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                         L'CHAIM - ISSUE # 1120
                           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.
        May 14, 2010            Bamidbar           1 Sivan, 5770

                           A Torah's Thoughts

"I still remember some of the amazing lessons I learned from the elder
Torah scroll as we stood quietly in the ark at the eastern wall of the

"Having been free to roam over plane and valley just a few years before
as the hide of a kosher animal, I had a hard time adjusting to what I
considered the restricted life of a Torah scroll.

"I was the upstart Torah scroll - born and bred in America. Not only was
I made in America, but even the scribe who wrote me was born and trained
here. So you can understand why at first I didn't really subscribe to
the whole humble and modest lifestyle that we Torah scrolls live. I
didn't feel like I belonged with the other scrolls in the ark - a few
survivors of the Holocaust, another scroll from an ultra-Orthodox
neighborhood in Israel, and another of unknown but strictly kosher

" 'Why can't we just hang out in the synagogue, like the prayer books?'
I asked one of the elder scrolls. I explained to him that I wasn't used
to all of these restrictive coverings. First there was the regal
but-oh-so-hot-on-summer-days velvet that totally covered my skin -
except on Mondays, Thursdays and Shabbat when I was uncovered and
unrolled in order to be read.

"Then there was the big ark itself that I and the other Torah scrolls
were placed in. 'I feel like a prisoner in the ark,' I told the kindly

"I complained incessantly that the only time we had fun was on Simchat
Torah when we were all taken out on the town. Well, not really on the
town but at least around the synagogue where everyone sang and danced
with us. But even then - even at the height of our rejoicing - we were
still covered up.

"Little by little, the elderly scroll gently explained that even for a
scroll  'made in America' there was something called tzniut - one of
those impossible to translate words (though I'm an expert in Hebrew),
often rendered "modesty," but meaning a whole lot more.

" 'The first tablets with the Ten Commandments engraved on them were
given amidst much fanfare,' the elderly scroll whispered. 'And those
tablets were broken. But the second set, given quietly, humbly and
unpretentiously, remain eternally with the Jewish people. Why, even now
they exist, secreted away with other treasures from the Holy Temples
under the Temple Mount where the Third Temple will very soon be built.'

"The scroll also gave me examples from everyday life and they made
sense. He told me that the most precious items are kept under lock and
key, not as a punishment but in deference to their value. Vaults in
banks overflow with people's jewels that sit there much of the time -
rather than being worn. Original paintings by famous artists are
carefully guarded because they are priceless. They, too, never go 'out
on the town.' Little by little, I began to see my velvet coverings as
royal cloaks. I acknowledged the ark was my castle and even my refuge.

" 'That which is precious is not flaunted, not unnecessarily exposed,
for in so doing it is often cheapened,' the scroll would remind me. One
day, the old scroll noted, 'People don't go around sharing and exposing
what they truly care about. For some, it is their innermost thoughts.
For others it is their bank accounts - though they'll share everything
else. And if you really care about yourself, if you really value
yourself,' the old scroll told me, 'you will take pride in the fact that
most of the time you are covered, hidden, out of public view.'

"It's been a long time since I've been out in the public eye like this.
It sort of goes against my grain by now to stand here and sermonize -
especially since that's the rabbi's job. But in honor of Shavuot, the
day when all of the Jewish people received the Torah from G-d on Mount
Sinai - which by the way was a very humble and modest mountain - I
decided to share with you the thoughts of just one little Torah scroll,
proud to be made in America, and even prouder that my preciousness to
the Jewish people and to me is symbolized by my multi-layered

This year, the upcoming holiday of Shavuot takes place in the week
between the two Torah portions of Bamidbar and Naso. One of the subjects
found in both of these portions is the Sanctuary in the desert and the
distribution of the duties connected with it, when the Sanctuary was
carried from place to place.

This emphasizes the fact that even when Jews find themselves in a
desert, they have the ability to erect a Sanctuary for the Divine
Presence to dwell among them, and in every one of them.

Just as there is a desert in a physical sense, a place of desolation,
where extreme climatic conditions prevail, a place of poisonous snakes,
etc., so is there a "desert" in a spiritual sense, created by harmful
ideas; and such a spiritual desert can be found also in a land which is
materially a flourishing garden.

Our Torah teaches us that when Jews find themselves in such a spiritual
desert, it is possible, necessary and imperative to erect a Sanctuary,
carry it, and go forward, step by step, until eventually the environment
and situation change from a spiritual desert - into the blessed and holy
land, with the complete redemption.

In the spiritual desert in which some of us find ourselves, where a void
prevails in matters of Judaism, we must all help each other to make this
environment into a sanctuary, a fitting place for G-dliness.

The portion Bamidbar is the beginning of the book of Bamidbar, which is
called "Sefer HaPikudim - the Book of Numbers." In the beginning of this
book as well as towards its end, the Torah tells us of the Jewish
census: First in the desert of Sinai, after receiving the Torah, at the
beginning of their wanderings through the desert; and the second time at
the end of the 40 years' wandering, on the eve of their entry into the
Land of Israel.

The soul descends into this world to make an abode for G-d in this
material and earthly world. When a Jew looks around and sees that the
world around him is a spiritual "desert" full of materialism and
sometimes even crassness, the thought may occur: How is it possible to
carry out this mission? So the Torah tells us that there is no cause for
apprehension, for this is the way Jews began their mission when they
became a nation and received the Torah at Mount Sinai. With the strength
derived from the Torah, they made it through the vast and terrible
desert - a bleak wilderness in every respect, where in the natural order
of things there is no bread and water, but only difficulties and trials.
Moreover, wherever they made their way through the desert, they
transformed the desert into a blooming garden - through Miriam's well
that caused the desert all around to bring forth all sorts of vegetation
and fruit.

This is also one of the significant teachings of the above-mentioned
countings, where each was counted individually, regardless of his
station and standing in life, and each was counted as no more than one
and no less than one, to underscore that everyone has his mission as a
"soldier" in G-d's army. And, although in an army there are various
ranks, from an ordinary soldier to the highest in command, each one
individually and all together carry out the Divine mission to make for
G-d an "abode" in this world, even in a desert. Indeed, precisely those
who were counted in the second census - those who were brought up in the
desert - merited to enter the Land of Israel.

                      Adapted from letters of the Lubavitcher Rebbe

                             SLICE OF LIFE
                             Jewish Unity!

Jewish teachings explain that a pre-requisite for the receiving of the
Torah at Mount Sinai that is re-experienced each year on the holiday of
Shavuot is Jewish unity.

The festivities of the recently celebrated holiday of Lag B'Omer are
also a show of unity, in particular at the Lag B'Omer Parades organized
by Chabad-Lubavitch around the world. In Israel, five hundred parades
were organized with a quarter of a million people in attendance. The
biggest parade event in Israel was in Jerusalem with 10,000 children
alone! In front of Lubavitch World Headquarters in Brooklyn, New York,
over 30,000 people gathered to participate in "The Great Parade."

What better way to get into the spirit of unity necessary for the Giving
of the Torah than to enjoy a photo-story on this year's Lag B'Omer

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                            THE REBBE WRITES
                    Rosh Chodesh Sivan, 5738 [1978]

...I take this opportunity of expressing my regret that - for reasons
you are aware of - it was impossible to talk things over with you
personally and at length, nor to meet your younger daughter. However,
when Jews meet at a Farbrengen [Chasidic gathering] dedicated to Torah
and Yiddishkeit [Judaism], in a sacred place of Tefilah [prayer] and
Torah study, especially one that had been graced by the presence of my
father-in-law of saintly memory for ten years - this unites Jews and
brings them closer together than a personal conversation.

Apropos of the above, and in connection with the forthcoming Festival of
Mattan Torah [the Giving of the Torah], the unity of our people is
directly related to it, as our Sages interpret the words, "and Israel
encamped there facing the Mountain" (Yisro [Exodus] 19:21), taking note
of the use of the singular person - k'ish echod b'lev echod, "like one
person, with one heart." (Rashi, from Mechilta). It was the first time
since the departure from Egypt that the Jewish people felt truly united,
and G-d said, "Now they are fit to receive the Torah."

At first glance it seems extraordinary that a whole nation could be so
united as to be described "like one person with one heart," especially
as it has been said that "people differ in their outlooks as they differ
in their looks," and there are various walks of life and interests. But
the explanation is found in the words, "facing the Mountain." For, when
the Jewish people were about to receive the Torah, they were all of like
mind and heart, and all so eager to receive the Torah and its Mitzvos
[commandments] that in the light of it everything else paled into
insignificance, and thus they all truly became like one person with one

Since the Torah was given not only to our ancestors coming out of Egypt,
but the souls of all Jews of all future generations were present and
joined in "na'aseh v'nishma" ["we will do and then we will understand"],
the reading of the portion of Mattan Torah on Shovuos - most solemnly
and with a Brocho [blessing] before and after - inspires every one of us
to relive this experience, and rejuvenates the powers of every Jew to
renew his, and her, commitment to Torah and Mitzvos with increased vigor
and vitality and joy. May it be so with you and yours and all of us in
the midst of all our people.

Wishing you and all your family a joyous and inspiring Yom Tov
[holiday], and the traditional blessing to receive the Torah with joy
and inwardness,

With blessing,

                                *  *  *

                   Erev [eve of] Shavuos, 5735 [1975]

Greeting and Blessing:

At this time before Shavuos, the Festival of Mattan Torah, I send you
and yours my prayerful wishes for a happy and inspiring Yom Tov and the
traditional blessing to receive the Torah with joy and inwardness, and
may the joy and inspiration be with you throughout the year.

No doubt you received my previous correspondence. I trust that this
letter will find you in good health and spirits - which is also relevant
to Shavuos. For, as our Sages of blessed memory tell us, before G-d gave
the Torah to our people at Sinai, all those who were in ill-health were
cured and invigorated. This is also understandable, since a healthy Jew,
physically, can better understand and follow the Torah and Mitzvos and
accomplish all that he has to.

By extension to the other end, it follows that a Jew is duty-bound to
take care of his health, since the health of the Neshomo [soul] depends
largely on the health of the body, and both are required to accomplish
the maximum. This is particularly important in the case of a person whom
Divine Providence has given a special standing in the community, to be a
source of inspiration to many. I am pleased to know that Mrs.- is a true

Wishing you again a happy and joyous Yom Tov,

With blessing,

                            WHAT'S IN A NAME
RUTH is from the Hebrew meaning "friendship."  Megilat Ruth tells the
story of the Moabitess who embraced Judaism and was the
great-grandmother of King David, from whom Moshiach will be descended.

REUVEN means "Behold, a son."  He was Jacob's first-born son by his wife
Leah.  First mentioned in Genesis 29:32.

                        A WORD FROM THE DIRECTOR
                         Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
Beginning this Tuesday evening May 18 through Thursday evening May 20,
we will celebrate the holiday of Shavuot, which commemorates the Giving
of the Torah 3322 years ago. Before the eyes of the entire Jewish
people, G-d descended upon Mount Sinai and uttered the first of the Ten
Commandments: "I am the L-rd your G-d Who took you out of Egypt."

Of all the things G-d could have said at this climactic moment of Divine
revelation, why did He choose to remind the Jews that He had taken them
out of Egypt? Wouldn't it have been more "dramatic" to refer to Himself
as the Creator of heaven and earth, or something equally as "big"? Isn't
the fact that G-d created the world more significant than the Exodus
from Egypt?

Chasidic philosophy explains that from a certain perspective the answer
is "no." The world was created (and continues to be sustained) ex
nihilo, "something from nothing." To a person this is indeed miraculous,
but to G-d, Who is infinite, it is "no big deal."

The Exodus, by contrast, was an even greater miracle. In order to take
the Jewish people out of Egypt, G-d had to alter the natural laws He had
already set in place, and to perform supernatural wonders. G-d had to
expend even more power, as it were, to break through the boundaries and
limitations He had already established.

We see this on a personal level as well. It is relatively easy to
accustom oneself to do the right thing from the beginning, but much
harder to alter negative habits that are already ingrained.

However, when G-d took our ancestors out of Egypt, He gave every Jew for
all generations the ability to transcend personal limitations. This
power to overcome negative behaviors and serve G-d to the fullest was
rooted within us with the Giving of the Torah, and has been part of our
inheritance ever since.

As we celebrate Shavuot, let us accept the Torah anew with an active
consciousness of the Giver of the Torah, realizing that the Torah is the
purpose of the entire creation. In this manner, we will bring peace and
tranquility to each individual Jew and to the world at large.

                          THOUGHTS THAT COUNT
A man of every tribe who is the head of his family division. (Num. 1:4)

It is easier for a person to be considered great by strangers than by
his own family who know his faults well. If a person is appreciated by
his "family division" - those who know him well - it is a sign that he
is worthy of being at the head of his tribe.

                                                (Otzreinu Hayashan)

                                *  *  *

They declared their pedigrees according to their families, by the house
of their fathers. (1:18)

Rashi explains: "They brought books of their genealogies and witnesses
to the claims of their births." A story is told about the Rabbi of
Ostrovtza, who was the son of simple parents - his father was a baker.
Once he was sitting at an assembly of rabbis who were discussing Torah.
Each rabbi quoted something he had learned from his father or
grandfather. Said the rabbi of Ostrovtza: "My father used to say, a
fresh pastry is better than a stale one."

                                *  *  *

As they camped, so shall they set forward. (2:17)

The Jews were told to behave in the same manner while they were
traveling as they behave in their own dwellings when they set camp. This
was emphasized before starting out on their journey because some people
tend to become lax in their Jewish observance when traveling.

                                                   (Mikra Meforash)

                                *  *  *


"I am the L-rd your G-d."

Why did G-d use the singular form when giving the Ten Commandments to
millions of people? To teach us that each and every Jew must say to
himself, "The Ten Commandments were given to me, and I must keep them."
One should not think it is sufficient that the Torah is kept by others.


                                *  *  *

Shavuot comes from the word "shvua" - oath. On the day that the Torah
was given, G-d and the Jewish people made a mutual vow. We swore to G-d
that we would never exchange Him for another god and He swore to us that
He will never exchange us for another nation.

                                             (Ohr Hachaim Hakodesh)

                            IT ONCE HAPPENED
One Shavuot morning, an elderly Chasid posed a question to his fellow
Chasidim who had traveled from great distances to be with their Rebbe in
Belz. "Our trip here to Belz was a difficult one. But once we are here,
our Rebbe will not be with us. He will undoubtedly be in the World Above
experiencing spirituality on a far higher level than we can even
imagine. Therefore, I ask you, what is the point of our coming here to
be with him?"

The other Chasidim listened, but had no answer. And so, they all decided
to enter into the Rebbe's room and pose the question directly to him.
Although in Belz, no Chasid would dream of entering the Rebbe's room
without having first been summoned, this question so plagued them that
they gathered their courage to enter.

Standing before their Rebbe, the delegation asked the troublesome
question and waited for the Rebbe's reply. He told them the following:

"It is true that if a person hears Torah thoughts from his Rebbe and
learns them and then translates them into action in the service of G-d,
then he retains his connection to his Rebbe and remains together with
him in the World Above. But that is not all. Even if a person completely
forgets the words his Rebbe spoke, but at the time was spiritually
aroused by those words, he retains his connection.

"There is a hint of this in the words of the hymn, Akdamut, which we say
today, for it says, 'Pure when you hear the praise of this melody, Your
places will be fixed in this company." This means that even those who
are pure only when they hear, they too will remain together with the
holy company."

The Chasidim left the Rebbe's room comforted and uplifted by his
encouraging words.

                                *  *  *

The Shavuot prayers had ended and the Chasidim of Reb Chaim of Sanz had
gathered to receive the Rebbe's blessings and to hear him recite kiddush
and partake of some wine and cakes. They lingered, waiting for their
Rebbe to complete his lengthy prayers until he finally emerged from the

Reb Chaim had become legendary for his great compassion for the poor and
needy and his generous dispensing of charity, but still, his followers
were surprised at his words as he took his place at the table.

"When I was a young man, I used to deliver a carefully honed discourse
every Shavuot to a group of great scholars. Now, however, I am an old
man, and I don't have the strength for that kind of learned give and
take. Instead, I will deliver to you only a very short word: I need one
thousands reinish for a needy cause, and I will not recite Kiddush until
you decide between yourselves how much each of you will bring to me. I
need the money in cash, as soon as the holiday is over. I leave you to
arrange it between yourselves. At that, the Rebbe left the room.

The Chasidim had no choice but to discuss how to meet their Rebbe's
demand. Four of the wealthiest divided the entire amount between
themselves, and a delegate was sent to the Rebbe to assure him that the
matter was taken care of. Only then did Reb Chaim make Kiddush.

No sooner had the holiday ended than the entire sum of money was given
to the Rebbe who handed it to a certain pauper who needed it for a dowry
for his daughter.

                                *  *  *

The son of the Maggid of Mezritch, Reb Avraham, was called the Malach,
"the Angel." It was related by his grandson, Reb David Moshe of Chotkov,
that once his grandfather visited a certain scholar named Rabbi Feivish
of Kremenets. Although the entire town turned out to greet the great
rabbi, he stood with his face averted from them. He stood gazing out a
window at a high mountain in the distance.

The townsfolk longed to hear some holy words of Torah from him, but he
remained rooted to the spot deep in meditation. One of those gathered
there was a scholarly young man from a renowned family. Unfortunately,
his self-esteem outstripped even those two qualities. A fervent opponent
to Chasidic teachings, he assumed that this rabbi, whom the Chasidim
esteemed so highly, was simply and purposely ignoring and slighting the
scholars who had assembled to honor him. This, the young man could not

Clearing his throat, the young scholar spoke. "Honored Sir, would you so
kindly explain to us why you are staring so intently at that mountain,
which is, after all, you must admit, no more than a pile of dust?"

The Malach didn't miss a beat in replying to the young man. "That is
exactly what is so amazing to me. How is it that a mere pile of dust can
inflate itself so tremendously that it can assume the shape of a proud

With that comment, he effectively silenced the young man, and taught him
a valuable lesson at the same time.

                            MOSHIACH MATTERS
Since we are essentially "one nation," it would seem appropriate that
this oneness be reflected in the Jews' geographic location as well.
Nevertheless, this is not so and our people are dispersed throughout the
entire world. However, this dispersion was intended to give the Jews the
potential to elevate the entire world through following the directives
of the Torah. After this mission is completed, in the Messianic
redemption, G-d will collect and unite all the Torah actions that were
performed throughout the world and bring them as one to the Holy Land.

                             (The Lubavitcher Rebbe, 9 Sivan, 1989)

               END OF TEXT - L'CHAIM 1120 - Bamidbar 5770

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