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Devarim Deutronomy

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Devarim Deutronomy

June 21, 2002 - 11 Tamuz, 5762

724: Chukas-Balak

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

Text VersionFor Palm Pilot
  723: Korach725: Pinchas  

Making Time  |  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

Making Time

A time-management professional is brought into a busy corporation for a lunch-time lecture. He starts by offering a visual portrayal of how to make the most of one's time.

He fills a jar with stones until no more fit in. "Is this jar full?" he asks the audience.

All heads nod in concurrence.

The speaker takes out a sack of pebbles and begins to pour them into the jar, shaking and shifting as he pours. Half the sack is now empty and no more pebbles will enter the jar. He asks the audience again, "Is this jar full?"

A few heads vigorously nod in agreement while a number of faces express uncertainty.

The speaker lifts a bag of sand and begins pouring it into the jar. The fine grains glide through the obstacle course of pebbles and stones. He continues to pour the sand until the jar can contain no more.

"Now is the jar full?" he asks.

Although nearly everyone is now certain that the jar is finally filled, only a few people sheepishly nod their heads.

Finally, the speaker reaches under the table and pulls out a bottle of water. He slowly pours the water into the jar. It passes over the small stones and pebbles and sand, settling in the bottom of the jar, then midway up, now at the top, and finally a few drops flow onto the table.

"Now is this jar full?" asks the speaker.

Hesitantly at first, and then more assuredly, the participants shake their heads in agreement.

"What do we learn from this little demonstration?" asks the time-management professional.

Instantly people raise their hands. The speaker calls on an enthusiastic-looking young man perched on the edge of his chair in the front row.

"We learn that no matter how full a person's schedule is, he can always squeeze more in," the young man says triumphantly.

"Wrong!" bellows the speaker.

The audience is taken aback. Isn't the lesson of the stones, pebbles, sand and water obvious?

"We learn from this little exercise," the expert says earnestly, "that first we must schedule into our days that which is most essential and significant. Afterwards, we can begin to pencil in the 'important' matters. We follow that up by adding to our schedules matters of lesser importance. And only after we have incorporated all of these into our days and weeks do we fill up the rest of our time with the inconsequential matters."

Our thoughts continue to focus on our brethren in the Holy Land-may we hear only good news.

The days and weeks turn into months. And we are "still" preoccupied with Israel, with the rise in anti-Semitism, with the imperative of Jewish unity.

We come face-to-face with the realization that our Jewish identity, Torah and its teachings, are our "stones" and we consider how we are going to make sure that all of them get into our jars.

On Thursday of this coming week (June 27 this year), we begin the three-week period of mourning for the destruction of the Holy Temples. The first Holy Temple was destroyed nearly 2,600 years ago. The Second Temple was destroyed nearly 2,000 years ago. And for all of these years we have been praying for the rebuilding of the Holy Temple, the ingathering of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel, and Moshiach.

The hope and prayers for the Redemption have always been part of the personal and collective jar of the Jewish people.

Before our jars get packed with time-wasters and energy-sappers, let's fill them with simple acts of goodness, dignified acts of kindness and the foundation stones of Torah study and mitzva observance. Let's increase in acts of goodness and kindness, in Torah study and in holy deeds, as a preparation for the era that will be utterly good, kind and holy for the Jewish people and the world.

Living with the Rebbe

This week we read two Torah portions, Chukat and Balak. Of all the prophecies in Scripture that refer to the Messianic era, the one contained in the Torah portion of Balak is most unusual in that it came from Bilaam, a gentile prophet.

Bilaam, the foremost prophet of his time, was forced against his will to foretell the downfall of the nations of the world and the ultimate ascendancy of the Jewish people.

The very fact that this prophecy is included in our holy Torah indicates its special significance; indeed, it contains a distinct advantage precisely because it was said by a non-Jew.

For, when Moshiach comes, the Jewish people will no longer be subservient to the nations; on the contrary, the gentile leaders will vie with one another for the privilege of serving the Jews!

Thus, the prophecy of Bilaam concerning the Final Redemption not only gave the Children of Israel cause for rejoicing over their future, it actually afforded them a "taste" of the way things will be in the Messianic era.

As far as prophecy itself is concerned, our Sages foretold its reoccurrence among the Jewish people before Moshiach's arrival according to the following chronology:

Commenting on the verse in this week's Torah portion, "At the proper time shall it be said to Jacob and to Israel, what G-d has wrought," Maimonides noted that prophecy would return to Israel after "the proper time" had elapsed after Bilaam, i.e., after the same number of years as had passed since the creation of the world until his prophecy.

Bilaam's prophecy was said in the year 2488; 2488 years after that, in the year 4976 (we are now in the year 5762), prophecy was destined to return to the Jewish people.

In fact we find that this was indeed the case, for it was then that prophetic luminaries began to appear on the Jewish horizon -Rabbi Shmuel Hanavi, Rabbi Elazar Baal "Harokeach," Nachmanides, the Ravad (Rabbi Abraham ben David), Rabbi Ezra Hanavi and Rabbi Yehuda the Chasid and others.

More generations passed until the birth of Rabbi Yisrael Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Chasidut, and his successor, the Magid of Mezeritch, about whom it was said that they "could see from one end of the world to the other."

The following generation produced Rabbi Shneur Zalman, who formulated Chabad Chasidut. Had he lived in the times of our prophets he would have been on a par with them; moreover, this chain of prophecy continued from one Chabad leader to the next, until the present day, when the Rebbe has prophesied that Moshiach's arrival is imminent.

The return of prophecy to the Jewish people is therefore both a prerequisite and preparation for the Messianic era, which is due to begin at any moment.

Adapted from Likutei Sichot of the Rebbe, Vol. 2

A Slice of Life

"Release Me"
By Elise Lantor

The Baal Shem Tov would have loved the "Released Time" program. Over 250 years ago he was the loving escort of shtetl children to their cheder (school) so that they could learn the fundamentals of Judaism. The Baal Shem Tov must have been the inspiration for the "Released Time" program. For the past 62 years at 2:00 p.m. on Wednesdays, public schools throughout the New York metropolitan area discharge a bevy of enthusiastic children to a "rebbe" who escorts them to a local synagogue for an hour of Jewish education.

For most of these children, mainly from Russian and Israeli backgrounds, those brief sixty minutes are the only formal Jewish education they have. Understandably, the teachers make the most of those precious moments. For many of those children, and even for their families, the Released Time program has become the catalyst for real Jewish growth and learning. It was never regarded as a substitute for Jewish education, but as a stimulus to arouse the desire for full-time Jewish education, and each year many Released Time children join Jewish day and afternooon school during the following school year.

When the doors of our synagogue, Congregation Israel of Kings Bay, Brooklyn, fly open each Wednesday afternoon, 30 public school children rush in, eager to learn about the the Torah portion, Shabbat, kosher, an upcoming holiday, and blessings through the mediums of arts and crafts, stories, cartoon characters ( and games. This curriculum is duplicated in synagogues all across the city. The fun continues even during school vacations as the children are offered "Winter Camp" and "Mid-Winter Camp," the opportunity for daily Jewish learning in between swim and gym sessions and day trips. Come summer vacation, the children are encouraged to attend Jewish camps.

The history of Released Time is an interesting one. New York State initiated its program in 1940, at which time it served primarily Catholic schoolchildren. However, the arrival in New York of the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn in that same year brought a dramatic revision to the program. He and his son-in-law and successor, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, had the foresight to see that this program was a vital one with which to reach the majority of Jewish public school children who otherwise were not being given any Jewish education, the chance to encourage the spark of Torah and Judaism. As a result, the Released Time program from its inception was organized and energized by Chabad, although for the past 15 years a similar program has also been offered by the Jewish Education Program.

Since there were few yeshivot and afternoon Hebrew schools in the early post-war years, there was great enthusiasm among parents to enroll their children in Released Time. It was not unusual for the programs to have 300 children in each synagogue. One former Released Time student of that era is Rabbi Harvey Senter, Founder and Executive Administrator of "Kof-K Kosher Supervision."

From a kosher but not Shabbat observant home, Rabbi Senter was profoundly influenced by Rabbi Jacob J. Hecht, who in 1947 was his Released Time teacher. With Rabbi Hecht's loving inspiration and his father's blessing, Rabbi Senter left public school and entered the yeshiva world. Years later, after Rabbi Senter established "Kof-K" and was in the office of Levy's Jewish Rye Bread he encountered Rabbi Hecht again, who recognized him immediately and "lit up like a street light," according to the poignant reminiscence of Rabbi Senter. Rabbi Hecht invited Rabbi Senter to speak on his radio program and at fund-raising events that highlighted the success stories of Released Time students.

At present, since there are fewer Jewish children attending New York City public schools, enrollment averages 1,000 children per year but can swell to hundreds more, with new children coming into the program even until the last day of the school year. There are Released Time programs in California, Australia and Canada, and calls routinely come into the Released Time Office of Director Rabbi Shneur Zalman Kalman Zirikind from places like Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Florida, asking how to set up similar programs in their communities.

According to Assistant Director Rabbi Natan Shusterman, each year about 35 Released Time children are inspired, like Rabbi Senter, to leave public school and attend yeshiva. That represents not only a victory for the individual child but for the family as well, for it is the goal of the program to ignite the family's interest and education in Jewish fundamentals, and many families have become Torah observant through the efforts of Released Time. This is a tribute to the hard work and dedication of the teachers, who spend a significant amount of their time counseling the parents. Lubavitchers who hope to go out as emissaries, opening Chabad Houses around the world, are expected to get their training by first teaching in Released Time programs.

The synagogue that plays "host" to Released Time children also has a vital role to play in this regard. Our synagogue includes the children and their families in invitations to all of our holiday parties, special events and Shabbat Across America programs, where the children perform songs and skits. The children and their families are, after all, from our community and they are made to feel comfortable and welcome, "at home" in the shul and hopefully to become part of our membership.

Thus far, the Released Time program has influenced three generations of Jewish children and their families, hundreds of thousands of children since its inception. Who can calculate how many Jewish lives have been reached for the better? Hopefully, this might inspire you to invite the Released Time program to your synagogue or to inform a child you know about the program. Perhaps he will become another Rabbi Senter.

For more information about Released Time call (718) 735-0215. This article first appeared in the Jewish Press.

What's New

New Mikva Opens

A new mikva (ritualarium) opened in the Chabad Center of Palo Alto under the directorship of Rabbi Yosef and Dina Levin. The Dryan Family Mikva is a state-of-the-art facility serving Northern California. The cornerstone of Jewish family life throughout the ages, the observance of Family Purity laws has been enhanced through the construction of mikvaot by Chabad-Lubavitch Centers world-wide (see

The Rebbe Writes

14th of Tammuz, 5719 [1959]

Greeting and Blessing:

I received your letter of July 15th...

It happens that promises before elections are not always kept after elections. Therefore, even if the said person will not always abide by his promises, I trust that it will in no way affect your work for the benefit of the community. Furthermore, the Zechus Horabim [merit of the public] will stand you in good stead and you will be successful, which will at the same time also provide additional channels to receive G-d's blessings in all your affairs, public and private.

Your letter reached me during the auspicious days of 12-13th of Tammuz, marking the Liberation of my father-in-law of saintly memory from imprisonment and persecution in Soviet Russia for his work for Jews and Yiddishkeit [Judaism] there. My father-in-law had declared that his liberation was not a personal affair, but it was a victory of all the holy things for which he had fought, namely, the strengthening and spreading of Yiddishkeit in general, and of the teachings of Chassidus in particular. Therefore, these days are auspicious for everyone who is associated with his work, and a source of inspiration and blessing.

I was pleased to read in your letter of your successful business activities, and may you continue to do successful business in an ever-growing measure.

I was also particularly pleased to note in your letter that you took advantage of an opportunity when you were called upon to make a public speech at the grammar school, and you made a declaration on the importance of higher Jewish education for boys and girls. May G-d grant that this fundamental and vital idea has taken root in the hearts of all the listeners, and will bring good results with all speed. For, I have often emphasized, in the question of education, the time element is of the essence, and opportunities lost are rarely retrieved.

On this day of "Issru Chag" [the day after a festival] of the Liberation Festival, I send you my prayerful wishes that you enjoy liberation and freedom from all anxieties and difficulties, and that you carry on your good work with true inner joy and gladness of heart, going from strength to strength both materially and spiritually.

With blessing,

15th of Tammuz, 5723 [1963]

Blessing and Greeting:

I was pleased to receive your letter with the enclosure. I am gratified to note that you found the children well and happy, and that all is well also in the educational work.

I was, of course, also pleased to note that after our conversation, you felt much encouraged in regard to your work for spreading Yiddishkeit. In regard to your writing that you had the feeling that you could conquer the world, may I add that this is not only a manner of speaking, but has a basis in fact, as indicated in the Gemara (Kiddushin 40b), and also the Rambam states something to that effect, as a matter of halachah [Jewish law], when he says that a person should always consider his positive and negative deeds as equi-balanced, and so the whole world. If one does an additional mitzvah [commandment], he places himself, as well as the whole world, in the scale of zechus [merit], outweighing the negative side.

The above is true, of course, also in the matter of spreading Yiddishkeit, and not only for the purpose of out-balancing. For the activities in Chinuch [Jewish education], starting in a sincere and hearty way, create a chain reaction, and eventually the students themselves become sources of influence, whether as teachers or in other active capacities, with the same enthusiasm and inspiration.

I trust that you observed in a suitable way the auspicious days of 12-13th of Tammuz. These days marked the liberation of my father-in-law of saintly memory from Soviet imprisonment, where his life was in jeopardy as a result of his relentless and sustained battle for the preservation of the Jewish life and institutions even under that totalitarian and anti-religious regime. His selfless dedication, as well as miraculous triumph, is an inspiration to every one of us, and proves once again that where there is a will and determination in matters of Torah and mitzvos, no obstacles are insurmountable. May the inspiration of these days be with you throughout the year.

With blessing,

Rambam this week

14 Tammuz, 5762

Positive mitzva 72: the offering of higher or lower value

By this injunction we are commanded to offer a sacrifice of higher or lower value (according to a person's means) for certain transgressions: defilement of the Santuary or its hallowed objects, an oath of utterance, or a false oath concerning testimony. It is contained in the words (Lev. 5: 1-11): "And he shall bring his forfeit...and if his means suffice not, etc."

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

This Shabbat is the twelfth day of the Hebrew month of Tammuz. This day marks both the birthday of the Previous Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, and his liberation from Soviet prison and exile.

When the Bolshevik revolution succeeded in overthrowing the Czarist regime in 1917, it set about destroying religion. Judaism, and particularly Chabad-Lubavitch, was a prime target. The Previous Rebbe, devoted himself to keeping the flame of Judaism alive in the early days of Communist Russia.

So powerful was the Previous Rebbe's impact that at one point he was even offered a deal by the Communist government! He would be allowed to continue to support rabbis, ritual slaughterers, etc., and even continue to encourage Jews to attend prayer services on one condition: He had to stop educating the children in the ways of the Torah.

To the Previous Rebbe this was unacceptable, and he refused, saying, "If there are no kid goats, there will be no adult goats..." Without the proper Jewish education for our children, we as a nation, cannot survive. And even when the Previous Rebbe reached the shores of America, he continued to strengthen Jewish life by establishing schools here as well.

The Previous Rebbe showed great courage and determination when it came to preserving the Jewish way of life through Jewish education. He stood up to both Communist oppression and to those here in America who told him that it couldn't be done, that yeshivot couldn't thrive in this modern new world. His legacy, Chabad schools the world over, has outlived Soviet Communism and at the same time continues to prove that those who doubted him were wrong.

The Previous Rebbe was a living example of his teachings. His strength and courage were not for his own personal needs, but for the spiritual needs of the entire Jewish people.

Let us stand strong together, and demand from G-d the thing we need most, the arrival of our righteous Moshiach and the true and complete Redemption.

Thoughts that Count

This is the Torah's decree... have them bring you a completely red cow which has no blemish (Numbers 19:2)

There is a profound link between the precept of the "red heifer" and the principle of Messianic redemption: Mitzvot signify life. When one follows the commandments one attaches himself to the Al-mighty and draws spiritual vitality from the Source of All Life. Sin signifies death. Violating G-d's will disrupts attachment to the Creator, thus bringing about the "impurity of death." Both the red cow and the Messianic redemption effect purification. For just as the ashes of the red cow are used for removing a legal state of impurity, the Final Redemption with Moshiach will purify the entire people of Israel from any trace of deficiency in their bond with G-d.

(Peninei HaGeula)

Which has no blemish, which has never borne a yoke (Numbers 19:2)

If a person sees himself as "without blemish," confident that he has already reached perfection, it is a sure sign that he "has never borne a yoke" - he has never accepted the yoke of heaven. Otherwise he would understand that he is still full of imperfections...

(The Seer of Lublin)

And now come, I pray you, and curse me this people (Num. 22:4)

It is interesting to note the language Balak used when he asked Bilaam to curse the Jewish people: "Curse me" he said, words which can also be interpreted to mean that he himself should be cursed, which is exactly what eventually happened. One must always think before speaking and pay attention to the words we use.

(Shaloh Hakadosh)

He has not beheld any wrong in Jacob, nor has he seen evil in Israel: The L-rd his G-d is with him, and the glory of the king dwells among him. (Num. 23:21)

Rabbi Yitzchak of Vorka used to say: It states in the holy Zohar that "The Holy One, Blessed Be He, the Torah and Israel are one." The same way one cannot pick G-d or His Torah apart by saying, "This particular verse of the Torah doesn't appeal to me," so too, should we approach our fellow Jew, treating him with respect and acknowledging his importance to the Jewish People as a whole."

It Once Happened

The heavenly decree was sealed: "The Holy Temple should be destroyed, and the Jews should be driven out of their land!" Then G-d said: "But the Western Wall should not be destroyed, so that there should always be a reminder that G-d's Glory resides there!"

The Jews could not and would not forget their Holy Temple. Every year on the ninth of Av, the Jews assembled at the Western Wall to pour out their hearts about the destruction, and to beseech G-d to rebuild the Holy Temple.

The Romans could not bear to see how resolutely the Jews kept to their religion, and how holy they regarded the Western Wall. The Romans hit upon a plan of how to remedy the situation; they issued an order that all gentiles who live in Jerusalem must dump their garbage daily near the Wall.

Day in, day out, the heap of garbage grew. Bit by bit the whole Wall was covered. The Jews mourned anew.

Many years went by. A very righteous Jew from outside of Israel came to Jerusalem to pour out his heart to G-d over the destruction. He walked through the streets of Jerusalem, seeking the Wall, but the could not find it. Everyone he asked shrugged their shoulders; they had never in their lives seen the Wall.

The Jew, however, did not give up hope. Day and night he looked for the Wall. Once, he came upon a huge hill of rubbish and wondered how so much garbage came to be accumulated at this place. He noticed a very old woman carrying a heavy sack on her back.

"Old woman, what are you carrying?" the Jew asked her.

"I am carrying a sack of garbage to throw on the hill."

The Jew inquired, "Do you have no room closer to home for garbage, that you are forced to bring it here?"

"It is an old custom for us to bring the garbage here. Once there stood here a huge stone wall that the Jews regarded as holy, so we were ordered to cover the wall." She emptied her bundle and returned home..

Tears poured from the Jew's eyes. "I will not move from here until I find a plan how to remove the dirt and reveal the Western Wall once more."

Suddenly an idea came to him. The Jew started back to town and whispered to everyone he saw: "They say that a big treasure lies buried beneath the hill of dirt over there."

He took a shovel and a bucket and began digging in the dirt. A short while later many more people arrived. The whole city of Jerusalem was aroused at the announcement of a huge treasure lying beneath the hill. They dug for a whole day till the upper stones of the Wall came into view. The sun set and the people went home to rest from their day's labor. The Jew then took out some golden coins, covered them with dirt and left.

The next morning, soon after dawn, there was an uproar by the hill. Someone had found a golden coin, and so did a second, and a third. The people started to dig with even more enthusiasm.

Every day they dug deeper and deeper. Every day a few golden coins were found. But, they were certain the real treasure lay at the bottom. The Jew spent his entire fortune on his mission to uncover the Western Wall.

For forty days the people dug around the Wall and sought the treasure. Finally the whole Wall was cleared of garbage. They did not find the treasure, but in front of their eyes a big stone wall appeared.

Suddenly a great storm broke out and a torrent of rain came down. It rained for three days, washing the Wall clean of any traces of dirt. When the people came out to see what they had unearthed, they saw a handsome wall with huge stones, some of them as much as ten feet high.

On the spot where Abraham brought Isaac to be sacrificed, where the first Holy Temple, built by King Solomon stood, and the second Holy Temple, built by Ezra and Nehemiah - on this very spot the third and final Temple will be built, when Moshiach comes.

From Talks and Tales

Moshiach Matters

A personal obligation rests upon every individual Jew to arouse his fellow to the practice of good deeds. When instead a person adopts an attitude of humility and argues, "Who am I to arouse my fellow? What kind of a spokesman am I?"- he deserves to be sternly rebuked. These "meek of the earth" will be rebuked by Moshiach, though here too he will find extenuating circumstances.

(Likutei Dibburim by the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe)

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