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Devarim Deutronomy

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   872: Bamidbar

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Devarim Deutronomy

June 10, 2005 - 3 Sivan, 5765

873: Nasso

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

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  872: Bamidbar874: Beha'aloscha  

Lifetime Guarantee  |  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

Lifetime Guarantee

Jewish tradition relates that before G-d gave the Torah to the Jewish people, He asked for guarantors. The nation offered several options - the Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Moses and the other prophets, but G-d rejected them all. The people then volunteered: "Our children will be our guarantors."

G-d agreed and gave the Torah.

On one hand, the concept is obvious. If you want an idea or a practice to be perpetuated, you must involve youth. Perhaps the point of the Midrash then is the nature of the involvement asked of our children. A lot of times people say, "I will show my children an approach. I'm sure that they'll appreciate that it's good. But I won't force them. I'll let them make up their own minds."

Judaism takes a much different tact. Before the Jews received the Torah at Mount Sinai, they told G-d: "We will do and we will listen," making a commitment to observe the Torah, before they knew what G-d was commanding them.

This practice is mirrored in the way we train our children to approach the Torah. The first thing is actual deed. They observe the mitzvos without understanding their rationale. Instead, they grow up practicing them as an integral part of their existence. They do not see Judaism as merely a set of beliefs whose value they comprehend, but a fully integrated way of life that encompasses every dimension of their existence.

"Brainwashing," someone might protest. "Denying the children free choice."

But it is not. Our children will always have a choice. They grow up in a world where material things are openly evident to all of us, and the existence of spiritual truth is only in books. Is there any question that they will hear the other side?

And raising them without a thorough involvement in Judaism as a way of life is also a message. It teaches them that Judaism is secondary, perhaps a nice pastime, but not one of the fundamental elements of life. What kind of choice does that leave the child?

Shavuot is the anniversary of the giving of the Torah, an appropriate time for each of us to renew and deepen our connection with it. The Lubavitcher Rebbe instituted the custom of recreating the Sinai experience by having all Jews - men, woman, children, even infants - gather in the synagogue to hear the reading of the Ten Commandments on the first day of Shavuot.

Following that custom brings home the above concepts. For whether or not they understand the reading, everyone attending will appreciate that it is special. A child will know that even if he did not comprehend the reading, he did establish a bond with the Torah.

And the truth is that the adults should take precisely that message home. For the truth of the Torah is G-dly, beyond human conception. No matter how much we do understand, there is always infinitely more which is beyond our understanding.

From Keeping in Touch, by Rabbi Eliyahu Touger, published by Sichos in English.

Living with the Rebbe

In the Torah portion of Naso, we read that "all teruma (elevated gifts) that the Jewish people present as sacred offerings to the priest shall become his property."

The foremost commentator Rashi explains that these particular gifts refer to bikurim (the first-ripened fruits), concerning which the verse states: "You shall bring [them] to G-d's House."

Producing fruit requires great effort toil; a person must plant, sow, prune, etc. When a Jew finally sees the fruit of all his labors, the Torah tells him that the very first and best must be given to a priest.

Since all lessons of the Torah are applicable at all times and in all places, this manner of conduct regarding a Jews' earnings is expected of us nowadays as well.

When a Jew has the chance to give charity, he shouldn't dwell on the fact that earning a living requires great effort, and think that the first and best should be kept for himself. Rather, the first of his hard-earned money should be "brought to G-d's House" - it should be given to charity.

A person might well think to himself: If this money were going towards an institution such as a Jewish school or synagogue, or toward benefiting the public, then it would make sense to give. In this instance, however, it is going to an individual priest.

Since he also has needs, why does he have to give the first of his income to another? Why should that other person come before him? At the very least, why not divide the "bikurim" into many equal parts, distributing them among many individuals - including himself?

The Torah therefore teaches us that, in order to properly know what to do with one's bikurim, one must first bring them to "G-d's House," i.e., one must realize Who it was that made these bikurim possible. When he does so, he will reach the proper conclusion: that, in truth, they should be given to a priest.

A person can fool himself into thinking that his own needs take precedence only when he does not understand that all his money is in fact charity-money. Such a person has yet to free himself from the feeling that the money he is considering giving away belongs solely to him, coming without any assistance from Above. When a person feels that he alone is responsible for his wealth, it is difficult for him to share his bounty with another.

But if a person's evil inclination were simply to declare that he should not give money for charity, it would be ignored. Instead, the evil inclination begins with a "just" complaint: since the worker himself also has needs, let him keep some of the first of his hard-earned money for himself - after all, that too can rightfully be considered charity.

But if a person is intent on "bringing it to G-d's House," he will take it as a given that bikurim, the first and best of his fruits, should be given to others, and not think of taking any for himself, just as he would never dream of taking other money designated for charity.

When a Jew acts in this manner, he can be assured of the blessing that Rashi speaks of in the verse that follows: "He who gives to the priest 'the gifts that are coming to him ... shall be blessed with great wealth.' "

From The Chassidic Dimension by Rabbi S.B. Wineberg, based on Likutei Sichos, Vol. VIII, pp. 29-40

A Slice of Life

Not Even A Trace
by Rabbi Mendel Drizin, as told to Mendel Tzfasman

The following story took place almost 20 years ago, on the eve of Shavuot, which began that year on a Wednesday night and was immediately followed by Shabbat. Shortly before the holiday began, the phone rang and an acquaintance of ours asked, "Can you host an Israeli young man for the upcoming holiday? He was supposed to stay with another family but the arrangements fell through."

We agreed to host him and my wife prepared a room for our guest. A little while before candle lighting there was a knock at the door. I opened the door and saw a young man, who looked dreadfully thin and was wearing an Israeli army uniform. I must admit that I was quite surprised as I had never seen a soldier of a foreign army in uniform in New York.

I invited the young man in and showed him to his room. He told us his name was Michael. He hadn't packed a change of clothes; he only had the uniform he travelled in. He looked as though he had come straight from the field.

We gave him fresh clothing to wear, though they were a little large on him. When he finished washing up, we walked together to the Lubavitcher Rebbe's synagogue, "770" (Lubavitch World Headquarters at 770 Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn).

Later, at the meal, Michael ate only a very small amount. We didn't ask him any questions but tried to make him feel comfortable. We spoke a little, and he said he was studying in a "hesder" yeshiva in Gush Katif where army training and Torah studies are combined.

At the ensuing holiday meals, he ate a drop more at each meal. On Shabbat, Michael ate normally. He told us the following story:

Two months earlier, he had begun to feel pressure in his chest whenever he ate. He went for tests and it was discovered that a tumor nearly the size of an orange. They said, "We don't know if it's malignant, but due to its size and its location, an operation is imperative."

They set a date for an operation that would determine what sort of tumor it was and how they should treat it. They also informed Michael and his family that they were only giving him a 50% chance of survival. The operation was scheduled for the week after Shavuot.

Naturally, the doctors' prognosis shocked Michael and his family. Michael had never been robust, but his discomfort from the tumor made it nearly impossible for him to eat. His family and friends watched sadly as he shrank before their eyes.

One day, he was outside and he noticed a Lubavitcher standing nearby calling out, "Who would like to buy the last raffle ticket for a trip to the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Only 10 shekels!"

Michael had exactly 10 shekels in his pocket and he bought the raffle ticket. Later that day, Michael received a phone call. On the other end of the line was a man who was telling him excitedly, "You won the trip to the Rebbe!"

Michael quickly went to the head of his yeshiva to tell him about the trip. When the "rosh yeshiva" heard the good news, he stood up and said excitedly, "You are very ill and you need a blessing. The timing is perfect! Don't make any unnecessary arrangements. Go to the airport and catch the first flight you can. When you get to New York, go right away to see the Lubavitcher Rebbe."

And that is exactly what Michael did. He took the first available flight to New York. As soon as Michael arrived in Crown Heights, he went to the Rebbe's secretaries and gave them his medical reports and the x-rays.

This was where Michael ended his story. But the story doesn't end here, of course.

On Sunday, Michael went to receive a blessing from the Rebbe, as the Rebbe distributed dollars to be given to charity. Michael asked the Rebbe for a "refua shleima," a complete recovery. The Rebbe looked at him encouragingly, gave him two dollars and blessed him, saying "besuros tovos," good news.

Michael's return flight was that night. When he put back on his uniform that my wife had washed for him, he looked completely different than when we first met him. We wished him a speedy recovery and a safe journey back home.

A few months later, I received a package in the mail from Michael. The package contained a book about Jewish law and science that his rosh yeshiva had written, as well as a letter:

Dear Rabbi Drizin,

I wanted to tell you about the wonders G-d performs in His world through His emissaries, the tzadikim (righteous) in every generation.

If you remember, I told you that I had stomach problems. Before I left for the U.S., the doctors here said I needed an operation to remove the tumor. However, I told them that I was flying to New York to see the Rebbe and I would tell them after the visit whether I agreed to have the operation.

When I was in New York, I gave a letter to the Rebbe's secretary in which I related everything, and asked for a bracha. Again, on the day I left the U.S., on the dollars line, I asked the Rebbe for a blessing for a refua shleima. The Rebbe said, "besuros tovos."

When I came home, I asked the doctors to take another X-ray, and thank G-d, there was no sign of the tumor, not even a trace! They told me I do not need an operation. I sent a letter to the Rebbe and told him this.

The book is a small gift to thank you so much for your lovely and warm hospitality.

Shalom and blessings from the Holy Land,

Michael Z.

Reprinted with permission from Beis Moshiach

What's New

New Shluchim - Emissaries

Rabbi Matityahu and Chaya Mushka Luis have moved to Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, where they will be working with the country's Chief Rabbi, Meir Bruk, to enhance community programs under the auspices of the Federation of Jewish Communities of the CIS.

Riverside, located in southern California, now has a new Chabad Center under the directorship of Rabbi Shmuel and Tzippy Fuss. The Chabad Center will serve the local Jewish community as well as the Jewish student body at UC Riverside.

Jews in Buckhurst Hill and Loughton in Essex, England, will soon have their own Chabad Center. Rabbi Adam and Henny Brandman will be the Lubavitcher Rebbe's emissaries to the area.

The Rebbe Writes

Rosh Chodesh Sivan, 5721 [1961]

Greeting and Blessing:

Thank you for your letter of May 8th.

Now that we are approaching the Festival of Shovuoth, the Season of Our Receiving the Torah, I send you my prayerful wishes for a happy and inspiring Yom Tov [holiday], and, in the words of my father-in-law of saintly memory, to receive the Torah with joy and inwardness.

With Blessing,

I trust that the enclosed copy of my recent message to the delegates of the Chabad Women will be of particular interest to your wife and daughter.

P.S. The letter has been delayed for technical reasons. In the meantime just received yours of May 23, in which you write about your desire and suggestion that Rabbi Shemtov join and lead the group visit [of "friends of Chabad-Lubavitch" in England to the Rebbe in New York]. Now, although it is my custom to wait in such a case to hear also directly from the party concerned but in view of the importance and urgency of the request, I will make an exception. My reply is that the suggestion is a very good one, unless there are some compelling reasons to the contrary. May I add that I am gratified to note that Rabbi Shemtov's work and leadership in the Lubavitch affairs in England is so well appreciated.

Erev Shabbos
Mevorchim Sivan, 5722 [1962]

Sholom uBrocho [Peace and Blessing]:

I am in receipt of your letter of May 18, and in accordance with its concluding lines, I am expecting your next letter with good news, including a report as to how the auspicious day of Lag B'Omer was made use of. Lag B'Omer is, of course, especially meaningful as it is connected with Rabbi Shimon ben Yochoyi, author of the holy Zohar, who provided the key to unlocking the secrets of the Torah, revealing the hidden inner light of Torah and Mitzvoth [commandments]. He has thus shown the way to every Jew to bring forth the hidden powers of his Divine soul, a way that has found its fullest expression in Chassidus.

At this time, when we are about to bless and enter the month of Sivan, the month of Kabbolas haTorah [receiving the Torah], I send you and yours my prayerful wishes, in the traditional words of my father-in-law of saintly memory, l'kabbolas haTorah b'simcha ubipnimius [to receive the Torah with joy and inwardness].

With blessing,

3rd of Sivan, 5724 [1964]

Greeting and Blessing:

I was pleased to receive your letter, as well as regards, through your brother-in-law and brother Mr. Shneur Zalmon Jaffe. I consider it auspicious to have received same on Rosh Chodesh Sivan, the day when the Jewish people arrived at Mt. Sinai, in eager anticipation of receiving the Torah. For they Were reaching the conclusion of the period of counting which they began on the day after the Exodus from Egypt, As a matter of fact, the period of Sfira [the counting of the omer-barley] links the two festivals, the Festival of Freedom with the Festival of Mattan Torah [the Giving of the Torah], and emphasizes that the Festival of Mattan Torah is really the goal and culmination of the Festival of Our Freedom. In other words true and complete freedom in a material sense can be attained only through spiritual freedom which the Jew attains through the Torah and Mitzvoth.

Furthermore the Torah unites the Jewish people to G-d, and similarly brings unity within every Jew, the unity of the body and soul, which is expressed in the daily life in accordance with the Torah and Mitzvoth, and is also the source of G-d's blessings materially and spiritually. May G-d grant that this should be so also in your case, in the midst of all our Jewish people.

Hoping to hear good news from you always, and wishing you and yours a happy and inspiring Festival of Kabbolas HaTorah.

With blessing,

From Mr. Manchester, a book of letters received by Mr. Zalmon Jaffe from the Rebbe

Rambam this week

3 Sivan, 5765 - June 10, 2005

Prohibition 269: It is forbidden to ignore a lost item

This mitzva is based on the verse (Deut. 22:3) "You may not hide yourself" A person is not allowed to ignore an article he finds. Positive Mitzva 204: Returning a Lost Article

This mitzva is based on the verse (Ex. 23:4) "You shall surely bring it back to him" The Torah commands us to try to find the owner of a lost article and return it to him.

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

The holiday of Shavuot, which will take place this coming week from Sunday evening, June 12 through Tuesday evening, June 14, is a special day for numerous reasons. It is the day on which the Jews stood before Mount Sinai, unified as one people, to receive the holy Torah. It is also the holiday on which the first fruits were brought to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem; thousands of pilgrims descended on Jerusalem for that special event.

On a more individual level, Shavuot is the yahrtzeit of the Baal Shem Tov - founder of the Chasidic movement, and King David - one of the greatest Kings of Israel and author of the Psalms.

What more appropriate time is there, then, to re-dedicate ourselves to the study of the Torah and the observance of its precepts. As individuals, we can use as our role models the saintly Baal Shem Tov and King David.

The Baal Shem Tov taught that the sincere feelings with which the simple, unlearned Jew performed the mitzvot was of great worth to G-d. In re-dedicating ourselves to Torah, we needn't be concerned that we are unlearned or might have to start at the beginning with the alef-bet. Doing it with a whole heart is what matters.

King David, too, was involved with the emotions of the heart. Countless people have been uplifted by his beautiful, poetic Psalms. The words of the Psalms, in fact, were so comforting and soothing that they became the beacon of light for Jews throughout the ages during times of trouble or difficulty.

As individuals, and as a unified Jewish nation, let us rededicate ourselves to Torah this Shavuot - Torah study, Torah precepts, Torah ethics.

Thoughts that Count

The Holiday of Shavuot

The holiday of Shavuot has four names, one of which is "Chag HaShavuot" - commonly translated as "The Festival of Weeks." Shavuot also means "oaths"; at the Giving of the Torah, G-d promised that He would never choose another nation over the Jewish people and the Jewish people swore their belief in G-d.

And he who presented the offering on the first day was Nachshon the son of Aminadov, of the tribe of Judah; and his offering was one silver dish... (Num. 7:12-13)

Although Nachshon was the first to bring the sacrifice, the verse reads "and his sacrifice..." as if someone had preceded him. This shows that he did not pride himself on the fact that his was offered first. Also, by all of the other tribes, the person who brought the sacrifice was termed "prince" but Nachshon was simply called by his name. This shows us that Nachshon was humble and held himself as low as if he were not a prince.

(Tzena U'rena)

There offered the princes of Israel, the heads of their fathers' houses...and they brought their offering before G-d...(Num. 7:2-3)

The Torah repeats the details of every prince's offering 12 times, even though they all brought the exact same offering. Why is this?Only outwardly was each offering the same. For each prince brought the offering in the manner best befitting his tribe and his tribes' spiritual source Above.

(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)

So you shall bless the children of Israel... (Num. 4:23)

When the Kohanim say the Priestly Blessing they preface it with the blessing, "Who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to bless His People, Israel, in love." Simply stated, it would seem that the Priests must bless Israel with love in their hearts. But, we can also interpret this to mean that the Priestly Blessing actually brings about love and unity among Jews.

It Once Happened

Before the Giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai, G-d brought Moses up to Heaven in order to teach him the entire Torah. Moses, who walked about in Heaven as one walks on earth, was greeted by an angel who asked him, "What are you doing here, son of Amram? What business do you, a mortal who lives in the physical world, have coming to the holy Heavens?"

"I did not come of my own will," replied Moses confidently. "Our Master has ordered me here in order to receive the Torah and bring it back to the Jewish nation."

When the angels realized that Moses had come to take the Torah from the Heavens and bring it to the Jews, they raised a mighty cry. Would they now be parted forever more from their beloved Torah?

G-d therefore told Moses, "Go and speak with the angels. Convince them that they have no need for the Torah and that they have no reason to regret that it is being taken from them."

But Moses was frightened by the fiery angels. "I am surprised at you, Moses," chastised G-d. "When I first appeared to you from the burning bush, you had much to say. You were not afraid to ask and to argue without end. Why are suddenly frightened by angels who are merely My servants?"

Emboldened by G-d's words, and holding on to the Heavenly Throne, Moses gathered his courage and began. "Whatever was written in the Torah was not intended for you," Moses told the angels gathered nearby. "What does the Torah say? 'I am G-d your G-d Who took you out of the land of Egypt.' Were you ever slaves in Egypt? Did G-d rescue you from there?" Moses asked the Heavenly servants.

"The Torah also says, 'You shall have no strange gods before Me.' Do you worship man-made idols? Do you have an inclination to steal, to covet what belongs to others? Do you have parents that you must honor them? If not, what use do you have for the Torah? You cannot observe its positive commandments nor its prohibitions."

Hearing these arguments, the angels had to concede that Moses was right.

Moses remained in Heaven for 40 days and nights, learning the entire Written Torah and Oral Tradition. Moses knew when day or night had passed on earth by the activities of the angels. When he saw the angels preparing the manna which the Jews were to eat the following day, he knew that it was day. When the manna fell, he knew it was night on earth.

One day, Moses saw G-d sitting on His mighty, exalted throne, adding crowns to the letters of the Torah. He asked G-d to explain a reason for these decorations and was told, "In many years to come there will be born a great tzadik (righteous person) by the name of Akiva the son of Joseph who will reveal many hidden secrets of the Torah. He will know how to derive laws and Torah thoughts from every letterhead and crown which I am now adding to the letters."

Moses begged to be shown this tzadik. G-d showed him a building which housed many disciples sitting in rows upon rows. At their head sat a man who resembled a heavenly angel. Moses approached the men but could not understand what they were saying, and he was very grieved.

Then, suddenly, Moses heard one of the students ask the angelic-looking man how he knew all he had been teaching them. Rabbi Akiva replied, "Everything which I am teaching and innovating before you in Torah is a direct transmission of what Moses received upon Mount Sinai." Moses was comforted by these words but asked G-d, "If You intend to create such a great person, why do You not grant him the privilege of bringing the Torah down to the Jews?"

"I have especially chosen you to bring the Torah to My children," G-d told Moses. "But because you were so modest in thinking that Rabbi Akiva is more fitting than you to transmit the Torah to the Jews, I will increase your wisdom and knowledge." And at that moment, G-d opened the 50 gates of wisdom, allowing Moses to pass through 49 of them. Moses's wisdom was so great that no other person in the world could compare with him. And it is from Moses, of all our other great teachers, that we will learn Torah when Moshiach comes.

Moshiach Matters

Two significant events in Jewish history occurred on Shavuot and are connected to the Redemption: the passing of King David and the passing of the Baal Shem Tov, founder of Chasidism. King David represents the epitome of Jewish monarchy. This attribute will reach its peak when Moshiach restores monarchy to Israel. The Baal Shem Tov initiated the widespread dispersion of spiritual knowledge. His teachings represent a foretaste of the era of the Redemption when "the occupation of the entire world will be solely to know G-d."

(From Keeping in Touch by Rabbi E. Touger)

  872: Bamidbar874: Beha'aloscha  
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