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Devarim Deutronomy

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Devarim Deutronomy

April 4, 2008 - 28 Adar II, 5768

1015: Sazria

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

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  1014: Shmini1016: Metzora  

Not in Your Pajamas  |  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

Not in Your Pajamas

An elderly chasid, Reb Zalman Estulin told this story many years ago at a farbrengen - a Chasidic gathering.

Once, there were two brothers, Avraham and Shlomo, who exhibited unbelievable brotherly love. As children they never fought. They studied Torah together and eventually, after they married fine, Jewish women, they settled down in the same city.

Sad to say, the brothers got into a foolish argument as is bound to happen. Things went from bad to worse until it got to the point where as friendly and loving as the brothers had once been they now hated and abhorred each other.

Years passed in this way until the time came when Reb Avraham was going to marry off his eldest daughter. Despite the fact that they had not spoken for over a decade, Reb Avraham wanted his brother to share in his happiness.

And so, he sent Shlomo a letter of apology for all past wrongs and an invitation to the wedding. When no reply came, Avraham sent a messenger. But the messenger came back with the message that Shlomo would not even consider coming to the wedding.

The evening of the wedding arrived, and though Reb Avraham was happy, his joy was tinged with sadness in knowing that his brother would not attend the wedding.

For his part, Reb Shlomo had scheduled his evening in such a way that feelings of remorse would not get in his way of staying home. He had a huge, seven-course meal, took a long, relaxing bath, got into his pajamas and went to bed early.

The wedding on the other side of town was in full swing when the violinist, an extremely talented musician who could change people's moods through his music, noticed that Avraham's joy was not complete.

The violinist approached Avraham and asked if there was anything he could do: "My reputation will suffer if I can't make the father of the bride happy."

Avraham told the violinist that he was saddened by his brother's absence. "I will go and bring him here," the violinist offered.

And so, the violinist went to Reb Shlomo's house. He stood outside of Shlomo's bedroom window. Half asleep, Shlomo came to the window to see who was playing. He was so intrigued and entranced by the violinist's recital that he opened his door and went outside.

In this manner the violinist and Shlomo walked through the town until they reached the wedding hall.

Slowly, slowly, they approached the wedding until Reb Shlomo found himself in the middle of the dance floor at the wedding hall. He looked around and saw everybody so beautifully dressed. Then, he looked at himself and realized, with quite a bit of embarrassment, that he was hardly dressed as befits the uncle of the bride. Indeed, he was a sorry state in his pajamas!

"Brothers," Rabbi Estulin concluded, "we're all going to be there in the middle of the dance floor when Moshiach comes. Because, as our Sages teach us, the Redemption is like the consummation of the wedding ceremony between G-d and the Jewish people, which took place at the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai.

"The mitzvot (commandments) that we do are like the clothing of our souls. It is up to us to come to the wedding dressed as befits the uncle of the bride, and not in our pajamas!"

Living with the Rebbe

In the beginning of this week's portion, Tazria, the Torah states: "If a woman conceived seed, and bore a male child."

According to one commentary, this verse alludes to the Jewish people and their Final Redemption with Moshiach.

"A woman" is symbolic of the Jewish people; "conceived seed" alludes to the Jews' service of mitzvot (commandments) and good deeds; "and bore a male child" refers to the ultimate result of this process - the birth of the Messianic Era.

The Final Redemption is referred to as "male" as an expression of its strength, for after Moshiach redeems the world there will be no possibility of further exiles, and the Messianic age will last forever.

This same concept is expressed in a Midrashic reference to the tenth and final song that will be sung by the Jewish people with Moshiach. The tenth song is called "shir," the masculine form, whereas the nine songs that have already been sung are termed "shira," the feminine form.

In order to understand why the Jewish nation is symbolically a woman we need to examine the Hebrew word for woman.

Eve was called "isha" ("woman") "because out of man ('ish') was this one taken." The word "isha" therefore expresses the woman's relationship with her husband, and reflects her innate desire to reunite with him.

Similarly, in the spiritual sense, G-d is "male," whereas the Jewish people is "female." Just as Eve was created from Adam, so too is every Jew's soul "taken" from within G-d himself, being a "veritable piece of G-d Above."

Accordingly, every Jew's innate desire is to reunite with G-d, the source of his being. Material wealth and physical pleasures can never satisfy the Jew's longing for G-d; neither can spiritual delights totally satiate this yearning. Consciously or not, throughout his life the Jew seeks this union with G-d; it is the driving force of his existence.

To continue the metaphor of the "seed," this innate desire to unite with G-d must be sown precisely in the ground, finding expression in practical mitzva observance.

A seed planted in the air will never sprout; good intentions and positive feelings toward Judaism alone will never yield the desired results. Only through actual Torah study and the observance of mitzvot does the Jew cultivate the "seed" and allow it to grow.

Of course, the underlying objective of the Jew's service in the world is its ultimate "germination" - the Messianic Era.

Translating one's positive feelings into action - doing one more mitzva, performing one more good deed for a fellow Jew - is what will bring the revelation of Moshiach and the redemption of the entire world.

Adapted from Likutei Sichot of the Rebbe, Vol. 1

A Slice of Life

Diamonds in the Sand
by Tzvi Jacobs

In 1935, in the midst of the Depression, the Southern Baptist minister knocked on the door of Nathan Bass. "Mr. Bass, you have seven children, and there is no Sunday school for Hebrew people in our little town."

"That's true, Reverend," Mr. Bass said. "The closest Jewish community is in Columbia (South Carolina)."

"Columbia! Why I reckon that's a long 30-mile drive. Why don't you bring your children to us? We're 3 blocks away."

On the following Sunday morning, Nathan Bass started up his car while his wife Esther helped the children get ready for their first day in Sunday school. All but one-year-old Jack piled into the car and Nathan pressed the pedal to the floor for the next 30 miles. It took a full hour to reach the doors of Columbia's Jewish synagogue.

Nathan and Esther Bass owned and ran Bass Mercantile Company, a general merchandise store in North, South Carolina. From that day forth, Nathan spent the better part of every Sunday - the only day his store was closed - driving his children to Columbia.

The sight of the automobile chugging out of North with five children hugging the windows moved across the spectacles of many local folks. "If Mr. Bass can drive his children for a full hour to the Hebrew Sunday school," the local ministers would preach, "Heaven knows, y'all can roll your children out of bed and send'em down the street to our fine Sunday school right here in North."

This lesson was also not lost on Ruth, the eldest of the four "Bass girls," as they were known in town. Since their parents forbade them to date non-Jewish boys, the slender, dark-haired, Bass girls were always seen together.

In a different city in South Carolina, lived Isaac Jacobs. Although Isaac's parents were born in South Carolina, they were orthodox Jews and kept their business closed on Shabbat. Isaac served in the South Pacific in World War II. Isaac would spend his spare time writing letters home or arranging for Hebrew High Holiday prayer books to arrive in time for the Rosh Hashana services, which he led on Christmas Isle in the South Pacific.

In 1946, Isaac returned to the Carolina shore. He had saved almost every penny the Army had given him and some of his buddies proposed a business deal. "We're buying land along the Carolina coast. With your $2,000 Isaac, you could buy 200 acres."

"Why should I throw my money away on a bunch of sand!" the practical Isaac questioned.

Instead, Isaac bought a station wagon and returned to his pre-war job as a traveling salesman in the family wholesale clothing business, Jacobs Hosiery Company. From Monday morning to Friday afternoon, Isaac drove around the small towns of South Carolina calling on the clothing stores and drug stores and any establishment that sold "dry goods." On Saturdays, Jacobs Hosiery Company was closed in honor of the Jewish Sabbath. On Sundays, Isaac drove to the Jacobs Hosiery showroom near downtown Charleston and served walk-in customers.

After the war years, businesses prospered. The next step was marriage. Through his six popular sisters, the "Jacobs sisters," Isaac met all of the eligible Jewish girls in Charleston, but never found the right one.

The hair above Isaac's forehead receded with each passing year, and the selection of young Jewish women was also thinning. By the time he had reached age 33, Isaac's sisters and brother were all married and raising families. Isaac was given the name of a sweet Jewish girl who had also been looking, reportedly for a Jewish man of impeccable character. They met a couple of times in Columbia. He kept in touch with Ruth, mainly through letters written at the end of long days calling on businesses.

By 1950, a number of exclusive hotels and other businesses had popped up on the sands of Myrtle Beach, on some of the acres that Isaac had a chance to buy. Isaac always regretted the decision not to buy that "sand." If he had bought that land and held it, he would never have had to sit behind the wheel of a station wagon, shlepping samples of underwear from store to store.

In 1951, Ruth and Isaac Jacobs were married. A year later, in Charleston, South Carolina, Isaac and Ruth were blessed with a daughter. In 1954, I was born, and then in 1956, another son. My older sister was enrolled in the local public school. (My parents later regretted that they never transferred my sister to the Jewish day school.) A short time later, the 200-plus year old Jewish community in Charleston opened a Jewish day school and my parents enrolled me in the nursery. A year later, my younger brother entered nursery. Eventually there were five of us in the Charleston Hebrew Institute.

Though the tuition weighed too heavy on my father's modest income, there was never talk of sending us to the public elementary school. Instead, my mother took a job as a part-time school secretary, sitting in a desk in the hallway below the clock that rang loudly in her ears every hour. Perhaps in that merit, when my father turned 53 years, my mother gave him some news that shocked him. Some months later, they were blessed with a seventh child.

For the next 30 years, my father struggled to feed, clothe, shelter, educate, and marry off his children. Dad always regretted that he didn't buy that sand, and I understand. But perhaps if he had an office in one of those fancy beach front hotels, Dad would have given up the traveling salesman job and would not have met the humble girl from a small town. After all, after 82 years of struggling in this world, what good is a bunch of sand when you can have the diamond-like mitzvot (commandments) that will last for eternity. In the end, we only take with us the mitzvot we have done. But the diamonds that sparkle with the wisdom and light of Torah are ours forever.

What's New

Million Pounds of Matza

The Federation of Jewish Communities of the CIS (former Soviet Union) will once again be distributing one million pounds of matza this year. They will also be hosting 200,000 people at Passover Seders in 500 locations. Additional Passover programs include sending food packages to 20,000 indigent families, serving an extra 10,000 holiday meals in their soup kitchens, Passover overnight camps for underprivileged children and a media campaign to make the millions of Jews in the FSU aware of the upcoming holiday.

The Rebbe Writes

Freely adapted and translated

(Continued from previous issue)

If you ask my opinion, I am telling you to conduct yourself in accordance with the demands of the Torah, which states that the Torah has granted doctors the permission to heal. This is to say that the Torah both granted permission to turn to doctors and provided doctors with the specific permission and ability to heal and mend people.

People therefore go to doctors and then obey their instructions. The same applies to you: Once you have gone to the doctor and followed his instructions, there is nothing else for you to do; you are to leave the rest to the doctor.

On your part, you are to have trust in G-d that He will grant you a long life. And in accordance with the verse: "The fear of G-d leads to life," the greater your trust in G-d, the less doubts you will have in this and the more you will fulfill your mission in life - as previously stated, to observe Torah and mitzvos and affect others in this direction as well - the longer you will live, and I mean this quite simply and straightforwardly.

Forget totally about the medical diagnosis you found in medical books because this is not your mission in life and it is totally not in your province; since it is not in your realm, your research cannot make you better and generally it only worsens - G-d forbid - the situation.

Make sure to recite the daily portion of Tehillim after your morning prayers and study Chumash (the Five Books of Moses) every day with the commentary of Rashi. Take part as well in public Torah lessons, at least one of which should be in the study of Chassidus.

It is self-understood that you are to set for yourself the goal - as the verse states and as the Baal Shem Tov demanded of chassidim - to "Serve G-d with joy" - and "serve" means both when you pray and study, as well as when you eat and drink and all the other things a person does, even your sleeping, as Maimonides states....

When you do this, you will begin feeling better and better, and you will become healthier and healthier and will be able to convey glad tidings.

It would also be appropriate for you to give several cents to tzedakah (charity) prior to your morning and afternoon prayers (except for Shabbos and Yom Tov [holidays] as is self-understood).

I hope and am sure that you will accept my proposal and directives as stated above, and you will inform me about all this as soon as possible.

With blessings for good health and a speedy recovery so that you are able to fulfill your mission in this world for many long and good years in peace of mind and tranquility of body, and that you be a chassid.

This is in reply to your letter ... in which you write about what you heard from the doctor, i.e., a negative prognosis about your wife's health and how disheartening this was both to you and your wife.

I am astonished, for the saying of the Tzemach Tzedek in commenting on the expression of our Sages that "Permission was granted the healer to heal" seems to have escaped your memory.

The Tzemach Tzedek noted: " 'He has permission to heal,' but not - Heaven forbid - to bring about a crestfallen spirit by being the bearer of disastrous news that he says must inevitably occur, etc."

Particularly now, in our present era, when new methods of treatment and new medications are discovered daily, it flies in the face of intellect to foretell future events as your doctor did.

If only you and your wife would be strong in your trust in the Creator and Conductor of the world, Who oversees each and every person with individual Divine providence, then in the very near future it will be clearly demonstrated to you that the doctor's prognosis is false.

At the same time, it is understandable that healing needs to have at least some attachment, i.e., it also needs - at least to some degree - to go through the channels of nature as well. You should therefore also think about adopting a vegetarian diet.

I took great pleasure in reading that your wife spoke to a group of women and this literally had a positive effect on her health as well - yet another proof that the doctor's prognosis was wrong.

Since Jews are, after all, "the one nation on earth," i.e., there is a connection and unity between everything they do, it therefore follows that any improvement in spiritual health must as a matter of course be accompanied by an improvement in physical health.

From Healthy in Mind, Body and Soul, translated by Rabbi S.B. Wineberg, published by Sichos in English


What is Parshat HaChodesh?

"Parshat HaChodesh" is the last of the four special Torah readings read on Shabbat during the weeks preceding Purim and Passover. Parshat HaChodesh is read on the Shabbat before the month of Nissan (or if the new month falls out on Shabbat it is read on that day). The portion begins with the instruction to create a lunar calendar (the first commandment given to the Jews as a nation). The reading itself (Exodus 12:1-20) discusses various commandments related to the holiday and thus its reading is considered a preparation for Passover.

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

This coming Shabbat we bless the new month of Nissan. On this Shabbat we read the special portion called "Parshat HaChodesh," which begins with the words, "This month will be for you the head of the months."

This refers to the ninth of Nissan, known as the "month of our Redemption," for in the month of Nissan we were redeemed from Egypt. In addition, our Sages interpret the words, "this month will be you - for your Redemption."

There is a very beautiful description in Rabbi Eliyahu Kitov's work, "The Book of our Heritage" about the concept of redemption: "The word 'redemption' applies only when one emerges from darkness into light. One who has never experienced the suffering of bondage and oppression cannot appreciate redemption. The very essence of redemption is the freedom which comes from the oppression itself. Had the Children of Israel never been enslaved, they would never have experienced true freedom. Once they were enslaved, the slavery itself gave rise to the redemption and from the midst of the darkness, and only from that darkness, the light burst forth. Thus said our Sages: The Israelites said to the Holy One, 'When will you deliver us?' G-d answered, 'When you will have reached the lowest depths, at that moment I will redeem you.'

"The future redemption will also burst forth from the midst of darkness. At the very moment when every heart trembles at the point of despair, the glory of G-d will shine forth. And when will that moment be? In the month of Nissan, for G-d has appointed it as a time of redemption. Every misfortune which befalls Israel during this month is nothing else but an assurance that the deliverance is about to begin.

"When G-d chose the Jewish people as His nation He established for them a month of redemption, a month in which the Jewish people would be redeemed from Egypt, a month in which they are destined to be redeemed in the future."

May we merit the true and complete redemption of the entire world even before the beginning of the "Month of Redemption."

Thoughts that Count

When a woman conceives (tazria)... (Lev. 12:2)

The Hebrew word "tazria" derives from the root "zeria," which means "sowing." Two aspects are present in sowing: Sowing is not a one-time affair, but continues to exert an effect even afterwards, similar to seeds which when sown in the ground lead to growth; The purpose of sowing is to harvest produce of a much greater amount than that sown. The lesson from this is that all aspects of man's service should be in the manner of "sowing": A Jew may not remain content with a one-time effort, but instead, that effort should produce growth. Moreover, the growth produced should be in a large amount. In the words of Rabbi Sholom Dovber of Lubavitch: A Jew should be a "light to illuminate," giving light to other Jews, and in such a way that they in turn become "lights to illuminate," ad infinitum - similar to sowing seeds, which produce fruit which contain seeds, which in turn produce fruit, ad infinitum.

(Sichot Kodesh, 5744)

And on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised (Lev. 12:3)

What does the mitzva (commandment) of brit mila - circumcision - emphasize? Brit mila draws attention to the fact that G-d did not create man in a perfect state from the womb. Just as perfection of man's physical form is by man's own hand, so is it within his means and power to complete his spiritual form by the worthiness of his actions. We learn from this mitzva that through our actions we have the opportunity to perfect ourselves and the entire world both physically and spiritually.

(Sefer HaChinunch)

It Once Happened

Rabbi Yehuda ben Moshe Hakohen was the personal physician of King Alfonso X of Castile. A great friend of the Jews, the king invited them to settle in Toledo, Cordova, Seville and other cities in Spain, and had many prominent Jewish advisors.

Because King Alfonso appreciated the services the Jews performed for his kingdom, he protected them and allowed them to worship and live as they pleased. However, like kings of other lands, Alfonso was strongly influenced by the clergy, who were fanatically hostile to the Jews. Rabbi Yehuda was ever on guard lest the king fall under the influence of the clergy.

One day Rabbi Yehuda came to the palace to visit the king, as he often did, only to be informed that the king couldn't see him. The change in the king's attitude towards Rabbi Yehuda was evident, and he was filled with anxiety and foreboding. Heavy-hearted, he left the palace, but instead of returning home, he went to consult with his close friend Don Yitzchak de la Maleha.

Don Yitzchak was not surprised, for he knew that the king had important visitors, two ambassadors of the king of Portugal, Alfonso the Third.

He didn't know what sort of business was being conducted, but he had friends in the Portuguese court from whom he could inquire. The two friends agreed to meet again in three days' time, to exchange information and decide on a course of action.

But before the three days passed, Yitzchak de la Maleha sent urgent word to his friend: "I have learned that the Crown Prince of Portugal, Diniz, is suffering from some mysterious illness which the Portuguese doctors were unable to cure.

In the meantime, the king's priest used the opportunity to turn the king against his loyal Jewish officials.

"As you know, our Crown Prince, Sancho, is always scheming and lusting for more power. He wants to form a political alliance with Portugal by making a match between his sister, Princess Maria, and Diniz."

"What's so bad about that?" asked Yehuda.

"What are you saying? One of the conditions of the alliance is that the two Christian kingdoms join in expelling the Jews who will not convert to the Christian faith!"

Yehuda paled and tears appeared in his eyes. "The Guardian of Israel save us," he uttered in a heartfelt prayer. The purpose of the Portuguese ambassadors was clear, as was the cold and unfriendly attitude of the King.

Yehuda thought for a minute. "Royal matchmaking takes time. In the meantime we may be able to avert the danger. Perhaps if the king finds out that Diniz is ill, he will call off the match."

"In matters of political convenience, illness isn't an impediment," replied Don Yitzchak. "But I have a better idea, if G-d only grants us success, and you will be the one to intercede."

"I will do whatever I can. But what is it?" asked Rabbi Yehuda.

"You will travel to Lisbon and cure the Crown Prince."

The two friends discussed the plan at great length.

Rabbi Yehuda packed his medical kit and secretly departed for Portugal. Word was to be spread in the royal court in Lisbon about the arrival of a great physician from Spain.

As soon as the king heard the news he sent for the new doctor to examine his beloved son. He promised any reward, if only this doctor would succeed where all the royal physicians of Portugal had failed.

Rabbi Yehuda examined the ill man and informed the king that he had a blood clot on the brain. It would require delicate surgery, but he would undertake it. Until that time, the prince would be under his care. The king agreed. All went as planned, but then, on the scheduled day of the operation, Rabbi Yehuda received the unexpected order to leave the country without delay. It was incomprehensible, but Rabbi Yehuda packed and left at once.

He had been on the road only a few hours when a carriage drew up to him and the king, himself alighted. "The priest has cooked up a nasty dish this time, but he will pay for it! What do I care if you are a Jew, if you can cure my son!" He then related what had transpired.

The priest, being sure that this new doctor was a Jew, and probably the doctor of the King of Castile, was eager to discredit him. So, he went to the king with the lie that the Jews had decided to kill the Crown Prince with the help of this Jewish doctor, in order to stop the proposed marriage.

"I admit I was swayed by the priest, but when I told my son, he just scoffed at the accusation. He cried that if you were not permitted to treat him, he would commit suicide. You are his last hope, and he has complete confidence in your skill. I have come to beg your forgiveness and ask you to treat my son."

Yehuda Hakohen performed the operation, and the Almighty gave him success. The Crown Prince recovered his health, and Rabbi Yehuda was sent home laden with gifts. Of course, his greatest reward was having averted the threatened deportation of the Jews, who continued to live in Spain and Portugal for the next two hundred years in relative peace and prosperity.

Adapted from Talks and Tales.

Moshiach Matters

An apostate said to Geviha ben Pesisa: "Woe to you, you wicked ones, who maintain that the dead will revive! The living indeed die, but shall the dead live?!" He replied: "Woe to you, you wicked ones, who maintain the dead will not revive. If those who never lived, now live, surely those who have lived, will live again!"

(Talmud Sanhedrin 91a)

  1014: Shmini1016: Metzora  
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