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Devarim Deutronomy

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L'Chaim
February 8, 2008 - 2 Adar I, 5768

1007: Terumah

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  1006: Mishpatim1008: Tetzaveh  

Salad Dressing  |  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

Salad Dressing

Do you enjoy salad? Is it the vegetables (and/or fruit) in the salad that make it truly special or would you say that it's the dressing on the salad that makes it truly unique?

What a variety of salad dressings there are! French, Italian, Russian, Thousand Island, Creamy Garlic, Honey Mustard, Caesar, Lemon Herb, even "plain" oil and vinegar.

There are hundreds of salad dressings, some differing only by a few spices. Still, there are only a few base ingredients: oil, vinegar, mayonnaise, lemon juice, salt, pepper, maybe one or two more, alone or in combinations.

We wouldn't think of mixing two different dressings. Russian by itself and Italian by itself are fine, but together? Oh my! Nor would we say that one is better than the other, even though we may have our own favorite.

Jewish customs are, in a sense, like salad dressings. There's the salad itself - the Torah, and Jewish law as it has emerged through the centuries. Shabbat is Shabbat. Kosher is Kosher. Oh, sure there are some differences of opinion; and some salads use iceberg lettuce and others use romaine. But Torah is Torah, and everyone agrees.

Our customs are our salad dressings. When authentic, they bring variety to Jewish life. The customs can be as apparently trivial as what one wears on Shabbat. They can be significant differences in practice - Ashkenazic Jews don't eat rice on Passover; Sephardic Jews do. They can reflect historical differences, such as phrases in or the order of prayers, which developed as a result of persecution, or the lack of persecution, an open study of mysticism, or a more secretive study.

In every area of Jewish life, we find different customs. (We're talking here about customs in accord with Jewish law.) Do you decorate the suka or not? Do you wrap tefilin outward or inward? (If you don't know what that means, call your local Chabad rabbi.) What special foods are associated with Passover or Rosh Hashana?

Two things we have to know about Jewish customs: First, we should respect our differences. Moreover, we should celebrate them, because each custom has special spiritual value. It is said that each of the twelve tribes of the Jewish people represent a unique approach in serving G-d, and we can see this in the blessings they received. The unique spiritual ap-proach of each became the pathway for the tribe; and the Jewish people need all of them to be complete.

The second thing is, we can't mix customs, any more than we would mix salad dressings. There's a reason for the distinctiveness of Jewish customs, why Ashkenazim don't eat rice on Passover and Sephardim do. Certain dressings are appropriate for certain salads, but not others. Jewish customs are the same way, for they belong not to the individual, but to the history of the Jewish people, to our group experiences in different times and different places.

The variety of customs do more than add "spice" or variety to Jewish life. Like a well-chosen dressing, they bring out the flavor, revealing the vitality in the "salad" of Jewish life and law.


Living with the Rebbe

This week's Torah portion, Teruma, details the various components that went into the Mishkan - the portable Sanctuary erected by the Jews during their journey through the wilderness.

The Sanctuary itself was built of tremendous planks of acacia wood, the dimensions of which were "ten cubits the length of the board, and one-and-a-half cubits the width of each board."

An obvious question is asked: Where did the Children of Israel find such a huge amount of wood in the middle of the desert?

Rashi, the great Torah commentator, provides us with an answer taken from the Midrash Tanchuma: "Our Forefather Jacob perceived with his spirit of prophecy that the Jewish people would one day build a Sanctuary in the wilderness. He therefore brought cedars with him to Egypt and planted them, commanding his children to carry the trees with them when they later left Egypt."

This explanation is also in accord with another verse in the Torah which states that the donations of wood for the Sanctuary were made by "those who had acacia wood with them," implying that the wood belonged to the Children of Israel while they were yet in Egypt.

Indeed, more than 200 years before the Jews were even subjugated; Jacob saw to it that his descendants would have a sufficient reserve of wood to build the Sanctuary.

But why was this so important? Couldn't they have purchased the wood from Egyptian merchants, or sent emissaries to the nearest forest to obtain the needed materials?

In truth, Jacob's actions held a deeper meaning than merely supplying his children with wood. Jacob's intent was to provide the Jewish people with succor and consolation that would enable them to survive the harshness of the exile.

G-d's promise to redeem them from Egypt was not enough; Jacob wanted his children to be comforted by the sight of the trees and reminded of the Sanctuary they would one day erect.

Additional solace was derived from the fact that Jacob had brought the saplings with him from the Holy Land of Israel, reminding the Jewish people of their origins as well as G-d's promise to bring them back to their land.

This consolation during the exile is also alluded to in the source for this explanation - Midrash Tanchuma, as "Tanchuma" is word related to the Hebrew word for consolation and comfort - "nechama."

A similar type of consolation has also been granted to us during our present exile, which, G-d willing, is about to come to an end. The "cedar trees" of our time are the tzadikim (righteous people) who exist in every generation, as it states in Psalms, "A righteous person will flourish like a date palm, like a cedar in the Lebanon he will grow tall."

These tzadikim, who are entirely above the constraints of exile, prevent the Jewish people from losing hope and awaken their hearts to the Redemption.

In this way, the Jewish people will merit the ultimate comfort and consolation in the literal sense, with the full and complete Redemption with Moshiach NOW!

Adapted from Likutei Sichot Vol. XXXI of the Lubavitcher Rebbe


A Slice of Life

Be Our Guest!
by Shawn Goldblatt

In our family, having a glass "cup" at the Shabbat or Yom Tov (holiday) meal is a very special honor. It is a sign of religious maturity and a great privilege, but it also comes with responsibility. In our house, we do not allow guests to help serve or clean up. However, a guest who has a personalized glass at his or her place setting can help out if they choose to do so.

The tradition began when our eldest son, Eliyahu, turned thirteen. We had a set of very elegant and beautiful drinking glasses engraved with a castle that could be personalized with our names. We used these glasses only on Shabbat and Yom Tov, as we felt they added something special to our meal. We decided that we would get an engraved castle glass for each of our children when they reached the age of Bar or Bat Mitzva. This became quite the coveted gift and each of our children looked forward with excitement to the time when they would receive their own engraved castle glass.

My husband Hal and I have some very unique ways of making our guests feel welcome and comfortable at our Shabbat table. The mitzva (commandment) of hachnasat orchim - welcoming guests - has always been a favorite mitzva of ours. We both learned the fine art of making our guests feel at home from the Lubavitcher Rebbe's emissaries in Long Beach, California, Rabbi Moishe Yosef and Nechama Engel. As students at California State University in Long Beach, we had both been invited to participate in a complete Shabbat at the Engel home. From their shining example we took the mitzva of welcoming guests as one close to our hearts. From the time we were married, we enjoyed inviting our friends into our home to experience Shabbat. Being college students, they enjoyed coming, not only for the great food, but for the connection to their roots and the lively discussions we would have.

One Shabbat eve, shortly after our daughter Tova had received her personalized glass, we were setting the table. As we were putting out the glasses when Tova made an interesting comment. She mentioned that our guests could not enjoy adult privileges because they didn't have glasses with their names on them. Although she was just teasing us, Hal and I thought she had a point. So we bought four more castle glasses and had them engraved with the word "guest." Now we were able to make our guests feel even more special.

Being that we lived in Long Beach, which at the time was a small community, we frequently had the honor to entertain repeat guests for Shabbat meals. We actually had many friends who came to us nearly every Shabbat. They joined us so often that they became more like family than guests. And that's when we took our Shabbat glasses collection to the next level. We decided that anyone who came to our Shabbat meals more than three times should really have a personalized glass with his or her name on it. From that point on, each time we acquired a new "family member" we would present him or her with an engraved glass. This not only allowed our guests to feel at home, but also to feel that they were really part of our family. And I had the extra advantage of getting more helpers in the kitchen!

As our family (and our extended "family") grew, so did our collection of glasses. Sometimes our friends moved away or got married and started making their own Shabbat meals. Then we would retire their glass, always keeping it in reserve, just in case they came back to visit.

As our children got married, their spouses were presented with their own special engraved glasses. And of course we continued to have many guests come to us, so we increased our "guest" glasses to ten, assuring that no one would feel left out.

Soon, we had so many beautiful glasses, each with a different name engraved, that we needed to make a chart to keep track of which names we had and where they were stored! Each Friday, I look at my list of who is honoring us by coming for a meal, and then I find the appropriate glasses to set on the table.

One week, I had finished setting the table for Shabbat with our special china, silver and our unique castle glasses. The table also shown with stunning candlesticks, a shining Kiddush cup and an elegant challah board covered with a beautiful, embroidered challah cover. But something still seemed to be missing.

What was it? And then I realized!

We refer to the Messianic Era as the "day that is all Shabbat." Shabbat is also referred to as a "taste of the World to Come," the era of peace, prosperity, Divine knowledge, health and harmony that we all yearn for. But when Moshiach does come, will he feel welcome? Will it be obvious that we were expecting him? We wanted to make sure that Moshiach will really feel welcome, so we made a glass just for him. Now, every Shabbat, along with all the other special things I set on the table, a glass inscribed with the name "Moshiach" has a place of honor. We really do expect him very soon, or as the Rebbe would so emphatically say, "Now!"

Reprinted with permission from the N'Shei Chabad Newsletter


What's New

New Emissaries

Three more couples have joined the ever-growing family of shluchim (emissaries) of the Lubavitcher Rebbe in various locations throughout the United States and Europe. Rabbi Shloime and Moriel Zacks moved recently to California where they have joined the shluchim at the Chabad Jewish Community Center of Pacific Palisades. The Zacks will be focusing on adult education and community outreach. Rabbi Yitzchok and Mimi Feldman moved recently to Bend, Oregon, where they are establishing a new Chabad Center to serve the needs of the Jewish communities in Central Oregon. Rabbi Michoel and Shaina Rosenthal have moved to Marseille, France, to bolster the efforts of the Chabad Center in Marseille.


The Rebbe Writes

15th of Cheshvan, 5733 [1972]

Greeting and Blessing:

This is to acknowledge receipt of your correspondence.

You write that you would love to learn what it means to walk in the presence of G-d, etc. I trust that you know of the so-called Seven Commandments given by G-d to Noah and his children.

These are: (1) the establishment of courts of justice; (2) the prohibition of blasphemy; (3) of idolatry; (4) of incest; (5) of bloodshed; (6) of robbery; (7) of eating flesh cut from a living animal. These Seven Commandments, which G-d gave to the children of Noah, i.e. to all mankind, are the basic laws, with far-reaching ramifications which embrace the whole life of the society as well as of the individual, to ensure that the human race will be guided by these Divine laws of morality and ethics, and that the human society will indeed be human, and not a jungle.

To be sure, Jews, the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, have later been given many more Divine commandments which obligate them, but not the rest of mankind. However, this in no way diminishes the fact that gentiles can and must attain complete fulfillment through the observance of the abovementioned Seven Commandments of Man, with all their ramifications, for, inasmuch as they are G-d-given, they provide the vehicle whereby to attain communion with G-d, and thus "walk ever in the presence of G-d," as you write in your letter.

I would like to make an additional essential point. There was a time when some thinkers thought that there was no need to connect the laws of ethics and morality with Divine authority, inasmuch as these are rational principles. The fallacy of this thinking is now abundantly clear. For we have seen, in our own day and age, a whole nation which had boasted of great philosophic advancement and ethical systems sink to the lowest depth of inhuman depravity and unprecedented barbarism. And the reason for this was that they thought that they could establish a morality and ethics based on human reason, not subject to the authority of a Supreme Being, having themselves become a super race, as they thought. There is surely no need to elaborate on the obvious.

From what has been said above, it is clear that no individual can rest content by his own observance of the Divine Commandments, but it is his responsibility to his friends and neighbors, and society at large, to involve them in the observance of the Divine Commandments in the daily life and conduct.

Wishing you success in your efforts to achieve true fulfillment,

With blessing,


21st of Kislev, 5733 [1972]

Blessing and Greeting:

I am in receipt of your letters of Nov. 17th etc., and may G-d grant the fulfillment of your heart's desire for good.

As for the matter of feeling depressed, etc., as you write, surely you know that one of the basic tenets of our faith and our Torah called "Toras Emes," the Law of Truth, is to have complete trust (bitachon) in G-d, Whose benevolent Providence extends to each and everyone individually. It is necessary to reflect on this frequently, for then one can see that, being under G-d's benevolent care, there is no room for anxiety, or worry. This is why the Torah is called "Toras Chaim," the Law of Life, for it is the Jew's guide in life and way of life.

And although in certain situations it is necessary to consult a doctor and follow his instructions, because the Torah expects a Jew to do everything necessary in the natural order of things, it is at the same time necessary to have complete bitachon in G-d and exclude all anxiety.

It would be well to have your mezuzos checked to make sure they are Kosher [ritually fit] and properly affixed. Also, you no doubt know of, and observe, the good custom of putting aside a coin for Tzedokoh [charity] before lighting the candles bli neder [without a commitment].

May G-d grant that you should have good news to report....

With blessing,


Customs

If we have a question in Jewish law, how many rabbis can we consult?

If we have consulted a rabbi and he has forbidden a certain matter in question, we are not permitted to consult another rabbi about the same question, unless we first advise him of the decision of the previous rabbi. (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch)


A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

The seventh of Adar is the birthday and yahrzeit (anniversary of the passing) of Moses.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe spoke numerous times about the significance of this date in our G-dly service. In one of the Rebbe's last public addresses, the Rebbe delved further into the significance of this date.

In a leap year such as our current year, there is a difference of opinion as to whether we commemorate this date in the first or second month of Adar. Since both opinions are "the words of the Living G-d" it is appropriate to commemorate the date in both months.

On a person's birthday, "his mazal (source of influence) shines powerfully." If this concept applies to the birthday of any Jew, surely it applies with regard to the birthday of a leader of the Jewish people. Nor is this relevant merely as an event in the past. Instead, each year, the positive influence associated with the Seventh of Adar is increased, reaching a level immeasurably higher than in previous years.

The birthday of a Jewish leader affects every member of the Jewish people, for the leader is the source of influence through whom G-d's blessings are drawn down for the entire people. Seven is symbolic of a complete cycle.

Thus, the Seventh of Adar should inspire every Jew to carry out his service in a complete manner. The positive influence of the month of Adar will facilitate the performance of this service.

Similarly, these positive influences will hasten the coming of the Redemption. It is of utmost importance that the Redemption come sooner, even a moment sooner, for the Divine Presence and the Jewish people are in exile. Therefore, it is important to hasten the coming of the Redemption; every single moment its coming can be speeded is significant.

The potential for this certainly exists: the very next moment can be the last moment of the exile, and the moment that follows, the first moment of Redemption.


Thoughts that Count

Of every man whose heart prompts him to give you shall take My offering. (Ex. 25:2)

In order for the Divine Presence to rest among the Children of Israel within the Sanctuary, the Jews needed to exhibit a strong love and desire to cleave to G-d. Yet love cannot be commanded; love must flow from a feeling of good will. Contributions to the Sanctuary, therefore, had to be voluntary, without coercion.

(Rabbi Avrohom of Sochtchov)


Make for Me a Sanctuary and I will dwell in their midst (Ex. 25:8)

On the words "in their midst," our Sages comment, "Within each and every Jew," noting that every Jew is holy and considered a sanctuary to G-d in his own right: Throughout the long exile, the site of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem always retained its holiness, as it states, "The Divine Presence never parts from the Western Wall," for the destruction only damaged the upper building and not its foundation. Likewise, the sanctuary within every Jew, the holy Jewish soul, always remains whole and untouched. Only the "building" is subject to spiritual defilement.

(Hayom Yom)


And you shall make a candlestick of pure gold...its cups, its knobs, and its flowers (Ex. 25:31)

Symbolic of the entire Torah, each element of the menora represents a different part of the Torah's teachings. The six branches of the menora stand for the 60 tractates of the Talmud. The knobs and flowers represent the teachings of the Sages outside the Mishna. The cups allude to the esoteric teachings of the Torah, for cups are used to hold wine - wine being the inner part of Torah, referred to as the "wine of Torah" (also alluded to in the saying, "When wine enters, secrets emerge.")

(Ohr HaTorah)


It Once Happened

When Reb Aryeh Leib, who was known as the "Shpoler Zeide," (the grandfather of Shpola) had been Rebbe for three years, there was terrible famine in the area.

The Rebbe, whose love for the poor, the needy, the widowed was unbounded, felt compelled to provide for the thousands affected by the disaster. He could neither eat nor sleep, and his heartache was so great that for weeks on end he couldn't bring himself to taste anything more than bread and tea.

As the famine spread to the furthest provinces of Russia, rabbis from the starving communities wrote to the Shpoler Zeide, begging him to raise a storm in the Heavens, and beg that the deadly decree be rescinded.

Who, if not he, a tzadik (righteous person), known to work wonders, could accomplish this?

The Shpoler Zeide, on his part, wrote to ten of the greatest tzadikim of the day - Reb Zusya of Hanipoli, Reb Yaakov Shimshon of Shipitovka, Reb Ze'ev of Zhitomir, and others - requesting that they come to Shpola immediately.

They soon arrived and were seated at the long table of the Shpoler Zeide, and heard his awesome words: "My masters, I am taking the Alm-ghty to a din Torah, a lawsuit, and you are to serve as the judges. It is true that, according to the law of the Torah, the plaintiff must take his suit to the place where the defendant is. However, since in this unique case, 'there is no place devoid of His presence,' and since, more particularly, 'wherever ten are assembled the Divine Presence rests,' we will hold the court case here."

The holy congregation agreed, and joined in prayer their fervent supplications battering the Gates of Heaven. The Shpoler Zeide then instructed his aide to announce: "By the order of those gathered here, I hereby proclaim that Reb Aryeh Leib, the son of Rachel, summons the Alm-ghty to a courtcase which will be duly conducted here in three days.

The holy rebbes spent the next three days together, in fasting and prayer, and no one was permitted to interrupt their devotions. On the fourth day, after they had concluded the morning prayers and they were still wrapped in their prayer shawls and adorned by their tefilin, the Shpoler Zeide solemnly signalled his aide to announce that the court case was about to begin.

"In the name of all the women and children of the Jews of Russia," the tzadik declared, "I hereby state my claim against the Defendant. Why does the Creator of the Universe not provide them with food, thereby preventing their death (G-d forbid) of hunger? Doesn't the Torah itself say, 'For unto Me are the Children of Israel bondsmen; they are My bondsmen'? Do we not have His promise, recorded by the Prophet Ezekiel, that even if His children should someday desire to go in the ways of the nations of the world, that this will never happen? One can draw the conclusion that the Children of Israel are the A-mighty's servants for all eternity.

"In that case, they should, at least, be in the category of Jewish bondsmen. Jewish law teaches that a master is required to provide for the wife and children of his bondsman. Can the Al-mighty violate His own Torah so blatantly?

"Now I'm well aware that some clever prosecuting angel will argue in defense of the Creator, saying that these servants are remiss in their service; that they don't serve their Master as well as they should. But to this bogus argument I have two replies: Firstly, where is it written that if a bondsman is lazy and doesn't work properly, his wife and children are to be deprived of their sustenance? Secondly, if these servants are slack in their performance, their Master can fault no one, but Himself. For who else gave each servant an evil inclination whose whole job and purpose it is to drive them to abandon their loyalty and to destroy their desire to serve? Why, I can swear that if this evil inclination, which the Master Himself created, would cease to exist, they would become the most perfect servants possible!"

The ten rebbes whom the Shpoler Zeide had drafted as judges consulted their tomes of Torah to search the law for the correct verdict. After the passage of some time they stood to deliver the unanimous ruling:

"This court finds in favor of Reb Aryeh Leib, the son of Rachel. The Alm-ghty is accordingly required, by whatever means at His disposal (and the whole world is His) to provide for the women and children of His People. And may the Heavenly Court above agree and support the verdict of this court in the World Below.

The court pronounced its verdict three times. Then the Shpoler Zeide asked to have refreshments served.

The tzadikim made a "l'chaim" and ate together in a joyous mood before departing for home. Five days after the momentous verdict had been reached, the government announced a shipment of thousands of tons of grain. Immediately, the grain prices fell and before long, there were ample fresh supplies. For the entire following year, bread was bountiful for all.


Moshiach Matters

The concept of simcha (joy) shares a connection to the Future Redemption. For it is in the Era of the Redemption that we will experience the consummate level of simcha. At that time, all undesirable influences will be negated as reflected in the verse, (Isaiah 25:8) "And G-d will wipe away tears from every face." Indeed, all the negative influences will be transformed into good.

(The Lubavitcher Rebbe, 14 Elul, 1988)


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