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Have you ever taken a child to a ballgame or to an amusement park? (Or maybe you've gone with your family to the zoo?) If so, then surely you've seen the souvenir stands.
They sell all kinds of memorabilia, from the unforgettable to the frivolous. As you and child walk past, you slow down to look. Maybe a team pennant catches your eye, or a foam ball, or a shirt with a marquee player's name and number. Maybe it's an oversized doll - the zoo's icon, or a familiar figure. Maybe it's a key chain, a pen, or just a tchatchke (known as a knick-knack in the vernacular).
Maybe it's a book, a video, an informative poster or a three dimensional model.
The souvenir stand can be no more than a stall blocking a stadium corridor. It can be an entire room inside the museum with all kinds of learning games, experimental toys and educational tchatchkes.
What you see before you is the merchandise of experience, entertainment's wares. With a skeptic's eyes you weigh the cost - is that official team logo baseball cap really worth $25? What about the glass elephant? It'll only sit on a shelf or break. And look at how much you've already spent just to get in, not to mention the cost of a drink.
And while you stand there, the child is clamoring and climbing up your arm - now doing a good imitation of a mountain - plead-ing, begging, cajoling - the wise salesman just waits, not watching the battle too intensely lest the scales be tipped against him.
And so you must decide, do you buy the child a souvenir or not? Something physical to remember the day, something tangible to evoke not just the events but the emotions shared. For when you enter the child's room one day and see that ridiculous, over-priced noisemaker or stumble over the base of the half-finished model (then crack a dozen little pieces with your next step) - when that happens, you, too will recall that time, recall with a smile the joy, excitement, discovery, gratitude and love of the child.
After all what separates a memento from a piece of junk? What makes bits of plastic, metal and glass into a souvenir?
When we think about it, a mitzva's like a souvenir. It involves something physical - a bit of leather, some wax, parchment perhaps, even food. None of the material used for a mitzva has any significance in and of itself. But when we make tefilin out of the leather, Shabbat candles from the wax, turn the parchment into a mezuza and say a blessing over kosher food, we transform these ordinary, inconsequential, trivial bits and pieces into things of holiness.
And like a souvenir, the objects of a mitzva recollect the past - or rather, re-collect it, making the event, the action ever-present.
The objects of a mitzva are a living reminder, not only to us, who were there, not only to our children - for whom our mitzva now becomes tangible - but also for G-d. For our mitzvot are His souvenirs.
Until the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai, the Jewish people's principal connection to G-d was through Moses. G-d would speak to Moses, who would then pass on the commandment to the rest of the Jewish people. This week's Torah portion, Teruma, begins a new chapter in our worship of G-d and opens up a new means of communication: G-d asks the Children of Israel to build Him a Sanctuary, a special place where they will pray, offer sacrifices, and witness manifestations of G-dliness.
Why did G-d require a special place to dwell? Does He not already exist everywhere? Why would G-d, Who is not limited in any sense, want to cause His Presence to rest on a particular, limited, physical site?
To answer these questions, one can employ an analogy taken from a natural phenomenon: When a high, brick wall falls down, the bricks from the highest part of the wall fall the farthest away. Those bricks that formed the lowest section of the wall remain very close to their original place. This principle applies as well to the spiritual realm - "The higher the spiritual source, the lower will be its manifestation in the corporeal world."
As a further illustration we see that the better a person's understanding and grasp of a subject, the more he is able to explain the subject, however complex, to another - even to one with limited intelligence.
Similarly, G-d's desire to dwell in a specific location does not point to His limitation, but is rather a manifestation of His infinite nature. It is precisely because G-d is without measure and omnipresent that He was able to dwell in a sanctuary made of wood and stone.
There were also different degrees of holiness present in the Tabernacle, which traveled together with the Jews through the wilderness, and the Holy Temple, which was later erected in Jerusalem as a permanent dwelling. The Tabernacle was built mostly of material from the vegetable and animal kingdoms-wood and animal products; the Temple was built almost entirely of stone, taken from the realm of the inanimate, the lowest of all. The Holy Temple had the highest manifestation of G-dliness, from the highest spiritual source, and this was reflected in the fact that it was made of the lowliest building materials.
"And they shall make Me a sanctuary and I will dwell in their midst." Today, because we have no Holy Temple, every Jew serves as a sanctuary to G-d. Just as the Children of Israel elevated their physical possessions by using them to build the Tabernacle and later the Temple, every Jew must now utilize his possessions in bringing the peace and light of Torah into the world. When we do this, and conduct even the most mundane aspects of our lives "for the sake of Heaven," we ourselves are sanctified and transformed into a sanctuary to G-d, and become active partners in imbuing the world with holiness.
Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe
by Rabbi Dovid Shraga Polter
A memory of my teenage years still resonates within me, partly perhaps, because of my work as a Community Chaplain serving Jewish older adults in the Detroit Metropolitan area.
It was a Friday afternoon in the middle of the summer. I was shopping for Shabbat provisions on a bustling street with people rushing in all directions. As I hurried with my shopping bags across the Brooklyn neighborhood's main street, I noticed an elderly European Jew. Over and over again, he was shouting to all the passersby, "Vie loift a Yid?!!-Where is a Jew running?"
I viewed this man - and his seemingly bizarre behavior - as just another strange street person, all too common in New York. I went about my business, and along with the other shoppers, didn't try to connect with or understand the man.
Decades have passed, and only recently have the man's words begun to strike me as profound and insightful. I realize now that he was challenging me to value and nurture peace in my life. He was questioning our hastiness, for he believed one must live every moment for the moment, not for the next. His words have inspired me to cherish the moment and not to overlook or rush it through.
Some of us possibly have spent much of our lives looking for the next moment - only to finally realize that our entire "present" has suddenly become swallowed by our irretrievable past.
I believe I heard in this man's voice the cries of our elderly urging us to share our "precious present" with them, with our parents, grandparents, and our other respected elders.
Our elders have so much to live for and pride themselves in - the joy of children and grandchildren if they were so blessed, life-long friends they have made, talents and expertise they have developed, and individual attitudes and wisdom about life that they have shaped and honed over the years of joys and struggles. They strive to live in the present and enjoy each moment of the lives they are granted.
Perhaps we have a role to play in helping them fully experience the "precious present," rather than leaving them solely to memories, recollections and nostalgia.
I must admit I was not always so comfortable about visiting older adults living in health care facilities. A memory from my childhood recently reminded me of how far I have come in this regard.
When I was six years old, my teacher took our class to perform for residents of a nursing home as part of a Chanuka celebration. We proudly sang Yiddish tunes and many residents shed tears of joy. The room was filled with love and memories.
Throughout the performance, an elderly woman with a very wrinkled face kept staring at me. She even attempted to roll her wheelchair over to me several times, but was unsuccessful. I was uncomfortable and scared. As the performance came to an end, the woman's agitated signals caught the attention of my teacher. The woman explained that a secret hope of hers, kept alive in her heart for many years, could now be fulfilled. She saw in my face the image of her loving son, Shlomele, who had perished in the Holocaust. She felt electrified.
How she had dreamed of just one more glimpse of his sweet, young face. The only thing she wanted from me was a kiss. At the age of six, I was frightened to come so close to her. My teacher began to bargain with me. He began offering me points for prizes. He offered me ten, 20, 50, 100 points, but to no avail. He had to raise the points to nearly a thousand for me to agree to kiss her.
Years have passed and things have changed dramatically for me. The one thing I learned from this experience is that we need to train our youngsters by having them spend time with our elders. In addition to the great benefit that results for our frail older adults through this activity, it is an even greater reward for our youth, because it gives them the privilege to visit those who carry the title of Zekanim (elders) who truly are full of wisdom and experience.
Several years ago, my wife and I travelled to Israel. We made frequent visits to my grandmother who lives in a nursing facility in Jerusalem because of advanced dementia. My grandfather visited her every day to feed her lunch, thereby maintaining what he could of their relationship.
It was during one of these lunch visits that I witnessed something between them that I will probably remember for the rest of my life.
My grandfather reached into his pocket and took out several laminated flash cards upon which were printed the blessings on the various foods grandmother was about to eat and placed them in front of her. Unbelievably, she picked them up and made the appropriate blessing on each food - as she had done everyday throughout her life.
The wonder of this act is unbelievable since she could never have recited the proper blessings on her own and certainly would not have repeated it after him. Despite her impairment, however, she was capable of reading the blessings. But even more than being innovative, I have learned from my grandfather - who is a scholarly Chasid in his nine-ties - that older adults are receptive to observing that which is in their reach. They sincerely want to be part of the Jewish experience and gain the connection and comfort that a mitzva (commandment) brings. I believe the approach to take with our elders is to consider them interested in a prayer, a mitzva, a Torah thought, unless they voice the opposite.
One of the reasons for the continuity of the Jewish people is the family unit and the caring relationship between the elderly and the youth. Share your children with your elders. I know that you will be amazed at the fruitful rewards!
New Emissaries to California
Two new Chabad-Lubavitch Centers recently opened in Southern California. Rabbi Shmuel and Bluma Marcus opened a Center that will serve the communities of Cypress and Rossmoor and Rabbi Dovid and Bina Holtzberg will be serving the Monterey community. Among their initial activities will be adult education classes, Mitzva Campaign Awareness projects and holiday programs.
Massive Bar Mitzva in Moscow
A huge Bar Mitzva ceremony was held in Moscow this past month for 52 boys. The "young men" hailed from Moscow and other parts of Russia. Held in the Marina Roscha Synagogue and Jewish Center on the anniversary of the Lubavitcher Rebbe's accpetance of the mantle of leadership of Chabad-Lubavitch 52 years ago, the event was the largest of its kind ever held in the Former Soviet Union.
On the day of reading: "And you shall be unto Me a Kingdom of Kohanim [priests] and a Holy Nation," 5730
Greeting and Blessing:
...The Ten Commandments begin with the fundamental precepts of man's relation to G-d, and conclude with precepts governing man's relation to man. This emphasizes that even the most elementary ethical and moral precepts have a validity and effectiveness only if they derive from the authority of "I am G-d your G-d" and "Thou shalt have no other gods."
The history of mankind has continuously demonstrated that human life can make no real progress where the imperatives of morality and ethics are not based on the authority of the Supreme Being, but are human inventions that can be changed and modified to suit the proclivities of the age. The state of the generation of the present day is the best proof of that.
In Jewish life, in particular, there can be no separation between morality and ethics on the one hand, and our belief in One G-d on the other. Unity is the very core of both our belief and our daily conduct, where the material and spiritual aspects of life must be brought into full harmony, with the spiritual aspect being the predominating and determining factor.
There can be no difference of opinion as to the necessity to bring up a child in the proper relationship towards others, with respect for parents and elders, and so forth, from his earliest age. On the same basis, it is equally imperative to bring up a Jewish child in the spirit of Torah and Mitzvoth from his earliest age.
Only this kind of upbringing and education can be called a complete and unified Chinuch [Jewish education], a true Torah-Chinuch. This is what the wisest of all men meant when he said, "Train the child in the way he should go, and he will not depart from it when he grows old" (Prov. 22:6)
Purim-Koton, 5725 
Blessing and Greeting:
I am pleased to be informed about your forthcoming convention, which is taking place in the period between the two Purims. This auspicious circumstance, coupled with the fact that the Jewish women had a prominent part in the Miracle of Purim, will surely add a significant dimension to your convention.
While on the subject of the two Purims, it is appropriate to mention a further point: The occurrence of two Purims as this year, is due to the fact that our unique Hebrew Calendar requires a periodic adjustment between the lunar and solar years. The extra month in our Leap Year makes up the deficiency in the lunar year as compared with the solar year. But since the deficiency is only close to 11 days, whereas the extra month consists of 30 days, it is clear the extra month makes good the deficiency of several years.
In accordance with the teaching of the Baal Shem Tov [founder of Chasidism], to the effect that every experience should serve as a lesson toward better service of G-d, the Leap Year serves to remind us that everyone has an opportunity to make up for any deficiency in the past, and sometimes even to accumulate a little reserve for the future, as in the case of our Leap Year.
Chabad Chassidus emphasizes this point in a very basic manner, since by very definition Chassidus is a way of life that demands a little more effort than in the line of duty - a little more dedication, a little more depth, a little more enthusiasm; and enthusiasm itself provides a breakthrough in overcoming limitations. Fortunately, Jewish women are blessed with a goodly measure of enthusiasm, which should only be channeled in the right direction - to strengthen and spread Torah and Mitzvoth [commandments] as they are illuminated with the light and warmth of Chassidus.
May G-d grant Hatzlocho [success] to your convention to accomplish its goals, and more, with practical and fruitful results.
6 Adar I, 5763 - Feb. 8, 2003
Prohibition 356: It is forbidden to remarry one's divorced wife who married and divorced a second time.
This mitzva is based on the verse (Deut 24:4) "Then her former (first) husband who sent her away may not take her again to be his wife." A man who divorces his wife is forbidden to remarry her if she married another man and then, was divorced a second time or was widowed from her second husband. (If she did not marry another man, he is permitted to marry her again.)
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This coming Sunday is the seventh day of the Hebrew month of Adar, the birthday and yahrzeit of Moshe Rabbeinu (Moses).
The Rebbe has spoken numerous times about the significance of this date in our G-dly service. In a leap year such as our current year, there is a difference of opinion as to whether we commemorate this date in the first or second month of Adar. Since both opinions are "the words of the Living G-d" it is appropriate to commemorate the date in both months.
On a person's birthday, "his mazal (source of influence) shines powerfully." If this concept applies to the birthday of any Jew, surely it applies with regard to the birthday of a leader ("Nasi," or "prince") of the Jewish people. Nor is this relevant merely as an event in the past. Instead, each year, the positive influence associated with the Seventh of Adar is increased, reaching a level immeasurably higher than in previous years.
The birthday of a Jewish leader affects every member of the Jewish people, for the leader is the source of influence through whom G-d's blessings are drawn down for the entire people.
Seven is symbolic of a complete cycle.
Thus, the Seventh of Adar should inspire every Jew to carry out his service in a complete manner. The positive influence of the month of Adar will facilitate the performance of this service.
Similarly, these positive influences will hasten the coming of the Redemption. It is of utmost importance that the Redemption come sooner, even a moment sooner, for the Divine Presence and the Jewish people are in exile. Therefore, it is important to hasten the coming of the Redemption; every single moment its coming can be speeded is significant.
The potential for this certainly exists: the very next moment can be the last moment of the exile, and the moment that follows, the first moment of Redemption.
From the cover (itself) shall you make the cherubim (Ex. 25:19)
The cherubim were made with the faces of small children, one a boy and one a girl. From this we learn that providing the proper Jewish education for even our tiny children is a basic principle necessary for our keeping the Torah.
(Rabbi Yosef Ber of Brisk)
Within and without shall you overlay it (Ex. 25:11)
A true Torah scholar is one whose "inside" matches his "outside." Merely learning the lofty principles contained in the Torah is not enough - its lessons must also be internalized. That is why we say in Psalms (45:14), "All the glory of the king's daughter is within." The splendor and glory of the Torah is the internal purity it leads to.
Of a talent of pure gold shall it be made (Ex. 25:39)
Man's purpose in life is to illuminate his surroundings with the light of Torah and mitzvot (commandments). This responsibility holds true no matter what the individual's circumstances or mood may be. The numerical equivalent of the Hebrew word for talent, "kikar," is 140 - the same as the numerical equivalent of "mar" (bitter), and "rom" (lofty). No matter what our situation, our task remains the same.
(Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe)
Two and one-half cubits its length, and a cubit and a half its breadth, and a cubit and a half its height (Ex. 25:10)
The ark was measured in fractions, not whole numbers, teaching us that to achieve spiritual growth, one must first "break down" and shatter one's negative characteristics and bad habits.
(Sefer Hamamarim U'Kuntreisim)
Rabbi Shneur Zalman (founder of Chabad Chasidism) was deeply disturbed by the intrigues and dissension that jeopardized his activities, particularly those relating to the Chasidic community in the Holy Land. He had a premonition that his own eclipse was at hand. One day, the Rebbe confided in his daughter, Devorah Leah, and expressed his utmost apprehension in regard to the future of Chasidism and to the Baal Shem Tov's teachings.
Devorah Leah realized the gravity of the situation and sensed that her father's life was linked with it. For several days she kept her anxiety to herself. Then she decided that it was her duty to divulge her secret to some of the senior Chasidim. She also resolved that she would give her life for the life of her father.
Devorah Leah asked three senior Chasidim to meet with her. She asked them to promise on oath that they would act according to her instructions, whatever they might be, and would keep in strictest confidence all that she was about to tell them, until such time as it would be fitting to keep the matter secret no longer.
The three Chasidim requested time to consider. They realized that something was amiss. They had noticed that the Rebbe had secluded himself in his private room and not even they were admitted. This change in the Rebbe's routine was ominous. Undoubtedly, the Rebbe's daughter knew something that was of extreme gravity. Finally they came to the conclusion that they had to accept Devorah Leah's conditions. The following day they presented themselves to Devorah Leah with their resolution. She began by saying:
"We are all Chasidim of my father, our Rebbe, and each one of us must be ready and willing to give his or her life for him, and for the future of Chasidism." Then she was overcome by a flood of tears.
At her distress the three Chasidim were deeply moved. One Chasid ex-claimed: "I will be the first to give my life for the Rebbe and for the perpetuation of the Baal Shem Tov's teachings. I will gladly go through fire or water..."
"First," Devorah Leah interrupted, "you must swear to me by the most stringent Torah-oath which has no absolution, that you will do what I ask of you, without any mental reservation whatsoever, even if it is a matter of life."
Hearing these ominous words, they reiterated that they had already carefully weighed the matter and had agreed to abide by Devorah Leah's conditions, come what may. Thereupon the three of them gave their solemn oath as requested.
"Now I make the three of you a Beit Din (rabbinical court), and you will agree to act as a Beit Din, and to rule in accordance with the law of the Torah." Devorah Leah continued, "These were my father's words concerning the present situation in the wake of the intrigue which has cast a shadow over Chasidism:
" 'For thirty years a fruit-bearing tree requires cultivation and care in order to bring it to its optimum fruitfulness. It is now thirty years since the teachings of our master, the Baal Shem Tov, were firmly planted by my teacher and master, the Maggid of Mezritch, and grew into a Tree of Life. Now, the Adversary threatens to destroy it all. I do want to live, for this is the duty of every man, according to the Torah. Yet, more precious to me than life is my desire to cultivate this tree so that it continues to give its fruit until the coming of Moshiach.
" 'The Maggid, had forewarned me of difficult times, and had promised to come to my aid. I saw my teacher, but his face was overcast, an ill-omen.'
"In view of this situation, I have resolved to put my life in lieu of my father's. I bequeath my life to him; I will die so that he may live a good and long life, in order to cultivate the Tree of Life. In this way I will also have a share in it."
On the first night of Rosh Hashana, after the services, Rabbi Shneur Zalman broke his custom not to speak to anyone. He, asked: "Where is Devorah Leah?" When she appeared, he began to wish her the customary blessing to "be inscribed in a happy year." But she interrupted him immediately, and wished him, instead, to "be inscribed in a happy year."
After Rosh Hashana ended, Rabbi Shneur Zalman called Devorah Leah and her husband Rabbi Shalom Shachna into his room. What was spoken there is not known, but Rabbi Shachna was heard saying: "What is to happen to the boy?"
The following day Devorah Leah passed away. Rabbi Shneur Zalman took personal charge of her young son's upbringing.
The next years saw an intensification of intolerance in certain communities towards the Chasidic approach. The extent of Rabbi Shneur Zalman's suffering became apparent on Shavuot, the anniversary of the Baal Shem Tov's passing. He was immersed in a state of profound soulful reverie. It was an awesome sight. Suddenly, Rabbi Shneur Zalman stood up and exclaimed: "Zaida (Grandfather)! (referring to the Baal Shem Tov.) Invoke Divine mercy upon me, upon all your disciples and followers, upon the survival of your teachings! Our Heavenly Father, have mercy upon us!" Then, Rabbi Shneur Zalman fainted.
Turmoil broke loose. In the midst of the commotion, little Menachem Mendel, the orphaned son of Devorah Leah, came running into the room. Seeing his grandfather lying on the floor, he cried: "Zaida! Zaida!" Rabbi Shneur Zalman opened his eyes. "Zaida, take hold of my hand and get up!" the child kept saying. Reaching for the little hand, Rabbi Shneur Zalman stood up and said, "This one will comfort us!"
From the book, Shneur Zalman of Liadi
We must look at every moment that we still remain in exile not as a moment of exile but rather as a preparation for the Redemption. With this perspective in mind, we can much more easily confront and overcome the difficulties of exile and complete our mission.
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe, 10 Shevat, 5714 - 1954)