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"Blessed is He Who spoke and the world came into being." (From the morning prayers)
Quoting accurately has a long tradition. Research of any kind requires that we list our sources. Long before the printing press - or the internet - a source could only be identified orally: I heard it from so-and-so. Or, in the wording of the Talmud, "Rabbi X said in the name of Rabbi Y."
Even after the printing press was invented, people recognized the importance of accurately representing what a person said. Laws against libel and slander exist to protect people's reputation, to protect them from false reports of their actions - and their words.
In schools and among scholars, the worst crime is plagiarism - misrepresenting one's work, taking someone else's words and presenting them as one's own. Whether a source is deliberately misquoted or deliberately left out, students fail - or are expelled - for plagiarizing and scholars lose their reputations - and jobs. Even inadvertent plagiarism has severe repercussions.
Of course, plagiarism is a form of theft. The Midrash states: "Rabbi Hizkiyah said that Rabbi Yirmiya bar Aba said in the name of Rabbi Yochanan, 'Anyone who says something without citing its author, the following verse applies: 'don't steal from the poor because he is poor' (Proverbs 22:22). When a person hears something, he must say it in the name of its author." And the Magen Avraham codifies the principle, declaring in effect that any one who does not properly quote his source violates a prohibition.
In fact, according to one mystical source, plagiarism - not quoting an author so that his work appears to be yours - is worse than stealing money. Plagiarism is theft of the mind (at least one form of it) and that is worse than theft of property.
Why plagiarism is so deplorable can be discerned by its opposite. Ethics of the Fathers (6:6) lists the 48 qualities necessary to acquire Torah. The last quality is "saying a thing in the name of its author. Indeed, you have learned: Whoever says a thing in the name of its author brings redemption to the world, as it is stated: 'And Esther told the king in the name of Mordechai' (Esther2:22)"
So citing your sources, properly attributing quotations and authorship, brings the Redemption. But this only seems to push the question back a level. Why does true scholarship bring the Redemption, while plagiarism constitutes theft of the mind?
For an answer, we can look at the first chapter of Ethics or Maimonides Mishne Torah which list the chain of tradition. Ethics takes us from Sinai to the Men of the Great Assembly (and thereafter from teacher to student); Maimonides lists the 40 generations from Sinai to the redaction of the Talmud. Even the innovations of these Sages became part of the tradition and must be quoted and referenced in subsequent discussions.
What both Ethics and Maimonides have in common, and what tracing sources to their origin leads to, is - Sinai. Properly quoting an author leads to recognition and proper quotation of The Author, the One who spoke, and the world came into being.
For the source and the truth of the details, the laws, the interpretations, the logic deduced and reasoned by each individual derives, ultimately, from what was told to Moses at Sinai. The general revelation of Torah at Sinai was a pre-requisite for the general concept of Redemption; but the full revelation of Torah - in all its details, with all the innovative ideas of all the scholars of all generations - is the pre-requisite for the final Redemption. Knowing the authors of our tradition teaches us to acknowledge and appreciate the Author of all.
In this week's Torah portion, Mishpatim, we find the verse: "If you lend money to My people..." The word if usually implies an optional act. However, lending money (without interest) is actually a mitzva, a commandment!
According to the Midrash, G-d only tells the Jewish people to do and observe those things which He, Himself does. Thus it follows that G-d also observes the precept of "If you lend money to My people."
A loan is given to someone even if he doesn't deserve it. Nonetheless, it is not a gift; the borrower must ultimately repay the loan.
G-d, too, provides man with various abilities that he does not necessarily deserve. He demands, though, that this "loan" be repaid - that the abilities be utilized for the realization of one's mission in life.
There are two types of loans: loan of an object and loan of money. The difference between them is that in the first case the borrower must return the same object, for it does not become his property. A monetary loan, however, is "given to be spent"; it becomes the property of the debtor and he may use it any way he desires.
When G-d provides man with abilities it is like a monetary loan. Man chooses how he will use these abilities. Will he use them for his own purposes or to realize his mission in life?
A loan, even of abilities, is given to be spent. Every Jew is permitted to take his loan and to utilize it for his personal affairs. However, he must always bear in mind the ultimate purpose for which the loan was intended.
Practically speaking, the midrash comments that lending money to the poor is tantamount to lending to G-d. And in Proverbs it says, "He that is gracious to the poor, lends to the Eternal and He will repay him..."
When G-d pays back His debt, though, He does so according to His measure. Just as G-d is infinite, He recompenses without limit.
Charity is equivalent to all the mitzvot. Among the various levels in charity, the highest is gemilut chasadim. Gemilut chasadim literally means performance of kindness. In colloquial usage, though, this term usually refers to granting [interest] free loans.
Our sages say that gemilut chasadim is superior to charity, for charity can be given only to the poor while free loans are given to both the poor and the rich. Charity implies the existence of a rich person and a poor person. But, gemilut chasadim is not limited.
Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
The Best Advice the Rabbi Ever Gave
by Rabbi Chaim Mentz
In the summer of 2004, Andrew and Sharon finally became engaged and asked me, their rabbi if I will do their wedding ceremony on December 5, 2004? I was so happy for them, I answered, "Of course! I would be honored to officiate, as long as you meet the four basic requirements of a Jewish wedding. The requirements are that the bride and groom are both Jewish; the bride will immerse in the mikva prior to the wedding; the food will be kosher; neither are still married to another person. If so they must obtain a Get (Jewish Divorce)."
Andrew and Sharon both smiled. They were delighted because there was nothing standing in their way. The wedding was set as planned. Until...
During a private conversation Sharon confided in me that she had once been married to a Jewish guy (whom she refers to as "the mistake.") But she was only married to him for six hours and the courts gave her an annulment immediately, due to the terrible actions of the "mistake."
With Sharon's revelation I could feel knots forming in my stomach. How do I tell her the last thing on earth she wants to hear? I began by saying, "Please understand that what I am going to tell you may surprise you but you still need a Get. Being married for six hours or for six years is still considered being married," I explained.
"But the courts annulled my marriage!" Sharon told me. "Rabbi... please understand, it was a mistake!"
Sharon, who never ever wanted to revisit her past, let alone have contact with "the mistake," couldn't believe what I had told her. I continued by adding, "I want to perform your wedding, but please understand that I can't do it until you obtain a Get."
Now Sharon looked at me in all seriousness. "Rabbi what if I can't find 'the mistake'? Am I doomed forever?"
I calmed Sharon down and told her we should proceed one step at a time. "I will be there for you. Let's contact the Rabbinical Court in Los Angeles, and they will help us get through this dilemma," I reassured her.
I explained to both Sharon and Andrew that nothing in life happens by chance. Everything is preordained by G-d. "The fact that you need a Get today shows that something important happened in Sharon's life, even if it lasted only for six hours."
Sharon would not allow her wedding to be stopped due to her "mistake." She continued planning her wedding and her honeymoon, sure that things would work out.
After spending a few weeks with the Rabbinical Court in Los Angeles, Sharon finally was free from "the mistake." But then they told her, "Now that you have your Get you can marry, but not before 92 days from today."
Within seconds, Sharon and Andrew were on the phone with me. "Are they crazy? Is this true? Will you not do our wedding on December 5th?" they asked me, near hysterical.
I calmly explained to them the explanation behind this Jewish law and tried to reason with them. But they weren't able to hear what I was saying. They were focused on their wedding plans, their honeymoon, their soulmate! For days, they grappled with the idea of having to wait until January 2005 to get married.
After a few days, both Andrew and Sharon called me and said, "We want to do our wedding right in G-d's eyes." So they began re-planning their wedding for the end of January.
But still, in the back of their minds, they could not understand what would be G-d's Divine purpose, what possible good could come out of delaying their wedding.
That is, not until December 26th.
You see, the perfect honeymoon that Andrew and Sharon were planning would have had them at the famous Kaafu Atoll Maldives hotels on Lankanfushi Island on December 26th. The hotel room that they had booked and then rescheduled for a later date, was swept up by the tsunami.
Both Sharon and Andrew celebrated "their miracle" on Shabbat, January 1, with a special kiddush after services in our Chabad House. At that kiddush, Andrew said, "The best advice the Rabbi ever gave us, was 'Follow the rules of G-d's Torah. It will be a blessing in the end for both of you!' "
May G-d bless Andrew and Sharon with years of happiness and health together, and long life!
Rabbi Shragi and Devorah Leah Mann will be arriving soon in Florida where they will establish Chabad of South Beach in Miami, Florida. The Chabad Center will serve the Jewish residents of "Sobe," as it is known, as well as the thousands of people who come to experience South Beach's unique culture.
Rabbi Shaul and Tzipah Wertheimer recently opened a Chabad House at Queens College, in Flushing, New York. Chabad of Queens College has multi-faceted programming to service all of the 4,000 Jewish students on campus including Shabbat programs, individualized classes, and holiday events. Contact them at email@example.com.
SPA FOR MIND, BODY & SOUL
A week of nourishment and relaxation for the mind, body and soul will take place at the Hilton Palm Springs Resort in California. Featuring acclaimed and gifted educators Rabbi Manis Friedman, Shimonah Tzukernik, Rabbi Nachman and Joan Bernhard, and others, the retreat is open to women from Feb. 14-18 and for couples from Feb. 18-20, 2005. There is a full schedule of lectures and workshops as well as a full-service spa and fitness facilty. The retreat is sponsored by Bais Chana. For more info call 800-473-4801 (outside U.S. & Canada: 718-604-0088), visit www.baischana.org, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
9 Kislev, 5741 
To All Participants in the Major Conference for the Jewish Community On Issues and Needs of Jewish Retarded
Greeting and Blessing:
I was pleased to be informed of the forthcoming Conference. I trust it will mark a turning point in the attitude of community leaders to Jewish education in general, and to so-called Special Education in particular.
In any discussion relating to the wellbeing of the Jewish community, the primary, indeed pivotal, issue should surely be Jewish identity - that which truly unites our Jewish people and gives us the strength to survive and thrive in a most unnatural, alien, and all too often hostile environment.
Historically - from the birth of our nation to this day - Jewish identity, in the fullest sense of this term, has been synonymous with traditional Torah-Judaism as our way of life in everyday living. Other factors commonly associated with a national identity, such as language, territory, dress, etc. could not have played a decisive role in Jewish survival, since these changed from time to time and from place to place. The only factor that has not changed throughout our long history has been the Torah and Mitzvos which are "our life and the length of our days." The same Tefillin, Tzitzis, Shabbos and Yom-Tov [holidays] have been observed by Jews everywhere in all generations. Clearly there is no substitute for the Torah-way as the source and essence of our Jewish people.
Recognizing this prima facie fact, means recog-nizing that Jewish survival depends on the kind of education that develops and nourishes Jewish identity in the fullest measure. And this must surely be the highest priority of all communal services.
With regard to Jewish retarded-parenthetically, I prefer some such term as "special" people, not simply as a euphemism, but because it would more accurately reflect their situation, especially in view of the fact that in many cases the retardation is limited to the capacity to absorb and assimilate knowledge, while in other areas they may be quite normal or even above average-Jewish identity factor is even more important, not only per se but also for its therapeautic value. The actual practice of Mitzvos in the everyday life provides a tangible way by which these special people of all ages can, despite their handicap, identify with their families and with other fellow Jews in their surroundings, and generally keep in touch with reality. Even if mentally they may not fully grasp the meaning of these rituals, sub-consciously they are bound to feel at home in such an environment, and in many cases could parti-cipate in such activities also on the conscious level.
To cite one striking example from actual experience during the Festival of Succos this year. As is well known, Lubavitch activists on this occasion reach out to many Jews with Lulov and Esrog, bringing to them the spirit of the Season of Our Rejoicing. This year, being a year of Hakhel [gathering], I urged my followers to extend this activity as much as possible, to include also Nursing Homes and Senior Citizens' Hotels, as well as other institutions. I was asked, what should be the attitude and approach to persons who are senile or confused, etc. I replied - all the more reason to reach out to them in this tangible way. Well, the reports were profoundly gratifying. Doctors and nurses were astonished to see such a transformation: Persons who had spent countless days in silent immobility, deeply depressed and oblivious to everything around them, the moment they saw a young man walk in with a Lulov and Esrog in his hand suddenly displayed a lively interest, eagerly grasped the proferred Mitzvah-objects, some of them reciting the blessings from memory, without prompting. The joy in their hearts shone through their faces, which had not known a smile all too long.
One need not look for a mystical explanation of this reaction. Understandably, the sight of something so tangible and clearly associated with the joy of Succos evidently touched and unlocked vivid recollections of experiences that had permeated them in earlier years.
If there is much that can be done along these lines for adult and senior Jews in special situations, how much more so in regard to special children, when every additional benefit, however seemingly small, in their formative years will be compounded many times over as they grow older. In their case it is even more important to bear in mind that while they may be handicapped in their mental and intellectual capacity, and indeed because of it, every possible emphasis should be places on the tangible and audio-visual aspects of Jewish education in terms of the actual practice of Mitzvos and religious observance - as I have discussed this and related aspects at great length in my correspondence with Dr. R. Wilkes of the Coney Island Hospital.
There is surely no need to elaborate on all above to the participants in the Conference, whose Rabbinic, academic, and professional qualifications in the field of Jewish Education and social services makes them highly sensitive to the problems at hand. I hope and pray that the basic points herein made will serve as guidelines to focus attention on the cardinal issues, and that this Conference will, as mentioned earlier, make a turning point in attitude, and even more importantly in action vis-à-vis Jewish Education, long overdue.
With prayerful wishes for Hatzlocho [success], and with esteem and blessing,
27 Shevat, 5765 - February 6, 2005
Positive Mitzva 127: The First Tithe
This mitzva is based on the verse (Num. 18:24) "But the tithes of the Children of Israel which they offer as a gift" We are commanded to give a tenth of all the land's produce to the Levites. The Levites were not given an inheritance of land as were the other tribes. Instead, this share of our crop is considered their inheritance. Since there are other types of "tithes," (which means: a tenth of the amount), this one is called: "The First Tithe."
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This Shabbat we bless the new month of Adar Rishon - the "first" Adar. Because this is a leap year, our calendar has thirteen months and it is Adar, the month permeated with happiness, which is doubled.
We are constantly enjoined by the Torah and our Sages to be joyous. "Serve G-d with joy" is a well-known maxim which indicates that joy and happiness are an integral part of our Divine service. Sadness and melancholy, we are told, can, G-d forbid, bring one to transgression. And furthermore, the G-dly spirit only rests on a person when he is filled with joy.
It is therefore very appropriate that it is the month of Adar which is doubled. For about Adar it is stated, "When Adar begins, we increase our joy." The holiday of Purim (which we celebrate in the "second" Adar) was a time of true salvation for the Jewish people. The whole month, then, remains an auspicious and festive month.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe stated that the only work left on our part to bring Moshiach and the redemption (may it take place speedily in our day) is that we permeate our every action with joy.
May we have the strength, especially in the upcoming days of the first and second Adar, to fulfill this suggestion with a whole heart.
And these are the ordinances which you shall set before them (Ex:21:1)
Why does the Torah speak about the commandments between man and his fellow man, immediately after relating the actual giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai? There is a saying, "good manners precede Torah." Rabbi Mendele of Kotzk used to say: "Good manners and courtesy are a preparation to learning Torah." The same way that one learns about the contents of a book by reading the preface, so can we tell how much Torah a person has within by observing how he behaves toward his fellow man.
If you buy a Hebrew servant (Ex. 21:2)
Why does the Torah portion of Mishpatim begin with the laws concerning such an uncommon occurrence as a Hebrew servant - a Jew who was sold by the Jewish court to compensate for his having stolen something? We learn from the prominent emphasis given these laws that a Jew must be ever cognizant of his role as a "Hebrew servant." We are all servants of the King of kings, G-d. The first thing we need to know is that we must serve Him and listen to His commandments.
If the thing stolen is actually found in his hand... he shall pay double (Ex. 22:3)
Why is the penalty in the Torah harsher for one who steals in secret than for one who robs someone publicly? Indeed, we find that the thief who stole secretly must repay double the amount he stole. The brazen robber, to his "credit," is not afraid of G-d or man, and doesn't care who sees him. But the cowardly thief, on the other hand, is more afraid of man than of G-d, because he only hides his actions from the eyes of people, and not from the eyes of the One Above.
(Talmud Baba Kama)
The National Assembly opened at Wormeise, Germany, on December 15, 1544, when one of the participants proposed to banish the Jews from all parts of Germany for their part in circulating forged coins. All parties at the assembly, both Catholic and Protestant, voted in favor of the proposal.
It appeared that sentence had already been passed against the Jews of Germany when suddenly an unexpected defending counsel appeared. This was the new Director of Trade Guilds in Germany, the Minister Wolfgang Schutzbar, who was highly respected by all the princes and ministers of the government. When the moment came to make the final decision concerning the Jewish problem, he rose from his place and said: "Honored lords and friends, I cannot give my consent to your decision to banish the Jews from Germany. His Majesty the Emperor is not only the Emperor of Germany but also the Holy Roman Emperor. He is the ruler of the whole of Christendom and it is his duty, as such, to permit the Jews to live in the Holy Roman Empire of the German people in memory of that man whom all the Christians regard as their saviour and who was of Jewish seed. Other kingdoms do not resemble the Holy Roman Empire of Germany, which has the duty to suffer the Jews to live in it. Therefore, noble lords, I beg you to let this matter alone, for His Majesty, the Emperor, will not desire or be able to ratify such a decision."
The short words of Minister Wolfgang made a deep impression on those assembled, who listened to him and took back their decision to expel the Jews.
The following day, Rabbi Yosselman of Rotheim, who had been at the Assembly, and the rabbis and lay leaders of the community of Wormeise, went to the house where Minister Wolfgang was lodging. They asked for an audience with the minister. The minister greeted them cordially.
"Sire," began Rabbi Yosselman, "we have come to express our deepest gratitude to you for your gracious speech in favor of our Jewish brethren at the meeting of the National Assembly. Through it you delivered us from a bitter fate. And although it is clear that His Majesty would never have ratified such a decision, for he is gracious to us and protects us, nevertheless such a decision would have caused us many hardships and troubles. We therefore pray you to accept this gift as a token of our gratitude."
"I don't know what you are talking of," said the minister, shrugging his shoulders in astonishment. "Did I make a speech yesterday in favor of the Jews at the National Assembly? Indeed I have already heard the same thing from a number of people. I did not take part in yesterday's meeting at all. Being ill, I was obliged to stay at home. My family and the servants will bear witness that I did not move outside the house yesterday for even a minute."
On hearing these words Rabbi Yosselman and those who accompanied him were dumfounded. "Noble sire," replied Rabbi Yosselman, "Permit me to contradict you. I myself was present during the discussions, and myself saw how you defended my brethren the Jews, how you stated that it was the duty of the Holy Roman Empire to allow the Jews to live within its borders. Sire, have you a twin brother who resembles you in every particular?
"This is all very strange and puzzling," said the minister. "I have no twin, and none of my brothers is at present in Wormeise. The matter must be investigated. Perhaps it was some kind of swindler - but that cannot be. The princes and ministers would have detected a fraud at once. All of them know me well."
Suddenly Rabbi Yosselman's eyes sparkled as if the puzzle had been solved. "Noble lord and my dear brethren," he said. "Know then that G-d performed a great and wondrous miracle for us in His mercy. The Holy One, blessed be He, sent us Elijah the Prophet in the guise of the honored minister who was absent from the meeting to save us from the fate of expulsion. You must know, dear brethren, that such miracles happened of old and are related by our sages in the Talmud. This miracle also proves to you, sire, how great your worth is in the eyes of G-d, for certainly the prophet would not have appeared in the form of an unworthy person.
"Therefore, I pray you, sire, accept this modest gift as an expression of our gratitude." The minister was deeply moved when he took the gift from Rabbi Yosselman. The Jews bade him a warm farewell.
The story spread quickly, making a great impression. People in those days did not believe in miracles easily, but here was a fact that could not be denied. All the princes and representatives of the classes saw and heard Minister Wolfgang making his speech in favor of the Jews. On the other hand, the members of the household bore witness that he had not left his house all that day. There could therefore be no other solution to the puzzle than that proposed by Rabbi Yosselman.
"For six years he shall serve and in the seventh year he shall be set free" we read in this week's Torah portion regarding a Jewish slave (Ex. 21:2). These six years hint to the six kingdoms to which the Jewish people were exiled: Egypt, Assiriya, Babylonia, Media, Greece and Rome - our current exile. We are currently in the "sixth year" from which we will be set free - for eterenity - by Moshiach.