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                         L'CHAIM - ISSUE # 1108
                           Copyright (c) 2010
                 Lubavitch Youth Organization - L.Y.O.
                              Brooklyn, NY
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   Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.
        February 12, 2010      Mishpatim         28 Shevat, 5770

                        Foundations of the World

The after-effects and after-shock of the devastating earthquake in Haiti
continues to send reverberations throughout the world. The humanitarian
needs have been a logistical nightmare. As so often after tragedy, such
as the Southeast Asia tsunami in 2004, there is a world-wide outpouring
of sympathy and aid. When confronted by a natural disaster, the instinct
of most of us, from whatever country, of whatever politics, is to reach
out, to give support, material and emotional. Such events remind us, all
too harshly, of the frailty of life, and the ever-pressing need for acts
of goodness and kindness, indeed, for making such acts a priority for
all mankind.

Unfortunately, of course, there are those who would profit from such
tragedies, use the suffering, hardship, pain and trauma of others to
advance their political or supposedly religious agenda. Some
pronouncements of "religious leaders" made headlines when they were
criticized for their insensitivity or worse, in proclaiming a
justification or understanding for a supposed Divine act of retribution.
While Judaism does indeed teach us that everything happens by Divine
Providence, and that even seemingly random acts of nature are connected
to, and result from, the actions of people, Judaism also teaches us that
judgment belongs to G-d and G-d alone. Although adherence or
non-adherence to the commandments of G-d or to the moral code that He
desires for His world do  have consequences, we can never claim to
understand G-d's calculus. Rather, Judaism teaches us to react to
tragedy with compassion, to provide relief and support to those in need
regardless of other factors. Tzedeka (charity) is a universal

Nevertheless, Judaism also teaches us that everything that occurs
contains a lesson for our Divine Service. Even negative events, G-d
forbid, teach us something - if nothing else, that we need to strengthen
our spiritual condition that comprises our first line of defense against
the harsh, often brutal forces of nature. Where we find weakness, we
must correct an action in some manner.

When a building falls, it is not being punished for not being
earthquake-proof. We can however build buildings that are stable enough
to survive even a 7.0 tremor. The parallel is true in our spiritual
construction. If we understand what an earthquake is, how it affects the
world, and then understand the spiritual parallel, we can then also
understand what spiritual action can correct, or even prevent, an
"earthquake," spiritual as well as physical.

During an earthquake the world is literally torn apart. The foundations
of the world are shaken. In order to stop the shaking, the world needs
to be stabilized. The foundations must be secured.

What then stabilizes the world? Or, spiritually speaking, what is the
foundation of the world?

Our Sages tell us that Torah is foundation of the world. Thus, when we
hear about an earthquake, a shaking of the foundations of the physical
world, we should understand the inner, spiritual message: that the
spiritual foundations have been weakened, that the Supernal Realms are
"quaking." Thus, we must strengthen those spiritual foundations, by
increasing our Torah study.

While doing all we can to aid earthquake victims in a physical sense, we
must also do all we can to correct the spiritual causes of such tragedy.
To secure the foundations of the world - study Torah!

Last week we read about the Giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. This
week, in the portion of Mishpatim, we begin learning the specific
commandments the Torah contains.

There are three categories of mitzvot (commandments) in the Torah:
Chukim (statutes) are commandments that are above our understanding.
Eidot (testimonies) are mitzvot that we would not have arrived at
without the Torah. However, once G-d commanded us to obey them, we are
able to understand their rationale. Mishpatim (judgments) are simple
commandments that are compelled by human logic, laws that society would
keep even if the Torah had not commanded their observance.

Most of the Torah portion of Mishpatim deals with these seemingly
self-evident laws. Which leads to the following question:

After the extraordinary spectacle at Mount Sinai, why does the Torah
stress the rational category of mitzvot, as opposed to the others?
Furthermore, why was a supernatural revelation necessary for rules and
regulations we would have figured out on our own?

The answer is that the Torah is teaching us how to relate to the whole
concept of rational mitzvot. The natural inclination is to base these
mitzvot on our intellectual understanding. It hardly seems even
necessary to believe in G-d to arrive at the conclusion that it is wrong
to harm others, or that we must compensate someone we have injured.
These principles are patently obvious.

However, by enumerating the "logical" judgments first, the Torah
emphasizes that even these mitzvot must be observed out of faith in G-d.
We obey the Torah's rational laws not because they are logical, but
because G-d has commanded us to obey them. Indeed, the only basis and
source of all mitzvot, regardless of whether or not we understand them,
is our Divinely-given Torah.

This is important for several reasons:

A truly ethical life cannot be based on the human intellect, as it is
simply too flexible and open to manipulation by the will. If a person
really wants to do something, not only will he develop a philosophy by
which such action is justified, but he will even turn it into a
"mitzva"! The human mind can also devise logical "proofs" for
contradictory theorems. It is thus too unreliable a foundation for a
moral existence.

Moreover, just as G-d is Infinite and without end, so too is His holy
Torah. Even the simplest and most logical mitzvot are endlessly deep. If
a Jew observes a mitzva only because he understands it, he misses out on
all its inner significance.

By basing our observance on faith, we ensure that our moral system will
be stable and unwavering. We also connect ourselves to G-d through even
the most "logical" of mitzvot.

                    Adapted from Volumes 16 and 3 of Likutei Sichot

                             SLICE OF LIFE
                     A Furniture Store Conversation
                            by Yehudis Cohen

My daughter Devorah and I were doing last minute
furniture-and-other-shopping for her new apartment. She was getting
married in just over a week and there was still plenty to buy and do.

We had checked Craig's List for days, had poured over the IKEA
catalogue, and had gone into at least half-a-dozen furniture stores. In
one particular furniture store, a gregarious thirty-something, friendly
salesman was being very patient, accommodating and humorous.

At one point in the conversation he told us that, though his given name
is Peter, his nickname is Cookie. "Can you imagine what that was like
for a big Puerto Rican kid who was always trying to be macho around his
friends being called 'Cookie' by his family?" he asked with a twinkle in
his eyes.

The price Peter was ready to give us on a sofa and dinette table with
six chairs seemed to be the best deal we would find. Still, we wanted to
look around a bit more. He gave us his business card and wrote on it his
email address and cell phone number. "Call back when you make up your
mind," he told us.

By the time we made up our mind, Peter had already left the store. But
he graciously agreed to head back to the store and open up especially
for us, though he had a family gathering that evening.

Peter wrote up the invoice. Before we signed on the dotted line, I said,
"Peter, you can tell that the two of us aren't so savvy about buying
furniture. In fact, we're pretty na´ve. Are you really giving us a good
price?" I asked.

In answer, Peter said, "Let me show you a picture of my guardian angel,
and then you'll trust me."

Peter pulled out his wallet and we could see a photo of two cute
children. "Well, these are my personal guardian angels, my kids. But,
let me show you a different picture."

And with that, Peter took out a photo of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. "Since I
put a picture of this holy rabbi in my wallet two years ago, things in
my life have been really good."

Devorah and I were taken by surprise. "Peter, where did you get the
picture? Why is it in your wallet?"

"My mother is Christian and my father practiced Hinduism. But he had a
Jewish boss who had told him about the holy rabbi and my father told me
about him. My father taught me to respect and revere holy people of
every faith. A number of times when I was in the Brooklyn branch of our
store, I would see flyers with a picture of the holy rabbi and it
bothered me that sometimes they were lying on the floor. I kept seeing
the rabbi's picture all over the place and I started reading up about
him. One day, I don't know why, but I just decided that this man's
picture should be in my wallet. Since then I've had only good things
happen in my life."

Devorah and I digested everything that Peter had said until now and then
listened as he continued. "I began trying to talk to the Jewish
customers about Jewish things, but I sensed a feeling of superiority
from them. Once in a while I would touch the mezuza on the door of the
store as I came in. People would mock me for doing it. But I'm used to
prejudice, 'cause I'm Puerto Rican.

"I started doing research into my family's genealogy. From my dad's
side, my great-grandfather was from Spain. He had one Jewish parent and
one Muslim parent. He was a free-mason. It's weird to me that I've
gravitated so much to Judaism.

"My great-grandmother on my mother's side was also from Spain and I
found out that she was Jewish."

We were stunned. "Peter, was she your mother's grandmother or your
father's grandmother?" I asked.

"My mother's," was Peter's answer.

"And was it your mother's father or mother who was the child of your
great-grandmother," I probed further.

"It was my mother's mother," Peter answered unhesitatingly.

"Peter, that means that you're Jewish!" I told him emphatically.

Peter thought for a moment, then shared, "I had wanted to go to the holy
rabbi's grave to pray before the new year, but I didn't make it."

"It's never too late, Peter. And when you go there, make sure to tell
them that you're Jewish and ask them to help you put on tefilin. Do you
know what tefilin are?"

Peter nodded his head. "I've been doing a lot of reading about Jewish
things over the past two years; I've been studying the Torah. I know
what tefilin are."

I told Peter, "Jewish teachings explain that after 120 years - 120 years
is a person's lifespan according to Torah - if a Jewish man passes away
and hasn't put on tefilin ever in his life, well, that's not a good
thing for him when he goes to the next world. Peter, make sure when you
go to the Rebbe's resting place that you put on tefilin!"

The paperwork was filled out and signed. It was late, but we were
lingering, all lost in our own thoughts. "I don't know why it is that I
feel so attracted to Jewish things," Peter said softly.

"Because you are Jewish, Peter. You have a Jewish soul. It's who you

"Yeh, I guess that's what it is," Peter said with a smile.

I spoke to Peter a few times since our encounter in the furniture store.
I asked his permission to write up our conversation and he agreed. "I've
been looking forward to reconnecting with my Jewish side," Peter told me
before we hung up the phone.

                               WHAT'S NEW
                             New Emissaries

Rabbi Nochum and Malki Labkowski have moved to St. Lazare, Quebec,
Canada where they are opening a new Chabad Jewish Community Center
serving the communities of St. Lazare and Hudson.

                               New Mikvas

The Jewish community of Kostroma, Russia,  has begun plans to build a
mikva. The mikva will be located in the Kostroma Synagogue on the exact
site where a mikva had existed previously until it was closed down by
the Soviet regime. A new state-of-the art  mikva was dedicated recently
in Seine-et-Marne, a suburb of Paris near Eurodisney.

                            THE REBBE WRITES
                              5730 [1970]

It has been brought to my attention that the Jewish community in Bombay
is facing a serious crisis. According to my information, which
apparently comes from a reliable source, there are at present about 450
Baghdadi Jews there, whereas the Bnei Israel community numbers about a
couple of thousand, spread over the whole of India.

Of the three existing Jewish schools, two are expected to close in May
1970, partly for lack of funds, and partly because the number of
students has fallen. The largest Jewish school is the Jacob Sassoon
School, where about 300 children, including some Bnei Israel, receive
more or less free education and free meals; however, because of lack of
funds, free meals might soon be stopped, while snacks will be given only
to the poorer children.

I am further informed that poor orphans and widows, and the aged, face
increased hardships because of cuts in their monthly allowances etc, A
case in point in the recently widowed wife of the Chazan [cantor] of the
Magen David Synagogue, left with eight children and so placed that,
unfortunately, she is no longer able to maintain the middle-class family
life that they have been accustomed to.

Knowing of your keen personal interest in the Jewish community of India,
especially Bombay, and of how much your ancestors have done to provide
vital education and social services for our brethren there, I am
confident that you will look into the present situation, and do all that
you can, in the great tradition of your family.

Hoping this letter finds you in the best of health.

With blessing

                                *  *  *

                         Greeting and Blessing:

I just received your letter with enclosure. It was gratifying to read
the good news that you succeeded in inducing the Federation to make an
initial grant to the Chabad House in your city, thus breaking the ice,
as it were, in getting it to begin to move towards supporting Torah-true
Chinuch [Jewish education].

Here my thoughts turn to the recent miraculous rescue of the hostages
from Uganda. One cannot fail to note the extraordinary aspects at both
ends of the hijacking. On the one hand, the ease with which the four
terrorists hijacked the airbus in Athens, and on the other, the
extraordinary success of the rescue operation. In other words, both the
initial crisis and the eventual delivery clearly point to the hand of
G-d. And while every Jew is grateful to, and admires the mesiras nefesh
[self-sacrifice] of the brave rescuers, we must not lose sight even for
a moment of the warning and lesson at the bottom of it all, not just in
regard to the danger of hijacking in the ordinary sense but, even more

In regard to the "spiritual hijacking" of so many of our younger
generation by alien and freakish cultures which, unfortunately, capture
so many of our innocent boys and girls in Eretz Yisroel [the Land of
Israel] as well as in the Diaspora. With all anxiety and love which
welled up in every Jewish heart for those unfortunate hostages at
Entebbe Airport - surely no less concern should be shown for the
spiritual hostages that are abducted daily, and no less mesiras nefesh,
to save them. It is also particularly painful to contemplate the
secularized education to considerable segments of Jewish youth in the
land which even the nations of the world recognize as the Holy Land,
where one would have reason to expect that all Jewish children would be
brought up in an atmosphere of holiness befitting that Holy Land. It is
for this reason that our Chabad people in Eretz Yisroel and everywhere
else have undertaken special rescue operations in the area of Jewish

May the zechus [merit] of the participation in this work stand you in
good stead in all your affairs, particularly to have ever-truer nachas
[pleasure] from all your near and dear ones.

Last but not least, I was gratified to note that you commemorated the
passing of your late wife, of blessed memory, by publishing one of our
Holy Scriptures, the Book of Ruth, with a commentary, and with selected
Midrashim of our Rabbis, our teachers, for all generations, in a way
that makes it accessible to those who need chinuch and inspiration.

With blessing,

                            WHAT'S IN A NAME

Aharon (Aaron) was Moses's elder brother. He was the high priest
("kohen" in Hebrew) and father to all future priests. There are various
opinions as to the origin of the name. One is that Aharon's mother,
lamenting her pregnancy since Pharaoh had decreed that all Jewish males
were to be thrown into the Nile, said: "I'herayon" ("Woe unto this


The name "Elisheva" is first mentioned in Exodus (6:23).  It means, "G-d
is my oath."  Elisheva was Aharon's wife and sister of Nachshon - the
prince of the tribe of Judah.  She raised four out-standing sons, Nadav,
Avihu, Elazar and Itamar.

                        A WORD FROM THE DIRECTOR
                         Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This Shabbat is the first of four weeks when we read a special Torah
portion following the Torah reading. The special portion for this week,
"Shekalim," deals with the command to every Jew to contribute half a
shekel toward the building of the Sanctuary in the desert.

This half-shekel was not only a tax but served the additional purpose of
being an atonement for the sin of the "golden calf." After hearing the
command from G-d, Moses was perplexed as to how it was possible for a
half-shekel to atone for such a horrendous sin.

The requirement to give half of a coin, indeed, had significant meaning.
It signified to each Jew who gave - and every Jew did give - that G-d
and the Jewish people are one whole. We are not, as mathematicians might
think, two separate entities that join together - one plus one equals
two. Rather, we are a half and G-d, as it were, is a half. It is only
when the two halves are added up that there is one, unified, complete,
whole individual.

In addition, there is a more "down-to-earth" implication to this analogy
of a half-shekel. Each Jew, as we mentioned before, is a half. Only when
one Jew joins together with another Jew - another half - does either Jew
become whole. Whether the mitzva of charity, Torah study, visiting the
sick, hospitality, or numerous other mitzvot, it is only through
connecting with another Jew that we become whole.

                          THOUGHTS THAT COUNT
If a man digs a pit... the owner of the pit shall make it good, and
return money (kesef) to the owner (Ex. 21:34)

A person can "dig a pit" into which other people fall and get hurt. The
way to correct this situation and "make it good" is by "returning kesef
(related to the word kisuf - longing and yearning) to the owner" - with
a sincere desire to return to the "Owner" of the world in repentance.

                                               (Likutei Sefat Emet)

                                *  *  *

If fire breaks out and finds thorns, and shocks of corn are consumed, or
the standing corn, or the field (Ex. 22:5)

It states in the Talmud: "Punishment comes to the world only on account
of the wicked, yet begins with the righteous." When G-d brings
punishment ("fire") into the world, it is directed primarily against the
wicked ("thorns"). However, as long as righteous people exist, their
merit protects everyone. Therefore, if G-d determines that punishment is
absolutely necessary, the righteous are often the first to be stricken,
so that their merit can no longer shield others.

                                                     (Pardes Yosef)

                                *  *  *

If you afflict them in any way, and they cry out to Me, I will surely
hear their cry (Ex. 22:22)

It is forbidden to chastise anyone too harshly, even if one's intentions
are good. Because Penina inadvertently caused pain to Chana (the mother
of Samuel) in trying to influence her to pray to G-d for children, we
find that she was punished. One must be very careful not to cause
someone to "cry out" to G-d, for He will "surely hear their cry."

                                                   (The Vilna Gaon)

                                *  *  *

And holy men you shall be to Me (Ex. 22:30)

G-d wants us to sanctify that aspect of us that makes us human, and to
perform holy, "humanitarian" actions. G-d desires good and holy people,
as He already has plenty of angels to do His bidding.

                                               (The Rabbi of Kotzk)

                            IT ONCE HAPPENED
Reb Shmuel Brin sat in a waiting room packed with chasidim who had
traveled from far and near to seek the advice of the Rebbe Maharash -
the Fourth Lubavitcher Rebbe. A tense atmosphere prevailed and showed
itself in the serious and worried faces of all. Reb Shmuel was well
known, the owner of a distillery which produced vodka, and an ardent
follower of the Rebbe Maharash. He had been waiting to see the Rebbe for
days, and now his turn had come, and he sat reciting Psalms with a
broken spirit.

He entered the Rebbe's study, and was overcome with emotion--what had he
done to bring this terrible calamity upon himself? He began to explain
the situation to the Rebbe: "As the Rebbe knows, I earn my livelihood
from my distillery. A certain tax is paid to the government for the
amount of liquor produced, and a special meter attached to the
fermenting vat measures each quart. From time to time an inspector comes
to assess the taxes due.

"Until now there has never been any trouble, but it seems that one of my
employees has found a way, through making a small hole in the vat, of
siphoning off some of the vodka, and thereby bypassing the meter. The
vodka he managed to steal he sold to his friends, and so he cheated both
me and the government. I have no idea how long this has been going on,
but this is how it came to my attention:

"A second worker caught the first thief red-handed, and demanded a share
in the take. The first thief agreed, but later they had an argument and
the second "partner" went to the police. Upon investigation, the police
discovered the swindle and arrested the thief. When questioned, he
admitted the theft, but he claimed that it was done on my orders.

"I don't know why, but the police freed the thief and arrested me
instead. My family barely managed to bail me out and I came here right
here away to seek your advice. The penalty for cheating the government
is very severe - there is even the possibility of life imprisonment or
slave-labor in Siberia."

With that, Reb Shmuel broke into uncontrollable sobs, crying "Rebbe!
Help me! Me'ayin yavo ezri - From where will come my help?"

The Rebbe was thoughtful for a while, and then responded: "Yes, your
help will come from me'ayin, from the Unknown, from G-d. Return to your
home, and when you will meet a Jew in trouble who will say: 'Me'ayin
yavo ezri' help him; then G-d will also help you."

Reb Shmuel left very much encouraged. Not long after, Reb Shmuel heard
about a terrible misfortune that had befallen his old friend Reb Chaim.
He had become destitute in a devastating fire which destroyed his entire
inn. With a house full of children, Reb Chaim was desperate.

Reb Shmuel went searching for his friend, and found him sitting near
some scorched wooden logs where his inn had previously stood.

The two friends greeted each other warmly. Reb Shmuel eagerly offered
his friend a loan, but he shook his head. "Where would you get the
money? You have troubles enough of your own," he replied. "As we say in
Psalms: 'From where will come my help? My help will come from G-d.' "

As soon as he heard the words of his Rebbe echoed by Reb Chaim, he was
even more anxious to extend his help. He didn't let Reb Chaim go until
he finally accepted the proffered money.

Weeks passed and finally the day of the trial arrived. Many members of
the community appeared to testify on behalf of Reb Shmuel, but things
didn't go well for him. The two accusers swore that they acted under
orders of their boss, and the prosecutor made a fiery speech denouncing
Brin as a swindler of the worst type. Brin could only repeat that he was
innocent of the charges.

After the lawyers had concluded their arguments, the judge proceeded to
summarize the case and instruct the jury. He concluded his speech
saying, "I want to recount the following episode which has a bearing on
the case: Once, the young son of a nobleman was traveling by train. He
left his luggage on the platform to get some refreshment. On his return
it was missing, and along with it, all of his money and ticket. For a
couple of days he hung around the station hungry and miserable, noticed
by no one.

"Then a man descended from an incoming train, and with one look at the
boy, invited him to partake of a meal at his expense. The boy accepted
gratefully and told the stranger about his predicament. The man reached
into his pocket and gave him money for a ticket. When the boy requested
his name, so that he could repay him, he refused, saying that one day
the boy would pass on the favor to another, and that would be his

"Members of the jury," concluded the judge, "this man that you see
before you is the very man who helped me so many long years ago! Such a
man could not be liar and a thief! A man who could so graciously help a
complete stranger with no thought of recompense could never commit this
crime! I leave it up to you to decide!"

In a few minutes the verdict was returned. "Not guilty!" Reb Shmuel Brin
did not immediately hear the verdict. His mind was on the words of his
saintly Rebbe: "Fill the void of another in distress, and G-d will fill

                            MOSHIACH MATTERS
The verse "A star shoots forth from Jacob and a staff rises from Israel"
(Num. 24:17) refers to Moshiach, according to the Targum, Midrash and
Rambam. The Jerusalem Talmud explains that this verse is referring to
every single Jew individually. However, there is no contradiction
between varying opinions, for the book Me'or Einayim quotes the Baal
Shem Tov that in every Jew there is a piece of the soul of Moshiach, and
thus the two explanations fit and complement each other.

(The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Likutei Sichot II:599, Hitva'adut 5743, p.1315)

              END OF TEXT - L'CHAIM 1108 - Mishpatim 5770

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