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Devarim Deutronomy

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Shemos Exodus

Vayikra Leviticus

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Devarim Deutronomy

L'Chaim
March 26, 2004 - 4 Nisan, 5764

813: Vayikra

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The Weekly Publication For Every Jewish Person
Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.


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  812: Vayakhel-Pekudei814: Tzav  

Dead Battery  |  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

Dead Battery

It happens at the most inconvenient times. You go out to your car on a morning that you're already running a little late. And the car won't start.

Someone forgot to shut the door all the way last night, the interior light stayed on, and the battery's drained.

So you try to get a neighbor with jumper cables or call an automobile club for roadside assistance.

And you call the office to tell them you won't be in until who knows when, because it will be at least half an hour if you can find a neighbor with cables and at least an hour if you can't.

Have a great day.

Or you're leaving the parking lot of the mall, having just stuffed the trunk with new clothes and Passover necessities. You're headed to the grocery store - just enough time to whiz through the aisles and idle in the checkout line before rushing home and - the battery's dead. Maybe, if you're lucky, the mall cops have jumper cables.

But this time, no one left a light on. The battery's old or the connection's corroded or there's a short or the electric line...

We all know about the inconvenience of a dead battery.

And we know how we feel when our own batteries run low - when we're hungry or need sleep. We don't function very well. We're sluggish, irritable, can't think straight and make poor decisions. Our judgment - fizzles.

If the car battery's low, we recharge it. If our body's battery is low, we recharge.

But about our spiritual batteries? What about our souls? True, they're eternal, they're connected to the Source and, in that sense, they run forever and never need recharging.

Yet our souls inhabit our bodies and it takes a lot of energy to keep that contact strong, to spark our minds and hearts, to "turn over" our engines - our drive to a more spiritually tuned-up existence.

Our Sages tell us that's one function of prayer - to jump start our souls. Prayer in the morning, on a daily basis, charges up the spiritual battery. And performing mitzvot (commandments) throughout the day - even "easy" ones like giving up your seat on the bus to an elderly person or dropping a coin in a charity box or logging on to a Jewish website for an edifying Torah thought - keep us moving forward in our Jewish living.

Ah, but what if, as happens, the "battery" runs down so much that prayer alone can't get the "engine" going? That's when we need the "jumper cables" - a "power boost" to our batteries from outside. That's when we need to turn to a personal spiritual trainer, a mashpia. A mashpia can be a wise friend, a teacher, or a mentor that one trusts and can confide in. It should be someone we aspire to be like in his interactions with his fellowmen, and in his interactions with G-d.

In truth, you don't need to wait until the battery runs down to get the "power boost" you need. Keeping in touch with a mashpia regularly helps assure that our batteries won't run down or have a loose connection.


Living with the Rebbe

This week we begin the third of the five books of the Torah, the book of Vayikra (Leviticus). The first Torah portion of this book is also called Vayikra. At the close of this week's portion, the Torah discusses the law relating to one who has been entrusted with the responsibility of the safekeeping of a security or pledge.

The Talmud relates that the great Rabbi Yehuda HaNassi (Rabbi Judah "the prince"), himself an extremely wealthy person, used to honor men of means. Rabbi Yehuda behaved this way because of his deep understanding of the gift of wealth.

Riches, as well as other possessions are, in truth, "pledges" or deposits entrusted to the individual by G-d for the short span of his lifetime. It is obvious that the larger the sum involved, the more trustworthy and dependable must be the person to whom the pledge is entrusted. Hence, reasoned Rabbi Yehuda, the fact that G-d had entrusted this person with so great a fortune, or so powerful a position, indicates his "good credit" and reliability in the eyes of G-d to utilize his wealth, power, or position, for good and worthy ends. This person is, therefore, certainly deserving of honor.

The following story expresses this thought - that riches or power are granted by G-d, not only to satisfy the owner's personal desires, however noble they may be, but also to help others, be it through simple charity, or through the granting of a job.

A follower of one of the Chabad Rebbes was a wealthy businessman who was weary of his busy and mundane life. He longed for more time to spend in prayer and study. He decided to close his factory and retire to a life of religious service. He could hardly wait to inform the Rebbe of his noble plan. Finally, he gained an audience with his eminent leader and informed him of his plans.

After a few moments of silence the Rabbi said earnestly: "Indeed!? And did you give any thought to the fate of the many employees in your factory if you go out of business? Did it ever occur to you that the reason you were granted so much wealth by G-d was not merely for your own benefit, but also so that these poor laborers could find employment?"

The concept of position and wealth as G-d-entrusted securities is very relevant. We must all realize the deep moral responsibility that power and wealth impose on us.

Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.


A Slice of Life

Rain Couldn't Dampen the Joy
by Steve Hyatt

I grew up in a very warm and loving Jewish home, though our family wasn't very observant. My parents made sure my brother Lou and I went to Hebrew school. But as soon as we uttered the last "Amen" at our Bar Mitzvas, we were both out the door. Although it feels like I discovered Chabad of Delaware a lifetime ago, it really has only been eight years since Rabbi Choni Vogel and his family helped me get started on my spiritual journey.

During that time my parents have visited Linda and me quite often. They've watched as I learned to put on tefilin in the morning, pray three times a day, say Kiddush over wine on Friday night and walk to shul on Shabbat morning.

In the beginning they were a little concerned about the changes they saw in my lifestyle. No more lobster bisque, no more tee times on Saturday mornings. But they also saw that I laughed more, I was much less stressed when I came home from work, and I was a more loving husband and dad then in previous years. As I became more observant, I became a much more relaxed and happy person.

As the years passed, Mom and Dad moved from sitting on the sidelines and watching, to asking questions about what I was doing and why I was doing it. Slowly but surely my parents became more comfortable with the changes in my life. Today they support my involvement with Chabad and the more observant lifestyle I've adopted. So it was with great anticipation that Linda and I awaited their visit.

My parents arrived on a Wednesday afternoon. We picked them up and then promptly went off to see Lake Tahoe. After several days at the Lake we came home for Shabbat.

Shortly before sunset I reminded Linda that it would soon be time to light the Shabbat candles. She said, "Don't worry, Mom and I have them all ready." My Mom has stood beside Linda on numerous occasions and watched her light the candles and say the blessing over them. On a number of occasions she has also lit candles and read the blessing in English. So I was absolutely stunned when I walked into the kitchen and saw my mother light the candles and chant the blessing in Hebrew.

That might not be a big deal to many, but in my home it was nothing short of a Shabbat miracle. My Mom, who had never spent a minute of her life in Hebrew school, had taught herself the blessing in Hebrew and, I found out, had been lighting candles every Friday eve for the past year. When I asked her how this had happened, she just smiled and said, "What's the big deal? It's a piece of kugel!" The light that emanated from those Shabbat candles that night illuminated every corner of the house. They were the first candles I had ever seen my mother light using the language of Sara, Rebecca and Miriam.

The next morning, my heart was full of joy over my mother's actions of the night before. I thanked G-d for allowing me to share this precious moment with my mom. As I walked to shul, I remembered the words that Rabbi Vogel once told me that we never know who is watching and observing us when we fulfill a mitzva. He said, "You might not think anyone is watching when you wear your tzitzit to shul, or you pray in an airport or you wear your kipa while pumping gas. But in many cases someone is watching what you are doing and may be inspired to try something new based on your one simple act." He emphasized that, "You never know when a fellow Jew may be watching you complete a mitzva. That one mitzva may be enough to give him courage to take the next step on his own spiritual journey."

When I finally arrived at shul I told my friends about my mom's actions the night before. They all agreed that it was a wonderful moment for my entire family. A few moments later, Rabbi Mendel Cunin called us together and we started praying. Several hours later, I began the journey back up the mountain road to my home. As I arrived at the half-way point, the beautiful blue sky suddenly clouded up. The rain came down in violent sheets, seemingly from every direction at once. Within three short minutes I was soaked to the skin and absolutely miserable. I was wet and freezing and all I wanted to do was get home. Each step was a struggle. Suddenly, out of nowhere a non-Jewish neighbor of mine drove by and waved. Seeing that I was soaked to the skin he motioned that he was going to turn around and come pick me up. For the first time in a very long time, I seriously contemplated getting into the car and accepting the ride home.

"Who'd know?" I asked myself. "Just this once," I rationalized. Just as I turned around to wait for my neighbor, a huge truck pulled up next to me. On the side of the truck was an enormous sign that said, "Vogel Floors." My eyes locked on the words Vogel. My neighbor pulled up and said, "Steve, hop in and get out of the rain." I thanked my neighbor for his kindness but declined the offer. "I'll walk," I said. "It's only another mile."

He shook his head and drove off. Simultaneously, the big truck fired up its engine and it too rolled off, disappearing into a blinding sheet of rain. "Vogel Floors," I said over and over again as I walked through the rain. I couldn't help but think that this was either an incredible coincidence or a very special gift from G-d. Since I don't believe in coincidence, I thanked G-d for placing the name of my friend and spiritual mentor on the side of the truck and helping me make the right decision. Buoyed by this memorable experience I literally danced up the hill.

In the short span of about 18 hours I had seen and experienced two unforgettable moments. We are faced with numerous, and sometimes difficult, decisions, every day of our lives. At the end of the day we also have to live with the consequences of those decisions. Getting into the car and getting out of the rain would have provided momentary relief from an uncomfortable situation. But the warmth and joy generated from making difficult, and at times uncomfortable, decisions can illuminate one's life and refresh one's soul a thousand times over.

Coincidence...I think not!


What's New

Matza Ball Contest!

All Jewish kids under the age of Bar or Bat Mitzva can participate in the Matza Ball Contest, a project of Tzivos Hashem. Children who do their best to do the special mitzvot of the Passover holiday and fill out the scorecard will be entered into the grand raffle for great prizes. To get a contest brochure contact your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center or visit www.jewishkidsonline.com


The Rebbe Writes

2nd of Adar, 5742 [1982]

Greeting and Blessing:

This is to acknowledge receipt of your correspondence, including the latest of the 28th of Shevat. May G-d grant the fulfillment of your heart's desires for good in all the matters about which you wrote.

Special good wishes to Mrs.- on the occasion of your birthday. No doubt you followed the usual customs connected with the birthday (an extra donation for Tzedoko [charity] on the day and some special effort in Yiddishkeit, as well as reading the particular Psalm in Tehillim corresponding to one's age plus one - e.g., a girl reaching the age of Bas Mitzva reads Psalm 13; on the next birthday Psalm 14, and so forth).

Many thanks for the good news your letter contained, especially about your successful activities in general, and your recent visit in Toronto in particular. May G-d grant that you should always have good news to report...

With esteem and blessing,


20th of Tammuz, 5719 [1959]

Greeting and Blessing:

After the long interval, I received your letter of the 23rd of Tammuz. I was pleased to read in it about your work for the strengthening and spreading of Yiddishkeit among your friends. Although you write that your accomplishments have been "small," no one is really in a position to fully estimate one's accomplishments and what fruits might come forth from the tiny seeds that one plants.

This is even more so in the case of influence over children, which in time is multiplied manifold. In this connection it is well to remember what the Talmud tells us about Rabbi Akiba, who once had 24,000 students, but due to a certain cause, the world was destitute until he brought up another five students, and these five disciples of Rabbi Akiba were responsible for the preservation of the Torah to the end of time. No one, of course, can compare himself with the stature of Rabbi Akiba, nevertheless the Talmud does not tell us stories for entertainment. Therefore, there is a lesson for every one of us also in the experience of Rabbi Akiba, that every one according to his own stature and opportunity has the capacity of tremendous and far-reaching accomplishments.

I was pleased to read in your letter that you want to do all you can to further the cause of the Lubavitch House in London. I trust you will discuss this matter with Anash to determine in what practical ways you can do your share.

In connection with your birthday, I send you my prayerful wishes for a successful year in all matters that you mention in your letter, including also the study of the Torah, both Nigleh and Chassidus, in an ever-growing measure, these being the channels and vessels to receive and enjoy G-d's blessings, materially and spiritually. I hope to hear good news from you always.


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

It is a Jewish custom that, when bringing a young child to school for the first time, we begin his Torah studies with the third book of the Torah, Vayikra - Leviticus. The book of Vayikra, the first portion of which we read this Shabbat, is also known as Torat Kohanim, for it mainly deals with the responsibilities of the Priests.

One might think that it would be more proper to begin a child's formal Jewish education "in the beginning," with the book of Genesis. Or, at least, to start out with the history of our people and thus, commence with the portion that discusses Abraham.

This, however, is not the case. The Midrash states that children are "pure" and the sacrifices (which the priests offered) are 'pure.' "Let the pure occupy themselves with the pure," says the Midrash.

It is interesting to note here at what age the child is considered "pure." For, in truth, there are three stages in the spiritual life of every Jew: 1) after the age of Bar/Bat Mitzva when the person is obligated to perform mitzvot; 2) when one is educated in the ways of Torah and mitzvot and begins observing them. (Though under no obligation, this prepares and trains the chid for the time when he will be obligated to perform them); and 3) when the child is still so young that, though learning about Torah and mitzvot, he cannot be expected to conduct himself in accordance with them.

It is at this last and youngest stage, particularly, that the child is referred to as "pure." And, it is at precisely at this early, precious and pure stage that one needs begin a child's Jewish education. Though he cannot fully comprehend what he is learning, and isn't even required to put his studies into action, his/her pure neshama (soul) should be involved in the "pure" Torah.


Thoughts that Count

A man who offers of you an offering to G-d (Lev. 1:2)

The logical order of the above words should be, "A man of you who offers an offering to G-d..." Writes Rabbi Shneur Zalman: "A man who offers" - in order that a man become closer to G-d - "of you an offering to G-d" - he must bring the offering of himself. He must sacrifice his personal "animal," the desire for evil that is called the animal soul.

(Hayom Yom)


Of his own voluntary will (Lev. 1:3)

The commentator Rashi explains that although the verse says "of his own voluntary will," if one does not want to bring a sacrifice, we compel him to do so. How, then, can we say that the sacrifice is brought willingly? We compel him until he wants to do it. When the Torah tells a person to do something and he apparently does not want to do, his negative reaction is not reality. For, as a Jew, in the innermost depths of his heart, he wants to carry out the Will of G-d. Through forcing him to do what is correct, his negative inclination is nullified and the willingness to carry out G-d's Will is genuine.

(Maimonides, Laws of Divorce, ch. 2)


You may not burn any leaven or any honey as a fire offering to G-d (Lev. 2:11)

"Any leaven" - this is a person who is moody or melancholy all the time - in the morning, evening, on Shabbat, holidays or weekdays. He is always sour. "Honey" - is a person who is always pleasant and sweet, whatever happens. His mood is always good; he's always smiling. You may not burn [either of them] as a fire offering to G-d! You cannot properly bring a sacrifice to G-d from either of these emotions. A person must rule his character traits, even his good traits. For, truly, there are times when one must be "leaven" and times when one must be "honey."

(Rabbi Shmuel of Lubavitch)


With all your sacrifices you shall offer salt (Lev. 2:13)

The sacrifice symbolizes the revealed part of the Torah, which is likened to meat. The salt symbolizes the hidden aspects of Torah which are more spiritual and abstract. This is why each sacrifice had to be brought with salt. In the same way that salt preserves meat from spoiling, so do the inner, esoteric explanations of Torah preserve the revealed part of Torah.

(Likutei Torah)


It Once Happened

Rabbi Chaim ben Attar (1696-1743), also known as the "Ohr HaChaim" after his commentary on the Torah, was a skilled goldsmith. Born in Morocco, he become famous for his Torah knowledge and saintliness at a young age. Even when he held an honored position as a great Rabbi, he declined to be paid for his services. He preferred to earn his money from the work of his hands as a goldsmith.

Rabbi Chaim hired himself out to the best known local non-Jewish goldsmith for several hours each day, or whenever he needed to work, in accordance with his family's simple needs. The rest of the time he spent teaching and studying Torah.

The goldsmith for whom Rabbi Chaim worked was no friend of the Jews, but he valued Rabbi Chaim's work so much that he let him work whenever he wanted.

When the Sultan's daughter was getting married, he sent for the goldsmith and placed a large order to be ready before the wedding. Rabbi Chaim still had money left from his previous earnings and did not come in to the goldsmith for work. Although the goldsmith tried to entice Rabbi Chaim with promises of great sums of money, Rabbi Chaim refused to come in.

The day came for the Sultan's order to be delivered and it was not ready. The Sultan was incensed. He threatened to have the goldsmith thrown to the lions. But the sly goldsmith put the blame on Rabbi Chaim. "I accepted the order with the understanding that Rabbi Chaim would work together with me. He never once showed up at my workshop, though I repeatedly asked him."

The Sultan's face began to soften and the goldsmith continued. "I told him over and over again that the jewelry was for the Sultan's daughter and still he would not come."

By now, the Sultan, no lover of the Jews himself, was convinced of Rabbi Chaim's guilt and ordered him to be thrown to the lions.

When the Sultan's guards came to fetch Rabbi Chaim, he asked only to be allowed to take some of his sacred books, talit and tefilin with him. The guards laughed at this seemingly ridiculous request. "The lions have not been fed for days. You act as if you are preparing for a vacation."

As Rabbi Chaim was led through the streets, Jews closed their shops and stalls and accompanied him. They wept bitterly to see their beloved Rabbi being led to his horrible death, while some of the local Arabs laughed and jeered.

Rabbi Chaim took no notice of the crowd, but consoled his grieving brethren, "It is G-d who takes life and gives life; He redeems and saves in time of distress. I am confident that He will spare me from the lions' teeth. Trust in G-d."

Upon arrival at the Sultan's palace, the lion keepers placed a rope around Rabbi Chaim's waist and lowered him down into the den. The keepers knew what to expect: blood-chilling shrieks, roars and snarls of the beasts, and then deathly silence.

This time, however, it was different. There were no screams, no roars or snarls. The lions remained in their places and made no attempt to attack their "meal." The keepers decided that the beasts were not hungry, and walked away.

Three days later, they came back, expecting only to find broken bones. But they could not believe their eyes when they saw Rabbi Chaim sitting in the center of the cage, wrapped in his talit and tefilin, studying his holy books. The wild beasts were crouched around him, keeping a respectful silence, as if they were listening to his melodious voice.

The keepers rushed to tell the Sultan what they saw. In utter disbelief, the Sultan went to see for himself. He, too, was amazed and terrified at the awesome sight. He ordered a rope to be lowered into the cage so that Rabbi Chaim could climb out.

"Now I know that the G-d of the Jews saves His people in every age," said the Sultan in deference to Rabbi Chaim. The Sultan also asked Rabbi Chaim to be his advisor.

Our Sages teach that one who lives totally in consonance with G-d's laws has nothing to fear from wild animals, for G-d is the Creator of both man and beast. Such was the case of Rabbi Chaim ben Attar.


Moshiach Matters

The month of Nissan has a special relationship to the Redemption, as our Sages tell us (Midrash Rabbah Shemot 15:11): "When G-d chose His world He established within it new moons and years; and when He chose Jacob and his sons, He established in it a new moon of redemption, for in [this month, Nissan] the Jewish people were redeemed from Egypt, and in this month they will be redeemed in the future, as the verse says: 'As in the days of your going out of Egypt I will show you wonders'

(Michah 15:7)


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