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Devarim Deutronomy

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Devarim Deutronomy

June 18, 2004 - 29 Sivan, 5764

824: Korach

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A Spiritual Spark  |  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

A Spiritual Spark

Chasidic thought teaches that the core of every person's soul is the yechida, a spiritual spark which is one with G-d. When the level of yechida manifests itself, a person believes, not because he suddenly has a "reason" to believe, but because on that plane, G-dliness is the only reality; there is nothing else. This truth is so powerful that even as the person exists within our material frame of reference, he must acknowledge it.

Just as every individual soul possesses a yechida, in every generation there is an individual who constitutes the yechida of the Jewish nation as a whole. G-dliness is as real to this individual as ordinary material existence is to us.

When people come into contact with such an individual, they cannot remain unmoved. On the contrary, meeting a person whose yechida is openly revealed stirs their own yechida into expression. This explains why when people met the Rebbe, they began to believe. For a person who was not yet observant, meeting the Rebbe often prompted that vital first step toward Jewish awareness and practice. If a person was already observant, ideas that he knew and accepted would suddenly be felt as actual truth.

Moshiach is described as the yechida of history itself. At the time of his coming, such innate awareness of G-d will spread throughout the world.

This helps explain why the Rebbe pressed so powerfully for the coming of the Redemption. It was not only that he was a visionary, able to appreciate that the spiritual climate of the times is changing, and that "the time for your Redemption has come."

There was something more fundamental involved. Since the Rebbe is identified with yechida, Moshiach is his mission. Since his early childhood he was a harbinger of the future, already possessing the mindset that will characterize the era of Moshiach, and he shared that mindset with others.

This sharing was more than a contact between minds; it was a connection between souls. When you came face-to-face with the Rebbe, you believed, you felt, you lived Moshiach.

The Zohar teaches: "When a righteous person departs he is to be found in all the worlds more than during his lifetime." In Tanya, Rabbi Shneur Zalman explains that this does not refer only to the spiritual realms. The intent rather is that even in this material world, the righteous person's presence is more powerfully felt after his passing than during his lifetime. After his passing, physical restrictions no longer exist.

After the passing of the Previous Rebbe, the Rebbe told the Chasidim to continue directing their requests for blessings to the Previous Rebbe. "He will find a way," the Rebbe explained, "to communicate his response."

What the Rebbe said about the Previous Rebbe certainly holds true with regard to himself. As so many real-life stories indicate, he finds a way to respond. Be it through dreams of the Rebbe, prayers at his holy resting place (called "the Ohel,") or by placing written requests for guidance randomly in one of the many volumes of the Rebbe's letters (Igrot Kodesh), the Rebbe finds a way to communicate his response.

But that is only part of the story. Perhaps most significant is the fact that the Rebbe's work - Jewish outreach, and performing this in the most complete way, so that it will lead to the coming of Moshiach - continues, and continues to grow. The number of new shluchim, young couples going to outlying places to put the Rebbe's mission into practice, has grown year by year in greater numbers. New Lubavitch Centers are continually springing up and the existing Centers are widening their scope of activity. The Rebbe's influence is being felt even more than before.

The Rebbe is still a source of energy and vitality for all of us. And with that energy and vitality, we must do our share in furthering the mission with which he charged every single person: preparing ourselves and the entire world to welcome Moshiach, and creating an environment in which his purpose can be fulfilled.

Reprinted from Highlights, by Rabbi Eliyahu Touger, published by the Moshiach Resource Center.

Living with the Rebbe

This week's Torah portion, Korach, discusses Korach's controversy with Moses. Though bitter and unhappy that the priesthood was given to Aaron and his sons, and that he was not appointed as the head of his family, these reasons were not sufficient to incite Korach to war against Moses. Korach's rebellion came about only after the incident of the spies.

Why was this the final straw? The spies' claim was that in order to remain close to G-d it was necessary for the Jews to stay in the desert. They did not want to enter the Land because they feared that involvement in a physical lifestyle would be detrimental to their spirituality. Moses corrected them on this point, saying that "action is the most important thing." The goal is the performance of mitzvot (commandments), which could only be accomplished in the physical world of the Land of Israel, not the atmosphere enjoyed by the Jews in the desert.

Moses' answer is what caused Korach to openly rebel against him. Korach certainly knew that in both Torah learning and in spiritual stature Moses and Aaron stood head and shoulders above the rest of the congregation. But when Korach heard from Moses that the most important thing was not spiritual achievement but the deeds themselves, he said, "Why do you hold yourself above us? If action is the most important thing, then you and I and every single Jew - no matter who he may be - perform the same mitzvot! How are you any greater than we are, that you should be our leader?"

Thus, Korach's mistake was the same as that of the spies; both mistakes stemmed from a faulty understanding of the true nature of things. The spies erroneously stressed the importance of spirituality, to the exclusion of the physical, and Korach claimed that the physical performance of mitzvot took precedence and negated the necessity for spiritual involvement. Both Korach and the spies failed to see that the two aspects are important and dependent upon each other.

G-d wants us to have both; the proper spiritual intentions and the actual performance of the mitzva itself. Having the proper intentions infuses the mitzva with life and vitality. We must be spiritually connected to G-d and at the same time careful to keep all the minutest physical details of the commandments. These two aspects of religious observance comprise one unified whole in much the same way that human beings are comprised of both body and soul. One without the other is not enough.

The spies did not understand that spirituality must accompany the physical, and Korach's sin was that he did not understand that "a mitzva without the proper intention is like a body without a soul." The proper spiritual connection to G-d is an integral part of our performance of mitzvot.

Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

A Slice of Life

You and I Will Dance
By Yehudis Engel

Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Biston and his wife Bayla Rachel have been emissaries of the Rebbe in North Broward, Florida for over two decades. Four years ago, their eldest daughter Estie became engaged to Rabbi Mendy Gutnick. The wedding was to take place in Florida and the many people with whom they had connected with over their years of devotion to the Jewish community, as well as family and friends, looked forward to attending the wedding.

On the day of the wedding, while standing under his daughter's chupa, Rabbi Biston noticed an old friend of his amongst the guests. This was none other than Mr. H. from Flatbush, a neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York.

Rabbi Biston was delighted yet surprised to see Mr. H. at the wedding as he had not responded that he was coming and he therefore did not expect him. He had met Mr. H. more than thirty years ago, when they both attended Camp Gan Israel over night camp in Swan Lake, New York. Mr. H. was several years older than Rabbi Biston and came from a different country. Despite these differences, they become friends, a friendship that grew stronger when Mr. H. studied in the Central Lubavitcher Yeshiva at 770 Eastern Parkway. Though separated over the years by distance, the two kept in touch and would "catch up" whenever they would see each other.

After the chupa, Mr. H. came over to wish Rabbi Biston "mazal tov" and said, "I will tell you later why I am attending this wedding."

A little while later Rabbi Biston found Mr. H. again and Mr. H. proceeded to tell his old friend this most amazing story:

"Before I tell you the dream that I had, I must tell you something that happened over 23 years ago. Your father and I were friendly. I knew that you had been married for several years and still did not have any children. I decided to go to the Rebbe and ask him for a blessing for you and your wife. As I knew what time the Rebbe would leave '770' to go home, I planned to go up to the Rebbe as he was walking to his car. Sure enough, when the Rebbe came out of 770, I approached him and asked him for a blessing for children for Yosef Yitzchok ben Zvetel Gitel and his wife Bayla Rochel bas Devorah. When the Rebbe heard me, he immediately said 'Devorah Leah,' to correct me, and then added, 'I already gave them a blessing.'

'But that was not good enough for me. I told the Rebbe, 'I want a guarantee.' To this the Rebbe said, 'You and I will dance at the wedding.'

"I asked the Rebbe, 'The Rebbe will dance? But the Rebbe doesn't go to weddings.'

"The Rebbe looked at me and said, 'Don't worry, we will both dance at their children's wedding.'

"I asked the Rebbe, 'Who is "we," me and the Rebbe?' The Rebbe repeated this sentence two more times. And that was the end of the conversation.

"After Gimmel Tammuz came I couldn't understand what the Rebbe had meant, just how was he going to keep his promise. But after I tell you the dreams that I had you will understand."

Mr. H. then continued his story. "On this past Friday night, just a few days before you daughter's wedding, I had a dream. The Rebbe and your father Yiddel (of blessed memory) came to me. The Rebbe asked me, 'Why aren't you going to the wedding?' At first I didn't respond so the Rebbe asked me again, 'Why aren't you going to the wedding? We made a deal that we would dance at the wedding.' I didn't respond and I woke up. I did not pay attention to the dream.

"The following night, Saturday night, the Rebbe came to me in a dream again, this time without your father. Once again the Rebbe asked me, 'Why aren't you going to the wedding?' I responded that I have no money with which to go. To this the Rebbe said, 'A chasid never has a problem with money.'

"I told the Rebbe, 'But I am not a chasid.' The Rebbe answered, 'Du bist - you are." And with that the dream ended. I did not pay any attention to this dream as well.

"The next night, Sunday night, I had yet a third dream. The Rebbe came to me and asked, 'Nu, why aren't you going to the wedding?' I responded, 'It's too difficult financially.' The Rebbe answered, 'Du vest haben di gelt - you will have the money.' With that I awoke.

"That day, Monday morning, I went to work and met a friend along the way. He said to me, 'You look worried.' I told him that I hadn't slept in a few nights. My friend said to me, 'I want to give you $400 to go to Florida and take a vacation.' I responded that I didn't have the time to go to Florida for a vacation. But my friend insisted, 'You can even take a vacation for one day.'

"That afternoon when I came home, my wife suggested that I call the Bistons to wish them 'mazal tov.' After all, their daughter was getting married in two days. I then said to my wife, 'Maybe I should go to the wedding instead of just calling them.' I called my friend and asked him if his offer still stood. 'Of course,' he said. I called the airlines and booked a ticket, then booked a hotel in Florida for the night. The total price was $300. I called my friend back and told him I would only need $300. His response was, 'How could you go to a wedding and not bring a gift? Give the extra hundred dollars to the bride and groom.'

"And here I am," concluded Mr. H.

Rabbi Biston was totally overwhelmed by this story. The Rebbe truly keeps his word, he told himself and everyone else to whom he later told the story. Of course, during the dancing, Rabbi Biston made sure to dance with Mr. H. at different times. He truly felt that he was dancing with his father a'h and the Rebbe.

Later, Mr. H. reminded Rabbi Biston that about eight years earlier, he had married off a son. Rabbi Biston happened to be in New York at the time and his father wanted him to accompany him to the wedding. Rabbi Biston told his father that he hadn't responded that he was coming and there might not be enough space as they hadn't planned for him. His father asked him again to go along and keep him company and out of respect for his father he agreed. At the wedding, Mr. H. came over to them and said to his father, "I am so glad Yossi came. He is a shaliach (emissary) of the Rebbe and I am very honored." His father then told Mr. H. "G-d willing you'll dance at Yossi's children's wedding." And so it was!

Reprinted with permission from Miracles in Our Times

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The Rebbe Writes

The following freely translated letters were written by the Rebbe in the months after the passing of his father-in-law, the Previous Rebbe, before the Rebbe's official acceptance of leadership
18 Shvat, 5710 [1950]

...My late revered father-in-law, the [Previous] Rebbe, in one of his letters after the passing of his father [the Rebbe Rashab], writes as follows concerning tzadikim [the righteous], who protect the world: Even after their passing, "not only are they not separated from the flock whose shepherd they have been, but they lovingly present themselves before the footstool of the heavenly throne and take up their place before the splendor of the exalted and sublime G-d, in order to protect the people of Yeshurun [Israel]."

All this is also true of my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe, of blessed memory.

We, however, for our part, should hold on and strengthen our bond with him ever more intensely - by studying his discourses, talks and letters, and by thinking deeply upon the directives to be found in them, as well as upon the directives given to various individuals. And then, we will proceed "in a straight path, in one of his paths that he has shown us, and we will walk in his ways forevermore."

Rosh Chodesh Adar, 5710 [1950]

...In the well-known Epistle 27 in Iggeres HaKodesh [written by the Alter Rebbe, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, to the disciples of Rebbe Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk after Rebbe Menachem Mendel's passing], written to offer redoubled consolation to "the smitten, who are sighing and groaning," the Alter Rebbe writes that a tzadik "leaves over life... to every living being, that is, to the soul of every living being who is bound to his soul..., in each and every individual, corresponding to the degree of his genuine bond with the tzadik and his true and pure love of him."

It is explained in Inyan HaHishtat'chus that "even as to those who did not know or recognize the tzadik during his actual lifetime but only studied the holy books that he left over as a blessing, and who bask in the radiance of his Torah teachings and are thereby invigorated in their service of G-d... it is certain that they too are called his disciples... for they believe in that tzadik and from him they receive the light of his Torah teachings;... the branches are drawn back to their roots."

So, too, my late revered father-in-law the Rebbe explained in a letter that a Chasid "is able to satisfy his strong desire for a bond with his Rebbe only by studying the discourses of Chasidus which the Rebbe delivers or writes; merely beholding his face is not enough."

Another letter states explicitly: "You ask, what does your bond with me consist of, since I do not know you by face.... True hiskashrus [connectedness] is attained by the study of the Torah. If you study my Chasidic disourses, read the edited talks, associate with my friends, the members of the Chasidic brotherhood and the yeshiva students in their studies and in their gatherings, and fulfill my request concerning the daily recital of Psalms and the observance of fixed times for Torah study - in this lies hiskashrus."

When we will study the Torah teachings and the talks of the Rebbe, and will walk in this "straight path which he has shown us," then " 'as in water, face answers to face; so is the heart of man to man', and 'spirit rouses spirit and brings forth spirit.' For his spirit remains truly in our midst...; that is, even in this world of action - of which it is written, 'This day: to do them' - the departed tzadik is found more than in his lifetime." And just as here he stood and dutifully served, there too he stands and dutifully serves....

Reprinted from Proceeding Together, translated by Rabbi Uri Kaploun, published by Sichos In English

Rambam this week

30 Sivan, 5764 - June 19, 2004

Positive Mitzva 109: Immersing in a Mikva

This mitzva is based on the verse (Lev. 15:16) "He shall bathe all his body in water"

Just as the Torah defines the different types of impurity, it also outlines the process for purification. The Torah describes the purification process, commanding the impure person to immerse himself in a mikva. A mikva is a special pool of water of a specific size. Its water must come from a natural source, rain or a spring. In the beginning of the universe, the entire creation emerged from water. After an impure person dips in the mikva, he rises up as a new creation; purified and prepared to serve G-d.

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

Four weeks after the passing of the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe (10 Shvat, 1950), the Rebbe said, "Just as until now we were all certain that the Rebbe will lead us to greet Moshiach, so too, now we must be certain.

"The event which took place was only from our physical view point - nothing more than a test of faith."

For over a decade, Lubavitcher Chasidim around the world have had the privilege of publicizing the Rebbe's definitive statement that "The time of our Redemption has arrived," and "Moshiach is on his way."

The message remains unchanged. For, the Rebbe described his words about the coming of Moshiach as a prophecy and urged everyone to share this message as much as possible.

The Rebbe's instructions are clear. It is up to us to respond.

We urge everyone to heed the Rebbe's words: to study about Moshiach and the Redemption; to share the news about the imminent Redemption with others; to start living now in a manner befitting the Messianic Era; to do more acts of goodness and kindness with the certainty that the Redemption is only moments away.

May this pursuit of goodness and kindness help usher in the great Revelation of Moshiach and a new world without strife, prejudice and hatred; a world of peace, justice, tranquillity and brotherhood between man and man, and between nation and nation.

Thoughts that Count

Moses was very angry (Num. 16:16)

According to Rashi, Moses' anger at being insulted by Datan and Aviram was more sadness than anything else. Chasidim tell the story of how Rabbi Menachem Mendel, the third Chabad Rebbe, was extremely careful not to become angry. One time, however, something happened that almost provoked him to that point. The Rebbe immediately cried out, "Bring me the Shulchan Aruch [Code of Jewish Law]." Then he explained, "Our Sages of the Talmud said that if one becomes angry, it is as if he were worshipping idols. Here I am, about to do something so grave, G-d forbid, something that even smacks of idolatry. Therefore, before I proceed to get angry, let me check with the Rabbinical scholars and see if it is permissible." Needless to say, after an extensive search through the law, he was no longer angry.

And Moses sent to call Datan and Aviram (Num. 16:12)

Rashi explains that from the fact that Moses sent for the rebels, we learn that we should not cling obstinately to controversy. Moses went running after them to appease them with words of peace. Even though Datan and Aviram instigated the controversy, Moses still pursued them. He sent for them, hoping that he would be able to influence them in an effort to end the dispute. One must always attempt repeatedly to bring about peace, even after the dissenting parties have made their claims.

(Ktav Sofer)

And all their belongings (Num. 16:32)

Korach was very wealthy, as it says in the Talmud, "Three great treasures were hidden by Joseph in Egypt. One was discovered by Korach, one was revealed to Antoninus, and one is hidden away for the righteous in the World to Come." There are three types of rich men. One is like Korach, who sought honor and power through his wealth. The second is like the Roman emperor Antoninus, who saw his wealth as a means of enjoying all the pleasures of the world. The third are the righteous, whose riches actually help them on their path of good deeds, enabling them to give charity generously and help others.

(Imrei Shefer)

Why do you lift yourselves up? (Num. 16:3)

One of the most interesting things about those who argue and foster dissent and controversy with the righteous is that they attack and accuse them of the exact opposite of the truth. Korach could only accuse Moses, whom the Torah describes as "the most humble man on the face of the earth," of holding himself higher than the rest of the Jews!

(The Kotzker Rebbe)

It Once Happened

By Eliyahu Raitport

The wedding of my uncle, Rabbi Chaim Raitport, to Milka Sudakevitch was scheduled to take place in Kfar Chabad, Israel in the winter of 1991, on the 23rd of Shevat, 5751. A few weeks before the wedding, the war between America and Iraq broke out, a war that was later known as Operation Desert Storm. Everyone was concerned: Should the entire family go the wedding in Israel or not?

My grandfather, Rav Yitzchok Raitport, my father and my uncle Chaim all went to the Rebbe before the wedding. It was Sunday, the 9th of Shevat, when they waited in line to receive a dollar from the Rebbe (later to be exchanged and distributed to charity) and to ask the Rebbe for his blessing. When it was my grandfather's turn, one of the Rebbe's secretaries, Rabbi Leibl Groner, informed the Rebbe that they would be celebrating a wedding in two weeks in Israel. The Rebbe asked my grandfather if everyone in the family was going. My grandfather replied that he did not know what to do considering the situation in Israel: should they postpone the wedding, move the wedding to America, or minimize the number of people going to the wedding, i.e., just my grandfather, the groom and my father.

The Rebbe looked at my grandfather and said, "You are a Rav [one who decides Jewish law] who can pasken dinim [rule in matters of Jewish law]! If you will not go, then you are ruling that the Land of Israel is a dangerous place. And if you will travel, it means that you are ruling that the Land of Israel is not in danger. You should travel, men, women and children, and I say to you that all will be good and nothing bad will happen. Everybody from the surrounding villages should come to the wedding and the wedding should be made publicly and with much simcha [joy] as nothing will go wrong and the wedding will take place in a good and auspicious hour."

With the Rebbe's blessing, my uncle, father and the entire family went to Israel. The Rebbe's blessing became public in Israel and was even broadcast on the radio, giving the Jewish people in our Holy Land much needed strength and assurance in those frightening times of sealed rooms, gas masks and threatened chemical warfare.

Although they had been urged to start the wedding earlier and cut the festivities short so that people could return home before dark, the wedding took place as scheduled. The chupa, which had been called for 7:00 p.m., ran a little late and actually took place at 7:14 p.m. in front of the main synagogue in Kfar Chabad. The celebrations and dancing lasted until 11:30. The wedding hall was filled to overflowing.

My father was curious about who many of the guests were, as neither our side of the family nor the bride's side recognized them. When my father asked a number of people what brought them to the wedding, they explained that the Rebbe's blessing was broadcast on the radio encouraging people from surrounding villages to come, so they came!

After the wedding was over, my father and some other family members were waiting outside to go back to their hotel in Jerusalem when the local guard pulled up. With him was a soldier who had just come off duty from the Patriot Anti-Missile Battery right near Kfar Chabad. The soldier asked them what time the chupa had taken place. When they told him 7:14 p.m. he said, "The Rebbe is watching over you." He explained that earlier that evening three American F16s were flying a night mission over Western Iraq when they saw three mobile SCUD missile launchers preparing to fire into Israel. The planes took out the SCUD missile launchers with bombs. According to the army logs the time the bombs were dropped was 7:14 p.m.

Reprinted from Rebbe and Chossid Vol. 3, published by the students of the United Lubavitcher Yeshiva of Brooklyn.

Rabbi Chaim and Mrs. Milka Raitport are now emissaries of the Rebbe in Caracas, Venezuela.

Moshiach Matters

Just as the first Redeemer [Moses] was revealed and then concealed from them [the Jewish people], similarly, also the final Redeemer will be revealed to them [the Jewish people] and then concealed.

(Bamidbar Rabba 11:2)

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