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February 21, 2003 - 19 Adar I, 5763

758: Ki Sisa

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

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  757: Tetzaveh759: Vayakhel  

The Ten Percent Solution  |  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

The Ten Percent Solution

Every salesman knows the rule. It has many names: "crunching the numbers," "the random factor," "follow the stats" and probably several more.

We can call it the ten percent solution and it's the key to a successful sales career. It goes like this: to make one sale, you need ten appointments. To get one appointment you have to have ten contacts. A contact can be a phone call, a meeting - probably emails count now too. Anyway, sales "theorists" define a contact as the opportunity to ask for an appointment. Getting a busy signal, sending a mass mailing and spamming doesn't count.

There may be an extension to the ten percent solution. There may be a formula for how many times the phone has to be dialed - how many secretaries, answering machines, busy signals and wrong numbers one has to battle through - before making a contact. An exponential increase wouldn't be surprising - another ten percent. Let's call this the attempt, or the cold call.

Looking at the increments can be depressing. Certainly many a salesperson has been discouraged and quit. Some sales folks get lucky and reduce their ratios. Others follow the sine curve of chance, so the actual numbers may vary.

Still, experience shows that we can't escape the ten percent solution. On average, first contacts yield a one percent success rate: One out of ten (appointments) times ten (contacts). 1%. And if we include attempts, that's another factor of ten. So we're really looking at one tenth of one percent.

But that's sales. That's not profit - or rather, commission. For that, we have to take another ten percent.

So commission requires in effect ten thousand attempts. Let's do the math in reverse: 10,000 attempts yield 1000 contacts which yield 100 appointments which yield ten sales. Ten sales yield one commission.

That's a lot of effort for the return. Of course, most sales are worth more than one dollar, so most commissions are significantly more than one dollar. Still, it's hard to think of any other profession where the ratio of effort to return is so high. We learn - and therefore succeed - through trial and error, but at some point we expect a reasonable profit margin - a rational rate of success.

Sales takes a lot of internal fortitude, as the saying goes. Inner strength, perseverance, determination - all the clichéd but still true qualities. Not taking rejection personally - meaning that "no" is not rejection, but one step closer to "yes." And we see that the rewards can be great. After all, the most materially wealthy are in sales. They may "climb the ladder" to CEO, but a CEO - even a university president - is really just a glorified salesperson.

We see the same kind of ratios when it comes to doing a mitzva (commandment). The most obvious of course is tzedeka - giving 10% of what we earn to charity. But the ten percent solution applies to all mitzvot, doesn't it? All mitzvot require a lot of preparation in space and time, mentally and physically. The material return on the investment is proportionately small.

Let's take lighting candles for Shabbat as an example. Lighting the match, then the candles, covering the eyes, saying the blessing takes what - thirty seconds? If the woman says a private prayer, make it a minute. To get there, though, requires a week's worth of effort and preparation - six days for one minute. (As long as we're number crunching - six days times 24 hours times 60 minutes equals 8,640 minutes - hmm, rather close statistically to 10,000 - our ten percent solution!)

But, oh, the spiritual rewards!

Living with the Rebbe

This week's Torah portion, Ki Tisa, contains one of the most misunderstood occurrences in the Torah - the sin of the Golden Calf.

This sin was so great that its consequences are still being felt today, 3300 years later. For, as a result of the sin, G-d promised that every punishment that would ever befall the Jewish people would contain an element of chastisement for this grievous transgression.

And yet, as it appears in the Written Torah (without the accompanying commentary), the entire account is difficult to understand. How could the same people who had just left Egypt under miraculous circumstances, received the Torah at Mount Sinai amidst open miracles and actually heard the voice of G-d utter the first two of the Ten Commandments, actually worship a molten image?

Closer study reveals, however, that the Jewish people were not seeking a substitute for G-d in the Golden Calf; what they desired was a substitute for Moses, as expressed in the verse, "And the people saw that Moses was delayed in coming down ...and they said [to Aaron]: Get up, make us a god...for this man, Moses, who has taken us out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him."

Without Moses, the Jewish people felt lost. Moses was the intermediary that connected them to G-d, as it states, "I stand between you and G-d." Moses was the medium through which the Children of Israel were freed from Egypt and through whom they received the Torah, to the point where "the Divine Presence spoke from his throat."

Moses is referred to as "a man of G-d," for despite the fact that he was mortal, Moses existed on a spiritual plane on which he was totally united with the Divine. His function as intermediary between man and G-d served to strengthen the Jews' belief in the Creator, for it is difficult to believe in a G-d one cannot see. When the Jews beheld a human being on such a G-dly level, it strengthened their faith in G-d and connected them to Him in a tangible manner.

In this light, the mistake they made is far easier to comprehend. When Moses did not reappear when they expected him, the Jewish people feared they had lost the means by which they bound themselves with the Infinite.

They rightly understood that such an intermediary needs to be completely united with G-d; having just witnessed the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai, at which G-d descended in a "supernal chariot" bearing the face of an ox, they decided to forge a calf of gold that would closely resemble it.

The Jewish people were correct in their recognition of the need for an intermediary between man and G-d in the form of a G-dly human being; there was also nothing wrong with their choice of an inanimate object to draw holiness down into this world (G-d's voice would later issue forth from between the cherubim - fashioned in the form of two angels - above the holy ark in the Sanctuary).

Rather, their error was in taking into their own hands a matter that can only be determined by G-d. Only G-d can decide how His holiness will be transmitted; only He may choose the correct medium.

Adapted from the works of the Rebbe

A Slice of Life

First Sefer Torah Inscribed in Northern Nevada
by Frank X. Mullen Jr..

On Monday, a scribe in Reno began writing Hebrew letters on a parchment scroll in a manner handed down from the time of Moses.

"In the beginning, G-d created the heavens and the Earth," the scribe wrote.

They were the first words of the first Sefer Torah to be inscribed in northern Nevada. A Sefer Torah is a hand-written scroll of the first five books of Moses, from Genesis to Deuteronomy, and takes as long as a year to complete.

"It's painstaking work; it must be exact and every letter must be kosher," said Rabbi Moshe Liberow, a sofer, or scribe, from Colorado Springs, Colo. "There are 304,805 letters in 245 columns and all must be perfect. There are about 5,000 laws on how to write a Torah."

The scroll will be sent to Israel for completion and will be returned to Reno in about a year. It will be dedicated as the Torah for the local Chabad, a community of Orthodox Jews. The inscribing of the Torah came at a celebration of the third birthday of three children: Moshe, Chana and Rochel Cunin.

The triplets were born to Rabbi Mendel and Sarah Cunin, the leaders of the Chabad of Northern Nevada. At the celebration at Bartley Ranch Park's events center, Moshe had his hair cut for the first time. The ritual signifies that when a boy turns 3 years old, he begins a new stage of development as a Jew, his father said.

Moshe then ceremonially licked drops of honey placed on Hebrew letters, an act that signified "learning how sweet are the words of the Torah," his father said.

For their third birthday, Moshe's sisters celebrated their first Sabbath candle-lighting on Friday. Cunin said he hopes his children will become educators and bring light to the world.

The guests exclaimed, "Mazeltov!" which means "Congratulations, happiness to all," and community members came to the scribe to participate in the writing of the Torah.

Harvey Lerner, the triplets' maternal grandfather, said the community rejoices at the beginning of the project.

"It's wonderful to participate in the writing of the Torah," he said. "Ultimately, it is the community's Torah."

Liberow said the writing of the scroll is not just important to Jews, but to everyone.

"Torah means instruction," he said. "It is a blessing, a showing of a blessing. It unites all humanity."

He said another Chabad scribe will finish the document, writing with a turkey quill on more than 60 sheets of parchment made from cowhide. When complete, the finished scroll will be as long as half a football field.

The Torah then will be checked and double-checked to make sure every word, every letter, every stroke is perfect.

"But if there is a mistake found, it can be corrected," Liberow said. "One tiny mistake won't invalidate all of the work. It can be fixed. God is strict, but He is not cruel."

Although the holy book is written for the local Chabad, it is not exclusive to orthodox Jews, Rabbi Cunin said.

"We consider every Jew in northern Nevada as part of our community," he said. "Everyone is welcome, all of the time."

Reprinted with permission from the The Reno Gazette-Journal

Ed.'s note: In 1981, the Lubavitcher Rebbe established the "Sefer Torah Campaign," urging all Jews to acquire a "letter" in a Torah scroll. "The obligation to write a Sefer Torah is the culmination of all the 613 mitzvot [commandments]. It is thus clear that acquiring a letter in one of the universal Torah scrolls now being written hastens the culmination of the exile," the Rebbe said.
Since the campaign began, Chabad-Lubavitch Centers have initiated the writing of Torah scrolls to be used in their local communities. The Rebbe's emissaries encourage Jews from all walks of life to purchase letters for themselves, family members and even departed loved ones in these Torah scrolls of Jewish unity. In addition, special Torah scrolls for children (four to date) are written in the old city of Jerusalem. Children under the age of Bar and Bat Mitzva can "purchase" a letter in one of these children's Torah scrolls by sending the equivalent of $1 U.S. (in local currency) to: Children's Sefer Torah, P.O.Box Kfar Chabad, Israel, 72915 or via internet at Children receive a beautiful certificate inscribed with their name and the location of their letter. See an upcoming issue of L'Chaim for stories connected to these special Children's Sefer Torahs.

What's New

Five Alive

By using their sense of sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch, the lively children in this book can always figure out which Jewish holiday has arrived. This newest release by HaChai Publi-shing is written by Dina Rosenfeld and illustrated by Tova Leff.

You can now enhance your family's Shabbat and holiday table by putting together your very own song booklet. In addition to songs, this website also contains the transliteration of many important prayers.

The Rebbe Writes

10th of Nissan, 5718 [1958]

Blessing and Greeting:

I was very pleased to receive your report of the activities of the new Neshei Chabad [Chabad-Lubavitch Women] group in Detroit. As you wrote the report in behalf of all the group, I am sending my message in your care, though you do not mention whether your report is an official one in behalf of the group. At any rate, I trust no one will feel offended, as you will no doubt use your discretion.

I was especially gratified to read towards the end of your letter about your work for Taharas Hamishpocho [laws of family purity], also preparing brides to be married. It is surely unnecessary for me to repeat, what I wrote to the Group, about the great need to enlarge and expand all these good activities, which are so vital.

With regard to the study of the laws of Taharas Hamishpocho, it would be well to communicate with another branch which already had, or are having, a planned series of lectures on the subject, so that you could introduce the subject in the same way and benefit from the experience of others.

I am glad that you are in constant touch with Rabbi and Mrs. Shemtov, who will surely cooperate with you in every way.

With prayerful wishes for a kosher and happy Pesach,

With blessing

15th of Tammuz, 5718 [1958]

Blessing and Greeting:

This is to acknowledge your letter of June 17th, in which you write about the work of the Neshei Chabad in Detroit, since the Convention. You also indicate the program of activities for the coming year.

Although you do not mention it, I presume that you are speaking for the entire group, and that there is complete harmony among the membership. Our Sages have taught that no "vessel" can contain G-d's blessing as that of peace. This applies even in personal affairs; how much more so in public affairs, for the benefit of the many, where complete harmony is essential to success. Surely the Neshei Chabad in Detroit have a great challenge to meet and a great responsibility to strengthen Torah and Mitzvoth [commandments] in the community, which requires concerted and absolutely harmonious cooperation on the part of all.

In general, I approve the program that you outline in your letter. As for details, these have to be adjusted according to the standard of the membership, etc. I am very gratified that the subject of Taharas Hamishpocho has been included, for the strict observance of these Laws is the very foundation of the Jewish home, both spiritually and materially.

However, I would like to take exception to one particular point; namely, that it appears that your group plans to interrupt its activity during the summer. I do not think that such work can be interrupted even during the summer, although the program has, naturally, to be readjusted for the summer period. On the other hand, in many ways the summer offers special opportunities: in some cases women have more time, inasmuch as children are away, etc.; again during the summer one meets new people, and frequently it is only in the summer that one has the opportunity to see them; sometimes one meets even people from other towns, etc., etc.; On the other hand, the question of Tznius [modesty] becomes more acute during the summer. In view of all this, the question of summer activity should be taken up with the group and some program worked out accordingly...

Rambam this week

21 Adar I, 5763 - February 23, 2003

Prohibition 172: It is forbidden to eat non-kosher animals

This commandment is based on the verse (Deut. 14:7) "These you shall not eat, of those that only chew the cud, or of those that only have the cloven hoof." Any animal that does not have both these signs is not kosher.

Prohibition 174: It is forbidden to eat non-kosher birds

This commandment is based on the verse (Lev. 11:13) "And these are they which you shall detest among the birds, they shall not be eaten." The Torah lists the types of birds that are not kosher and, therefore, may not be eaten. We are forbidden to eat any birds that are not mentioned.

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

As mentioned previously, this year is a leap year in the Jewish calendar. Thus, there are two months of Adar this year, known as Adar Rishon (the first Adar) and Adar Sheini (the second Adar). All special dates that occurred in a "regular" year that did not have an extra Adar are celebrated in Adar Sheini.

Our Sages teach, "With the beginning of Adar, rejoicing is increased." Every day we are enjoined to serve G-d with joy. But when the month of Adar begins, we are told to increase that joy.

In a leap year such as our current year, for two entire months we are expected to behave in a more joyful manner for, just as we read in the Megilla on Purim, "the month was changed for them from sorrow to joy."

What was so special about the joy of Purim that we should be expected to be joyful for an entire month? By way of analogy, light always seems brighter when it comes after darkness. In a room full of light, the flame of one candle seems insignificant. But, in a pitch-black room, even the light from one small candle can help to illuminate the entire room. Imagine, then, the impact of a spotlight in a lightless room.

Joy is similar to light. The sorrow, fear and mourning of the Jews when they thought that Haman would be able to carry out his evil plan was immense. They were in a state of total darkness. The joy that they experienced when Haman's plan was foiled was phenomenal. But is was all the more incredible for having been preceded by such darkness.

On the holiday of Purim, we recite the blessing "Sheh asa nissim - Who has performed miracles for us." In this season of miracles, may we experience the ultimate miracle, which will be to us like the brightest spot-light in Jewish history, the arrival of Moshiach, NOW!

Thoughts that Count

And the people assembled themselves together around Aaron, and said to him: "Get up, make us gods." (Ex. 32:1)

Why did they ask this of Aaron instead of just appointing him in Moses' stead? The answer is that Aaron, "the pursuer of peace," was too close to the people for them to consider him as their leader. Too much familiarity makes it impossible for people to feel the proper respect for their leaders.

(Rabbi Yitzchak of Vorka)

You shall see My back, but My face shall not be seen (Ex. 33:23)

According to Rashi's commentary, G-d showed Moses the "knot of the tefilin (phylacteries)." What are we to learn from this? Tefilin consist of two parts - one placed on the hand, and the other on the head. The hand represents interpersonal relationships, for it is with our hands that we extend aid and assistance to others, whereas the head, the seat of our intellect, is the medium through which we connect ourselves to G-d by learning His Torah. In order to serve G-d properly, the Jew must excel in both areas. Moses asked to see G-d's glory so that he would have a better understanding of what is required of the Jewish people. The knot of the tefilin symbolizes G-d's desire that every Jew bind these two aspects of our worship together - doing our utmost for our fellow Jews and at the same time devoting ourselves to Torah study.

(Our Sages)

And he saw the calf and the dancing, and the anger of Moses waxed hot, and he threw the tablets from his hands (Exodus 32:19)

This underscores the difference between hearing about something and actually seeing it for oneself. Although G-d had already informed Moses of the Jews' transgressions, his reaction was more extreme once he had seen their behavior for himself.

When you shall take the sum (literally, "the head") of the Children of Israel... then shall they give every man a ransom for his soul (Ex. 30:12)

When the time will come for you to appoint a "head" - a leader of the Jewish people - make sure it is one who is willing to give up his very soul on behalf of his brethren; only one such as this is worthy.


It Once Happened

Reb Zusha of Anipoli sat in his home immersed in his Torah studies, when the sounds floating through the window caused him to glance out. Passing in front of his house was a wedding procession leading the bride and groom on their way. Reb Zusha immediately stood up and went out into the street where, abandoning constraint, he danced with unbounded joy. He circled the young couple and the other celebrants for a few minutes of great simcha (joy) and then returned to his home and his study.

His family members watched his actions with great interest. They suggested to him that his dancing before a wedding procession was unbefitting a person of his stature in the community.

To their comment he replied, "Let me tell you a story. When I was young I studied under the famous Maggid of Zlotchov, Reb Yechiel Michel. One day I did something against his wishes and he rebuked me severely. I was terribly hurt by his reaction, and he, sensing anguish, soon came over to me and apologized for the harshness of his response, saying, 'Reb Zusha, please forgive me for my angry words.'

"I was comforted by his apology and replied, 'Of course, I forgive you.'

"The same night before I went to sleep, he again came to me and asked my forgiveness. I was surprised, and repeated that I forgave him totally.

"I lay in bed for a while thinking about the incident, when the father of my Rebbe, Reb Yitzchak of Drohovitch, appeared to me from the Next World. He said to me, 'I had the merit to leave behind me in the world below my only son, and you want to destroy him because he insulted you?'

"'Please, Rebbe, don't say such a thing! I don't want to hurt him and I have certainly forgiven him completely and wholeheartedly! What more can I do than I have already done?'

"'What you have done is still not complete forgiveness. Follow me and I will show you the real meaning of complete forgiveness.'

"So, I got out of my bed and followed him until we reached the local mikva. Reb Yitzchak told me to immerse myself three times, each time saying and feeling that I forgave his son. I obeyed his wishes and immersed three times, each time with the intention of forgiving my Rebbe.

"When I emerged from the mikva I looked at Reb Yitzchak and saw that his face was so radiant that I was unable to gaze upon it. I asked him where that light came from and he replied: 'All my life I have carefully observed three things to which the Sage Rabbi Nechunya ben HaKana attributed his long life: he never sought honor at the expense of the degradation of his fellow; he never went to sleep without forgiving anyone who might have offended or injured him that day; he was always generous with his money. Reb Yitzchak then told me that the very same level which can be achieved through these things can also be reached through joy.

"And that is why when I saw the wedding procession passing in front of our house, I ran outside to partake of the festivities and to add to the simcha of the bride and groom."

Once Rabbi Shmelke of Nikolsburg came to his Rebbe, Reb Dov Ber of Mezrich, with an inquiry: "How is it possible to fulfill the teaching of our rabbis that one is obligated to say a blessing on bad news just as one would on good news?"

The Maggid answered him by instructing him to go to the synagogue. "When you get there ask for Reb Zusha of Anipoli and ask him to explain that dictum to you."

Reb Shmelke did as his Rebbe told him, and when he found Reb Zusha he asked him the question. Reb Zusha was a man who had endured great hardship throughout his entire life. He replied to Reb Shmelke as follows: "I am very surprised that my Rebbe sent you to me, of all people.

A question like yours should be addressed to a person who has, G-d- forbid, actually experienced something terrible in life. Whereas I, thank G-d, know nothing about those frightful things. You see, I have experienced nothing but good all my life. I'm sorry, but I cannot answer your question since I know nothing about evil occurrences."

Reb Shmelke returned to the Maggid with his question answered. He now understood the meaning of the teaching that one is obliged to bless the evil that occurs in life as well as the good, for when man accepts a Divine edict with complete faith and trust, there is no longer a perception of evil inherent in the experiences.

Moshiach Matters

Our Sages teach that when we build a House of G-d, we must build it in the same manner as the Jews built the Sanctuary in the desert. The Jewish people were preparing to build the Sanctuary while still enslaved in Egypt. We, too, must make preparations to build the third Holy Temple even before the Redemption commences. How do we do this? By making our homes into true Jewish homes, where everyone according to G-d's will. Then G-d will say "And I will live among them." (The Lubavitcher Rebbe in a talk to children, Rosh Chodesh Nissan, 5745)

  757: Tetzaveh759: Vayakhel  
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