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Devarim Deutronomy

Breishis Genesis

Shemos Exodus

Vayikra Leviticus

Bamidbar Numbers

   718: Bamidbar

719: Shavuos

720: Nasso

721: Beha'aloscha

722: Sh'lach

723: Korach

724: Chukas-Balak

725: Pinchas

726: Matos-Masei

Devarim Deutronomy

L'Chaim
May 16, 2002 - 5 Sivan, 5762

719: Shavuos

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The Weekly Publication For Every Jewish Person
Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.


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  718: Bamidbar720: Nasso  

Self-Esteem  |  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

Self-Esteem

When parents were asked in a survey what they wanted most for their children, over 50% of the respondents answered, "high self-esteem."

To generate a positive self-image and high self-esteem, we can study for ourselves and then tell our children the history of the upcoming holiday of Shavuot.

Shavuot is the holiday on which we relive the experience of receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai.

It is on this holiday that we recommit ourselves to the Torah and its mitzvot (commandments).

When describing our ancestors' preparation and readiness for this momentous event, the Torah explains that every single Jew was present at the Giving of the Torah. Not one Jew - from the youngest child to the oldest adult - was left out or forgotten.

Every Jew was there. Every Jew wanted to be there. Every Jew had to be there.

For, our Sages tell us, had one Jew been missing, the Torah could not have been given. Each one of us is precious. Each one of us is essential. The Jewish people is incomplete when even one solitary Jew is not present.

But not only were all of the Jews alive at that time present at the Giving of the Torah. The souls of all Jews destined to be born were also present at Mount Sinai! For the Torah is the inheritance of every Jew.

At the Giving of the Torah, every Jew actually heard G-d's "voice" when He told us the Ten Commandments.

In the very first Commandment, G-d said, "I am the L-rd, your G-d."

The Hebrew word for "your G-d" - elokecha - is in the singular form rather than what would seem to be the more correct plural, Elokeichem.

"Elokecha" teaches us that G-d commanded every Jew individually to observe the Ten Commandments and the other mitzvot of the Torah.

Each Jew has the personal responsibility and privilege to fulfill the mitzvot.

We cannot pass off our responsibility on another, for each one of us was present at that moment when G-d commanded us personally.

And, of course, it follows that if G-d has so commanded us, He also gave us the ability and strength to fulfill our obligations.

Just as the revelation of the Torah at Mount Sinai was experienced by every Jew without exception, the revelation of the "new Torah" which G-d will teach us in the Messianic Era will also be experienced by every Jew. Without exception, every Jew alive today, and every Jew who ever lived, will experience the peace, prosperity, and Divine knowledge of the Messianic Era.

For the Messianic Era, like the Torah, is the inheritance of every single Jew.


Living with the Rebbe

Shavuot is the holiday on which we celebrate the giving of the Torah, when G-d Himself descended on Mount Sinai before the entire Jewish people. The world stood still as G-d's voice thundered the first of the Ten Commandments: "I am the L-rd your G-d, Who took you out of the land of Egypt."

Our Sages asked a pointed question: What was so special about the exodus from Egypt that G-d chose to mention it in the very first Commandment? Why not "I am the L-rd your G-d, Who created heaven and earth"? Is not the creation of the world more fundamental than an isolated historical incident involving only a few million people?

In addition, the exodus from Egypt, although a great miracle, involved only that generation. The existence of the physical world, however, is a phenomenon which each generation can point to as evidence of G-d's greatness. Why then did G-d give the exodus such prominence at the moment of His revelation to mankind?

Chasidic philosophy explains that in certain respects, the Jewish people's liberation from bondage in Egypt was an even greater event than the creation of the world. G-d created the world ex nihilo - substance out of nothingness - something which we, as created beings, cannot comprehend. Although the creation of the world was a wondrous event, for an all-powerful, eternal and infinite G-d, it was no particular feat.

Furthermore, the Torah states that the world was created by G-d's speech. "By the word of G-d the heavens were created, and by His breath all of their hosts." Speech is an external power, produced without exertion. The world was created in such a way as to express only the outermost fraction of G-d's true might.

The exodus from Egypt, however, was a miracle of a totally different kind. In order for the Jews to leave Egypt, G-d had to supercede the laws of nature He had already created. G-d Himself, not an angel, led the Jews as they departed. Abrogating natural law to free the Children of Israel involved an even higher level of Divine intervention than creating the world in the first place! The exodus from Egypt was therefore given the top billing it deserved in the Ten Commandments.

Likewise, in our own lives, we sometimes find that it is harder to change ingrained habits than to begin a completely new undertaking. When G-d took our forefathers out of Egypt (Mitzrayim), He gave each and every Jew the strength to break through the boundaries and limitations (metzarim) which stand in his way. This innate power, bestowed upon the Jewish people when the Torah was revealed, gives us the ability to overcome any negative habits or character traits which prevent us from serving G-d with a full heart.

Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe


A Slice of Life

Women First
By Yehudis Cohen

"The women were first," the headline reads on an advertisement for an all-night study session for women to take place on the holiday of Shavuot. The ad refers to a commentary on the verse "So you shall say to the House of Jacob and tell the Children of Israel." G-d commanded Moses to first approach the women regarding the giving of the Torah and then to approach the men, Rashi explains.

The renaissance of Torah study for women, then, is exactly that: the revival of a value and ideal that has existed in Judaism from the very beginning. Although rigorous Torah study for girls is part of the regular curriculum in Day Schools and yeshivas throughout the world, many women were never afforded that opportunity. So what is a woman to do who did not have the benefit of a solid Jewish education as a youngster and is already busy with getting a degree, her family or career?

"The primary reason why the Machon Chana in the Mountains summer program was created," says Mrs. Sara Labkowski, director of Machon Chana Women's Yeshiva in Brooklyn, New York, "was to give as many women as possible - of all ages and stages - the opportunity and tools to claim their inheritance."

I participated in the Machon Chana in the Mountains program last summer at its beautiful, scenic campus in Tannersville, New York. I had a chance to meet many of the women who were studying there, some for a long weekend, others for two weeks, and still others for the entire summer.

Roni was the proverbial wandering Jew. She grew up in Los Angeles, spent time herding sheep on a Navajo reservation in Arizona and joined an activist caravan traveling around the United States protesting the World Bank.

"Before I became involved in Torah and mitzvot (commandments), I was very extreme. As an activist, I saw everything as black or white. I was constantly fighting. My parents were bourgeoisie and I used to berate them for driving their BMW and not eating organic. Eventually I realized that even activists aren't necessarily 'holy.'

"I traveled to Israel and had a personal spiritual awakening. I returned to the U.S., to Portland, Oregon, with a friend I had met in Israel. We started going to Torah classes taught by Rabbi Moshe Wilhelm. But I wanted to get a woman's perspective on Torah, to rediscover that part of myself - my feminine side -that I had buried during my years of activism. The Wilhelms told me about Machon Chana."

Roni attended the Machon Chana in the Mountains program. About her time spent there she recalls, "I was happy to be with women, to find out that Judaism is not misogynist, to learn how to live."

I remember having DMCs (deep meaningful conversations, as my teenage daughter calls them) with Roni in the gazebo. We talked about life and love and commitment and marriage and raising kids. The friend she had met in Israel, Shalom, was studying at a similar program for men, Hadar HaTorah, also in the Catskill Mountains. At the end of the summer Roni made the commitment; to study Torah full-time at the Machon Chana Women's Yeshiva in Brooklyn. Months later she made an equally momentous commitment, she and Shalom decided to get married. Their wedding date? Just a few days after we celebrate the giving of the Torah (to the women first!) at Mount Sinai.

A few weeks into the summer a phone call was received from Rabbi Yossi Laufer of Warwick, Rhode Island. He told us about Monika, a girl from Poland, who was visiting relatives in Warwick for a few weeks. She had been raised Catholic but had recently found out that her mother's mother was Jewish. Learning everything she could from various Jewish websites on-line, she jumped at the opportunity to visit non-Jewish relatives in Warwick hoping to be in contact with the Jewish community there. When she got in touch with Rabbi Laufer, he told her about Machon Chana. Could arrangements quickly be made for her to come for a week," Rabbi Laufer asked.

I assured him they could and offered, "She can extend the week if she chooses."

"No," he explained to me, "her relatives think that she is leaving them for a week to see the sites in New York City; they would never agree to let her study Torah if they knew."

I remember seeing a look of delight and astonishment on her face when I showed her the weekly schedule of classes on the day she arrived. Talmud, Jewish Law, the Fundamentals of Jewish Belief, Chasidic Philosophy, Chumash (the Five Books of Moses), the Jewish Woman and Hebrew were offered daily. And, I added, madrichot ("counselors") were available to study one-on-one practically any Jewish subject imaginable.

Monika was also very taken with the children who had accompanied their parents to Machon Chana in the Mountains. They were kept happy and busy at the on-site day camp whose hours coincided with the morning and afternoon classes so that the kids could be occupied while mom studied. "Their bright eyes, their free laughter... it's such a pleasure," Monika shared, bringing home the fact that there aren't many young Jewish children laughing and smiling in Poland.

Beth from Connecticut came for a week of intensive study. Beth and I chuckled when she related that it took her a little while to get over the initial "shock" of sitting in classes and socializing with women 20 years her junior. There's no generation gap when everyone's focused on the same thing, Torah study and spiritual growth, we learned. This summer Beth plans on coming back with her daughter so that they will be able to experience Torah study together.

Surely you remember one of the Sunday school and Hebrew school top ten hits of all time: "Torah, Torah, Torah tziva lanu Moshe.... The Torah that Moses commanded us is an inheritance to the congregation of Jacob." Torah, the birthright, of every Jewish woman, can be claimed at Machon Chana in the Mountains.

For more info visit www.machonchana.org or call (718) 735-0030


What's New

Shavuot Contest

Every Jewish child under the age of Bar/Bat Mitzva who hears the Ten Commandments read in the synagogue on the first day of Shavuot, Friday, May 17, will be entered into a raffle to win one of 20 scooters. The contest, sponsored by the Tzivos Hashem international children's organization, can be accessed online at www.tzivos-hashem.org. Or send your name, date of birth, address and parent's signature to Tzivos Hashem Shavuot Contest, 332 Kingston Ave., Bklyn, NY 11213.


The Rebbe Writes

1st day of the week, Sidra Emor (Rashi: "Admonish the adults concerning the young"), 5721 [1961]

To the participants in the Annual Testimonial Dinner of the Lubavitcher Yeshivah in Newark, N.J.

G-d bless you!

Sholom u'Brocho [Peace and Blessing]:

I send my greeting and blessing to the honored guests and all participants in the Annual Dinner of the Lubavitcher Yeshivah in Newark. I trust that this event will exceed all expectations relating to the spiritual and financial advancement of the Yeshivah through the special effort of all its friends.

This year is a particularly auspicious one for institutions engaged in sacred and pure education, combining both the formal and inner (Chasidic) learning and practice of the Torah and Mitzvos.

It is the 200th anniversary of the Histalkus (passing) of the Baal Shem Tov (on the first day of Shovuos, the Season of the Giving of the Torah), the founder of Chasidus and spiritual "grandfather" of the Old Rebbe, author of the Tanya [the basic book of Chabad Chasidic philosophy] and Shulchan Aruch [Code of Jewish Law], the founder of Chabad Chasidus - may their merits shield us.

The first activity of the Baal Shem Tov, even before he revealed himself, was as an assistant teacher, teaching young children the sacred letters of the aleph-beth [the Hebrew alphabet], and to recite blessings and prayer; amen, yehei Shemei rabbe, borchu and kedushah. At the same time he taught distinguished adult disciples and Torah scholars, to illuminate the darkness of their crucial generations of the pre-Messianic era.

The Lubavitcher Yeshivah in Newark, like the many other sacred Lubavitcher Torah institutions (may their number multiply) is a link in the golden chain which the Baal Shem Tov began to forge. Here the two basic principles of the Baal Shem Tov's system merge into one: to provide pure and sacred education for the young children so that they should grow up and become truly great and mature Jews, to carry out the will and design of our "Great G-d who is praised exceedingly," through spreading the light of the Torah and Mitzvos, on the foundations of love of G-d, love of the Torah and love of fellow Jew.

In order to accomplish this, it is necessary "to admonish the adults concerning the young" - that the adults, the parents, workers and friends of the Yeshivah should make it possible for the Yeshivah and its students to grow and advance, in order to become what they are supposed to be - "shining lights" to illuminate everything around them.

With the blessing of success materially and spiritually,


Isru-Chag Shovuos, 5736 [1976]

To All Active Friends of the Beth Rivkah Schools, and to the Participants in the Annual Dinner in particular

Greeting and Blessing:

This year's Annual Dinner takes place in the year which has been proclaimed as the "Year of Chinuch [Jewish Education]" - to intensify and expand Torah-true Chinuch among young and old, including those who despite their age are still "young" in knowledge and experience of Torah and Mitzvos.

The importance of Torah education for Jewish daughters in particular has recently been emphasized on several occasions; especially in view of the fact that, firstly, the upbringing of children in their tender age is almost exclusively in the hands of the mother, and later, too, as the children grow older, the home atmosphere is to a large measure - directly and indirectly determined by the wife and mother - the Akeres Habayis [foundation of the home].

Therefore there is no need to emphasize here again the importance of Torah-education for girls, nor to dwell at length on the special importance of the Beth Rivkah schools, where Jewish daughters are educated and prepared to take their proper place - as wife, mother and true Akeres Habayis, in the fullest measure,

May G-d grant that this Annual Beth Rivkah Dinner should be with much Hatzlocho [success]; especially as it is taking place in the month of Mattan Torah [the Giving of the Torah] - an event which, as our Sages point out, was characterized by the triple quality in all three elements involved: the Torah - divided into Torah, Neviim and Ksuvim [the Five Books of Moses, the Prophets and Writings]; the Jewish people - comprising Kohanim, Leviim and Yisraelim; the time - in the Third Month (from Nissan to Sivan). May this be a Segulah [good omen] also for an added measure of Hatzlocho for the Annual Beth Rivkah Dinner, and all participants, in all respects.

With esteem and blessing for Hatzlocho and for good tidings,


Rambam this week

6 Sivan 5762

Positive mitzva 23: the Levites' service in the Sanctuary

By this injunction the Levites are commanded that they alone are to perform certain services in the Sanctuary, such as the closing of the gates and the chanting during the offering of the sacrifices. It is contained in the Torah's words (Num. 18:23): "But the Levites alone shall do the service [of the Tent of Meeting].


A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

This coming Thursday night through Saturday night is the holiday of Shavuot, celebrating when G-d gave the Torah to the Jewish people on Mount Sinai.

Three people in Jewish history are particularly associated with Shavuot: Moshe (Moses), King David and the Baal Shem Tov. And these three great leaders were also intimately connected with Moshiach and the Redemption.

As the one through whom the Torah was given to the Jewish people, Moshe is intimately connected with Shavuot. The Torah, in some places, is even referred to as "The Torah of Moshe"- Torat Moshe. Moshiach will be so like Moshe in his leadership qualities, humility and Torah scholarship that our Sages even stated, "Moshe is the first redeemer and the last redeemer."

Shavuot is the birthday and anniversary of the passing of King David. One of the functions of Moshiach is that he will restore the Davidic dynasty, for Moshiach will be a descendant of King David, a human king.

Finally, we come to the Baal Shem Tov. The Baal Shem Tov, too, passed away on Shavuot, on the second day of the holiday. In a famous letter to his brother-in-law, the Baal Shem Tov described a spiritual "journey" when he visited the chamber of Moshiach. He asked Moshiach, "Master, when will you come?"

Moshiach replied, "When your wellsprings - your teachings - will spread forth to the outside."

The Baal Shem Tov's teachings - Chasidut - were recorded and expounded upon by his various disciples. They are a foretaste of the new and deeper revelations of Torah we are promised will be revealed and taught by Moshiach, himself.

This year on Shavuot, when all Jews, young and old, gather in our synagogues to re-experience the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai, let us also reconnect with the essence of the holiday and cry out for the ultimate revelation of the Torah and G-d through Moshiach.


Thoughts that Count

You shall take a count of the Congregation of Israel (Num. 1:2)

When a count is taken, no distinctions are made between what is being counted. The great and the small are both equal, each having the value of one. The Torah portion of Bamidbar is always read on the Shabbat before Shavuot, the holiday on which the Torah was actually given on Mount Sinai, for all Jews stand equal on that day. Our Sages said that if even one Jew had been missing, the Torah would never have been given!

(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)

"I am the L-rd your G-d."

Why did G-d use the singular form when giving the Ten Commandments to millions of people? To teach us that each and every Jew must say to himself, "The Ten Commandments were given to me, and I must keep them." One should not think it is sufficient that the Torah is kept by others.

(Midrashim)

And Israel encamped there opposite the mountain (Ex. 19:2)

Why was the Torah given on a mountain? The difference between level ground and a mountain is not qualitative; both are made of dust and earth. A mountain is just more of that earth collected and heaped up into a larger mass. The fact that the Torah was given on a mountain teaches us that a Jew's purpose in life is to take that earth-physical matter and corporeality- elevate it, and transform it into holiness.

(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)

Shavuot

"Shavuot" comes from the word "shvua" - oath. On the day that the Torah was given, both G-d and the Jewish people made a mutual vow to each other. We swore to G-d that we will never exchange Him for another god and He swore to us that He will never exchange us for another nation.

(Ohr HaChaim Hakadosh)


It Once Happened

Before the Giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai, G-d brought Moses up to Heaven in order to teach him the entire Torah. Moses, who walked about in Heaven as one walks on earth, was greeted by an angel who asked him, "What are you doing here, son of Amram? What business do you, a mortal who lives in the physical world, have coming to the holy Heavens?"

"I did not come of my own will," replied Moses confidently. "Our Master has ordered me here in order to receive the Torah and bring it back to the Jewish nation."

When the angels realized that Moses had come to take the Torah from the Heavens and bring it to the Jews, they raised a mighty cry. Would they now be parted forever more from their beloved Torah?

G-d therefore told Moses, "Go and speak with the angels. Convince them that they have no need for the Torah and that they have no reason to regret that it is being taken from them."

But Moses was frightened by the fiery angels. "I am surprised at you, Moses," chastised G-d. "When I first appeared to you from the burning bush, you had much to say. You were not afraid to ask and to argue without end. Why are suddenly frightened by angels who are merely My servants?"

Emboldened by G-d's words, and holding on to the Heavenly throne, Moses gathered his courage and began. "Whatever was written in the Torah was not intended for you," Moses told the angels gathered nearby. "What does the Torah say? 'I am G-d your G-d Who took you out of the land of Egypt.' Were you ever slaves in Egypt? Did G-d rescue you from there?" Moses asked the Heavenly servants.

"The Torah also says, 'You shall have no strange gods before Me.' Do you worship man made idols? Do you have an inclination to steal, to covet what belongs to others? Do you have parents that you must honor them? If not, what use do you have for the Torah? You cannot observe its positive commandments nor its prohibitions."

Hearing these arguments, the angels had to concede that Moses was right.

Moses remained in Heaven for 40 days and 40 nights, learning the entire Written Torah and Oral Tradition. Moses knew when day or night had passed on earth by the activities of the angels. When he saw the angels preparing the manna which the Jews were to eat the following day, he knew that it was day. When the manna fell, he knew it was night time on Earth.

One day, Moses saw G-d sitting on His mighty, exalted throne, adding crowns to the letters of the Torah. He asked G-d to explain the reason for these decorations and was told, "In many years to come there will be born a great tzadik (righteous person) by the name of Akiva the son of Josef, who will reveal many hidden secrets of the Torah. He will know how to derive laws and Torah thoughts from every letterhead and crown which I am now adding to the letters."

Moses begged to be shown this tzadik. G-d showed him a building which housed many disciples sitting in rows upon rows. At their head sat a man who resembled a heavenly angel. Moses approached the men but could not understand what they were saying, and he was very grieved.

Then, suddenly, Moses heard one of the students ask the angelic-looking man how he knew all he had been teaching them. Rabbi Akiva replied, "Everything I am teaching and innovating before you in Torah is a direct transmission of what Moses received upon Mount Sinai." Moses was comforted by these words but asked G-d, "If You intend to create such a great person, why do You not grant him the privilege of bringing the Torah down to the Jews?"

"I have especially chosen you to bring the Torah to My children," G-d told Moses. "But because you were so modest in thinking that Rabbi Akiva is more fitting than you to transmit the Torah to the Jews, I will increase your wisdom and knowledge." And at that moment, G-d opened the 50 gates of wisdom, allowing Moses to pass through 49 of them. Moses's wisdom was so great that no other person in the world could compare with him. And it is from Moses, of all our other great teachers, that we will learn Torah when Moshiach comes.


Moshiach Matters

As we look forward to the bliss of the Messianic Redemption, we must prepare for that new revelation even as we had to prepare for the revelation at Sinai which we commemorate on Shavuot. We must overcome all differences that may lead to dissension and divisiveness, to become as "one man, with one mind" by concentrating on that which unites us, on the common denominator we all share. Peace and harmony among ourselves is assured to hasten the universal and everlasting peace of the Messianic era.

(From Living with Mashiach by Rabbi Jacob Immanuel Schochet)


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