultimately paved the way for an unprecedented increase in
the spread of Judaism around the world.

Thus the Festival of Redemption of 12-13 Tamuz helps us cut through the
layers of concealment and understand the true inner significance of the
entire month - redemption - giving us renewed strength and encouragement
to serve G-d with happiness and joy.

                          THOUGHTS THAT COUNT
This is the law when a man dies in a tent (ohel) (Num. 19:14)

Symbolically, the tent is the "tent of Torah study"; the "dying"
symbolic of the devotion of the Torah scholar, who "kills" himself with
the effort. Unfortunately, it often happens that the Torah is only
valued when it is still in the ark, and the Torah scholar isn't
appreciated until after he is lying in his grave (another meaning of the
word "ohel"), as no one paid much attention to him during his

                                                  (Nachalei Devash)

                                *  *  *

When a Jew comes home from work at the end of the day utterly exhausted,
burnt from the sun or frozen from the cold, yet he still maintains his
regular time for Torah study, the holy Torah itself arouses G-d's
mercies on his behalf and on behalf of his family members.

                                                  (Likutei Diburim)

                                *  *  *

And he shall take hyssop (Num. 19:18)

The lowly hyssop plant is symbolic of humility. In the Torah, the
musical cantillation above these two words, indicating how they are to
be chanted, is called a "kadma ve'azla." How can a person achieve true
humility? By remembering where he came from ("kadma" means "former" or
"before") - "a putrid drop" - and where he is going (the literal meaning
of "azla") - "to a place of dust, maggots and worms."

                                                  (Peninim Yekarim)

                                *  *  *

Take the staff...and speak to the rock (Num. 20:8)

As brought down in the Midrash, G-d wanted Moses to stand by the rock
and "repeat a chapter of Torah aloud." In the merit of his Torah study
the rock would give forth water, and the Jews would see that all G-dly
abundance and blessing come into the world in the Torah's merit. What
happened? Because Moses was still mourning the death of his sister
Miriam, and a mourner is not permitted to learn Torah, he deliberately
held back and was silent. Said G-d, "My children are dying of thirst
while you're sitting and mourning?" (In other words, the needs of the
community come first, and you are allowed to learn Torah despite being a

                                                      (Melo HaOmer)

                            IT ONCE HAPPENED
When the Bolsheviks seized power in Russia, one of their main aims was
to annihilate religion. One strategy to wean the millions of gentile
peasants from their faith was to send out young, freethinking priests
all across Russia to introduce their new ideas. Their ultimate goal, of
course, was to destroy all religious belief and replace it with
Communist ideology.

The Yevsektziya (the Jewish branch of the Party), wanted to apply the
same strategy to the Jewish religion as well. To implement this plan,
they called for a large rabbinical assembly to be held under the
auspices of the government, and invited rabbis from all corners of
Russia to attend. Many were gullible enough to fall into the
Yevsektziya's net. These rabbis would do the job for them: implanting
the seeds of doubt among the faithful, and slowly but surely weakening
the practice of Judaism in their respective communities.

Needless to say, the most religious and pious rabbis were not invited.
Although some who received invitations were G-d-fearing individuals,
many were too na´ve to discern the true reason behind the government's
sudden desire to sponsor a rabbinical conference.

When the Previous Rebbe (Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, whose
birthday and festival of liberation are this Tuesday and Wednesday,
12-13 Tamuz) learned what was being planned he penned a long letter, to
be disseminated throughout the Jewish community, warning against
participation in the assembly, for many people had mistakenly concluded
that the Bolsheviks were softening their stance. Excerpts of the letter,
written in Leningrad and dated 5 Tevet 5687 (1927), read as follows:

"...As news of the conference has spread, letters expressing grave
doubts have reached me from various places across the land. The
overwhelming consensus is against participation. My own opinion is a
strong and clear directive against participating in any form.

"Until now I have had no reason to publicly declare my opinion on this
important matter. However, having read these letters, and in
consideration of the fact that the invitation to the conference is being
extended in the name of the Leningrad Jewish community...people may have
gotten the mistaken impression that I have agreed to participate in the
assembly. In fact, I have heard it said, in my name, that I had endorsed
this meeting! I was shocked to hear such speculation, which has
absolutely no basis in fact.

"It is thus for the sake of our brethren that I am making my position
known. This conference poses a dire threat; its aim is not pure. I stand
absolutely and unquestionably opposed to the conference, and see only
dire consequences resulting from such meetings.

"I therefore call upon each and every person who reads this letter or
hears its message to publicize its contents among his friends and
relatives, to clarify my position: I have absolutely no connection to or
affiliation with the members of the community board of Leningrad who
issued the invitation to the conference. I am opposed to any such
meetings, and the Leningrad community had no right to assume such a
responsibility upon itself...

"...May every Jew professing a love for his people and his faith, and
possessing a modicum of sensibility about the ways of the world,
understand in which direction the proper path leads.

"May G-d grant strength to His people and bless them with peace. Copious
blessings to all of Israel both spiritually and materially."

The letter was prepared before the Rebbe's arrest and detention; in
fact, it was one of the reasons cited for his arrest. The authorities
had hoped that putting the Rebbe in prison would minimize the damage his
letter was sure to cause. Despite their efforts, however, the letter was
widely disseminated. It was said that one of the things demanded of the
Rebbe during his interrogation and torture in prison was that he promise
not to distribute the letter.

How was the letter actually disseminated in an age before modern
communications? Hundreds of copies were meticulously made by the Rebbe's
Chasidim; groups of yeshiva students would faithfully copy the document
word by word. On the top of each letter was written, "I found this
document and have no idea who wrote it." Thus it was impossible to trace
the letter's origin.

The Rebbe's letter did its work. Most of those who read it understood
the evil intent behind the conference and were warned. But there were
some whose motives were less pure. Many foolishly disregarded the
Rebbe's words. It is also possible to assume that not everyone received
a copy of the letter.

In the end, either the Rebbe's letter bore fruit or G-d had mercy on His
people Israel. After being postponed several times, the rabbinical
conference was never held. G-d had annulled the evil decree.

                            MOSHIACH MATTERS
"...A great shofar will be sounded, and those who are lost in Assyria
shall come, as well as those who are cast away in Egypt, and they shall
bow down to G-d...." (Isaiah 27:13). "Those... in Assyria" alludes to
those who are foundering in worldy pleasures. For Ashur, the Hebrew name
for Assyria, is related to the word meaning pleasure. "Those... in
Egypt" alludes to those whose heads and hearts are not open to the
knowledge of G-d because of the pressures and constraints of exile. For
Mitzrayim, Hebrew for "Egypt," is related to meitzarim, meaning
"constraints." In future time, people will be raised up out of both of
these situations and will come to bow down to G-d.

                                                    (Likutei Torah)

                END OF TEXT - L'CHAIM 675 - Chukas 5761

  • Daily Lessons
  • Weekly Texts & Audio
  • Candle-Lighting times

    613 Commandments
  • 248 Positive
  • 365 Negative

  • BlackBerry
  • iPhone / iPod Touch
  • Java Phones
  • Palm Pilot
  • Palm Pre
  • Pocket PC
  • P800/P900
  • Moshiach
  • Resurrection
  • For children - part 1
  • For children - part 2

  • Jewish Women
  • Holiday guides
  • About Holidays
  • The Hebrew Alphabet
  • Hebrew/English Calendar
  • Glossary

  • by SIE
  • About
  • Chabad
  • The Baal Shem Tov
  • The Alter Rebbe
  • The Rebbe Maharash
  • The Previous Rebbe
  • The Rebbe
  • Mitzvah Campaign

    Children's Corner
  • Rabbi Riddle
  • Rebbetzin Riddle
  • Tzivos Hashem

  • © Copyright 1988-2009
    All Rights Reserved
    L'Chaim Weekly