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811: Ki Sisa

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Devarim Deutronomy

March 12, 2004 - 19 Adar, 5764

811: Ki Sisa

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Published and copyright © by Lubavitch Youth Organization - Brooklyn, NY
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Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.

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  810: Tetzaveh812: Vayakhel-Pekudei  

From the Ground Up  |  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

From the Ground Up

Have you ever told young children - in the three to six year old range - to clean up their room or get their toys out of the way? Chances are, the bigger the mess, the bigger the whine. The more little legos, the more excuses. "It's too much." "I don't want to." "I can't do it." It's not my mess." "I cleaned it up." (Come to think of it, this probably applies to older children, too.)

Then comes the cajoling, the threatening, the pleading, the bribing, the begging - and still nothing. But a funny thing happens when you get down on the floor, get on their level, so to speak, and start directing traffic. All of a sudden, the attitude changes. "Let's see, first bring me all the puzzle pieces. Oh, look, there's one under the chair." Dubious at first, the toddler or youngster begins to gather the puzzle pieces and bring them to you. "Look, Mommy, there's one you missed, hiding under the piano." You seem to be on the same wavelength. Your child smiles and you smile.

"Now that we've matched up all the puzzle pieces, put them on their shelf. Neatly now."

"What next, Mommy?"

"How about the legos?"

"OK. I'll pick up all the red ones first."

And now clean up has become a game.

What happened? Two things, both related. First, you got down from your "power post." You lowered yourself to your child's level. Only, you didn't really lower yourself. You just put yourself in a position to see as she sees. Your child recognized that, and responded.

Second, you didn't demand too much at once. You acknowledged your child's limitations and capabilities, and worked with them. Your child appreciated that. One toy at a time. One book at a time. Of course, you didn't yield - everything got picked up and put away. And your child, deep down, knew that you were going to "win" - that what you wanted was going to get done. But now, she "won" too, because she also wanted what you wanted. She was part of the team.

She became appreciated for who - and where - she was. She was willing to reach her potential, because in a sense she shared the power. Picking up became fun.

Often we approach "picking up" Judaism as a confrontation, rather than a do-able challenge. Sometimes that confrontation comes from without (a teacher, a parent, a friend), sometimes it comes from within (Jewish guilt).

When it comes to growing Jewishly - learning more Torah, doing more mitzvot (commandments) - we have to be sensitive to the inner child - ours or someone we're teaching. After all, we're all children, in a sense, when it comes to Torah. Of course "the room has to get picked up" - we have to observe the mitzvot and learn Torah - all of it. But we have to do it, as we learned to walk and read when very young, one lego, one puzzle piece - one mitzva, or part of a mitzva, at a time.

It takes a while and it takes patience. But the room will get picked up.

Living with the Rebbe

In this week's Torah portion, Ki Tisa, we read of the "Shekalim Call," whereupon every Jew contributed a half-shekel to the Sanctuary treasury which provided the public sacrifice on behalf of all the Jewish people.

Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch, the "Tzemach Tzedek" (so named after his monumental work) in discussing the mitzva (commandment) of the half-shekel coin, offers some insights. The mitzva requires no more and no less than half a shekel. This indicates that when a Jew makes a contribution toward a sacred cause, it is immediately matched by a similar benevolence from G-d to him, in accordance with the principle that human initiative acts like an impulse which calls forth a corresponding impulse from on High. The two together, constitute the complete Shekel ha-Kodesh ("holy shekel").

Moreover, though human endeavor must be voluntary and spontaneous, the assurance has been given that where there is a resolute intention, the person receives aid from On High to carry it to fruition in the fullest measure.

To be sure, the physical Sanctuary in Jerusalem was destroyed and the sacrificial service has since been interrupted. Nevertheless, in a spiritual sense the Sanctuary and all that was connected with it have never ceased; they exist in our daily experience and practice of the Torah teachings and mitzvot. This is one of the aspects of our infinite Torah, which is in no way subject to the limitations of time and place.

The mitzva of the half-shekel teaches us, among other things, that human effort, provided it is sincere and resolute, is "met half way" by divine Grace. Thus, though the goal may, at first glance, seem too ambitious or even beyond reach, we are not limited to our own human resources, since our initial effort evokes a reciprocal "impulse" from On High which assures the attainment of even the "unattainable."

The mitzva of the half-shekel was originally related to the Holy Temple, where simple material objects were transformed into things of holiness, through dedication and sacrifice. Such is the unlimited power which the Creator vested in the Jew by means of the Torah and mitzvot originating in the Infinite. Every Jew has the power to transform small and ordinary things of nature into values and categories which transcend Nature - through living his daily life in accord with the will and command of G-d. In this way the Jew fulfills his purpose in life and the ultimate destiny of Creation, namely, to make an abode for the Holy One here on earth, in fulfillment of the Divine command, "Let them make Me a Sanctuary that I may dwell among them"

From a letter of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

A Slice of Life

Reaching Out

The following letters were received by Rabbi Shmuel Spritzer of the Prisons Outreach Department of the Lubavitch Youth Organization, New York.
Thank you and the rest of the staff at the Lubavitch Youth Organization for their continued guidance and support. Your contribution to the incarcerated Jews is immeasurable. May Hashem bless you and your with a full and happy life.

I will be released from Prison to parole next month. It is because of people like you, Rabbi Stanley Robbins (Retired Jewish Chaplain, CCI), Rabbi Zirkind, Jewish Chaplain, CSATFSP, and the Chabad of Los Angeles for providing Kosher meals during the holidays.

Please know that your continued support is needed and appreciated. I know the men at the California Correctional Institution in Tehachapi, CA as well as the men at the California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility/State Prison in Corcoran, CA truly look forward to reading the "Reaching Out" newsletter each month.

Again, thank you! May Moshiach come soon!!

Gary - Corcoran, CA

...I remember when I was the first time in 770 Eastern Parkway in the month of Elul, 5736 (Fall, 1976). It had been the yartzeit [anniversary of the passing] of my father z'l. I went and had the pleasure and honor to meet the Rebbe....

I will never forget his eyes, very deep like looking right through me. During our conversation he mentioned to me something that always I keep in my mind, and the message gives me the strength to continue to live: "The trials and ordeals which the Jewish people encounter either collectively or individually do not occur by chance. They are G-d's Voice speaking through the pattern of history. The Jewish must not falter nor yield to weakness. On the contrary the Heavenly test indicates that a Jew actually has within himself the capability to overcome and master this challenge to his Jewish identity. His greatest power is derived from "increasing strength" in his involvement with Torah and prayer, with intensity and zeal surpassing his efforts up to this time. The response of deeper commitment leads to greater and more profound levels in the service of G-d, a beautiful blessed circle." Then the Rebbe gave me a crisp, new dollar bill. I always have this in mind and I am sure that Hashem [G-d] is looking after me.

Zigi - Federal Medical Center, Butner, NC

I know that life holds a lot of pain and unhappiness, but I realize that it is filled with much joy and happiness if we equip ourselves positively with Hashem at all times. Although I have made some poor decisions, I believe I am on the right road now and can fulfill my life by living the best way possible. If I do the next right thing, stay clean and sober, follow Hashem, I have nothing to fear....

I believe my views, my thinking, my entire being is transforming into the beautiful, Jewish woman I have so greatly struggled to be. I have a terrific family. My heritage is strong, intact, and my family has done the best they could with so much integrity, morals, values and virtue.

Thank you for your letter. It was a wonderful awakening. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Beverly - Broward Correctional Institute, FL

It was good hearing from you. Thank you for your story about the Previous Rebbe. I shared with Rabbi Chill and our Jewish community here. As I am the only one eating kosher, I go at 2:30 p.m. to make my trays. The food service Manager and his staff have been very accommodating to me in this task. The State shops issued me two pairs of whites so I would be dressed like all the women of the kitchen.

Thank you so much for the L'Chaim. I haven't seen any for awhile and I like them so much. I feel more connected to the Jewish community.

All in all, I'm keeping kosher and lighting the candles for Sabbath. Although I may be alone in this prison, I know that I am not alone spiritually. All the Jewish ladies are doing it with me all over the world.

Shoshana - Taconic CF, Bedford Hills, NY

Unfortunately for the people in my life that love me, I was not the nice young Jewish boy that all parents hope they're children will be. I was not Bar Mitzva cause shortly before my 13th birthday is when my problems started to take over my life.

I never graduated high school because I was in and out of Juvenile lockup. My life and expectations my family had for me faded away.

In all my trouble I did manage to be at synagogue with my family on High Holy days and for the yartzeits of my family, when I was free!

Anyway, I'm now 37 years old and I've managed to get my GED since I've been here.

I've also been an active member of the congregation here, which consists of 9 inmates, one rabbi and several very caring and loving volunteers who come and take good care of our needs.

When I first started with the congregation here I told our dear Rabbi Soloff that I wanted to learn Hebrew and celebrate my Bar Mitzva before I leave. He gave me some book and before long I was started to read and understand Hebrew. It's been about 2 years and I've been studying and Sept. 18th, 04 I will celebrate my Bar Mitzva.

I will be reading all 52 verses of Ha'azinu from the Torah as well as leading the service.

My dad will be here to see me do this; he's coming from Florida. My mom passed away so she won't be here in person but I know she will be watching as well as my brother who also passed away. They will all be equally proud.

To sum it all up, at 37 years old and far way from home I've managed to get my GED and will soon be Bar Mitzva. It's never too late to learn to live and do the right thing.

Brett - Graterford, PA

For more info contact Reaching Out, 770 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, New York 11213

What's New

"Released Time" Camp

The Released Time Program of Greater New York sponsored their bi-annual day camp for all Jewish children attending the New York Public School system. Over 100 boys and girls from Brooklyn, Queens and even as far as Staten Island came together to take part in the 4-day day camp. The children learned about basic Jewish concepts such as reciting blessings, kosher, Shabbat, Moshiach and Jewish holidays. Jewish knowledge enhances Jewish pride and the campers all left with stronger Jewish identities. All classes were presented in a fun and interactive way, and included stimulating games and activities. Arts and crafts completed the morning schedule and after a wholesome kosher lunch, the children were treated to special trips. For more information about Released Time, sponsored by the N.C.F.J.E., call (718) 735-0215.

The Rebbe Writes

16th of Adar, 5740 [1980]

Greeting and Blessing:

Your letter of Jan. 27th reached me with considerable delay. As requested, I will remember you in prayer for the fulfillment of your heart's desires for good.

Judging by your writing, there is surely no need to emphasize to you at length that there is always room for advancement in all matters of goodness and holiness, Torah and Mitzvoth [commandments], which, though a must for their own sake, are the channels to receive G-d's blessings in all needs. Hence, every additional effort in this direction widens the channels for G-d's blessings in all needs.

As we are now coming from Purim, when the Jews renewed their commitment to the Torah and Mitzvoth, for themselves and their children for all times, which is also why they merited the Divine miracles that brought about a complete reversal for them from sadness to gladness - this is a good time for all of us to strengthen our commitment to Yiddishkeit [Judaism]. And just as for the Jews of Persia there was "Light, joy, gladness and honor" - both in the ordinary sense as well as in the deeper sense of "Light - this is Torah ... Honor - this is Tefillin," we can be sure that by following in their footsteps "So it will be also for us."

May G-d grant that you should have good news to report in all above.

With blessing,

16 Adar 5711 [1951]

Blessing and Greeting:

I am in receipt of your letter of May 16th. As per your request, I hasten to reply to you, although a great deal of earlier correspondence has not been acknowledged yet.

First of all, I want to correct a wrong attitude on your part as expressed in your letter, to the effect that you put your faith in me and my promise. A Jewish person should put his or her faith only in G-d, the Creator and Master of the world, who guides all its destinies, who is the Healer of the sick and the Source of Good.

Because G-d is good, He wants everybody, and Jews especially, to be happy. It happens, however, that we, with our fleshy eyes, cannot see and understand His ways. But we must be firm in our faith that only good can come from the good G-d, and that the good will become apparent eventually.

In truth, I should have used stronger words of censure with regard to your attitude of placing your faith completely in a human being. However, realizing the aching heart of a mother whose child is ailing, and no person can be fully responsible in distress, I wish to repeat again, what I have told your husband, the Rabbi, and requested to convey to you: Be strong in your faith in G-d, who knows no obstacles or limitations, that He will surely send His help, and that you will have lots of Nachas [pleasure] from your daughter and lead her to the Chuppah [marriage canopy]...

As I have told your husband, such firm faith in G-d is the best means of hastening your daughter's cure. Be confident and cheerful, and help cheer others through participation in the preparations for a Chassidishe farbrengen [Chassidic gathering] at the proper times, and similar inspiring occasions.

With blessing,

Rambam this week

19 Adar, 5764 - March 12, 2004

Positive Mitzva 125: Presenting the First Fruit

This mitzva is based on the verse (Ex. 23:19) "You shall bring the first of the fruits of your land that ripen " This mitzva applies only in the Land of Israel and to those seven kinds of foods with which the Holy Land was specifically blessed. They are: Wheat; Barley; Grapes; Figs; Pomegranates; Olives; Dates.

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

The 25th of Adar (coinciding with March 18 this year) is the birthday of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson and marks the anniversary of the "Jewish Birthday campaign" that the Rebbe established on the Rebbetzin's birthday 16 years ago.

Because the day of one's birth is the day one's "mazel" shines (according to the Talmud) one should spend part of the day celebrating in an especially Jewish way.

A Jew has the ability to utilize his birthday for a positive end, instead of letting it pass as just another day. He can make it a holiday with emphasis on more Torah and mitzvot.

One's birthday is a time for reflection, when one may "remember and think about those aspects of his life which need improvement and repentance" (HaYom Yom, 11th Nissan).

Here are some suggestions:

On your birthday increase your contribution to charity. When the birth day is on Shabbat or Yom Tov, give the extra charity before Shabbat or the holiday.

Put time and effort (or more time and effort) into prayer.

Study the chapter in King David's Psalms that corresponds to your new age.

Study extra Torah

Review your conduct for the past year - see what needs repentance and improvement - and make good resolutions for the future years.

If possible say the blessing of "Shehecheyanu" on a new fruit.

Celebrate with your family and friends in honor of your birthday - give thanks to G-d for enabling you to reach this milestone.

To find out when your Jewish birthday is, call your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center, the Tzivos Hashem Superphone at (718) 467-7800 or visit

Thoughts that Count

The rich shall not increase and the poor shall not decrease from the half shekel (Ex. 30:15)

A rich person's wealth will not be increased by not giving, neither will a poor person become poorer by giving. If this is true with the donation of the half-shekel, certainly it is true of charity.

(Imri Shefer)

You shall make it incense (Ex. 30:23)

Atonement before the Alm-ghty is similar to appeasement among people. Although one may have completely forgiven another for a wrong, it is still remembered. The next time the same transgression occurs, it is not forgotten so easily. The same is true of our sins, which are atoned for by means of the sacrifices. Some "unpleasant odor" may still remain even after atonement. The incense offering "wipes away" even that small reminder.

(The Tzemach Tzedek)

...he saw the [golden] calf and the dancing, and Moses' anger was kindled and he threw the tablets and broke them...(Ex. 32:19)

From this incident we see clearly the great difference between hearing and seeing. Moses had already heard directly from G-d that the Jews made the golden calf. Yet, it wasn't until he actually saw the calf with his own eyes that his anger was kindled.

(Commentary on Tanya)

It Once Happened

The love and patience which Rabbi Yitzchak Shaul showed to all the people he met - men, women and children - were unsurpassed. Even animals and birds benefitted from his uniquely warm and caring personality. This, his father, Rabbi Nissan, had implanted in him since earliest childhood. His father always told him that one must love everything that G-d has made, and one must not harm any of His creatures.

Rabbi Nissan had had good reason to teach his son to be merciful, for, as a child, like many other children, Yitzchak Shaul had thought nothing of throwing stones at birds, chasing cows, goats, dogs or cats.

Rabbi Nissan had a favorite rooster. Each morning it crowed loudly, awakening Rabbi Nissan at the break of dawn, thus allowing him to begin his day. Rabbi Nissan looked after the rooster himself, making sure it had enough to eat, and keeping it in good health so that nothing would effect its excellent crowing. The louder the cock crowed, the more pleased was Rabbi Nissan. But not so little Yitzchak Shaul. As much as his father loved the rooster, so did his young son hate it. He delighted in persecuting the bird at every opportunity.

One day, unnoticed by Yitzchak Shaul, Rabbi Nissan came into the yard and observed his son's cruel behavior toward all of the farm animals, and the rooster in particular. Suddenly, Yitzchak Shaul felt a heavy hand on his shoulder and looked up to see his father's angry face.

"So, this is the way you spend your time! Ill-treating helpless creatures!" his father rebuked him sternly. "I could never imagine that a child of mine could be so cruel!"

The little frightened boy thought his father would surely give him a beating, he looked so angry. But this was not Rabbi Nissan's way. He was a teacher of young boys. But in all of his years of teaching, he had never laid a hand on his pupils, nor any of his own children. True, his "strap" hung on the wall of the class-room. But if a pupil deserved punishment Rabbi Nissan had only to indicate the strap on the wall, and tell him what he deserved, and it was always enough for the culprit.

Entering the house with his son, Rabbi Nissan asked him to bring the Talmud and open it to page 125. He told him to read the section relating to the injunction to look after chickens with gentle care. "See how the Torah thinks of everything," Rabbi Nissan enthusiastically explained to his little son. "In another part of the Talmud, we find that we must never sit down to a meal before first looking after our animals.

"Thus, we see that we must first of all care for the other of G-d's creatures before we look after our own needs. Yet, you, my son, have not only ignored this teaching, but have moreover shown a cruelty towards the poor creatures, which I could hardly have believed possible in a child of mine!"

Yitzchak Shaul trembled before the reproof and reproach of his father. He thought his father had finished with him when, instead, he heard his father saying in a very serious voice:

"You know that it is not in my nature to hit anyone, and I have never hit you, but this time, I am going to ask you to take down the strap which is hanging on the wall. I want you to understand the pain you have inflicted upon the creatures you have so thoughtlessly persecuted."

Yitzchak Shaul gravely took a chair and reached up for the strap which he had never before seen his father use. This in itself impressed upon him the enormity of his crime.

"Before I hit you," Rabbi Nissan said, "I want you to know quite clearly that the only reason I am doing this, is so that you will the better remember the pain you have inflicted upon the birds and other living creatures."

These were the first and last blows that Yitzchak Shaul ever received from his father, and he accepted them without a murmur.

Rabbi Nissan quickly went into another room without a backward glance, and a moment later Yitzchak Shaul heard his father crying, deep and painful sobs escaping him which he seemed unable to restrain.

When Yitzchak Shaul heard his father sobbing, he realized that it was all his fault for having made his father do something so contrary to his nature. This gave the little boy more pain that the actual hitting, and he determined, from that moment, never again to hurt anything or anyone.

He felt the pain a couple of days, and walked about full of regret and shame for his misdeeds. On the third day, he suddenly went up to his father, kissed him and asked him, with tears in his eyes, if he would forgive him.

Rabbi Nissan's eyes also filled with tears as he said to his son tenderly, "My son, you are still a little boy and I, your father, have to bear all your sins, which are not quite serious. But it would be dreadful if you grew up to be an unfeeling, cruel creature!"

Yitzchak Shaul felt a changed boy. Gone was his previous pleasure in his cruel pastimes.

From The Lubavitcher Rebbe's Memoirs

Moshiach Matters

This week's Haftorah relates the story of Elijah the Prophet on Mount Carmel, where he turns to the Jewish people and exclaims to them "Ad Mosai! Until when will you waver between two opinions?" Elijah's words did not come as a story or a suggestion, but a very forceful demand - "How much longer?" The same definition applies to the "Ad Mosai" of the verses in Tikun Chatzos (prayers said at midnight, mourning the destruction of the Holy Temple). Just as in the Haftorah, it expresses to G-d, as a demand, that the Jewish people cannot tolerate this exile any longer.

(Shabbat Parshat Ki Tisa, Shushan Purim Katan 5744)

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