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Devarim Deutronomy

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   872: Bamidbar

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Devarim Deutronomy

June 24, 2005 - 17 Sivan, 5765

875: Sh'lach

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

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  874: Beha'aloscha876: Korach  

Mazel Tov!  |  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

Mazel Tov!

Of all the metaphors in Judaism, perhaps the most prevalent, and appropriate, is that of a wedding. G-d is compared to the groom and the Jewish people to the bride. The holiday of Shavuot, recently celebrated, is considered the "engagement" of G-d and the Jewish people. The bride and groom fast on the day of their wedding - a personal Yom Kippur. And the chupa, the canopy - often a talit spread over the couple - represents not just the expanse of the heavens, but the encompassing Divine Light.

In a discourse delivered at his wedding, the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe uses the Friday night hymn Lecha Dodi - "Come, my Beloved to meet the Bride; let us welcome Shabbat" - to discusses the spiritual parallels to a bride and groom.

The Previous Rebbe quotes the Zohar that "a king without a queen is neither a king, nor is he great." He further writes that "Shabbat must be received with joy, for it is the source of all blessings, both heavenly and earthly, as the Zohar states 'all the days are blessed from Shabbat. The same applies to a bride; she must also be greeted with joy for she is the source of all the blessings of Above.'

So when, under the chupa, the bride circles the groom seven times she may be drawing down those blessings. And of course it is reminiscent of the seven days of creation, and the earth's seven-fold rotation. Indeed, for a week after the wedding, the bride and groom are hosted at a meal, so the seven blessings can be recited again.

While blessing the groom and bride, these seven blessings also allude to the times of Moshiach, when the marriage of G-d and the Jewish people will be complete. The marriage is to be an "everlasting edifice" - such as the Third Temple will be. The fifth blessing declares: "May the barren one [Jerusalem] rejoice and be happy at the ingathering of her children to her midst in joy. Blessed are You, Lord, who gladdens Zion with her children." And the last one contains a passage from Jeremiah (33:10-11), a passage prophesying the Redemption: "there will be heard in the cities of Judah and in the streets Jerusalem, the sound of joy and the sound of happiness, the sound a groom and the sound of a bride..."

And we anticipate that each day husband and wife are together they will build a faithful Jewish home, faithful to the Torah and mitzvot - a reflection of the faithfulness of the Jewish people to G-d, despite the pressures of oppression and assimilation that put a strain on the relationship.

And in a sense, when Moshiach comes, the world will be a reflection of the Jewish home as it has been over the centuries and millennia. For as the wife - the foundation of the home - creates the atmosphere and conditions for a Jewish home, by insuring the observance of the three principle commandments entrusted to her (Shabbat, kosher, and family purity laws), so too the Jewish people, through our observance of all 613 mitzvot, transform the world into a dwelling place for G-dliness, a home for the Divine Presence.

Living with the Rebbe

In this week's Torah portion, Shelach, we read that Moses sent spies to the Land of Israel in order to get a report on the conditions there. The spies returned with the gloomy news: "The people dwelling in the land are strong, the cities are very strongly walled and great, and we also saw the children of giants there." The spies were harshly punished by G-d for their message, and the Torah describes them as having "brought an evil report against the land."

Why were they punished at all? Were they not merely fulfilling their mission? Their job was to check out the land, "What it is, and whether the people dwelling in it are strong...the cities, if they are open places or fortified," and this is what they did. Is it their fault that the land was occupied by giants and the cities were reinforced? Should they have given a false report upon their return?

The true sin of the spies was that they digressed from their mission. They were only required to describe the Land of Israel, in order for the Jews to know how best to approach and conquer it in a natural manner. The spies were not satisfied with a mere description; they had to editorialize as well and added their opinion as to the likelihood of it being conquered. When they added their own deductions, this caused the Children of Israel to lose faith in G-d and begin to despair. The sin of the twelve spies lies in their comment, "We will not be able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than us."

The spies' transgression was that their faith in G-d's commandment was not great enough. When G-d commands that something be done, a Jew must have faith that it is possible. G-d does not require anything of man which is above his capabilities. Even a mortal, possessing the minimum of understanding and responsibility, will not ask a person to do something which is impossible. Every artisan who fashions a vessel creates it so that it will fulfill its purpose and not break. How much more so is this true about G-d. When the King of Kings commands us to do something, there is no doubt that it is within our grasp, or else it would not have been commanded.

However, we must remember that although man must be sure of his ability to perform mitzvot (commandments), he must not rely on miracles to accomplish them. Indeed, mitzvot must be done through natural means, as this is the will of G-d. A Jew must find the best way according to the laws of nature, to succeed in his tasks. That is why Moses sent the spies; to discover the best approach to conquer Israel militarily. The sin of the spies was that they put all their faith in nature itself, and forgot Who created that very nature.

Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

A Slice of Life

The Merging of Two Souls
by Sara Esther Crispe

It has been an entire week. As per our tradition, I have not seen him or spoken with him. I have not even heard his voice. And yet I have his picture in my mind, his words in my heart and his being engraved in my soul.

It is the day of our wedding and I wake early to prepare. Externally I am having my hair done, my nails, my makeup. But within I am in a completely different world. I recite psalms trying to infuse every moment with holiness. I fast as it is my personal Yom Kippur, my Day of Atonement and I ask forgiveness for my past while cleansing and preparing for our new future.

In my wedding dress I represent a queen and I pray for the ability to be a crown to my husband. Not to be his decoration, but to be the tie between his superconscious and his conscious, to enable him to be his best. Just as a crown rises above the head and yet connects with it as well, so too the Jewish woman binds together the spiritual and the physical, theory with reality. The crown rests on the temples, the most sensitive part of the head. Spiritually the woman rests on the temples as well. She is able to massage where there is pain, while simultaneously ensuring that the head does not inflate, for she serves as its borders. And yet she holds the head up high. Because she is queen she allows him to be king.

I take off my earrings, bracelet and necklace. In another room he empties his pockets, undoes his tie and unties his shoelaces. He is not marrying me for my physical beauty or external jewels. I am not marrying him for the money in his pockets. He comes to be unbound, with no ties, with no connection to anyone or anything but to me and our commitment, to each other.

The music starts and my chatan, my groom, is about to be led to me. He will cover my face with a veil, in order to shield the holiness, the Divine Presence, which rests on the face of a bride. My veil will be opaque so that I cannot see out and no one can see in. My eyes will anyway be closed to more highly sensitize my ability to think and feel. I want the utmost privacy at this moment and to not be distracted by the stares from our hundreds of guests.

By veiling me we make an important unspoken statement to one another. We recognize that we are marrying what we see, but we are also marrying what we don't see. With utmost belief we are sure that we are the other halves to our soul. Only together can we complete ourselves and complete each other. Yet it will take work, hard work. He is not the answer to my incompleteness but rather the means for me to get there. So we recognize that we love what we know and what we are aware of, but we are also marrying the parts that are hidden now from each other, and even to ourselves. We are determined to love these parts as well and to learn to understand how they are also an integral part of our healing and growth.

Finally, after the longest week of my life, my chatan approaches me. It is almost too intense to look. I glance at my husband-to-be for a moment but then my eyes well up with tears. I can no longer see but I don't need to. We are about to be bound together. But we are not just two people. Our marriage represents the continuity of the Jewish people. We are not only about to be bound to each other, but in doing so, we bind together the past, the present and the future.

We will now reunite again under the chupa, the marriage canopy, to become husband and wife. The canopy is open on all sides to represent how our home and hearts should be, welcoming and open to all around. We will be outside, under the stars, to bring heaven down to earth while elevating ourselves closer to heaven.

Now it is I who is led to him, as he awaits me under the chupa. As I approach, I encircle him seven times. As there are seven days of the week culminating in the holiness of the Sabbath, so too, I will surround him, enveloping him in love and commitment, culminating with my standing by his side. Just as I am his crown which sits as a circle around his head, now I too create that bond, that foundation, that security.

In a circle all sides are equally close to its center and there exists perfect harmony. Once I have completed my seven circles, he returns to encircle me by placing an unblemished and unmarked simple gold ring on my finger. This is our 8th circle, one above the natural, the days of the week, and uniting us with the supernatural, the One Above. Seven blessings are now recited, imbuing additional holiness to our relationship and commitment. But right before we turn to celebrate with each other, with our guests, as husband and wife, we first must break a glass.

The last thing my new husband does under our wedding canopy is that he steps on this glass. It is silent and we all hear it shatter. The shattered glass represents the suffering that must always be remembered, even in our joy. Even though we are imbued with happiness, we as a people, as a world, are not in such a state. And therefore it is our responsibility to remember that as we rejoice we need to create a world where all can rejoice. And we must live our lives with a sensitivity to those less fortunate than ourselves and be grateful for all the good that has been bestowed upon us.

After the glass is broken, it is now time for us to celebrate our joy. I remove the veil, as my husband and I gaze at each other for the first time as a married couple. The music begins, our guests start singing and dancing, and we are led from the canopy to begin our new life together.

Reprinted with permission of the author.

What's New

Russian Prayerbook for Children

The Ohr Avner Foundation's Resource Center, Moscow, recently published a prayerbook designed especially for use by children. The prayerbook contains selected prayers with text in both Russian and Hebrew and also includes a transliteration in Russian.

The Moshiach Times

The Moshiach Times, a bi-monthly magazine for children published by Tzivos Hashem, is full of exciting stories, cartoons, and great games that make learning fun. There's a whole new Jewish experience in every issue! To order a subscription call (718) 467-6630 or send a check ($10/one year, $18/two years in U.S) to The Moshiach Times, 332 Kingston Ave., Bklyn., NY 11213

The Rebbe Writes

Freely translated letter

I extend my heartfelt wishes to you that your wedding take place in a fortunate and good hour and with mazal tov. May you construct a Jewish edifice on the foundations of Torah and mitzvos [commandments].

Understandably, it need not be empha-sized that on a deeper level marriage means that groom and bride jointly embark on constructing a life - a most joyous life - and an edifice that endures for many, many long and happy years.

It is self-understood that it is of primary and crucial import that the foundation of an edifice be constructed of the most durable material possible, material that is able to withstand the changes and havoc that can be wrought by changes of temperature and moisture, by an earthquake, and so on.

The same holds true when groom and bride embark on building a life together [and lay the foundations for that life]. This joint life is to be founded on the foundations of Torah and mitzvos, the strongest materials in existence.

These materials have withstood the test of time, overcoming a multitude of obstacles during the passage of the approximately three and a half thousand years since G-d gave us His Torah and mitzvos.

These, then, are the vessels through which a couple receives G-d's blessings for a truly joyous life. May G-d bless you - as previously stated - with a mazal tov and [with the ability to construct] an everlasting edifice on the foundations of Torah and mitzvos.

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. VI, p. 194)

18 Elul, 5735 (1975)

G-d demands that the Jewish home - every Jewish home - be quite different from a non-Jewish home, not only on Shabbos and Yom Tov but also on ordinary weekdays, as well as in regard to "weekday" [i.e., mundane] matters. It must be a Jewish home in every respect.

What makes a Jewish household different from a non-Jewish household is that it is conducted in all its details according to the directives of the Torah, which is known as Toras Chayim - a Jew's Divine guide in his or her daily life.

Hence, the home becomes an abode for G-d's Presence, a home for G-dliness, concerning which G-d says: "Make Me a Sanctuary, and I shall dwell among them."

It is a home where G-d's Presence is felt not only on Shabbos and Yom Tov, but every day of the week; not only when its occupants are engaged in prayer and Torah study, but also when they are engaged in very ordinary things, [e.g.,] eating and drinking, etc. For all their actions are performed in accordance with the directive, "Know Him in all your ways."

It is a home where mealtime is not a time for indulging in ordinary and natural "eating habits," but a hallowed service to G-d, where the table is an "altar" to G-d, sanctified by ritually washing one's hands before a meal, reciting the blessings over food, and reciting Grace After the Meal.

Moreover, every item of food and beverage brought into the home is strictly kosher.

It is a home where the mutual relationship between husband and wife is sanctified by the meticulous observance of the laws and regulations of Taharas HaMishpachah [the laws of family purity], permeated with awareness of the active third "Partner" - G-d - in creating new life, in fulfillment of the Divine commandment: "Be fruitful and multiply."

This also ensures that Jewish children are born in purity and holiness, with pure hearts and minds that enable them to resist temptation and, when they grow up, avoid the pitfalls of their surrounding environment.

Moreover, the strict observance of Taharas HaMishpachah is a basic factor in the preservation of peace and harmony (shalom bayis) in the home, which is vitally strengthened and fortified thereby - obviously, a critical factor in the preservation of the family as a unit.

It is a home where parents know that their first obligation is to instill into their offspring from their most tender age on, love of G-d and also awe of G-d, a home wherein parents infuse their offspring with the joy of performing mitzvos.

With all their desire to provide their children with all the good things in life, the Jewish parent knows that the greatest, indeed, the only real and eternal legacy they can bequeath to their children, is to make the Torah and mitzvos and Jewish traditions their life source and polestar in daily life.

There was an extremely common saying among Polish chassidim, that the time during which a chassan stands under the chuppah is a most propitious time to be granted from Above the fulfillment of his heart's desires.

We may base this saying on repeated expressions of our Sages [regarding a chassan and marriage], among them, that a chassan has all his sins forgiven on his wedding day [and therefore is worthy of all blessings]; that a chassan is likened [on his wedding day] to a king [who has all his requests fulfilled].

Primarily [his requests are then granted,] for at the time of the chuppah the chassan is compared to "Your created being in the Garden of Eden of old." At that time - prior to the sin of the Tree of Knowledge" - the world was in a most complete state [where nothing was lacking; i.e., all requests were granted].

([This explains why this is particularly so as the chassan stands under the chuppah] while with regard to the other explanations offered above, it is not necessarily germane specifically to the time of standing under the chuppah.)

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. XVIII, p. 56)

Rambam this week

21 Sivan, 5765 - June 28, 2005

Mitzva 245: Conducting Business

This mitzva is based on the verse (Lev. 25:14) "And if you sell something to your neighbor, or buy something from your neighbor" The Torah deals with every aspect of our lives; not only with the way we pray and study, but also the manner in which we carry out our business. This mitzva establishes guidelines for our business dealings and governs the way we buy, sell, and transfer ownership of property. These guidelines include writing business contracts, paying for goods with money, or exchanging one item for another.

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

Who doesn't love a wedding? The music, the flowers, the food, the beautiful bride, the chupa, breaking of glass and "Mazal Tov!"

For acquaintances, the anticipation begins when they receive the invitation. For closer friends and relatives, excitement mounts with each new detail shared and discussed.

For the bride, the groom and the immediate family, there is a constant build-up of anticipation and preparation. The bride and groom, in particular, are living with every detail of the wedding and the wedding plans.

The more one is involved in the actual, physical wedding plans, whether you're family, friends, or hired professionals, the more of a reality the wedding is to you.

This scenario is similar to the revelation of Moshiach and the Final Redemption. For, the Redemption has been likened to the consummate wedding between G-d and the Jewish people.

The more we are involved in this ultimate wedding - the more we part-icipate in practical deeds and suitable activities relating to the Redemption - the more excited we will automatically become and the more of a reality it will be in our own lives.

That is why the Rebbe suggested that we study more about Moshiach and the Redemption as a preparation for the once-in-a-lifetime event. After all, could you imagine the bride or groom or parents of the couple not being prepared for the wedding?

In addition, the Rebbe has encouraged us to engage in practical deeds that will further prepare us for this ultimate wedding, mitzvot that will help hasten the Redemption and accustom us to life in the Messianic Era. It can be as simple as another good deed, another kind act, to prepare us for a world where G-d's goodness and kindness will be clearly evident and where people's innate positive qualities will shine brightly to create a peaceful, healthy and benevolent world.

Thoughts that Count

You shall take courage and take away some of the fruit of the land (Num. 13:20)

When Moses sent the twelve leaders into Israel to spy on the land which had been given, by G-d, to the Jewish people, he told them to bring back some of the land's fruit with them. Rabbi Nachman of Breslov (1772-1811) used to say: The nations of the world have stolen the Land of Israel from us. Therefore, it is our duty to stand up and unceasingly shout that it is indeed our land. We must protest to the whole world, that even though other nations have lived in the Land of Israel for many generations, it has not become theirs, and their claim upon it is no claim at all. We are obligated to cry out, as is indeed the law, that if one protests against someone's occupying land, his claim upon it is nullified.

From the first of your dough you shall set aside a challah offering (Num. 15:20)

The commandment to separate challa from the first of the dough teaches us an important aspect of educating children. The "first" - the morning hours - should be separated and set aside for the study of Jewish subjects. Only in the afternoon should there be secular studies.

(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)

"The first of your dough" means that the first part of the day must be dedicated to G-d. It should be "a cake for a gift" - one should say Psalms, learn Torah, pray in the synagogue and the like.

(Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok, the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe)

It Once Happened

Reb Zusha of Hanipoli sat in his home immersed in his Torah learning, when the sounds wafting caused him to glance out the open window. Passing in front of his house was a wedding procession leading the bride and groom on their way. Reb Zusha immediately stood up and went out into the street where abandoning constraint he danced with unbounded joy. He circled the young couple and the other celebrants for a few minutes of great simcha (joy) and then returned to his home and his study.

His family members watched his actions with great interest. They suggested to him that his dancing before a wedding procession was unbefitting a person of his stature in the community.

To their comment he replied, "Let me tell you a story. When I was young I studied under the famous Maggid of Zlotchov, Reb Yechiel Michel. One day I did something against his wishes and he rebuked me severely. I was terribly hurt by his reaction, and he, sensing anguish, soon came over to me and apologized for the harshness of his response, saying, 'Reb Zusha, please forgive me for my angry words.'

"I was very comforted by his apology and replied, 'Of course, I forgive you, Rebbe.'"

"The same night before I went to sleep, he again came to me and asked my forgiveness. I was surprised, and repeated that I forgave him totally.

"I lay in bed for a while thinking about the incident, when the father of my Rebbe, Reb Yitzhak of Drohovitch, appeared to me from the Next World. He said to me, 'I had the merit to leave behind me in the world below my only son, and you want to destroy him because he insulted you?'

"'Please, Rebbe, don't say such a thing! I don't want to hurt him and I have certainly forgiven him completely and wholeheartedly! What more can I do than I have already done?'

"'What you have done is still not complete forgiveness. Follow me and I will show you the real meaning of complete forgiveness.'

"So, I got out of my bed and followed him until we reached the local mikva. Reb Yitzhak told me to immerse myself three times, each time saying and feeling that I forgave his son. I obeyed his wishes and immersed three times, each time with the intention of forgiving my Rebbe.

"When I emerged from the mikva I looked at Reb Yitzchak and saw that his face was so radiant that I was unable to gaze upon it. I asked him where that light came from and he replied: 'All my life I have carefully observed three things to which the Sage Rabbi Nechunya ben HaKana attributed his long life: he never sought honor at the expense of the degradation of his fellow; he never went to sleep without forgiving anyone who might have offended or injured him that day; he was always generous with his money. Reb Yitzchak then told me that the very same level which can be achieved through these things can also be reached through joy.

"And that is why when I saw the wedding procession passing in front of our house, I ran outside to partake of the festivities and to add to the simcha of the bride and groom."

Once Rabbi Shmelke of Nikolsburg came to his Rebbe, Reb Dov Ber of Mezerich, with an inquiry: "How is it possible to fulfill the teaching of our rabbis that one is obligated to say a blessing on bad news just as one would on good news?"

The Maggid answered him by instructing him to go to the shul. "When you get there ask for Reb Zusha of Hanipoli and ask him to explain that dictum to you."

Reb Shmelke did as his Rebbe told him, and when he found Reb Zusha he asked him the question. Reb Zusha was a man who had endured great hardship throughout his entire life. He replied to Reb Shmelke as follows: "I am very surprised that my Rebbe sent you to me, of all people. A question like yours should be addressed to a person who has, G-d- forbid actually experienced something terrible in life. I, thank G-d, know nothing about those frightful things. You see, I have experienced nothing but good all my life. I'm sorry, but I cannot answer your question since I know nothing about evil occurrences."

Reb Shmelke returned to the Maggid with his question answered. He now understood the meaning of the teaching that one is obliged to bless the evil that occurs in life as well as the good, for when man accepts a Divine edict with complete faith and trust, there is no longer a perception of evil inherent in the experiences.

Moshiach Matters

The final and concluding blessing of the Seven blessings recited at the wedding ceremony quotes a prophetic passage regarding the Era of Redemption - "...there shall speedily be heard in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem, the sound of joy and the sound of happiness, the sound of a chassan and the sound of a kallah." This shall take place in the course of the true and complete Redemption, through Moshiach.

(Hitvaaduyot 5745, Vol. V, pp. 2,883-4)

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