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L'Chaim
February 29, 2008 - 23 Adar I, 5768

1010: Vayakhel

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  1009: Ki Sisa1011: Pekudei  

Learning to Walk  |  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

Learning to Walk

Have you ever watched a baby learn to walk? There's a lot of hesitation, a lot of trial-and-error, a lot of holding on, letting go, reaching out - and falling down.

How does it work?

After crawling around for a few months, the baby can pull herself up to a kneeling position. That seems like a lot of fun, especially when the parents make a big deal out of it. But having figured out how to kneel, the baby goes back to crawling. There's a lot of experimenting with pulling herself up, using a table leg or the couch, to kneel before moving on to standing up.

Now this one's a bit harder. The legs are wobbly. As soon as she's up, plop, down she goes. And sometimes she's so unsteady on her feet that instead of plopping down, she becomes disoriented, and forgets how to plop. So she lets go and falls over, startling herself.

Once she's learned how to stand and keep standing without knees buckling, she begins to figure out how to slide along the edges of furniture, keeping a firm handhold as she gets her bearings and masters the art of walking.

Then she ventures across the gap - a hand reaches from nightstand to bed, or coffee table to couch. It doesn't quite make it and, plop, down she goes. After figuring out how to negotiate the space between, she's ready to launch into uncharted waters - walking by herself.

Watching an infant learn to walk teaches us much about faith in and knowledge of G d, what they are, and what's the difference between them.

There are two parts to the process of learning to walk: the innate impulse, the instinctive faith that one can walk, and the personal effort, the trial and error of learning how, so that one does not imagine or believe or dream or hope one can walk; one walks because one knows how.

The same applies to the concepts of faith in G-d and knowledge of G-d. We have an instinctive faith, a belief we receive as an inheritance, as Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidism stated unequivocally, "We are believers, the children of believers." At first, we believe in G-d simply because we're told by those we trust that G-d exists. But we don't really experience G-dliness; we don't know G-d.

Only through trial-and-error, only through effort and concentration, can we come to have a knowledge of G-d. Just like learning to walk, or getting to know someone so well (a spouse) that the relationship becomes a bond, a unity, so too knowledge of G d takes time, reflection and all the other mental work it takes to get to know anything or anyone.

The "classroom" that teaches us is prayer, and the "text" is the prayer book. When we really "get into" the words of the prayers, we can begin to understand concepts related to knowledge of G-d - His omnipotence, His being Infinite, G-d as Creator, and so forth.

So we begin with faith (an inherited instinct) and grow into knowledge (irrefutable experience, gained through effort and trial and error).

But we don't stop there. We come back to faith, a faith that transcends intellect - much as, once we've learned to walk, we no longer think about walking, or how to walk - we simply walk.


Living with the Rebbe

In the previous Torah portions of Teruma and Tetzaveh, G-d commanded Moses to build the Mishkan (Sanctuary) and make all its vessels. This week, in the Torah portion of Vayakel (and next week in the portion of Pekudei), G-d's command is transmitted to the Jewish people and carried out in full.

Without exception, everyone participated in the building of the Sanctuary. Their contributions, however, were not equal in value. As no specific amount was required, some donated less and some donated more, according to their individual inclination and financial ability. Thus there were contributions of gold and silver and contributions of oil and wood, if that was all a person was capable of donating.

Significantly, the type of contribution a Jew offered had nothing to do with his connection to the Sanctuary. The Sanctuary belonged to every Jew in equal measure: the rich man whose donation was extremely valuable, and the poor man whose donation was more humble. Every Jew was connected to the Sanctuary to the same degree.

"Both the one who gives more and the one who gives less, provided that he does so for the sake of heaven." Although the individual contributions may have varied, the intention behind the offering was always the same. All Jews wanted to build a House for G-d; all Jews therefore shared an equal portion in its construction.

Moses emphasized this equality among Jews, regardless of their donations, when he said, "See G-d has called by name Betzalel the son of Uri, the son of Chur, of the tribe of Yehudah... and Oholiav the son of Achisamach, of the tribe of Dan... He has filled them with wisdom of heart...of those who do any work, and of those who design artistic work." Betzalel and Oholiav were both in charge of all the artisans who worked on the Sanctuary.

Betzalel came from a very well-connected family. The grandson of Miriam, his tribe of Judah was one of the most prestigious. Oholiav, by contrast, was not distinguished by his lineage. A grandson of one of the maidservants, his tribe of Dan occupied a much lower rung on the social ladder.

And yet, both men were appointed to oversee the holy work, as it states, "Betzalel and Oholiav, and all those filled with wisdom of heart... did all kinds of work for the service of the Sanctuary."

In building the Sanctuary and all Jews are equal. It makes no difference whether one is rich or poor, a descendent of the most exalted parentage or a child of the simplest people. The only qualifier is that the Jew's heart be directed toward heaven!

Adapted from Likutei Sichot, Volume 26


A Slice of Life

Vibrancy Through Art
by Bob Makin

For the youth director of the Chabad Jewish Center of Basking Ridge, New Jersey, the photo freezes a moment in a dichotomous world, where the bright colors of Yitzchok Moully's Andy Warhol-influenced art applied to the black-and-white of his Chasidic Jewish faith are balanced with and grounded by a growing family.

"My family really grounds me and makes me focus on the important things,'' Moully, 29, said. "Without that, I would be a drifter.

"After the kids go to bed, I paint,'' he added. "It is within a healthy structure. Sometimes it is hard with a full-time job and a full-time family, but it is a healthy balance.''

Raised in Australia and Brooklyn by hippies turned Chasidim, Moully developed a love of Judaism, family and art at a young age. While living in the Australian Outback, he also fell in love with nature, which he often depicts in his art, including photography.

One of his 20 pop-art works at his most recent show, "Tree of Life,'' is based on his photograph of a massive tree in the Great Swamp Basin that divides Somerset and Morris counties in New Jersey.

"Every Sunday after Hebrew school, we just take off somewhere and enjoy nature together as a family,'' said Moully, whose mini van, littered with remnants of snacks from last weekend's family ski trip, recently transported to the gallery about dozen works, as well as his two sons, also Mendel, 4.

His wife of five years, Batsheva, was home with infant daughter, Miriam.

"I wanted to give her a break, so I took the boys with me,'' he said.

The Moully home in Basking Ridge is a 10-minute walk and two-minute drive to the Chabad House, which also sports much of the rabbi's pop-art. In the basement of his home are art and photography studios.

Batsheva, co-director of the youth programs, is supportive of his art, Moully said.

"It is wonderful to have her constant input,'' he said.

"When you find the talent that you have been given, then it's important to use it and express it,'' Batsheva added. "His ability to portray the life of Judaism in such a happy medium and to be able to share that with so many other people is a talent he has found within himself. That makes me want to support it.''

In addition to the work hanging on the walls of the synagogue, Moully's visual skills often come in handy there.

Serving not only as co-youth director but also promotions guy, his photography and videos can be seen throughout the Chabad House's web site, chabadcentral.org.

"At Chabad, we have to wear many hats,'' he said.

For Moully, those hats either are an edgy pink yarmulke or a black felt Stetson-style brimmed hat.

"I wear a pink kipa because a rabbi in pink kipa is far less intimidating for those not used to interacting with a rabbi,'' he said. "It breaks down the barriers. My work does the same. Everyone can find something they can relate to in it without feeling out of place.

"Chasidic culture is perceived as very rigid and old world, with very little wiggle room for personal expression within that world, which is completely not the case,'' he added. "Pop art to me is vibrant colors with a positive lift, open and accessible to all. Bringing the two together was about finding the bold colors in the Chasidic world and bringing them to the front."

Whether Chanuka dreidels (spinning tops), gelt (chocolate coins) or dancing rabbis, the Jewish images in Moully's work are black and white on vibrant colors.

Brian Hanck, owner of ArtisZen, the venue for Moully's latest show said that when patrons see the large dreidels Moully depicts, they are stopped in their tracks and immediately smile.

"I believe it is the special way he pays homage to his religion and then presents his pursuit through iconic images that captures the spirit of his heart and touches many others,'' he said.

It's all about energy, Moully said, not only in regard to his art but also in working with the youth.

Both are fun, he said.

"Life is full of energy, and I want to express it and share it,'' he said. "I enjoy working with the energy of the youth and broaden their understanding of their heritage in a fun, exciting way, not just sitting down with the books.''

Moully also makes Judaism fun with a giant Dreidle House, where temple youth hold a Chanuka party each year with their families.

His entertaining art soon will be display in New York City, having been seen previously in galleries and synagogues in Philadelphia and throughout New Jersey. He's also interested in using his art for fund-raising purposes, he said.

"Art is a great communicator," Moully said. "I'm thankful I get to communicate my faith through my art."

Visit Rabbi Moully's web site at ChassidicPopArt.com. Reprinted with permission from Courier News Online edition, www.c-n.com

What's New

Torah Scroll Brings Solace

A Torah scroll that is being written for and dedicated to all of Israel's victims and survivors of terror was brought to the Chabad House in Dimona, a desert town in Israel, on the week anniversary after a suicide bomber murdered a Dimona resident and wounded and traumatized many others. The Torah Scroll was brought by the scroll's sponsors, Chabad's Terror Victims Program.

School Opened in Parents' Memory

Chabad of Camarillo, California, under the leadership of Rabbi Aryeh and Leah (Simon) Lang, is opening a preschool in memory of Leah's parents who died tragically in a car accident this past December. The Simons were extremely devoted to Jewish education.


The Rebbe Writes

Freely translated letters

11 Iyar, 5718 [1958]

Greetings and Blessings!

Your letter arrived after a long break. There you write about the state of affairs in your business, and say that you are worried about what the annual balance will look like.

There is certainly no need for me to expound at length on the subject of the attribute of bitachon [trust in G-d]. To have bitachon does not mean being content with studying about it in the holy books: it means trusting, actually and practically. It means that when there arrives a moment that is not as one would have liked it to be, one should firmly trust that it is no more than a passing thing. As the Torah writes, "For the L-rd your G-d is putting you to the test." And when G-d sees that one has withstood this trial, one then sees even with fleshly eyes that it was all no more than a trial - a disguise without any substance....


13 Nissan, 5711 [1951]

Greetings and Blessings!

Your letter duly arrived, but numerous preoccupations did not allow me to reply until now. As a matter of fact you don't need my reply, because you received a reply from my revered father-in-law, the [Previous] Rebbe, when you were here.

Nevertheless, I would like to reiterate something that I have already said a few times:

One ought to know, once and for all, that faith is not something that is meant to remain only in one's thoughts; it must permeate the whole of one's life.

You are, without any doubt, a believer. So, the very first point of belief is that G-d directs the world. And if He is capable of directing one-and-a-half billion people, then your own affairs will certainly see the fulfillment of the verse, "I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and deliver you."

Now, think this over. G-d promises, "I will sustain and deliver you." So think: Can someone from this or that land disturb G-d from fulfilling His promise (G-d forbid)? Having thought that, now consider: Is G-d really in need of your worry as to how He is going to run your affairs and solve your problems? Or will He succeed in finding good solutions even without your worrying?

After all is said and done, you must remember that the Rebbe - that is, my revered father-in-law, of saintly memory - gave you his blessing, and the blessing of a tzaddik [righteous person] is certainly fulfilled. So the blessing you received will also be fulfilled.

However, until you see the fulfillment of the blessing, you have been given two options:

Either (a) you will walk around worried in case (G-d forbid) the blessing won't be fulfilled. And then, when the blessing is fulfilled, you will have a fresh worry: Why did you have to waste so much vital energy in vain?

Or (b) you will be staunch in your trust and faith in G-d - that He will lead you along the right path and will fulfill all the blessings that you have been given. And then, when you see them being fulfilled in actual fact, you will able to tell yourself: "Just look how well I handled this deal! I didn't worry about things that were no cause for concern."

This is one of the meanings of my father-in-law's blessings to you, and not only as a blessing but also as a directive. Be happy, because - with G-d's help - the problems that you imagine to be so serious will be solved. You have nothing to worry about. You can be happy, and you can fulfill the directive of the verse, "Serve G-d with joy."...

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


Customs

What customs are associated with the Sabbath on which we bless the new moon?

The Shabbat on which we bless the new moon is known as Shabbat Mevarchim. A special blessing is said after the Torah is read and before the additional Musaf prayer is recited. In the blessing, known as "Birkat HaChodesh," we ask G-d to bring the redemption, as well as requesting life, peace, gladness, joy, deliverance and consolation in the upcoming month. The Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe instituted the custom of saying the entire book of Psalms (Tehillim) before the morning prayer on Shabbat Mevarchim, saying that doing so will bring blessings not only to oneself but to one's children and one's children's children.


A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

In talks delivered immediately preceding and during the first month of Adar in 1992, the Lubavitcher Rebbe emphasized the importance of simcha - happiness - in turning the darkness of exile into the light of Redemption.

The Rebbe also stressed that, being as there were two months of Adar in that year, there are 60 days during which we are to increase our simcha. More importantly, in Jewish law, the quantity of 60 has the ability to nullify an undesirable presence.

Specifically, this concerns food, as we see that if a quantity of milk, for instance, has accidentally become mixed with meat, if the meat outnumbers the milk by a ratio of 1:60, the milk is nullified and we may eat the meat.

Similarly, explained the Rebbe, 60 days of simcha have the ability to nullify the darkness of the present exile, allowing us to actually turn the darkness into light.

Concerning the kind of things that should be done to arouse simcha, the Rebbe suggested that each person should proceed according to his level: a child, for instance, should be made happy by his parents; a wife by her husband, and visa versa. The bottom line, my friends, is that the Rebbe did not let up on encouraging an increase of simcha in all permissible manners during the entire month.

We should hearken to the Rebbe's words and utilize simcha, especially during the rest of this first month of Adar and the upcoming month of Adar II, to turn darkness into light, sadness into joy, and pain and tears into rejoicing with Moshiach in the Final Redemption, may it take place, as the Rebbe so fervently prayed, teikef umiyad mamash - immediately, literally.


Thoughts that Count

These are the things that the L-rd has commanded you to do (Ex. 35:1)

Why is the plural "things" used, when what followed was only one commandment, the mitzva to keep Shabbat? These "things" refers to the 39 categories of creative work that are forbidden on Shabbat. During the week, a Jew's service consists of elevating and refining the material world by engaging in these tasks. On Shabbat, his service is to refrain from them, thereby completing the process of elevation. The mitzva of Shabbat thus contains all of the Torah's mitzvot within it, the underlying purpose of which is to elevate the physical realm and make it spiritual.

(Ohr HaTorah)


You shall not kindle any fire throughout your habitations (Ex. 35:3)

The main reason we observe Shabbat is in remembrance of the Six Days of Creation. As fire was not created until after the first Shabbat ended, the Torah specifically singles it out - lest anyone think it isn't included in the 39 prohibited labors.

(Rabbi Yonatan Eibeschutz)


They came, the men with the women, whoever was generous of heart, and every man who waved a wave offering of gold unto G-d (Ex. 35:22)

The Jews were so eager to make donations to the Sanctuary that they didn't stop to calculate the amount of gold they were contributing. Rather, they "waved it about" and gave with an open hand, like a rich benefactor who disburses his charity liberally.

(Be'er Mayim Chaim)


It Once Happened

When he was a youngster, Rebbe Naftoli Katz, the head of the Rabbinical Court of Posen, was once playing outdoors with his friends. They were throwing rocks, and Naftoli accidentally hit the passenger of a fine carriage that was nearby. Unfortunately, that passenger was none other than the High Prince of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The prince's guards arrested the boy for this act of "rebellion." He was brought to court and found guilty. His sentence: public execution.

Naftoli was to be escorted by a guard to the empire's capital, where his sentence was to be carried out. It was a difficult journey, and the stormy weather they encountered made travelling almost impossible. At one point they stopped at an inn that was owned by a Jew.

While the guard made himself comfortable in a corner by the stove, young Naftoli sat and listened to the innkeeper's sons studying Talmud with their tutor. Naftoli knew this tractate by heart, and when the boys and their tutor were stumped by a question in the tractate, Naftoli supplied them with the answer.

The innkeeper realized that this was a brilliant boy, and when he found out why Naftoli was being kept in custody, he thought of a plan to save the boy's life. The innkeeper offered the guard free food and drinks, thus convincing him to stay at the inn for a few days until the weather cleared up.

After a while the innkeeper approached the guard casually: "What would happen if a prisoner was to die in custody as he was being escorted from one city to another?" he inquired.

Replied the guard, "The escort would simply have to present a document testifying to the prisoner's death, signed by the local authorities."

Using his connections, the innkeeper obtained the required document and handed it to the guard, along with enough money to bribe him. The guard left Naftoli with the innkeeper, who took the boy in and raised him as if he was a member of his own family.

Years passed. Naftoli was of marriageable age, as was the innkeeper's daughter. The innkeeper proposed a match between the two young people and they both agreed. The wedding date was set.

One night, some time later, the innkeeper passed by Naftoli's room and heard him talking. He peeked through the keyhole and saw Naftoli sprawled on the floor, begging and pleading. "What can I do?" Naftoli was saying, "these people saved my life."

The scene repeated itself the next night. The innkeeper could not contain his curiosity, as he knew no one was in Naftoli's room, and he asked Naftoli for an explanation. "My parents keep appearing to me and telling me that your daughter is not my intended mate."

The innkeeper, realizing that a Heavenly hand was guiding the young man, told him to obey his parents' wishes, and that he bore Naftoli no ill will.

Before Naftoli left, he requested that the innkeeper give him a written account of the money paid on his behalf to bribe the guard so many years before.

"I have merited to fulfill the commandment of redeeming a hostage, and seek no reimbursement," exclaimed the righteous innkeeper.

Naftoli insisted and the innkeeper finally gave him a paper stating the sum paid to the guard. Naftoli left and became famous for his exceptional qualities. He married and was appointed the rabbi of the city of Posen.

The innkeeper's daughter married a storekeeper, and settled in a town near Posen. One night, as she was walking home from the store, she was kidnapped by a wealthy landowner and brought back to his estate with obvious intentions. Despite the dangerous situation, the young woman maintained her composure. "I will go along with all your wishes," she told the landowner, "but first you must go to town to purchase some fine liquor for me." The landowner readily agreed.

While he was in town, the clever woman looked for a means of escape from the mansion. The only window she found unbarred was very high up. Realizing the jump was dangerous, she looked for something to cushion her fall. She found the landowner's heavy lambskin overcoat and, wrapping herself in it, offered a prayer and leaped out the window. Miraculously, she was not hurt. She fled home, still wrapped in the coat.

The husband was thankful for his wife's narrow escape. He related the entire incident to the rabbi of Posen.

Rabbi Naftoli told the husband, "Your wife is a righteous woman and her level-headedness is admirable. G-d is truly with her. Open the seam of the landowner's coat, and you will find money that rightfully belongs to you and your wife."

A few days later, the landowner came into the husband's store to make a purchase. He complained about "some Jewish woman" who had not only outwitted him, but had managed to steal his overcoat that had a large sum of money sewn inside it. The husband returned to Rabbi Naftoli and told him what the landowner had said.

"This finally concludes a much longer story," Rabbi Naftoli replied, and proceeded to tell the husband the whole story of his arrest and ransom. "That landowner," he concluded, "was the guard who had escorted me. The amount of money in the coat is the sum that your father-in-law paid for my release. Here, I will show you a bill which confirms the figure exactly."


Moshiach Matters

Unity is the key to G-d's blessings. Thus, in our daily prayers, we say "Bless us our Father, all as one." Chasidism explains that the very fact of being together "all as one," makes us worthy of blessing. And this unity will lead to the ultimate blessing - the coming of the time when G-d will "sound the great shofar," and together "with our youth and with our elders... with our sons and with our daughters," the entire Jewish people will proceed to the Holy Land, to Jerusalem, and to the Third Holy Temple. May this take place in the immediate future.

(From the last public address of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, 25 Adar 1, 1992)


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