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827: Pinchas

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Devarim Deutronomy

July 9, 2004 - 20 Tamuz, 5764

827: Pinchas

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Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.

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  826: Balak828: Matos-Masei  

What's in a Name?  |  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's in a Name?

Names can be funny things. There's our full name, first and middle (if we have one) and last name as well. There's our Jewish name given at the brit mila (circumcision) for a boy and at the Torah reading for a girl. Avraham, Moshe, Yaakov, Yisrael. Rachel, Leah, Sara, Miriam, Esther. What's your name?

As soon as we get our names, our parents are asked, Who's he or she named after? A grandparent, an uncle, aunt, distant cousin. a tzadik (righteous person).

Our Sages tell us that parents, when naming a child, have prophetic insight. For the name - the Jewish name - indicates the essence, the true spiritual nature of the person. And if, for whatever reason, one doesn't have (or can't remember) his or her Jewish name, then that same spirit of prophesy resides in us when we choose a name for ourselves.

But sometimes something happens with our names. They get shortened. They get changed. They get left out and we're called something else altogether. That is, we get a nickname.

What's wrong with our real name? What impulse moves a parent, a sibling, a friend to call us something other than who we are? Nicknames - not teasing, derogatory labels, but real nicknames - often have an element of affectionate humor - or humorous affection. (By the way, the word "nickname" itself derives from an old English term and means "also name.") Something we've done or some conspicuous characteristic we have prompts someone to give us a nickname - an "also name."

And it sticks because, in a way, it defines or exemplifies not just something about us, but also something about our relationship with those privileged to use it.

Make no mistake, being allowed to use a nickname is a privilege. Watch what happens when a non-family member, a non-friend, or anyone who doesn't have permission uses our nickname. Even if we don't get upset at the disrespectful - yes, disrespectful - familiarity, our friends and family, who have exclusive rights, will be. And it doesn't matter if the nickname is obvious, unusual, or just a shortened form of our real name.

Which brings us to the nickname, so to speak, the "also name" of the Jewish people - "Israel." It applies to all of us, because we're all members of the family.

The previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, upon his release from imprisonment by Soviet Communists, wrote that on the day of his release G-d redeemed not only him, but also all the lovers of our holy Torah, all observers of mitzvot, and "also those called by the name [nicknamed] Israel."

In other words, regardless of accomplishments, regardless of Torah learning or mitzva observance, being a Jew, being "also named" Israel means one has an innate wholeheartedness with G-d and His Torah.

Since the Previous Rebbe, the leader of Israel, was freed and redeemed on that day, all those nicknamed Israel were also freed and redeemed. (Also, in addition to meaning "as well," also means "in the same manner." Our redemption was "in the same manner" as his.)

On the anniversary of Yud-Beit Tamuz (which was July 1 this year) the energy of this redemption is reinvested in the world; the potential to exit from our internal limitations and external constraints is actualized. We become unrestrictedly also-named, characteristically designated, Israel.

And when that nickname, that intimate appellation, describes our thought, speech and action, then we will have actualized Redemption for Israel, individually and collectively, and for all mankind.

Living with the Rebbe

In this week's Torah portion, Pinchas, an incident with the five daughters of Tzelafchad is related. Tzelafchad, an Israelite who died in the desert, had no sons. Only sons were entitled to an inheritance; therefore, the daughters of Tzelafchad were not permitted a portion in the Holy Land.

The daughters of Tzelafchad, who were all known to be righteous women, objected to the thought that their family would not have a part in the Land of Israel. They went before Moses, who presented the case to G-d. G-d said to Moses, "The daughters of Tzelafchad speak properly. You shall surely give them a possession of an inheritance among their father's brethren" (Num. 27:7).

The above-mentioned episode is just one example in the Torah of the relationship of the Jewish women to the Land of Israel.

When the spies returned from the land of Canaan with reports of fortified cities, armies, and giants, the men decided to turn back to Egypt. But the women remained steadfast in their desire to enter the Land. Consequently, only the men of military age were punished; they were to die in the desert. The women, however, entered the Land.

Tzelafchad's daughters were descendants of the tribe of Menashe, who had asked Moses for permission to settle on the eastern side of the Jordan. They could easily have obtained land on that side, since the land there was distributed through Moses personally. But, they were not content with such a portion. They loved the Holy Land and wanted a share in it.

The task they had set for themselves was not easy. The established judicial system was comprised of judges over 50, 100, 1,000, etc. The daughters had to approach various judges, each one referring the matter to higher authorities until it was finally brought to Moses, himself.

Tzelafchad's daughters were willing to try to overcome such a seemingly impossible and tiring obstacle to receive their portion.

This incident can serve as a lesson to us in our daily lives, too. G-d demands that we conduct our lives according to certain guidelines. Yet at the same time, He created and organized the universe in such a way that it seems to preclude proper fulfillment of our obligations of Torah study and performance of mitzvot.

But, with the right approach, we too, can merit a portion in our rightful inheritance. We must be willing to try to overcome the seemingly "impossible" obstacles, just as Tzelafchad's daughters did. If we undertake it with the same attitude of love as Tzelafchad's daughters, then certainly we will achieve our goal.

Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

A Slice of Life

Roots in Siberia
by Ellen Harris

Rabbi Shneur Zalmen Zaklos, 29, chuckles that his job in Novosibirsk, Siberia, is the result of a direct message from G-d. About five years ago, the Lubavitch Rabbi, then residing in Israel, decided that he'd like a posting in the former Soviet Union. He wanted to help Jews get in touch with their faith after decades of religious suppression.

Zalmen got a call from Beryl Lazar, Chief Rabbi of Russia, telling him there was an opening in the Siberian capital.

"Siberia? Why would anyone want to go to Siberia?" the Israeli-born Zalmen asked Lazar, envisioning a frozen wasteland dotted with ice huts.

A two-week visit to Novosibirsk reinforced his decision. Although Zalmen and his wife, Miriam, met a handful of Jews who lived in the city, "There's no real synagogue, no congregation, no Jewish community," they told each other. "It's not for us."

The day before the pair was scheduled to return to Israel, Zalmen went to the city's tiny shul to return a prayer book. The Rabbi was horrified when he opened the door. Vandals had destroyed it, trashing the furniture, spraying Nazi graffiti on the walls, tearing up the Torah scrolls and littering the floor with ripped holy books and tallitot (prayer shawls.)

Furious, Zalmen called Lazar in Moscow for advice. "I'm calling the media," the Chief Rabbi replied. "We have to call attention to it. It shouldn't happen again." Television and radio crews swiftly arrived at the scene, and asked Zalmen if he was the Rabbi of Novosibirsk.

"I said, 'Yes.' What choice did I have?" relates Zalmen. That evening, the Rabbi's face and his new title were splashed on TV screens across the former Soviet Union. "I guess we're staying," he told his wife.

Less than five years after moving to Novosibirsk, the Rabbi has built up a whole Jewish community here. Starting from the handful of Jews who asked him to come to the city, he has attracted some 2,000 families who had been told they were Jewish, but never understood what it meant. Zalmen estimates there are probably 25,000 Jews in the area.

All through the former Soviet Union, some 200 Chabad rabbis have fanned out to cities across Russia, Armenia, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan and 11 other republics. These rabbis have uprooted their own families to rekindle interest in Judaism among others. Over 2 million Jews still live in the FSU, claim Chabad officials, and they are determined to reach these Jews before assimilation and indifference decimate their numbers. Often, the centers the rabbis establish are the only Jewish institutions in town.

I visit the Jewish Day School, the pride and joy of the Rabbi and Miriam, who oversee its Jewish curriculum. The school is representative of the way in which many Chabad rabbis work when Jewish residents invite them to town. Knowing the first priority is to reach out to other Jews, the new rabbi starts Jewish schools, reasoning that parents who might not want Jewish education themselves would wish it for their children. Gradually, he hopes to draw the parents' interest to Jewish thought and traditions.

The Zakloses opened a fully accredited school for students in grades K-11 about a year after they moved to Siberia.

"People thought we were crazy," Zalmen says. "They told us we'd get one, maybe two students." Instead, the school opened with 126 students. Tuition is free, thanks to funding from the Ohr Avner Fund and its Israeli philanthropist Lev Leviev.

In addition to high quality education, students get free meals, transportation and medical care. Nearly half the students come from single parent, impoverished homes, and many suffer from chronic illness, so the support services are critical.

On Sept. 1, 2000, a brand new secondary school opened on land donated by the city, along with new facilities for the grammar school. The joyous occasion was marred by a bomb threat. After the chief of the bomb squad checked out the building , he told the rabbi, "This is a beautiful school. I never told this to anyone else, but my wife and I are both Jewish, and we want to enroll our kids here."

In addition to his rabbinic duties, Zalmen supervises the operation of the synagogue, the schools, a summer camp, medical services, food distribution to the needy, community-wide celebrations of Jewish holidays that draw up to 1,000, a soup kitchen, and an emergency fund. He must also raise significant funds from the local community to support these activities.

His next big project is shepherding the new $2.5 million synagogue through the building process.

Despite their pride in what they have accomplished, the Zakloses admit they are still overcoming the challenges of living in Siberia. Neither knew a word of Russian when they arrived, and they are still learning the language.

The couple has little trouble keeping kosher because Zalmen is a shochet (ritual slaughter) who can kill his own chickens, and fish and produce are abundant in Siberia. Still, Miriam longs for a kosher bakery where she can buy cakes and bread.

When Miriam needs to use a mikva (ritual bath), she must make the four-hour flight to Moscow and back. When Novosibirsk's new synagogue is completed, however, it will contain a mikva.

Currently, the couple lives on the tenth floor of a shabby apartment building, a tough hike on Shabbat! Their three daughters share a cramped bedroom. In three months, the family will move to a spacious new apartment overlooking the new synagogue.

Even though their life will become more comfortable, Miriam and Zalman still "long for Israel. Our family, our roots, are there," says Miriam.

"We have given up a lot to be in Novosibirsk," the couple declare, but here is no question they will remain in Siberia.

"Here, I am the rabbi of the whole community. All Jews are like brothers. We come and help them connect with their religion wherever we are needed, even if they live in Siberia," says Zalmen.

Reprinted with permission from the Cleveland Jewish News

What's New

New Emissaries

Two new Chabad Centers are opening in Southwest Florida. Rabbi Mendy and Luba Greenberg will establish Chabad of Bonita Springs to serve the Jewish communities of Bonita Springs and Estero. Rabbi Yossi and Rivki Labkowsky are moving to Cape Coral to establish a Chabad Center there. On the other side of the United States, Rabbi Eli and Tzippy Rivkin have opened Chabad of Northridge, California. In addition to working with the Jewish community at large, they will also be concentrating their efforts at the State University of Northridge campus. In Israel, Rabbi Eli and Chani Segal have established a Chabad Center north of Rishon Lezion in the Neurim and Ganei Esther neighborhoods.

The Rebbe Writes

20th of Tammuz, 5724 [1964]

Greeting and Blessing:

I received your letter of June 26th and 22nd, as well as your previous letters.

I was pleased to read that you were present at the celebration of Yud-Beis Tammuz [the anniversary of the release from Communist imprisonment of the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe] in London, where you were also the guest speaker. I trust that you will agree with me, and this is quite obvious to me, that your presence in London does not relieve you from being present at a Yud-Beis Tammuz celebration in Manchester. And although, of course, you cannot be in two places at the same time, there are two days, i.e., 48 hours, in which to celebrate the auspicious days of 12th-13th of Tammuz.

Surely, when G-d grants the opportunity to transform an ordinary weekday into a Yom-Tovdic [festive] day and a day of Segulo [fortune], one should take advantage of it, particularly a public figure, especially a prominent one, like yourself, whose first loyalty must be to his own community where he is a leader and pacesetter.

You do not mention anything about the outcome of the negotiations with the Director of the bank. I trust that thus matter has even-tually been resolved in a satisfactory manner....

I am also pleased about another thing, namely that you saw at once that the geruss [regards] which I asked to convey to Dayan W.- was well worth the trouble of conveying it to him; although at the time I noticed that you were not particularly enthusiastic about it.

Needless to say, not being a prophet, I had not foreseen that there would be an immediate reward, but I mention this to emphasize that when one does something good which is connected with Ahavas Yisroel [love of a fellow Jew], the reward is very often instantaneous.

With a blessing for happy tidings in regard to all the above, and with joy and gladness of heart,

3rd of Menachem Av 5726 [1966]

Sholom uBrocho:

I am in receipt of your letter [of] July 14th and the preceding two, May G-d grant that, although you have written in a mood which echoes the Three Weeks, there should soon be a reversal of these days to joy and gladness, and likewise in your personal affairs, and that you should be able to report good and happy tidings.

All the more so, since, as I hope, you have taken with you from 12-13 Tammuz a goodly measure of additional inspiration for Torah and mitzvoth, together with which goes a goodly measure of additional Divine blessings in all matters, including business - private and communal - to carry on a serene and happy frame of mind.

With blessing,

P.S. I was greatly "surprised" to read what your bank manager has said. I can only reiterate what I have already told you, that you ought to transfer your custom to another bank, either completely or to a substantial degree at any rate. To use a common expression, the manager has certainly "fixed you up" nicely, to have you shell out thousands of pounds in interest and now putting the squeeze on you. No doubt there was nothing "irregular" about the interest rates, but there are two ways of evaluating the function of a bank: a narrow one, looking at a bank as if it were only concerned with collecting interest from customers; or, taking a broader view, considering this wider responsibilities for the general economy and for its customers, and using its fullest resources to help its customers go from strength to strength in developing their potentials, which, in the final analysis, is also for the benefit of the bank itself. It is clear to me that your bank manager's outlook is limited to the "next 24 hours", which is more in keeping with the viewpoint of a tax collector than with that of bank manager in the best tradition. I was suspicious of this from the first day of your difficulty to pay the loans on time, for which I did not blame you but your bank, a conviction which grew stronger as time went on. And now that he holds it against you that you have opened the shops, there is not a shadow of a doubt left in my mind that your bank manager may be a good interest collector, but lacks real business acumen. In my opinion the shops are not merely a good investment, but a very important one....

As for your own situation, surely G-d has many ways of rendering help, especially to one who has considerable merits in strengthening Yiddishkeit [Judaism] in general and spreading Chasidus in particular, as you will be remembered at the holy resting place of my father-in-law of saintly memory, whose whole life was dedicated to this end.

Rambam this week

22 Tamuz, 5764 - July 11, 2004

Prohibition 293: It is forbidden to spare the life of a pursuer (potential murderer)

This mitzva is based on the verse (Deut 25:12) "Then you shall cut off her hand; do not show pity." The Torah cautions us not to have pity on a person trying to take someone else's life. We may cause him physical injury or kill him if that is the only way to stop him.

Prohibition 297: It is forbidden to refrain from saving a Jew whose life is in danger

This mitzva is based on the verse (Lev. 19:16) "Neither shall you stand idly by the blood of your neighbor." We are not allowed to refrain from saving someone's life. This prohibition also obligates us not to avoid serving as a witness if we know something that can effect the outcome of the trial.

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

We are now in the Three Weeks which commence with the 17th of Tammuz - the day on which the wall surrounding the Temple was destroyed. It is the time when we begin a special period of intensified mourning for the the Holy Temple.

It is, however, not only a time to mourn the Holy Temple, but also to reflect even more deeply on its rebuilding. It is for this reason that the Rebbe has stressed, at this time of the year, learning about the special laws which relate to the Beit HaBechira - G-d's Chosen House.

Concerning the destruction of Jerusalem it says, "Everyone who mourns for the destruction of Jerusalem will be privileged to see its rebuilding." We are not discussing here the obligation of the community at large, but rather the obligation of each and every individual. Each one of us has to mourn Jerusalem. And, although we have been promised that the Holy Temple will be rebuilt, we are obligated to help rebuild it.

The completion of this task requires not only the participation of the community in general, but the participation of each individual in particular.

The Rebbe has said that in order to aid in the rebuilding of Jerusalem and bring Moshiach closer, every individual must increase in Torah study, prayer and charity. An increase in charity is especially appropriate at this time since we are told that charity brings the final redemption closer, and "Zion will be redeemed through... tzedaka - charity."

May each and every one of us draw on that inner strength bestowed upon every Jew which will enable us to increase in all of the above-mentioned matters, bringing about the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the complete and Final Redemption through Moshiach NOW!

Thoughts that Count

To Ozni the family of Ozni (Num. 26:16)

Rashi explains that this is the same family which is referred to as Etzbon in an earlier portion. There is a connection between the two names by which this family is called. Ozni is similar to the word "ozen," meaning ear, and Etzbon resembles "etzba," or finger. Our Rabbis explain that the fingers are long and slender so that they can be used to close the ears the moment we realize that something improper is being said.

(Shnei Luchot Habrit)

Our father died in the desert and he was not... in the congregation of Korach. Rather, he died for his own sin. And Moses brought their judgment before G-d (Num. 27:3-4)

Moses did not wish to judge the case of the daughters of Tzelafchad. The daughters, in proclaiming that their father was not in the congregation of Korach implied that he had not joined the rebellion against Moses himself. Moses considered this possible "verbal bribery" and disqualified himself from deciding the issue.

(Minchat Chinuch)

May the L-rd of the spirit of all flesh appoint someone over the congregation (Num. 27:16).

To paraphrase: When Moses' time to leave this world came, he said to G-d, "Just as You are the G-d of the spirit of all flesh, righteous or wicked, find Your people a leader who is concerned with every Jew and loves them all equally.

(Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev)

My shall observe to offer to me in its time (Num. 28:2).

The Hebrew word used here for "observe" is often used to imply hopeful anticipation of a future happening. Though we do not have the opportunity to observe the laws of sacrifices while in exile, our constant anticipation and hope for the rebuilding of the Temple gives us a portion in the sacrifices which were previously offered there.

(Sefat Emet)

It Once Happened

Many years ago in the Land of Israel there lived a well-known scholar whose name was Rabbi Broka. Early one morning he left his town to travel to the marketplace in the city of Beit Lept. The market offered a panorama of sights, every kind of merchandise was offered for sale, and Jews and non-Jews alike scurried to and fro hurriedly carrying on business.

Rabbi Broka was fascinated by the scene and the passersby. He reflected on the differences in styles of dress between the Jews and non-Jews. One obvious difference was that all the Jewish men wore four-cornered garments with tzizit (fringes) hanging from each corner. Also, at that time it was customary for the Jews to wear colored, rather than black shoes. In this fashion, Rabbi Broka passed the time studying the characteristics of various passersby.

The external differences were easy enough to discern, but a more profound question filled the Rabbi's thoughts that day. Which of these Jews would have a special place in the World to Come, he wondered. As this question occupied his mind, who happened to be passing through the market, but Elijah the Prophet. He took the opportunity of asking him the question that was troubling him: "Of all the Jews here today, who will deserve a special place in the World to Come?"

Elijah stopped and looked around. Then he pointed to one man, saying: "You see that man standing over there? He is a tzadik who will merit a great reward in the next world." Rabbi Broka was extremely surprised at the prophet's words, for this particular man didn't even seem to be a Jew. He was wearing black shoes and a four-cornered garment devoid of fringes. The Rabbi lost no time in approaching the man in order to ask him some questions, but to his further surprise, he was completely ignored. Unaccustomed as he was to such rudeness, still, he was burning with curiosity to discover what was the hidden greatness of the man, so he went up to him again and asked, "Tell me, please, who are you, and what do you do for a living?" The man replied, "I have no time now, come back tomorrow." And with that he disappeared into the crowd.

Rabbi Broka waited until the next morning and then went again to the market to find the man. This time, the man accompanied him to a quiet side street. Rabbi Broka again asked: "Tell me, please, who are you, and what do you do?"

"I am a Jew, and I work as a guard at the state prison. In this prison there are some Jewish prisoners, both men and women, and I make sure that they are housed separately so that modesty is maintained. And, since the guards speak freely amongst themselves, I hear when the gentile guards plan to harm Jewish women prisoners, and I do whatever I must in order to rescue them. I have even had to risk my life several times." All of this was related very matter-of-factly, with no sense of pride.

Rabbi Broka was greatly impressed by what he heard, but he still was curious. "What you do is certainly praiseworthy, but I must ask you, since you are a Jew, why do you wear black shoes, something which is contrary to the custom of your people? And why do you wear clothing without tzitzit?"

The man's expression changed, and he uttered a deep sigh. "Since my mission, as I understand it, is to aid my fellow Jews who have had the misfortune of being imprisoned, I take great pains to conceal my identity from the other guards. You see, they regard me as one of them, and so, they speak openly before me. Under these conditions, I hear about any plots which are being hatched against the Jewish inmates, and I am able to foil them. As soon as I hear about any evil plan, I quickly run to the Sages and inform them so that they can beg G-d to have pity on the Jews and cancel the evil plot. That is why I couldn't speak to you yesterday in the marketplace. I can't afford to be seen speaking in public to such a well-known person as yourself; also, at that moment, I was rushing off to the Rabbis to tell them of a terrible plot I had just discovered, and I had no time to stop."

The man took his leave, and Rabbi Broka was left in great awe at the deeds of this unknown Jew. Imagine, this simple Jew whose days are devoted to the great mitzva of saving the lives of his fellow Jews, even at the risk of his own life! As Rabbi Broka continued thinking in this vein, Elijah appeared a second time. The Rabbi thanked him for opening his eyes to the hidden merits of the guard, and asked if there were any more such worthy Jews among the shoppers that day. Elijah showed him two pleasant-looking older men who were approaching. Just as before, Rabbi Broka stopped them and inquired about their identities and professions. The men smiled and replied, "We are just simple people, and don't do anything special. Only, if we happen to see a person who is sad, we stop and chat and joke with him until we leave him in a happy mood. That way, he will be more inclined to do good deeds and will be more willing to learn G-d's Torah. And if we happen to see two Jews arguing, we approach them and change the subject. We talk to them about all sorts of pleasant things until they are not in the mood to argue anymore, and they make shalom."

When these two men left Rabbi Broka thought about all he had seen and learned that day. He would never again presume to judge another Jew, for all outward appearances are deceptive, and the heart is known only to G-d.

Moshiach Matters

G-d told the prophet Ezekiel that through studying the laws of the structure of the Holy Temple it is considered as if we have been involved in its actual construction. As we are so close to the Redemption, the subject must be approached as a present reality; at any moment the Third Holy Temple which is already built in the heavens will descend and be revealed on earth.

(The Lubavitcher Rebbe, 17 Tamuz, 5751/1991)

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