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Devarim Deutronomy

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722: Sh'lach

723: Korach

724: Chukas-Balak

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Devarim Deutronomy

L'Chaim
June 14, 2002 - 4 Tamuz, 5762

723: Korach

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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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  722: Sh'lach724: Chukas-Balak  

Dear Old Dad  |  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

Dear Old Dad

Been to the card shop to buy Fathers' Day cards yet? Do you usually go for the sweet and sentimental ones with the soft-touch drawing on the front? Or do you prefer the humorous cards, the kind that make you wonder if the copy- writer grew up in your own home. Some cards talk about Dad always being there, making things right, listening and caring. Others extoll a father's virtues and then ask for the car keys, or a few extra dollars.

G-d is often referred to in our prayers as "Our Father." Just like your dad, G-d is interested and even involved in the most mundane and seemingly insignificant parts of your life. He can be approached by every Jew, no matter where, no matter when. And He can and should be approached for any of the things you might ask your flesh-and-blood father for: some money for a new car, extra assistance on the final exam, a listen-ing ear, or forgiveness, to name a few.

"I don't believe in asking G-d for what I need," some people say. That sounds nice. Sort of like you don't want to bother G-d with your "trivialities." But did you know that it is a mitzva (commandment) to ask G-d for our needs? To pray that the refrigerator doesn't break because you can't afford a new one right now. To ask G-d to heal a sick friend. To request success on that presentation you have to make next week.

Asking your father for something you need-and his being able to help out-gives him pleasure. Similarly, asking G-d for what we need-and His giving it to us-gives Him "pleasure."

There are times, too, that in order to get dad's attention we have to respectfully ask that he put down the newspaper or turn off the T.V. and LISTEN. "Listen to our voice, merciful Father, have compassion on us, accept our prayers; do not turn us away empty-handed for You hear everyone's prayers."[1]

G-d hears our prayers, He listens to our requests, He registers our complaints. But does that mean that things always go the way we want them to? Not necessarily! Did your father always give you the car keys, or let you go to every party you were invited to, or always lend you the money you asked him for? Sometimes yes, and sometimes no.

When you got a yes, you probably never asked him why. But the no always needed an explanation.

Why a no? Sometimes, what you were asking for wasn't right. You knew it and he knew it, but you had to ask anyway. Sometimes it wasn't right, but just Dad knew it; and later, looking back, you realized Dad had made the correct decision. And sometimes, for some inexplicable reason, Dad said no without explaining himself, and you just had to accept it. This is true, too, of our Heavenly Father. Sometimes, He accedes to our requests and at other times He denies them, for He truly knows what is best for us.

There is one request, however, that we know is correct and that we have a right to demand that G-d listen to. It is the plea for Moshiach, who will help the world achieve the purpose for which it was created, an era of peace, prosperity and the pursuit of G-dliness.

Father, hear our prayer, we want Moshiach NOW!

   

Notes:

  1. (Back to text) Paraphrase of one of the 19 blessings from the "Amida" prayer recited three times each weekday.


Living with the Rebbe

This week's Torah portion, Korach, tells about the controversy with Moses initiated by Korach and his followers. Korach's argument went as follows: If every single Jew is a member of a holy nation, then no one person is greater than another. Why are you, Moses, entitled to special privileges? Jews can only stand united if absolutely equal rights are afforded to all, he claimed.

The Torah teaches that this claim-taken to its logical conclusion-leads to the opposite of unity, so much so that Korach's controversy with Moses became the yardstick by which all dissention among Jews is measured.

Moses alluded to this in his answer to Korach: "In the morning G-d will show who is His." According to the Midrash, Moses explained that the same way that G-d has created natural divisions between night and day which complement each other and form a cohesive whole, so too has He created distinctions between different types of Jews, all for the sake of the unity of the Jewish people.

The world was created so that each creation has its own natural limitations. These boundaries enhance the world's natural order and give it structure, for everything has its own particular purpose and function to perform. Unity among G-d's creatures is attained only when each one works within its own framework and fulfills its own role. Harmony is maintained only when we adhere to the Divine plan, interdependent, performing our different allotted tasks. If one creation tries to assume the role of another, the result is disharmony and dissonance.

The distinctions between Israelites, Levites and Kohanim-priests (and even among priests themselves, between ordinary priests and the high priest) are not arbitrary. Each distinction reflects the type of soul given to each Jew, which correlates to his particular task in life and way of serving G-d. G-d desires that each of us fulfill our own unique mission in life, not that of our neighbor. True unity is only achieved when we respect the differences between us.

Each Jew is blessed with different strengths and qualities, and we are enjoined to pool these disparate resources together for the common good. Every Jew, whether Israelite, Levite or Kohen, is indispensable and is part of this greater whole.

The lesson we learn from Korach is also one which is applicable today. Some think the path to true unity and peace lies with breaking down barriers which exist between men and women, Jews and non-Jews, and different faiths and ideologies. The Torah, however, teaches us otherwise. It is only by maintaining and respecting inherent differences that we can achieve unity and true peace.

Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe


A Slice of Life

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
by Roiza Weinreich

I am so grateful that I met you Devorah Leah. We knew each other for only three weeks. Yet in that short time there were moments that I'll never forget.

Wasn't it just yesterday that I sat in the sun on the deck at Machon Chana in the Mountains and heard your Jewish Home class? Your class contained so much practical wisdom. I remember your childlike enthusiasm. Every sentence was conveyed with such wonder. In your gentle calm voice you said, "Consistently do acts of kindness to incorporate it into your character. The more you increase in acts of kindness the more joyous you will become."

I know your responsibilities as the program coordinator felt overwhelming. Yet you always had a moment to show another person that they matter. You reached out with a caring question, a gracious smile and a lively greeting. Every visitor at Machon Chana felt that she was your personal guest. I learned from you that it only takes a moment to give someone affection.

I remember one morning when I drove down the road in the pouring rain. It had been a rough drive and the road from Tannersville to Machon Chana was especially slippery. A drenching rain was coming down. I sat in the car for a few seconds trying to figure out what to do. Of course I didn't have an umbrella and my one-year-old was whimpering in her car seat behind me. I steeled myself for the dash that would leave me soaked.

Suddenly the door opened. Devorah Leah, you came running out with a large yellow umbrella. First you took the baby in. Then you came back and escorted me into the building. Finally I borrowed your umbrella for a third trip to get my teaching supplies and the baby's stroller. Devorah Leah, you noticed, you realized, you acted right away. You ran out to offer shelter and protection. I remember other times that you jumped up and dashed over to reach out to another person. Perhaps that's what your life was about. Problems rain down upon all of us. You were there to help us make it through the rain. You were there to offer your friendship and encouragement. You were there to give us courage and make us feel that we mattered.

People come to Machon Chana to study Torah and learn what it means to be an observant Jew. However, a theoretical lesson is not enough. The question that surely came to many people's minds was, "Do people really live like this?" I know that when someone met you that would be enough to help them decide. Surely they thought, "If I can become like her it is worthwhile to adopt this lifestyle."

What were your last words to me? I wondered why I couldn't reach you. Every time I called your home I heard your voice on the answering machine. You were laughing into the machine together with your children. "Moshiach is coming, leave your message quickly."


by Devorah Leah Shalinsky

Devorah Leah Elgarten was born on the 21st of the Hebrew month of Iyar. The selection for that date from the book Hayom Yom, prepared by the Lubavitcher Rebbe from the teachings of the Previous Rebbe, reads: "Every person must know that G-d, through His individual Providence, gives each person the ability to bring G-d's supernal will from the potential state to the actual. This is done through fulfilling the mitzvot (commandments) and strengthening Judaism and our holy Torah at all times in every place. All depends solely on one's avoda (Divine service)."

Devorah Leah's life was epitomized by bringing the potential into the actual. Her life was characterized by her selfless devotion as a wife, mother, teacher, mashpia (spiritual mentor), writer, singer, neighbor, and friend.

Devorah Leah was born in Chicago, the only daughter of Ed and Joan Schwartz. She chose to give up a lucrative business in Chicago in order to pursue full-time Torah study at Machon Chana Women's Yeshiva in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

In 1993 she married Rashi Elgarten who is the administrator in Yeshiva Tiferes Menachem in Seagate, Brooklyn. With her husband, Devorah Leah established an exemplary Chasidic home. As a warm, involved mother she educated her three children to be true soldiers of the Rebbe. Devorah Leah used much creativity in implanting fine character traits in her children.

Outside of her home, her love and energy was for Machon Chana. As a teachers, it was not only her knowledge but her gentleness and smile that impressed her students. Coming from a secular background herself, Devorah Leah could identify with her students and the changes they were undergoing as they became more observant.

As coordinator of special projects at Machon Chana, Devorah Leah reached out to women across the country. She organized the ten-day YeshivaCation program and Machon Chana in the Mountains summer program. She labored to find meaningful topics and dynamic speakers who would speak to today's women.

Despite her personal challenges due to illness, Devorah Leah always carried out her responsibilities at home and in the community with joy and confidence. She was upbeat and energetic, never hinting about the great pain she endured. In fact, she was in the midst of writing a book about simcha, joy. Even when she could no longer leave her home to go to Machon Chana, she found time to help and encourage neighbors in her apartment building.

She drew strength from learning Torah and endeavored to practice what she learned. The imminent Redemption motivated her actions. In her kitchen with her list of things to do is a reminder to be ready for Moshiach.

Devorah Leah passed away on Shavuot, which was also Shabbat. May her life continue to be a source of strength and blessing and may we be ready to greet Moshiach TODAY.


What's New

Saying Mazel Tov?

Modern medical wisdom recognizes that good health depends on a patient's emotional state and mental attitude. For centuries, it has been customary for Jewish women to adorn both the birthing room and the cradle with Psalm 121 (Shir Lama'alot). The Psalm states our declaration of dependence upon the Creator for our safety and well-being, and His commitment to guard us at all times. To get a free, color print of the Psalm write to LEFJME-Expectant Mother Offer, 312 Kingston Ave. Bklyn, NY 11213 or call (718) 756-5700, intocenter@aol.com, or www.LchaimWeekly.org/general/art/shir-lamaalot.jpg


The Rebbe Writes

14th of Elul, 5720 [1960]

Greeting and Blessing:

I received your letter of the 23rd of Menachem Av, which reached me with some delay. You write about the problem of Parnosso [livelihood], and about the idea of starting a mail order business, about which you ask my advice.

Generally speaking, economic and commercial conditions vary in different countries, and, although here in the U.S.A. such a business is generally considered a good approach, I do not know what the conditions are in England for this kind of business. For the English people are known as conservatives, and may require more effective means of persuasion and salesmanship than through the mail alone. On the other hand, it is very possible that the post-war years, which have brought about many changes, have also changed this attitude. Therefore, you ought to discuss the matter with some friends who are familiar with the situation, and then decide accordingly. And may G-d, Whose benevolent Providence extends to everyone individually and Who is the Essence of Goodness, guide you in the way that is best for you, your family, both materially and spiritually.

You write about your having to participate in disputes in order to defend Chassidus, etc. If this is so, then you are in good company and on the right side, inasmuch as Chassidus is part of the Torah, and defending Chassidus means defending the Torah. Those who take a negative attitude towards Chassidus, seem to live in a bygone era of some two centuries ago, when Chassidus first made it appearance, was unknown and suspected. However, nowadays there can be no doubt as to where Chassidus stands, and that all suspicion was unfounded, and that Chassidus is one of the strongest foundations of the Jewish people.

Everyone acknowledges that it is one of the four aspects of the Torah, which includes the four sections of "pardes" (Pshat [the simple meaning], Remez [allusion], Drush [allegory] and Sod [the hidden]). The saintly Ari and his disciple and successor, Rabbi Chaim Vital, were recognized and venerated not only by the Old Rebbe [Rabbi Shneur Zalman], the founder of Chassidus, but also by the Wilna Gaon, who emphasized in their holy writings that especially in the latter generations of the Golus [exile] it is a Mitzvah [commandment] and necessity to disseminate the teachings of the inner aspects of the Torah. This is also emphasized in Tikkune Zohar, which is recognized by Chassidim and non-Chassidim alike, that the closer we approach the end of the Golus, the greater is the necessity to disseminate these fountains. Knowing that you are defending the truth, you can be sure that eventually the truth will succeed. May you carry on your good work in good health and a happy frame of mind, and with complete trust in Divine Providence, as taught by the Baal Shem Tov... who also emphasized joy and gladness of heart as the basic ingredient of Divine service....


5th of Elul, 5722 [1962]

Sholom uBrocho [Peace and Blessing]:

I am in receipt of your letter of 24th of Av, with the enclosures....

Needless to say, I was painfully surprised to read about the criticism leveled against you for your participation in the Lubavitch work. Surely one would have expected the opposite attitude on the part of Jewish circles who value Torah and Mitzvoth [commandments], who should help and not hinder, seeing that a group of dedicated Jews are doing such good work to spread and strengthen Yiddishkeit [Judaism]. What better proof is needed than that of the matter of hasogas gvul [encroachment], which is one of the severest injunctions, so much so that it is included among the "accursed" sins (in Parshas Ki Sovoi). Yet while any manner of encroachment in the material aspects of life is so severally condemned, it not only has no place in the area of spreading Yiddishkeit, but, on the contrary, it is encouraged. It is a well-known Psak [ruling] in the Gemoro, Rambam, and Shulchan Aruch, that the principle of hasogas gvul is of no consideration; rather the opposite for here the principle of kinas sofrim ["envy" amongst scholars] takes precedence and competition is encouraged. So much so, that according to our standard version in the Gemoro Bobo Basro 21b, it was none other than Ezra haSofer [the scribe] who ordained and practiced it.

It is indeed hard to understand how people, who should know better, can place stumbling blocks in the path of young men who have given up an easier and better life (from the point of view of material and economic security) in the USA, in order to work for the strengthening of Yiddishkeit in a community which is not their own, knowing full well the difficulties facing them. Such young men should have been received with gratitude and encouragement.

However, we are taught al todin es chavercho [do not judge your friend], and certainly the month of Elul is not time for judging others. So let bygones be bygones, and from now on may better judgment prevail, in accordance with the words of the prophet Malachi (3:16), "Then they that feared G-d spoke with one another, and G-d hearkened and heard," etc...


Rambam this week

6 Tammuz, 5762

Positive mitzva 53: appearing before G-d in the Sanctuary in Jerusalem on the three Festivals

By this injunction we are commanded to appear before the L-rd during the Festivals. It is contained in the words (Deut. 16:16): "Three times a year shall all your males appear before the L-rd your G-d." The commandment is not binding on women.


A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

This week, on Shabbat afternoon, we will be studying the fourth chapter of Pirkei Avot. In this chapter, we find the words of Rabbi Azzai, "Do not regard anyone with contempt and do not reject anything. For there is not a person who does not have his hour, and there is not a thing that does not have its place."

On the first part of this Mishna, the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn, comments that in our lives we often encounter this interesting situation: Simple, ordinary people, who don't consider themselves to be "somebodies," make way and find place for people who are "lower" on the totem pole of life. They take time to consider another person's opinion, and are capable of becoming close with and uniting with others.

However, in the case of people who are "big and important," each one takes up so much space for himself, that none of them can stand anyone else, especially someone less important.

The truth is, that the truly great person doesn't disregard or reject anyone. He or she knows how to regard and appreciate every person and situation.

Rabbi Menachem ben Shlomo Meiri comments on the words, "do not reject anything." He says that even if you hear things about yourself that you don't really want to hear, don't regard the comments with contempt. If people criticize you, don't reject their criticism outright. Don't say that these faults are impossible and have no basis. But, rather, take the words to heart and try to ascertain how you can learn and grow from them.

May we all very soon experience our "hour" and our "place" with the coming of Moshiach and the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple NOW!


Thoughts that Count

And Korach took (Num. 16:1)

How is it possible that a portion of the Torah is named after a sinner as great as Korach? The Torah wants to emphasize that we can learn something constructive even from Korach's bitter controversy. Just as Korach wanted to be a High Priest, every Jew should similarly desire to draw near to G-d.

(Likutei Sichot)


And Korach took [a bold step]...together with Datan and Aviram...and Ohn, the son of Pelet (Num. 16:1)

Ohn, the son of Pelet, was one of Korach's 250 followers in his insurrection against Moses. Yet when the Torah lists those who were punished, Ohn's name is omitted. Why? Ohn was saved by his righteous wife. When she learned of her husband's intention she persuaded him that it was wrong to go against Moses. Ohn, however, had a dilemma. He had already promised Korach he would join him. So Ohn's wife gave him a large meal and strong wine, causing him to fall asleep. When Korach and his group came looking for him, she pointedly sat in front of her tent, immodestly uncovered her hair and combing it. Korach and his followers would not approach her. Because of his virtuous wife, Ohn's life was spared.

(Midrash)


And Datan and Aviram (Num. 16:1)

The Torah criticizes Datan and Aviram more than any other participants in Korach's rebellion as they mixed into a controversy that was none of their business. They weren't firstborn sons who might have resented having the priesthood taken away from them, nor were they even from the tribe of Levi. The priesthood was none of their concern.

(Machane Belula)


And they rose up before Moses...certain men...called to the assembly, men of renown (literally "men of name") (Num. 16:2)

What type of person was attracted to Korach's side? Those who sought honor, fame and privilege. If Korach wins, they reasoned, he will reward us with positions of power, and our names will become even greater.

(Kli Yakar)


It Once Happened

Reb Moshe earned his living as an innkeeper in a small townlet. One day, the squire of the area came to him with a proposition. "Moshe, I am moving to a distant province. I must sell all of my property here. I have known you for many years and know, too, that you are very honest. I am willing to sell all of my property to you at only a tenth of its value if you give me the cash in a few days."

Moshe's reaction was that of joy at this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. He did not, however, have the amount of money in cash that the squire had named. Moshe's wife offered the following solution. "If we sell all of our valuables, our silver and my jewelry, even our home, we will be able to come up with the money. Whatever we lack, I am certain we can borrow from friends and relatives. Thus we will be able to take advantage of this opportunity G-d has given us."

Moshe followed his wife's advice and set out for the squire's estate with a purse filled with money. Along the way, he heard a blood-chilling shriek. He ran in the direction of the cry and found himself at the doorstep of a broken-down home. He entered the hovel and saw a dead man, surrounded by a woman and her seven ragged children.

Moshe sized up the situation. He hesitated but a moment and then took out his purse of money and handed it to the widow.

At first the distraught woman refused to accept such a large sum of money. But after much cajoling, Moshe managed to convince her to take it.

This incident caused a tremendous tumult in heaven. Moshe had given away all of his earthly possessions, and the opportunity to become a very wealthy man, for the sake of a mitzva (commandment)! The Heavenly Court was deciding what kind of reward to bestow upon this person when the Adversary complained, "Before any of your righteous are given gifts from Heaven, they are tested. I propose that I be allowed to descend to the world and test this man, to see if he is truly deserving of such a reward."

Elijah the Prophet quickly intervened. "I beg of you. Let me be the one to administer the test. Even an utterly righteous person would be hard put to pass a test administered by this one!"

Moshe did not return home after giving the purse full of money to the widow and orphans. He decided to wander from town to town, trying to eke out a living and find a new place for his family to settle. That first evening, though famished and fatigued, Moshe's happiness in having performed so great a mitzva was not lessened. At nightfall, he found a small synagogue and sat down to begin studying Torah. At that time, Elijah the Prophet, disguised as a distinguished and wealthy businessman, descended to this world. He found Moshe in the ynagogue a day's journey from his home.

The businessman asked Moshe what had brought him to this town and Moshe began to tell his tale. The businessman was very moved. "Thank G-d," he began, "I have been blessed with more money than I could possibly use in my lifetime. I would like to offer you enough money to support your family for the rest of your life in exchange for the merit of the mitzva you performed today."

Moshe was exhausted. His empty stomach cried out mercilessly. The offer was so tempting... But he caught himself and answered, "G-d gave me the rare opportunity to do this tremendous mitzva with utter self-sacrifice. I will not part with my mitzva for all the money in the world."

The businessman persisted. "Your mitzva was indeed tremendous. I am willing to keep my part of the offer for just one-half of the merit of your mitzva."

Again Moshe refused. And again, the businessman made a counter-offer. Moshe would not even part with one hundredth of the mitzva, for enough money to support himself and his wife for the rest of their lives.

Then, the businessman revealed himself. "I am Elijah the Prophet. You are indeed blessed. For not only have you performed a great mitzva, but you also withstood the temptation of selling even the smallest part of the mitzva. I have been told to offer you one of three rewards. Either you and your wife will be blessed with long and healthy lives, or you will be granted great wealth, or you will be blessed with a son who will be pious, a great scholar and a leader."

Without a moment's hesitation, Moshe answered, "My wish is to have a son who will become such a righteous person. For what are riches and long life compared to being blessed with such a child?"

"Your son," answered Elijah, "will be so great that his holiness will light up the entire world. But, if this is the reward you chose, know that you and your wife must accept upon yourselves to be wanderers."

Moshe quickly traveled home to consult with his wife. She also agreed to the reward of being blessed with such a child, even if it entailed a life of wandering.

Within a year, a son was born to the couple who grew up to be the learned and holy Reb Menachem Mendel of Rimanov.


Moshiach Matters

When Moshiach comes there will be a trial to determine who is to arise at the Resurrection of the Dead. Presiding over this trial will be Moshiach himself. However, unlike an ordinary judge, "not according to the sight of his eyes shall he judge, nor shall he rebuke according to the hearing of his ears" (Isaiah 11:9). Rather, he will see and feel the factors that caused the sinner to transgress. He will weigh and consider the bleak life that Jews have lived in exile. He will intercede on their behalf and seek out their merits, pointing out that they did not want to sin: they were unable to overmaster their Evil Inclination.

(Likutei Dibburim of the Previous Rebbe)


  722: Sh'lach724: Chukas-Balak  
   
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