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1117: Achrei Mos-Kedoshim

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Devarim Deutronomy

April 23, 2010 - 9 Iyyar, 5770

1117: Achrei Mos-Kedoshim

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

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  1116: Sazria-Metzora1118: Emor  

Second Chances  |  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

Second Chances

When you've missed the boat there's nothing you can do but wave to the passengers. If the train has already left the station, you might as well sit down and wait for the next one to arrive. There are many things in life that depend on being in the right place at the right time; if you're late, you've missed that opportunity forever.

Likewise, the Torah tells us that there are specific times for doing specific mitzvot. There is a proper time to put on tefilin, a proper time to light Shabbat candles, a proper time to eat matza, and a proper time to sit in the sukka.

The Torah's narrative about Pesach Sheni - the "Second Passover" (always on 14 Iyar), thus expresses a very radical concept in Judaism.

Right before their Exodus from Egypt, G-d commanded the Jewish people to offer the Passover sacrifice, on the 14th of Nisan. One of the requirements, however, was that a Jew had to be in a state of ritual purity. As a result, not everyone was permitted to bring an offering, and the Jews who were excluded felt terrible. "Why should we be left out?!" they demanded of Moses. They were so eager to observe the mitzva (commandment) that G-d relented, granting them another opportunity to bring an offering one month later, on the 14th of Iyar.

This story reveals the unfathomable depths of the Jewish soul and the infinite power of teshuva, repentance. It teaches us that every Jew is so intimately connected to G-d that when he makes a sincere and heartfelt demand, it "forces" G-d, as it were, to open up new channels through which to send us His abundant blessings.

The Previous Rebbe explained that the lesson of Pesach Sheni is that it is never too late to correct the past and return to G-d. It also emphasizes the power of a Jew's initiative. When a Jew cries out, from the depths of his soul and with a genuine desire to fulfill G-d's will, G-d listens to his plea and grants his request.

There is an additional message of Pesach Sheni. What, in fact, was the cause of the ritual impurity which excluded some Jews from participating in the sacrifice? The Torah states: "There were people who were defiled by contact with the dead and were unable to offer the Passover sacrifice on that day." According to one opinion in the Talmud, these Jews were involved in the mitzva of burying a dead person found on the roadside who had no known relatives to do so. Even a kohen (priest) and even a High Priest - neither of whom is normally permitted to come in contact with the dead - is obligated to defile himself by burying the dead person.

This concept applies on a spiritual plane, as well. When we encounter another person who is spiritually "lifeless" we are obligated to get involved with him, even if it takes us away from our own spiritual pursuits.

Ultimately, Pesach Sheni teaches us that we must never despair or give up on ourselves, on others, and especially in bombarding G-d with our demand that He send us Moshiach immediately.

Living with the Rebbe

This week we read two Torah portion, Acharei and Kedoshim. At the very beginning of Kedoshim, there are three commandments: 1) "You shall be holy"; 2) "Every person shall fear his mother and his father"; and 3) "You shall keep My Sabbaths." The fact that these three mitzvot (commandments) follow one another is significant and indicates that they are interrelated.

The term "holy" in this instance means separation, as it says at the end of our Torah portion, "You shall be holy to Me, for [I, G-d, am holy, and] I have separated you from the nations...." The Jewish people must be separate from the nations of the world. And they must be separate specifically in those areas in which we are seemingly similar, such as eating, drinking, conducting business and so forth.

The ultimate purpose of a Jew's holiness and spirituality, though, is not egocentric - to be holy just for himself. Rather, as the Torah says of our ancestor Abraham, "in order that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of G-d..." So, one of the reasons for our remaining separate from the other nations is to be able to guide our children to walk in the ways of our ancestors. And this is why the mitzva to be holy is followed by "every person shall fear his mother and his father" - which alludes to the obligation of Jewish education.

Parents are the first educators. The mother and father must instill in their children the feeling that they are different from the rest of the world, that they are part of a holy nation.

The sequence in that verse is "his mother and his father," mentioning first the mother. For the mother is the foundation of the house, and the major part of the actual education is in her hands.

How does a person imbue his children, and himself, with the consciousness of being a holy nation? This is brought out by the third commandment, "You shall keep My Sabbaths."

The Sabbath is a sign between the Alm-ghty and Israel. It signifies belief in the creation of the universe. It strengthens and reinforces the certainty that the Alm-ghty is the Creator of the universe and continuously sustains and conducts it.

Shabbat was given only to the Jewish people, and not to the nations of the world. Observing Shabbat thus means to keep and guard the sign and covenant between Israel and G-d. This is done by strengthening our faith in the fact that Jews are not subject to the forces of nature but are under the specific and individual providence of G-d.

This, in turn, will bring us full circle. It will reinforce in ourselves and our children the mitzva of "You shall be holy," to the point where our everyday activities will be infused with holiness.

Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

A Slice of Life

The Fire
by Rachel Flikshtein

Dr. Michael Sugarman was in a rush to leave with his two sons to be at the synagogue on time for the beginning of the Yom Kippur services. He reminded his wife, Connie, to lock the door on her way out. As the sun set on the eve of Yom Kippur, Connie and her guests lit the Yom Tov (holiday) candles on the buffet table by the dining room window, as she always did. She stayed in the house for a few minutes and then left for shul. Shortly after arriving in shul, she remembered that she hadn't locked the door. Thank G-d, they lived in a safe area; she had forgotten to lock the door in the past and she was not concerned.

Halfway through the evening service, a congregant approached Michael and asked if he could step into the lobby. Since he was a neurosurgeon, Michael figured there was a medical issue that needed attention. In the lobby was a man and teenage boy who identified themselves as neighbors. They told Michael that a small fire had started in the house but it had been put out; the firemen were still there clearing the smoke out. The neighbors offered Michael a ride home right away. After confirming that the fire had been extinguished, Michael thanked the neighbors for their report and politely refused their offer of a ride, explaining that he'd be home shortly. Michael returned to the sanctuary and rapidly completed the rest of the night's prayers. As soon as he was through, he ran home to see what the situation was at his house, not knowing what to expect.

As he arrived home, he encountered two firemen leaving his house.

"You're one lucky fellow," one of them said. "A neighbor saw the fire and was able to get into the house to put it out. If this fire had continued for another minute or two, the whole house would have been in flames and you would have lost your home. We would never have been able to get here in time." Thanking them for their help, Michael entered the house to see the extent of the damage done.

The first place he checked was where Connie had lit the candles. Most of the items that had been on the buffet table had been moved to the front yard, revealing the ashes and damage. He lifted his eyes, following the direction that the flames must have traveled, and saw that one of the windows had cracked and the frame had been burnt. However, except for some splashes of wax, there was no other damage to the windows. He let his eyes drift further up and saw that the curtains framing the windows had been singed around the bottom edge. Michael understood more fully the fireman's comment. Had the curtains caught fire, the house would have been lost. Grateful that nothing worse had happened, Michael went out the front door and sat on the steps to get some fresh air and to wait for the rest of his family to return from shul.

After sitting for a few minutes, he looked up and saw a couple approaching him. "We're the ones who put the fire out." The couple had been driving down the road perpendicular to Michael's development, when they saw some flames in the window as they passed. The woman turned to her husband and said that the flames didn't look normal or controlled. They decided to turn around and check out the situation. Pulling up in front of the house, they realized that a small fire had, in fact, begun right in the front window of the home. They called 911 and ran to the door to try and help. They began knocking and ringing the doorbell. Nobody answered. Desperate to do something, the man tried the doorknob and was relieved to find that the door had been left unlocked. He quickly ran to the kitchen and found a pot and managed to put out the fire with some water. The smoke was already pretty thick in the house so they went outside to wait for the firemen to arrive. To their surprise, the fire trucks didn't show up until five minutes after the couple had extinguished the fire.

Michael realized that if this couple hadn't taken the initiative to put the fire out themselves, the whole house would have been destroyed before the firemen got there! Feeling grateful and indebted to this couple, he asked them for their names so that he could look them up after Yom Kippur and somehow repay them for their deed.

"My name is K- and this is my husband T-," she responded. "What's your name?"

"Michael Sugarman," he replied.

"Sugarman? Do you have any relation to the doctor? Dr. Sugarman?" She asked inquisitively.

"Actually... I am Dr. Sugarman."

K- was in shock. "You're Dr. Sugarman?! You had my mother as your patient about 12 years ago. Do you remember her?"

Michael recognized the name but didn't remember any of her circumstances so he asked K- to refresh his memory. She described that her mother had been very ill and had emergency surgery for a brain tumor. Following her surgery she remained critically ill and was on life support. The family was not sure what to do. K-'s brother had already given up and wanted to just let their mother go, but K- wasn't ready to give up yet. They had come to Michael for advice and he had told them to wait for a period of time to see if she would take a turn for the better. They waited for that time period and she did begin to get better. She went on to recover fully and lived another 12 years. She had all her faculties about her until this past June, when she died of natural causes.

Nothing is permanent without G-d's blessings. G-d is constantly watching and creating, making everything fit into place perfectly. Every act a person does is eternal and G-d does not forget, even if we do. Perhaps in this instance, G-d was trying to show us that everything comes full circle and that every act we do has a much greater effect than we realize.

Reprinted with permission from the N'Shei Chabad Newsletter

What's New

Tanyas Printed

In 1978, the Lubavitcher Rebbe initiated a campaign that Tanya, the basic book of Chabad Chasidic philosophy by Rabbi Shneur Zalman, should be printed in every country in the world. Later, the Rebbe encouraged the printing of additional Tanya editions in every community. Since that time over 5,000 editions of the Tanya have been printed in dozens of countries and hundreds of cities on every continent. When Israeli forces were stationed in Egypt, Lebanon and Syria at different times over the period since then, Tanyas were printed in those countries too. The 5,525th edition of the Tanya was printed recently in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

The Rebbe Writes

Freely translated

Erev Shabbos Kodesh
Rosh Chodesh Iyar, 5735 [1975]
20th Annual Convention
National Council of Neshei U'Bnos Chabad (Lubavitch Women's Organization)

On the occasion of the forthcoming convention, taking place on the weekend of Pesach Sheni [the "second" Passover], I send greetings and prayerful wishes that the Convention should, with G-d's help, be crowned with hatzlocho [success] in the fullest measure.

One of the teachings of Pesach-Sheni - as my father-in-law of saintly memory pointed out - is that in matters of Yiddishkeit [Judaism] one should never give up, and it is never too late to rectify a past failing.

This principle has also been one of the basic factors in the work of the Rebbe's-Nesiim [leaders] since the beginning of Chabad, who dedicated themselves with utmost mesiras-nefesh [self-sacrifice] to bring Jews closer to Torah and mitzvoth [commandments], regardless of their level of Yiddishkeit, and not to give up a single Jew.

The task of bringing Jews closer to Yiddishkeit is especially relevant to women, for it obviously requires a special approach in terms of compassion, loving-kindness, gentleness, and the like - qualities with which women are generally endowed in a larger measure than men, although all Jews without exception are characterized as rachmonim and gomlei-chasodim, compassionate and practicing loving-kindness.

The theme of the Convention, "Bringing Light Into the World - The Obligation and Privilege of Every Jewish Daughter," is especially fitting in many ways, including this detail in light that it illuminate its environs regardless of the state of things, all of which are equally illuminated, and in a benign and friendly manner. This is the way Torah-Or [Torah-Light] illuminates every Jew in every respect, as it is written, "Its ways are ways of pleasantness, and all its paths are peace."

May G-d grant that the convention be carried through with hatzlocho, and should inspire each and all the participants to carry on their vital work in a manner full of light and vitality, and in an ever- growing measure...

16 Iyar 5711 [1951]

Blessing and Greeting:

I was pleased with the opportunity to exchange a few words with you. As you connected your visit with the day of Pesach-sheni which we observed on the day before yesterday, I want to make it the subject of this letter.

One of the significant lessons of Pesach-sheni is never to despair even when one has not attained the spiritual heights of others. Thus, while all the people are celebrating the Passover at its proper time, and one finds himself "far away," or otherwise unfit to enter the Sanctuary, he is told: do not despair; begin your way towards the Sanctuary; come closer and closer; for you have a special chance and opportunity to celebrate the Second Passover, if you try hard enough. Please convey my regards and best wishes to your circle.


What's In A Name

SHIMON [Simon] means "to hear." Shimon was the second son of Jacob and Leah (Genesis 29:33). Among the many great sages named Shimon, was Shimon "the Righteous" who said, "The world stands on three things: (study of) Torah, service (of G-d) and deeds of kindness." (Chapters of the Fathers 1:2)

SHULAMIT means "peaceful." In Song of Songs (7:1) it was a name alluding to the most beautiful girl in Israel.

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

This coming Wednesday is "Pesach Sheni." Pesach Sheni, the Second Passover, was instituted the year after the Jews left Egypt while they were still in the desert. On Passover of that year, G-d commanded our ancestors to bring the special Passover offering. However, since some of the Jews were ritually impure at that time, they were not permitted to bring the offering. They protested and G-d told Moses that all those who were unable to bring the offering on Passover could bring it one month later. This date became known as the Second Passover.

The Previous Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn wrote: "The theme of Pesach Sheni is that it is never too late. It is always possible to put things right. Even if one was ritually impure, or far away, and even in a case when this impurity or distance was deliberate--nonetheless it can be corrected."

It's never too late. What an inspiring and optimistic thought! There's always a chance to improve, to become better, to learn and do.

This is truly a motto worth memorizing (and hanging on the refrigerator). Rather than muttering about yourself or another person, "You can't teach an old dog new tricks," realize that it's never too late.

You didn't put on tefilin yesterday? Today's a new day and it's never too late.

You didn't light candles for Shabbat last Friday night? Do it this week, it's never too late.

You never went to Hebrew school, so you can't read Hebrew? Enroll in an adult education course; it's never too late.

You never knew that Judaism had so much to offer? Now that you know, do something about it, because it's never too late.

Thoughts that Count

And you shall love your neighbor as yourself (Lev. 19:18)

The previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, once related: As a four year old, I asked my father (Rabbi Shalom Dov Ber), "Why did G-d create two eyes and not one, as He did with the mouth and nose?" My father began explaining by asking: "In the Hebrew alphabet there are both the letter shin and the letter sin. What is the difference between them?" I answered that one has a dot on the right side, and one has a dot on the left side. My father explained: "There are things in the world at which we must look with the right eye, with love and affection, and things that we must see with the left eye, as if from a distance. For instance, we must look at the letters in a prayer book and at another Jew, with our right eye, and at candies and toys with the left..." This implanted love for a fellow Jew firmly in my heart. One must look favorably upon every single Jew, no matter who he is..."

(Likutei Dibburim)

You shall be holy, for I am holy (Lev. 19:2)

"Holy, but not removed from the world," comments the Ktav Sofer. Man is enjoined to imitate G-d, the source of all holiness, Who actively involves Himself in all aspects of His creation. G-d wants us to live a holy life within the physical world, not to be ascetic. A saying exists that a wealthy man's son never has to worry about making a living. Likewise, G-d reassures His children, the Jewish people, that holiness and sanctity are well within their grasp. "For I am holy"-"I have enough holiness to go around for everyone."

(The Rebbe of Alexander)

And when you come into the land (Lev. 19:23)

Certain commandments only pertain to the land of Israel, and are not applicable outside of its borders. Despite the admonition of the Tzemach Tzedek - the third Lubavitcher Rebbe - to "make here the land of Israel," we should not feel that it is acceptable to languish in exile for even one minute more than necessary. Our goal remains the physical land of Israel and the ushering in of the Messianic era through the coming of Moshiach.

It Once Happened

Many years ago, in the city of Lemberg in Galicia, there lived a family by the name of Brill. According to legend their name was derived from the miraculous "brillen" (glasses in Yiddish) at the heart of this story.

One time, a baby boy was born into a Jewish family. Their joy was short-lived, however, when it was discovered that the child was blind. As the doctors could do nothing to help, the parents accepted the Divine decree and loved their child even more. The boy's first name is not known, but for our purposes we will call him Michel.

When Michel was three years old he was given his first haircut and brought to school. Although he obviously could not learn to read, the teacher began to teach him the blessings and prayers by heart.

It soon became apparent that the child was unusually intelligent. Whatever he heard was immediately remembered. Over the next few years he memorized the entire prayer book, many books of the Bible and many tractates of Mishna. The child acquired a vast amount of Torah knowledge and was beloved by all.

Michel was especially drawn to sefarim, Jewish holy books. Even though he couldn't read, he would remove them from their shelves and lovingly caress their pages. Passing his fingers over the holy letters, he seemed to absorb their sanctity. Each book received a kiss before being put back.

One time Michel asked his brother to bring him to the main study hall in Lemberg. As was his habit, he began to take the sefarim off the shelves and straighten out their pages. He came across a very thick volume covered with dust; it was obvious that no one had used it in a very long time. He opened it and was surprised to feel something hard between the pages. It was a glasses case that someone had forgotten. The boy opened the case, took out the glasses, and playfully put them on. He thought he would faint: unbelievably, he could see! The entire world suddenly came into focus.

Michel thought he must be dreaming. He took off the glasses and again was blind. Putting them back on, he could see his younger brother and the square-shaped letters on the pages before him. It was a miracle.

Michel fought against the urge to cry out about what had happened. But he was still in shock and needed a little more time to assimilate the change. Instead, he put the glasses in his pocket and asked his brother to take him home.

Michel's parents could see that something was wrong. The poor boy's hands were trembling; he was deathly pale and could barely eat. But when they asked him what was the matter, he insisted that everything was fine.

That night he waited until everyone had gone to sleep to try on the glasses. Again, he could see as if he had never been blind. A few days later he could no longer keep the secret to himself, and told his parents about the miraculous glasses. Needless to say, the entire household was filled with gladness and light. The whole city of Lemberg marveled at the miracle. Everyone agreed that there was no one more deserving of such good fortune than he. Moreover, now Michel could begin studying Torah in earnest.

Sometime later Michel went back to the study hall to take a good look at the book in which he had discovered the glasses. It was an ancient volume of Kabala (mysticism), and although he had made great strides in his studies, he could not understand much of what was written. Michel was determined to learn more about the book and the glasses, but no one was able to answer his questions. Finally, he found a very old man who remembered that as a young child, he had often seen the Rabbi of the town poring over that particular volume and wearing similar glasses. Further questioning revealed that the rabbi was none other than the famous Torah scholar known as the "Pnei Yehoshua" for his commentary on the Talmud [Rabbi Yaakov Yehoshua Falk, 1680-1756], who later headed a community in Germany.

Astoundingly, Michel later learned that he had found the glasses on the exact date of the rabbi's passing (yartzeit)! For the rest of his life he observed the Pnei Yehoshua's yartzeit as a special day of thanksgiving.

Michel Brill grew up to be not only a Torah scholar but also a successful businessman who gave generously to charity. Years later, when he passed away after a long and fruitful life, his descendants gathered to divide up their inheritance. Everyone was willing to relinquish everything their father had left them aside from his miraculous glasses. In the course of their argument the glasses fell to the floor and shattered, and so each of his children ended up with a small sliver of glass...

Moshiach Matters

A Jew constantly yearns for and awaits Moshiach's coming, when the Holy Temple will be rebuilt. Should the Holy Temple be rebuilt in the period between Pesach and Pesach Sheni (the "second" Passover), the Jewish people will be required to bring the Passover offering on Pesach Sheni. The expectation of the imminent arrival of Moshiach obligates a Jew, immediately after Pesach, to begin preparations for Pesach Sheni. And, even if Moshiach has not come by Pesach Sheni, it is proper to at least commemorate Pesach Sheni.

(Likutei Sichot, vol. 12)

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