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L'Chaim
February 11, 2005 - 2 Adar I, 5765

857: Terumah

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Text VersionFor Palm Pilot
  856: Mishpatim858: Tetzaveh  

The Wings of the Soul  |  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

The Wings of the Soul

Go to the park on a cool autumn or crisp spring day - temperature mild, sun warm, breeze delicious. Walk around the exercise track and the play areas. Of course, the whole family comes along. It's one of those suspended days - not a day of indulgent laziness nor a day of frenetic busyness, but a day that needs no excuses other than its own restraining splendor.

So you and the children wander the path between shade and bright. Even the teenagers come along, no longer for the swings and slides, nor yet for the financial dissections and household resurrections, but for the social talk or disqualified gossip. At this point your walk takes you to the lagoon, or rivulet, and the ducks silently plying the water, barely rippling the surface.

You've brought old bread to share rather than waste. And so you begin tossing it into the water - it doesn't go very far, it doesn't skim well. And the ducks V-line to it, honking and quacking, inviting others and warning them off.

And then the sky fills with birds - wondrous things of white wings that beat the air, soar, swoop, snatch and soar again. They dive, hover, dart to a piece and suddenly ascend, with a swiftness that surprises each time.

And when the bread bags are emptied even of crumbs, the ducks, after a moment's hesitation, swim off.

But the birds continue to soar, to climb, dive, swirl, dance, spin, rotate, whirl - each a virtuoso of aerodynamic acrobatics, twisting left, twirling right, rhythmically swaying through the air.

And as you conclude your afternoon encounters, you realize that the birds have taught you a lesson. Perhaps your mind doesn't know it yet but your soul understands it well. For, there is a Chasidic teaching that Torah is the bread of the soul. And there is another Chasidic teaching, that love of G-d and fear of G-d are the wings of the soul.

And suddenly you understand. Before the birds can soar and dance and ascend to the heavens in flights that express the gloriousness of creation, and thus the glory of the Creator, they must first feed - feed from the "bread" of Torah.

So, too, your soul, which yearns to take wing, to soar aloft, to ascend to the supernal realms where the light of the Divine Presence shines, openly and in a revealed manner.

But such graceful flights requires nourishment and energy - the nourishment and energy contained within the words of Torah.

And so you resolve, you and your family, to "eat" a little more, that is, to study more about Judaism and delve into Torah texts. And with that sustenance, your soul can express itself, beat its wings, so to speak, in the words of prayer that express on one side love of G-d and on the other awe of G-d.

For as the bird needs both wings to fly, you know that your soul must express both emotions, both feelings, drawing ever closer to that which is infinitely far.

Yes, you decide, it has been a beautiful day in the park.


Living with the Rebbe

This week's Torah portion, Teruma, contains G-d's command and promise: "Make Me a Sanctuary and I will dwell within." The Holy Temple was not merely a centralized location for man's worship of G-d, it was a place where G-d's presence was - and is - manifest. Although "the entire earth is full of His glory," G-d's presence is not tangibly felt. He permeates all existence, but in a hidden way. The Sanctuary, by contrast, was "the place where He chose to cause His name dwell." There was no concealment; His presence was openly manifest within it.

Nevertheless, the Hebrew word the verse uses for "within," betocham is plural. Our Rabbis comment: The verse does not say: "within it," but "within them," within every individual man or woman.

When G-d caused His presence to dwell in the midst of our people as a whole, He also invested Himself within the midst of every individual. Every person's heart became a sanctuary in microcosm.

The Sanctuary accompanied the Jewish people in their journey through the desert. Wherever they camped, G-d's presence accompanied them.

Similar concepts apply with regard to every person as he goes through his journeys in life and to our people as a whole as they journey through time. G-d's presence accompanies us. As we proceed from one setting to another, His presence journeys with us.

Our Rabbis explain that the windows of the Holy Temple were slanted to spread light outward rather than let light in. In G-d's dwelling place, it was not necessary for light from the outside to enter. Light came from the holy menora, the golden candelabrum. What was important is that the light from the Holy Temple radiated outward, influencing the world outside.

Similar concepts apply with regard to the G-dly light present within every individual. This light should not be self-contained. G-d does not grant a person spiritual awareness for his own satisfaction. The intent in making a person "a sanctuary in microcosm" is not so that he will appreciate G-d, but rather that he should share his awareness with others, that he should shine light outward and influence his environment.

From "Keeping In Touch" by Rabbi Eliyahu Touger, inspired by the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe


A Slice of Life

I Was Adopted Out of Judaism
by Anne E. Silber

It has been written that the divine soul (neshama) imparts impressions in a subtle way. The sages taught: "Even though a person does not see, his Destiny (mazal) sees (it)." In other words, a person can be guided through many experiences which the soul knows as destiny, but which the person experiences simply as life unfolding before him with its constant challenges, choices and decisions.

Allow me to introduce you to my neshama. I started feeling its impact when I was only eight years old. I was born Jewish, but adopted by Christians. I could not explain to them, or to myself, why I sought out any pictures of Jews I could find in magazines and newspapers, why I wanted to meet Jewish people. I knew none. I lived in a non-Jewish neighborhood and went to a Christian school.

Then, a Jewish family actually did move into our block. They had two little girls, one older than I, one just four. From the day they moved in, I wanted to get into their home. I wanted to be with those people! My adoptive mother absolutely forbade it. But of course, I finally went.

I saw candlesticks of silver. I saw some books with the strangest writing I had ever seen. I saw a dark blue velvet square with a Star of David on it. When I gazed at those things, it was as if everything around me disappeared. I felt that I was One with those things, and I could not explain why.

I certainly was never told of my Jewish heritage by my adoptive parents, and the records were sealed. No other group of people magnetized me as these people did. Later, when I was eleven or so, I stood across the street from a synagogue some Saturday mornings, just to watch Jewish people going in and coming out.

By the time I was 21, I had left Christianity, and I declared that I was Jewish. "I am a Jew," I would say, "but I don't know how I know that."

At that stage, that's all there was. A declaration. I knew no Jews, did not attend services, and knew of only one Jewish holiday, Passover, which I ignored.

After awhile, I decided that being Jewish involved a little more effort, so I eliminated pork and shellfish from my diet.

The neshama had rolled up its sleeves, and I was in for a lifetime roller-coaster ride.

To digress just a bit, my situation is unfortunately repeated when a Jewish child is adopted out of Judaism. This is often done with a cavalier attitude about the effect on the child. I have even heard some Jews blithely comment, "Well, they're still Jews, even if they never know."

Yes, indeed. Jews without any opportunity for Jewish expression. Jews who will not raise their own children in a Jewish environment. Jews who are deprived of the choice to return to Israel. Jews who will never be part of a Jewish community. Jews who will not be buried by or with their own people.

This was the situation I was in.

By the time I was well in my 30s, I was reading voraciously, mostly novels by Chaim Potok or I.B. Singer, but I delved a bit into Torah, too. So I was getting closer to the reality of myself. Still no Jews as friends, still afraid to approach a rabbi or walk into a Jewish house of worship. I had been told so many times that I would be rejected, and I had no proof whatever that I had been born Jewish, though I knew that to be the case. I considered conversion, but again, I feared rejection, and I knew that I had a Jewish mother. I just didn't know how I knew that, or how to prove it

Then it happened. I was now 42 years old. Adoptees had begun to form groups to search for their records. I met an individual in the state system who was sympathetic to adoptees and who eventually gave me enough information to search. I asked for non-identifying information to begin with, and the letter I received is the treasure of my life; it read, "Mother - Jewish." I was ecstatic. Now I knew!

The neshama always knew.

After a lengthy search, I found that my mother had died, but I did receive my family history through other family members, for which I am grateful.

One might think that that is the end of the story, and my neshama would give me some peace. No, not enough, it said. It is not enough to know who your mother was, and that she was Jewish. Now you have to live as a Jew. Now you know who you are. No excuses.

In 1995, now 62, I met Dr. Stephen and Mrs. Vicki Krausz, who founded and run the Jewish Children's Adoption Network. They are passionately dedicated to finding Jewish homes for adoptable Jewish children, especially those with special needs.

Though hardly a baby, and certainly not up for adoption, they nevertheless took an interest in me, and gave me the direction I needed to complete my destiny. The neshama certainly knew what it was doing when it sent me to them.

We found a rabbi to examine the documentation I now had, and it was found to be valid. After that, I was informed through Vicki that I was now required to keep kosher and observe Shabbat.

Once starting to learn, I was gradually drawn closer and closer. It was not enough. In 2000, I was diagnosed with cancer. The surgery was successful and I underwent chemotherapy, and returned to work after only 27 days at home.

That was the neshama's wake-up call; the one-two punch, if you will. With not too much time left in this world, when was I going to make the final commitment? I was already 68.

I went to a rabbi. He was compassionate, learned, gentle and wants people to be happy. If they live a good Jewish life, he knows they will be.

It's hard. But I am happy and I am home.

Anne E. Silber is a freelance writer and paralegal currently residing in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

What's New

Four New Centers

Four new Chabad Lubavitch Centers were established recently, two in the state of Massachusetts and two in Washington state. Rabbi Moshe and Sari Lieberman have opened a new center in Newton and Rabbi Mayshe and Shifra Schwartz have opened a center in Coolidge Corner in Brookline.

On the west coast of the United States in Washington, Chabad of Clark County has been opened under the direction of Rabbi Shmulik and Tzivia Greenberg. Pierce County has welcomed the arrival of Rabbi Zalman and Miriam Heber to the city of Tacoma to start a Chabad-Lubavitch Center in that area. Shabbat and holiday programs, adult education classes, hands-on Jewish awareness activities are some of the programs that the new Chabad Centers will be offering.


The Rebbe Writes

24th of Marcheshvan 5720 [1960]

Sholom uBrocho [Peace and Blessing]:

After the very long interval, I was pleased to receive your letter with the good news about G-d's benevolence to you. I believe I already had occasion to refer to the saying of our Sages (B.B. 12b) to the effect that when one receives G-d's favors, more are to follow. It is well to remember the teaching of our Rabbis and Nesiim [leaders], "Think well and all will be well," as explained at length also in the Zohar I, 184b) introduced by the words To chazi ("Come and see"), note there.

Now to refer to the question of the need to learn Chassidus which you raise in your letter. You do not mention what Shiurim [lessons] you have in Chassidus, though I have suggested to you the following course: Kuntres Umaayan; Iggeres haTeshuvo (part III of Tanya); Shaar haYichud vehaEmuno (part II of Tanya); followed by Derech Mitzvosecho of the Tzemach Tzedek.

You quote me as having written to you that there are many who have learned and know a great deal of Gemoro, yet lack in knowledge of the practical dinim. To which you remark that you know people who know a great deal of Chassidus, and likewise lack in knowledge of dinim. But as I recall, I did not make that statement merely as an argument in favor of learning Chassidus. I merely pointed out the need of learning the practical dinim apart from all other studies. For unfortunately it is a fact that in most Yeshivoth the need of learning dinim [judgments] is not given sufficient attention. Therefore, your attempt to challenge my statement is quite irrelevant, if you will accept my apologies.

As for the general necessity of learning Chassidus, this is amply explained in Kuntres Etz haChayim, by the father of my father-in-law, of saintly memory, and elsewhere. Above all, it is based on the Halocho [Jewish law] itself, which sees the proof of a theory in its applicability and in its actual results in practice (maaseh Rav). Let me give you an illustration, which I trust you will not take amiss, especially as you can verify it through other sources. I do not have to tell you under what terrible conditions the Jews lived in Soviet Russia under the Communist regime, and how it affected the Jewish religious life, especially of the younger generation, who had no opportunity to anchor themselves firmly, or at all, in Yiddishkeit [Judaism]. When the Iron Curtain temporarily lifted after the war and many Jews managed to get out of Soviet Russia, it became clear that, of the various classes and types of Russian Jews, only those who had learned in Chabad Yeshivoth and were brought up in Chassidic homes and in the Chassidic way of life were able to survive those terrible trials and difficulties and remain faithful and practicing Jews, not only themselves, but also their sons and daughters with them. This should convince even the most skeptical as to the power and efficacy of Chassidus as a living force and practical means of the preservation of Yiddishkeit even under the utmost difficulties.

But since you question the need of learning Chassidus according to the authority of the Shulchan Aruch, I will answer you, as briefly as possible, on the basis of your own criteria.

As you know, there are various kinds of Mitzvoth [commandments]. There are, for example, compulsory Mitzvoth, and there are Mitzvoth which become incumbent under certain conditions only, the performance of which become compulsory only when the specific conditions prevail, and one is not obligated to create those conditions (e.g. building a fence around one's roof).

Among the so-called compulsory Mitzvoth, there are, again, such Mitzvoth which depend on the time element, and they may be occasioned once a year, or once a week, or daily, as the case may be.

There are however six Mitzvoth which are not merely incumbent in one way or another, as the other Mitzvoth, but their incumbency (Chiyuv) is a constant one, and they are obligatory on all Jews without exception, or, to quote: "Their incumbency is constant, of which man is not free for a moment, all his life." They are mentioned in Sefer haChinuch, in the introduction (letter): (1) To believe in G-d (according to the Rambam [Maimonides] "to know"); (2) Not to believe in any other thing; (3) To affirm His Unity; (4) To love Him (5) To fear Him; and (6) Not to go astray after the temptation of the heart and the vision of the eyes.

The first five of the above obviously demand intellectual preparation. Even the sixth can be properly fulfilled only after the acquisition of certain doctrines and knowledge.

It is clear that to obtain the essential knowledge (without which these six constant Mitzvoth could not be fulfilled properly), by an effort to glean it from different sources, would require an enormous amount of time and effort, and even then one could not be sure whether or not the sources were rightly understood, and the right beliefs and opinions were formulated.

On the other hand, Chassidus has done just that. It has gleaned and collected from various sources the necessary knowledge, and it presents it in a pure and concise form to all those who wish to avail themselves of it.

cont. in next issue


Rambam this week

4 Adar I, 5765 - February 13, 2005

Positive Mitzva 119: Fruits of the Fourth Year

This mitzva is based on the verse (Lev. 19:24) "But in the fourth year, all its (the tree's) fruit shall be holy for praise-giving to the L-rd"

A tree's fruit cannot be eaten for the first three years of its growth. The farmer must take the fruits of the fourth year to Jerusalem and eat them in the city. This helps him realize that, despite all his toil and labor, it is G-d who actually causes the trees to flower and the fruit to grow.


A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

This past week, on Wednesday and Thursday (Feb. 9 and 10), we celebrated the beginning of the month of the first Adar. (Seeing as this year is a "leap" year, there are two months of Adar.) The Talmud states: "When Adar enters, happiness increases." This increase in happiness is due to the fact that the miracles of Purim occured in Adar, a month of good fortune and happiness for the Jewish people.

Every day, in each month, there is a mitzva to be joyous, as we are told in Psalms, "Serve G-d with joy." However, in the month of Adar, we have an additional requirement to increase in joy, so that our joy go beyond restrictions and limitations.

In fact, the Zohar states: "The Divine Presence does not dwell in a place of sadness, but only in a place of joy."

How then, on a daily basis, and especially in this month of Adar, are we to bring ourselves to constant state of joy, gladness and happiness? Without going into a whole mystical, spiritual or metaphysical discussion on what makes people happy, we all know that it makes us "feel good" when we do something nice for another person.

Performing kind acts or good deeds for other people on a regular basis can help keep us in a joyous state of mind. This is especially true concerning the mitzva of charity. For, when we give charity, it makes us feel good to know that we are helping someone less fortunate than ourselves. In addition, it underlines the fact that we, indeed, have much to be thankful and happy about since we are not, thank G-d, in a situation which requires us to be dependent on others.

Ultimately, since we are told that giving charity hastens the final Redemption and the coming of Moshiach, this too will cause us to rejoice and be happy, knowing that we are bringing the Messianic Age closer, when, in the words of the Prophet Isaiah, "the lion will lie together with the lamb...and we will know war no more."


Thoughts that Count

Gold and silver and copper... (Ex. 25:3)

G-d commanded that the Tabernacle be built not only of precious metals, such as gold and silver, but also of copper. We learn from this that even a very learned person must not consider himself above the "average" Jew. For, without the simple people, the "copper," the Tabernacle could not have been built. By the same token, the average Jew - even if he is not at all learned - should not hesitate to approach G-d and holiness, for he must remember that the Tabernacle was built also of copper.

(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)


And they shall make an ark...two and a half cubits shall be its length, and a cubit and a half its width, and a cubit and a half its height (Ex. 25:10)

Our Rabbis tell us that a wonderful thing occurred when the ark was in the Holy of Holies: It didn't take up any space! When the ark itself was in place, and when the ground around it was measured - from the right side to the left side of the Tabernacle - the measurements remained the same as before the ark was put in. The Rabbis said of this phenomenon: "The place of the ark can not be measured." We learn an interesting lesson from this: A person who is truly learned in Torah, one who has Torah within him (in much the same way as the ark contained the two Tablets), does not "take up space." He is humble, considering himself as nothing, and does not require that any special honor be paid to him.

(HaDrush Ve-Ha'Iyun)


And the cherubim shall be spreading forth their wings on high, overshadowing the cover with their wings (Ex. 25:20)

The cherubim, who "protected" the ark with their wings, had the face of children. What do we learn from this? The best guarantee of Torah and Jewish survival is not shutting it up in an ark, but rather having babies and young children learn it and follow its ways. Indeed, at Mount Sinai, it was the Jewish youngsters who were the guarantors, and in whose merit the Torah was given to us. Jewish children have a special merit to be able to bring salvation and deliverance through their Torah study and prayers, as it says in the Book of Psalms: "Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings You have founded Your strength...that you might silence the enemies and he who seeks vengeance."

(Likutei Sichot)


And you shall make for Me a Sancutary so that I may dwell in them. (Ex. 25:8)

"In it" is not stated but rather "in them" - in every Jew. Every person must make himself into a sanctuary for G-d.

(HaShlah Hakodesh)


It Once Happened

Reb Menachem Mendel of Kosov set out for Skole to meet his Rebbe, Reb Feivish of Zabriza. Reb Menachem Mendel traveled by foot, since he had no money to pay the coach fare. Along the way, he stopped at an inn and asked the innkeeper if he could sleep there.

"You may certainly sleep here, but I cannot offer you any food. It has been many days since my family has tasted even a morsel of bread. And what is more, I owe the landlord months of rent. If I do not pay him soon, I will be thrown into jail," the innkeeper moaned.

Reb Menachem Mendel could not sleep a wink the whole night, so distressed was he by the innkeeper's situation. In the morning, he set out for Skole. Along the way, a coach passed him. A Jew inside shouted to him, "Where are you off to?"

"I am going to spend Shabbat in Skole with Reb Feivish of Zabriza," answered Reb Menachem Mendel.

"In that case, hop in. I too am traveling in that direction," offered the wealthy Jew.

"I will not step into the carriage until you give me twenty silver coins," demanded Reb Menachem Mendel.

"It is not enough I offer you a ride, you demand money too?" countered the wealthy man.

"It is not for myself, but for a destitute family," explained Reb Menachem Mendel. "Besides," he added, "one never knows when the wheel of fortune will change." With this thought, the wealthy Jew was convinced to not only give the silver coins, but to also travel back to the inn and personally present the innkeeper with the money.

Before leaving the inn and returning on their journey, Reb Menachem Mendel approached the innkeeper. "From now on your business will prosper. By and by you will become very rich. But my rich companion is destined to lose his entire fortune. When the time comes, remember to repay one kindness with another."

When Reb Menachem Mendel arrived at Reb Feivish's court, he related to Reb Feivish of how the rich man had saved an entire family from destitution. "I know, my son, I know," answered Reb Feivish. "But did you tell the innkeeper how to act when the time comes?"

"I told him," said Reb Menachem Mendel. "And he understood."

In due time, the rich man's business floundered. Everything he turned his hand to resulted in great losses until he became destitute. He was forced to go begging from town to town. At the same time, the innkeeper became quite wealthy.

Years passed, and eventually, the once wealthy man wandered into Kosov. He was told by his fellow-beggars, "You must visit Reb Menachem Mendel of Kosov. He is a great Rebbe and knows how to provide for people like us."

Reb Menachem Mendel recognized the wanderer at once. He called him over and handed him a letter. "You must go to the house of a certain wealthy individual and he will surely know how to help you."

The wanderer left immediately with the letter. Upon arriving at the wealthy man's house, he was greeted warmly by the owner. "I do not recognize you anymore," said the wealthy innkeeper to the wanderer, "but last night in a dream Reb Menachem Mendel told me that the time has come to repay one kindness with another." And with that, the innkeeper reminded the beggar of their meeting some fifteen years previously.

The innkeeper made an honest reckoning of all the wealth he had acquired in the past fifteen years, and went, with the wanderer, to Reb Menachem Mendel. The innkeeper gave the wanderer a generous gift and they both prospered in all future business ventures.


Moshiach Matters

Our Sages state, "When [the month of] Adar enters, our simcha (happiness) increases." The Hebrew letters comprising the word "Adar" have the numerical value of 205. The names of the four exiles of the Jewish people - Bavel (Babylonia), Madai (Media), Yavan (Greece) and Edom (Rome) when added together also equal 205. This means that from the moment we enter exile ("when Adar enters") we must increase our simcha. This is the way we have survived and flourished in exile, through simcha.

(Reb Motti Rosen, grandson of the second Modzizter Rebbe)


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