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   1022: Bamidbar

1023: Nasso

1024: Beha'aloscha

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Devarim Deutronomy

L'Chaim
June 6, 2008 - 3 Sivan, 5768

1023: Nasso

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


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  1022: Bamidbar1024: Beha'aloscha  

Me, Myself and I  |  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

Me, Myself and I

Location, location, location. Whether it's real estate, the venue for a party, or the site of a momentous occasion in one's life, the choice of location is exceedingly important.

The Midrash relates that G-d chose Mt. Sinai for the giving of the Torah (commemorated on Shavuot, this year Sunday evening June 8 - Tuesday evening June 10) because it was "the smallest of all mountains," emphasizing the importance of humility. If so, however, one might ask: Why didn't G-d give the Torah on a plain or in a valley?

Implied is that the choice of a mountain indicates the need for a certain degree of self-esteem. For both these qualities - humility and self-esteem - are necessary for our acquisition of Torah.

An individual who is beset with egotism cannot connect with G-d. As the Talmud states, "[With regard to] any person who possesses haughtiness of spirit, the Holy One, blessed be He, declares, 'I and he cannot both dwell in the world.' " In our daily prayers, we express the link between humility and Torah study by requesting in direct succession, "Let my soul be as dust to all; open my heart to Your Torah."

Nevertheless, humility alone is insufficient for the acquisition of Torah. A person who lacks strength of character and self-esteem will be unable to overcome obstacles that may obstruct his way to the observance of the Torah.

Humility and pride need not be mutually exclusive. Pride and self-esteem do not always stem from self-concern, nor are they always the result of an individual's perception of his personal virtues. A positive self-image and feelings of self-esteem flow naturally from a healthy outlook on life. No one needs a reason to feel good about himself. The very fact that he exists and that G-d created him is reason enough for one to experience self-worth.

These feelings are enhanced by our awareness of the connection to G-d we are able to establish through the Torah. The knowledge that we can fulfill G-d's will through the observance of mitzvos is the greatest possible source of personal strength.

From this perspective, the qualities of humility and pride may be seen as complementary. Humility encourages the development of an ever deeper connection to G-d, which, in turn, increases the above-described mode of self-esteem.

The feeling of pride produced by a connection to G-d is more powerful than the feeling generated by the appreciation of one's positive virtues. Self-centered pride is limited by the finite scope of one's qualities and can be dampened by a formidable individual or challenge. The personal strength derived from a commitment to fulfill G-d's will, by contrast, is reinforced by G-d's infinity. No obstacle is able to stand in its way.

Shavuot also shares a connection to the culmination of the initiative begun at the giving of the Torah: the era of the Redemption. Our Sages compare the giving of the Torah to the forging of the marriage between G-d and the Jewish people. The era of the Redemption, they explain, serves as the consummation of that bond.

From Keeping in Touch by Rabbi E. Touger, published by Sichos in English.


Living with the Rebbe

The Torah reading, Nasso, contains the portion of the sota - a wife whose behavior is indiscreet. A deeper examination of the concept reveals the symbolism behind the Torah's words, alluding to G-d as Husband, and the Jews as His wife.

On the verse, "If the wife of any man goes aside," our Sages comment: "One does not commit a sin unless the 'spirit of folly' has entered him."

The Hebrew word for "folly" is related to the word that means straying from the path.

With this statement our Sages sought to explain the seemingly incomprehensible phenomenon of a Jew who commits a sin.

How can such a contradictory state of affairs occur? Is not every Jew, by virtue of his G-dly soul, connected to G-d on the very deepest level? How then can he possibly allow himself to commit a transgression which separates him from his Source Above?

The answer to this is the "spirit of folly," an outside, external force that temporarily gains control and obscures the Jew's faith.

Because of this "spirit of folly," the Jew cannot perceive the true consequence of his actions - the disconnection from G-d that his sin actually causes. Were he properly aware of this at all times, the Jew could never bring himself to disobey the commandment of G-d under any circumstances.

What exactly is this "spirit of folly"?

Nothing but the desire for physical gratification, which causes a lessening in spiritual perception.

Consequently, a person imagines that nothing will happen if he commits the sin, and that he will remain just as connected to G-d as he was before. His desire for gratification blinds him to the fact that even the tiniest of infractions is detrimental to his bond with G-d.

The reverse side of this principle is that even when a Jew does sin, G-d forbid, it does not mean that the Jew himself is bad; rather, every Jew is inherently good, and his innermost desire is to obey G-d's will. It is the "spirit of folly" that is to blame, an outside factor that is incongruent with the Jew's true nature.

In the symbolic sense, G-d is referred to as the "Husband" of the Jewish people.

A Jew who commits a sin is likened to a wife whose indiscreet conduct arouses the suspicion of her husband.

The sota has not committed a sin with certainty; she has merely behaved in a manner which raises doubts. And just as the sota is rewarded when she is found to be innocent - "but if she is pure she shall conceive seed" - so too does G-d promise that every Jew will ultimately repent and return to Him, for the Jew's inner essence always remains untouched by sin.

Adapted from Likutei Sichot of the Rebbe, Vol. 2


A Slice of Life

Hamantaschen for Shavuot?

In 1967, a young Lubavitcher chasid from Australia traveled to New York to spend Shavuot with the Lubavitcher Rebbe in Brooklyn. He arrived a few days before the festival, just a short time after the outbreak of the Six Day War when the Rebbe had inaugurated the campaign to encourage all Jewish males to wrap tefilin.

Our young Australian decided one day after morning prayers to accompany some of his peers in the new tefilin campaign. At the last moment, before entering the waiting car, he decided to duck into the nearby grocery store to get some food to take along as he hadn't eaten anything yet that day. He grabbed a random selection of baked goods from the first shelf he saw, paid for them, and ran to the waiting car.

As they drove, he pulled out his bag to take something to eat and offered his companions some as well. Suddenly they all burst into laughter. Among the baked good were hamantaschen! "Hamantaschen now! On the eve of Shavuot?"

The cakes and cookies disappeared quickly. Only the hamantaschen remained. How could they possibly still be edible?

After three quarters of an hour they reached their destination: a large hospital in Manhattan. There, they split into pairs and assigned themselves different wards to visit. In each one there were many Jews. They invited each Jewish man to wrap tefilin, and most of them agreed to do so.

As the end of the time approached, the Australian and his partner went into one more room, and found that another pair of their friends was already in the room. In the room were two Jewish men. One of them accepted the offer of tefilin right away, but the other firmly refused. He even broke into a rage, exclaiming, "I am as connected to G-d as you are."

The students tried to calm the elderly man with gentle words, but he refused to be pacified. Indeed, their words only seemed to make him angrier. His fierce objection to the idea of performing the mitzva of tefilin aroused their curiosity. After all, here was a man clearly very advanced in years, sick in bed in a hospital, with the name of G-d coming easily to his lips; it didn't make sense that he should refuse so adamantly to don the tefilin. Even his roommate tried to persuade him to do it, but he wouldn't listen.

After a while they were ready to give up. Anyway, it was time to leave. Then one of them addressed the old man again, this time offering him a piece of fruit. "Here, eat this. At least you will get to recite a blessing."

The man turned his face to the wall, ignoring them. But then he suddenly swiveled in their direction and said sarcastically, "Fruit you present me? Bring me a hamantaschen and then I'll put on your precious tefilin."

They couldn't believe their ears. As if at a signal, three pairs of eyes swung towards the visitor from Australia. A broad smile stretched across his face. Gazing fondly at the elderly patient, he replied to him, "If in order to put on tefilin you require hamantaschen, so okay, we'll get you some hamantaschen!"

The old man stared back incredulously. "Hamantaschen now? I don't believe it!"

The other three boys said whatever they could think of to keep the ornery patient occupied. In the meantime, the Australian had already zoomed out of the room and was making his way to the hospital's parking lot.

With a broad smile, the young man took out the little package of hamantaschen from his bag, the presumably stale Purim pastries that just a short while ago had been scorned by all.

As he made his way back up the steps he wondered to himself how long a time had gone by since this elderly Jew had last wrapped tefilin.

Re-entering the room, he went over to the patient's bed and extended to him the hamantaschen. The old man's eyes filled with tears. "Unbelievable. Simply unbelievable. Hamantaschen after Passover? Right before Shavuot? Who would have thought...?" He stretched out his hand and gingerly lifted one to his mouth. One of the yeshiva boys helped him to say the correct blessing. He closed his eyes and chewed slowly.

After, without a word being said, he rolled up the sleeve of his left arm to fulfill his side of the deal that, strangely, he himself had "proposed." When the tefilin were on, he began to cry silently; tears were streaming down his cheeks. Nor was he the only one - there wasn't a dry eye in the room.

The young Chasidim drove back to Lubavitch World Headquarters at 770 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn. They were filled with wonder at the extraordinary combination of events that had meshed together. The whole way back in the car they couldn't stop discussing it. Clearly everything had been arranged directly from heaven!

Before returning to Australia, the young man was able to have a private audience with the Lubavitcher Rebbe. He told the Rebbe the entire story. (In fact, it is from this Australian chasid, who wishes to remain anonymous, that we know this story). The Rebbe smiled and replied, "Nu, if that is what it takes, let someone bring him hamantaschen every day."

Translated and adapted from Sichat HaShavua by Yrachmiel Tilles, co-founder and associate director of Ascent-of-Safed, and editor of Ascent Quarterly and the AscentOfSafed.com and KabbalaOnline.org websites.


What's New

Be There!

Each year on the festival of Shavuot we relive the giving of the Torah to the Jewish people by G-d at Mount Sinai by hearing the Ten Commandments read in the synagogue from a Torah scroll. It is a special mitzva (commandment) for every man, woman and child to be in the synagogue on Shavuot to hear the Torah reading. This year, the Torah reading that tells of the giving of the Torah will be read on the first day of Shavuot, Monday, June 9, in synagogues around the world. Many Chabad-Lubavitch Centers sponsor "ice cream" parties (in keeping with the ancient tradition of eating dairy products on Shavuot) for the young and the young at heart. To find out about the closest Shavuot ice cream party call your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center.


The Rebbe Writes

Freely translated

Rosh Chodesh Sivan 5715 [1965]

It is surely unnecessary to elaborate on the close relationship between the physical and the spiritual, which even modern science has become convinced of.

Physically, at this time of the year, we find Nature again in full bloom. After a period of hibernation, it springs back to life with renewed vigor and vitality, faithfully reproducing the same elements which characterized the same period a year ago, and two years ago, and all the way back to the first seasons of the Nature cycle.

In our religious and spiritual life, also, we have the seasons and festivals which recur year after year, and reproduce the same spiritual elements which first gave rise to them. Thus, at this time of the year, with the days of Sefirah connecting the festival of Passover (physical freedom) with its culmination in Shovuos (spiritual freedom), we can - if we are sufficiently prepared and attuned to it, relive the experiences of our ancestors who actually witnessed the Revelation and accepted the Torah at Sinai. What a long way our ancestors covered in the course of but 50 days; from the abominations of Egyptian "culture," in which moral depravity and polytheism reigned supreme (as recent archeological discoveries have amply brought to light) to pure monotheism at Mount Sinai, where the Jew receives the Torah with the call of Na'aseh v'nishma [we will do and (then) we will understand]. Na'aseh first, i.e. complete surrender of man to G-d.

Through the medium of the Torah, G-d "descends" on Mount Sinai and the Jew ascends to G-d. The soul is released from all its fetters tying it down to earthly things, and on the wings of fear of G-d and love of G-d unites with the Creator in complete communion. It is then that it can fully appreciate the inner meaning of "I am G-d thy G-d, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, the house of bondage," and the rest of the Ten Commandments, till "Thou shalt not covet," i.e. not only refrain from taking what is not yours, but not even desire it.

This great rise from the abyss of Egypt to the sublime heights of Sinai was attained by pure and simple faith in G-d, from the day when parents and children, women and infants, several million souls in all, set out on the trek through the desert, not dismayed by the irrationality of it, but simply obeying the Divine call with absolute trust. This won special Divine favor in the words of the Prophet: "I remember unto thee the kindness of thy youth, the love of thy betrothal, thy going after Me into the wilderness." It is this faith that carried the Jews through the ages, an insignificant physical minority in the midst of a hostile world, a spot of light threatened by an overwhelming darkness. It is this absolute faith in G-d that we need nowadays more than ever before.

It is said, the whole sun is reflected in a drop of water. And so the whole of our nation is reflected in each individual, and what is true of the nation as a whole is true of the individual.

The core of Jewish vitality and indestructibility is in its pure faith in G-d; not in some kind of an abstract Deity, hidden somewhere in the heavenly spheres, who regards this world from a distance; but absolute faith in a very personal G-d, who is the very life and existence of everybody; Who permeates where one is, or what one does. Where there is such faith, there is no room for fear or anxiety, as the Psalmist says, "I fear no evil, for Thou art with me," with me, indeed, at all times, not only on Shabbos or Yom Tov, or during prayer or meditation on G-d. And when one puts his trust in G-d, unconditionally and unreservedly, one realizes what it means to be really free and full of vigor, for all one's energy is released in the most constructive way, not only in one's own behalf, but also in behalf of the environment at large.

The road is not free from obstacles and obstructions, for in the Divine order of things we are expected to attain our goal by effort; but if we make a determined effort success is Divinely assured, and the obstacles and obstructions which at first loom large, dissolve and disappear.

I wish you to tread this road of pure faith in G-d, without being overly introspective and self-searching, as in the simple illustration of a man walking: he will walk most steadily and assuredly if he will not be conscious of his walk and not seek to consciously coordinate the hundreds of muscles operative in locomotion, or he would not be able to make his first step.

Wishing you success in all above, and hoping to hear good news from you and yours,

With the blessing of a happy Yom Tov of Receiving the Torah with inner joy,


Customs

Why do we stay up all night on Shavuot?

On the day of the Giving of the Torah, instead of arising early to properly prepare for the momentous event, the Jewish People slept in. To make amends for this, it is customary to remain awake throughout the first night of Shavuot. We read the "Tikkun Leil Shavuot," which contains selections from all areas of the Torah. Others have the custom of simply studying any topic in Torah throughout the night.


A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

As Shavuot approaches, we are reminded of the beautiful Midrash which teaches that the Jewish children of every generation are the reason why G-d gave us the gift of the Torah:

When G-d asked what assurance the Jewish people were offering that the Torah would be studied, loved and cherished, the Jewish people offered our Patriarchs as security. But this was not accepted. We then offered the Torah scholars as the guarantors. This, too, was not acceptable. It was only when we offered our children as guarantors that G-d approved our proposal and gave us the Torah.

On the anniversary of an event, the "spiritual energy" that was infused by G-d into that event is at its strongest. This is the reason why, for example, we should do our utmost to celebrate our birthdays properly each year. This is true, too, concerning every Jewish holiday. Which means that on Shavuot - the celebration of the Giving of the Torah - the spiritual energy that was invested into that day over 3,000 years ago is at its strongest.

What is the special spiritual energy of Shavuot and how can we benefit from it? It was on Shavuot that our ancestors proclaimed, "We will do and then we will learn." So this is the time when we recommit ourselves to the actual performance of mitzvot - even if we haven't yet learned or don't yet understand their reasons.

Shavuot is also the time when the spiritual energy of our children, being the guarantors for the Torah, is at its strongest. This is the time when we must renew our commitment to providing our children with a proper Jewish upbringing and education as well as facilitating the proper Jewish education of all Jewish children, wherever they may be.

We can begin doing both of the above by going to the synagogue this Shavuot to hear the reading of the Ten Commandments and by bringing along with us Jewish children of all ages - children in age, children at heart, or children in Jewish knowledge. Be there, and be a part of a 3,000-year-old unbroken chain of Jewish commitment and pride.


Thoughts that Count

Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, "Thus shall you bless the children of Israel" (Num. 6:23)

The portion of the Priestly Blessing follows the discussion of the Nazarite in the Torah. Why? To teach us that just as the Nazirite abstains from wine, so must the priest abstain before blessing the Jewish people.

(Talmud, Taanit)


Why do kohanim (priests) raise their hands when blessing the Jewish people? Our Sages taught that while giving blessings is both proper and appropriate, when someone is in need it is not enough. It is essential that we also "raise our hands" and do something to actually help the person in need.


This is the service of the families of the sons of Gershon... their charge shall be supervised by Itamar, son of Aaron the priest (Num. 4:28)

The name "Gershon" is derived from the word meaning "to expel," alluding to the expulsion of evil. "Itamar" is related to the word for speech, alluding to words of Torah. The juxtaposition of the two names teaches that speaking words of Torah severs evil from good and expels it.

(Ohr HaTorah)


Shavuot

Two Shavuot - Two Promises

The word Shavuot, along with meaning "weeks," for it is the holiday that comes after counting the omer for seven weeks, also means oaths. On this holiday two promises were made. First, G-d promised that He would not exchange the Jewish people for any other. Second, we promised that we would not exchange G-d for another.

(Book of Our Heritage)


A Time to Eat and Rejoice

Passover and Sukkot, which commemorate physical events, may be celebrated in a purely spiritual manner, while Shavuot, which celebrates a spiritual event, must be celebrated in both a spiritual and physical manner. This is to teach us that at the time G-d gave us the Torah, the entire physical world was affected, and holiness permeated every corner of the world.

(Likutei Sichot)


It Once Happened

When the second Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Dov Ber (known as the "Mitteler Rebbe") passed away, there were three prospective successors.

Though all three were immensely qualified for the leadership of the Chabad movement, all three unanimously declined the importuning of the Chasidim. These three were: Reb Chaim Avraham, the brother of Rabbi Dov Ber and youngest son of Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidism, Reb Menachem Nachum, the Mitteler Rebbe's son, and the Tzemach Tzedek, the son of Rabbi Shneur Zalman's eldest daughter.

As time passed, the pressure among the Chasidim to find a successor escalated, though it seemed that no solution was in sight. Finally, despairing of a solution being found, two of the Chasidim declared, "It is impossible to be without a Rebbe!" They decided to travel to Ruzhin with the intention of accepting the Ruzhiner Rebbe as their Rebbe.

The Ruzhiner Rebbe, Reb Yisrael, was the grandson of the Mezritcher Maggid, and so highly thought of for his enormous piety that he was called the "Holy Ruzhiner."

These two Chasidim travelled to Ruzhin for Shavuot. As was the custom there, (as well as among many other Chasidim) the Ruzhiner distributed shirayim - food from his table - to his Chasidim. It was Yom Tov and the Ruzhiner began to distribute wine from his own cup to each of the Chasidim. The two Chabad Chasidim also wanted to participate and receive wine from the Ruzhiner and they proffered their cups for the "cup of blessing."

The Ruzhiner, however, refused them, saying, "If you want some wine, you may take it yourself, but I will not give it to you."

The two were very surprised and protested, "Why won't you give it to us, after all we have come here in order to accept you as our Rebbe?"

Upon hearing those words, the Ruzhiner sat down at the table and began to deliver a deep Chasidic discourse based on the theme, "The Giving of the Torah began, not at Mount Sinai, but at the burning bush."

He explained in great depth that when G-d gave Moses the task of taking the Children of Israel out of Egypt, G-d told Moses to "tell the Jews that I have remembered you and want to take you out of Egypt."

Moses' reaction was strange. He replied that he was afraid the Jews would ask him what is G-d's name. To this G-d replied, "Tell them My Name is, 'I will be what I will be.' "

The Ruzhiner posed the question, "Why did Moses ask this question of G-d? For Moses did know G-d's name as he had been handed down a tradition that it was spelled Yud-Kei-Vav-Kei[1]! And why did G-d answer, 'I will be what I will be.'"

The Ruzhiner elucidated the point through the use of numerical equivalents which are often used to explicate texts. He explained that the numerical equivalent of Yud-Kei-Vav-Kei is 26, while that of the words "I will be what I will be" equals 441 which is "emet" - truth. G-d desired that Moses be able to reveal to the Jews the truth.

"The word 'emet'," continued the Ruzhiner, "is also an acronym for, "Torat Menachem Emet" ["the Torah of Menachem is truth"].

When the two Chabad Chasidim heard these words being spoken by the Holy Ruzhiner, they realized that he was intimating that they should return home to the city of Lubavitch and that the Tzemach Tzedek, whose name was Menachem Mendel, should become Rebbe.

Upon arriving in Lubavitch two weeks later, the Tzemach Tzedek had already acquiesced. The returning Chasidim repeated to their fellows the discourse they had heard from the mouth of the Holy Ruzhiner in regard to the word "emet," intimating that the Tzemach Tzedek should be the Rebbe.

The Chasidim recalled with amazement that the Tzemach Tzedek had delivered the same discourse that very same Shavuot, but when he reached the part which identified the acronym of emet with his name, Menachem, he merely hesitated and smiled to himself. Now, they all understood why he had smiled.

   

Notes:

  1. (Back to text) The Hebrew letter "hei" has been represented by "kei" here because of the prohibition of pronouncing G-d's name.


Moshiach Matters

If a king arises from the House of David who meditates on the Torah and occupies himself with the commandments like his ancestor David, in accordance with the written and oral Torah, and he will prevail upon all of Israel to walk in [the ways of the Torah] and strengthen its breaches, and he will fight the battles of G-d - it may be assumed that he is Moshiach.

(Maimonides, Mishneh Torah Laws of Kings)


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