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Devarim Deutronomy

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Shemos Exodus

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   1120: Bamidbar

1121: Nasso

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1124: Korach

1125: Chukas

1126: Balak

1127: Pinchas

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Devarim Deutronomy

May 14, 2010 - 1 Sivan, 5770

1120: Bamidbar

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Published and copyright © by Lubavitch Youth Organization - Brooklyn, NY
The Weekly Publication For Every Jewish Person
Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.

Text VersionFor Palm Pilot
  1119: Behar-Bechukosai1121: Nasso  

A Torah's Thoughts  |  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

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 synagogue.

"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 origins.

" '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 scroll.

"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 coverings."

Living with the Rebbe

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

A 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 Parades.

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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 heart.

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 helpmate.

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 shul.

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 abide.

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 mountain?"

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)

  1119: Behar-Bechukosai1121: Nasso  
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