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Devarim Deutronomy

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Devarim Deutronomy

May 25, 2007 - 8 Sivan, 5767

971: Nasso

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

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  970: Bamidbar972: Beha'aloscha  

Point Count Systems  |  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

Point Count Systems

Point Count Systems. Our lives are full of them. They're how we measure progress, assess our standings. Some diet plans assign a numeric value to specific foods. Each number or "point" represents a certain number of calories. Some foods, obviously, get more points than others. You only get a certain number of "points" each day. You can divide them up any way you want.

Chess uses a point count system, too. Each piece is worth a certain number of points: pawns 1, knights and bishops 3, etc. And even non-material things like an attack can be assigned a point value. It's one way to evaluate who's winning, or if an exchange is worth it.

Giveaway contests and prize sweepstakes use point systems. If you're selling magazines, or reading books for a book-a-thon, you need say, 150 points for the bicycle and 200 points for the iPod, but only 10 points for the autographed baseball.

Point Count Systems have a place, because they help us assess and assign a relative value to things. Sometimes by adding together things that have fewer points, we get more value than if we take something that has more points. (In the diet example, you get more value by having points left over. In chess, two rooks (5 points each) are worth more than one queen (9 points). In the book-a-thon, you can get six or seven things (autographed baseball, CDs, videos, maybe even a scooter) instead of that new bicycle (your older brother's still works, anyway.)

In Judaism, we see an example of this Point Count System when it comes to tzedeka (charity). On the verse, "And he garbed himself with tzedeka as a coat of mail..." (Isaiah 59:17), the Sages explain that "just as with chain mail, each scale adds up to form a large mail [garment], so too with charity; each coin adds up to a large amount." (Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidism, expounds upon the mystical significance of this.)

So we might ask, what's the advantage of a coat of mail made up of lots of small scales? Why not make solid armor? Similarly, what's the advantage of given a few coins to tzedeka every day? Why not give a large lump sum once a year, or even just once a month?

For one thing, not everyone has the funds to give a large sum all at once. But everyone can give a quarter or a dime every day. This is a way of uniting the Jewish people - everyone doing the same mitzva (command-ment) every day. And giving tzedeka every day creates a consistency of action; it becomes habit-forming. And once it's a habit, it's comfortable - and easy-to-do. Thus, giving a little tzedekah every day makes it easier to give tzedeka altogether - or a larger amount at one of the "usual times" (Passover, Rosh Hashana, end of the year, etc.).

And if doing a mitzva polishes or beautifies the soul, then each time a mitzva is done, the soul becomes more beautiful. So if one gives, say, a dollar a day, then even if one would otherwise give 365 dollars as an annual donation, the soul would still be 364 times "more beautiful" from giving daily.

Most importantly, each little bit of tzedeka - the point count system - has a cumulative effect, because each coin that is given links to the one before and the one after, lending support to and strengthening the spiritual value of yesterday's and tomorrow's mitzvot.

So when it comes to tzedeka, it pays to count the points - day by day.

Living with the Rebbe

"It came to pass on the day that Moses had finished setting up the Sanctuary..." As we read in this week's Torah portion, Nasso, after the Jewish people had finished constructing all of the Sanctuary's different components, they brought them to Moses so that he could erect it. For the massive wooden planks were just too heavy; even working together, the Jews were unable to build the Sanctuary by themselves.

Recognizing the dilemma, Moses asked G-d how human beings could be expected to perform such a difficult task. G-d told him to put his hand on the enormous boards; they rose by themselves, and the Sanctuary was erected in a miraculous manner. But why was it necessary for G-d to perform a miracle?

According to historians it was the Jewish slaves who built the pyramids in Egypt. Indeed, the Torah tells us, "And they built treasure cities for Pharaoh, Pitom and Raamses." Each individual stone of the pyramids weighed several tons, yet, as depicted in ancient hieroglyphics and paintings, the slaves nonetheless managed to drag these tremendous weights and build the colossal edifices that continue to exist till this very day.

The wooden planks of the Sanctuary weighed far less than these stones. Why then did the Jewish people find it impossible to lift them? Why was it necessary for the Sanctuary to be erected by means of a miracle?

The answer lies in the fact that the pyramids were built by slave labor, by "avodat perach" (back-breaking, rigorous work). The only reason the Jewish slaves were able to move the stones was because Pharaoh compelled them to.

The Jewish people had no choice; they obeyed Pharaoh's commands out of fear. This fear motivated them to tie themselves together with rope (as seen in the paintings) and perform the seemingly superhuman feat.

Building the Sanctuary involved a different type of work entirely. The Sanctuary was to be erected willingly, with joy in being able to execute G-d's command. But the wooden planks proved to be too heavy for the Jews to lift.

G-d didn't want the Sanctuary to be built out of a sense of compulsion. Its erection was a happy event, not a sorrowful one. He therefore made a miracle to express this concept, and the Sanctuary was erected with a feeling of true freedom and liberation.

So it is in the erection of our own individual "Sanctuaries" - the performance of G-d's commandments. Observing G-d's commandments should never be considered "back-breaking labor"; rather, we carry out G-d's command willingly, joyfully, and with the full assistance of the Holy One, blessed be He.

Adapted from a talk of the Rebbe, 5745

A Slice of Life

Lost and Found... in Ireland
by Louise Bloom

Kabbala has always been an idea that intrigued me but I had no idea how to set about learning it until in my sixties I found Chabad - or rather, Chabad found me, in a remote corner of a country that few people know very much about. But I have to go back a bit to explain.

A few years ago when my husband and I reached retirement age we decided to move out of London, where we had lived all our lives. We sold our house in the suburbs and to our friends' astonishment moved to a small rural town in the Irish Republic. So we left an area of London where there was a very large Jewish community, synagogues to suit every shade of orthodoxy, and shops to supply every Jewish appetite from matzos to gefilte fish; and we moved to a Catholic country and a farming area where there are only two other Jewish people, both of whom have "married out".

Although in London our friends were almost all Jewish, neither my husband nor I are observant. We both came from families who belonged to the United Synagogue, but for different reasons we broke away. So for the first three years or so in our new life the only Jewish things we felt we missed were fresh-baked challas and rye bread! We are a five-hour journey from the capital city Dublin, where there are some five or six hundred Jewish people. My father was born in Dublin and was part of a large, happy family there and that is the reason I chose to make my new home in the Emerald Isle.

Ireland is a very beautiful country of about four million people, and the Irish are renowned for their kindness and charm. The pace of life where we live is slow, although it is beginning to speed up; very few of the streets have names and as yet there are no zip codes. When you present a cheque you are trusted and you don't usually need to show a bank card to back it up. I joined an art class and a writing group and we both joined the bridge club and took lessons for the first time.

There was a lot to keep us busy, particularly as we were renting a house and needed to find a place of our own to buy, which we eventually did. We have a lovely modern house just outside the town, surrounded by fields in which horses graze, but few people here know anything about Judaism.

As a child and teenager I had a religious nature and was always looking for something in the synagogue service that I could not find. The rabbi's sermons left me feeling disappointed and hungry for something more sustaining. I had Hebrew lessons for a while at the age of 12 but they did not help. So in my twenties I investigated Buddhism briefly and then other esoteric schools of thought which seemed more likely to meet my spiritual needs. I have been seeking all my life for the right path.

I was still looking for the important "something else" when, wonder of wonders, I received a telephone call from a young Chabad rabbi, who I later found out was part of a program called "Merkos Shluchus," arranged by Rabbi Kotlarsky at Lubavitch World Headquarters. He told me that he and a colleague from New York were on an annual tour of Ireland, North and South, to visit all the Jews in the country, the first purpose being to make contact but also to provide any articles needed such as mezzuzas or Chanuka menoras. Each year a different pair comes and with incredible detective-like skills, they seek out people even in the most out-of-the-way spots and find their way through narrow country lanes to visit them, if a visit is wanted.

I first invited them to our house about four years ago and welcomed the chance to connect with Jewish thinking and culture for an hour or two. I also learned that the Chabad-Lubavitch headquarters in New York sends help to all us Jews who live outside the Dublin area at Passover, Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. Young, enthusiastic and incredibly good-humoured rabbis come over to assist or conduct the services (bringing with them and preparing kosher food for all) at the synagogue in Cork, Ireland's second city. Cork once had a Jewish population of about 400 but now there is only one family remaining.

It was during last year's Merkos Shluchus visit to our house that I finally found the means to study Kabbala. I learned about JNet (The Jewish Learning Network) an organization that matches people together as "learning partners" to study Judaism. I was given a form to fill in, stating my details and what areas of the religion I wished to study. Not long after, I was astonished to be put in touch with the wife of a rabbi in, of all places, South America. This wonderfully motivating woman was originally from New York. Thanks to Skype technology (where telephone calls are free via computers) we were able to have a weekly hour's lesson on the psychological meaning of the week's Torah portion. Thereafter I acquired another learning partner, this time a young woman living outside London, also a rabbi's wife. It is she who has undertaken to instruct me in the mystical aspects of Kabbala and our lessons have proved how knowledgeable and enthusiastic she is about the history of Chasidut and the underlying meanings of the biblical texts.

JNet, for me at this time in my life, seems to be helping with answers to my questions. Everyone I have encountered in Chabad has been remarkably warm and accepting and joyful. I am not promising to become observant , but on a recent trip to Israel I did buy two mezzuzas...

What's New

Have Phone Will Study

Hundreds of Jewish men and women are already taking advantage of The Jewish Learning Network's Torah study by phone service. JNet provides the opportunity to study Torah from home, work, school, wherever and whenever - free of charge. Applicants choose when they are available and what they would like to study and JNet matches them with an educated and friendly volunteer. JNet volunteers can teach a variety of topics, including Jewish traditions, Prayer, Jewish Law and Ethics, Mysticism and Kabbalah, running a Jewish home, raising Jewish children, relationships, or just general questions. JNet is geared for Jews of all levels of learning. No prior Torah knowledge or Hebrew skills are required. To start, sign up at or call 718-467-4400, e-mail JNet is a division of Merkos L'Inyonei Chinuch and is made possible through a grant from The Rohr Foundation.

The Rebbe Writes

Freely translated and adapted

19 Tammuz, 5710 [1959]

Greetings and blessings,

In response to what you wrote... In your circles, you have a good opportunity to become effective in fulfilling the mission for which Divine providence has led you to this place.

One should not be discouraged if it appears that only a small number of individuals allow themselves to be influenced and even with these few, the influence is less than one would desire.

With regard to quantity: We have to understand that every individual is an entire world and it is worthwhile for the entire world to devote itself to saving even one individual Jew with regard to material matters and how much more so, in spiritual matters.

In addition, the good influence that the recipient is granted does not remain sequestered in his possession. In a direct or indirect manner, he has a positive effect on the other people in his close or broad circles of influence. To speak in analogies, just as every organ is a part of the body as a whole, every individual is a part of the community as a whole.

Thus the spiritual improvement of one person strengthens the well-being of the entire community as a matter of course.

With regard to quality: There is no way we can appreciate the greatness of the good accomplished for a person when we help him lift himself up even a little bit higher!

Aside from the immeasurable worth that results from performing even one less sin and doing one more mitzvah [commandment], a sin would have led to another sin and one mitzvah leads to another mitzvah.

Moreover, with each mitzvah, one becomes more fit to properly appreciate a true Torah concept and to have the potential to apply that concept in actual life. In practice, this means having one Jew put on a yarmulke, another, tefillin, a third, tzitzis, a fourth, inspiring him towards love for his fellow man and proper character traits, a fifth, encouraging him to observe taharas hamishpachah [the laws of family purity], a sixth, to teach his children Torah, and so on.

...It is difficult in a letter to tally all of the particular areas where you have potential to make yourself more effective. What is most fundamental is, as my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe, hk"m, would say: "We have to talk less and do more."

All of the above concerns your work with others. It is, however, with regard to one's work with his own self that the yetzer hara [evil inclination] presents the greatest obstacles. We will leave that topic, however, for another time.

Awaiting good tidings,

21 Tammuz, 5710 [1950]

Greetings and blessings,

I received your letter. Thank you for the information contained therein.

May it be G-d's will that your stay - in a vacation spot together with your family - will lead to the desired benefit of enhancing the health of the body and strengthening it in an obvious manner, according to the adage of my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe, hk"m, stated in the name of his father, the Rebbe Rashab: "How dear is a Jewish body! For it, so much Torah is poured out!"

See Rambam, Hilchos Deos, beginning of ch. 4, "Maintaining a healthy and sound body is among the ways of G-d."

From this we can draw a most obvious inference to the importance of the health of the soul. If it is necessary to devote energy to this throughout the year, how much more so is it necessary to strengthen this endeavor with additional power during the time when we are occupied and showing interest in the health of the body. This is necessary lest one come to a situation where the strength of the body will lead to the weakness of the soul (Zohar I, p. 180b)....

I am not writing merely for the sake of rhetoric, but rather to arouse an undertaking, somewhat like is'hapcha [transforming material desires to spiritual], to use the days and the opportunity for restoring the health of the body for strengthening the soul, i.e., to add a fixed time for special study during this vacation period. Also, one should seek out opportunities to inspire others coming to vacation in your place or surroundings to Torah study, Divine service, and deeds of kindness, each person according to his own situation. Sometimes, it might be helpful to explain to them that we are not able to comprehend the secrets of the sublime providence. Perhaps the purpose they all came to this particular place was to add jewels to the crown of the King of kings, the Holy One, blessed be He.

My revered father-in-law, the Rebbe, hk"m, has already promised: "One can rest assured that no effort will go unrewarded." He is a faithful person upon whom one may rely.

With wishes for a healthy summer for both body and soul; with regards to all those who seek our welfare,

From "I Will Write It In Their Hearts," translated by Rabbi Eliyahu Touger, published by Sichos In English


Must one give charity to anyone who asks for it?

We are not obligated to give someone who asks for charity a large contribution, but we are not allowed to send him away empty-handed. Also, it is forbidden to pretend not to notice someone who asks for charity. If someone asks for food we give him food immediately without checking to see if he has any. However, if he is unclad and asks for clothing, we are permitted to check into his situation.

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

Summer is a great time for kids. Without the pressures of school, children have the opportunity to spend their summer vacation in enjoyable and educational pursuits. The summer schedule is particularly suitable for children to grow spiritually, by attending a day or overnight camp with a vibrant, exciting and Torah-true Jewish atmosphere.

Each year, without exception, as the summer approached, the Rebbe emphasized the importance of Jewish children attending Jewish camps. The amount that a child can learn in the summer, unencumbered by the pursuit of reading, writing and arithmetic, goes far beyond what he can accomplish at any other time of year. And, as this knowledge is being imparted in an atmosphere of fun and excitement, in an environment totally saturated with Jewish pride, it remains with a child long after the summer months are over.

It's still not too late to enroll your child in a Jewish camp. And it's certainly not too late to facilitate other children attending a Jewish camp if you do not have camp-age kids. By calling your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center, or visiting, you can find out about a summer camp experience for someone you know, the benefit of which will last a lifetime.

By the way, adults, too, should take advantage of the more relaxed atmosphere of summer to revitalize and nourish themselves Jewishly. Try a Jewish retreat or even just a weekly Torah class to enhance your Jewish pride and knowledge.

And may this summer be our last one in exile and our first in the Era of the Redemption.

Thoughts that Count

Antigonos of Socho received the tradition from Shimon HaTzadik. He used to say: ...And let reverence for Heaven (literally, the fear of Heaven) be upon you (Ethics Ch. 1:3)

After Antigonos emphasizes that one should not serve G-d with a view to receiving reward, but out of complete love for Him, he declares that a person must also be careful regarding his reverence for G-d. One who serves with love is eager to fulfill a positive commandment, and one who serves with reverence is careful regarding negative ones. Thus, by being careful in both aspects, a person's service is complete.


Hillel said: Be of the disciples of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving other people, and drawing them to Torah (Ethics Ch. 1:12)

Moses drew G-dliness down to the Jewish people from Above by means of the Torah which was given through him. Thus he is referred to as "the chaperone of the King" - analogous to the escort who accompanies the groom to his bride. Aaron, by contrast, brought the Jewish people closer to G-d from below to Above, and is thus referred to as "the bride's chaperone," analogous to the escort who accompanies a bride, leading her up to the groom who awaits her.

(Sefer Ha'Arachim Chabad, Vol. 2)

[Hillel] used to say: If I am not for myself, who is for me? And if I am only for myself, what am I? (Ethics Ch. 1:14)

In many areas of Jewish life the individual and the community are completely integrated and harmonized, with equal emphasis on both. Hence, "If I am not for myself" expresses the importance of the individual. At the same time, each person is part of the whole Jewish community, and if he is not, i.e., "if I am only for myself," isolated from the community, what is the individual truly worth?

(Likutei Sichot Vol. 18)

It Once Happened

For a year and a half the Chasidim had been pleading with the Tzemach Tzedek, the grandson of Rabbi Shneur Zalman (founder of Chabad Chasidism) to become Rebbe after the passing of his uncle, Rabbi Dov Ber, but to no avail. He refuted every argument they presented. The greatest Chasidim gathered in the city of Lubavitch to press their plea that the Tzemach Tzedek finally acquiesce. No matter what they said, he adamantly refused to be swayed.

On the eve of Shavuot, Reb Pesach, a venerable Chasid of the Rabbi Shneur Zalman, met with two other of the most notable Chasidim, Reb Aisik Homiler and Reb Hillel Paritcher to devise some strategy. Reb Pesach said to them, "G-d has given me an idea which the Tzemach Tzedek will not be able to refute." They made an appointment to meet with the Tzemach Tzedek and were all present in his room when Reb Pesach asked permission to speak.

Reb Pesach began as follow, "This week's Torah portion discusses the mystery of conception. Now, according to Kabala, if the father's contribution is greater then the child will be female, if the mother's contribution is greater the child will be male. According to this teaching, your grandfather, the Alter Rebbe, is most closely connected to your mother, his daughter. It is she who is his true inheritor. And it follows that you, who have the strongest connection to your mother, through her, are most closely connected to your grandfather."

When the Tzemach Tzedek heard their logic, he fell into a deep meditation. He meditated for some time and then declared, "I accept. Soon I will come out and deliver a Chasidic discourse."

The city of Lubavitch erupted in great joy, and as word spread, Chasidim flocked in droves to the study hall. An enormous crowd had gather by the time the Tzemach Tzedek, garbed in the long white coat which had belonged to his grandfather, entered the room. A hush fell on the crowd as the Tzemach Tzedek began the discourse with the words, "Upon three things the world stands...".

Reb Aisik Homiler suddenly recalled 38 years ago standing in the room listening to the Alter Rebbe deliver the same discourse, word for word. The Tzemach Tzedek had been a mere child of three at the time. Reb Aisik thought to himself, "What a stunt that he can remember this discourse, word for word!"

Suddenly the Tzemach Tzedek stopped in the middle of his discourse and looked at Reb Aisik. "Feh, why are you suspecting me of a trick? What can I do if my grandfather is here, and he is telling me to say this discourse!?" Nobody present (except Reb Aisik) understood the meaning of these words.

Not long after, Reb Aisik Homiler became very ill with a raging fever. Reb Hillel Paritcher and Reb Pesach came to visit him.

Reb Aisik recalled to them the day, 38 years ago, when the Alter Rebbe delivered the discourse. It was very abstruse and the Chasidim didn't understand it. They begged Rabbi Shneur Zalman to repeat it another time, but he replied that he had no time now, and would repeat it at some other time.

Little Menachem Mendel, later to be known as the "Tzemach Tzedek," was always in the room of his grandfather and always mimicked his grandfather's actions. He even had a pair of "tefilin" which he had made from a cut potato, and when his grandfather donned his tefilin, the small boy would don his own "tefilin," tying them with straps of string. The Chasidim noted the patience and attention Rabbi Shneur Zalman gave his little grandson, even to the extent of pausing in his own prayer to help the child extricate his "tefilin straps" from the legs of the table where they would often become tangled.

When the much awaited time came to repeat the discourse, the Chasidim filed into the Alter Rebbe's room. Little three-year old Menachem Mendel, who also wanted to listen to his grandfather, pushed himself between the legs of Reb Aisik in his attempt to find a good listening post. Reb Aisik was afraid the child would distract him from his concentration, and he gently pushed the boy away. Rabbi Shneur Zalman, noticing this, paused in his recitation, rebuking Reb Aisik with the words, "Leave him alone. He hears, and you will see that he hears."

Now, 38 years later, Reb Aisik was realizing the truth of that prediction, for the Tzemach Tzedek had repeated, word for word, the Chasidic discourse he had heard 38 years before.

"I have become ill because I suspected the Rebbe of performing some trick," Reb Aisik told his friends, and he asked them to go and beg the Tzemach Tzedek for forgiveness. The following day, the Tzemach Tzedek stopped to exchanged friendly words with Reb Aisik. Reb Aisik recovered at once and was able to continue celebrating the Yom Tov with great joy.

Moshiach Matters

The Zohar (III, 153b.) teaches, "Moshiach will come in order to cause the righteous to return in repentance." In the days of Moshiach there will be a stupendous revelation of Divinity. For G-d, who is known as 'the righteous of the world,' this revelation will be a kind of 'repentance' - for having withheld this light from His people throughout all the years of exile.

(Or HaTorah, Vayikra, p. 235)

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