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Devarim Deutronomy

July 4, 2003 - 4 Tamuz, 5763

776: Korach

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  775: Sh'lach777: Chukas-Balak  

What is Peace?  |  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 Peace?

The kids are fighting. Over something petty as usual. "He did it." "It's mine." "I was using it." "I had it first." "He cheated." And of course there's no way to get to the bottom of it. You've got work to do, it's been a long day, you had enough confrontation at the office, traffic was miserable, the committee, the phone, etc. All you want is a little peace and quiet.

So what do you do if the kids are fighting and can't get along? You separate them of course. "Go to your room and stay there." It works with adults. Theoretically. Separate the antagonists. Keep them apart. Then there's peace.

After all, that's what peace means - everyone has his or her own space. I've got mine, you've got yours. The boundaries are set and respected. Nobody infringes or imposes. Nobody moves into someone else's territory. That's true in families, in business, between nations. Respect the borders and leave what's inside alone.

But deep down we know that that's not true peace. That's isolation, separation. It may even be a cessation of hostilities. But it's not peace.

The absence of war is not peace. Not between nations, not within a country, not between competitors, or friends or in a family. Just ask friends or family members who aren't speaking to each other. Are they at war? No. But is there peace between them?

For there to be peace, there must be an interaction. Each one in the relationship must, well, relate to every one else in the relationship. There has to be mutual influence, a crossing of borders, a give-and-take, a blurring of boundaries. An exchange and an obscuring - not an elimination, but a smudging - of mine and yours.

We know this instinctively and the true meaning of peace finds its highest expression in the Hebrew word for peace: Shalom. Shalom means not only peace, but completeness - the state of being whole.

How do we become complete? The analogies are numerous: an orchestra, a sports team, a play.

We can extend the analogy. The orchestra, the sports team, the actors all need support personnel - ticket takers, concession workers, backstage managers, set crews, etc. etc. Without them the performance, the game, the play is incomplete.

So to be complete, to have peace, there must be interaction. But not just any interaction. The interaction has to be harmonious. Imagine if the violins tried to play a drum solo, if the quarterback tried to play linebacker. You get the idea.

Peace, completeness also means knowing one's place, that where we're "higher" - and in something, some way, each individual has a superior talent or ability - we give to the lower. And where we're "lower," we receive.

Let's look at the analogy of Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidism. The Jewish people can be compared to a body - a unit made of different limbs each with its own function. Each is essential to the completeness, the peace of the whole. A hangnail hurts the heart.

While the head is higher than the feet, the feet too have an advantage - they can move and take the head with them.

On a practical level, then, we can answer the question, what is peace?

First, recognition, seeing one's own boundaries and limits, and the boundaries and limits of those within one's environment; second, interaction, accepting from those above and transmitting to those below. Third, harmony, "playing one's part," staying in rhythm.

When we see different factions - in the family of nations, in the family of the Jewish people, or within our own families - not at peace - even if they're not at war - surely they're missing one of the ingredients of peace.

So let's not send each other to our rooms. Let's give true peace a chance.

Living with the Rebbe

This week's Torah portion, Korach, tells about the controversy with Moses initiated by Korach and his followers. His argument went as follows: If every single Jew is a member of a holy nation, then no one person is greater than another. Why are you, Moses, entitled to special privileges? Jews can only stand united if absolutely equal rights are afforded to all, he claimed.

The Torah teaches that this claim - taken to its logical conclusion - leads to the opposite of unity, so much so that Korach's controversy with Moses became the yardstick by which all dissension among Jews is measured.

Moses alluded to this in his answer to Korach: "In the morning G-d will show who is His." Moses explained, according to the Midrash, that the same way that G-d has created natural divisions between night and day which complement each other and form a cohesive whole, so too has He created distinctions between different types of Jews, all for the sake of the unity of the Jewish people.

The world was created so that each creation has its own natural boundaries and limitations. These boundaries enhance the world's natural order and give it structure, for everything has its own particular purpose and function to perform. Unity among G-d's creatures is attained only when each one works within its own framework and fulfills its own role. Harmony is maintained only when we adhere to the Divine plan, interdependent, performing our different allotted tasks. If one creation tries to assume the role of another, the result is disharmony and dissonance.

The distinctions between Israelites, Levites and Kohanim (and even among priests themselves, between ordinary priests and the high priest) are not arbitrary. Each distinction reflects the type of soul given to each Jew, which correlates to his particular task in life and way of serving G-d. G-d desires that each of us fulfill our own unique mission in life, not that of our neighbor. True unity is only achieved when we respect the differences between us.

Each Jew is blessed with different strengths and qualities, and we are enjoined to pool these disparate resources together for the common good. Every Jew, whether Israelite, Levite or Kohen, is indispensable and is part of this greater whole.

The lesson we learn from Korach is also one which is applicable today. Some think the path to true unity and peace lies with breaking down barriers which exist between men and women, Jews and non-Jews, and different faiths and ideologies. The Torah, however, teaches us otherwise. It is only by maintaining and respecting inherent differences that we can achieve unity and true peace.

Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe

A Slice of Life

The Tug of Torah
By Miriam Arias

I grew up in a Conservative Jewish home in California. By my senior year in high school, I was pretty established. I was set for university and my life goal to be an actress meant that every spare minute was taken up by my classes or my rehearsals.

But all that changed when one of my mother's piano students, who works at the Bureau of Jewish Education, spoke to me one day. "There's a trip I want you to go on called 'March of the Living.' Jewish high school kids from all over the world go to Poland for a week and visit the concentration camps, and then go on to Israel." I really was not interested. I was busy. I was settled. But she kept nudging me until finally I agreed to at least call them. I finally called two weeks before the trip. "A spot just opened up and we'll give you a full scholarship," they told me.

On the March of the Living we walked through the barracks, filled waist-high with shoes. We went into the gas chambers and saw the scratch marks on the ceiling, smelled the leftover acrid stench of Zyklon-B gas. We wept by a mass grave somewhere in the forests of Poland where an entire town was brought out, shot, and killed. This was no documentary. This was no textbook. This was real.

Then came Israel. It was my first time. I had never seen the Western Wall, not even in pictures. The moment I saw it, I felt a pull, a need, a tug in the pit of my stomach. G-d was pulling all the 613 strands of mitzvot (commandments) that connected Him to my Jewish soul, tugging at me, calling me home.

After Poland, I realized how beautiful is our heritage - this gift of the Torah. And I resolved not to let them win. I would make up for what they took. And that tugging that I felt at the Wall - it hasn't stopped. I want to learn, to be, to live this priceless entity that G-d saw fit to give me and every Jew.

When I came home, I ached to study Torah. Thank G-d, there was Rabbi Moshe Bryski's Chabad House four miles away. I started going to classes. Soon my mother joined me. Then my rest of the family caught the excitement. Today I have a brother in yeshiva in Israel, another brother in his last year in the yeshiva in Los Angeles, and I am studying at Machon Chana Women's Yeshiva in Brooklyn.

I'd like to digress and tell you a story about my youngest brother. During World War II, my father's father was sent from his home in Italy to live with a non-Jewish English woman. My grandfather came out of his version of the war with a complete hatred of anything to do with Judaism. Ever since I can remember, we had to hide things from my grandfather. We hid all of our Judaica before my grandparents came, but that didn't stop him from searching the house. We lit Shabbat candles in the closet so he wouldn't see. We didn't tell him when I became Bat Mitzva, when my other brother became Bar Mitzva, when I went on the March. Then we didn't tell him about our keeping kosher, or keeping Shabbat, or my youngest brother going to yeshiva. The time came for my youngest brother's Bar Mitzva and, a week before the Bar Mitzva, my grandparents called to say they were coming to visit us!

My grandfather doesn't "visit." He has "meetings." So in a "meeting" with my middle brother, he told him that he'd give my youngest brother "a substantial sum of money" to give up Torah - to give up his Bar Mitzva, yeshiva, Shabbat and keeping kosher. He would meet with my youngest brother on Friday, to hear his decision.

It's time for the meeting. We're waiting. Every moment is painful. Then he comes in. My grandfather is a small man, but he takes up a lot of space. We make a little small talk. Then he leans toward my little brother. "So!" he says. "Is it true you are having Bar Mitzva?"

"Yes," my little brother says.

"Is it true you are going to Jewish Day School?"

"Yes," he says.

"Is it true you are keeping Shabbat and kosher?"

"Yes," he says.

Then my grandfather leans closer. "I will give you $10,000 a year if you stop keeping kosher, if you stop keeping Shabbat, if you stop going to Jewish Day School, if you don't have Bar Mitzva."

My brother says, "Ten thousand dollars? That's nothing! I want $700,000 in cash on the spot!" My grandfather's eyes open wide. "I don't have that!"

Then my little brother says, "You know what? For all the money in the world I wouldn't give up my Yiddishkeit. I wouldn't give up keeping Shabbat, keeping kosher, I wouldn't give up going to school and I wouldn't give up my Bar Mitzva - because that is what I am, and that is what you are."

My grandfather's eyes are bugging out of his head. "What!" he says. "You believe that?"

"Yes, I do," my little brother says, "And you'll understand it all when Moshiach comes."

My grandparents were on the plane the next day.

Since the March, over five years ago, I have satisfied that "tugging" that I first felt at the Wall through the study of Torah. Machon Chana has taken my ardent emotions towards Judaism and shaped them into a strong connection to Torah, to Chasidut, and to the Rebbe.

The teachers at Machon Chana are endlessly patient, tirelessly available, and genuinely interested in every question, no matter how trivial. Mrs. Gitta Gansburg, our "dorm mother," is our iron pillar, our stalwart force. It's not unusual to see her up past midnight, helping a girl who needs any kind of guidance. For many of us, Rabbi Shloma Majeski, Machon Chana's dean, is the voice of reason in a muddled world. Many a time I've come to him with the most burning question, he'll say two words, and I'll say, "oh." It's that simple.

I have learned about ahavat Yisrael - love of a fellow Jew. It means extending yourself toward another farther than you ever thought possible. I have learned that Torah affects every aspect of life. Chasidut has changed the way I think. "Think good and it will be good" changes things a lot more than sitting by the phone with a box of tissues. The best part is that I can take what I've learned at Machon Chana and share it with others.

What's New

New Center Near Champs Elysee

Chabad Lubavitch of France recently established a new Chabad House near the Champs Elysee in Paris. The dedication ceremony took place in conjunction with the 35 year anniversary of the Rebbe's first emissaries to that country. Shabbat services, adult education classes, and other Jewish enrichment programs, have already been initiated at the center.

Live and Learn

Machon Chana in the Mountains offers Jewish women of all ages and levels of religious observance an opportunity to explore Torah study each summer. Nestled in the scenic Catskill Mountains in Tannersville, New York, the program runs through Aug 25. Participants can attend for a few days, a week, a month or the entire summer. For info call 518-589-5006 or visit

The Rebbe Writes

Free Translation

1st Day Rosh Chodesh Iyar 5714 [1954]

Greeting and Blessing:

... In connection with the various rumors that have reached me, and which greatly surprise me, notwithstanding my many preoccupations I am writing the following.

According to my information (which I hope will be subsequently incorrect) your family is against arranging the wedding of your daughter accordance with the requirements of the Shulchan Aruch - Code of Jewish Law: that there must be a separation between men and women.

I hereby wish to explain to you the position as I see it:

When one arranges a wedding with a partition according to the stipulation of our Holy Torah, the law is that we should say in the Grace after meals "Shehasimcha Bimono," which means that when mentioning G-d's name we do so in connection with Simcha - happiness. This means that we should bring Simcha into the world and especially to the Chosson (groom) and Kallah (bride).

Surely it is superfluous to write what has happened in recent years in the world generally and particularly among Jews. If in all ages we had to rely on G-d for a blessing, success and even more for a healthy and happy life, how much more so is it essential in our generation, and the only one who can provide this is the One who is Master of the whole world - the Holy One Blessed be He.

Since the time when Rabbi - asked my opinion about the Shidduch (match), and when your question came to me about it, I found it my duty and privilege to point out that when your daughter and the Chosson, Rabbi - start their life together, it should be in a manner in which they can expect the maximum blessings from G-d, that they should have a healthy and happy home.

As mentioned earlier, our Holy Torah confirms that is so in the situation when one can say "Shehasimcha Bimono," and if this is the law then it is self-understood that no one can alter it. Therefore it surprised me that parents who do everything within their power to ensure that their children should be blessed with good fortune, should be willing to apply energy towards preventing there being Simcha at their daughter's wedding, which will result in it being lacking, G-d forbid, to a certain measure in their later life.

One gets married in order to build a "house" for tens of years. Is it right that parents should risk that which affects their daughter for decades in order that the few hours of the duration of the wedding should please those people who are unacquainted with the laws of the Shulchan Aruch; or those who ignore the Shulchan Aruch; or the irresponsible ones who think it worthwhile to risk tens of years for the sake of a momentary, imagined pleasure. How does one have the boldness to take such a responsibility upon himself?

It is not my duty to force people to act in accordance with my opinion; it is not my habit to persuade people in general to conform with my views; and it is not my custom to use harsh words. Therefore, I wish to conclude my letter with talking only about that which is good.

When I gave my consent to the Shidduch, I was sure that the parents on their hand would do everything dependent on them that their daughter and future son-in-law would be ensured of goodness and happiness, as much as feasibly possible, for the tens of years that they will be together. It is self-understood that it is of no consequence whether or not her friends will be pleased as long as the Holy Torah is satisfied with the arrangements at the wedding.

As mentioned previously, if we truly want the Holy Torah to rule that we can say "Shehasimcha Bimono" at the wedding, and thereby be happy thereafter for the rest of life, the Shulchan Aruch says that the wedding should be with a partition.

With blessing,

P.S. I am aware that there have been many weddings, including ones of religious people, unfortunately without partitions. But I also know of the troubles which unfortunately ensued. The Alm-ghty should bless you that you should report only good news materially and spiritually.

Rambam this week

10 Tamuz, 5763 - July 10, 2003

Positive Mitzva 101: Impurity of a Metzora

This mitzva is based on the verse (Lev. 13:2) "When a man shall have on the skin of his flesh..."

A person whose body has the signs of the Tzara'at affliction (see Positive Mitzva 77), is considered impure. These signs appear as a skin ailment, but Tzara'at is not a physical disease treated by a doctor. Rather, it is the priest, who is dedicated to the service of HaShem, that determines the impurity of these signs. Through his guidance and care, the afflicted person can purify himself. The priest will help the person with Tzara'at to correct his deeds and remove the cause of his affliction.

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

With summer almost here, many of us are looking forward to vacation time - time off at the bungalow colony, or a summer home, or a hotel somewhere in the Caribbean. But how will we be spending that all-too-short vacation time?

Scene one: "I work hard the whole year long. I get up at the crack of dawn, have to deal with lawyers, accountants co-workers, subordinates and superiors. I don't have any time for my family, let alone myself. The summer is my time off. I'll relax by the pool, play a little golf or tennis, take long walks and pamper myself. I'll catch up on all the latest news - international, national, and local gossip. That's my idea of a real vacation!"

Scene two: I can't wait until the summer. What with all of my obligations at work, I barely have time for anything else. But on vacation, I'll have plenty of time - time to say my prayers with more devotion, time to catch up on my Torah studies, time to spend with my family in a calm, relaxed atmosphere and find out how they're really doing in all the important areas of their lives. What a wonderful way to spend vacation time."

The summer certainly is the perfect opportunity to catch up on "lost time" in all matters of our G-dly service. In fact, when we're relaxed and away from the worries and stresses of our day-to-day affairs, our concentration and time is at a premium.

So, let us give the "best" of our time and energy to Jewish matters this summer. Let us study more Torah, pray with more ardor, and let the enthusiasm and esprit de corps of our time off infuse everything we do.

Thoughts that Count

The Torah portion of Korach

How is it possible that a portion of the Torah is named after a sinner as great as Korach? The Torah wants to emphasize that we can learn something constructive even from Korach's bitter controversy. Just as Korach wanted to be a High Priest, every Jew should similarly desire to draw near to G-d.

(Likutei Sichot)

And Korach took [a bold step]...together with Datan and Aviram...and Ohn, the son of Pelet (Num. 16:1)

Ohn, the son of Pelet, was one of Korach's 250 followers in his insurrection against Moses. Yet when the Torah lists those who were punished, Ohn's name is omitted. Why? Ohn was saved by his righteous wife. When she learned of her husband's intentions she persuaded him not to go against Moses. Ohn, however, had a dilemma. He had already promised Korach he would join him. What did she do? Ohn's wife gave him a large meal and strong wine, causing him to fall asleep. When Korach and his group came looking for Ohn, she sat in front of her tent, immodestly uncovered her hair and began to comb it. Korach and his followers would not approach her. Because of his virtuous wife, Ohn's life was spared.


The Torah criticizes Datan and Aviram more than any other participants in Korach's rebellion as they mixed into a controversy that was none of their business. They weren't firstborn sons who might have resented having the priesthood taken away from them, nor were they even from the tribe of Levi. The priesthood was none of their concern.

(Machane Belula)

And they had a confrontation with Moses along with 250 Israelites who were men of rank in the community, representatives at the assembly, and famous. (Num. 16:2)

What type of person was attracted to Korach? Those who sought honor, fame and privilege. If Korach wins, they reasoned, he will reward us with positions of power, and our name will become even greater.

(Kli Yakar)

Moses became very angry (Num. 16:15)

The commentator Rashi translates the above as: "He was very upset." Even when Moses was attacked by two trouble-makers he was upset rather than angry. Chasidim relate that Rabbi Menachem Mendel, the third Lubavitcher Rebbe, was extremely careful not to become angry. On one occasion he was nearly provoked to anger. He asked for the Code of Jewish Law, noting that the Talmud compares anger to idolatry. "I am close to an offense which is similar to idolatry," he declared, "I will see first if my anger is permitted according to Jewish Law." By the time he had examined the question there was no more need for an answer.

It Once Happened

It was the custom of the Baal Shem Tov to extend his third Shabbat meal until it was well into the night, thus prolonging the holiness of the day. But one week he made an exception to his usual practice and concluded Shabbat immediately at nightfall. He said the havdala prayer separating the Sabbath from the rest of the week and at once and made arrangements to set off on a journey. His coachman harnassed the horses, and as soon as the Baal Shem Tov mounted the carriage, the horses set off at great speed. Where was the Baal Shem Tov rushing, and why was it important enough to alter his normal Shabbat routine?

It was still night when the carriage bearing the Baal Shem Tov pulled up outside the study house "Chachmei Kloiz" in the city of Brody. Inside, a secret meeting had been convened with the object of placing a cherem, an order of excommunication, on the Baal Shem Tov and his followers. The selected invitees had been sworn to secrecy to assure that no news of the plan would reach the outside. The leader of the Brody group was the famous Reb Moshe Ostrer, a scholar of great renown.

By the time the Baal Shem Tov arrived, the doors of the study house were locked with a guard posted outside barring any uninvited from trying to enter. The Baal Shem Tov approached the doorman and entreated him to open the doors, but to no avail, since he had no invitation. Finally, the Baal Shem Tov said to the guard, "Please, go inside, and tell those gathered that someone wishes to enter, and if they refuse, they are putting their own lives in danger."

The shaken doorman went inside and conveyed the message to the distinguished assembly. A murmur circulated through the crowd. Who, they asked, is this stranger who makes such a dire threat? The doorman relayed the response of the stranger: "Tell them I am Yisroel Baal Shem Tov, and that I have come just now from Medzibozh. I wish to be admitted before them so that they can judge me in person."

The shocked participants allowed him to enter, and he began speaking: "There are two hundred and fifty participants here tonight. Your plot to excommunicate me has caused the curse of Korach's rebels to be brought against you, and you have been sentenced to perish as they did. Several of those present quickly stood and counted the men in the room; true to his word, there were two hundred and fifty people present. The hushed crowd sensed the power of the Baal Shem Tov and understood the profound error of their intentions; they begged for his forgiveness, which he readily gave.

Next, as a gesture of apology, their leader, Reb Moshe Ostrer, rose and presented the Baal Shem Tov with a copy of his new commentary, Arugas Habosem, which had not yet been released for general distribution. The Baal Shem Tov accepted the book, flipped through the pages, kissed it, and announced: "I see that your work contains pure truth from the beginning to the end; it is because your soul was empowered by the spirit of King Solomon that your writing is so close to its source."

Reb Moshe was astounded; how could anyone absorb an entire volume just from quickly ruffling through its pages? The Baal Shem continued, saying, "The entire Song of Songs is explained in your volume, except for the words 'arugas habosem.' Those words are not commented upon."

The author objected, "That is absolutely not so. I most certainly did include an explanation of those words!"

"Show it to me, then," challenged the Baal Shem Tov.

Reb Moshe took the book and looked where he knew it to be, but to his surprise, the explanation was missing, apparently lost in a printing error.

The assembled group no longer harbored any doubt that the Baal Shem Tov was a tzadik. They rose to accompany him to his carriage, grateful to have been saved from a grievous mistake.

Moshiach Matters

While man can choose how to act in any given moment, the very nature of humanity, and of G-d's creation as a whole, mandates that it not only can, but will attain the perfection of the Era of Moshiach. The Era of Moshiach means that the true nature of creation will ultimately come to light. That "evil" is but the shallow distortion of this truth, and has no enduring reality. That man will free himself of hate and ignorance. That every human being will fulfill his divinely ordained role as outlined in the Torah, transforming the world into a place suffused with the wisdom, goodness and perfection of its Creator.

(From "For Real" by Yanki Tauber. For more articles visit

  775: Sh'lach777: Chukas-Balak  
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