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May 2, 2003 - 30 Nisan, 5763

767: Kedoshim

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  766: Achrei Mos768: Emor  

Remodeling  |  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

Remodeling

We're remodeling. And frankly, the house is a mess. By the side of the house, bits of lumber. In front, the workmen's material: a bag of cement, a roll of insulation, tools - a hammer, an electric saw, a set of screwdrivers, wrenches and other mysterious implements - sheets of vinyl siding and more wood.

Inside has its own assortment of clutter. We have to keep warning the kids not to use the half dozen or so sheets of plywood as a launching pad. At last count, there were four gallons of primer, two gallons of a light blue exterior latex, three of an off-white for the interior and one of a color I can't determine - nor am I sure which room it will cover.

Between the sanding for the paint-ing and the sawdust from the electric saw - did I mention the two by fours and other beams placed strategically around the kitchen, insuring I'll trip every time I try to raid the refrigerator, no matter how I approach it? - the place is, in a word, a mess.

Right now, my home doesn't seem a pleasant place to visit and it's certainly a difficult place to in which to live. We don't have much room. The children can't contain their excitement and so don't do their homework, get on our nerves, and in the workmen's way. I can't blame them, though - it's fun watching the house being transformed.

Our guests, friends and visitors marvel at our daring; they can't wait to see what the house will look like when finished. In the meantime, though, they've become a bit more cautious - less ready to just drop by, less willing to stay long, even at night when the workmen are gone. They're just being polite.

So if remodeling is causing so much chaos and turmoil, why bother? We managed to live for years in our home without adding on or fixing up.

Why bother? What kind of question is that? If you've ever owned your own home, you know the answer. You want your house to be more than "livable" - you want it to look nice, be comfortable, have all the amenities. I'm not an architect, but I do know that space and the arrangement thereof - the structure and the placement of the furnishings - reflects the owner's personality.

So, yes, the place is a mess now, but that's temporary. And it's a necessary part of building - or rebuilding - a home. I can look at home as it is now and say it's a wreck, a disaster, a hopeless jumble of nails, dust, wood and plaster. Or I can see how my home will look when the work is done, the repairs made, the addition finished, when everything is new - or renewed - and just, well, a comfortable place for me to live.

In a sense, we're remodeling the world. Right now. With our performance of mitzvot (commandments) and study of Torah. We're the workmen rebuilding, renewing, G-d's home, making it a comfortable place where the Owner can dwell. So, yes, it's a bit messy now; yes, things may seem a bit disordered. The world may appear to be in disarray.

But all the hammering and sawing and painting and whatever else follows a plan. And soon, the building will be done, the remodeling finished, the Third Temple standing in Jerusalem and the world a fit dwelling place for G-d.


Living with the Rebbe

In this week's Torah portion, Kedoshim, we learn that one may not eat the fruits of a tree during the first three years after it was planted, while the fruits of the fourth year are holy. They are to be eaten only in Jerusalem. The Torah proceeds: "But in the fifth year you may eat its fruit [in all places], so that it may yield you more produce..." Thus, the objective of the first four years is the increase in yield during the fifth year.

The fifth year's increase in physical yield resulted from the fact that in a spiritual sense, too, the fruits of the fifth year possessed a quality that was lacking - not only during the first three forbidden years, but also during the fourth year when the fruits had to be eaten in Jerusalem. Why, then, could these more spiritually elevated fruits be eaten wherever one desired? Why were they not restricted to the confines of the Holy City of Jerusalem, as were the less spiritual fruits of the fourth year?

Before the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Chasidism, became renowned, it was his custom to wander from town to town and village to village, because one of his approaches to Divine Service was to inquire among Jews as to their welfare, and elicit responses of praise of G-d for their well-being.

He was most gratified to hear the loving praises with which they responded to his queries: "Blessed be His Name," "Praise the L-rd," "The loving G-d does not forsake," and so on.

It once happened that the Baal Shem Tov visited a town where there lived an eminent scholar who for the past fifty years had been piously abstemious, studying Torah day and night in holy isolation. He would sit in his talit and tefilin until late afternoon, and fast until after the evening prayer. He would then break his fast with a crust of bread and water.

The Baal Shem Tov once entered this scholar's "seclusion chamber," which was in a corner of the synagogue, inquired after his health, and asked him whether his needs were being met. The recluse ignored him. After the Baal Shem Tov repeated his questions a number of times the scholar became angry and showed his visitor the door. Said the Baal Shem Tov to the scholar: "Rabbi, why don't you provide G-d with His sustenance? You will starve Him, G-d forbid, and He will depart from the world."

Hearing these words the scholar was perplexed: such strange words about seeing to G-d's needs so that He should not starve?! The Baal Shem Tov noticed the scholar's bewilderment and explained: "Jews exist by virtue of G-d's sustenance, but what sustains Him? This is answered by King David in Psalms, wherein he says: 'You, Holy One, are enthroned upon' - i.e., You are sustained by - 'the praises of Israel,' by the words of praise that Jews give You for their health and livelihod."

To make this world a "dwelling place for Him," so that G-d be eminent in this world, is the purpose of all creation. Accomplishing this requires more than Torah study. It requires - as indicated by the Baal Shem Tov's conduct - that we praise and acknowledge G-d for even the simple things in life, for all things are to be imbued with holiness.

So, too, regarding the fifth year's fruits. The highest state of holiness is attained not by eating the fruits in Jerusalem; it is achieved by transforming the whole world into the Holy City of Jerusalem.

From The Chasidic Dimension by Rabbi S.B. Wineberg, adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.


A Slice of Life

A Mission of Solidarity
by Rabbi Moshe D. Bryski

I have just returned from leading an eight-day "Chabad Solidarity Mission" to Israel and I write to urge all of you to organize and/or participate in such a mission. The people of Israel need your warmth, love, support and smiling face - now more than ever before in its history.

I have been to Israel many times before. I have seen the land through the eyes of a tourist, visitor and leader of a Torah Study Group Journey to the Holy Land. Every trip to Israel is meaningful and inspirational. However this particular trip was significantly different. Our solidarity mission was just that - a mission: A mission to tell the people of Israel that our thoughts are with them every day and night; A mission to comfort the bereaved and share in their pain; A mission to visit with those wounded, physically and emotionally, by the horrors of two years of terrorism; A mission to thank the soldiers of the Israeli army for their heroic braver; A mission to salute the doctors, nurses, rescue workers and hospital staffs who have witnessed the most heinous attacks known to man; A mission to visit merchants, cafes, restaurants, artists, shopkeepers, falafel stands, and tourist attractions, to help them economically in this difficult time; A mission to demonstrate that we have not abandoned our brothers and sisters; A mission of true solidarity.

We left thinking we were ambassadors from our communities to the people of Israel. We returned as ambassadors of the people of Israel to the Jewish communities across America and throughout the world. We came back with a very simple message. "Dear friends, Israel needs you. Yes, they need your contributions. Yes, they need your aid in public relations. Yes, they need your letters to the editor. Yes, they need your phone calls and e-mails to your politicians. But more than anything else right now, they need you - in person. They need you to simply get on an airplane and visit them." There can be no greater help than this act of support and solidarity.

Our lives were affected in the deepest of ways during our eight day mission. We experienced pain and anguish, joy and celebration, pride and confidence, love and warmth - and perhaps most of all, the knowledge that Am Yisrael Chai - the Jewish people lives!

We visited dozens of families who lost loved ones. Although we had never met before, we mourned as if it was our very own family. The tears of a parent crying over the loss of a child ripped thorough our hearts and souls. The discussion was not about politics or policies, rather about love and family. We will never forget their faces and the faces of the photos of their loved ones. If for this alone, I urge you to visit.

We will never forget Leah Zinu talking about 22-year-old Dikla o.b.m., murdered on Nov. 21, 2002, on Bus #20, in Kiryat Menachem. She showed us her daughter's bedroom, left exactly the way it was the morning her daughter left the house.

We will never forget Rina Chamamy who met us in the Netanya Park Hotel, scene of the Passover Massacre of March 27, 2002. Rina lost her husband Ami in that attack and now raises six children alone.

I could go on but it would be best if you visited. The victims are no longer just names of strangers or statistic numbers that flash across our television screens on the nightly news programs. They are real. Real people. Children, fathers, mothers, zaides and bubbies who left behind orphans, widows and torn lives. Now we are a part of their lives.

Wherever we went in Israel we were greeted with a very similar comment. "Thank you so much for coming." It was as if our mere presence was helping heal a deep wound. From the President of Israel, Moshe Katzav, who welcomed us to the Bait Hanasi, to the woman at a falafel stand who had not seen a tourist bus in two years, to the souvenir shops and cafes throughout the land. "Welcome Home," they all said. If for this alone, I urge you to visit.

Prior to our departure we organized a letter writing campaign from children throughout Southern California, Florida and New York. We brought with us thousands of letters addressed to children in Israel and to the soldiers. We distributed these letters to school children in every city and town we visited. We were so taken by the smiles and tears a letter from a child could bring to a soldier. They treasured these letters and promised to write back. If for this alone, I urge you to visit.

We visited an active military base on the Lebanese border. Our tour was given by an Army Major named Yaron. He served as a platoon commander in the Yom Kippur War. After speaking, praying and dancing with the soldiers, our guide began to wish us farewell and could not finish as he broke down crying. Here was a 50-year-old Major who commanded tanks on the battlefield and yet he broke down in tears with us. "Our young soldiers need so much to hear words of support and solidarity from American Jewry. Too few are coming. Thank you." If for this alone, I urge you to visit.

If you worry that few will want to travel now, please trust me when I say that if you lead others will follow. Challenge your friends - Israel and its people should not have to stand alone. Their struggle is our struggle. Their land is our land. Their dreams are our dreams. Their future is our future. Their courage must be our courage. We must be there for them - not from a distance, but in person, and now!

I would like to thank the Chabad Hospitality Services in Israel led by Rabbi Mendel Schwartz and dozens of Chabad emissaries in Israel who went out of their way to make our mission a most successful and inspirational journey. I urge you to call them and let them help arrange a Mission for you.

I wish you all a Nesia Tova - go in peace, visit in peace, return in peace.

Rabbi Bryski directs Chabad of Conejo, California


What's New

Two New Centers To Open

Rabbi and Mrs. Eli Friedman will be opening a Chabad Center in Calabasas, California, located in the San Fernando Valley. Calabasas is one of the fastest growing Jewish communities in the San Fernando Valley. Rabbi Mendel and Shterni Bendet will be opening a Chabad Center in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, in the heart of the Poconos. Although the Pocono Mountains are primarily renown as summer resort area, there are small Jewish communties throughout the Poconos. Though working in very different kinds of Jewish communities, the new centers will both offer Chabad-Lubavitch trademark programs such as Jewish education classes for adults and children, holiday awareness projects, one-on-one private study, Shabbat and holiday celebrations, Jewish marriage enrichment seminars and more.


The Rebbe Writes

Free translation
7 Shvat, 5706 [1946]

Greetings and blessings,

In response to the questions in your letter:

  1. Will there be eating or drinking in the World to Come?

There are three epochs that are relevant with regard to the prophecies and promises in the Tanach [the Jewish Bible] and the words of our Sages: the era of Moshiach, Gan Eden [the spiritual world of the souls, the afterlife], and the era of the Resurrection. (Both Gan Eden and the era of the Resurrection are referred to at times with the term "the World to Come." This has led to several misunderstandings.)

  1. the era of Moshiach: The Talmud (Berachos 34b) mentions two opinions concerning the nature of existence during that era, whether it will be entirely miraculous or whether "there will be no difference between the present era and the era of Moshiach except [Israel's] subjugation to the gentile nations." With regard to the ruling concerning this, see the glosses Kessef Mishneh and Lechem Mishneh to Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Teshuvah 8:7; see also Zohar, Vol. I, p. 139a; Vol. III, p. 125a. Some particulars concerning the nature of the era of Moshiach are not explained explicitly in the revealed teachings of the Torah as stated by Rambam [Maimonides] (Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Melachim 12:2). Nevertheless, it is clear that according to both of the opinions cited above, there will be eating and drinking in the era of Moshiach. On the basis of several verses and statements of our Sages, we are forced to accept this principle. It is also explicitly stated by Rambam (loc. cit.). See also the Alter Rebbe's [Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidism] statements in Tanya, Iggeres HaKodesh, Epistle 26.

  2. Gan Eden: This term refers to the incorporeal abode of the souls (Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Teshuvah, ch. 8, see also the commentaries; Torah Or, Parshas Yisro, the discourse entitled HaAvos Hein Hein HaMerkavah, et al). It is obvious that there is no concept of eating and drinking there, for these activities are relevant only with regard to a body.

  3. the era of the Resurrection: At that time, the souls will be enclothed within bodies (see the sources cited in the section Teshuvos U'Biurim in the sixth issue of Kovetz Lubavitch).

Our Sages state (Berachos 17a): "In the World to Come, there will be neither eating or drinking." The Rambam (Hilchos Teshuvah, loc. cit.) interprets this term as referring to the incorporeal world of the souls. The era of the Resurrection, by contrast, will be characterized by eating and drinking (Lechem Mishneh to Hilchos Teshuvah 8:2; Rambam explicitly states this in Iggeres Techiyas HaMeisim). Rambam, however, is following his thesis that the ultimate and fundamental reward will be in an incorporeal existence. For, according to his understanding, it is impossible for the soul to receive the immensity of its reward while it is enclothed in a physical body. Therefore, it is his opinion that those who will arise in the resurrection will die afterwards and then will come to the World to Come, for there the soul will receive the fundamental reward for service in this world (Iggeres Techiyas HaMeisim; see also Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah, Sanhedrin 10:1).

Nevertheless, the great Sages of Israel have already differed with him with regard to all the particulars, the leading one among them being Ramban [who states] "with clear proofs... that the resurrection of the dead is the ultimate purpose.... This is also the truth according to the Kabbalah" (Derech Mitzvosecha, Mitzvas Tzitzis; see also Likkutei Torah, the explanation to the first maamar [discourse] entitled Shuvah Yisrael). Accordingly, we are forced to say that our Sages' statement: "In the World to Come, there will be neither eating not drinking" which speaks about the ultimate reward, refers to the era of the Resurrection.

  1. In the era of the Redemption, will the body be resurrected unblemished or with blemishes, i.e., it will be resurrected with blemishes and then be healed?

Our Sages (Sanhedrin 91b) state that our people will be resurrected with their blemishes and (afterwards) be healed. And they elaborate more in Bereishis Rabbah 95:1, stating: "Just as a person departs, he will return. If he departed blind, he will return blind.... Just as he departed clothed, he will return clothed.... Afterwards, I will heal them." From the Zohar, Vol. I, p. 203b, it is evident that the healing will come from the sun, as our Sages state (Nedarim 8b). With regard to this and the other subjects mentioned further on, see the coming issue of the Kovetz.

Continued in next issue.

From I Will Write It in Their Hearts, translated by Rabbi Eliyahu Touger, published by Sichos in English.


Rambam this week

5 Iyar, 5763 - May 7, 2003

Positive Mitzva 161: Counting the Omer

This mitzva is based on the verse (Lev. 23:15) "And you shall count for yourselves...seven weeks"

When the Jewish people came out of Egypt, they counted the days until the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai seven weeks after the exodus from Egypt. Today, we count the seven weeks from the second night of Passover until Shavuot, when the Omer offering was brought in the Holy Temple. This counting is known as Sefirat HaOmer.


A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

"Do not separate yourself from the community," the great Sage Hillel counsels us in Chapter 2 of Ethics of the Fathers.

The Jewish concept of community (tzibur) is unique. When a minyan of Jews (ten) comes together, a new entity is formed that did not previously exist: a tzibur.

A tzibur is more than the sum of its parts. The spiritual power of a Jewish community is infinitely greater than our power as individuals - which is why we assemble in groups to pray, learn Torah and observe other mitzvot. The measure of sanctity brought down into the world by a community engaged in a holy pursuit is much greater than that which even many individual Jews can effect.

Take a look in our prayer book and you will find that most of our service of G-d is communal. Reciting prayers and benedictions in the plural binds the individual Jew to the Jewish people as a whole, and gives our acts of devotion an added "punch."

In truth, a Jew needs to identify himself with the larger Jewish community in order to be complete. This implies certain responsibilities, such as supporting and participating in Jewish communal efforts.

Furthermore, the actions of a single Jew have a ripple effect throughout the community. Whenever a Jew publicly increases his observance of Torah and mitzvot, it imbues others with the strength and resolve to follow his example.

It states in Proverbs, "In the multitude of people is the King's glory." May we all come together in true Jewish unity and merit G-d's ultimate blessing - the revelation of Moshiach and the Messianic era.


Thoughts that Count

Love your neighbor as yourself; I am G-d (Lev. 19:18)

Love of a fellow Jew is even greater than love of G-d. He who loves a Jew loves the one whom G-d loves, as it is written, " 'I love you,' says the L-rd." To love that which the beloved loves is even greater than loving the beloved himself.

(Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi)


Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, in the name of the Baal Shem Tov explained the Mishna, "All Torah-study not combined with work will in the end cease" (Fathers 2:2). He said that the word "work" implies that one must "work" at loving one's fellow Jew to ensure the endurance of one's Torah study. Simple love of another Jew is not enough, rather, it must be done in a way of actually working at and being occupied with loving another Jew.


Love of one's fellow-Jew will bring the final redemption as it states in the Midrash "Israel will not be redeemed until they are united." The reason for the present exile was unwarrented hatred. Only through unwarrented love - love even for those whom we've never, or in whom we see absolutely no redeeming quality - will the redemption come.

(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)


You shall be holy because I am Holy. (Lev. 19:2)

The Midrash explains that these verses were said during the "Hakhel" years when all of the Jews were assembled together in Jerusalem. The fact that these words were said in public teaches us that even in the street, so to speak, one should be holy and not be ashamed of one's Jewishness.

(Divrei Shaarei-Chaim)


You shall not stand [idly] by the blood of your neighbor. (Lev. 19:16)

In addition to a command concerning someone in physical danger, this verse is also an instruction for spiritual rescue. If one sees a Jew who is in danger of spiritual "drowning," it is forbidden to just stand there and watch. You must do all you can to help him. And, if you say, "Who am I to go out and save a soul?" the very fact that you are aware that the other person needs help and is in danger is proof that you have the ability to save him.

(Likutei Sichot)


It Once Happened

Reb Moshe earned his living as an innkeeper in a small town. One day, the squire of the area came to him with a proposition. "Moshe, I am moving to a distant province. I must sell all of my property here. I have known you for many years and know that you are honest. I am willing to sell all of my property to you at only a tenth of its real value if you will give me the cash within a few days."

Moshe was overwhelmed by this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. He did not, however, have the amount of money in cash that the squire had named. Moshe's wife offered the following solution. "If we sell all of our valuable possessions, our silver and my jewelry, even our home, we will be able to come up with the money. Whatever we lack, I am certain we can borrow from friends and relatives. Thus we will be able to take advantage of this opportunity G-d has given us."

Moshe followed his wife's advice and set out for the squire's estate with the money. Along the way, he heard a blood-chilling shriek. He ran in the direction of the cry and found himself at the doorstep of a small home. He entered and saw a man lying dead on the floor, surrounded by a woman and her seven ragged children. Moshe sized up the situation and gave the purse of money to the widow.

At first the distraught woman refused to accept the money. But after much cajoling, Moshe managed to convince the woman to take the money.

This incident caused a tremendous tumult in heaven. This Jew had given away all of his earthly possessions, and the opportunity to become a very wealthy man, for the sake of a mitzva (commandment)! The Heavenly Court was deciding what kind of reward to bestow upon this person when the Adversary complained, "Before any of your righteous are given gifts from Heaven, they are tested. I propose that I be allowed to descend to the world and test this man, to see if he is truly deserving of such a reward."

Elijah the Prophet quickly intervened. "Let me be the one to administer the test. Even a tzadik would be hard put to pass a test administered by this one!"

Moshe had not returned home after giving the purse full of money to the widow and orphans. He decided to wander from town to town, trying to eke out a living and find a new place to settle. That first evening, though famished and fatigued, Moshe's happiness in having performed so great a mitzva was not lessened. At nightfall, he found a small shul (synagogue) and sat down to begin studying Torah. At that time, Elijah the Prophet, disguised as a wealthy businessman, descended to this world.

The businessman asked Moshe what had brought him to this town and Moshe began to tell the listener his tale. The businessman was very moved. He said to Moshe, "Thank G-d, I have been blessed with a very successful business. I have more money than I could every possibly use in my lifetime. I would like to offer you enough money to support your family for the rest of your lives in exchange for the merit of the great mitzva you performed today."

Moshe was exhausted. His empty stomach cried out. The offer was so tempting. But he answered, "G-d gave me the rare opportunity to do this tremendous mitzva with utter self-sacrifice. I will not part with my mitzva for all the money in the world."

The man persisted. "Your mitzva was indeed tremendous. I am therefore willing to keep my part of the offer for just one-half of the merit of your mitzva."

Again Moshe refused. And again, the businessman made a counter-offer. Moshe would not even part with one hundredth of the mitzva, for enough money to support himself and his wife for the rest of their lives.

The businessman revealed himself. "I am Elijah the Prophet. You are indeed blessed. Not only did you perform a great mitzva, but you also withstood the temptation of selling even the smallest amount of the mitzva. You may have one of three rewards. Either you and your wife will live long and healthy lives, or you will be granted great wealth, or you will be blessed with a son who will grow up to be a great tzadik and leader."

Without a moment's hesitation, Moshe answered, "My wish is to have a son who will become such a righteous person. For what are riches and long life compared to being blessed with such a child?"

"Your son," answered Elijah, "will be so great that his holiness will light up the entire world. But, if this is the reward you chose, know that you and your wife must accept upon yourselves to always be wanderers."

Moshe quickly traveled home to consult with his wife. She too, agreed, that they should rather be blessed with such a child than riches or long life. Lovingly they would live a life of wandering for the merit to bring this child into the world.

Within a year, a son was born to the couple who grew up to be the learned and holy Reb Menachem Mendel of Rimanov.


Moshiach Matters

"And a newly created people will praise G-d," states Psalm 102:19. The Midrash Shocher Tov explains this verse as follows: In the last generation of Jewish history, before Moshiach comes, the downtrodden Jewish nation will experience political liberation and revival coupled with a spiritual awakening and rebirth. A wave of repentance will sweep over the Children of Israel and many people will return to their Jewish roots. They will rededicate their lives to speaking the praises of G-d throughout the world.


  766: Achrei Mos768: Emor  
   
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