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March 7, 2003 - 3 Adar II, 5763

760: Pekudei

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  759: Vayakhel761: Vayikra  

Don't Just Say No  |  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

Don't Just Say No

We've all seen the anti-drug ad: "Just Say No." But if it was that sim-ple, there wouldn't be a drug problem - or any other problem, moral or legal, for that matter. "Just say no" exhorts the audience to just decide, to just use some will power, to just ...

The problem is that little word "just." How many times have we heard it used as an excuse? "I took my eyes off the road for just a moment to change stations and call the hairdresser. How did I know the light would change?" "I just said I didn't like gefilte fish. How did I know she spent all afternoon making it by hand?" Even when emphasized as an act of defiance, it's still an ex-cuse. "I just said I'd take the garbage out." (Meaning of course, I haven't taken it out yet.) "I just looked for a minute." "I just missed it."

What does "just" mean, anyway? As an adverb, it means a lot of things, all variations of precisely or exactly. There's "just at" - precisely that place. There's "just then" - precisely that time. There's "just as" or "just so" - to precisely the same degree. There's "just" by itself - precisely the point in question. And of course "not just" means not exactly. And when we say something like "Just what makes you think..." we mean, "Exactly what makes you think..." Explain in detail.

But "just" has another sense when used as an adjective. (You thought you left this grammar stuff behind in eighth grade.) As an adjective it means fair, impartial, faithful, honorable, legal, correct, moral, etc.

There seems to be a relationship here, doesn't there, between the adverb and the adjective? We precisely determine what is legal. To be fair we must be exact. As an adverb "just" implies details and minutiae. As an adjective it describes objective assessment.

For of course justice comes from that which is, and those who are, just.

Curiously, though, all this started with "just" another meaning - a joust. We all know what a joust is: two knights on horseback charge, trying to dislodge their opponent with a lance. Trial by combat. Thus we determine just who is just - precisely who is right.

Which brings us back to "just say no," where it means "merely." It's an adverb here, meaning "only." You see how "just" gets to imply "only a small degree." The difference between saying the right thing and insulting someone - a friend, a host, a guest - is "just" a word or two. To say the right thing we have to be precise in our choice of words; to do the right thing, we have to be exact in our actions. And small differences often don't seem very important, do they? They're not very big; but they are significant.

Which brings us back to the ad slogan, "just say no." It reminds me of a story about Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, one of the early Chasidic masters. He was known for arguing with G-d, pleading the cause of the Jewish people. One time he defended the waywardness of the Jews as follows: "G-d, you can't blame Your children for yielding to temptation. After all, You put the delights of the physical world right in front of them, where all the pleasures could tempt their senses. But the consequences and more, the rewards, for observing the mitzvot (commandments) they read in books?. Put the pleasures of this world in the abstract pages of books and the recompense for just saying no in front of them, and You'll see how well Your people fulfill Your Will."

There's a lot of power in "No." ("Just" watch a four year old in action, or a teenager, and what makes the "terr-ible twos" so terrible?) The power of "no," like any power, can be arbitrary.

But to be "just" - reasonable, moral, a refusal of what the Torah prohibits - "no" can't be "just" - merely, by a small degree. No, "no" must be just - precisely, exactly - no.

So, don't just say no. Just say no.


Living with the Rebbe

This week's Torah portion, Pekudei, enumerates all the details that pertain to the erection of the Tabernacle, a subject that has already been dealt with exhaustively in the previous chapters of the Torah. If the purpose of this week's portion is to teach us that indeed, all the work on the Tabernacle was carried out exactly as G-d had commanded, would it not have sufficed to say so in one sentence? Why go through the bother of listing every single detail all over again?

This question can also be asked about another section of the Torah, which speaks about the period immediately following Moses' completion of the Tabernacle. Each of the 12 leaders of the tribes of Israel brought offerings to the newly erected Sanctuary, and the Torah tells, in great detail, what these offering entailed. Yet on the face of it, all 12 offerings were identical. Why was it necessary to repeat the same words 12 times, rather than say that all of them brought the identical offerings?

The answer lies in the explanation that only externally did the 12 offerings resemble each other; spiritually, each offering had a different content and purpose. The Torah could not have said that each of the 12 leaders brought the identical offering, for in fact, they all differed from one another.

This explanation is true for this week's Torah portion as well: The Tabernacle which G-d commanded the Jews to build was in reality a different entity from the one which Moses erected. The Torah states, "These are the accounts of the Tabernacle, the Tabernacle of the testimony." This repetition of the word "tabernacle" alludes to the two sanctuaries implied by the text-the physical and the spiritual.

The physical Tabernacle was the one that G-d instructed Moses to erect. This tabernacle was built of physical materials - silver, gold, wood, etc. The second Tabernacle is the spiritual one that each of us must build, and the various building materials are spiritual entities that we must utilize for our goal.

Even though the spiritual Tabernacle G-d showed Moses on Mount Sinai was doubtless on a higher spiritual plane than the one built by the Children of Israel, it was precisely in the physical one where G-d's Presence dwelled. It was only after "Moses completed his tasks" that "the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the Glory of G-d filled the Sanctuary." G-d desired an actual physical location in the corporeal world to show the manifestation of His infinite nature.

It is easy to belittle the power of the individual to influence his surroundings, and make an impact on the world. How can one person make a difference and bring pleasure to His Creator, when we are so puny and insignificant? The Torah answers: it is precisely because we are in such a physical world that G-d desires our performance of mitzvot [commandments]. It is up to us, we who are in this world, to imbue it with G-dliness and turn it into a true dwelling place for the One Above.

Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe


A Slice of Life

Jewish Identity at World Jamboree
by Aliza Karp

A teenage Jewish boy from New Zealand traveled to the World Scout Jamboree in Thailand this year. Although he had not made proper arrangements for kosher food, he was uncompromising in his conviction to keep kosher and ate only coconuts for the first few days. When he spotted the Tzivos Hashem tent, dubbed "The Shul," he knew his days of deprivation were over. (Tzivos Hashem is a global organization for Jewish boys and girls under the age of Bar and Bat Mitzva established by the Lubavitcher Rebbe in 1980.) The New Zealand native spent time with Tzivos Hashem, ate with them and of course, joined in for Shabbat services.

A Hebrew teacher from Chile was attending the Jamboree with her granddaughter. She could not hide her excitement when she saw the Tzivos Hashem tent. At home, she studies Chasidic philosophy with Chabad-Lubavitch Rabbi Menashe Perman. She was grateful to find out that Tzivos Hashem was conducting exciting Jewish workshops so that her granddaughter could have a Jewish experience at the Jamboree, as well.

The King of Sweden attends each World Scout Jamboree. The head of the king's royal delegation is a Jewish man who was thrilled to meet up with the Tzivos Hashem volunteers. He spent hours in animated discussion with the rabbis and celebrated Shabbat at the shul tent.

A sixteen-year-old boy from Walnut Creek, California divulged that he had never had a Bar Mitzva. Two days later, on Shabbat, the teenager had mastered the blessings for being called up to the Torah with the help of his tent-mate and everyone at the services participated in his joy.

This year the world Jamboree took place in Sattahip, Thailand. The Thai organizers of the Jamboree contacted the Chief Rabbi of Thailand, requesting that he take responsibility for the needs of the participating Jewish scouts. The Chief Rabbi of Thailand is Rabbi Yosef Kantor who, together with his wife Nechama, have been the Lubavitcher Rebbe's emissaries to Thailand since 1992. The Kantors contacted Rabbi Michoel Albukerk of Tzivos Hashem in New York, to recruit a team that would operate on site at the Jamboree.

"Tzivos Hashem has been involved with the Boy Scouts of America for many years," says Tzivos Hashem Executive Director Yerachmiel Benjaminson. "Many of our volunteer staff are registered with scouting movements in five countries. When our volunteers attend a scouting event or Jamboree they are in full uniform and provide the Jewish scouts with a taste of pure Judaism right on the spot with fun, hands-on workshops and prayer services that get everyone involved."

Rabbi and Mrs. Kantor set about developing an infrastructure for the Tzivos Hashem representatives, Rabbis Pinny Gniwisch, Shlomie Goldfarb, Shmully Gutnick and Binyamin Tanny. In addition to seeing that there would be a shul tent, a Torah scroll all the way from Singapore and ample kosher food (reportedly delicious beyond words) they also made sure to provide a car and cell phones.

"The minute the Jamboree opened, many of the things we pre-arranged by our meetings, talks and emails, dissolved into thin air. Our team had to overcome every obstacle possible. Even to enter the camp-site was an obstacle! They did an amazing job," says Mrs. Kantor.

Jamboree organizers informed Tzivos Hashem that approximately 500 Jewish scouts would be attending the Jamboree. Half would be from Israel and the others would largely come from the United States and smaller numbers from Switzerland, Chile, Belgium, Sweden, France and England. The Tzivos Hashem team packed up materials for five hands-on workshops with information for non-Jewish scouts about the seven Noahide Laws for all mankind.

By the time the Jamboree started, the Jewish presence had almost disappeared. Because of lax security and the refusal of Thai officials to allow the Israelis to be accompanied by armed guards, the Israeli contingent cancelled as did many other Jewish scouts. When the Jamboree opened, there were five scouts officially listed as Jewish.

By Friday afternoon, the Tzivos Hashem team had identified 50 Jewish scouts; Rabbi Shmueli Gutnick went from campsite to campsite literally "scouting" for Jews. At varying times they all stopped by the Tzivos Hashem station to catch a quick "shmooze" and participate in the workshops. On Shabbat they all came to celebrate together. (A special "Shabbat treat" was that it was the coolest day of the Jamboree, temperatures ranged from "only" 92 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit.)

"We had a few Jewish scouts visit us after the Jamboree, they came for supper and for Shabbat, says Mrs. Kantor. "They told us that the best part of the whole Jamboree was the Jewish Shul and the great team of Rabbis."


What's New

A Knowing Heart

This latest release from Sichos In English contains essays of the Lubavitcher Rebbe in which the Rebbe advances our emotional frontiers. The Rebbe gives us a multi-faceted conception of our G-dly mission, with applications in our Divine service, in our interpersonal relations, and even in our business activities. These essays give us the potential to mold our characters and change the natural flow of our emotions. The Rebbe shows us how to conquer our "minds of stone" by understanding the direction in which our emotions should lead us and acting accordingly. The essays in this book make ideals and concepts that are intellectually abstract cogently real.


The Rebbe Writes

Purim 5712 [1952]

Sholom U'Brocho [Peace and Blessing]:

...When our people came into being, on receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai, they declared naaseh v'nishma - "we will do (first), then we will (try to) understand." This proclamation has remained our guiding light for all times and all places. The Jew must observe the Mitzvoth [commandments] whether or not he understands their deeper significance; his experiences of the Mitzvoth eventually will develop the faculties of his understanding, and in this he has Divine assistance.

Jews have, likewise, always realized that our history is not shaped by understandable natural laws or forces, but by Supreme Providence, which is above and beyond our understanding.

A case in point is the festival of Purim which we celebrate today. Ahasuerus, an absolute ruler, had signed, sealed and delivered the decree to annihilate the entire Jewish population in all the 127 provinces of his vast empire. There seemed not a glimmer of escape. The Jews could not logically understand why such a terrible decree was hanging over their heads. Haman had accused them of adhering to their own laws and way of life. But, if he was right, then precisely for this reason they should not have become exposed to such mortal danger, inasmuch as the Torah is a Torath-chaim, a law of life and a way of life, not death.

Yet, during the entire year that the decree was pending, the Jews remained steadfast in their faith and loyalty to G-d, although there was but one avenue of escape from certain death, as our Sages tells us, and that was precisely the opposite: abandonment of their way of life and merging with the non-Jewish population. But not a single Jew or Jewess chose this apparently "logical" solution.

Their salvation also came through a miraculous chain of events which completely turned the wheel of fortune from destruction to renewed life, physical and spiritual, and from mourning to gladness.

Now the words of the Megillah [Scroll of Esther], "These days shall be remembered and practiced," can be better understood. Remembering our relationship with G-d must immediately lead to our practicing His precepts, despite any inclination to the contrary stemming from one's inner enemy (Yetzer-hora) or external hindrances or influences, the Jew remains rooted in G-d's Torah and His Mitzvoth which make our people indestructible.

With Purim greetings and blessing,


6th of Adar, 5721 [1961]

... As we are now approaching the happy days of Purim, it is well to remember, as the Old Rebbe, the founder of Chabad [Rabbi Shneur Zalman], explains in his book Torah Or and his dissertation on Purim, that what brought about the miracle of Purim was the fact that the Jews were inspired with the spirit of Mesirus Nefesh [self-sacrifice] under the threat of Haman, which hung over their heads for a whole year. Thus the Jews were put to the test to prove their Mesirus Nefesh at various periods throughout the year, and all the possible states of mind in which a Jew finds himself throughout the twelve months of the year. For Jewish loyalty to the Torah and Mitzvoth should be manifest not only on special occasions of the year, such as on Shabbos or Yom Tov [holidays], or at special conventions, but throughout each day of the year, and in each aspect of their daily life. The only obstacle is actually the inner adversary, as explained in the Talmud on the verse "There shall be no strange god within you," to the effect that it refers to the Yetzer Hara [evil inclination] within the individual (Shabbos 105b). Thus the internal difficulties rather than the external obstacles are those which have to be overcome, and then one finds that the extent of Mesirus Nefesh required is not as formidable as one imagines.

With blessing,


Rambam this week

5 Adar II, 5763 - March 9, 2003

Positive Mitzva 94: Keeping a Vow

This mitzva is based on the verse (Deut. 23:24) "The statements of your lips you shall keep and perform" The Torah commands us to fulfill obligations we have taken upon ourselves.Whether a promise, a vow, or a plan to bring a sacrifice - we must make sure that it gets done.


A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

Purim will soon be here. Bake (or buy) hamentashen, pick up a grogger, decide what costume to wear, invite some friends over for the Purim meal.

But wait a minute. What if Moshiach, who could come at any moment, comes before Purim? Will all of our plans and arrangements be for naught? We can eat the hamentashen, but what about the groggers, costumes and food?

Interestingly enough, the Talmud says that "All festivals will one day cease, but the days of Purim will never cease." Our sages have also said that of all the writings of the Prophets, only the Scroll of Esther will endure.

What is so special about Purim and everything connected to it that even when Moshiach comes it will continue?

The solemn day of Yom Kippur is referred to in our holy books as Yom Kippurim, which means the day that is like Purim. Our sages have explained that what we accomplish on Yom Kippur through fasting and prayer only approaches, is only likened to that which we can accomplish through feasting and rejoicing on Purim. For, to attain holiness through feasting and rejoicing, to transform the physical into spiritual, is much more difficult than holiness attained through afflicting oneself.

Each day during the month of Adar, and this year, both months of Adar, are days of rejoicing. We are taught that joy and happiness break all boundaries. What we can accomplish through happiness and rejoicing far surpasses what can be accomplished in any other manner.

From the holiday of Purim, and the fact that it will continue once Moshiach comes, we learn the value of simcha-joy. May the simcha of this Purim and each day leading up to it break the final boundaries of this exile so that we can celebrate Purim all together this year in Jerusalem.


Thoughts that Count

As stones of memorial to the Children of Israel (Ex. 39:7)

When Joseph was in Egypt and was tempted by Potifar's wife, the image of his father Jacob appeared to him, saying, "The names of all your brothers will one day be inscribed on the stones of the High Priest's breastplate. Do you want your name to be missing if, G-d forbid, you commit this sin?" The 12 stones of the breastplate serve as a memorial for all of Israel. When a person reminds himself that all Jews were represented on it, he too will be too embarrassed to transgress.

(Meshech Chachma)


All the gold was used in the work to complete the sacred task (Ex. 38:24)

The only reason gold was created was for its use in the Sanctuary and the Holy Temples.

(Tiferet Yehonatan)


These are the accounts of the Tabernacle (mishkan); the Tabernacle of the testimony (Ex. 38:21)

Our Sages said that although the First and Second Holy Temples were destroyed, they were never totally taken from the Jewish people but are only being held for a future date as a "mashkon" (pawn); hence, the repetition of the word "Tabernacle." According to Jewish law, the guardian of a pledge is obligated to return it to its owner in perfect condition when the proper time comes. The Third Holy Temple will therefore possess all of the same qualities and characteristics as the First and Second Temples that were held as a pledge until Moshiach's coming.

(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)


Another reason the word "Tabernacle" is repeated is to allude to the two Holy Temples - the spiritual one that exists in the celestial spheres above and the physical one that was built by the Jews below to reflect spiritual reality.

(Likutei Sichot)


These are the accounts of the Tabernacle (Ex. 38:21)

The numerical equivalent of the Hebrew word for "these" is 36, alluding to the 36 righteous people who exist in every generation. These holy people are likened to a sanctuary, and are also "taken" by G-d as a pledge, for they suffer on account of the sins of the generation.

(Pardes Yosef)


It Once Happened

Shortly before the Jews were to enter the Promised Land, G-d appeared to Moses, His beloved servant, and informed him that he would not be permitted to enter the Land with his people, but instead would die in the desert. These bitter words were unacceptable to Moses. Could it be that he would be denied his supreme wish-to serve his Master in the holiness which is found only in the Land of Israel?

The day of Moses' death approached, but when the people heard of the decree, they cried out and said, "We will not allow it." Even the sun came before G-d, saying, "I will not set today so that your servant Moses will not have to die." G-d would not be moved. He sent the Angel of Death to bring Moses' soul to Him, but Moses forbade the angel to approach, and the angel fled in fear.

G-d Himself then came to Moses and consoled him, saying, "If you live longer than the usual number of years, people will turn you into a god and worship you. Furthermore, you know that even Adam, whom I fashioned with My own hands, had to die." But Moses continued to plead his cause. "Please, allow me only to cross the Jordan River, if not as a leader, then as a plain Jew; if not as a plain Jew, then as a servant." But G-d replied, "I have made two oaths: one that you will not enter the Promised Land; and the second, that I will never destroy the Jewish people. If I break the one vow, I will have to break the other."

When Moses heard this, he recoiled in fright. "I would rather die a thousand deaths than allow You to destroy even one Jewish soul. But don't I deserve to witness the triumph of my people whom I led faithfully throughout all these forty years?" G-d replied only: "Moses, do not fear. I Myself will take care of them, but you must allow the Angel of Death to approach you, for it is Joshua's turn to lead the people."

Moses still was not reconciled to his fate. He appealed to the heavens and the earth to intercede for him, they replied, "How can we pray for you when it is written 'the skies were like smoke' and of the earth it is said, 'and the earth like a garment shall wear out'?" Moses then asked the sun and the moon to pray for him, but they answered, 'We can't pray for you since it is said, 'The moon was put to shame and the sun was disgraced.'"

The stars and the mountains and the seas likewise were not powerful enough to help. Moses continued to plead for himself: "The Jews sinned many times, and yet You always forgave them. Am I worse than they that You cannot forgive me also?" But G-d replied to him, "Justice for the many is not the same as justice for one. I could forgive the sins of an entire people, but I cannot forgive yours."

Moses realized that nothing would avail, and that G-d would not retract His decree. He wrote out 13 Torah scrolls, one for each Tribe and one to remain in the Holy Ark. Moses and Joshua, the new leader, went together to the Tent of Meeting, where the Divine Presence always spoke with Moses. After they entered, a pillar of cloud descended separating Moses from Joshua. When it departed Moses turned to his former pupil and asked, "Master, what did G-d say to you?" Joshua relied, "I am forbidden to tell you." This was the first time that G-d had communicated with Joshua instead of Moses, and Moses was deeply pained. He cried out, "Better one hundred deaths than envy even once!"

Now Moses was ready to die. G-d showed him all the sights of Israel, present and future, even until the time of the Final Redemption. Then, commanding the angels to lock up the gates of prayer, lest Moses' heart-rending pleas penetrate, G-d Himself descended to take Moses' pure soul, telling it: "My daughter, leave his body immediately and I will allow you to rest under My Throne with the angels." G-d then kissed Moses, took his soul and brought it up to Heaven where even the angels wept.

Moses was born on the seventh of Adar and passed on, on the seventh of Adar. On the day of his passing, a Heavenly Voice announced: "Moses was awarded the crown of Torah, the crown of the priesthood, and the crown of royalty, yet the most important crown he earned was the crown of a good name."

Moses' body never degenerated, nor does anyone know the place of his grave, lest they see the light shining from there. When Moshiach redeems our people, Moses will be together with us once more.


Moshiach Matters

"The marriage of every couple ... is connected to the ultimate marriage between G-d and the Jewish people that will be consummated in the Era of Redemption."

(Sefer HaSichos 5751, Vol. II, p. 807)


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