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Let's bake something. How about a cake, a knish, or maybe some cookies.
Or maybe we should make something more ethnic, like a lokshen kugel (a sort of noodle pudding), gefilte fish, or even chopped liver.
On second thought, let's stick with a basic: challah. You'll need:
- 5 pounds flour
- 2 ounces fresh yeast
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 4 1/4 cups warm water (add an additional 1/4 cup for softer dough)
- 3/4 cup oil
- 1 1/3 cups sugar
- 5 egg yolks
Here are the instructions: Put the eggs, yeast and salt in a bowl. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Put the bowl in the oven. Then mix the oil and water in another bowl. When thoroughly mixed, pour it into the bowl already in the oven (be sure to use gloves). When the oil or water or both begin to boil, add the dough. Wait 30 minutes.
What you'll have, of course, is a thorough mess. You won't have challah - or anything edible.
But why? We put all the ingredients in.
Ah, but we didn't do it in the right order. To make challah, first you have to activate the yeast. Then the ingredients have to be mixed (flour, sugar, yolks, water and the the activated yeast), and the mixing has to be thorough (12 minutes, medium setting if using a mixer). Then the dough has to rise (covered, in a warm place, for 2 to 3 hours). Only then can you separate the challah for the blessing, make the braids, and finally bake the challah (400 degrees for the first fifteen minutes, then at 350 for another half-hour or so).
We all know that a recipe consists of more than the ingredients and that cooking requires more than throwing those ingredients together any way we want. Cooking is a process. Not only do we have to have all the ingredients, we have to have them in the right proportions. Too much salt, too little flour, not enough garlic - the recipe gets ruined.
And we have to add them in the right order. How the ingredients combine also determines how the recipe will turn out. Similarly, we have to cook it at the right temperature. Too much heat and it burns; too little and it doesn't cook.
Mitzvot (commandments) are like a recipe. If we want to "taste" the results, we have to "cook" them - perform them - the right way. The Sages established how to do a mitzva, when to do a mitzva and with what to do a mitzva, because they knew, by Divine inspiration, how each act would open a channel to G-dliness, serve as a conduit and a connection.
The word "mitzva" means "commandment." But more than that, it means "connection," for performing a mitzva connects the performer with the One Who commanded the act. We might say that mitzvot are G-d's recipes, and the Sages are the chefs who wrote them down and taught us how to make something that not only "tastes great" but is spiritually nutritious as well.
So the next time you're feeling "hungry" for some G-dliness, check out the "recipe book," the Code of Jewish Law, with your local "chef," your nearest Chabad rabbi or rebbetzin. And they might even know a great recipe for challah, too.
The Torah portion Bamidbar begins the book of Bamidbar, which is also known as "Sefer HaPikudim - The Book of Numbers." Both at the beginning and the end of the book of Bamidbar the Torah details the counting of the Jews: First, after receiving the Torah in the Sinai Desert at the beginning of their wanderings through the vast and terrible desert; and the second time at the end of the forty years' wanderings, on the eve of their entry into the Land of Israel.
There is an eternal lesson which can be derived from these countings, both of which took place in the desert: the mission of every Jew, man or woman, is to make an "abode" for G-d in this material and earthly world.
When a Jew looks around and sees that the world is a spiritual "desert," full of materialism and mundane desires, the thought may occur: How is it possible to carry out one's mission of bringing G-dliness into the world? The Torah informs us that there is no cause for apprehension, as this was the way the Jews began their mission when they become a nation and received the Torah at Mt. Sinai. With the strength derived from the Torah, they made it through the vast and terrible desert - a bleak wilderness in every respect, where in the natural order of things there is no bread and no water, but only difficulties and trials.
Moreover, wherever they made their way through the desert, they transformed the desert into a blooming garden - Miriam's Well caused the desert to bring forth all sorts of vegetation and fruit; Manna - "Bread from Heaven" was brought down for their sustenance; the Pillar of Fire illuminated their way, while the Clouds of Glory protected them against all dangers. With our ancestors as role models, we see that our surroundings, whatever they may be, need not cause us any worry.
An additional lesson we learn from the counting in the desert is derived from the counting itself. Each person was counted individually, regardless of his station and standing in life, and each one was counted as no more than one and no less than one. This underscores the fact that each of us has his own personal mission in life.
In fact every Jew can be likened to a soldier - for truly, we are all soldiers in the service of G-d. In an army there are various ranks, from an ordinary soldier to the highest in command, yet, each one individually and all together carry out the Divine mission to make a holy place for G-d in this world, even in a desert.
Excerpted and freely adapted from a letter from the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
The Angel Across the Fence
Holocaust survivor, 76, who met the love of his life in a concentration camp, finally gets his bar mitzvah.
by Ihosvani Rodriguez
His young angel hid behind a tree with an apple underneath her warm coat.
And that's where the fairy-tale love story of Herman and Roma Rosenblat began more than half a century ago, across a barbed-wire fence of a Nazi concentration camp.
The Holocaust survivors left their North Miami Beach, Fla., home in February to retell their remarkable tale to a New York television audience, not knowing the latest chapter was about to unfold.
A rabbi watching the show realized the retired 76-year-old electrician missed his bar mitzvah because he was a prisoner when he was 13. So, on Thursday, Herman Rosenblat underwent his long-overdue rite of passage into adulthood at a Long Island temple.
And while news cameras captured the moment, it was the Rosenblats' love sojourn that captured everyone's hearts, said Rabbi Anchelle Perl of the Congregation Beth Sholom Chabad in Mineola, N.Y.
"Everyone who was here was touched. You can really see the history of their lives, such unassuming people," Perl said Friday.
Herman Rosenblat, reached by phone on Friday at his daughter's home in Manhasset, N.Y., said he plans to add the bar mitzvah into the book he has been writing for years.
The tale began in Schlieben, a German concentration camp, where the two Polish children were shipped separately after their families were taken prisoner during World War II.
Herman Rosenblat spent his teen years there carrying bodies from gas chambers into a crematorium.
One cold evening in 1942, after completing his macabre work for the day, Rosenblat said he noticed a little girl hiding behind a tree across a barbed-wire fence. He called to her, but she didn't respond. He called out to her again, this time in Polish.
When she responded, he asked if she had anything to eat. From underneath her brown ragged coat, the girl tossed him an apple and a clump of bread. The scene would repeat itself every evening for the next six months, Rosenblat said.
"I never really noticed her much back then. I was only interested in the food," he recalled.
The meetings ended when Rosenblat learned he was being transferred to a different camp. He told the girl, who appeared to be 9 and whose name he never learned, not to return.
"After that, I never thought about her again," he said.
Freed by the Russians, Rosenblat immigrated to New York and joined the U.S. Army in 1951.
After his service, he began taking night classes to learn to be an electrician. A classmate later set him up on a blind date, but Rosenblat was reluctant to go.
"A blind date? Never! You never know who you are going to meet," Rosenblat recalled saying.
But his friend insisted, saying the woman was Polish like him, and Rosenblat eventually agreed. He "had a great time" and as the couple was returning home from dancing, they began to share their experiences.
"She said she used to throw apples and bread to a little boy in a concentration camp," said Rosenblat. "And as she spoke, I thought, 'That's me!' She was the little girl!"
So, he proposed in the car. She thought he was crazy.
They married six months later, almost 15 years after they exchanged goodbyes through the fence.
Rosenblat retired in 1992 after he was shot during a robbery at his television repair shop in New York.
Once settled in South Florida and with nothing much else to do, Rosenblat began writing his book, "The Fence."
The couple's story caught the attention of a television news producer in New York. The two traveled to the Big Apple in early February to be interviewed for a story.
"When I saw the story, I was thinking, this poor man needs a bar mitzvah," Perl said.
Rosenblat said he told the dozens gathered at the ceremony that his horrible childhood led him to lose his faith.
But he regained it years later when he remembered that his mother - who was killed in a concentration camp in 1942 - came to him in a childhood dream and told him she would one day send an angel for him.
"Roma," he said. "My angel is Roma."
Reprinted with permission from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Save the Date!
Each year on the festival of Shavuot we relive the giving of the Torah to the Jewish people by G-d at Mount Sinai by hearing the Ten Commandments read in the synagogue from a Torah scroll. It is a special mitzva for every man, woman and child to be in the synagogue on Shavuot to hear the Torah reading. This year, the Torah reading that tells of the giving of the Torah will be read on Friday, June 1, in synagogues around the world. Many Chabad-Lubavitch Centers sponsor "ice cream" parties (in keeping with the ancient tradition of eating dairy products on Shavuot) for the young and the young at heart. To find out about the closest Shavuot ice cream party or event call your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center.
Freely translated letter of the Rebbe
2 Sivan, 5709
Greetings and blessings,
I duly received your letter. Unfortunately, I have not had the opportunity to answer you until now because of the preoccupation with my work preparing [texts] for printing.
Among the publications are the talks from Lag BaOmer, the kuntreis for Shavuos, and [the booklet] The Complete Story of Shavuos. (I have directed that you be sent all of the above. The Complete Story of Shavuos is enclosed.)
I was happy to read your letter about the powerful and positive impression the description - in the Memoirs - of Benyamin Wolf and the other hidden tzaddikim made on the Jews in your shul.
You should have pointed out two lessons in particular that every one of us - and they - should learn from these stories:
With regard to others: Whenever we meet another Jew, we must always remember that even though he appears to be a very simple person, and even perhaps on a lower level, [i.e.,] that he is not dutiful in his observance and the like, we can never be sure of who he is in truth and what his inner dimensions are. For there were always - and there are today - hidden tzaddikim among the Jewish people: many, many more than 36 of them. Therefore we have to look upon every person in a favorable light, being careful regarding his honor, and trying to do him a favor to whatever degree possible.
With regard to oneself: Each one of us has hidden potentials, which - were he only to have a strong desire to use them - will enable him, with G-d's help, to reach the highest peaks. For when a Jew connects himself to G-d Who is infinite through the Torah and its mitzvos (commandments), he has the potential to break through all limitations. In this context, our Sages say: "A person is obligated to say: 'When will my deeds reach the deeds of my forefathers: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.'"
How are your studies - both your own and those with others - proceeding? You no doubt participate in a communal study session?
I conclude with a wish for the upcoming Shavuos holiday: that we all receive the Torah with happiness and inner feeling; that it be a Torah of life for us. It should not be a Torah which we honor and we keep, but regard as distant so that it will not disturb our everyday life. Instead, it should be a Torah that directs us with regard to our - and everyone's - life.
With blessings for a happy holiday,
From I Will Write it In Their Hearts, translated by Rabbi E. Touger, published by Sichos In English
Erev Rosh Chodesh Sivan, 5718 
To All Participants n the Third Annual Convention of the N'shei uBnos Chabad
G-d bless you all!
Blessing and Greeting:
The Baal Shem Tov, often quoted by my father-in-law of saintly memory, said that everything is by Hashgocho Protis (Divine Providence), and from everything we can and must learn something useful in serving G-d. Hence, Rosh Chodesh Sivan, the day designated for the Convention to be held thereon, with G-d's help, also holds a lesson and teaching for the Convention.
On that day the Jews reached the wilderness of Sinai, "And Yisroel encamped there facing the mountain" - Mount Sinai was "as one man with one heart," and that G-d considered this proper preparation and evidence that they be given the Torah.
The Torah is eternal, valid for all generations and for all places, and thus it is understood that also the preparations too, and conditions of, Mattan Torah are also eternal.
The day of Rosh Chodesh Sivan itself must serve as a lesson and teaching for Jews in general, and especially for those who are convening with the purpose to strengthen true Yiddishkeit (Judaism), to dedicate themselves - through Ahavas Yisroel (love of one's fellow jew) combined with Ahavas HaTorah (love of the Torah) and Ahavas Hashem (love of G-d) - to unity among all Jews, "united facing the mountain," to receive the Torah of Moses from Sinai - a living Torah, a Torah that gives life, and teaches how to live, on weekdays, Shabbosim (Sabbaths), and Yomim Tovim (holidays) ....
With blessings for hatzlocho (success) and good tidings,
What is specifically involved in "honoring" one's parents?
We are told not to sit in our parents' seats, not to contradict their words, nor address our parents by name, even after their passing. We are to give our parents food and drink - from their money if they have and from our own money if they have not. We are to accompany our parents when necessary and to serve them in all matters which a servant would do for his master. We are also to stand when they enter a room: when Rav Yosef would hear his mother's footsteps he would say: "I will rise before the Divine Presence which is coming."
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
When the Torah describes the mood of the fledgling Jewish nation immediately preceding the Giving of the Torah, it says, "And Israel encamped there, facing the mountain."
For the word "encamped" the singular form is used in the Hebrew, though it was actually millions of people who stood ready, awaiting to receive the Torah.
Our sages explain that the singular form of encamped is used to signify that the Jews encamped "unified, as one person." The Midrash relates that "G-d wanted to give the Torah to the Jewish people as soon as they left Egypt, but they were at odds with one another. When they reached Sinai, they had become bound together into one united group. Then G-d said: 'The Torah is peace, and to whom shall I give it? To a nation that loves peace.'"
Each holiday brings with it its own character. The days of Shavuot are days of unity and peace. One of the most important ways in which we can properly prepare ourselves to receive the Torah, therefore, is by fostering unity and peace amongst our fellow-Jews. This is the time to stop talking and start doing, to bring the precept of "Love your fellow Jew" into action.
Then, certainly, we will be ready not only to receive the Torah once more in all its glory, but also we will merit the final redemption with the righteous Moshiach.
Count (literally, Raise) the heads of the congregation Israel... (Num. 1:2)
When Moses was commanded to arrange a census of the Jewish people, the word used was "seh-oo" more literally meaning "raise" count. This indicates that the counting was actually an elevation for the Jews. The census brought about the resting of the Divine presence on the Jewish nation because it indicated that each individual could affect the destiny of the entire people. Similarly, Maimonides writes: "Each person should consider the entire world as balanced between good and evil deeds. His one action could sway the world to the side of good, bringing salvation to the whole world.
When a count is taken, no distinctions are made between what is being counted. The great and the small are both equal, each having the value of one. The Torah portion of Bamidbar is always read on the Shabbat before Shavuot, the holiday on which the Torah was actually given on Mount Sinai, for all Jews stand equal on that day. Our Sages said that if even one Jew had been missing, the Torah would not have been given!
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)
Each person to his flag with signs for the house of their ancestors (Num. 2:2)
Every individual must ask himself, "When will my deeds reach the level of those of my ancestors?" Our goal should be that our forefathers' achievements will act as a "signpost" for our own actions.
In the year 1648 the Jewish people were overtaken by terrible and overwhelming tragedy. In that black year the Ukrainian Cossack Bogdan Chmielnicki and his vicious hordes rampaged through the countryside murdering and pillaging the unfortunate Jewish villages in their wake.
A young girl was living in a small Polish village together with her widowed mother and small brothers and sisters at the time of great upheaval. When word spread of the approach of the murderers, the Jews fled wherever they could; this girl was separated from her family. She wandered the countryside with a group of destitute Jews, begging for food.
After some weeks of wandering, the group of refugees came to Vilna where they found a community shelter. The wife of the shelter manager took a special liking to the girl and offered to help her establish herself in Vilna, reasoning that in a large city, she would more easily find her family.
The girl, for her part, was grateful for the woman's friendship, and when she was offered a job in a Jewish house, she accepted happily. "My son-in-law," explained the lady of the house, "is a great Torah scholar and studies every night until midnight, at which time he is served his dinner. Up until now my daughter and I have had the honor of serving him, but it is difficult for us to keep such late hours and also manage the house during the day. You will have the duty and privilege of serving my son-in-law." The girl accepted the job happily.
The first night as she sat outside the door of the scholar, listening to the haunting sing-song melodies of the Talmud, the girl was transported back many years. It was as if she was listening to her father's voice rehearsing the ancient texts in just the same melodious voice. With these memories filling her mind, tears suddenly began to flow down her cheeks, as she sobbed quietly.
A moment later the door opened and in an annoyed tone of voice the young man said to her, "Please stop that noise. You are disturbing my concentration." Frightened to lose her job, the girl was quieted at once.
The following night as she sat by the closed door listening to the ancient melodies, the girl was again moved to tears, and she couldn't control her weeping. When the young scholar opened the door, he saw at once that something serious was grieving the girl. His patient questions yielded from the girl an account of her sad tale. She told him about her beloved father, Meir who had passed away many years ago and about her mother and siblings lost in the terrible upheaval. She also told him about her older brother who had been sent away to study after his bar-mitzvah and whom she had never seen again.
The young man, Rabbi Shabetai Cohen, (later known as the ShaCh), quickly realized that he knew the girl's family and the whereabouts of one of her relatives, for he, in fact, was her long-lost brother. He did not disclose this information to her, though, for he had his reasons for withholding that wonderful news. Meanwhile, things continued as before, except that Rabbi Shabetai requested that the girl be relieved of her duties, remaining in the house with the status of a family-member.
About half a year later, the lady of the house took ill and the girl took upon herself the care of the invalid as well as assuming most of the household responsibilities. The illness was a prolonged one, and finally the lady passed away, deeply mourned by the whole family.
Not too long passed before matchmakers approached the wealthy widower with suggestions of matches. Uncertain about what to do, the widower consulted his learned son-in-law. Rabbi Shabetai replied that he should postpone any action in the matter, and should wait another year.
After a year passed the marriage brokers returned, and the widower consulted his son-in-law again. This time he offered this advice: "Disregard all the suggestions of the matchmakers, for the best and most suitable match is right here, the young woman you have 'adopted' into your family. Set the earliest possible date for the marriage. After the chupa I will tell you the true identity of the girl."
The young woman was happy and honored to accept the proposal, and the marriage was celebrated joyously. Rabbi Shabetai now revealed to his father-in-law that his bride was none other than his own long-lost sister. He added: "As a wedding gift, I promise that you will be blessed with a son. You will name him Meir, after my saintly father, and he will enlighten the Jewish world with his Torah knowledge and wisdom." This indeed came to pass.
Adapted from The Storyteller.
What special Divine light are the Jewish people yearning for? For the light of Moshiach, as it is written (Gen. 1:4), "And G-d saw the light that it is good." This teaches us that G-d foresaw Moshiach and his activities even before the Creation of the world.
(Pesikta Rabati, ch. 37)