Holidays   Shabbat   Chabad-houses   Chassidism   Subscribe   Calendar   Links B"H
The Weekly Publication for Every Jewish Person
Archives Current Issues Home Current Issue
                         L'CHAIM - ISSUE # 773
                           Copyright (c) 2003
                 Lubavitch Youth Organization - L.Y.O.
                              Brooklyn, NY
                  Electronic version provided free at:
                    To receive the L'CHAIM by e-mail
                  write to:
                              Subscribe W1
   Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.
        June 13, 2003            Nasso            13 Sivan, 5763

                           Watch Your Mouth!

Rabbi Shimon the son of Rabban Gamliel said: "All my days I grew up
among the Sages and did not find anything better for a person than
silence" (Ethics of the Fathers 1:17).

That's a nice sentiment. We've all heard similar suggestions, right? "If
you don't have anything good to say, don't say anything at all." That's
a classic.

But Rabbi Shimon's aphorism goes deeper than clichés. After all, he
claimed there's nothing better than silence - nothing at all. And to
emphasize the value of silence, he went on to say that "explanation is
not primary, but action, and all who proliferate words produce sin."

What does he mean by this? Should we never compliment a person? Never
say a blessing? If Rabbi Shimon isn't referring to all types of speech,
what kind does he mean? Do we need a clever maxim to tell us not to

Maimonides, in his commentary on Pirkei Avot (The Ethics of the Fathers)
raises these questions. He explains that there are five categories of

    *) Speech associated with a mitzva (commandment).

    *) Speech we have to be careful to avoid.

    *) Speech that is repulsive or degrades.

    *) Speech that expresses love.

    *) Speech that is permitted.

Maimonides then explains what he means. Speech associated with a mitzva
includes studying Torah  out loud. This type of talk is actually
required; we must say words of Torah and prayer. The first category
Maimonides classifies as an obligatory positive commandment.

Speech we have to be careful to avoid includes false testimony, lying,
gossip and cursing. The Torah forbids us to engage in such speech,
warning us to guard against it and against other types of unseemly talk,
including lashon hara. (Lashon hara, literally, evil language, is any
speech that injures another person, even if the statements are true.)

Clearly, Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel can't be referring to these two
categories, since the one is a positive commandment and the other a
prohibition. We don't need an aphorism to tell us what we already know
is a mitzva.

Speech that is repulsive or degrades includes idle chatter, talk that
has no use and doesn't benefit a person spiritually or materially. There
is no outright prohibition against such speech, for it does not involve
cursing or lying, etc. But, it has no value, either. Not quite gossip,
since it doesn't spread rumors or destroy reputations, common idle
chatter is useless and irrelevant, like much of what passes for news.
Such vain, wasteful talk also includes negative praise and backhanded

Speech that expresses love or affection includes praising the positive
and wisely criticizing the negative. Stories and songs that arouse the
soul, inspire people to improve or inculcate good habits belong in this
category, as do those which make bad habits repulsive and make people
want to avoid them.

Like the first two, Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel's comment doesn't apply to
these. If we talked continuously all day long, and our speech belonged
to categories one and four - words of Torah and mitzvot and conversation
that inspires - that would be great. It's obvious we shouldn't speak
falsely or hurt others with our words, and it's also obvious that
chatter and "news" is a waste of time and breath. This brings us to the
last category:

Speech that is permitted includes conversation involving one's business,
family, health and necessary daily activities, such as eating and
drinking. There's neither inherent positive nor inherent negative in
such speech. To speak or not to speak, it's up to the person.

And about such speech, Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel tells us, best is
silence, but if you have to speak, make sure your words match your deeds
- and be brief. (This last explains the end of his statement, quoted in
the third paragraph.)

On the long summer Shabbat after-noons it's customary to study Pirkei
Avot. These teachings elevate the soul, refining one's character and
emotional attributes.

This week's Torah portion, Nasso, describes the offerings that the
twelve tribal leaders of Israel brought for the altar beginning on the
day the Tabernacle was consecrated.  On each tribe's appointed day, its
leader brought a gift.

The Torah, normally sparing in its use of words, enumerates every detail
of each tribe's offering, even though all the gifts were exactly the

The Torah is not a history book, recording events that ocurred long ago.
It's teachings are relevant to each person in every generation. What,
then, can we learn from the repetition of the exact same offerings
twelve times?

There are twelve different paths by which a Jew can become closer to
G-d, corresponding to the twelve tribes of Israel. Each tribe followed a
unique path in its service of G-d. Each leader dedicated the offerings
according to his own manner of spiritual service.

Despite the uniqueness of each offering, and the spiritual path which
each represented, they were considered to be communal offerings. They
were brought, not on behalf of the individual, but on behalf of all the
Jewish people. It is for this reason, explains the Midrash, that the
Torah does not distinguish whose offering was brought on which day.

This juxtaposition of the uniqueness of the individual and the equality
of the collective whole is mirrored in the fact that the tribal leaders'
spiritual intentions were unique while the actual physical offerings
were the same. This is also true of the Jewish people; each Jew is
unique and yet all Jews are equal.

There are certain qualities which all Jews share equally.  And, there
are also other qualities within each Jew which are uniquely personal.
However, even the uniquely personal qualities can lead to unity among
the Jewish people.

How so?  When  Jews realize that all Jews need each other, and that only
by binding ourselves with our fellow Jew can we be complete.

The dedication gifts from the tribal leaders, mentioned above, were
offered in a similar manner. Each leader brought his tribe's gift in a
unique way on a separate day.  However, each of these offerings was
imbued with, and accompanied by, the feeling that this offering was also
a communal offering-united with all the other leaders and tribes.

       Excerpted from "The Wellsprings of Chassidus" - adapted from
                                the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

                             SLICE OF LIFE

                   Getting Through Prison and Beyond
                      by Raphael Avrohom Goldberg

Having grown up in a Jewish home with a father who is a reform cantor, I
was not prepared to spend ten years of my life in a New York state
prison. I don't think many of us are, regardless of our backgrounds. I
committed a crime and rightfully so had to be punished. I fully
understood that, but the punishment was frightening nonetheless.

From Rikers Island through my state confinement, I migrated towards
other Jewish inmates and found a measure of camaraderie. More so I was
reintroduced to Judaism. I had strayed after my marriage and while I
always went to shul on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, that was the extent
of my involvement in synagogue life. I began to go more often in prison,
and began to pray regularly. The solace I found made prison bearable.

Of course there were friends and family that morally supported me but
the Jewish community in general and the Lubavitch Organization in
particular became a major source of amenity.  I wasn't personally known
to anyone in the Lubavitch community but I was accepted because I was
Jewish, and even given aid and support for that reason alone. The
Lubavitch philosophy seems to be that any Jew in need is worth helping.

During my time of incarceration I began to conduct Shabbat services, and
of course all holiday services as I read Hebrew and had a smattering of
knowledge as to the requirements. I found the time devoted to these
activities to be more than stimulation; I was more than just
reintroduced to Judaism. I found a spiritual awakening and rebirth that
told me I could not only make it through prison, but make it through
anything. And that is what happened.

I was later diagnosed with cancer and my belief in G-d, my prayer and
the counseling and letters from Rabbi Shmuel Spritzer of Lubavitch as
well as the support of the few other Jewish inmates got me through it. I
was in effect a new person, putting the past of my transgression from
Judaism behind me.

I am out now and follow the religion even more than I did while inside.
I walk to shul every Shabbat, I light Shabbat candles, do the "borei pri
hagafen" blessing on wine and "hamotzee" on bread each and every week at
my little home and will not let non-kosher food enter my house. I happen
to keep kosher outside, also, and that is new to me. I am still in
contact with Rabbi Spritzer who has arranged for me to go to weekly
Torah study classes given by Lubavitch.

Incarceration has created many obstacles for me. I am having a problem
finding a job. I am told that my experience and knowledge is "the best I
have ever seen" and as soon as my incarceration is discovered I am shown
the door. I found that obtaining quality housing was very difficult as

I won't lie and say I don't feel the rejection. I do. It is only human
and that is one fault I will always admit to. I am human. To cope I turn
to my belief, I turn to G-d, and I turn to the Jewish community for
support and while the skeptic will laugh, I find that I am better. I
find that I can get through anything, and I do. I am not a quitter but
there are times I need the impetus to continue to do things like
job-hunting due to the expectation of rejection. My morning prayers give
me the stimulus that I need.

Why am I writing this? I have been helped by so many people who have led
me back to Judaism. My life has become calm and serene and so much more
manageable. I want to give back and return the love that I have
received. If I touch one person, I have succeeded. All I can say is that
I am an offender, I spent ten years in prison and I was as skeptical as
anybody could be. I am a new person. G-d works.

I wish anyone reading this the very best, and a speedy release. I am not
unusual. G-d helps every person who turns to Him. Try it. You won't be

              Reprinted with permission from Reaching Out, a Jewish
         educational bulletin for prisoners published by the Prison
     Department of the Lubavitch Youth Organization. If you know of
            any Jewish inmates who would like to receive this free,
          monthly bulletin, please write to: Reaching Out/Lubavitch
      Youth Organization, 770 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, NY, 11213.

                               WHAT'S NEW
                            The Third Judge

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn, known as the "Tzemach Tzedek," served
as a guiding light for Russian Jewry during the year 1826 - 1866. Though
renowned for his superb Torah scholarship, the Tzemach Tzedek's foremost
role was that of  a leader during a particularly trying time in our
history. The Third Judge is a fascinating collection of stories and
anecdotes masterfully translated by Rabbi Elchonon Lesches and published
by Kehot Publication Society.

                      A Rabbi's Northern Adventure

After marrying his wife Miriam, and spending a number of years as an
assistant principal of a Jewish day school in Dallas, Texas, Rabbi
Yisrael Haber decided to realize a childhood dream and join the Air
Force as a chaplain. His first assignment - Alaska. In A Rabbi's
Northern Adventure: From the Heights of Alaska to the Golan Heights,
Rabbi Haber recounts his experiences, including his increasing
encounters with Lubavitchers and his subsequent move to the Golan
Heights as an emissary of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

                            THE REBBE WRITES
                        5th of Elul, 5722 [1962]

Sholom uBrocho [Peace and Blessing]:

I am in receipt of your letter of 24th of Av, with the enclosures. I was
especially pleased to note the progress of your daughter -, and may G-d
grant you and your wife true Yiddish Nachas [Jewish pride and pleasure]
from her and from all your children, continuously and at all times.

Needless to say, I was painfully surprised to read about the criticism
leveled against you for your participation in the Lubavitch work. Surely
one would have expected the opposite attitude on the part of Jewish
circles who value Torah and Mitzvoth [commandments], who should help and
not hinder, seeing that a group of dedicated Jews are doing such good
work to spread and strengthen Yiddishkeit. What better proof is needed
than that of the matter of hasogas gvul [infringing on another's
livelihood], which is one of the severest injunctions, so much so that
it is included among the "accursed" sins (in Parshas Ki Sovoi). Yet
while any manner of encroachment in the material aspects of life is so
severely condemned, it not only has no place in the area of spreading
Yiddishkeit, but, on the contrary, it is encouraged. It is a well-known
Psak [ruling] in the Gemoro, Rambam, and Shulchan Aruch, that the
principle of hasogas gvul is of no consideration; rather the opposite
for here the principle of kinas sofrim [envy amongst scholars] takes
precedence and competition is encouraged. So much so, that according to
our standard version in the Gemoro Bobo Basro 21b, it was none other
than Ezra haSofer who ordained and practiced it.

It is indeed hard to understand how people, who should know better, can
place stumbling blocks in the path of young men who had given up an
easier and better life (from the point of view of material and economic
security) in the USA, in order to work for the strengthening of
Yiddishkeit in a community which is not their own, knowing full well the
difficulties facing them. Such young men should have been received with
gratitude and encouragement.

However, we are taught al todin es chavercho [do not judge your friend],
and certainly the month of Elul is no time for judging others. So let
bygones be bygones, and form now on may better judgment prevail, in
accordance with the words of the prophet Malachi (3:16), "Then they that
feared G-d spoke with one another, and G-d hearkened and heard," etc....

                                *  *  *

                     Rosh Chodesh Elul, 5742 [1982]

Greeting and Blesssing:

I am in receipt of your letter of the 22nd of Av, with enclosure. As
requested, I will remember you in prayer for the fulfillment of your
heart's desires for good with regard to yourself and all the members of
your family.

There is surely no need to remind you - except in the sense of
"encourage the energetic" - that there is always room for advancement in
all matters of Yiddishkeit, Torah and Mitzvoth, especially as you have
the great zechus [privilege] of living in the Holy Land, "The Land of
which G-d's Eyes are continuously, from the beginning of the year to the
end of the year."

Receipt is enclosed for your Tzedoko [charity], and may the zechus of it
additionally stand you all in good stead.

It would be advisable to have the Tefillin and Mezuzoth checked to make
sure they are Kosher, if this has not been done within the past twelve

With blessing,

                                *  *  *

                       28th of Elul, 5735 [1975]

Greeting and Blessing:

This is to acknowledge receipt of your letter and enclosures, as well as
previous material.

I was gratified to read about the various activities. I am confident
that the accomplishments in the past will stimulate even greater
ambitions in the future. In accordance with the saying of our Sages that
"He who has 100, desires 200; and having attained 200 deisres (not
merely another 100) but 400." If this is human nature in material
things, how much more so should it be in regard to real and eternal
values fo Torah and Mitzvos....

With blessing,

                            RAMBAM THIS WEEK
Sunday, 15 Sivan, 5763 - June 15, 2003

Positive Mitzva 108: The Purifying Water

This mitzva is based on the verse (Num. 19:21) "And he that touches the
water of sprinkling (purification water), shall be unclean." A person
purifying himself after contact with a dead body must follow certain
procedures. One step of his purification process involves "Nida" Water.
This is a mixture of natural spring water, combined with the ashes of
the the red heifer. This water possesses special qualities and when used
properly, it can purify. However, it could cause the opposite effect on
a person who touches the water for other purposes.

                        A WORD FROM THE DIRECTOR
                         Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
Many of us are already involved in making plans for the summer. We
consider the weather, prices, accommodations, attractions.

But, there should be many other concerns on our list of considerations.
If we're away over Shabbat, is there a place we can hook up with that
will allow us to celebrate Shabbat in the proper spirit? Will there be
kosher food for body and soul?

When we look for a day camp or overnight camp for our children, we must
make sure to check into the atmosphere of the camp. A Jewish camp run on
authentic Jewish ideals can not only fill our children's hours with
healthy activities for their bodies and minds, but for their souls as
well. At a Jewish camp, run on Torah ideals, a Jewish child can learn to
be proud of, and love, his heritage in a positive, hands-on environment.
Unencumbered by books and desks and black-boards, Judaism literally
comes to life through stories, songs, activities and practical mitzvot.

Vacation time is the perfect time to check out the really important
"attractions" in life. Experience a traditional Shabbat, bask in the
sunlight of mitzvot, swim in the deep pool of Torah study.

Include Torah and mitzvot at the top of your list of considerations this
summer for you and your family.

                          THOUGHTS THAT COUNT
The four wagons and the eight oxen he gave to the sons of Merori (Num.

The four wagons were needed to transport 48 fifteen foot panels, in
addition to pillars, connecting rods, ropes and pegs.  Why were so few
wagons provided? If it was possible to carry out the job with four
wagons, it was important to do so, thereby using each one to its fullest
capacity. If another wagon had been provided, the others would only have
completed part of their appointed task. "G-d did not create one extra
thing in His world."  This applies also to our abilities and strengths.
We must give our all in everything we do.

                                            (The Lubavitcher Rebbe)

                                *  *  *

And they shall confess their sin which they have committed (Num. 5:7)

Why is the commandment to confess one's sin, the first step and
foundation on the path to repentance, mentioned here, where the Torah
speaks about robbery? Because any sin a person may commit has an element
of robbery in it. G-d gives a person life and strength, in order that he
use these gifts to perform His will. If one takes these precious gifts
and uses them to defy G-d's commands, he is misusing and "stealing" the
property of his Creator.

                                                  (Chidushei HaRim)

                                *  *  *

And he shall atone for him, because he sinned against the soul (Num.

The Rebbe of Sadigora used to say: Just as in the World-to-Come a Jew
will have to account for how he neglected his soul and how he caused it
pain, so will he have to defend himself to G-d for having brought pain
and suffering to his body.

                                *  *  *

The L-rd bless you and keep you (Num. 6:24)

The Priestly blessing is said in the singular because it is mainly the
blessing of unity that the Jews need.

                                                     (O'lot Efraim)

                            IT ONCE HAPPENED
This story took place in the time before the name of Rabbi Yisrael Baal
Shem Tov had become known in the world. He was then a "hidden tzadik"
(holy man) who traveled through the cities and towns spreading the basic
concepts of Chasidism amongst the simple people. He strengthened their
faith, inspired them to love their fellow Jews, and stressed the
importance of praying with the proper devotion and of saying Psalms.

Once, in the course of his wandering, he came to the city of Brod. As
was his custom, he went directly to the market place and began to talk
to the simple, common Jews. Soon he was surrounded by an enthralled
circle of people, listening eagerly to his tales of great Rabbis, and
their ways and customs.

As he was speaking, he noticed a particular Jew, a porter by trade,
passing through the marketplace with a heavy load on his shoulders. His
appearance was quite miserable. His clothes were torn, he was wearing
wooden shoes, his face was covered with sweat. But the Baal Shem Tov saw
something that the others there could not see: above the man's head
shone a pillar of pure, bright light.

"Hershel, you should carry your burden in peace," called out some of the
assembled people to him. There were those who added in a mocking tone,
"Go in peace, Hershel-goat." Hershel the porter answered all, with a
benevolent expression on his face, "You should be blessed," and
continued on his way.

From the people of the city, the Baal Shem Tov heard that this Hershel
was a widower, who had lost his wife some ten years previously. He had
two sons who learned in yeshiva. He made a good living, but spent most
of his income on the upkeep of four goats who lived together with him.
Everyone assumed that he loved goat's milk. This is how the nickname
"Hershel-goat" came about.

Over the next few days the Baal Shem Tov watched Hershel but could not
find anything extraordinary. Wanting very much to have revealed to him
the man's secret, the Baal Shem Tov fasted for three consecutive days
and nights, during which time he prayed and begged G-d to help him
uncover the secret.

On the afternoon of the third day, as he was leaving the synagogue, he
met Hershel. "Reb Hershel," he appealed to him, "I would very much love
a glass of warm goat's milk. I have heard that one may buy some from

"Come with me," invited Hershel with a radiant face. "I will give you a
cup of fresh milk. However, I will not accept money from you, as I too
would like to fulfill the mitzva (commandment) of hospitality."

For quite some time the two of them wended their way through the narrow
alleys, until they reached the outskirts of the city. When Hershel
opened the door of his little hovel, he was greeted by the happy
bleating of his goats, who rushed over and began to lick his hands. He
took a pan and milked the goats, strained the milk, poured a cup of the
warm fresh milk and handed it to his guest the Baal Shem Tov. Hershel
then began to tell him his life story.

He told him about his wife, a woman of great kindness, who dedicated
herself in particular to the mitzva of ministering to the sick. "There
was no sick person whom she did not assist, and for whom she would get
all possible help. She also attended to poor women who were giving

"After she passed away, ten years ago, she appeared to me in a dream,"
he continued. "She told me how wonderful it was in the World of Truth,
and how great is the merit of doing a kind deed for a Jew. When her soul
ascended on high to the Heavenly Court, it was happy to recognize many
people whom she knew. These were all the people whom she had helped and
supported during their illnesses. They had all come to bear witness to
her goodness.

"After she told me how much appreciated in Heaven is every favor that is
done for a fellow Jew, she suggested that I concern myself with charity

" 'You are a simple Jew' she said. 'You don't know how to learn Torah.
Busy yourself with charity and good deeds, and especially help the sick,
the poor, and women giving birth. But you must do this in a way so that
no one will know.'

"I obeyed my wife's words: I saved every penny and bought four goats. I
feed them fine food, so that they will produce rich and nutritious milk.
This milk I distribute to the sick and the poor, and the Holy One,
Blessed be He, Who heals all flesh, helps and the milk makes the sick
people well.

Hershel also told his guest that his wife had revealed to him that the
next day he would meet a poor Jew who would request a glass of milk.
"Invite this person to your home and tell him about your deeds," his
wife had told him. "Through him you will receive many blessings."

Now the Baal Shem Tov realized that because of the pure, honest work of
Hershel, his goodness of heart, his giving of himself and his love of
fellow Jews, he merited the crown of light which accompanied him
wherever he went. The Baal Shem Tov brought Hershel into the circle of
"hidden tzaddikim" who taught him Torah step by step. But even when he
became very learned in Torah and accomplished in his studies, he didn't
stop taking care of the sick and the poor.

Eventually, Hershel passed away unrecognized, at the age of
approximately one hundred. But up in Heaven, a glorious welcome was
accorded the soul of the holy man who was once known in Brod as

                            MOSHIACH MATTERS
In the summer of 1990 through the winter of 1991 the Lubavitcher Rebbe
spoke extensively and in detail about the events in the Persian Gulf.
Concerning some of his statements, the Rebbe indicated that they should
not yet be publicized, saying, "A time will yet come for this vision..."
(Habakuk 2:3) On these words, Rashi comments, "In the future a prophet
will arise to prophesize the vision of the downfall of Babylonia [modern
day Iraq] and the Redemption of the Jews."

                 END OF TEXT - L'CHAIM 773 - Nasso 5763

  • Daily Lessons
  • Weekly Texts & Audio
  • Candle-Lighting times

    613 Commandments
  • 248 Positive
  • 365 Negative

  • BlackBerry
  • iPhone / iPod Touch
  • Java Phones
  • Palm Pilot
  • Palm Pre
  • Pocket PC
  • P800/P900
  • Moshiach
  • Resurrection
  • For children - part 1
  • For children - part 2

  • Jewish Women
  • Holiday guides
  • About Holidays
  • The Hebrew Alphabet
  • Hebrew/English Calendar
  • Glossary

  • by SIE
  • About
  • Chabad
  • The Baal Shem Tov
  • The Alter Rebbe
  • The Rebbe Maharash
  • The Previous Rebbe
  • The Rebbe
  • Mitzvah Campaign

    Children's Corner
  • Rabbi Riddle
  • Rebbetzin Riddle
  • Tzivos Hashem

  • © Copyright 1988-2009
    All Rights Reserved
    L'Chaim Weekly