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Devarim Deutronomy

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February 23, 2007 - 5 Adar, 5767

959: Terumah

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

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  958: Mishpatim960: Tetzaveh  

Life On A String  |  Living with the Rebbe  |  A Slice of Life  |  What's New
The Rebbe Writes  |  Customs  |  A Word from the Director  |  Thoughts that Count
It Once Happened  |  Moshiach Matters

Life On A String

One of the eternal non-questions centers on the conflict between science and Torah. Which is true? How old is the universe? What about evolution?

It's a non-question because it tries to compare two different fields with two different purposes and two different methodologies.

Science tries to explain observable events and depends on the experimental method. For instance, we observe that milk left unrefrigerated goes sour. Science asks, what causes the milk to spoil? Scientists then devise an experiment, or a series of experiments, to test a hypothesis.

Science accepts an explanation of an event as true if the experiment testing the explanation does three things: eliminates other explanations, can be repeated and can be falsified.

Torah, on the other hand, explains the moral and spiritual purpose of creation. It tells us what G-d demands of us, how we can bring holiness into the world. So when Torah tells us something scientific, for instance that the world is a little less than 6,000 years old, it is giving us the spiritual age, so to speak, not the age it might be if a multitude of dependent conditions occurred, conditions we cannot subject to the experimental method.

The so-called controversies arise over either a misunderstanding of what Torah says and what Torah explains or a misapplication of a series of "if this, then that" statements (unverifiable by the experimental method).

For example, how old is a diamond? According to geology, it takes millions of years for pressure to reshape carbon atoms from coal into diamonds. Yet now, industrial diamonds, virtually indistinguishable from natural diamonds, can be made in hours - or less - by applying greater heat and pressure over a shorter time.

Both are real and both are molecularly identical. Yet one supposedly took millions of years to make and the other a few minutes. And often there's no way to tell them apart.

Put in other terms: science and experiment explain phenomenon from within a finite perspective, true only within the physical limitations of the observer's world. Torah explains the underlying reason for and structure of Creation from the perspective of the Infinite.

Indeed, on the highest levels, science confirms Torah. For instance, Torah declares that the true existence of all physical matter is the soul within, a soul that sings to its Creator. The Theory of Relativity established that physical matter is really a form of energy.

But modern cosmology goes even further: Relativity explains cosmic phenomenon well, but not what occurs on the ultra-microscopic, the quantum level. Quantum mechanics, which explains sub-atomic particles, doesn't fit within the Theory of Relativity.

Without going into the details, modern String Theory reconciles the two. String Theory postulates that the sub-sub-atomic particles can be viewed as dimensions of strings, each vibrating to a different "note." This parallels of course the mystic idea that matter exists because the soul within it sings to the Creator.

Yet the parallel goes further: There are two types of String Theory. One posits 26 dimensions of space-time, the other posits 10 dimensions.

The numbers might be familiar. Centuries ago Kabala and Chasidic philosophy explained the structure of the universe, using those two numbers: the ten Sefirot, or Divine Emanations, serve as the template of all of creation, from the most sublime and mystical to the most coarse and physical. And those ten Sefirot themselves come from the transcendent level of G-dliness, designated by the Tetragrammaton, the four letter Divine Name indicating the infinite infusion of the Divine Life-Force. The numerical value of that name is - 26.

Living with the Rebbe

This week's Torah reading, Teruma, opens with G-d's command to the Jews to donate to the Sanctuary: "And you shall give an offering... gold, silver, and brass."

At first glance it seems odd that G-d should list gold first. Would it not have been more appropriate to begin with brass, an item that could be given freely by all, and then work up to the silver and gold, which only wealthy Jews could afford to donate? Although we know that when the Jewish people left Egypt they were inundated with gifts by the Egyptians anxious for them to leave, and that the Jews amassed great wealth during the splitting of the Red Sea, there were always differences in personal wealth between them. In fact, we find that in actuality, much more brass and silver were donated to the Sanctuary than gold. Why then is gold mentioned first?

Furthermore, since the Sanctuary was intended to establish a dwelling for G-d in this world, would it not have made more sense for it to be fashioned only through the service of the most elevated and sophisticated among the Jews? In reality, however, every single Jew, without exception, was allowed to contribute to its erection.

By way of explanation, Chasidic philosophy teaches that a Jew shares an intrinsic connection to gold. Every Jew, as he exists within the material world, is "G-d's only son," and as such, is by nature rich. The Jew has the potential to give generously, and to give gold. The very Hebrew word for "gold" - zahav - reflects a Jew's tendency to give to others, for our Sages interpret this word as an acronym for the phrase, "He who gives while healthy," that is, a person who gives not to ward off any unfavorable influences, but as a natural expression of his inner self. To emphasize this attribute, the first item asked of the Jewish people was gold.

A Jew is connected to his spiritual source, even within the context of the material world. He is in essence rich, and his inner spiritual wealth should be reflected in actual material wealth. If this is not openly apparent, it is only because G-d desires that the Jew reveal this wealth through his own efforts, that he transform the darkness into light. This, in turn, will draw down an abundance of Divine blessing into the world.

This is especially true in the present time, when the Jewish people have completed all the spiritual tasks demanded of them, and all that is necessary is to actually accept Moshiach. At this time, each and every member of the present generation, the last generation of exile and the first generation of Redemption, is surely worthy of abundant material wealth, which, as Maimonides explains, enables a Jew to devote himself to the study of Torah and the observance of mitzvot (commandments) in a more complete manner, and to give more charity. This will lead to the construction of the Third Holy Temple, towards which every Jewish man, woman and child will donate, speedily in our days.

Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe

A Slice of Life

In the Interest of Justice
By Rae Ekman Shagalov

"What's this? I don't believe it! It's not fair!"

I looked at the photo-enforced citation I had just received in the mail. There was a photo of me sitting in the car showing I had run a red light. "I was only one second too late and it's a $350 fine!" If I had been pulled over by a police officer maybe I could have talked him out of it, but how can you argue with a photo? Should I just pay it and get it over with, or should I take a day off from work and go through all of the hassle of going to court to try to get out of it?

I decided to go to court. A few months later I was sitting in the courtroom. I was very nervous. I had never been to traffic court before. I wished there was something familiar in the courtroom. Half an hour later, the judge walked in. Uh oh, I thought, the judge looks very stern.

The judge began: "You should know that the fine on your citation is only the beginning of what your citation will cost. There is an additional mandatory state penalty of two to three times the fine." Oh, NO! My one second mistake might end up costing me over $1,000!

The Deputy called up the first five cases. I was the fifth. The case before mine was "Synagogue Chabad." What Divine Providence! Here was something familiar; a representative of a Chabad House. Surely the Rebbe's presence was here with his emissary. The Lubavitcher started to say, "I'm here for Synagogue Chabad. It's an organiz-."

The judge interrupted him sternly, but with a smile: "Just answer yes or no - Is your name Synagogue Chabad?"

"No," the young man responded.

"Case dismissed!" said the judge. The young man's jaw dropped open in shock. "I said your citation is dismissed," repeated the judge. "You may go." He left and I was next.

"What do you plead," said the judge, "Guilty, not guilty or no contest?"

"Your honor, I've prepared a letter describing my circumstances. Could you please read it?"

I handed her the following letter:

To the Honorable Judge:

I would like to ask the mercy of the court in dismissing this ticket for the following reasons:

  1. As a school librarian, I am normally a very cautious driver (even old ladies feel safe when I drive!). As the photo shows I reached the intersection just as the light turned red and was through the intersection only one second past the red light. This ticket has made me much more careful to avoid entering intersections on a yellow light.

  2. Two weeks ago my dear mother died which has distressed me immensely and I have over $9,000 in unexpected funeral expenses. As this ticket would cause additional hardship to me, I would like to ask the mercy of the court to dismiss this ticket. Thank you very much for your kindness.

The judge read my letter carefully, examined the photo, then spent five minutes carefully explaining how a camera attached to a traffic light works and why it can never be wrong. "This citation is completely justified," she concluded. My heart sank.

"However," the judge continued, "I have read your letter and in the interest of justice, the court dismisses your citation. You may go."

"Hallelu Et Hash-m - Praise G-d for He is good; His kindness lasts forever!" I sang to myself as I left the courtroom. Then I began to wonder, what am I supposed to learn from this?

I realized this experience had answered a spiritual question that had been troubling me for many years. It was a question that made me tremble on Yom Kippur, made me fear death, and sometimes even made me dread the long-awaited Messianic Era. The question was, "How is it possible that when we will be judged by the Heavenly Court we may escape the severe punishments that could be completely justified by our sins?

This judge showed me that even in this world, where G-dliness is generally concealed, kindness is "in the interest of justice." My citation was completely justified, but because of my repentance and the intense suffering of losing my mother so recently, the judge saw that justice could only be truly served with an extra measure of kindness. Imagine, I thought, how much greater will be the extra measure of kindness G-d will show us when we leave the immense suffering we have experienced in this world by being so distant from G-d, and arrive with our hearts filled with the tremendous repentance we will feel in G-d's presence!

Now, without reservation, I eagerly await the imminent revelation of Moshiach and am comforted by the words I discovered, after my mother's death, in a letter that my grandfather wrote to my mother on the day I was born:

"Divine Providence... ordained that for a little while I have to be away from you at this time. I realize, of course, these poor words of mine cannot take the place of my being there especially to one who from the time you were a baby - whether you went to a doctor or dentist, you would yell, 'Daddy, hold my hand!' In spirit I am right there beside you and always have been and always will be. Do you have to see the flowers when you smell perfume? Do you have to see G-d to know there is One who watches over you in my absence? You know He is there and so am I and it won't be long now before I shall be with you all again."

May "it won't be long" become "now" with the actual arrival of Moshiach, in this moment, right now!

In loving memory of Devorah Rivka bas Yosef Eliezer. Copyright 2006 Rae Shagalov. She can be reached via her website

What's New

Chabad's Children of Chernobyl

Once more, a group of children from the radiation-plagued area of Chernobyl were brought to find respite and a brighter future in Israel. The 19 children who were just flown to Israel by Chabad's Children of Chernobyl are the 76th group and whose arrival raises the total number of children directed into educational facilities designed for them in Kfar Chabad to 2,429. In addition to ongoing medical supervision, nutritious meals and healthy air, the children are introduced to their Jewish heritage.

The Rebbe Writes

3 Menachem Av, 5714 [1954]

Greetings and Blessings!

This letter is a response to the undated letter in which you write that though you are pleased that you moved to ..., at the moment your salary does not quite suffice to meet your needs, and this is affecting your mood.

This is most surprising. After having palpably witnessed G-d's kindness toward you, do you really not have enough faith in His absolutely certain ability to guide you with His acts of loving-kindness in the future, too, and to free you from your straits? And even if, for reasons not understood by us, this is delayed, it is only the Creator of the universe, Who knows the future and Who knows what is truly good, that is able to decide in what manner - the manner that is best for a man and his household - He should bring them to their true happiness both materially and spiritually.

If the above applies even with regard to people whose present situation is less positive than it was previously, and also less positive by comparison with their environment and their acquaintances, how much more obviously does it apply with regard to people whose situation has improved from what it was. And in these difficult months, your situation is certainly better than that of quite a number of people around you, who nevertheless are not despairing, G-d forbid. Most certainly, there-fore, neither you nor your wife ought to be dispirited or saddened, G-d forbid. We have seen it proved in practice that the greater a man's trust, and the more he looks toward his future with joy, the faster do these things materialize on a practical level.

I hope that you will soon gladden me with good news concerning all of the above, both in relation to yourself and in relation to your wife.

With blessings,

29 Kislev, 5720 [1959]

Blessings and Greetings!

... As we heard from my revered father-in-law, the [previous] Rebbe, when a soldier sets out to the battlefield, he strides forth to the joyful rhythm of a triumphal march. This makes it possible for the victory to be greater and speedier.

The same applies to the subject mentioned above. If you, and all those who are active together with you, step out with a joyful certainty that your efforts will be victorious, that victory will be easier, sooner, and greater. [...]

Above all, one must strengthen one's trust - that Chassidus will hold its ground everywhere, including [your hometown]. Accordingly, happy is your lot that you are involved in this task, a task that should be carried out "with joy and with a gladsome heart," in the spirit that our forebears, the Rebbeim, expect of every individual.

With blessings for good news in all the above,

12 Menachem Av, 5714 [1954]

Greetings and Blessings!

In response to your letter... in which you write that the state of your livelihood is not as it ought to be and that you have many debts, etc. etc.:

The end of your letter, about your lack of joy, contradicts the beginning of your letter that describes what you have been through. To use your words: by means of miracles, literally, you remained among the surviving refugees and built a family, and so on.

Make yourself a calculation. If G-d was able to save you from the events of past years and enabled you to succeed in building a Jewish home based on the foundations of the Torah and the mitzvos [commandments] , how much more certainly can He, Who "provides nourishment and sustenance for all," see to your livelihood and that of your family. This depends only on bitachon [trust] and on the mitzvah of tzedakah [charity], for vis-a-vis Heaven, perfect trust - that G-d will provide for your needs and the needs of your household - is effective. This is particularly so when this trust is accompanied by contributing to tzedakah. For concerning tzedakah it is written, "Put Me to the test, please, in this," in fulfillment of the teaching, "Tithe in order that you grow rich."

May G-d enable you to give good tidings concerning all the above [...].

From In Good Hands, translated by Rabbi Uri Kaploun, published by Sichos In English


What is a "mizrach" sign?

Mizrach is the Hebrew word for east. When a Jew prays he or she is supposed to face Jerusalem. Since most Jews live west of Jerusalem, they face east, or "mizrach" when they pray. Many people hang in their homes a decorative plaque, wall-hanging or other artwork with the word "mizrach" on it to show which direction is east.

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

This week contains within it a special date for the American Chabad-Lubavitch community, yet possibly even more so for the American Jewish community at large.

The date is the Ninth of Adar, this year, Tuesday, February 27). On this day, in 5700 (1940), the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn, arrived in the United States.

Though weakened in body - as he was confined to a wheelchair - he was not weakened in spirit.

After his arrival in the United States, the previous Rebbe successfully devoted himself to establishing a strong educational system here. Within two years, yeshivot in New York, Montreal, Newark, Worcester and Pittsburgh were founded. This flurry of activity, however, did not at all affect the manner in which he continued to work toward the establishment of educational organizations in other parts of the world. For, within ten years, programs were started in Paris, Safaria (Israel) and North Africa.

Before his arrival in the United States, the previous Rebbe was told that "America is different." The customs and ways from the "old country" just wouldn't do here. The Rebbe replied in his usual indomitable manner, "America is not different!" and proceeded, throughout the rest of his life, to prove that he was right.

The Jewish community here is greatly indebted to this prophetic and visionary giant.

The Rebbe explains that the arrival of the Previous Rebbe on our shores marked the beginning of the primary efforts to spread Chassidus and Judaism to the outer reaches of the world at large.

We should intensify our efforts to carry out the service begun on the 9th of Adar, namely, to spread the light of Torah to the entire world, until the Redemption comes and this world is revealed as G-d's dwelling.

Thoughts that Count

From every man whose heart prompts him, you shall take My offering. (Ex. 25:2)

It was G-d's will that the opportunity be available for each and every Jew who so desired to participate in the great mitzva (commandment) of building the Tabernacle by bringing an offering. Why was no special blessing recited before this donation - and in general before giving charity - as before other commandments? The reason is that if a blessing were required before doing this mitzva, a Jew might take too much time making his preparations: he might first wash his hands, make sure that he has the proper intentions and the like, and the unfortunate poor person could, in the meantime, die of hunger!

(Rebbe Simcha Bunim)

And they shall make an ark of shittim wood, two-and-a-half cubits its length, one-and-a-half cubits its breadth, and one-and-a-half cubits its height (Ex. 25:10)

The dimensions of the ark were measured in "halves" to teach us that a Jew must be humble and "brokenhearted" when learning Torah, as the Talmud states: "Words of Torah endure only in one who makes himself as if he does not exist."

(The Admor of Sasov)

It Once Happened

The 7th of Adar is the birthday and anniversary of the passing of Moses. The following short story of Moses' life is based on the Torah' and Midrashim.

Pharaoh's chief ministers had been hurriedly summoned to the royal court. They sat and listened intently as the king related his terrifying dream. In it he was sitting on his throne and an old man approached holding a huge scale in one hand. As Pharaoh watched he hung the scale in front of the monarch, reached out and seized all the nobles of the court, bound them, and placed them on one side of the scale. Then he took a little white lamb and laid it on the other side. To Pharaoh's surprise the little lamb was able to tip the scale in its favor. Pharaoh awoke in a panic, wondering what evil this strange dream foretold for him and his people.

Pharaoh's advisors were all famous men, and offered their differing opinions. Finally it was Bilaam whose advice was accepted. "This dream is telling you that a Jewish child will destroy Egypt, Your Majesty," he said. "I will tell you how to destroy them. Fire and swords have been tried, but their G-d saved Abraham from the fiery furnace and Isaac from his father's knife. The only weapon which will succeed is water. I suggest that you take all their newborn baby boys and throw them into the Nile. Then you will be assured that this terrible prophecy will never come true."

All the Children of Israel were in turmoil. Pharaoh's horrible decree had been announced throughout Egypt. The sound of wailing women and children echoed through the encampments, and the men were filled with despair. Soldiers appeared without warning and tore tiny babies from the arms of their grief-stricken mothers.

News of the decree reached the leader of the generation, Amram, and he pondered long and hard on what tactic to adopt. Amram, the leader of the tribe of Levi was universally held in great esteem; his word would be followed by everyone. Finally, with a heavy heart, he spoke: "I have decided for the good of the people to divorce my wife." The rest of the men followed suit and separated from their wives. Only Amram's little daughter, Miriam, objected to his decision. "Father, Pharaoh is sentencing only the boys to death, but you have sentenced the girls as well." Miriam's argument prevailed. Amram remarried his wife, as did the other men.

On the 7th of Adar Yocheved bore a son and named him Yekutiel. He was an unusual child from the start. He was born circumcised, and with his birth, the house filled with a holy light. Amram and Yocheved were sure that he was the redeemer of the Jews that Pharaoh so feared.

Yocheved managed to outsmart the Egyptian soldiers for the first three months, but as time went on it became more difficult. Seeing it was futile, Yocheved built a water-tight container for the baby. She carried it to the Nile and put it near the shore, leaving Miriam to watch the infant. Yocheved hoped that with her baby in the river, the astrological signs would change to indicate that the redeemer had perished. That is exactly what happened. Pharaoh's astrologers notified him that the child had drowned. At once his decree was nullified. The Jewish babies were safe.

That day Batya, Pharaoh's daughter, came with her maids near the shore. Looking out into the distance, she noticed a little basket floating in the river. "Get me that basket," she instructed her maids, but they suspected it was a Jew, and were afraid to violate her father's will. Batya tried to reach it herself, but couldn't. She was about to give up when G-d caused the baby to cry and Batya's heart was filled with mercy. She reached out her arm and a miracle occurred: her arm lengthened and she was able to grasp the basket. When she opened it, a light shone from the child. "This must be a holy child," she thought.

She decided to keep him and prophetically called him Moses - "he who draws out," signifying that just as he was drawn out of the water, so would he draw out the Jews from their servitude. G-d was pleased and responded: "Because you adopted a child that was not your own and called him your son, I will call you My daughter - Batya - the daughter of G-d." She was further honored by her "son" being known by the name she gave him.

Batya brought many Egyptian women to the palace to care for her new baby, but Moses, who was destined to speak face-to-face with G-d, refused to nurse from any of them. Miriam quickly recommended her mother, and so, G-d rewarded Yocheved by returning her beloved child to her care for the first two years of his life. After that she brought Moses to the palace.

Little Moses was a great favorite at court. Even Pharaoh enjoyed the charming little boy. Then, one day in the presence of the royal family and their ministers the child rose, took the crown from Pharaoh's head and set it on his own. Shock filled the silenced room. Bilaam spoke up once again, "This child will grow up to be a traitor!" he cried. But Pharaoh was unwilling to condemn his favorite so quickly. Instead, he agreed to an experiment. A burning coal and a diamond would be set before the child. If he seized the diamond, it would be clear that he had intelligent intent. If he took the coal, it would prove he was like any other child, drawn to glittering objects.

Moses reached toward the diamond, but an angel caused him to take the coal instead. He put the glowing object to his mouth, and was burned. After that, he never again spoke clearly. Moses's speech impediment served a holy purpose. For when he spoke as the man, Moses' speech was difficult to understand, but when he transmitted G-d's word, his speech was completely clear, leaving no doubt that he was speaking in a prophetic state.

Moshiach Matters

The relation between the concepts of simcha (joy) and Redemption is alluded to by the fact that the roots of the words simcha and Moshiach share the same three letters - shin, mem, chet. To explain the connection between the two: Simcha breaks through ("poretzet" in Hebrew) all barriers. This is also the nature of Moshiach, who is a descendant of Peretz, and is referred to as "haporetz - the one who breaks through," as it is written, "The one who breaks through will ascend before them." For Moshiach will break through all barriers and limitations.

(The Lubavitcher Rebbe, 14 Elul, 5748-1988)

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