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710: Vayakhel-Pekudei

Vayikra • Leviticus

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March 8, 2002 - 24 Adar, 5762

710: Vayakhel-Pekudei

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

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  709: Ki Sisa711: Vayikra  

Much More than Just a Detail  |  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

Much More than Just a Detail

You squint at the address you scribbled on a scrap of paper. Is that a number 1 or the letter l? If you were sending your note via the post office it wouldn't matter much. But you're sending an email; better get it right, otherwise your note won't get to the person who is meant to receive it. Details.

You're renovating your bathroom. Now that you've finally picked the tiles from the 3,000 possible choices, you're faced with yet another decision: Should the grout be almond, buff, crθme.... Details.

The player from third base just crossed home plate. Did he make it a split second before or after the catcher caught the ball? Hopefully, instant replay will clarify the call. Details.

In our younger years, we often think that people who are into details are picayune. A teacher who insists that we "dot every 'i' and cross every 't' " is annoying. But as we get older and hopefully wiser, we come to the realization that details do make a difference.

Jewish life is full of details -some bigger, some smaller. Many mitzvot, in particular, seem to be inundated with details, so much so that people often ask, "Does G-d really care? Does it really matter to Him if the food has 'reliable supervision' or if I just read the ingredients? Does He really mind if I light Shabbat candles just a minute late? Does G-d care if the mezuza case contains a hand-wrtten parchment or a photocopied version?"

Yes, yes, yes and yes.

G-d has given us commandments. Obviously, these commandments are important to Him, otherwise He wouldn't waste His time or our time on them. Together with the commandments, He has given us the exact details about how to properly fulfill them. In addition, G-d long ago gave us the resources to answer any questions we might have pertaining to any of the mitzvot or their details-the Talmud, responsa from our Sages, and those rabbis who take all of G-d's commandments with all of their details seriously.

Details help make a dress unique, they make a room look finished, even exquisite, they add spice and flavor to food. Mitzvot and all of their details make every aspect of life significant, they turn a plain room into a mini-sanctuary, they add dash to our diet and a rare quality to our relationships.

In addition, there is one more aspect of details to consider. In the example above, the note needs to have an accurate email address, down to the last detail, in order for it to get to the intended recipient. When using regular mail, a street name can be misspelled, or one can put "Lane" instead of "Place" and more often than not it will get there anyway. The zip code can even be left off entirely and eventually it will still arrive. Not so with an email address. Interpose one letter, leave out one small dot, and your note will wander about in cyberspace for a day or two, only to be returned to you "undeliverable."

If we want our mitzvot to reach their intended destination, they should be performed "down to the last detail." Then we are assured that our "messages" will be received

And yes, G-d really does care.

Living with the Rebbe

There are 39 categories of "work" prohibited on Shabbat, derived from the 39 different types of labor that were required to build the Sanctuary. As every Jew is enjoined to erect a "Sanctuary" to G-d in the spiritual sense, these laws reveal many important lessons for our Divine service.

As we read in the first of this week's two Torah portions, Vayakhel, setting a fire is one of these prohibited labors, as it states, "You shall kindle no fire throughout your habitations on the Sabbath day." The strict definition of "setting a fire" for which a Jew is culpable requires that some sort of benefit be derived from the act: either illumination, heat, or for the purpose of producing ashes. Without the element of benefit, it is not considered "setting a fire." (However, by Rabbinic decree it is forbidden to set any kind of fire or engage in related activities on Shabbat.)

In spiritual terms, this means that "fire," in and of itself, is not considered an actual component of our Divine service unless it produces practical benefit. To explain:

"Fire" refers to the innate flame within the Jewish soul, as it states, "The candle of G-d is the soul of man." A Jew is required to kindle and encourage this inner fire, until his whole being is suffused with longing to reunite with its G-dly Source.

In Judaism, however, spiritual elevation is not an end it itself. The objective is not to feel elevated and close to G-d, to the extent that the physical, mundane world becomes unimportant.

On the contrary, the Torah teaches that this is not a true "fire," for although it is pure it is devoid of purpose. In order to build a genuine "Sanctuary," a Jew's fiery love for G-d must result in actual consequences and actions.

This is reflected in the physical phenomenon of ashes. Ashes are symbolic of the most intense level of corporeality, which is why they remain after other matter is completely burned and consumed. Indeed, the whole purpose of a Jew's "fire," i.e., spiritual arousal, is to produce "ashes" - permeate the very lowest levels of existence with Torah and mitzvot.

The refinement of the physical plane through Torah and mitzvot is the underlying objective of the world's creation. When a Jew utilizes physical objects for the sake of Heaven he attains the most elevated of spiritual heights and fulfills G-d's will, according to the dictum "Action is the main thing."

The service of every individual Jew elevating his own corner of the world will in turn lead to the ultimate elevation of creation: the coming of Moshiach and the Final Redemption.

Adapted from Vol. 36 of Likutei Sichot

A Slice of Life

Connecting and Transforming
by Miriam Karp

Shmuel Klatzkin's resume seems a contradiction in terms. He was ordained as a Reform rabbi. He holds a Ph.D. in Judaic studies from Brandeis University. And the bearded, black-hatted gentleman works in community outreach for Chabad of Dayton, Ohio.

To understand the diverse elements that form Shmuel's persona, let's start at the beginning. Shmuel grew up near Philadelphia. He attended Sunday school and Hebrew school, but, "what I had absorbed didn't pull me when I was in high school and college. I hadn't seen the sort of things I associated with spirituality."

Shmuel attended a Quaker high school, and began reading the classic spiritual texts from all over the world. "I read about a direct relationship with G-d. The Quakers inspired me with their willingness to live out of the mainstream of society if necessary and take risks to fulfill their ideals of pacifism. I admired their deep commitment and self-sacrifice. I didn't see any of this in the lives of the people from my temple; neither did I see anything mystical, which seemed to be the core of spirituality. My rabbi was the exception. I admired him greatly."

Shmuel attended Brandeis, the Jewish sponsored university in Massachusetts. He studied psychology and was not involved in Jewish activities. "During my senior year, it dawned on me that I hadn't delved into my own roots. I wrote to my rabbi and told him I wanted to study Judaism and go to the Reform rabbinical seminary. I told him of the spirituality I was seeking. He made a very unusual suggestion; he advised me to find someone observant to study with. I remembered that his son had studied at Yeshiva University, but that was way too scary for me."

After some time, Shmuel met an elder European man from Boston, Rabbi Shmuel Korf. The university student was put off by the Old World accent and mannerisms. "He was very warm, encouraging and open-minded, but I saw all the typical stereotypes in him. After a while I realized I wasn't as liberal or open-minded as I had thought I was. I worked to overcome this and spent a lot of time with Reb Shmuel, learning the Jewish basics; kashrut, Shabbat, prayer and lots of ahavat Yisrael - love of one's fellow Jew. I had finished the work for my major and spent most of my senior year taking courses in the Jewish Studies Department. To my surprise I found that there was plenty of intellectual challenge in Jewish texts and tradition."

Upon graduation Shmuel entered Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem. Though he now rigorously kept Shabbat, ate only kosher and prayed daily, he chose HUC since it represented his roots. "I figured I'd follow the truth as I see it, which is a tenet of Reform Judaism. My professors were respectful of me. In fact, I married the daughter of one of my professors. Their home was quite traditional."

Shmuel first encountered Chabad teachers and philosophy while in Jerusalem. This opened up a whole new dimension of Jewish experience. "Chasidut showed me that spirituality was much more than just meditating in silence. I saw that the deepest spirituality could have a whole vocabulary and literature. Chasidut is words for the neshama (soul). This was a real eye-opener and the beginning of a life-long pursuit and study."

Shmuel sought advice on what path to follow within Judaism from many people, including the Lubavitcher Rebbe. "Others tried to overpower me with this or that argument. The Rebbe didn't try to brainwash me or force arguments upon me, but touched upon my deepest spiritual motivation. Rather than try to challenge my Reform understanding of the Torah, the Rebbe told me, 'You are coming to Yiddishkeit for something you don't have that your grandparents did have - faith.' The Rebbe alone understood and illuminated the core issue - he set the standard of a true spiritual leader by showing me the truth. Once you're exposed to that level of spiritual leadership you don't settle for anything less. The Rebbe's advice and blessings guided us through the difficult births of our children, and today we have two great kids!"

The earnest young man completed the HUC program while studying Chasidic philosophy and Talmud on his own, and keeping Shabbat and kosher. Though upon graduation most of his peers sought pulpits, Shmuel returned to Boston to pursue a Ph.D. in medieval Jewish studies at Brandeis. He and his wife Naomi and two young children were fully involved in the Chabad community. Shmuel felt honored when asked to teach Talmud in the Chabad Yeshiva there.

When Shmuel finished his dissertation in 1990, the Klatzkins moved to Dayton to assist Naomi's parents. Shmuel taught in the Hillel Academy of Dayton , and now works in community outreach for Chabad of Dayton. His influence, however, reaches far beyond this quiet Mid western city. Shmuel's scholarly knowledge is enriching the lives of fellow Jews around the world. As a contributing editor for Wellsprings, a journal of Jewish thought, he has shared many fascinating articles and poems.

He is currently preparing a curriculum for the Jewish Learning Institute, a project of the Shluchim (Chabad emissaries) Office. This exciting new series of college level seminars offers eight-week courses on a variety of topics.

A phrase from one of Shmuel's first Chabad teachers in Jerusalem still serves as a guiding principle: "A Jew has to be a bridge between worlds - with ramps and an open connection in both worlds (the physical and spiritual) and he should use this connection to transform." Synthesizing the language and conceptual tools acquired in his past with the timeless truths of Chasidut, Shmuel is helping to transform the world.

What's New

Matza Ball Contest!

All Jewish kids under the age of Bar or Bat Mitzva can participate in the Matza Ball Contest, a project of Tzivos Hashem. Children who do their best to do the special mitzvot of the Passover holiday and fill out the scorecard will be entered into the grand raffle for great prizes. To get a contest brochure contact your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center or visit


"One Shabbat-One World" in L'Chaim #706 was excerpted from an article by Rabbi Eli Touger. In "Legacy of Jewish Libraries" in L'Chaim #707 the Rebbe told Rabbi Nechemia Vogel's father to start a Jewish library in Gibralter, not Grenada.

The Rebbe Writes

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 achievements 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 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 - the liberation from bondage celebrated on Pesach, 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,

11th of Nissan, 5720 [1960]

Greeting and Blessing:

I received your letter of the 29th of Adar, and may G-d grant that you have good news to report on the matters about which you write in your letter.

As we are approaching the Season of Our Freedom, I trust that you will take time out to reflect on the significance of this great Festival, recalling the enslavement in Egypt, which was not only a physical enslavement but also a spiritual one. Yet, because of the great faith of the children of Israel in G-d, they were liberated from bondage, and received the Torah, thus giving them true and complete freedom. The simple message of it is that no Jew should ever give up hope, and should always strive to free himself from the influences and limitations of the environment, as well as from internal temptations, and make steady strides along the path of Torah and Mitzvoth.

As for your personal problems, the best advice is that you should try to think as little as possible of your inner problems, until you completely dismiss them from your mind. This means not even thinking about their harmful aspects or how to overcome them, but completely disengaging your thoughts from those problems and engaging them in matters of Torah and Mitzvoth. Another good method is to try to be among people as much as possible.

The statement which a boy of the Yeshiva . . . has made, as you write, is not true.

May the forthcoming Season of Our Freedom bring you true freedom from all distracting thoughts and from all temptations and diversions, both external and internal, so that you can serve G-d with the fullness and gladness of your heart,

Wishing you a kosher, happy and inspiring Pesach,

With blessing,

Rambam this week

25 Adar 5762

Positive mitzva 217: chalitza

By this injunction we are commanded that a deceased brother's wife is to perform chalitza (taking off the shoe) on her brother-in-law, if he will not marry her. It is contained in the Torah's words (Deut. 25:9): "Then shall his brother's wife come to him in the presence of the elders, and pull his shoe from off his foot."

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

This Shabbat we will bless the new month of Nisan, which begins on Thursday. Noted as the "month of redemption," Nisan is the month in which the Jewish people left Egypt. The name "Nisan" is related to the word "nes," meaning miracle.

As related in the Torah, two significant events transpired on the first of Nisan.

The first occurred when the Jewish people were still enslaved in Egypt. They received the commandment to sanctify the new moon and the laws associated with the Passover offering, which they were commanded to bring two weeks later on the 15th of the month.

The second event occurred exactly one year later, when the Jewish people had already been liberated, received the Torah at Mount Sinai, and were utterly free. On that day, the Sanctuary in the desert was erected, signifying the indwelling of the Divine Presence in a physical "house."

Nothing in the Torah is coincidental. Although the two events took place a year apart, the fact that they occurred on the same date indicates that they share a common theme.

Every Jew, in every age and circumstance, is simultaneously "enslaved" and "liberated." From the perspective of the Jewish soul, a "veritable part of G-d Above," he is always free. Yet he is still "enslaved" to the physical body, which requires daily upkeep and maintenance.

However, the body and the soul are not two separate worlds, completely disconnected and dissociated from each other. The Jew's objective is to integrate the two into a single, well-adjusted entity. As the Tanya teaches, the key to a well-balanced life lies in giving precedence to the spiritual over the physical, "raising and exalting the soul high above the body."

"A mitzva is a candle, and the Torah is light." When a Jew illuminates his body with the sanctity of Torah, his animal soul willingly subjugates itself to his G-dly soul, and the two work successfully in tandem.

Our Sages tell us that the Final Redemption will take place in the month of Nisan. May we merit to greet our righteous Moshiach, sound in body and soul, in the immediate future.

Thoughts that Count

And every one who is wise-hearted among you shall come, and do all that G-d has commanded (Ex. 35:10)

Commenting on this verse, the Vilna Gaon would quote the Book of Proverbs: "The wise in heart will heed commandments, but a prattling fool will come to ruin." The wise man does a mitzva as soon as it presents itself, before any obstacles can arise. The "prattling fool" discusses it endlessly and puts it off, until it remains undone...

Every one with a willing heart brought earrings and nose rings, and rings, and bracelets, every article of gold (Ex. 35:22)

Earrings: Jewish parents must listen to the Torah's directives concerning the Jewish education of their children. They should also overhear their children's conversations with their friends, in order to guide them properly. Nose rings: Parents should develop a keen sense of "smell" to make sure their children's playmates are appropriate. Rings: Parents must be able to "point" their children in the right direction. Bracelets: In addition to explaining things in a pleasant manner, parents must also stand firm (symbolized by the arm) when it comes to Jewish education. The child should always feel that this is his parents' priority.

(Likutei Diburim)

And Betzalel made the ark (Ex. 37:1)

Of all the components of the Sanctuary, why is Betzalel's name associated specifically with the ark? At different times in history, all of the other vessels were also fashioned by other people (i.e., for the First and Second Holy Temples; they will also be made for the Third Holy Temple when it is reestablished). However, there has always been only one ark, made by Betzalel. Although hidden away after the destruction, in the future it will be revealed.

(Meshech Chochma)

And Moses saw all the work... and Moses blessed them (Ex. 39:43)

According to the Midrash, what Moses saw was all the angels that had been created by the Jewish people's fulfillment of G-d's command to bring contributions for the Sanctuary, as it states: "He who does one mitzva acquires one advocate." Moses thus understood that the mitzva had been done with sincerity and pure intent, "and he blessed them"

(Birkat Shamayim)

It Once Happened

One Friday afternoon a stranger appeared on the doorstep of the famous tzadik, Reb Yitzchak Isaac of Vitebsk, asking him to arrange a "din Torah" (a session of the Jewish court). It was already after midday and Reb Yitzchak Isaac was about to go to the bathhouse in preparation for the holy Sabbath. "Must the matter be attended to right now?" he asked the visitor. "Can't it wait until Sunday morning?"

"I am a melamed," answered the man. "I teach little children from early in the morning until late at night, with a short break in the middle of the day for lunch. On Friday I teach only until noon. Today is the only opportunity I have to come to you!" he pleaded.

"But where is the other party in the lawsuit?" the Reb Yitzchak Isaac.

"He is already here," the man answered. "I wish to bring a din Torah against the Master of the Universe."

Reb Yitzchak Isaac went back inside and put on the fur hat he wore only on Shabbat, Yom Tov and other solemn occasions. He sat on his judicial chair and prepared himself to hear the case. "You, obviously, are the plaintiff. Please state your complaints," he said.

The melamed got straight to the point. "Our Sages teach in the Gemara and Midrash that there are three partners in the creation of man," he began. "My wife and I have a daughter who has, thank G-d, reached marriageable age, but we do not have enough money to find her a proper match. The third partner, however, has unlimited funds, but He refuses to part with His wealth. That is the essence of my grievance," the man concluded.

Reb Yitzchak Isaac shut his eyes and thought the matter over. After a few minutes of reflection he pronounced his judgment. "You are right," he told the man. "You have won the case." The thankful melamed went home to prepare for Shabbat.

The following Sunday, when the melamed returned home during his lunch break, he found an elaborate carriage with several footmen waiting in front of his house. His concerns were somewhat allayed when he learned why they had come: On the same block where the melamed and his family dwelled lived a gentile boy who had recently been employed in the landowner's household. For almost a month the landowner's wife had suffered from a terrible toothache. None of the dentists they brought to her had been successful in alleviating her pain. When the servant boy saw the woman's suffering, he mentioned to the landowner that there was Jewish woman on his block who was able to "whisper" a toothache away (a popular folk remedy at the time). He suggested that the melamed's wife be brought to the great estate to attempt a cure.

At first the landowner just laughed at the boy's absurd suggestion, but after exhausting every other alternative he agreed to send for the Jewish woman. The melamed's wife was summoned to the great mansion.

The landowner's wife was beside herself in agony. Her cries and moans were pitiful to hear. After a short rest from the long journey the melamed's wife was brought to the suffering woman and asked to perform her cure. She "whispered" over the affected teeth and the painful toothache was miraculously gone.

The landowner and his wife were extremely grateful to the Jewish woman who had brought relief to their entire household. They asked her what she would accept as payment. "My husband is a teacher of small children," the woman answered. "His salary does not even begin to pay our many expenses. Our oldest daughter is of marriageable age, but we haven't the money with which to make a wedding."

"How much money would you need to marry her off?" asked the landowner.

"Five hundred rubles for the dowry, 300 for food, and another 200 for the wedding celebration," the woman said.

Without another word, the landowner gratefully paid the astonished woman the entire sum. And when, as an afterthought, the melamed's wife mentioned that she was also in need of pillows and linens, the landowner instructed his servants to fill his entire carriage with household furnishings and other gifts as tokens of his deep appreciation.

In such a manner was Reb Yitzchak Isaac's verdict carried out.

Moshiach Matters

The first commandment, "I am G-d your G-d..." includes the obligation to believe in the future Redemption. For, just as we have to believe that G-d took us out of Egypt, as the commandment continues ... "Who has taken you out of Egypt..." - Just as I want you to believe that I redeemed you (in the past) I also want you to believe that I will redeem you in the future, I will gather you [from exile] and redeem you. This is why our Sages tell us (Shabbat 31a) that one of the first questions a person is asked by the heavenly court is "Have you anticipated the Redemption."

(SeMa"K -Sefer Mitzvot Katan, Mitzva 1)

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