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Have you ever noticed all the labels and stickers on pots and pans? Sometimes it seems like every inch is covered with them. A large one on the front declares this is a ten gallon pot to be used for boiling. Or, in the center of an obviously non-stick frying pan, will be a label telling you this is a non-stick frying pan.
There's another sticker with the price. And sometimes another tag over that one with a reduced price.
And there are often other stickers - information about how the pot or pan was manufactured, for instance, but usually just trivial or irrelevant.
Before you can use the pot or pan, of course, you have to remove the stickers. And that's when it gets, er, sticky.
Some of them are held on by a dab of rubber cement in the center. All you have to do is peel up the sticker and slowly, carefully, stretch the rubber cement until it snaps. The part attached to the now detached label you just throw away. The rest, still on the pot or pan, you roll into a little ball which peels off quickly and easily.
But you're not so lucky with some of the other adhesives. They're attached with a kind of glue, maybe even welded onto the metal - or so it sometimes seems. When you try to take off such a sticker, often with hot water and soap, or even a cleaning solution, the outer layer disintegrates, leaving pieces of paper - or a filmy residue - firmly, perhaps permanently attached to the metal.
Sometimes it takes years of scrubbing or use until the sticky stuff comes off.
There is a parallel in our spiritual livess. Our soul, being Divine, remains ultimately pure - as we say in the morning blessings, "My G-d, the soul You have given me is pure" - untouched by errors and transgressions of life in the physical world. But the "sins of our youth" (and old age) adhere, metaphysically, to our bodies, to our physical nature.
In other words, our external nature, the part that interacts with the world, sometimes gets "labeled," and the label "sticks" to us. In the process of elevating our selves, refining our nature, we need to remove these "labels" - the way we identify and thus limit ourselves.
How often have we said, for instance, that our Jewish identity, our observance of a mitzva (commandment), our Torah study extends only so far because we are only X - whatever definition or limitation we put on ourselves.
In truth, though, labels improperly label us. Just as a ten gallon pot can be used for many things, not just what it's "labeled" as, so too our Vessels (our thoughts, speech and action), which give shape and expression to the Divine Light within us, far from limiting our Jewishness, are the means of expressing it.
Sometimes it's easy to remove the labels, to move further in our observance and Torah study. But sometimes the labels stick, apparently glued on. We can't seem to make progress, to get beyond a limiting, and debilitating, image of our Jewishness or our capacity to express and enact it.
At such times, we must "scrub harder" - we must increase our Torah learning and mitzva observance, working on ourselves to rid ourselves of the residue of externally imposed and self-defeating labels.
As we read in the second of this week's two Torah portions, Kedoshim, the fruit of a tree's first three years is forbidden. These fruits are considered orla, literally uncircumcised, and may not be eaten. During the tree's fourth year its fruit is permissible, but the fruits must be brought to Jerusalem and eaten in a state of ritual purity. Only in the fifth year may anyone partake of the tree's fruits and eat them anywhere he wishes.
As a reward for observing these mitzvot (commandments), G-d promises that the fifth year's yield will be quantitatively greater. A Jew who observes these laws merits to receive G-d's blessing of bounty, as the Torah states: "And in the fifth year shall you eat of its fruit, that it may increase to you its produce."
Rabbi Shneur Zalman, the first Chabad Rebbe, explains that the fifth year's fruits are superior to the first four years', not only quantitatively but qualitatively.
It is significant that even though the fifth year's fruits are the best thus far, it is permissible to eat them anywhere, not only in Jerusalem, and that everyone may eat them, not just those in a state of ritual purity.
Why did G-d create the world? For the purpose of transforming it into a suitable dwelling place for Him in the lower realms.
A "dwelling place" is a permanent residence; "the lower realms" refers to the physical world, including its lowest and most mundane elements. G-d wants us to be aware of Him at all times, not just when we pray and study Torah. Even our most seemingly insignificant actions must be permeated with this consciousness. We must remember that everything depends on G-d's beneficence, and we must pray for and express our thanks for every aspect of our physical existence.
For this reason it is precisely the fifth year's fruits, the very finest, that are eaten in any place and in any spiritual condition. For the sanctity of G-d's Torah is meant to be brought to every single person and to every place on earth.
Years ago, whenever the Baal Shem Tov traveled and would meet a Jew, he would ask about his health and livelihood. Inevitably, the Jew would respond: "Thank G-d!" "Everything will be fine with G-d's help." These responses demonstrated that a Jew never forgets about G-d, even when the subject is business or health.
The Baal Shem Tov deliberately asked about worldly concerns rather than spiritual matters to accustom people to the idea that everything depends on G-d's blessing, not just things that are obviously "religious."
When a Jew maintains an awareness of G-d, everywhere and in all circumstances, s/he transforms the world into a suitable "dwelling place" for G-d.
Adapted from Likutei Sichot, Volume 7
My Brother, My Best Friend
From a speech by Ari Hoffman at the Chabad Center of Northwest New Jersey Founders Dinner
When I received Rabbi Asher Herson's phone call regarding David, I instantly agreed to meet him. I figured that he would hit me up for a donation, so I brought along my check book.
But that would have been too easy. Rabbi Herson proceeded to tell me about the plans for the new Chabad Educational Center, his memories of David, and his desire to honor him by dedicating a wing of the building in his name. It sounded like an amazing idea, until he asked me to be the guest of honor at the Chabad Founders Dinner.
I promised to think it over. My head was spinning and as we were about to part ways, the rabbi turned to me and said, "Would you do me a favor? Every time David and I used to meet, he would put on tefilin. Would you do me the honor of putting on tefilin in David's memory?"
There I was, in the middle of the parking lot, in the middle of the winter, with my sleeves rolled up, with the tefilin on my forehead and arm, shivering in the cold. My body was numb, but I knew in my heart that I was already committed to this undertaking. Rabbi Herson must have known the bond between David and I.
They say time heals all wounds, but it does not fill the void left behind when you lose your brother.
David and I slept together in the same bed until he was 18 and I was 12. Since I was younger, he made me go to bed first in our unheated room to warm it up for him, during those cold Russian winters.
When he was drafted into the Russian army, it was a very exciting moment for me, thinking somewhat selfishly, it meant that I would have the bed all to myself!
In addition, I appropriated the bicycle that he built, real-to-real tape recorder, (the iPod of those days), and his entire stamp collection!
All of this made me a happy young kid for a few weeks, until I realized how much I really missed him.
So at the age of 13, I told my parents that my school class was going on a trip for a few days. But what I really did was hitch a train and then a bus, and traveled for 12 hours, until I found my brother, at his military base.
As my brother and I grew older, we became even closer. I sponsored David and his family to the United States. Once we were all in America, we began sharing life's pleasures and milestones together.
Every fall David would start training for our annual ski trips. From the Alps to the American West, David, Eric, Jean and I would tear-up the ski slopes. Being a former military man, he would always annoy us, by waking us up early and not letting any ski time go to waste. When Tracy and I were married he walked me to the Chupa.
What made David so special? David never thought of himself first. He was simple, humble, trustworthy, uncomplicated, and always helping others. He was the essence of human kindness.
Family was very important to him. David was a man of tradition. A man who raised two wonderful kids. Sadly he didn't have the nachas (pleasure) of seeing them wed.
David had tremendous respect for our parents and was always there for them. Now as my mother is recovering in the hospital his absence is felt more than ever. For my mother, the pain of loosing him is still unbearable even to this day. I am sorry she is not with us tonight to share this special occasion
Unfortunately his life was not always "a box of chocolates." But if there's one thing that David taught me it is this: Modesty is a virtue and actions speak louder than words.
It is my hope, that great souls will be nurtured in this new Chabad Educational Center, where David's children, grand children, friends and family can find a haven for spiritual fulfillment.
David Hoffman was raised in the Soviet controlled city of Chust in a home where Yiddish was defiantly spoken as his parents attempted to convey their cherished heritage to their children. This intense connection to the values of Judaism never left David. Judaism was part of his soul and would become evident in everything he did.
In 1974, newly wed, David and his wife Hanna immigrated to Israel. David joined the Israel Defense Forces. In 1982, when Israel was at war in Lebanon, David was in the front lines with his unit. It was there that David first encountered Chabad, alongside IDF soldiers. Chabad was there to help soldiers put on tefilin and pray; it was a powerful message that David would never forget.
In 1984, along with his wife and two children, David immigrated to the United States. He was given an opportunity to make it in America through the renowned Wilf family and their Garden Homes development company. David quickly proved himself to be a trusted and proud member of this laudable organization. David also remained dedicated to the vitality of his people. Even during lunch breaks at construction sights, he could be seen studying Torah with a study partner, taking advantage of opportunities previously unavailable.
David first visited the Chabad Center of Northwest NJ in 1995, a few weeks after its new synagogue had been built. A number of years later, when the Chabad Center announced that it was pursuing the construction of an Educational Center and mikva, David approached Rabbi Herson and offered his assistance. He wanted young children to be exposed to the richness and values of the heritage he cherished so dearly. David volunteered his building expertise as well as his assistance in establishing contacts with exceptional contractors. David also consented to playing an honored role at Chabad's Founders Dinner. Tragically, David took ill and was not able to realize this ambition, until now. Through the seeds David planted, he lives on and his efforts continue to yield fruits.
Israel Behind Bars
Subtitled "Memoirs of an American Karate champ turned Israeli Prison Chaplain," these true stories are full of hope and redemption. Find out what goes on behind bars, from the only American chaplain in the Israeli penal system. Join our Jewish brothers and sisters in prison, as they struggle with hope and despair, growth and rehabilitation. Rabbi Jacobs is the author of three other books. He also taught hand-to-hand combat for Israeli security forces and is an eight degree karatze master instructor.
Rosh Chodesh Iyar, 5741 
To All Participants In the
Annual Dinner of Oholei Torah
G-d bless you all!
Greeting and Blessing:
I was pleased to be informed about the forthcoming Annual Dinner on the 13th of Iyar, on the eve of Pesach Sheni [the Second Passover]. May G-d grant that it should be with much Hatzlocho [success].
Pesach Sheni came about, as the Torah tells us, when (on the first anniversary of the Exodus from Egypt) there were several Jews who were unable to offer the Korban Pesach [Passover offering] and celebrate Pesach with all the Jewish people, and they voiced their unhappiness with a heartfelt appeal: "Why should we be deprived of this Mitzvah [commandment]?" And for the sake of these several Jews, indeed for the sake of each one of them, an entirely new chapter was incorporated in the Torah, and a special day was designated in our calendar Pesach Sheni, with its particular Mitzvos and all this "unto your generations" - for all posterity.
Thus the Torah, Toras Chaim ("instruction in living"), emphatically reminds us how precious each and every Jew is, and that no Jew should ever be deprived of his natural right to fulfill all the Mitzvos, by reason of circumstances, such as being on a "faraway journey," and the like.
It has often been emphasized that the best way of coping with spiritually "deprived" Jews, as in the case of any problem, is - prevention: to see to it that no Jew should ever find himself in a state of being on a "faraway journey" from Yiddishkeit [Judaism]. This can be achieved only through a Torah-true education, permeated with the spirit of dedication, that is implanted in Jewish children from their earliest childhood, in keeping with the principle, "Educate the youngster in the proper path; even when growing old he will not depart from it."
Such is the kind of education that is implanted in the students of Oholei Torah, with much Hatzlocho, as is well known to those who are familiar with this educational institution.
However, it is up to all of us to see to it that this Torah institution should not find itself in a position where it must come with a heartfelt appeal: "Why should we be deprived?" Surely, it must not be kept back by the lack of financial means, from carrying on its vital educational work, and, moreover, from expanding its facilities for a growing number of students. This is the obligation and privilege of the loyal friends and supporters of Oholei Torah.
With prayerful wishes to the Honored Guests and all who are active participants in this great endeavor, and with esteem and blessing for Hatzlocho,
Erev Shabbos Kodesh
Rosh Chodesh Iyar, 5735 
20th Annual Convention
National Council of Neshei U'Bnos Chabad
On the occasion of the forthcoming convention, taking place on the weekend of Pesach Sheni, I send greetings and prayerful wishes that the Convention should, with G-d's help, be crowned with Hatzlocho in the fullest mesure.
One of the teachings of Pesach Sheni - as my father-in-law of saintly memory pointed out - is that in matters of Yiddishkeit one should never give up, and it is never too late to rectify a past failing.
This principle has also been one of the basic factors in the work of the Rebbe's-Nesiim [leaders] since the beginning of Chabad, who dedicated themselves with utmost mesiras-nefesh [self-sacrifice] to bring Jews closer to Torah and Mitzvos, regardless of their level of Yiddishkeit, and not to give up a single Jew.
The task of bringing Jews closer to Yiddishkeit is especially relevant to women, for it obviously requires a special approach in terms of compassion, loving-kindness, gentleness, and the like - qualities with which women are generally endowed in a larger measure than men, although all Jews without exception are characterized as rachmanim and gomlei-chasadim, compassionate and practicing loving-kindness.
The theme of the Convention, "Bringing Light Into the World - The Obligation and Privilege of Every Jewish Daughter," is especially fitting in many ways, including this detail in light that it illuminate its environs regardless of the state of things, all of which are equally illuminated, and in a benign and friendly manner. This is the way Torah-Or [Torah-Light] illuminates every Jew in every respect, as it is written, "Its ways are ways of pleasantness, and all its paths are peace."
May G-d grant that the convention be carried through with Hatzlocho, and should inspire each and all the participants to carry on their vital work in a manner full of light and vitality, and in an ever-growing measure...
What is Pesach Sheni?
The 14th of Iyar is Pesach Sheni, the Second Passover. When the Holy Temple stood in Jerusalem, all those who weren't capable of offering the paschal lamb in its proper time on the 14th of the Hebrew month of Nisan (due to impurity or distance), would offer the Paschal Lamb exactly one month later, on the 14th of Iyar. It is customary to eat matzah on the day of Pesach Sheni. There are those who also partake of matza on the evening following Pesach Sheni.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
The Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn, wrote: "The theme of Pesach Sheni is that it is never too late! It is always possible to put things right. Even if one was ritually impure, or far away, and even in a case when this impurity or distance was deliberate - nonetheless it can be corrected."
It's never too late! We can always make up for a past misdeed, omission or failing through sincere desire and making amends.
It's never too late! What an inspiring and optimistic thought! There's always a chance to improve, to become better, to learn and do.
This is truly a motto worth memorizing (and hanging on the refrigerator). Rather than muttering about yourself or another person, "You can't teach an old dog new tricks," realize that it's never too late.
You didn't put on tefilin yesterday? Today's a new day and it's never too late.
You didn't light candles for Shabbat last Friday night? Do it this week; it's never too late.
You never went to Hebrew school, so you can't read Hebrew? Enroll in an adult education course; it's never too late.
You never knew that Judaism had so much to offer? Now that you know, do something about it, because it's never too late!
Akavya ben Mehalel said: "Reflect upon three things and you will not come near sin: Know from where you came, and to where you are going, and before whom you are destined to give an accounting..." (Ethics 3:1)
Reflect upon three things - all three together. If you reflect on only one, or some of them, not only will they be ineffective, but such a meditation could even cause harm. If you reflect only on the first, you will come to the conclusion that you are not to blame for anything. If you reflect only on where you are going you might mistakenly believe that there is no ultimate judgment and accounting. Therefore, we are told to also reflect on "before Whom you are destined to give an accounting." All three aspects of this mediation are dependent upon each other.
This Mishna teaches a person that he must have three entities in mind and when he does so, he "will not come to sin." Generally, a person thinks about two entities, himself and G-d, for "I was created solely to serve my Creator." We must be aware of a third entity, the world at large. The world was created by G-d for a Jew to use in service of Him, i.e., that a Jew should refine his body and his soul, and spread refinement in the world at large, transforming it into a dwelling for G-d.
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe, 13 Iyar, 5751-1991)
Rabbi Shimon said: "... three who ate at one table and did speak words of Torah there, it is as if they had eaten from the table of G-d..." (3:3)
Three together can recite "let us bless," the opening phrase of the zimun, and in this way they form a "pool" of blessing so that each person partaking of the meal can draw off water according to his needs. But this must be preceded by words of Torah which enable them to form this pool of blessing.
(Tzemach Tzedek's Or HaTorah)
What an honor! The innkeeper felt it almost a holy trust that the Baal Shem Tov stayed at his inn whenever he visited the area. A special room was prepared and was always ready in case the tzadik (righteous person) chanced to drop in.
And so, when it happened that the Baal Shem Tov arrived and made his way to "his" room, the innkeeper was furious to find that the door to the room was locked. The innkeeper pounded on the door and it opened to reveal the slight figure of the gentile servant boy, Piotr who had taken a few solitary moments of rest inside. Perceiving the innkeeper's anger, the Baal Shem Tov admonished him. "Don't punish the boy. One day he will come to your aid when you need it the most."
The Baal Shem Tov turned to the frightened child and said, "What is your heart's desire?" He replied, "I want to become educated and I want to have beautiful clothing to wear." "It will be exactly as you wish," replied the tzadik, and he mounted his carriage and left the inn.
The boy began attending school and his bright mind quickly grasped whatever was offered to him. He returned to the inn and became chief bookkeeper for all the innkeeper's properties.
One day his obvious intelligence caught the attention of a traveling aristocrat. The aristocrat offered the innkeeper a handsome sum to part with the young servant, and after consulting with Piotr, the innkeeper agreed.
To his great delight Piotr was again enrolled in school and he completed his studies with honors. The nobleman loved him and took him into his home saying, "I was not blessed with children and I want to adopt you as my own."
Piotr succeeded in everything he undertook, and was popular with everyone. After a time, his master died and all his possessions passed to Piotr, who was considered to be his only relative.
It was then that it entered Piotr's mind to pay a visit to the Jewish innkeeper who had given him his start in life. But when he arrived at his former home, he found strangers in the inn.
"Where is the former innkeeper?" he inquired. The new proprietor told him the whole sad story, how after the young gentile servant boy had left, the innkeeper's fortunes had turned and he had eventually lost everything and was living as a beggar in a nearby town.
Piotr's heart was touched and he traveled to that town and sent out an announcement that he would be distributing alms to all the poor. The poor gathered outside his lodgings and he gave each person a few coins. When he came to his former master, he asked him to relate his life story. The Jew obliged and only after he had completed his tale, did Piotr reveal his identity.
The Jew was overwhelmed at the young man's appearance and his obvious success. "Please allow me to bring you to my estate. I will provide you with a good living and you will want for nothing."
The Jew was reluctant, but after some coaxing, he finally accepted. Piotr decided that he would build an inn and give it to the Jew to manage. When construction was completed, he would send for him. For now, he paid up all the man's debts and left him a sum with which to live.
It so happened that just at that time a robbery occurred in the town. With his new-found "wealth," the Jew became the prime suspect. He was arrested and thrown into jail where he languished for several weeks.
When the inn was completed, Piotr came back to get the Jew, but he was in prison! Losing no time, he went to the authorities, and attesting to the honesty of his old employer, obtained the man's release.
Settled on the estate, the Jew and his family were happy as could be, but that happiness was not to last. The jealous peasants couldn't stand seeing a Jew in the young master's favor. Together with the local priest, they cooked up a sure scheme.
One night a woman crept into the courtyard of the inn and laid a small bundle under the shrubs. Piotr, who was just leaving the inn, watched silently in the darkness.
The next day chaos broke out at the inn. The priest, the peasant and the police all converged on the inn and in no time, the Jew was led away in chains. The trial was swift and the sentence was death.
Again, Piotr arrived and was able to have the Jew released, but this time just until the day of the trial.
The Jew took advantage of this freedom to run to the Baal Shem Tov, weeping and begging his blessing.
"Didn't I tell you that the young boy would help you in your time of need? Go back and don't worry."
The day of the trial arrived and Piotr was ready. Acting as defense, he summoned the peasant woman to the stand. The ignorant woman was no match for him, and weeping copiously, she confessed her guilt. Then the judge took over, questioning the scheming priest. With no way out, he confessed to masterminding the plot and was sentenced to death by hanging. Thus, were the words of the Baal Shem Tov realized yet again.
We must all clearly know that each and every activity and each and every effort made to spread the wellsprings of Chasidut outward illuminates the darkness of the exile and hastens the coming and revelation of Moshiach. There are no words to describe how difficult it is to remain even one extra moment in exile and how precious one extra moment of the revelation of Moshiach is.
(From a letter of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Pesach Sheini 5710 - 1950)