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March 2, 2007 - 12 Adar, 5767

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  959: Terumah961: Ki Sisa  

The Miracle of Life  |  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

The Miracle of Life

by Rabbi Eliezer Zalmanov

Did you know that the Megila (scroll), which is read every year on the holiday of Purim, is the only book in the entire Written Torah in which G-d's name does not appear even once?

Wondering why?

Reading through the story of Purim, we discover another most interesting fact. Throughout the entire story we find that very little of it was miraculous. In fact, most of it seems to be extremely coin-cidental. It seems like the work of a great novelist, with all loose ends eventually coming together.

Beginning with the death of Queen Vashti, and King Ahasuerus choosing Esther as his new wife. Followed by Mordechai overhearing and foiling a plot to murder the king, and Haman's rise to power. Through Haman's scheme to annihilate the Jews, and the king's discovery that Esther was Jewish and that Haman's plan would have included her.

All the events leading up to Purim seem to fit right into an almost natural course, and not once do we read about a great miracle, such as the sea splitting or manna falling from heaven. All we have is one coincidental occurrence after another.

True, the fact that Haman's scheme backfired onto himself was very fortuitous, but there were no supernatural miracles. No oil lasted for eight days, nor were any firstborns smitten.

And that is precisely what makes the story of Purim so special.

Take a look at the world around you. Everything seems so "normal." The sun rises every morning in the east, and sets in the west at dusk. Trees and plants grow when they are properly tended to, and will wither and die when neglected. Fire rages and grows when in contact with anything flammable, but will be extinguished when in contact with water.

All this, and much more, is what we've come to know as nature. And like everything else in the world, nature, too, was created by G-d. Nature is G-d's most incredible miracle. We are living a constant miracle. By waking up every morning, we experience this most miraculous event - life.

Even though we don't feel the G-dliness or the miracle in it all, it is there.

The very name of the Megila, "Megilat Esther," makes this point. The name "Esther" translates as "hidden." The true miracle of Purim, as well as that of our daily lives, remains hidden. But we know that G-d, although His name is not mentioned in Megila, was in fact behind all that had transpired, just as He is behind all that happens in the world.

And just as the Jews of that time believed and trusted in G-d that He will save them from Haman's wicked decree, so must we, truly have faith in G-d that He is the one who ultimately controls our destiny.

So this year, when you hear the Megila being read on Saturday night March 3, and Sunday, March 4, take the time to think about the miracle of Purim, and how much it really relates to us.

Rabbi Zalmanov is the director of Chabad of Northwest Indiana.

Living with the Rebbe

In this week's portion, Tetzaveh, the Torah states: "Aaron shall burn incense each morning when he cleans the lamps. And he shall burn incense in the evening when he kindles the lamps." What purpose did the burning of incense serve in the Sanctuary, and later, in the First and Second Holy Temples? Furthermore, what can we learn from this to apply in our daily lives?

First of all, it is important to note that the command to build the incense altar and bring its offering are mentioned in the Torah as the final elements in the construction of the Sanctuary. In fact, the Divine Presence did not rest in the Sanctuary until the incense offering was brought.

What is the reason for this uniqueness? Our Sages explain that the sacrifices offered on the altar in the courtyard of the Sanctuary relate to a Jew's body, while the incense offering brought on the inner altar relates to a Jew's soul.

This concept is reflected in the Hebrew names used to describe these different offerings. The Hebrew word for "sacrifice" is "korban," which has it root in the word "karov," meaning "close." In contrast, the Hebrew for "incense" offering, "ketoret," relates to the root "ketar," Aramaic for "bond." By bringing a sacrifice, a Jew draws close to G-d. Through the incense offering, however, a Jew and G-d become fused in total unity.

Thus, it is only after the Torah describes the preparations necessary for the Sanctuary, whose purpose is to make it possible for the Divine Presence to dwell among - and thus within - the Jewish people, that it mentions the incense offering, which allows for a bond of oneness to be established between them.

This theme of oneness is also reflected in the dimensions of the incense altar, which measured one cubit by one cubit. Likewise, when the incense offering was brought, the priest making the offering was alone with G-d. No one else was allowed to assist.

These concepts must be paralleled in our daily service of G-d. Every day, a person arises as "a new creation." Every day, therefore, we must renew our inner bond with G-d as expressed by the recitation, in our daily prayers, of the verses concerning the bringing of the incense offering, and how that offering was brought in connection with the cleaning and the kindling of the Menora. This teaches us that the bond between us and G-d must be extended into our worldly affairs, causing them to be carried out in the spirit of "All your deeds shall be for the sake of Heaven," and "Know Him in all your ways."

Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

A Slice of Life

An Answer on Purim
by Rabbi Eli and Malka Touger

One of the emissaries of the Lubavitcher Rebbe in Belgium, Rabbi Shabsie Slavatizki, was conducting a Purim feast at the Antwerp Chabad House in 1995. This was the first Purim since the Rebbe's passing and all the participants felt that their ability to celebrate the festival with utter joy had been diminished.

One of those present, a diamond dealer named Arnon Z. put into words what everyone was thinking. "How can we rejoice when we are living in a vacuum? After the Rebbe's passing, is it possible to unbridled happiness?"

Reb Shabsie was touched by Arnon's words. "Questions like these," he responded, "can be faced, but can't be answered. The pain we feel because of the Rebbe's passing cannot easily be soothed, but it's not a negative thing. On the contrary, the pain reflects powerful energies that should be channeled toward bonding with the Rebbe and furthering the mission with which he charged us."

"Moreover," Reb Shabsie continued, "we should not think that the Rebbe has forsaken us. Now, too, he continues to care for all those who seek his assistance."

To illustrate his point, Reb Shabsie read a story from Kfar Chabad, a weekly Lubavitch magazine, which related how, after the Rebbe's passing, a person with a difficulty had written a letter to him and placed it in a volume of Igrot Kodesh (a collection of the Rebbe's letters). When the person read the letter printed on the pages between which he had placed his note, he found an answer which gave him guidance concerning the problem confronting him.

A genuine chasid, Reb Shabsie continued, does not need stories like this to prove the Rebbe's ongoing concern, but if a person feels that he does need proof, such stories can serve the purpose.

Reb Shabsie was interrupted. One of the participants, a guest from Israel, challenged him: "Would you mind putting that statement to a test? According to what you're saying, if one of us were to write a letter to the Rebbe and place it in a volume of Igrot Kodesh, he would receive a pertinent answer. Can we try that now?"

All the listeners were stunned, and waited anxiously to see how Reb Shabsie would react.

Reb Shabsie turned to his son and asked him to go to his library and bring back a volume of Igrot Kodesh. He turned to the questioner and asked him to write out a question for the Rebbe.

Somewhat unnerved by Reb Shabsie's acceptance of his challenge, the skeptic took a pen and paper and wrote: "When will we return to Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel)?" He then signed his name, Shuki ben Yehoshua.

"Place your question in the volume," Reb Shabsie told him.

Reb Shabsie's son had brought the first volume of Igrot Kodesh. Reb Shabsie opened the book and reported that the questioner's letter was between pages 264 and 265. The letter on those pages is dated Purim, 5704, and begins with the greeting: "Happy Purim."

The assembled crowd felt an immediate connection. Here they were on Purim, listening to a letter written on Purim! And the Rebbe concluded that letter with a blessing:

"On that day, G-d will be one, and His name one." [May we proceed] immediately to teshuva (repentance), and immediately to the Redemption."

There were those who considered the answer obvious proof of the effectiveness of asking the Rebbe for guidance and receiving clear answers via the Igrot. Here was a letter which seemed to provide a direct answer to the question which had been asked. Even the more skeptical had to admit the uncanny coincidence.

Reb Shabsie then asked Shuki if he would mind hearing the entire letter the Rebbe had written.

"Of course not," Shuki answered.

"Even if it reflects on your personal life?"

"Why not? I'm an open person. Let the chips fly!"

So Reb Shabsi proceeded to read the letter in its entirety. It spoke about an Israeli youth who had studied in yeshiva, but who had abandoned that lifestyle. The Rebbe asked that contact be made with him, and efforts undertaken to encourage him to identify with his roots.

Upon hearing the whole letter, Shuki became very embarrassed, and asked to be excused, for his personal history was similar to that described. For years, his parents had encouraged him to return to observance, but with no success.

Reb Shabsi refused to let him go. "Don't run away, Shuki! Look yourself in the mirror. Face yourself!"

The gathering continued until late in the morning, and had a profound effect on Shuki's life, inspiring him to confront his past and return to it.

From To Know and To Care published by Sichos In English.

What's New

Be A Part of It! Purim Parties

At Chabad-Lubavitch Centers world-wide, Purim celebrations will be held this Saturday evening, March 3 and Sunday, March 4. Purim n the Wild West, Aloha Purim, Sushi Celebrations, Masquerade & Megila, are just some of the themes at Purim festivities in over 3,000 locations. In the former Soviet Union alone, Chabad-Lubavitch will be sponsoring over 500 Purim observances. In Israel, in adddition to celebrations in 250 centers, volunteers will visit every army base to bring Purim joy to our soldiers in the Holy Land. In the New York Metro Area, the Lubavitch Youth Organization will be visiting prisons and nursing homes. So, Be a Part of It! Call your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center. Everyone is welcome! to find out where your nearest center is visit

The Rebbe Writes

Freely Translated and Adapted
Rosh Chodesh Adar II, 5738 (1978)

As you surely know, the special additional Torah portion, Parshas Zachor, which is read on the Shabbos before Purim, contains the commandments to remember what Amalek, the arch enemy of our Jewish people, did to our people when they were on their way to receive the Torah at Sinai.

Amalek's unprovoked and stealthy attack was calculated to shake their belief in G-d and dampen their enthusiasm for His Torah and mitzvos [commandments].

Haman, a direct descendant of Amalek, was driven by hatred of the Jews, because "their laws were different from those of any other people," as the Megilla states. Likewise did all subsequent Amalekites and Hamans of all ages hate the Jews.

But "Amalek" - in a wider sense - represents all obstacles and hindrances which a Jew encounters on his, or her, way to receive and observe the Torah and mitzvos with enthusiasm and joy in the everyday life.

And so Parshas Zachor comes to remind us, and never forget, that "Amalekites" exist in every generation and in every day and age, and that we must not allow ourselves to be deterred or discouraged by any Amalekite in any shape or form.

If the question be asked, "Why has G-d done thus?"

Why should a Jew be confronted with such trials and difficulties?

The answer is, that every Jew has been given the necessary powers to overcome all such "Amalekites," and he is expected to use them, in order to demonstrate to himself and others that nothing will deter him, nor dampen his fervor, in the observance of the Torah and mitzvos in accordance with G-d's Will.

And once he recognizes that whatever difficulty he encounters is really a test of his faith in G-d, and resolves firmly to meet the challenge, he will soon see that no "Amalek" of any kind is a match for the Divine powers of the Jewish soul.

Indeed, far from being insurmountable obstructions, they turn out to be helpers and catalysts for ever greater achievements, having been instrumental in mobilizing those inner powers which would have otherwise remained dormant.

This is also forcefully brought out in the Megilla [Scroll (of Esther)], in the example of Mordechai the Jew, who "would not bend his knee nor bow down" before Haman.

As a result of this indomitable stance, not only was Haman's power totally broken, but many enemies be came friends, as the Megilla tells us that "many of the peoples of the land were becoming 'Jewish,' for the fear of Mordechai fell upon them!"

May G-d grant that each and all of you should go from strength to strength in emulating Mordechai the Jew, advancing in all matters of Judaism, Torah and mitzvos, with joy and gladness of heart, and may you all be blessed with a full measure of "light, joy, gladness, and honor," both in the plain sense as well as in the inner meaning of these terms in accordance with the interpretation of our Sages - "Light - this is the Torah... Honor - this is tefillin" - since the Torah and mitzvot, though a "must" for their own sake, are the channels and vessels to receive and enjoy G-d's blessings in all needs, materially and spiritually.

Wishing each and all of you a happy Purim, and may its inspiration be with you every day throughout the year.


From where is the custom to use groggers or noisemakers during the megila reading on Purim?

Originally flat stones or wooden paddles on which the word "Haman" was inscribed were pounded together on Purim. Within a short time, the name was erased, in conjunction with the Biblical verse: "For I will utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek," Haman's ancestors being Amalekites. Modern-day noisemakers are based on this ancient custom and are specifically sounded when Haman's name is mentioned to blot out his name.

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

Every deliverance of the Jewish people is connected. The Exodus from Egypt, Purim, and the true and complete Redemption in the Messianic Era, are all interrelated.

Interestingly, we can see this connection in the small but powerful Hebrew word, "im" meaning "if."

If you believe... if you truly long for Moshiach... if you await his coming. The word "im" is made up of the letters alef and mem.

The Redemption of the Jews from Egypt was brought about through Aaron and Moses - whose names respectively begin with alef and mem.

The deliverance of the Jews from Haman's wicked plan of annihilation was brought about through Esther and Mordechai - again, alef and mem.

And the Final Redemption, which we await so eagerly, will be heralded by Elijah the Prophet and initiated by Moshiach - respectively alef and mem.

There is another interesting aspect in the relationship between the Exodus and Purim to the Messianic Era.

According to Moses Maimonides, the Messianic Era can be initiated in one of two ways. It can come about supernaturally, with miracles abounding, as did the Exodus from Egypt. Or it can come about in a seemingly natural manner, as did the deliverance of the Jews from the hands of Haman as celebrated on Purim.

For, on the surface, Esther's appointment as Queen and Mordechai overhearing the plot to kill Ahasuerus, thus saving the King's life and leaving him indebted to Mordechai, were "coincidences." But in truth, these were hidden miracles which occurred within the "laws of nature."

May we merit on this very Purim, to experience the true deliverance of the Jewish people and exodus from our final exile to the Holy Land with our righteous Moshiach, NOW!

Thoughts that Count

And you shall command the Children of Israel that they bring to you pure olive oil, pounded, for the lighting (Ex. 27:20)

Why was it necessary for the oil to be brought to Moses if Aaron was the one who would be kindling the menora? Oil alludes to the inner goodness hidden within every Jew, even the most simple. To arouse this inner quality, the Jew must connect himself to "Moses" - to the leader of the Jewish people in every generation - who, in turn, elevates it to the higher level of "pounded, for the lighting...a light to burn always."

(Sefer HaMaamarim Kuntreisim)

Pure olive oil (Ex. 27:20)

Whereas usually the finest quality of oil is reserved for cooking and the more inferior reserved for lighting purposes, the order in the Holy Temple was the reverse. The purest oil was used to kindle the menora; the second-quality oil was used in the Mincha offerings.

(Midrash Tanchuma)

You shall make holy ornaments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for ornament... to sanctify him, that he be a priest to Me (Ex. 28:2-3)

For those who honor a person according to his external appearance and manner of dress, the holy garments serve as "glory and ornament" - a means to ensure that they show the proper respect for Aaron. Those who are more discerning, however, understand that the true purpose of the holy garments is their sanctity - "that he be a priest unto Me."

(Rabbi Shimon Sofer)

It Once Happened

Nissan was a wealthy man who lived in Yargin, near Pressburg, the capital of Czechoslovakia. He and his wife were already married for many years, but still had not been blessed with children. When finally a son was born to them in 1823, it was no surprise that he honored his former teacher, the world-renowned scholar known as the "Chatam Sofer" to perform the circumcision. Unfortunately, the brit had to be postponed because of the weak health of the baby. It wasn't until several weeks later that it took place on...Purim!

At the brit, the Chatam Sofer was glowing. Whether it was the joy of Purim day, happiness for his student or a combination of both, nobody knew. After completing the circumcision, when he dipped his finger in the wine to place a drop in the baby's mouth (following custom), he called out loudly the Talmudic expression, "Nichnas yayin yatza sod - When wine goes in, secrets come out."

The baby was given an appropriate name for a Purim brit: Baruch Mordechai, which means "blessed be Mordechai," from the paragraph recited after the Megila readings.

The child grew. At an early age he was already outstanding in character and religious observance. However, much to the distress of his parents, his ability to understand Torah was not at a par. As a boy, he didn't seem any different than his age-mates, but after his bar-mitzva, when he entered the famous Pressburg Yeshiva, it was noticeable that he was having major difficulties in his studies.

In truth, he was very diligent. He would sit absorbed in the holy books from morning to evening. But whenever he was asked to repeat or explain anything, he was unable to respond, and could only sit silently.

When he turned 18, the "Ktav Sofer" (who had replaced his departed father as head of the yeshiva) advised his parents to send him to the Holy Land. Perhaps there, where "the air of the Holy Land makes wise," his studies would prosper. His parents agreed; they hoped it would also enable him to make a good match.

One of the scholarly leaders of the Jerusalem community then, Rabbi Yeshaya Bardaki, "adopted" Baruch Mordechai, concerning himself for all of his needs. He was impressed with the young man's sterling character and piousness, but he could not fathom how someone who had done nothing but study Torah diligently all his life could have retained so little.

When Baruch Mordechai reached age 20, Rabbi Bardaki found a bride for him: a simple girl from a good family who wouldn't mind his illiteracy.

Several years after the wedding, Baruch Mordechai began to work as a water carrier. He was honest to an extreme, and as a result quickly became very popular.

For more than 40 years Baruch Mordechai toiled at his chosen profession, the whole time in joyous spirit and with gratitude to G-d for his lot. He took special satisfaction from servicing the many Torah scholars within the walls of Jerusalem; he considered this a great merit and refused to accept payment from them. It anguished him that the great scholar, Rabbi Yehuda Leib Diskin, refused to take water from him. "I cannot allow myself to be served by the likes of Reb Baruch Mordechai," he would say - but refused to explain his words.

On Purim day, 1893, at the time of the festive meal, most of the chasidim and notables of the old city of Jerusalem crowded, as every year, into the home of Rabbi Shneur Zalman Fradkin of Lublin. The atmosphere was exceptionally joyous, even for a Purim celebration. All of a sudden, Baruch Mordechai called out to the host in a loud voice, "Rebbe! Today is 70 years exactly since my brit."

Everyone smiled tolerantly, figuring such an outburst from the water-carrier could only be a result of all the Purim wine he had imbibed. "If so," responded Rabbi Shneur Zalman, "you deserve an extra-large measure of lchaim."

Immediately a large tumbler of a special strong wine was poured and passed to Baruch Mordechai, who speedily dispatched it as commanded. It had an immediate effect. The elderly water-carrier began to sing and dance energetically.

The rabbi's reaction was surprising. He looked at Baruch Mordechai and said: "It would be nice if you would stop fooling around already and honor the holy assemblage with some strong words of Torah law and lore."

Suddenly there was silence. Everyone's gaze shifted in amused anticipation to the tipsy Baruch Mordechai as he climbed up to stand on the table and began to speak. But then, the grins slowly gave way to wide-eyed stares as the water-carrier began discoursing enthusiastically on scholarly Purim topics and peppering his words with learned citations from the Talmud, Midrashim and works of Jewish Law. And he waxed on and on! Indeed, if the strong wine hadn't finally taken its toll, it seemed that he could have continued indefinitely.

Even before the holiday was over, the news of the extraordinary scholarship of the unassuming water-carrier had spread throughout Jerusalem. The community was in an uproar. How had they allowed such an accomplished scholar to be disdained in their midst, and to labor as a mere water-carrier for so many years. And how had his erudition remained hidden for so long?

A few of the elders of the community recalled hearing of the mysterious words of the Chatam Sofer 70 years before. Now, some clever minds were saying they could finally be understood. Nichnas yayin yatza sod - "Wine enters, secrets emerge." Yayin (wine), spelled yud-yud-nun, has a numerical value of 70, and so does samech-vov-dalet, the word for secret!

by Yrachmiel Tilles for Yrachmiel Tilles is a founder of Ascent in Tzfas and director of Do not reprint without permission of the author.

Moshiach Matters

The Talmud states that just as the dawn is the end of the night, so the Book of Esther was the end of the miracles that were given to be put in writing. It was the beginning of the dawn that would blaze to light with the coming of Moshiach, as it is written in Isaiah 60:1, "Arise, shine, for your light has come; G-d's glory shines upon you"

(Me'am Loez)

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