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by Dovid Y. B. Kaufmann
Do you know a picky eater? Probably. Most of us do. We actually have more than one in our house. One child seemed to survive on macaroni and cheese, cereal and milk, or pizza until he was fourteen. Definitely not a meat-eater until his teenage years. Another likes things spicy. Hot sauce goes on or in just about everything.
Of course girls can be fussy eaters, too. One daughter has an aversion to peas, or anything resembling them, like lima beans. Another eats fruit only if presented just so: the orange has to be peeled and all the little extra strings removed. The apple has to be cut in quarters.
I myself have an aversion or two. I don't like mushrooms or bananas.
Even those people with an eclectic taste, who seem willing to try anything, have preferences. They've found foods they dislike and recipes they won't try (no matter how altered).
Try as we might, we can't alter our basic tastes. Oh, sure, some foods we can get used to - no, don't ask about the mushrooms (you should see what Maimonides says about them). But about taste, there's no disputing. It's not a logical choice. It's not a choice at all, really. I like vanilla ice cream, my brother likes chocolate. That can't be explained. What we like seems almost genetic, part of who we are, like hair color, height, musical talent. Some-thing G-d-given through our parents.
Taste expresses the essence.
There's something else about the foods we eat. Parents, spouses and friends often want us to try something, just taste it. They may disguise the food we despise, chopping it into little bits and "hiding' it in the dish. When we say how good it was, they tell us triumphantly, that dish you liked had mushrooms and you didn't know it. To which the response is, if I can't taste and I can't see it, it's not really there.
Now that's all well and good with food to which our aversion seems irrational and superficial. I don't like them just because. And so well-meaning parents, spouses or friends may try to "broaden our horizons," culinarily-speaking.
But what if the aversion isn't simply taste? What if we have a food allergy? Would someone hide it in our food, arguing it was just a little, it adds flavor and it couldn't hurt? Of course not.
Here's a true story. One Friday night friends of ours had a guest over for Shabbat. The guest had explained he was highly allergic to nuts. The smallest trace would cause him to swell and make breathing difficult. The hostess took note of this and made sure not to serve anything with nuts. Except for dessert. She forgot that the cake had some crushed walnuts. You couldn't see them; you couldn't taste them. Unless you were allergic to them, you wouldn't know they were there.
Before the guest finished the first bite, he was on the way to the hospital.
Thank G-d, most of the time our sensitivity doesn't express itself so dramatically. But taste does express the essence. Even if we don't have a violent physical reaction, we find a food "distasteful" because at some deep level of our being, we are allergic to it. It's just not good for us.
What we like or dislike reveals who we are.
That's true physically. It's also true spiritually.
The soul has "taste buds," as it were. It has preferences and aversions. These are the soul's food allergies, spiritually speaking.
So, be a picky eater. Keep kosher. It's "just" for your health. Your spiritual health.
This is the 25th article that Rabbi Kaufmann has written for L'Chaim, but who's counting?
In this week's Torah portion, Tzav, we read about the eight-day consecration of the Sanctuary. All the instructions for building the Sanctuary had been followed. The utensils and altar were ready for use, and the Jews began to bring the various types of sacrifices. Yet, "the Divine Presence did not rest on the work of their hands." For the first seven days, the Sanctuary was erected. But each day it was taken down again. Only on the eighth day of the consecration, when the last trace of spiritual impurity caused by the sin of the Golden Calf was removed, did the Heavenly fire descend and the G-dly Presence rest on the Sanctuary.
We see here two components to the perpetual fire which burned on the altar. On the one hand, a fire came down from Heaven to consume the offerings. But the priests were nonetheless commanded to bring ordinary fire, too. The act of bringing the fire served as a preparation for the G-dly flame which came from Above. Only after human initiative had been taken could the G-dly fire descend. And only at that point did the Sanctuary attain permanence.
Why could the G-dly fire be drawn down only after the human component of the worship was perfected? What special nature of the G-dly fire brought permanence to the Sanctuary?
Human beings are finite. No matter how high their aspirations, they can reach only a finite level of spirituality. And, being finite, human beings cannot reach a level of permanence in their worship without the assistance of G-d, Who is infinite and unlimited. Permanence cannot be attained solely through human effort. The G-dly intervention added a permanence that could not be achieved by human endeavor. The Sanctuary no longer needed to be disassembled.
The fire teaches us that we, as finite beings, must first complete our own tasks and achieve as much as our limited capabilities allow, in order for G-d to provide the spiritual edge which we cannot reach alone.
The completion of the first seven days of the consecration also symbolized the limitations of the physical world. A week constitutes a recognized, full cycle symbolizing the spiritual limitations inherent in the corporeal world. The eighth day of the consecration symbolizes the infinite attribute of G-d which cannot be contained in the natural order of seven. This is the level of "perpetual fire'" which burned on the altar, showing that finite beings could transcend even time itself, through the perfection of their worship of G-d.
The verse concerning the perpetual fire reads: "A perpetual fire shall burn on the altar - it shall not go out." This means that our enthusiasm and warmth towards Judaism must remain kindled and never be allowed to diminish. It is not enough to rely on our spiritual achievements of the day before, or even a minute ago. We must be ever vigilant to ensure that the innate spark of love of G-d in every Jewish soul never grows cold.
Every single Jew is a sanctuary to G-d, as it states, "And they shall build me a Sanctuary and I will dwell in their midst" - in the midst of each and every Jew. If we always keep the spark of love for G-d and Judaism glowing, we can ensure that the Divine Presence finds a dwelling place in this world below.
Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
A Memorable Journey
by Dr. Arthur Mensch
Chabad of North Montgomery County in Maryland, recently made a memorable journey to the Big Apple shepherded by our own Rabbi Sholom Raichik.
The 12-passenger van was not like the wings of an eagle but it was a close second. It was a beautiful clear morning and before we knew it, we were passing over the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. The Statue of Liberty and the New York skyline, less the Twin Towers, was to our left. Here we were in Brooklyn, my old neighborhood. Landmarks from my formative years - the Grand Army Plaza arch, the main Brooklyn Public Library, the Brooklyn Botanical Garden the Brooklyn Museum - all brought back fond memories. By contrast the scene of high rise condos at the site of the former Ebbetts Field reminded me of the loss of our beloved Brooklyn Dodgers who were moved to Los Angeles.
We were now in Crown Heights on Eastern Parkway, headquarters of the worldwide Chabad-Lubavitch movement. Eastern Parkway is a tree-lined thoroughfare similar to the Champs Elysee in Paris. Once elegant throughout its course from Grand Army Plaza eastward, its easternmost reaches are now in decay. The area adjacent to Chabad-Lubavitch World Headquarters at 770 Eastern Parkway has been undergoing a steady renaissance, the most recent evidence being the Tzivos Hashem Jewish Children's Museum.
Our first stop in Crown Heights was the matza bakery. A huge container truck was parked outside of the bakery. The truck had just taken on a container load of matzot bound for Australia. Matzot baked in Crown Heights bound for Australia under the auspices of Chabad. Now that is real globalization.
We entered the bakery. The process of baking "shmura," or guarded matza, starts with a carefully measured amount of flour and water thoroughly mixed. It is then passed to men who continue to knead the dough. It is apportioned to a group of about a dozen women who roll the dough into flat round portions on a table covered by paper. The rounded and flattened dough is then passed to another table where a device is used that perforates the dough. The matza-to-be is draped over long sticks and passed to the room with the ovens. The baker places the stick-loads of flattened dough inside the wood and coal fired oven where they are baked in about three minutes. The baked matzot are removed and placed in carts where they are inspected and brought to the shipping department for packaging. The whole cycle is halted after the prescribed 18 minutes and everything is cleaned up before the next batch of dough is processed. I imagine the matzot are baked in the same manner as they have been for centuries. Before we left we were treated to samples of matza.
After a brief stop to deliver tefilin and mezuzot to the sofer (scribe) for inspection, we were on our way to visit the Ohel, the resting place of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. To say it was inspiring would be an understatement. A large canvas covered area is provided for services, refreshments, and a place to write to the Rebbe. The Ohel, which is walled in but has no roof, is open to the sky. A low wall surrounds the graves of the Rebbe and the previous Rebbe. The space is filled with messages that people have written and left, similar to what is done at the Western Wall. It is customary to read your message quietly and then tear it and leave it there. Then it is customary to pray or recite Psalms. People from all branches of Judaism and even non-Jews visit this site.
We resumed our itinerary with a visit to 770 Eastern Parkway. The headquarters is actually several adjoining structures that have been added to over the years. It includes the Rebbe's library, administrative offices, and an enormous shul. The shul has a wrap-around balcony for women and a media center for recording proceedings. The main floor, which is slightly below ground level, is one of the largest shuls I have ever seen. When we were there, the afternoon prayers were being recited. Just standing amidst the crowd of praying Chasidim, one couldn't help but absorb the atmosphere by osmosis.
After a tour of the Rebbe's library, some in our group went shopping for books in the Judaica stores along Kingston Avenue, the main steet, while others detoured to the sofer to pick up the inspected tefilin and mezuzot as well as purchase new tefilin. The sofer's place was remarkable. Scribes who use the ancient method of quill pens and special ink when writing mezuzot on parchment were also using a computer to scan mezuzot and ensure their accuracy!
By this time we were all pretty hungry. We got back into our van and drove off to Borough Park, a neighborhood that has the highest density of Jews per square foot in the world, in search of kosher victuals in the form of shwarma, or in my case a good corned beef on rye. We roamed the stores along the famous 13th Avenue shopping for Judaica, hats, and of course more kosher food to bring back.
I am happy to report that my trip was a complete success. I returned to my home in Montgomery County with new tefilin, as well as corned beef, lox, sable, smoked white fish, and eggplant salad. But most of all, the nourishment for the body was coupled with enrichment for the soul!
Matza Ball Contest!
All Jewish children under the age of Bar or Bat Mitzva can participate in the The Great Matza Ball Race, a project of Tzivos Hashem. Children who work hard to do the special mitzvot of the Passover holiday and fill out the scorecard will be entered into a grand raffle for great prizes. To get a contest brochure contact your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center or visit www.jewishkidsonline.com
18 Adar II, 5738 
To All Students of Hebrew Schools, Boys as well as Girls
G-d bless you all
Greeting and Blessing:
I trust you have heard about the special appeal on Purim to students of all Hebrew schools - Yeshiva, Day School and Talmud Torah [afternoon Hebrew school] (including those attending public school), especially pre-Bar Mitzvah boys and pre-Bas Mitzvah girls, urging them to follow the example of the Jewish children who helped bring about the Miracle of Purim in the days of Mordechai and Esther.
The message calls for two practical actions:
One - to make an additional effort in Torah study, and this is also in two ways: (1) to devote some additional time to Torah study - over and above your regular studies, and (2) to improve the quality of the Torah study, namely, with greater enthusiasm and greater concentration. The additional Torah studies could be chosen in the weekly Sidra [Torah portion], Books of the Prophets and Scriptures, Mishnah and Gemara [Talmud], etc.
Second - to make a special effort in the matter of Tzedoko [charity], one of the highest forms of which is Gemilus Chasodim - to help friends and others who could do with a [interest] free loan. This means that every one of you, in your classroom or school, should join together to create a Gemilus Chesed (Free Loan) Fund - out of your pocket money. And if such a Fund is already in operation - to expand it by additional contributions and by making it available to a greater number of people that can benefit from it.
The idea behind this urgent suggestion is that Torah and Tzedoko - especially when studied and practiced by young children - go a long way to help our Jewish people in difficult times - and now is a difficult time. And just as Jewish children helped bring about the deliverance of our people in the time of Mordechai and Esther, so now, too, Jewish children have it in their power - through Torah and Tzedoko - to help bring closer the True and Complete Geulo (deliverance) of our people through our Righteous Moshiach.
I hope and trust that every one of you will gladly follow up these suggestions, if you have not already acted on it; and the great Zechus [merit] of Torah and Tzedoko will certainly stand you in good stead also in your own needs, especially to have Hatzlocho [success] in your Torah studies and in your daily conduct, and to be a source of true Nachas [pride] and blessing also to your dear parents and teachers.
21 Adar II, 5763 - March 25, 2003
Positive Mitzvah 195: Giving Tzedaka
This mitzva is based on the verse, (Deut. 15:8) "But you shall open your hand wide"
There is no exact English translation for the word "tzedaka." Usually the term "charity" is used, but charity implies that we are being kind, doing someone a favor. "Tzedaka" comes from the root tzedek - "justice" and "righteous." We are not merely being kind - rather we are fulfilling a just act. Even a poor person is obligated to give tzedaka, even if only a small amount.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This week we read the third of the four special Torah portions, Parshat Para.
Parshat Para describes the offering of the red heifer (the para aduma) and begins, "This is the decree of the Torah." These words indicate that the significance of the red heifer relates to all Torah and mitzvot.
The mitzva of the red heifer reveals two tendencies in a person's G-dly service: a yearning to cling to G-d, known as "ratzo" and the willingness to return to this world to carry out G-d's will, known as "shov." These two qualities are fundamental thrusts of Torah and mitzvot.
The burning of the red heifer with fire represents the thrust of ascending upward - ratzo. Fire is characterized by activity and a constant upward movement. The use of "living water in a vessel" which was combined with the ashes of the red heifer refers to the service of shov, for water naturally descends from above to below. Furthermore, when found on a flat surface, water remains in its place, reflecting the quality of tranquility.
Ratzo and shov are fundamental thrusts in Torah, not merely because of the unity they can bring about within the world, but because these two tendencies reflect positive qualities which must be emulated in our service of G-d. A Jew must possess the quality of ratzo. He must not be content with remaining at his present level, but must always seek to advance further. He must always be "running to fulfill a mitzva." Even though he has reached a high level, he must alwys seek to attain higher heights.
In contrast, ratzo alone is insufficient and it is necessary to internalize all the new levels he reaches, making sure that they become a part of his nature. This is reflected in an approach of tranquility and settledness (shov). It does not, however imply complacency. Rather, the internalization of one level produces the desire to reach higher peaks. After reaching those new peaks, one must work to internalize them, which, in turn produces a desire to reach even higher peaks.
May we grow in both areas until we reach the highest height of all and actually greet Moshiach.
This is the law of the burnt-offering...which the L-rd commanded Moses on Mount Sinai, on the day that He commanded the Children of Israel to offer their sacrifices (Leviticus 7:37-8)
From these verses, Maimonides concludes that the proper time for bringing sacrifices is during the day. Nonetheless, he continues, it is permissible to burn any portions of the animal that were not consumed during the daytime throughout the night. Similarly, the Jew's mission in life is to "sacrifice" his animal soul - his desire for physical pleasures - and transform it into holiness. Optimally, this type of service is to be done "in the daytime," when the Jew's connection to G-d is fully revealed. Nonetheless, if our sins have caused us to enter a state of spiritual "night," our service of G-d must continue, for this in itself will dispel the darkness and transform it into light.
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Bechukotai, 5749)
And the priest shall put on his linen garment (Lev. 6:3)
Rashi comments, "His garment (mado) should befit his stature (midato)." The service of the high priest who performs his duties while wearing the garment of an ordinary priest is invalid. A person must always behave in a manner befitting his stature. The higher up one is, the more is required of him.
And he shall lift up the ashes left from the burnt-offering which the fire consumed on the altar (Lev. 6:3)
A person wishing to witness a fiery, all-consuming service of G-d need not search among the elite; let him better look among the simple Jews who serve G-d with all their heart, for there he will find a true, holy fire.
(The Magid of Mezerich)
A fire shall continully be kept burning upon the altar; it shall not go out. (Lev. 6:6)
A person who studies Torah with a friend awakens an eternal G-dly fire. "It shall not go out" - this merit will stay with him forever.
When the Baal Shem Tov saw that Reb Dovid, one of his chasidim, was not arranging a match for his daughter, he called in some of his other disciples. "Collect two hundred rubles. Take the money to these two addresses, look over the two young men and decide who is more suitable for Reb Dovid's daughter."
The chasidim visited both young men and chose the second of the two. They then concluded the engagement to the satisfaction of the young man and his family. The father of the groom told the chasidim, "Take this gift along for the bride and tell her father that I await a similar gift for my son."
Reb Dovid and his daughter were delighted with the good news and the gift. Reb Dovid tried to put the money together for a gift to send in return, but due to his extreme poverty he was unable to come up with a sizeable sum.
Reb Dovid wrote a letter to the groom's family, assuring them that he would eventually be sending a dowry. Then, he traveled to the Baal Shem Tov to explain his predicament. The Baal Shem Tov listened compassionately and said, "Do not worry. Trust in G-d and everything will be all right."
When Reb Dovid arrived home he found a letter waiting for him from the groom's family. 'We have not yet received the dowry. Is it not time for our children to celebrate their wedding?"
Overwrought with worry, Reb Dovid decided to travel once again to the Baal Shem Tov and explain the urgency of the situation.
"I told you not to worry," the Baal Shem Tov told Reb Dovid. "Go home, put your trust in G-d, and everything will work out well."
Reb Dovid returned home, but upon his arrival, Reb Dovid found another letter: "We are leaving for your city within two weeks. Please be prepared for us."
"Two weeks," Reb Dovid read, in sheer misery. He didn't even have enough food in his house for his own family let alone the groom's family and all their guests. His only option was to go once again to the Baal Shem Tov.
As Reb Dovid neared the Baal Shem Tov's study hall, one of his traveling companions pointed to a beautiful carriage travelling in front of them and said jokingly, "There is your help."
As it happened, the passenger in the carriage arrived just a moment before Reb Dovid and they both entered the Rebbe's room together. The Baal Shem Tov greeted only Reb Dovid and said, "I want to tell you a story. There lived in Danzig a wealthy merchant named Reuven. Once he was returning from a very successful business trip with his bookkeeper and secretary. The two men became jealous of their employer's wealth and plotted to rob him. They attacked the coach driver and beat him to death. They then bound Reuven to a tree.
" 'Please, spare my life for the sake of my wife and children,' Reuven pleaded. 'Take all of my money but spare my life.'
"The two thieves laughed. 'We cannot leave you alive. Prepare to die.'
" 'Then give me five minutes to say the final confession,' Reuven pleaded.
"The thieves agreed. While Reuven said the final confession, he wept from the depths of his heart. He called out to G-d, 'I swear that if my life is spared, I will give one quarter of my fortune to the poor of my family and one quarter to other needy causes.'
"At that moment the sound of hoof-beats were heard approaching. The would-be-murderers fled, leaving Reuven tied to the tree. It was a nobleman approaching with his servants. Having come upon an abandoned wagon loaded with costly merchandise, they entered the forest to investigate.
"The noblemen sent two of his servants to accompany Reuven home. There, Reuven rejoiced wholeheartedly with his family. After the celebration, Reuven called in a bookkeeper and ordered him, 'Add up all of my assets.'
"But when Reuven saw what a large sum half of his fortune was, his determination faltered. He decided that giving half of his fortune all at once, would break him. He therefore decided to 'pay it off' over many years' time.
"A short while later, Reuven's wife became ill. The local doctors could not figure out what was wrong with her. They sent Reuven's wife to specialists who sent her to other specialists. Reuven and his wife traveled from country to country, specialist to specialist. But no doctor could diagnose her illness.
"Finally Reuven's wife said to him, 'Let us go to the Baal Shem Tov.'
"Reuven agreed to his wife's suggestion," the Baal Shem Tov concluded. "How much money have you spent on doctors ever since your wife became ill?" the Baal Shem Tov asked the second visitor, finally acknowledging his presence. "Was it not more than a quarter of your fortune, the amount you should have given to the poor? Redeem the rest of your pledge immediately, down to the last penny. You will see that your wife will regain her health."
Reuven was still in shock from the Baal Shem Tov having so vividly described the horrifying events of the past few months. Dutifully, in front of the Baal Shem Tov and Reb Dovid, Reuven emptied his entire purse of money. It contained three thousand gold coins.
The Baal Shem Tov gave the money to Reb Dovid and it was not long before his daughter's wedding was celebrated amidst much joy and happiness.
The spark of Mashiach, comprising the deepest point of the soul, is the activating force fueling leadership potential. Just as the very definition of Mashiach is his ability to successfully redeem the entire world, so does the spark of Mashiach within an individual define his drive to improve the world around him in whatever manner possible. The desire to rectify reality and reveal holiness in the world, a cardinal Jewish character trait throughout the ages, is thus ultimately connected to the redemptive mission of Mashiach. Each Jew who contacts this level of soul and begins to develop and reveal that spark within actually hastens the coming of Mashiach, the ultimate intent of all Jewish leadership.
(Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh, Gal Einai Institute)