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1112: Vayakhel-Pekudei

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L'Chaim
March 12, 2010 - 26 Adar, 5770

1112: Vayakhel-Pekudei

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  1111: Ki Sisa1113: Vayikra  

Stay Healthy, Eat "Fruit"  |  Living with the Rebbe  |  A Slice of Life  |  What's New
The Rebbe Writes  |  What's In A Name  |  A Word from the Director  |  Thoughts that Count
It Once Happened  |  Moshiach Matters

Stay Healthy, Eat "Fruit"

Fruit. It's come a long way. In years gone by we were advised, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away." Today, the U.S. Government food pyramid recommends that people eat at least five servings of fruit (and vegetables) each day. Fruit is naturally sweet and delicious - and often provides lots of vitamin A and C, folic acid, and other vitamins and minerals. Fruit also provides fiber and the phytochemicals that appear to reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease, and stroke.

So, except for when it's been tampered with by people, fruit is a healthy choice. The numerous varieties of fruit also share two other qualities: they are naturally sweet and delicious, and they have seeds.

Jewish teachings refer to mitzvot (commandments) as "fruit."

In order for our mitzvot to be like edible fruit, they too have to be healthy, free of additives - untainted by ego, one-upmanship or a holier-than-thou attitude.

The fact that a fruit contains seeds means that it can reproduce. This happens when seeds from the fruit grow into a tree, for instance. The tree then bears fruit and eventually these new fruits decompose, allowing the seeds to germinate. They grow into saplings and eventually into new, fruit-bearing trees. This chain, the first link of which goes all the way back to the beginning of the world, continues eternally.

Mitzvot must "contain seeds." Our mitzvot should produce other mitzvot - they should inspire within us and others the desire to increase in Jewish living.

Moreover, mitzvot are eternal. And, like fruit trees, they link us not only to the future but to the past, as well.

It is not for naught that the first mitzva in the Torah, given to the first people, was "Be fruitful and multiply." For, it is truly a basic and prime mitzva to bring forth another Jew, to create - physically or spiritually - another person who him/herself will do fruit-bearing mitzvot, ad infinitum.

Finally, mitzvot like fruit, are sweet. They satisfy our "craving" for the most delicious things in life-loving kindness, a relationship with G-d, a sense of community, transcending our mundane existence, wisdom.

In the Garden of Eden, all trees bore fruit. The Midrash teaches that in times of Moshiach, when all of creation will return to its perfect state, all trees will once again bear fruit - healthy fruit, sweet and delicious fruit, fruit producing fruit.

There is no "Institute" or "Association" that has set limits to or recommended daily allowances for our mitzvot observance. Surely if we attempt to perform as many mitzvot as possible each day, and even more, we will soon merit to experience the perfection of the world in the final Redemption.


Living with the Rebbe

For the past several weeks the Torah readings have dealt with the Sanctuary and its numerous vessels. The requirements were very exacting, involving many different types of building materials and complicated instructions on how to make the Sanctuary's various parts.

The Torah portions of Teruma and Tetzaveh contained G-d's detailed command to erect the Sanctuary and fashion its components. Immediately afterward, the portions of Vayak'hel and Pekudei, which we read this week, speak of its actual building.

A question is asked: Why is it necessary to devote four separate Torah portions to the subject of the Sanctuary?

Every word of the holy Torah is deliberate and precise; not one word or letter is superfluous. If so, why does the Torah devote so much space to what seems to be a repetition? Surely the Torah could have enumerated all the details of the Sanctuary and then simply stated that the Jews followed them to the letter. From this we would have understood that the Sanctuary was built according to G-d's instructions.

However, in his commentary on the Torah (Gen. 24:42), Rashi explains a general principle: Whenever something is particularly beloved to G-d, the Torah goes to great length in its description, and indeed may repeat itself several times, even if nothing new is added by the repetition.

The Sanctuary and its vessels were extremely beloved by G-d. The Sanctuary was also especially important to the Jews, for it was the means by which G-d's Presence rested among them, as it states, "And they will make Me a Mikdash (Sanctuary) and I will dwell among them."

Moreover, to the Jews the Sanctuary was particularly beloved, for it testified that G-d had forgiven them for having made the Golden Calf. That is why it was called "the Mishkan of Testimony."

Precisely because of the Sanctuary's great significance, both to G-d and to the Jewish people, a full four Torah portions are devoted to the Sanctuary: Teruma, Tetzaveh, Vayak'hel and Pekudei.

The Jewish people's dedication to the Sanctuary expressed itself in their overwhelmingly enthusiastic response to the call for donations. In fact, they contributed so much of their personal wealth and possessions that an order had to be given for them to cease!

In a like manner, it is not enough to be content with the simple performance of mitzvot. Each one of G-d's commandments must be precious and dear to us, observed with willingness and devotion, and performed with alacrity and love.

Adapted from Likutei Sichot, Volume 16


A Slice of Life

A Matter of Principal
by Arnie Gotfryd

Nobody will be surprised if Shimon Waronker goes on to lead one of America's largest school districts. Never mind that he's just in his early forties and relatively fresh in the field. Put aside the fact that he's a strictly orthodox, Chabad Chasidic Jew. That, for those who know him, just makes him a more likely candidate.

Waronker captured the heart of a nation and became a darling of the media for transforming a school known as "hell on earth" into a shining example of academic and social wellness. Not bad for a first time principal.

His first day on the job, there was a beating. The victim, a young teenager, suffered brain damage, vision loss and more. After having the perpetrator arrested for assault (with the help of some of the two dozen police officers assigned to the school), Waronker got a personal death threat from the incarcerated student's father, a man who had just been released that day from prison.

Five gangs controlled the neighborhood and their headquarters was the school, Middle School 22 in the Bronx, where they had taken over the halls, the classrooms and sometimes even the administrative office. That's a pretty impressive feat for students from grades 5 through 8, until you factor in the failure rate, which puts some of those Grade 8 students as old as 18. The older students would rake in magnificent "salaries" by roping in the younger ones to do the bulk of their dirty work - drug dealing and other crimes - because under 16, a kid doesn't do time.

Most people, like the previous six principals, would have quit but not Shimon: He had a vision and he was going to implement it. Today, just a few years later, the gangs are gone, the drugs, crime and violence are negligible, the kids are learning, the staff is cheerful and the parents are grateful and optimistic. But how did he implement this unprecedented miracle?

That's the question I asked Shimon Waronker. He said it comes down to three things: Bitachon, Dira b'Tachtonim, and Simcha. In English that's absolute trust in the Creator, an unswerving commitment to doing what's right in the eyes of G-d and man, and indomitable joy.

This was no textbook recipe for social and academic remediation. His answer left me confused and, I admit, a little irritated, because I thought he was being evasive. But the more he spoke about it, the more I understood that he wasn't kidding. It's a classic case of "Where there's a will, there's a way."

What is Bitachon (trust)? It's like a supercharged faith. Regular faith is when you know that whatever G-d has in store for you is for your own good, even if it is not apparent how it is good. Trust is when you know that it will turn out good in the revealed sense as well. How can we be so sure? If even the patriarchs feared that they may not deserve to see their divine blessings fulfilled, on what basis are we so sure?

The answer is that absolute trust changes our destiny. To illustrate, once, two women were blessed by the Lubavitcher Rebbe to conceive after many years of childlessness. After about a year, one of the women gave birth and the other had not even become pregnant. This second woman brought her complaint to the Rebbe who responded, "Upon receiving her blessing, your friend went out and bought a baby carriage!"

Shimon Waronker, in effect, told himself "The good L-rd put me into this situation, so it has to work out well." Believing that was the first step in making it happen.

What is Waronker's second principle - Dira B'Tachtonim (making the world G-dly)? It's about the world living out its purpose. The rules of decency, morality, goodness and kindness don't change depending on race, creed or culture. They don't change with or without drugs or firearms. Each and every person has a purpose in the world and in general it's the same purpose for all of us: To make the world better according to Torah.

What will the world be like when Moshiach comes and G-d is revealed? Will there be mutual respect and peaceful coexistence? Pride and dignity? In that case, it's our duty to make it that way now, to the best of our ability. Shimon Waronker saw the plight of today superimposed on a vision of tomorrow and realized that it's time to get to work. It is not possible that G-d's plan for society is unworkable, and it's not His will to do it on His own.

The third element is Simcha (joy). Here's an example of this principle in action. One day Shimon Waronker returned to MS 22 from a conference to find that a gang had taken over the school's administrative office - literally. The indomitable principal greeted the situation with his characteristic smile, but that only served to irritate one the faculty who said, "How can you smile at a time like this?"

"First of all," Waronker responded, "We know exactly who's involved because the whole thing is on camera and we'll get those guys. Second of all, if I start crying, what's everybody else going to do?"

Waronker is a case study in the Chasidic adage, "Tracht gut, vet zein gut - Think good and it will be good." The way he figures it out, there are only two possibilities: Either Sartre, Camus and Nietzsche were right and life is amoral, meaningless and purposeless, or, there is another way and Judaism is onto something real. Realizing the latter is the only viable option, he's thrown himself into it wholeheartedly and his passionate faith in G-d and human nature is contagious.

Shimon Waronker is a living lesson for all of us, that first of all, you can be successful as an orthodox Jew and a proud Chasid. Second, with the right attitude you can overcome all difficulties, and finally, there is no situation that can't be fixed.

Dr. Aryeh (Arnie) Gotfryd, PhD is a chassid, scientist, author and educator living near Toronto, Canada. For more info or to book a talk, call 416-658-9868, or visit www.arniegotfryd.com.

What's New

New Emissaries

Rabbi Levi and Michal Mendelow are moving to New Canaan, Connecticut where they will establish a new Chabad House serving the needs of the local Jewish community. Rabbi Yitzi and Chavi Steiner recently arrived in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where they are starting a new Chabad House serving the Jewish students and faculty at the University of Minnesota. Rabbi Moshe and Libby Lazaros are opening a new Chabad House in Lakeland, Florida, to serve the needs of Jews throughout Polk County. Rabbi Chanoch and Bassie Chaskind will be joining the emissaries in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York to strengthen the work of Chabad of Flatbush.


The Rebbe Writes

21 Adar II, 5738 [1978]

Sholom uBrocho [Peace and Blessing]:

Thank you for your letter of 13 Adar II. I appreciate your comprehensive response to my letter and memorandum on the need to organize widespread use of T.M. and similar techniques in psychotherapy compatible with the Torah with the double objective of making such therapy available to Jewish patients in a kosher way and at the same time saving numerous Jews from getting involved with Avoda Zora [idol-worship] as now commonly practiced in the USA.

Needless to say, I noticed your suggestions and observations in this connection with understandable interest.

In reply, let me first say that, as a general principle, so long as the said two objectives can best be served, whatever project is determined to be most effective is most desirable, and, of course, acceptable to me.

There are, however, some points in your response which need careful assessment. For instance, the suggestion that an Institute employing the said healing techniques might be linked with a strictly orthodox, even Lubavitch, orientation should be examined in light of it being a possible, or even likely, deterrent for many candidates who might hesitate to turn to such an Institute for fear that it may impose upon them religious demands and commitments which they are not yet prepared to accept.

The above is not to say that the idea should be rejected out of hand, since there may be individuals who would not be deterred by it. But I believe that if the project is to attract a wider circle of candidates for therapy, it would have a wider acceptance if it is not overtly tied in with such an orientation, or discipline; at any rate, not in the initial stage.

Needless to say, the emphasis is on the overt orientation of the projected Institute, which should have no religious or other preconditions for anyone seeking its services. But the Institute itself should, of course, be run in strict keeping with the Torah, with a kosher, indeed glat-kosher, kitchen, strict Shabbos [Sabbath] observance, with Mezuzos on all doors - just as there are glat-kosher Hotels and institutions.

With regard to the basic point you make in your letter, namely, that most people for whom our plan is envisaged consider themselves "normal" and would not be interested in a program that offers professional (medical) services, but would prefer a more simplistic setup for relaxation, etc., - this should certainly be taken into account, since the ultimate goals of our plan would not be affected.

And, if as you suggest, this would be the more practical setup for attracting more people and achieving our two objectives - healing and elimination of Avoda Zora - then by all means, this method should be given due consideration.

I would like to make a further point, though entirely not in my domain, namely, in reference to hypnosis as one of the techniques used in psychotherapy, as mentioned in your letter.

I have always been wary of any method that deprives a person of the free exercise of his will, and which puts him in the power of another person, even temporarily - except, of course, in a case of Pikuach-nefesh [the preservation of life]. Certainly I would not favor the use of such a method on a wider scale, least of all to encourage psychologists and psychiatrists enrolled in our program to use it.

Finally, a point which for understandable reasons I did not want to mention in my letter accompanying the memorandum: If in the first stage of implementing the program there would be need for funding the initial outlay, my Secretariat would make such funds available.

Your further comments will be welcome, and many thanks again.

With blessing,


What's In A Name

DAVID is from the Hebrew, meaning "beloved." David, son of Jesse (I Samuel 17:12), was the second king of Israel and G-d promised David that all future kings, including Moshiach, would be descended from him. He was the compiler/ author of the Psalms. He soothed the troubled King Saul with his harp and battled Goliath.

DEVORAH (Deborah) is from the Hebrew, meaning "bee." Devorah was a great prophetess and the only female judge (Judges 4:5). She and general Barak led a successful campaign against the Canaanites. The "Song of Devorah" is her victory poem following the battle.


A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

Have you started getting ready for Passover yet? After all, in a little over two weeks, the festival of Passover begins.

In the Mishna, two different opinions of our Sages are stated as to how much before Passover one must begin one's preparations for the holiday.

According to one opinion, we study and inquire about the laws of Passover a full 30 days before the holiday. Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel says that one begins two weeks before the holiday."

Although the halacha (Jewish legal ruling) was decided according to the former opinion, Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel's view is also significant as our Sages teach, "These and these are the words of the living G-d."

So, if you'll just be starting your Passover preparations this coming week, you're just in time.

Interestingly, it is actually possible to fulfill both opinions. To explain: One should start preparing by reviewing the laws of Passover 30 days before the holiday. As the holiday approaches, however, one should reassess one's situation and increase both the quality and the quantity of one's preparations.

Just as we must make an effort to prepare for Passover, we must also make efforts to provide others with their Passover needs, giving "maot chittim" - the special charity associated with Passover. Here too, even if one gave 30 days before Passover, as the Passover holiday grows nearer, one must reassess and increase his donations.

As G-d sees the extent of one's generosity, He will provide one with more blessings. A person who gives without reservations and limitations, will likewise receive Divine blessings that know no bounds.


Thoughts that Count

Every one with a willing heart brought earrings and nose rings, and rings, and bracelets, every article of gold (Ex. 35:22)

Earrings: Jewish parents must listen to the Torah's directives concerning the Jewish education of their children. They should also overhear their children's conversations with their friends, in order to guide them properly. Nose rings: Parents should develop a keen sense of "smell" to make sure their children's playmates are appropriate. Rings: Parents must be able to "point" their children in the right direction. Bracelets: In addition to explaining things in a pleasant manner, parents must also stand firm (symbolized by the arm) when it comes to Jewish education. The child should always feel that this is his parents' priority.

(Likutei Diburim)


And Betzalel made the ark (Ex. 37:1)

Of all the components of the Sanctuary, why is Betzalel's name associated specifically with the ark? At different times in history, all of the other vessels were also fashioned by other people (i.e., for the First and Second Holy Temples; they will also be made for the Third Holy Temple when it is reestablished). However, there has always been only one ark, made by Betzalel. Although hidden away after the destruction, in the future it will be revealed.

(Meshech Chochma)


And Moses saw all the work... and Moses blessed them (Ex. 39:43)

According to the Midrash, what Moses saw was all the angels that had been created by the Jewish people's fulfillment of G-d's command to bring contributions for the Sanctuary, as it states: "He who does one mitzva acquires one advocate." Moses thus understood that the mitzva had been done with sincerity and pure intent, "and he blessed them"

(Birkat Shamayim)


It Once Happened

One day, she awoke early with a nebulous feeling that something was very wrong. Maybe it was just that everything looked so desolate in the stark grayness of the morning. She got out of bed and looked around the one room dwelling. The children were sleeping soundly, huddled under the ragged blanket like a litter of kittens in the one bed they shared.

She never expected that her husband would leave, and without warning... She opened the heavy wooden door and allowed her eyes to wander across the empty yard. The fear in the pit of her stomach made her nauseous, and she walked inside and sat down on a chair. It was true - he was gone.

The next day it was a little easier to think, to plan. She would travel to the Rebbe Rashab (the fifth Rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch). Only the holy Rebbe would know how to help her out of this terrible situation. Sympathetic neighbors watched her little ones, and even lent her the money for the trip, and soon she was sitting nervously on the train traveling to the Rebbe's court.

When she alighted from the train, she had no trouble finding the Rebbe's synagogue, but gaining a private audience with the Rebbe was another thing altogether. Some had been waiting for days, some for weeks, some even longer. Finally, one man told her, "Your best chance is to write the Rebbe a letter. Explain the whole situation, and he will surely answer you."

The poor woman, now even more distraught, wrote the letter. The Rebbe's shamash (assistant) took it and promised to present it to the Rebbe at an opportune moment. Not more than a couple of days passed when the woman was called to the shamash . "Come quickly," she was told, "The Rebbe has answered your letter."

The woman came running to the Rebbe's residence. "Here," said the Rebbe's shamash, "here is your answer." She unfolded the sheet of paper and on it was written but one sentence: "Go to Warsaw."

What could it mean? she wondered. And how in the world would she get to Warsaw? It was wartime; she had no money; she had small children.

Perplexed, she returned to her town and showed the Rebbe's answer to the Chasidim there. "If the Rebbe says, 'Go to Warsaw,' then go to Warsaw you must," they concurred. They gathered money for the woman and soon she was sitting on the train to Warsaw.

When she arrived in the metropolis, she had no idea where to go or what to do, for the Rebbe had given her no further direction. Suddenly, she was stopped by a Chasid.

"What do you need?" he asked. She replied that she had come to find her husband. The Rebbe had sent her to Warsaw, but she had no clue where to begin her search. "Go to - Street. There is a factory where many immigrants go to work. You will most likely find your husband there."

With nothing to lose, she made her way to that street and asked to speak to the foreman. He was a kind-hearted man and, after hearing her story, allowed her to search through the list of workers. Her eyes widened with shock as her husband's name leaped up at her from the page. She went to him and pleaded with him to return home with her. He remained adamant until she told him how she had managed to find him. If the Rebbe had sent his wife to him, then he would return home with her.

She decided it was only right to return to the Rebbe's court and thank him for the miracle he had done for her, and so she traveled there once more.

This time, as well, she was not permitted to enter the Rebbe's chambers. "Wait until the Rebbe comes out to pray, and then approach him," she was told. So, she waited by the door, mentally composing the words she would use to thank the Rebbe. Suddenly the door opened. Upon seeing the Rebbe's face she fell down in a dead faint.

The Chasidim surrounded her, all wanting to know what had happened. When she was revived she told them, "When I saw the Rebbe's face, I realized that the chasid who had suddenly appeared and helped me on the street in Warsaw was the Rebbe!" Word of this amazing happening spread like wildfire. The Chasidim calculated and figured and finally determined the exact time that this strange meeting had occurred.

It had been on a day when the Rebbe had not prayed publicly with the minyan as usual. The Chasidim had been concerned about his welfare, and one young student had gotten up the nerve to climb up a tree and peer into the Rebbe's room. He put his face near the window, and looked in. There stood the Rebbe, looking like nothing he had ever seen. The Rebbe's face was aflame and his eyes were peering into the distance, totally unseeing. The boy was so overcome by the sight that he lost his balance and fell to the ground.

This story was related by the one who had been that young student during World War I and had himself witnessed the events described here.


Moshiach Matters

One should trust in the coming of Moshiach with unwavering certainty, "awaiting his coming every day" - anticipating that he will come at once, even if reason and nature offer no grounds for believing so. And this certain trust in itself will speed his coming.

(Likutei Sichot, Vol. VII, p. 57)


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