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This is a special month for soccer (also known as football) fans. The 2008 UEFA European Football Championship, commonly referred to as Euro 2008, is taking place now in Austria and Switzerland.
A famous teaching of the Baal Shem Tov, founder of Chasidism, is that we can learn a lesson in how to better serve G-d from everything we see and hear. What, then, can we learn from the game of soccer?
First, let's take a look at the ball itself. The Jerusalem Talmud (Avoda Zora) tells us that an eagle carried Alexander the Great into the heavens. From there the world looked to him like a ball. Similarly, the mystical book of the Zohar comments "the entire world revolves in a circle like a ball." (As a side point, people did not think the world was round until the discovery of America. The Zohar declared that the world was round many years earlier.) So, in figuring out what we can learn from the game of soccer, we should consider the ball to be like the world.
In soccer the intent of the game is to propel the ball through the goal posts, a gate of sorts. The ball, i.e., the world, has been given to every Jew with a similar intent. The Mishna comments: "Each individual is obligated to say 'For my sake the world was created.' " The world is given to each individual with the purpose that he bring it through the "gates of the King." Every person's specific, divine mission in life is to help move the world along to the place of its final goal, the era of Redemption, a time of world peace, divine knowledge, goodness and G-dliness.
There are many obstacles and difficulties that must be overcome in order to accomplish this goal. By constantly moving forward, methodically and with an eye on the goal, the challenges can be overcome.
In soccer, the members of the opposing team try to prevent the scoring of a goal. They try to put the ball through their own goal posts, thus taking the ball further away from its purpose and intent.
We have similar challenges in our lives. But through seeing obstacles and difficulties for what they truly are - opportunities to bring out the best in us and occasions to arouse a desire to be victorious - we activate the essence of our souls.
In soccer, the presence of the opposing team causes one to run and to jump - not to be content with slow, step by step, progression. Also, the game is won through the efforts of the feet, symbolic of deed and action, rather than the head. Of course, the game must be played with thought. However, the most important aspect is deed and action. Similarly, in one's mission here in this world, "Action is the main thing."
These ideas were shared by the Lubavitcher Rebbe at a public gathering one Shabbat afternoon. The Rebbe noted that by explaining to a child (or the child within J) the lessons that can be learned from playing ball, the child will understand that the purpose of playing the game and the purpose of his entire life, is to progress ever higher in his Jewish education and mitzva performance.
In this week's Torah portion, Behaalotcha, Moses tells G-d that he cannot bear responsibility for the Jewish people all by himself. G-d responds by saying: "Assemble 70 of Israel's elders... I will cause some of your spirit to emanate, and I will place it upon them. You will then not have to bear the responsibility alone."
The commentator Sifri compares the emanation of Moses' spirit to the elders to a "candle placed on a candelabrum" being used to light many additional candles. In so doing, "the candle did not diminish its own light at all. So too, Moses' wisdom was not diminished at all [by the emanation of his spirit.]"
A similar comment is found in the Midrash: "Did this [emanation] possibly affect Moses' degree of prophecy? Not at all! Rather, this was similar to a burning candle from which many other candles were lit, and whose own light was not diminished. Here as well, nothing became lacking in Moses, for the verse attests: 'No prophet like Moses has arisen in Israel.' "
Although these commentaries seem to convey the same thought - that Moses' greatness was not reduced by the emanation - a closer examination reveals differing reasoning for why this was so.
Sifri states that Moses "resembled a candle placed upon a candelabrum." What about this placement is crucial to the Sifri's explanation as to why Moses was not diminished?
The Midrash proves that "nothing became lacking in Moses" by asserting that Moses was the greatest prophet of all. What proof is there from this verse? Couldn't Moses have remained the greatest prophet and still something could have become lacking in him? Clearly, the Midrash sees Moses' greatness as the reason why no change occurred in him.
Both the Midrash and the Sifri address why Moses, who was so much loftier than the elders, did not need to descend from his natural level in order for his spirit to be imparted upon them. Either: a) at that time, Moses was on a lower plane than he normally was - already on a level comparable to that of the elders, or b) Moses was so great that, even though he remained on his rarefied level, he was still able to impart his spirit upon others without causing a change in himself.
The Sifri is a book of Jewish law that views matters from a simple and more practical outlook. The Midrash is a book of Agada that views matters from a more spiritual perspective:
Moses' plea to G-d that others share the responsibility came as result of, and immediately after, the sin of the "complainers" - individuals who came forward with perfidious complaints and made spurious demands. Since Moses' greatness was a direct result of his leadership role, it is understandable that the descent of the Jewish people because of the "complainers" caused a corresponding descent in Moses as well.
Thus, according to the Sifri, "At that time Moses resembled a candle placed upon a candelabrum," i.e., readily accessible to all. Moses had undergone a descent, so sharing his spirit would not diminish him further.
According to the Midrash, however, the emanation of Moses' spirit didn't affect him because he was so lofty. He thus was able to remain on his rarefied level even as his spirit spread to others.
Adapted from Likutei Sichot Vol. VIII of the Lubavitcher Rebbe
by Aliza Geiger
I was born in Brazil, into a Jewish family where being intellectually honest and highly educated are extremely valued. As a child, my exposure to Judaism was at the Passover Seder or the Rosh Hashana table. Nevertheless, I felt very Jewish, to the extent that I told my parents that at age 10 I wanted to have a Bat Mitzva. A few years later, I joined a Zionist youth movement
I didn't expect Judaism to fulfill my spiritual needs, so eventually I studied yoga and new-age meditation. None of them satisfied my thirst; but I didn't give up. Although I wanted to go even further and reach higher spiritual levels, my intellectual background blocked me from believing in G-d.
In 2004, I travelled to Israel with the Zionist group to work on a kibbutz. During my stay, I went to the Kotel (Western Wall) on Shabbat. I had heard that there was a rabbi who claimed that he could prove intellectually that G-d exists. I knew he wouldn't be able to prove it to me, but I was interested to hear the arguments he would pose.
My friends and I left the rabbi's house at 5 a.m. and I was completely blown away by what he had to say. I saw that there was true beauty in the Torah system. But it was still too far away from my world. One thing that the rabbi said kept coming back to my me, though. Being in this world is not something to take for granted; you have to thank the Creator for your life and sustenance.
Well, I guess G-d wanted to give me good reasons to thank Him.
In September of that year, I was scheduled to travel to New York to meet up with my family who would also be there. I left work early on the kibbutz to get to the travel agency before they closed. I stopped at my room to pick up a few things and out of the blue I got very tired, laid down and fell asleep. When I woke up, I found out that there had been a suicide bomb attack in exactly the spot where I had been meant to go. It occurred to me this was not by random coincidence.
Later that year, at the end of my stay in Israel, I decided to go somewhere that would fill my urge for self-enlightenment. I chose to spend one month in Thailand at a yoga retreat after which I would backpack with friends for a month. Everything was set, except that a few weeks before traveling, I was told I couldn't stay in the hotel where the retreat would take place but would have to stay at a different hotel. I was very disappointed. I decided to change my plans and to vacation with my family in Europe for a month and then meet up with my friends in Thailand. And then, the Tsunami happened. By a miracle I was not there, for I might have been swept away like so many others. This was the final sign G-d had to send me. My life was saved for the second time and I wanted to thank Him for watching and protecting me.
Back in Brazil, on Friday nights I started going to the synagogue that my great-grandparents had attended. After a whole year attending that shul, something was still missing. A friend of mine suggested that I should try the Lubavitcher shul, since my family stemmed from Chasidim.
I went one Shabbat, and then another and then another. After a few weeks, Rabbi Chaim Broner invited me for a class on Tanya and I fell in love with Chasidic philosophy. It was exactly what I had been searching for. It was highly intellectual, spiritual and Jewish, all at the same time.
I began attending more classes at the Chabad House. For [the special day of] Gimmel Tammuz, I travelled to the Rebbe. In the Rebbe's shul, 770 Eastern Parkway, I sensed an unexplainable feeling that permeated my soul and provided a sense of coming back to the source.
I was taking a step at a time; still, some things were very challenging. My intellectual mind decided I had to go study a little more to be able to take this path. I went to Machon Or Jaia in Buenos Aires, Argentina, during my vacations from university. I took some huge steps, but still there was a long road to travel. My biggest motivations were seeing that my life was full of purpose as well as the certainty that I was reconnecting with the souls of my ancestors.
There were never-ending discussions on topics such as the age of the world and why milk and poultry cannot be mixed. After a while my parents became open to letting our house become kosher, as well as inviting guests over for a Shabbat meal.
Still, something was missing. I wanted to apply to Judaism the depth that my family had taught me to pursue in everything I do. I needed to go to yeshiva. Machon Alta in Safed, Israel, was my next destination. I spent an amazing two months studying there that summer. On the last Shabbat before returning to Brazil, I randomly opened a book of the Lubavitcher Rebbe's letters. Staring up at me from the page was the Rebbe's instruction to continue in yeshiva.
I returned to Brazil as scheduled and began planning my trip to attend Machon Chana Women's Institute in Crown Heights, New York, for the spring semester. I was conflicted about leaving my good job and the graphic design school I was attending. Before travelling to Crown Heights, I agreed with my parents to a two-month trial. Two months passed. My father came to visit me. He was able to see for himself that being at Machon Chana is a once in a lifetime opportunity; I was studying 24/7 in a way I could never experience in Brazil, and applying those studies to real life.
Though my parents were originally appre-hensive about me continuing, they happily agreed that I should stay through the end of the semester.
I am extremely grateful to the Rebbe for giving me clear instructions and for taking care of me through his amazing emissaries. And also to my parents who have given me the upbringing and education that made possible and provided me with the tools to be here today.
For me, the most moving moment in my four-year journey has been to hear my grandfather make kiddush after a lapse of 50 years or more, and my mother and grandmother lighting Shabbat candles together for the first time.
Rabbi Moishy and Rivky Goldman will be arriving soon in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, where they will establish a new Chabad House serving the communities of Waterloo, Kitchener, Cambridge and Guelph, as well as the campuses of the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University. Rabbi Yossi and Mindy Wolff are heading to Homestead, Florida to open a new Chabad House serving the Jewish residents in Homestead, Florida City, Redlands and Alapacha. Rabbi Nochum and Chani Schapiro will be moving to Miami, Florida, this fall where Rabbi Schapiro will teach in the Klurman Mesivta Yeshiva. Rabbi Yitzi and Rishi Hein are moving to Pittsford, New Yori, where they will be establishing a new Chabad House in that city.
To All Who Are Active in Torah Chinuch [Education] And to All Who Cherish Torah and Mitzvos in General,
Greeting and Blessing:
On this day, concluding the post-festival period of Shavuos, the Festival of Mattan Torah [the Giving of the Torah], and pursuant to what has been said and emphasized during the festive gatherings on, and before and after, Shavuos, based on the declaration of our Sages of blessed memory that only upon the assurance of the Jewish people that "our children will be our guarantors" (for the keeping of the Torah), did G-d give the Torah to our Jewish people;
I take this opportunity to reiterate an urgent call in a matter which is both a sacred duty and great Zechus [privilege] for every Jew, man and woman:
That they do everything within their ability to promote Torah-true education for each and every Jewish boy and girl, and not only during the hours dedicated to Torah study, but also during the rest of the time of the day and night, bearing in mind that the need is even greater in after-school hours.
And while this duty and Zechus are in effect all year long, the call of duty is particularly urgent in the days connected with the festival of Mattan Torah and those immediately following, which recall the corresponding days in the first year of the Liberation from Egypt, culminating in Mattan Torah, when the said guarantee first took effect.
May I also call attention to the special opportunities which present themselves in the forthcoming summer months, in this country and many other countries, where the regular school curriculum is suspended or curtailed for the summer recess:
This is the time when many teachers an instructors are relieved of their regular duties, and they would surely wish to participate in activities designed to promote and expand the work of Kosher Chinuch [Jewish education].
While thousands of schoolchildren, boys and girls, are released from school, thus providing a special opportunity, hence a compelling challenge, that they be helped to join appropriate summer camps, where they could benefit from a uniform atmosphere permeated with true Yiddishkeit [Judaism] for a considerable length of time, relatively speaking, which is not always possible during the rest of the year, when some tension is inevitable between the atmosphere at school, at home, and in the street.
This, therefore, is a very special and unique opportunity of inestimable value in terms of lasting influence and education. Hence, every effort in this direction is worthwhile. And surely these efforts will justify the promise, "Try hard and you will succeed."
May G-d grant that each and everyone whose vocation is in Chinuch, or is involved in Chinuch, and every one else who can help in this, whether through personal participation or through activating others, will do so to the utmost of his and her ability, and thus help raise legions upon legions of Jewish boys and girls who can be "recognized by all who see them as G-d-blessed children," studying His Torah, "Toras Emes" [Torah of Truth] and "Toras Chaim" [Torah of Life], and keepers of its Mitzvos [commandments].
So that we may soon merit to see the fulfillment of the prophecy: "I will bestow My spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and daughters will prophesy.... And as it is written before this: "And you will praise the Name of G-d your G-d, Who has dealt wondrously with you" at the coming of our righteous Moshiach, of whom it is written, "And he will reign from sea to sea, and from the river to the end of the earth."
With esteem and blessing,
Why do people say, "bli ayin hara," or "kenina hora"?
An "ayin hara" means an evil or begrudging eye. It is believed that an envious or begrudging glance is able to cause evil to the person at whom it is directed. According to a statement in the Talmud, 99 out of 100 die of an evil eye. Hence, we use the expression in Hebrew "bli ayin hara," or in Yiddish "kenina hora" - meaning, without a begrudging eye, when a person's health, wealth, intelligence, success, etc., are being admired.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
The 16th of the Hebrew month of Sivan is the yahrzeit of Rebbetzin Freida, one of the daughters of the first Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Shneur Zalman.
Rebbetzin Freida was a great woman and important in Chabad circles and was beloved by her father.
In fact, her younger brother (who succeeded Rabbi Shneur Zalman upon his passing) regularly asked her to approach Rabbi Shneur Zalman for clarification on things he didn't understand and she would then teach him what her father had taught her.
Rebbetzin Freida's nephew, Reb Nachum, wrote the following about her amazing passing and burial:
Rebbetzin Freida was an ailing woman, and after her father passed away she became even weaker. When she felt that her strength was ebbing and her final day on this earth was approaching, she called a few Chasidim together and asked that after her passing they bring her to Haditch and bury her to the right of her father.
The Chasidim did not know what to do as Jewish custom dictates that men and women are not buried next to each other.
A few days later Rebbetzin Freida called the Chasidim once again. They found her lying on her bed fully dressed. She asked that they encircle her bed. She then began to say the prayer, "My G-d, the soul which You have given within me is pure. You have created it, You have formed it, You have breathed it into me, and You preserve it within me." When she came to the words "And you will eventually take it from me..." she raised her hands into the air and cried out, "Father, wait! I am coming!" And she passed on.
The Chasidim understood that the request of a person who passed away in this manner must be upheld. But still, they were uncomfortable.
On their way to the cemetery, they reached a fork in the road, one way leading to Krementzug and the other way to Haditch. They decided to let go of the horses' reins and bury her where they would lead. The horses went to Haditch.
Rebbetzin Freida was buried, as she had requested, immediately next to her father, Rabbi Shneur Zalman.
Over your burnt offerings, and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings (Num. 10:10)
The foundation of the Jew's service of G-d must be the absolute nullification of self, much like the burnt offering that was entirely consumed on the altar. Only then can one progress to the next stage of "peace offerings," symbolic of the service of the intellect, like the peace offering that was enjoyed by the person who brought it.
And you shall be to us as eyes (Num. 10:31)
Moses informed Yitro, his father-in-law, that he would be held up as a shining example to the rest of the Jewish people. For if Yitro, a convert to Judaism, could willingly abandon his family, his homeland and his elevated social status to worship the G-d of Israel, how much more so must Jews from birth serve G-d with all their heart!
I am in the midst of the people, six hundred thousand men on foot (Num. 11:21)
This verse intimates the mystical principle that there is a spark or part of Moses in every Jew. Because Moses was connected with every Jew, he was therefore able to be the "faithful shepherd" of Israel and redeem them from Egypt. Similarly, the Baal Shem Tov taught that every Jew has a spark of the soul of Moshiach within him - the very core of which he is to unveil and release to govern his life. Each Jew will thus redeem himself, which in turn will bring about the national redemption for all of Israel. Because Moshiach is intimately connected with every Jew, he therefore has the power to be able to redeem the entire Jewish nation.
And the likeness of G-d does he behold (Num. 12:8)
The "likeness of G-d" - these are the attributes of the Holy One, blessed be He. Our Sages said, "Just as He is merciful shall you be merciful; just as He is gracious shall you be gracious." These G-dly attributes were brought down by Moses our Teacher and instilled in the heart of every single Jew.
(Rabbi Avraham Mordechai of Gur)
Rabbi Yosef Ber Soloveichik, the rabbi of the town of Slutsk once happened to meet a young man who had been one of his students at the yeshiva in Volozhin. The meeting was very cordial and the rabbi invited the young man to dine with him at his home.
"What are you doing these days?" the rabbi inquired. "Thank G-d," the former student replied. "I have become a merchant and I'm very successful. In the past few years I have done very well for myself, and I'm making a very comfortable living."
The rabbi looked at his former student, paying close attention to his words and then said, "What are you doing?"
The young man was perplexed. Hadn't the rabbi understood him? he wondered, and he repeated his explanation. But instead of acknowledging his statement, the rabbi only repeated, "What are you doing now?"
"I hope the rabbi will forgive my asking, but three times the rabbi has asked me what I'm doing and I have answered him. I don't understand," asked the young man.
The rabbi replied with a deep sigh: "It is correct that you have answered my question three times over, but your answer is not the one I was hoping to hear. In so far as you have accumulated money, that is nothing to your credit, for it all belongs to G-d, as it says, 'Mine is the silver and Mine is the gold." It is He who gives you riches, health, and in fact, your very life.
"When I ask you 'What are you doing?' I am referring to your good deeds, which are wholly your own. Do you give tzedaka (charity)? Are you kind to your fellow man? Do you devote a set time every day to the study of Torah? These are the only things in this world which are truly your own possessions which you accomplish through your efforts alone. I am asking you what you are doing, not what G-d is doing for you!"
Reb Moshe Leib Sassover was a great tzadik (righteous person) known for the tremendous love and kindness he constantly expressed for his fellow Jews. There was a constant stream of Jews who came to him to ask for a word of advice or a blessing.
One day a poor women appeared at his door. As soon as she was admitted to his rooms she began to weep as if her heart was breaking. "I beg you, Rebbe," she pleaded, "give me a blessing for my daughter who is very sick."
Reb Moshe Leib responded with the blessing, "May G-d send her a complete and speedy recovery."
But for the distraught mother this blessing wasn't sufficient. "No, Rebbe, you must promise, you must swear to me that my daughter will recover. You must swear to me on your share in the World to Come that G-d will cure my child."
Without hesitating a moment Reb Moshe Leib replied, "I swear on my portion in the next world that G-d will cure her and she will recover." When she heard these words, the women thanked the Tzadik copiously and left with a light heart.
Reb Moshe Leib's students who had observed the entire incident were astounded. They asked him, "Rebbe, how could you have made such a promise? The girl is seriously ill, and it is very possible she may not survive."
"What else could I have done?" Reb Moshe Leib replied. "The tears of a Jewish mother are more precious to me than the entire World to Come. If my swearing on my future reward in the World of Truth was necessary to stop her from crying, then it is more than worth it to me, even if it will cost me my portion in the next world.
Now is a time when we must light up the candles of the Jewish people. The cumulative legacy of all the positive activity of the previous generations is granted us and all that is necessary is to kindle the flame, making sure that it "rises up on its own accord." Although our generation is on a lower level than the previous ones, it is our generation that has the potential to elevate the service of all the previous generations. We will be the last generation of exile, and the first generation of the Redemption, and in this way, bring redemption to all the Jews of the previous generations.
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe, 19 Sivan, 5751-1991)