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The Rebbe Writes | What's In A Name | A Word from the Director | Thoughts that Count
It Once Happened | Moshiach Matters
How did you fare in chemistry? Was the thought of memorizing the periodic table enough to make your heart palpitate? Do your palms still sweat when you see diagrams of the molecular structure of water? Or were you a science whiz who loved the smell of sulfuric acid and ammonia, thrilled at the thought of yet another experiment, perceived writing out formulae as an enjoyable challenge?
Whether you loved chemistry or hated it, whether you slept through the experiments or bounded into the chemistry classroom on lab day, there's one type of experiment you undoubtedly remember: how a very small quantity of a particular substance can completely transform a tremendous amount of surrounding matter. Its action is that of a catalyst, effecting change without itself being altered in any way.
If we put this law of science to work in our daily lives, it can be inferred that applying even minimal effort can sometimes allow a person to have a profound impact on forces that appear to be more powerful or beyond his or her abilities.
With this in mind, it shouldn't come as a surprise that in the laws on repentance, the great Maimonides wrote: "Every individual should view himself and the world as being perfectly balanced between good and evil. Should he perform one commandment, he will tip the scales in favor of the good and bring salvation and delivery to himself and to the entire world."
The salvation and delivery to which Maimonides referred is the era of personal and global peace, health, and Divine knowledge that will be ushered in by Moshiach. And one mitzva (commandment) can tip the scale.
Are any particular mitzvot weightier, more readily able to tilt the Divine scale?
From chemistry we know that putting certain chemicals together elicits absolutely no reaction, while combining other chemicals can create an enormous effect.
While Maimonides did not specify any particular mitzva and we can therefore deduce that the above law applies to all mitzvot, there are specific mitzvot that have long been connected with hastening the Redemption.
"Charity brings the Redemption closer," the Talmud states. A coin in a tzedaka (charity) box or a sandwich for a homeless person, who knows which one might tip the scale?
As the destruction of the Second Holy Temple and our subsequent exile was on account of wanton hatred among Jews, loving every Jew, even when one sees no apparent justification for loving him, can tip the scale. This is true especially today, when so many are indignantly pointing at their neighbor, declaring that he is the one who is dividing the Jewish people.
Increasing Torah knowledge in general and studying about Moshiach and the Redemption in particular hastens the Redemption. The Lubavitcher Rebbe explained: "This is not only a spiritual means of securing the speedy advent of Moshiach, it is a way of beginning to live one's life in the frame of mind of the Messianic Era, by having one's mind permeated with an understanding of the concept of Moshiach and the Redemption."
One simple kind act or good deed can tip the scale and bring redemption to the entire world. "Moshiach is ready to come now," the Rebbe stated, and continued, "It is only necessary on our part to increase in acts of goodness and kindness."
And that one act might just be mine or yours! Let's do it!
This week we read the first portion of the third book of the Torah, Vayikra (Leviticus). The Hebrew letters of the Torah are written in three sizes: the standard, intermediate letters with which most of the Torah is written, a smaller size and a larger size. The first word of Vayikra is written with the Hebrew letter alef in the smaller size.
When Rabbi Menachem Mendel (the third Chabad Rebbe) was a young boy, his grandfather, Rabbi Shneur Zalman (founder of Chabad Chasidism) instructed the child's teacher to begin his formal Jewish education by teaching him the first chapter of the Book of Leviticus.
When little Menachem Mendel returned from school he asked his grandfather why the "alef" of vayikra was so small. Rabbi Shneur Zalman pondered the question deeply for some time and then replied:
"In the beginning of the Book of Chronicles (one of the 24 books of the Bible), Adam's name is written with a large alef. This alludes to the fact that Adam considered himself to be very important. After all, none other than G-d Himself had created him! Adam was aware of his own significance, which was a contributing factor in the sin of the Tree of Knowledge.
"By contrast, in the verse 'And [G-d] called to Moses' ['Vayikra'], the alef is small, which alludes to Moses' humility. Even though Moses was aware of his many extraordinary talents, he did not perceive himself as being great, nor did he take pride in his abilities. It states in the Torah, 'And the man Moses was very humble.' Moses was modest and unassuming. He felt that if someone else had been blessed with the same abilities as he, the other person would have utilized them better.
"The Torah is written in intermediate-sized letters, for a Jew must always strive to be a beinoni [a Chasidic term meaning a person with complete mastery over his Evil Inclination]. By means of the Torah, every Jew can attain that level."
With this answer, Rabbi Shneur Zalman taught his grandson, and by extension all of us, an important lesson in the service of G-d:
On the one hand, we must learn from Adam and correctly perceive our own qualities: We possess a G-dly soul, and have inherited many positive character traits from our ancestors Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
On the other hand, we must emulate Moses and not be overly proud of ourselves. For if someone else were blessed with the very same qualities it is possible that he would make use of them to an even greater degree.
Thus we must always have a sense of our own significance, yet temper our pride with humility.
Adapted from Likutei Sichot, Volume 17
The Butterfly Effect
by Mina Gordon
It was a cold winter's evening in Russia. Mrs. Brodsky was walking home, lost in thought. Her only daughter, Bracha, lived far away in another city, on another continent. Mrs. Brodsky was proud of her son-in-law's position as assistant rabbi for the Russian congregation there and admired her daughter's involvement in communal work. It was difficult, however, that they lived so far away. "If only I could be nearer to my grandchildren," she sighed. "I shouldn't complain. I should just thank G-d for the four beautiful grandchildren. Who would have imagined that at 28, my little girl would be a mother of four, thank G-d."
Her musings were interrupted when she glanced down and saw a young woman sitting at the bus stop, sobbing. Her warm heart did not let her ignore the girl, so she sat down next to her.
"Why are you crying? Please tell me what's wrong; maybe I can help."
The woman looked up tearfully and replied, "Don't worry, it's okay. I'll get over it."
"What is it? Sometimes just talking about a problem helps you work out what to do."
"I just found out that I'm pregnant with twins. I was so excited. Twins! What a blessing! But then my doctor brought me down to earth. 'Of course you'll want an abortion,' he said. 'You already have two children. It would be irresponsible.'"
"If you have two children, you're already an experienced mother," Mrs. Brodsky pointed out. "Why can't you take care of two more children?"
"How will we be able to afford the expenses if we double the number of our children? Besides, in all my 28 years, I've never met anyone with four children!"
"Did you say you're 28?" exclaimed Mrs. Brodsky. "I just happen to know a young woman who is the same age as you, 28, and she has four children. She doesn't live in Russia, it's true, but you see that it can be done!"
"Really? Are you serious - she is exactly 28 and has four children? Well if someone else can manage, maybe I could as well..."
"I think I know of an organization that can help you financially, too." Mrs. Brodsky told the young woman about the local Jewish community resources, about Chabad in her city, and about her daughter and grandchildren overseas. When she finished, the young woman looked up at Mrs. Brodsky with eyes filled with hope and a mother's love for her unborn children.
"Thank you for giving me so much encouragement. I think I just needed to hear that it's not impossible." She tore up the referral to the abortion clinic that her doctor had given her.
Months passed and Mrs. Brodsky, who missed her daughter and grandchildren, stayed in touch with the young woman, who needed the support of a grandmother. Upon hearing that her young friend had given birth to a healthy set of twins, Mrs. Brodsky told the whole story to her daughter.
"Bracha, do you realize that you helped these two children come into the world although you never even met their parents? Sometimes the most powerful lessons are those taught by example."
Russia in 1991 was at the end of a long and dreary winter. After 70 years of repression of Judaism in the U.S.S.R., Jewish souls were stirring. A young man, Yefim, now called Chaim, was one of those souls. He eagerly absorbed all he learned and then went to New York, to further his studies in yeshiva.
When American rabbinical students prepared to travel through Russia and Ukraine in "Mitzva Tanks," Chaim was asked to join them.
"Since we're going to Ukraine, let's stop off in the towns around Lugansk, where I grew up. My family left a few years ago, but it has a large Jewish population. I know many people there," he suggested.
The other students agreed. After many hours on the road, they reached Lugansk. Chaim led them to the addresses of the friends and relatives that he remembered from his childhood, but to his chagrin, not one family remained. It seemed that every Jew had moved out of town since Chaim's family had lived there. All they found was one woman who said that she was. They told her about lighting Shabbat candles, and when she said that she had a young son, they gave her a brochure about a summer camp many kilometers away. After that unremarkable encounter, they were wondering whether to continue looking for Jews or to resume their journey. The answer came soon, in the form of a group of anti-Semitic thugs who made it clear that they had better leave town fast. Disappointed, they fled.
Chaim felt bad for bringing his friends on such a futile trip, but they soon reassured him. "G-d directs the steps of man," they quoted. "Everything is by Divine Providence."
Chaim was amazed once again by the positive attitude of those who study Chasidic philosophy. He strengthened his resolve to learn and to do.
Sixteen years passed, and Chaim was himself a shaliach (emissary) of the Lubavitcher Rebbe in another country. In 2007, he was at the International Conference of Shluchim for the first time, and met many fellow shluchim. One emissary came over and gave him a hearty greeting. Chaim looked at his name tag, but neither the name nor the face was familiar. "If not for you, I wouldn't be here," he exclaimed.
"I am really sorry," Chaim apologized, "but I don't remember ever meeting you before."
"You didn't, but you did meet my mother in Ukraine 16 years ago, and you gave her some information about a summer camp. I went to camp and then on to yeshiva, and now I'm an emissary, too!"
As told to Mina Gordon by Nechama Shapiro. Reprinted with permission from the N'Shei Chabad Newsletter
Time for Torah
In this adorable rhyming story, a young boy notices all the people in his neighborhood who demonstrate their love for studying the Torah whenever and wherever they can! Vibrant illustrations with colorful details are printed on wipe-clean laminated pages. This newest release from HaChai Publishing was written by Devorah Schwebel and illustrated by Tova Katz.
11 Sivan, 5738 
Greeting and Blessing:
Thank you for your letter of the 2nd of Sivan upon your return from Eretz Yisroel [the Land of Israel] and previous communication.
I am pleased to note that you and your wife enjoyed your visit in Eretz Yisroel and were impressed with the activities of Chabad there. As I have remarked on similar occasions, it is customary to bring back souvenirs from the lands one visits that are characteristics of native features and products, etc. I trust therefore, that you, too, brought back with you the measure of holiness, which will serve as a fitting room for improvement in matters of holiness, Torah and Mitzvoth [commandments], in the daily life. In your case this is even more important, not only for your own benefit, but also for the benefit of the many who look to you for inspiration; and one is inspired not by someone else's good thoughts and intentions, and not so much by word of mouth as by living example, which needs no elaboration to a psychologist.
Now to the main subject of our correspondence, namely, saving Jews from getting involved in Avoda Zorah [idol-worship] through T.M. and the like, by offering them a kosher alternative.
With reference to your letter of April 9, I would like to make the following observations:
- Although a well-planned and systematic approach is generally required to ensure the success of any project, I do not think that we can afford to delay too long the implementation of our plan through time-consuming preparation, and for two reasons: Firstly every day that the plan is not in operation means so many more Jews turning to those unholy cults, and there is no other way of preventing or discouraging this. Secondly, and this is also a weighty consideration, every new project is provisional by nature, for it is expected that as it progresses there would be need for changes and improvements, which is common experience in various fields, medicine, science, business, etc.
- I note in your letter that your discussions with your colleagues have advanced to the point of forming an ad hoc committee. I therefore believe that the stage can now be set to start immediately a pilot clinic or similar facility, to start offering actual treatment, on the basis of your and your colleagues' professional expertise and mutual consultations. The pilot project should be set up in a way that allows for ample flexibility for modification and change as may be necessary.
As indicated, I will be able to provide the funding for the initial stage within limitations. You will no doubt send me a tentative budget of the initial outlay, with an estimate of the period of time it may take until the setup becomes self-supporting. Indeed, I am confident that before long it will not only be self-supporting, but also profitable, considering the popularity of the techniques involved. But it is important to start in a way that will not inhibit the effectiveness and development of the project even if it costs much more.
- With regard to specifics, I do not think it advisable to use the term "Mystic" for the planned healing center, since the goal is to attract the greatest number of Jews and save them from Avoda Zorah, and the said term might discourage some. Moreover, generally mysticism connotes something that lies beyond the plane of human comprehension, while the therapeutic benefits of the techniques are quite understandable rationally. Besides, to emphasize the mystical aspect would leave the door open also lehavdil [to differentiate], to non-Jewish cults.
For the same reason it is advisable to be circumspect in regard to the description of the techniques to be used in the healing center. For example, you mention the use of "mikvaot." While it is not in my domain to assess the therapeutic affect of relaxation in a hot Mikve [ritualarium], I fear that to include a Mikve "officially" in the regimen might be suspected - by some people, at least - that it is a gimmick to involve them in Mitzvoth [commandments]....
As for calling the healing center by the name "Noam" - it is a name already in use by various organizations and journals. Another suitable name would have to be found, but there is no need to make a final decision on this right away.
Finally, let me relieve you of any apprehension that you might be "pushing" me on this matter. On the contrary, in connection with such a vital project "pushing" could only be all to the good, since time is of the essence, as I emphasized above.
In view of the fact that everything is by Hashgocho Protis [Divine Providence], it is significant that your letter and my reply were written in the proximity to the Yom Tov [holiday] of Kabbolas Hatorah [receiving the Torah, i.e. Shavuot], when we renew and redouble our commitment to the Torah on the basis of "naaseh" ["we will do"] before "v'nishma," ["we will understand"] with emphasis on the doing and that "naaseh" is the key to "v'nishma."
With esteem and blessing,
HILLEL means "the shining one" or "praised." One of the greatest Talmudic scholars (first-century B.C.E.) was named Hillel. The name is first mentioned in Judges 12:13.
HADASSAH means "myrtle tree," the symbol of victory. It was the Hebrew name of Queen Esther, the heroine of the Purim story (Esther 2:7).
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This past Wednesday, the second of the Jewish month of Nissan, we commemorated the anniversary of the passing in 1920 of the fifth Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Shalom Dovber, known as the Rebbe Rashab.
Before his passing, the Rebbe Rashab told his son and successor, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok (the sixth and previous Rebbe), "I am going up to heaven; my writings I am leaving for you."
A of the Rebbe Rashab's writings brings to light the following gems:
"A single act is better than a thousand groans. Our G-d lives, and Torah and its commandments are eternal; quit the groaning and work hard in actual spiritual work, and G-d will be gracious to you."
"Cherish criticism, for it will place you on the true heights."
"When Moshiach will come, then we will really long for the days of exile. Then we will truly feel distress at our having neglected our avoda (spiritual work); then will we indeed feel the deep pain caused by our lack of avoda. These days of exile are the days to prepare ourselves for the coming of Moshiach, speedily in our time, amen."
"And this is the main thing in these last moments before Moshiach, that we don't go according to our intellect and our reasoning. Rather, we should study Torah and perform mitzvot (commandments) above and beyond what reason dictates."
May we immediately merit the Final Redemption, when all righteous Jews (and all Jews are considered righteous!) will be resurrected with the Revival of the Dead.
And if you bring a meal-offering baked in the oven (Lev. 2:4)
In order to become closer to G-d, a person should arouse his innate, fiery love of Him by contemplating the greatness of the Creator. For in the same way that an oven's heat causes the liquid to separate from the dough, so too does a burning love of G-d separate a person from his attraction to material things and strengthen his connection with the infinite.
And it shall be that when he has sinned and is conscious of his guilt, he shall restore that which he took by robbery (Lev. 5:23)
Our Sages note that whenever the Torah uses the phrase "And it shall be," it indicates joy and happiness. But what possible joy can there be in a discussion of robbery? Rather, the positive point in this verse is that the robber "is conscious of his guilt." It is a good thing that he recognizes the need to repent of his sin and bring an offering to atone for his misdeed.
And if he denies unto his neighbor that which was delivered to him to keep, or in pledge, or in something taken by violence...he shall give it to the one it belongs to on the day he confesses his sin (Lev. 5:21, 24)
The Torah advises the robber to return whatever he stole on the same day that he admits his crime. The longer he waits, the harder it will be for him to give it up.
And the priest shall make atonement for him...for anything of all that he may have done to trespass thereby (le'ashma ba) (Lev. 5:26)
"Le'ashma ba" is an acronym standing for "La'keil asher shavat mikol hamaasim bayom hashevi'i" - "to G-d, Who rested from all His deeds on the seventh day." This is an allusion to our Sages' dictum that "Whoever keeps the Shabbat properly is forgiven all his sins." Thus, even in exile, when we have no physical Holy Temple in which to offer sacrifices, our observance of Shabbat atones for sins in the same way.
All of the townspeople turned out to bid farewell to their friend, one of the most respected citizens of the town of Uman. Now an old graybeard, he had decided to set out for the Holy Land, there to spend his last days, and to be buried in the holy soil when the time came.
It was only a few months later that they heard the news: he had suddenly returned to Uman after only having spent a few days in Israel. No one could understand why he had suddenly come back, and he made no reply to their repeated questions.
He had been back in his hometown only a short while before he took ill and summoned the officials of the Chevra Kadisha (burial society), for he had something of great importance to tell them. They came without delay, but when they arrived the man lay in his bed and chatted randomly about this and that, coming to no particular point. They left disappointed, and were surprised when the man called for them again the following day. They were reluctant to go, but their sense of duty won out and they arrived at his sickbed only to have the whole scene of the previous day repeat itself. The officials listened for a while and then left, concluding that the unfortunate man was not in his right mind. When on the third day the officials of the Chevra Kadisha were summoned again, they flatly refused to come. This time, however, the old man begged their indulgence, promising to explain his behavior of the preceding two days.
The officials assembled around the old man's bed, and he turned to them with these words: "When I was a young man I used to do business traveling from town to town buying and selling merchandise. Since most of my business took me to the vicinity of Berdichev, I used to be sure to stop over for a day or so in order to see the tzadik Rebbe Levi Yitzchak who lived there.
"One morning I stopped in Berdichev and went straight to the Rebbe's house. The Rebbe stood wrapped in his talit (prayer shawl), deep in prayer, and I was unwilling to interrupt him, so I sat down in an adjoining room to wait. As I sat absorbed in my own thoughts, I was disturbed by a group of angry people who hustled past me into the Rebbe's study.
From the bits of conversation I overheard, I gathered that the man was a poor fellow who earned his living by money-changing. As he had no money of his own, all his transactions were accomplished with borrowed money. The day before, 300 rubles had disappeared from his house, and he was accusing the young maid who worked in his house of stealing it. Her parents pleaded their daughter's innocence, and all were engaged in an angry screaming match. Finally, the Rebbe interrupted, saying, 'It is clear to me that this young woman is completely innocent, and the accusation is erroneous. It is also apparent that the money is truly missing. But where it is, that I cannot discern.' He paced the floor several minutes more, and then said, 'If a person would give me the 300 rubles for this man, I would promise him a place in the World to Come!'
"When I heard that I presented myself to the Rebbe with three hundred rubles in my hand. 'Would you put that promise into writing?' I asked the tzadik. 'Of course,' he said and I handed over the money. The Rebbe then gave the money to the poor money-changer, and said to him, 'I give you my blessing that you will never suffer a loss again.' Then, he turned to the young woman and said, 'Because you have been falsely accused I give you my blessing that you will make a good match.' The little group then left the study of the tzadik happy and contented.
"When I had the chance I reminded the tzadik of his promise, and he called to his attendant for a pen, ink and paper. He wrote out a short note and folded it double. He gave it to me saying, 'You must never read this note, nor reveal its contents to another soul. On the day which you sense is your last on earth, call the officials of the Chevra Kadisha and give them this note, asking that they place it inside your grave.'
"My joy was immeasurable as I took the note from his hand. To preserve it I had a bookbinder enclose it in the cover of my prayer book. When I left for the Holy Land I forgot the prayer book. When I realized I didn't have it, I was shocked. After a little reflection on the matter, I decided to return at once. Then when I fell ill I called for you, but when you arrived, I felt better, so I realized that my last day had not yet come. The same thing happened the second day. I hope that you gentlemen will forgive me. But, today, I feel my end is near, and so I entrust you to follow the instructions of the tzadik, and put this note in my grave."
The old man handed over the precious note, and soon after, he departed this world. The officials were curious to know the contents of the note, and they reasoned that although the tzadik had forbidden the man to read it, the prohibition surely didn't extend to them. After the funeral was concluded they took the little note and unfolded it and found these words, "Open for him the gates of the Garden of Eden. Levi Yitzchak the son of Sarah."
A man's spiritual labors should be imbued with a constant yearning for the Redemption, in the spirit of the phrase, "I await his coming every day." Our Sages taught, "What is the light that the House of Israel is awaiting? - It is the light of Mashiach." Thus, too, they taught, "When a man is led into the Heavenly Court he is asked, '...Did you yearn for the Redemption?' " So since one is obliged to serve G-d constantly, all day long, it is clear that this hopeful anticipation should likewise be constant, all day long.
( Likutei Sichos, Vol. XXII, p. 77)