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Devarim Deutronomy

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Devarim Deutronomy

L'Chaim
March 28, 2003 - 24 Adar II, 5763

763: Shmini

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


Text VersionFor Palm Pilot
  762: Tzav764: Sazria  

What Is Gulf War II About?  |  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

What Is Gulf War II About?

If we listen to the news and the pundits, we will be told many things. It's about oil. It's about the war on terrorism. It's about a personal grudge. It's about weapons of mass destruction. It's about American arrogance. It's about global stability. It's about the "Arab-Israeli conflict." It's about a jihad or a crusade. It's a culture war between Christianity and Islam.

It's superficially about all of these but essentially about none. In truth, it's about Purim and Passover. It's about the transformation of the world, about Divine Providence, about revealing the hidden Name of G-d, about the Jews "accepting what they had begun" (Esther 9:23).

Neither the ruler of the Western world nor the ruler of Mesopotamia - the Babylonian-Persian realm - determine the fate of the Jewish people nor the integrity of Israel. Neither to trust one nor fear the other - is that not the lesson of Purim?

George Bush (H.W.) paused the Gulf War, leaving Saddam Hussein in power. On Purim. George Bush (W.) resumed the Gulf War, vowing to remove Saddam Hussein from power. On Purim. And the "intermission" lasted twelve years - the length of time of the Purim story. It was twelve years from the feast of Ahasuerus until the rebuilding of the Temple and the end of the Babylonian exile.

On the eve of the Gulf War, the Rebbe emphasized that the coming conflict was/is but a sign of the Redemption. He referenced a passage in the Yalkut Shimoni - a work of the Talmudic period. The passage reads:

In the year the King Moshiach will be revealed, the kings of all the nations of the world will struggle with each other...the king of Persia will provoke the Arabian king; the Arabian king will go to Aram [or Edom - the West] for advice...All the nations of the world will be in turmoil and terror. And [G-d] will say to them [Israel], "My children, do not be afraid, all that I have done I have done only for your sake...Do not fear, the time for your Redemption has arrived!"

We are in the days between Purim and Passover, days of preparation, preparation for Redemption. "About this imminent Redemption, it is said: 'As in the days of your departure from Egypt, I will show you wonders' (Micha 7:15)" (The Rebbe, Shabbat Bereishit 5751).

Let us "accept what they [our ancestors] had begun," meaning, as the Sages tell us, a rededication to Torah, to observing its laws and studying its teachings. For "All Jews, men, women and even children, have the responsibility to increase their efforts to bring our righteous Moshiach in actual reality. ... What this duty consists of is simple: increasing one's Torah and mitzvot (commandents). This means learning both the open aspects of the Torah and the inner aspects of the Torah and performing the mitzvot with distinc-tion" (The Rebbe, Parshat Shmini, 5751).

Purim and Passover share this in common: both commemorate the Redemption of the Jewish people through a revelation of G-d's Presence. They share this in common: both led to a dedication of the Jewish people to Torah and mitzvot. They share this in common: they transformed the world.

In these days we have a responsibility - to ourselves, our ancestors, our children and indeed the whole world - for one mitzva can bring the redemption, as Maimonides said.

In simple terms, what can we do and what can we say, when the world is being inverted and transformed? "It is proper and correct to ... increase in tzedeka [and] increase in the study of Torah concerning Moshiach and Redemption" (The Rebbe, Parshiot Tazria-Metzora 5751).

Indeed, "the only thing missing is that a Jew should open his eyes as he should, when he will see that all is ready for the Redemption" (The Rebbe, Parshat Vayeitze 5752).

Let us recognize and acknowledge the miracles, as our ancestors did at the time of the Exodus from Egypt and do all we can to actualize the Yalkut Shimoni's prophetic description of our age: "And [G-d] will say to them [Israel], "My children, do not be afraid, all that I have done I have done only for your sake...Do not fear, the time for your Redemption has arrived!"

To read more of the Rebbe's observations, analyses and prophetic insights about the Gulf War and its spiritual significance, see Besuras HaGeula: The Announcement of the Redemption published by Vaad L'Hafotzas Sichos (718-774-7200) or I Will Show You Wonders published by Sichos in English, www.SichosInEnglish.org


Living with the Rebbe

The Torah portion, Shemini, discusses the pure animals that we are allowed to eat, and the impure ones that we are forbidden to eat. The Torah gives two signs to recognize a pure animal: it chews the cud and it has split hoofs.

One of the reasons offered for the dietary laws is that everything a person eats is transformed into blood and flesh, becoming an integral part of that person. The Torah thus prohibits certain foods in order to prevent man from assimilating the evil characteristics of the forbidden food.

If there is a prohibition against eating animals which do not chew the cud and do not have a split hoof (in order to preclude assimilation of the characteristics of those animals), it follows that the proper conduct for man should be one that embraces the concepts of a split hoof and chewing the cud.

The hoof must be split entirely, from the top to the very bottom. The hoof is divided into two, to indicate that our walking on this earth, i.e., our mundane involvements, must include two basic principles: drawing near to oneself that which is good and proper and pushing away that which is not.

But the sign of a split hoof by itself is not sufficient. There must also be the sign of chewing the cud.

One must very carefully "chew over" every mundane activity which one intends to undertake. One must clarify and determine, once and again, whether to do it altogether, and if so, how to do it. Only then will the action itself be a "pure animal" - something which can and is used for our spiritual mission in life.

Regarding fowl, we do not rely on signs alone, but we also require a tradition affirming that species' purity. Off hand, one could ask why we need such a tradition. Observing the signs would seem sufficient. However, this comes to teach us that one cannot rely on one's own intelligence. It is possible to study the Code of Jewish Law and even follow a course of behavior which one's own intellect determines to be "beyond the letter of the law."

One must follow the tradition. The Hebrew word for tradition is mesora, which is related to the word mesira - devotion and being bound together. In order to follow the Jewish tradition we must be devoted to and bound together with other Jews and Torah leaders who can teach us the ways of our tradition.

Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.


A Slice of Life

A Sefer Torah for a Safer World

The Lubavitcher Rebbe initiated the Children's Sefer Torah Campaign on his birthday in 1981. The Rebbe stated that in this physical world a visible gesture of oneness was vital and that the ultimate expression of unity is through Torah. For this reason, the Rebbe called for the writing of a special Torah scroll for all Jewish boys and girls below the age of Bar or Bat Mitzva.

A little while later, the Rebbe pointed out that there is a connection between Torah scrolls and the land of Israel. The Rebbe emphasized that true peace in the world is accomplished through the unity achieved by the writing of the Children's Sefer Torah, which is permanently located in Jerusalem's Old City.

Three months later, at a public gathering, the Rebbe told the following story:

In Russia a small boy once asked his father, "What is a Sefer Torah?" The child's father, who had been born many years after the Russian Revolution, had no idea. However, his curiosity had been aroused by his son's question and he asked him where he had heard about it. The child replied that someone had asked him if he wanted to buy a letter in a Sefer Torah that was being written for children around the world.

"Ask some of the old people," suggested his father. "Maybe they know what it is."

The elderly Jews whom the child asked did remember what he was referring to and told him all they could remember about Judaism. Later on, the family sneaked into a synagogue to see a Sefer Torah for themselves. This was only the beginning of the family's return to their heritage.

On a number of occasions, the Rebbe would ask children during yechidut (a private audience) if they had purchased a letter in the Sefer Torah. The following story was told by Rabbi Daniel Danan of France:

A French woman who had recently become religiously observant decided to visit the Rebbe. On Sunday mornings and afternoons, the Rebbe would stand in 770 Eastern Parkway, LubavitchWorld Headquarters, for hours to distribute dollars for people to give to charity. When it was her turn, the Rebbe gave the woman an extra dollar for her husband and three more for her children. The woman was very disturbed by this, because, although she had five children the Rebbe had only given her three dollars. She asked Rabbi Leibl Groner, the Rebbe's secretary, if she could submit a letter to the Rebbe requesting an explanation. The Rebbe wrote that he had given her the dollars for those of her children who had letters in the Sefer Torah. Upon further inquiry, the woman discovered that only three of her children had been registered.

Another story: One day, a particular family was enjoying a picnic on the banks of Lake Kinneret in the Galilee when one of their children went astray. After searching the area thoroughly, the family found him in the lake. The child was rushed to the intensive care unit at the Poriyah Hospital in Tiberias. When the doctors there managed to resuscitate him, he was transferred to the hospital in Afula. After a few hours of intensive treatment, his family was informed that the damage caused to his central nervous system meant that, although he would live, he would be completely paralyzed.

The child's family was devastated. While they were still trying to absorb the shock, a young Lubavitcher girl entered the hosptial and heard about this terrible tragedy. She tried to comfort the family. She suggested that the child's parents buy him a letter in the Children's Sefer Torah. They immediately agreed to do so. The parents also wrote to the Rebbe asking for a blessing that their child be healed. In the answer that they received, the Rebbe asked if the child had purchased a letter in the Sefer Torah. The parents were very pleased to be able to give a positive answer.

Two days later, the child's condition dramatically improved. By the time the girl visited the hospital during the following week, he was already out of intensive care and well on the road to recovery.

Throughout the first year of the Sefer Torah Campaign, the Rebbe spoke a number of times about the campaign. During one talk, the Rebbe stressed how important it is for a Jewish child to purchase a letter in the Children's Sefer Torah:

"Even if children have letters in an adult Sefer Torah, this is only of secondary importance. It cannot be compared to the tremendous value of being written in a special Sefer Torah for children."

Interestingly the merit of buying a letter in a Sefer Torah is alluded to in the book of Daniel:

"...There shall be a time of trouble such as there never was since there was a nation until that time. And that time your people shall be delivered, every one who shall be found written in the book." (Daniel, 12:1)

Presently, more than one million Jewish children worldwide have purchased letters in these Sifrei Torah. The fourth Sefer Torah is currently being written.

To acquire a letter visit www.kidstorah.com. Adapted from www.kidstorah.com


What's New

Helping Soldiers Keep Cool

Tzivos Hashem soldiers Cohen and Nachshon who live in Hebron, Israel, always sup-ply IDF soldiers with cold drinks when they are stationed in Hebron. Tzivos Hashem is the largest Jewish children's organization in the world for kids under Bar/Bat Mitzva. Find out more at www.Tzivos-Hashem.org

The Jewish Children's Museum

The Jewish Children's Museum, a seven-story, 55,000 square foot structure, is almost complete. Located in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, the museum is a project of Tzivos Hashem. The There will be no cases in the museum, and no "please don't touch" signs. Children of all ages will be able to explore Judaism through exciting, hands-on activities. With maximum capacity at 2,000, the museum expects yearly visitations to be close to 300,000. is completed any child, any child will be able to walk through its doors."

Designed by Gwathmey, Siegel & Associates, an architectural firm whose previous works have included the Guggenheim Museum and the Disney Convention Center, the Jewish Children's Museum will merge traditional values and modern technology in a high-tech infrastructure designed to suit its mission of learning and wonder. The firm's inspiration for undertaking the project, says partner Robert Siegel, was multi-faceted. The site's location in Crown Heights, "with its history of conflict and coexistence between the Orthodox and Black communities (made) the idea of creating a museum, which would facilitate a better understanding of Jewish history and customs. . . .inspirational," he says. And the building's dual roles as museum and local community center gave the designers further challenge, adding a greater dimension to the project.

The 25-million dollar museum will be dedicated to the memory of Ari Halberstam, a Lubavitch student and local resident who was gunned down in an act of terror on the Brooklyn Bridge in 1996. The project has garnered major government support and funding at the local and state levels, through his mother, Mrs. Devorah Halberstam.

Children's museums are "audience centered," as opposed to the typical collection-based museums, and focus on involving children so that they are not merely observers, but active participants in the museum-going process. The Jewish Children's Museum, notes its exhibition writer and consultant, Paul Rosenthal-whose expertise has been retained as well for the expansion of the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Battery Park City-has taken this a step further in its attempt to convey concepts as broad as the Messianic era, and as subtle as faith, in a manner that is fun and interactive.

That puts the museum on the far end of a lively, activity-based center, and has given Rosenthal a freer reign on how he proposes to convey the subject matter. It also poses a greater challenge for the writer, who worked together with Gershon Eichorn, the museum's director of design and exhibitions, to come up with exhibits that satisfy the educational objectives of the museum while fully engaging children with even the shortest attention span. "There are no cases in this museum, and no 'please don't touch' signs," says Eichorn. "Here children of all ages will be able to explore Judaism through exciting, hands-on activities."

Subject matter like the entire span of Jewish history, dating back to creation, is difficult for children to relate to, notes Rabbi Leibel Newman, administrator at Yeshivas Toras Chayim of the South Shore, who was on the board of educators consulted for the planning of The Jewish Children's Museum. "But when children are given the opportunity to literally walk through time, they are able to grasp the concept of sequence, of cause and effect, so that stories they have learned from the book suddenly come to life, and become real."

In addition to two floors worth of permanent Jewish heritage and history exhibitions, the museum will feature temporary, seasonal exhibitions. A full-sized state-of-the-art game show theater on the lower level will give children the opportunity to put their knowledge of Judaism to the test. Videoconferencing will keep the museum connected to the internet so that children internationally will be able to participate in the various museum functions.

With maximum capacity at 2,000, the museum expects to host hundreds of schoolchildren on a typical weekday and hundreds more with their families during weekends and vacations, with yearly visitations at close to 300,000.

A synagogue, kosher cafeteria, a gift shop, library, computer rooms, and a "kosher" movie theater with seating for one hundred, make the museum especially attractive to community members, says director of administration, Rabbi Sholom Ber Baumgarten. After-hours, the museum expects to draw hundreds of local children for arts and crafts projects, music lessons, computer activities, and a host of other after-school programs-a much-needed benefit for the local community.

"There's a real sense of joy to the museum," says Rosenthal. Exploring the story of the Jewish people across time, space, and subcultures, the museum scratches beneath the surface of superficial differences. "It's very much a living museum about a thriving community of people and how it continues to evolve."

Reported by S. Olidor


The Rebbe Writes

Freely translated
13 Sivan 5716 [1956]

Greetings and Blessings

I received your letter in which you write briefly about what you have gone through in your life, wanderings, happenings and suffering, until you arrived lately in__ and you raise issues which are not to be understood.

Since I do not have a Russian typewriter in my secretariat, I am replying in Yiddish, but it is self-understood that you may continue to write to me in the language easiest for you.

You are wondering, according to your letter, why you see no explanation for the events which have occurred to your family and in your home.

Well, if you think into it a little you should not have to wonder because a person only sees a small part of what is happening to him and around him, which makes it difficult to evaluate the meaning of what he sees.

An uninformed stranger who enters an operating room will observe a helpless person on a table, surrounded by masked men brandishing knives and other instruments. The masked men cut and stab and draw blood, disregarding the moans of pain from the "victim," who is drugged and prevented from moving.

The stranger's natural reaction is to shout for help. As far as he can see, a group of sadists is torturing a helpless person.

If the stranger realizes that the activity he observed was actually a surgical procedure essential to the patient's well-being, he would certainly understand why the few hours of pain on the operating table were necessary. In fact, he would probably argue that the masked "villains" are great humanitarians who are performing a vital service. This impression will remain even though no doctor can guarantee a cure, or how long the patient will live, even if the surgery is successful.

From this example, you can understand that a person's life sometimes involves elements of pain and suffering. When we are caught in the middle of a difficult situation, it is not easy to appreciate the massive benefits that accrue from temporary discomfort.

The concept of Divine Providence stresses that there are no random occurrences in the world; even the painful episodes are part of the divine plan, an all-encompassing system that includes the individual, his family and every other person, thing or event that occurs.

The same thing is understood about a person in his life on earth. Something can happen which involves pain for a while, real pain, not imaginary. But knowing and recognizing Divine providence, i.e. that the world is not without ownership, and that it operates in a system, and that the system encompasses not only him but also his family and much, much more, every healthy intellect dictates that these events are not in contradiction to the system by which the world around him is operating. The only thing is that he does not hear from the "professor and surgeon" what the tremendous benefits are which are derived from the short-term pain.

There are those who question and say that they doubt that the world has a system and purpose, but everyone knows from physics, chemistry, astronomy, and so on (recognized not only by Jews or by believing people but even by non-believers) that even the smallest atom has its exact rules. Everything must operate in accordance with the rules, even the earth, rocks, plants and animals and everything which surrounds us has definitive laws and established methods, even though it is far more complex and vast than one person and his family.

When we encounter difficult times in our lives, many are spurred to question the existence of a Divine system and master plan for our world. When one part of the world's structure appears out of sync with the way we understand it should be, we are quick to draw conclusions about the entire cosmos.

However, the worlds of physics, chemistry, astronomy or the other natural sciences demonstrate otherwise.

There, even the smallest atom is seen to have its own structure and function; every particle of matter is subject to specific laws and is part of a defined framework - a cosmic order which is vast and complex.

continued in next week's issue


Rambam this week

27 Adar II, 5763 - March 31, 2003

Positive Mitzva 127: The First Tithe

This mitzva is based on the verse (Num. 18:24) "But the tithes of the Children of Israel which they offer as a gift." We are commanded to give a tenth of all the land's produce to the Levites. The Levites were not given an inheritance of land as were the other tribes. Instead, this share of our crop is considered their inheritance. Since there are other types of "tithes," (which means: a tenth of the amount), this one is called: "The First Tithe."


A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

This Shabbos is one of the four special Shabbosim preceding the YomTov of Pesach. It is called Shabbos Parshas HaChodesh. We read a special Torah portion from the book of Exodus that states: This month shall be the head month for you. It shall be the first month of the year.

Shabbos Parshas HaChodesh always falls either on the Sabbath when we bless the month of Nisan or on the first day of Nisan itself.

The month of Nisan is special in that it is a month of miracles-not the everyday miracles of human existence, or hidden miracles such as those that took place on Purim. But, rather, Nisan contains revealed miracles that are higher than nature itself.

With the command that the month of Nisan, a month of revealed miracles, be designated as the first and "head" of the months, the Torah emphasizes that in all the months of the year, whether we see open miracles, miracles in the cloak of natural events, unusual success or a seemingly unchangeable cycle of nature, we must realize that G-d is the Creator of the Universe, the sole Master of the world, who directs and cares about even the smallest detail of the world and each individual person.

If each and everyone of us would sit down for only a brief few moments and pay close attention to what has happened to us personally, we will detect minor and major miracles that happen in our personal lives. We are many times "just too busy" to stop for a moment and take stock of what has happened. But we shouldn't pass it off as another "natural" happening. It is a miracle of G-d, whether it has occurred in the month of miracles, or an average day.


Thoughts that Count

And it came to pass on the eighth day (Lev. 9:1)

The eighth day of the consecration of the Tabernacle was the first day of the month of Nisan. Ten special events took place on that day, including many "firsts": Nisan became the first of the months when counting the months of the year; the priests, not the first-born, performed the special services; communal sacrifices were brought; the priests blessed the people with the Priestly Blessing.

(Breishit Rabba)


Aaron lifted up his hands to the people and blessed them (Lev. 9:22)

Why did Aaron, not Moses, bless the Jewish people? The Divine Presence could only rest in the Tabernacle after the sin of the Golden Calf was atoned for. Aaron was the one who had to effect the atonement, as it was he who was ultimately responsible for the sin having been committed in the first place. Therefore, he was the one to bless the people.

(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)


On the eighth day of the consecration of the Tabarnacle, Aaron blessed the people with the Priestly Blessing: "The L-rd bless you and guard you. May the L-rd make His countenance shine upon you and be gracious to you. May the L-rd turn His countenance toward you and grant you peace." (Rashi; Sota 38)

And they [Nadav and Avihu] brought near before G-d a strange fire which He had not commanded them (Lev. 10:1)

Although Nadav and Avihu were great and holy men who brought the fire upon the altar for the sake of Heaven, it was considered a sin because they did it on their own, without having been commanded to do so by G-d. No matter how great one's intellect, it must be subservient to the will of G-d and to His commandments. The reverse is also true. When a Jew does a mitzva (commandment), even if his intellect cannot grasp the reason for doing it, and he performs it solely because it is a Divine command, the mitzva will give him strength and elevate him spiritually.

(Chidushai Harim)


And these shall be an abomination among the fowls... the stork (chasida) (Lev. 11:13-19)

The Talmud explains that the stork is called "chasida" in Hebrew, which comes from the word meaning kindness, because it is kind to its peers. If this is so, why is it counted amongst the impure birds, normally birds of prey? Because the stork is kind to its peers only. It only worries about those in its own flock or group.

(Mei-otzreinu Hayashan)


It Once Happened

Rabbi Tzvi Ashkenazi was one of the greatest rabbis and Torah scholars of his time. Unfortunately, because of his opposition to Shabtai-Tzvi, the infamous false messiah of the early eighteenth century-he was forced to flee from his city of Amsterdam. He promised his family that, when safe, he would let them know his whereabouts.

After wandering from place to place, Rabbi Tzvi arrived one Friday afternoon at Frankfurt-au-Maine. Without letting anyone know who he was, he entered the shul and joined a group of other wandering Jews who had come to pray.

After the services, one of the prominent members of the community, Meir Anshel Rothschild, invited Rabbi Tzvi and several other poor people for the Shabbat meals. At the Shabbat table, Meir Anshel recognized that one of the poor guests was, in fact, Rabbi Tzvi Ashkenazi, the chief rabbi of Amsterdam. It was obvious to Meir Anshel that the Rabbi didn't want his identity known, and so he treated Rabbi Tzvi like the rest of the guests.

After Shabbat, Rabbi Tzvi wished his host a "good week" and went on his way. Meir Anshel could not stop thinking about Rabbi Tzvi. Why was he forced to wander around among a group of poor beggars? How could he have paid Rabbi Tzvi the respect and attention due to him? Suddenly, Meir Anshel called his servant and ordered his carriage. He settled himself inside and rode off.

Meir Anshel slowed his horses when he saw the figure of Rabbi Tzvi walking along the Judenstrauss toward the city exit. Meir Anshel called out to the Rabbi and then descended from his carriage. "Please forgive me, dear Rabbi. I recognized you at my Shabbat table but could see that you did not want your identity known. Therefore, I did not treat you with the proper honor and respect due you."

"I knew that you recognized me," smiled Rabbi Tzvi, "and was happy that you did not betray my secret."

"I followed you not just to apologize," began Meir Anshel, "but also to give you this." And with that, Meir Anshel held out a purse full of gold coins. "I am certain that, so far from home, and wandering as you are, you will find the money very useful."

Rabbi Tzvi refused the money, no matter how Meir Anshel persisted.

"King Solomon said: 'One who hates receiving gifts will live longer.'" Rabbi Tzvi reminded him.

Seeing that he could not prevail upon Rabbi Tzvi to accept the gift, Meir Anshel put the purse on the ground and said, "Heaven and earth are my witness that I am declaring this purse of money ownerless." Meir Anshel said good-bye, got into his carriage and rode home.

Rabbi Tzvi stood for awhile contemplating the situation. He decided that, seeing that the purse was now ownerless, there was no reason to let it fall into unworthy hands. He picked up the purse, looked inside, and raised his eyes toward heaven. He prayed that G-d should send Meir Anshel success in his business affairs, and that the blessing of success would continue for his children and grandchildren for all generations.

This blessing was indeed fulfilled, for from that day on, Meir Anshel's business prospered to an extraordinary degree. The "House of Rothschild" became famous the world over.

Adapted from Talks and Tales


Moshiach Matters

"Furthermore, the children of Ishmael will evoke many battles around the world invoking Edom [the descendents of Esau] into fierce battles at sea, on land and near Jerusalem. They will attack and conquer each other...and additional armies will join the battle...Until God 'will grab the corners of the Land [and the wicked will be shaken from it]' (Job 38:13). He will remove the children of Ishmael from the Land...Then, 'I will transform all the nations into a pure tongue, that all shall call in G-d's Name and serve Him in unity (Zephania 3:9)."

(Zohar II, 32a)


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