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                         L'CHAIM - ISSUE # 1126
                           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.
        June 25, 2010            Balak            13 Tamuz, 5770

                         Graduations and Goals

"No more homework, no more books. No more teachers' angry looks!"
Remember chanting those words, or a similar sentiment, at your

"Ahh, we've graduated. We're finally finished," we sighed in relief.

But, as every principal, dean or university president will make sure to
mention in his commencement speech, graduation is just a beginning, not
an end.

Jewish teachings explain, "The end is connected to the beginning."

In other words, before we begin something, we need to clearly identify
our final goal.

Only once we have a definite understanding of the goal can we
efficiently and effectively beg in working toward it.

To illustrate this point, the example of a house is often used.

Were a construction crew to simply start building, without exact plans
or a detailed draft, the home could not possibly be inhabitable.

And even once exact plans are drawn up, they must be executed in
sequence: you can't put up the beams before the foundation is laid; you
can't put in the electrical wiring after the walls have been plastered
and painted.

The builder first conceives of the total project, the finished product,
and then he breaks it down into various stages, steps and jobs.

The end is connected to the beginning. Before we begin anything, we have
the goal in mind.

Envisioning and focusing on the goal makes it easier to keep at the
details and to follow a progressive path.

Applying this important mode of thinking to every aspect of our lives
accrues unbelievable results.

As our Sages have stated, "A wise person sees the result."

An intelligent person considers the consequence or outcome before
undertaking a specific course.

What is true of graduations and house building is certainly true of the
world at large.

G-d created the world with a goal and a purpose. Thus, the world today
is obviously much further along toward its goal than it was when it was

The world has advanced to the point that we are actually standing on the
doorstep of our new home - the Messianic Era.

The Messianic Era is G-d's final intent and purpose for the creation of
the world. It is the "end" that we have been leading up to since the
beginning of the world.

But, far from what non-Jewish teachings would have us imagine about the
"end" being near, Judaism does not have a doomsday view of the "end."

For, as mentioned before, the end is connected to the beginning, and
conversely, the beginning to the end.

The "end of days" marks the beginning of days, the Days of Moshiach.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe repeatedly emphasized that we will not lose
anything in the Messianic Era; the G-dliness in everything will "simply"
be apparent to all.

Some things, though, will end.

There will be an end to hunger, war, sickness, strife, jealousy... the
list goes on.

In the Messianic Era there will be only good: peace, prosperity, divine
knowledge - an end that is truly a new beginning.

As related in this week's Torah portion, Balak, when Bilaam went to
curse the Jewish people, he woke up early in the morning "and saddled
his donkey."

Bilaam was a very important personage, and was accompanied by an
entourage of Moabite princes and leaders. Why, then, did Bilaam perform
such a menial task himself?

Rashi, the foremost Torah commentator, explains: "From this we see that
hatred causes disregard of proper conduct." Bilaam hated the Jews so
intensely and was so eager to curse them that he disregarded the usual
mores of society.

All this hatred, however, did not ultimately help him, as Rashi
continues: "Declared G-d: Wicked one, Abraham their father has already
preceded you, as it states, 'And Abraham arose early in the morning and
saddled his donkey.'" When Abraham set out to what he thought would be
the sacrifice of his son Isaac, he too "arose early and saddled his
donkey." Abraham's actions thus "canceled out" Bilaam's evil intent and
protected the Jewish people.

What exactly was Bilaam trying to accomplish? Surely he knew that G-d
would not allow him to curse the Jews, for he had already been warned:
"Only the word which I shall say to you, that shall you do." However,
Bilaam hoped to somehow provoke G-d's anger against His people and
damage His love for them. Bilaam was a master of incitement. When he saw
that it would be impossible to curse the Jews within the natural order,
he attempted to "disregard proper conduct" and circumvent convention.
Bilaam figured that after the Jewish people had sinned in the desert,
G-d would also "disregard proper conduct" and stop showing them His
attribute of loving-kindness.

Bilaam's faulty logic was derived from blind hatred. However, G-d said
to Bilaam, "Wicked one, Abraham their father has already preceded you."
In other words, in the merit of Abraham, the Jewish people are deserving
of blessing within or without the natural order. For Abraham's actions
also transcended the "usual" way of doing things.

The Torah portion of Balak expresses the transformation of curse into
blessing: "The L-rd your G-d would not listen to Bilaam, but... turned
the curse into a blessing to you, because the L-rd your G-d loved you."
Bilaam's hatred for the Jews caused him to "disregard proper conduct";
conversely, a Jew's love for G-d should prompt him to observe Torah and
mitzvot even beyond the letter of the law, with dedication, devotion and
commitment. This love must be so intense that it can even transform evil
into good.

When a Jew is strongly connected to G-d, it arouses a reciprocal love
from on High; curse is turned into blessing, and G-d's love for His
people is revealed.

           Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, vol. 28

                             SLICE OF LIFE
                          The Sunset Stranger

                        by Rabbi Bentzion Elisha

    Based on a speech by a yeshiva student at a pre-summer gathering
    before 300 pairs of students headed out to remote Jewish communities
    throughout the world on "Merkos Shlichus."

"Please watch yourselves here," warns the Ukrainian rabbi. "While you're
walking around town beware not to stay out past sunset because once the
city gets dark, it isn't safe anymore... "

My friend Shmuel and I arrive in Odessa to help the Chabad emissary for

When the holiday is over, we venture out into the city. We really enjoy
soaking in the ambiance of this old-world town as we search for fellow
Jews. We get carried away just walking about, and then it occurs to us
that it is getting late.

Suddenly we notice that all children and women are off the streets, and
we are lost in the city, with only our wrinkled map to guide us.

Seemingly out of nowhere, a tall man wearing a leather jacket walks
towards us. He looks like a skinhead. The rabbi's earlier warning rings
in my ears.

I say "hello" in Russian as I put the map away. We don't need to look
like tourists.

He says "hello," and asks where we are from.

"I'm from Odessa originally." I tell him. His expression changes to

"My father was born here, and my family lived here when I was a child."

"What are you looking for?" He cuts me off.

I say we are looking for Pochenko Park, which we aren't, but I mention
the first place I remember from the map. We have to lose this guy.

"I know where Pochenko Park is, it's very easy..." he says.

"Do you see the alley by the side of the street?" He points as he
explains. "Well, you go down the dark alleyway and that will lead you to
the dark sea side. Then you'll go up the road there which will lead you
to the edge of Pochenko Park." He smugly looks at us.

"The alley looks awfully dark," I reply knowingly. "I would hate for
something bad to happen to us there. Looking at our map also shows us
that we can take the main road, which will be lit up, and that will lead
us straight to our destination. The main road is just four blocks away."

The man's smile breaks into laughter and he says, "You're smart, very
smart." There is a menacing look in his eyes.

All the conversation so far is in Russian. Shmuel by my side has no idea
of what is going on. It is still before sunset and Shmuel urges me to
speak to our new friend, who he thinks is Jewish, about putting on

Why not? What is there to lose? I ask myself.

"My name is Israel. What's your name?" I ask.

"My name is Senya," answers the stranger.

"Where are you from, Senya?" I ask him.

"I'm from Odessa," he answers.

"Odessa has had so many Jews living here for so many years that they
inevitably left their mark. Everything here seems so Jewish, even the
non-Jews have something Jewish about them. Tell me, Senya, what's Jewish
about you?" I ask.

"Nothing." He hesitates for a second before he says, "Nothing is Jewish
about me. My mother is Jewish but I'm not."

"Senya, if your mother is Jewish that makes you Jewish, too."

Stunned, he immediately denies my statement.

"No, I'm not Jewish, I'm Ukranian. It even says so in my passport."

"Senya, I don't care what it says in your Ukrainian passport. According
to Jewish law, if your mother is Jewish you are Jewish!"

Contemplating this new identity he has never considered his own,
something shifts. I can see it in his face. He is silent. I continue.

"Senya, we have so much in common. Your father is from Odessa and my
father is from Odessa. Your mother is Jewish and my mother is Jewish.
I'm a Jew and you're a Jew. We are practically mishpacha." Mishpacha is
one of those words even the non-Jews in Odessa know.

I offer my hand to shake his. We shake hands. He keeps my hand in his as
he stares at me.

"Yes," he agrees. "I suppose we can say that. Israel, do you know why I
stopped you today?" he asks. "Since we are practically mishpacha, I'll
tell you. I wanted to rob you. I saw you two rabbinical students, and
thought, 'Look at these two penguins, this will be easy money.' "

"I'm so glad you changed your mind."

The look in his eyes gets noticeably softer. "Yes, I guess I did change
my mind." He says as he lets go of my hand. Then he looks down, perhaps
ashamed. "Can you just give me $20." He begs. "I really need it. We are
mishpacha after all, aren't we?"

"I don't have money on me Senya" I tell him honestly. "But if you want
to stop at the yeshiva later on, I'll make sure to have $20 waiting for
you. It's getting late, we have to go."

"Let me walk you to the main street," he says. "It's dangerous here
after dark..."

Senya walks us to the main road. We walk together into the light. We say
goodbye to the sunset stranger as we walk back to the yeshiva.

That night we leave Odessa. We don't forget to leave a $20 bill for
Senya with one of the students in the yeshiva. We dream that perhaps
Senya will somehow join the yeshiva in Odessa. Who knows, maybe he will
become an emissary himself one day.

As we travel I think about our sunset encounter in Odessa. How wondrous
it is that by the mere act of reaching out to another Jew - as the
Lubavitcher Rebbe trained us to do - not only are we saved from being
robbed but we somehow manage to steal the heart of a thief.

    Rabbi Bentzion Elisha is an award winning photographer -
    ElishaArt.Com - and writer based in Crown Heights.

                               WHAT'S NEW
                              New Centers

The first United Kingdom Lubavitch Children's Centre (LCC) was opened in
Stamford Hill, London. The Lubavitch Children's Centre, opened by the
Chief Rabbi of England and the Commonwealth Lord Jonathan Sacks, is a
pioneering, modern facility that will cater to the physical, emotional,
intellectual, social and spiritual well-being of children from all
backgrounds of the Jewish communities. The Chabad Shul of Plantation,
Florida, held a grand opening celebration for their new building
recently. The dedication of the Geulat Yisrael Chabad - Beit Moshe
Synagogue in Tel Aviv, Israel, after a year of major renovations,
included the welcoming of 18 new Torah scrolls to the synagogue.

                            THE REBBE WRITES
                         5 Tammuz, 5743 [1984]

I have just received your letter of 3rd of Tammuz.

To begin with a blessing, may G-d grant that henceforth you and all your
family should have only goodness and benevolence - in the kind of good
that is revealed and evident.

At the same time, you must make every effort to regain the proper state
of mind, despite the pain.

You should remember the teaching and instruction of the Torah, which is
called Toras Chayim, the Guide in Life, and Toras Emes, the Torah of
Truth, meaning that what it teaches is not just to ease the mind, but
the actual truth.

Thus, the Torah, taking into account human nature/feelings, in a case of
bereavement, and the need to provide an outlet for the natural feelings
of sorrow and grief, prescribes a set of regulations and periods of

At the same time, the Torah sets limits in terms of the duration of the
periods of mourning and appropriate expression, such as shiva [the first
seven days], shloshim [30 days], etc.

If one extends the intensity of mourning which is appropriate for shiva
into shloshim, it is not proper, for although shloshim is part of the
overall mourning period, it is so in a lesser degree.

And since the Torah says that it is not proper to overdo it, it does no
good for the neshama [soul] of the dear departed. On the contrary, it is
painful for the neshama to see that it is the cause for the conduct that
is not in keeping with the instructions of the Torah.

A second point to bear in mind is that a human being cannot possibly
understand the ways of G-d. By way of a simple illustration:

An infant cannot possibly understand the thinking and ways of a great
scholar or scientist - even though both are human beings, and the
difference between them is only relative, in terms of age, education and

Moreover, it is quite possible that the infant may some day surpass the
scientist, who also started life as an infant. But the difference
between a created human being and his Creator is absolute.

Therefore, our Sages declare that human beings must accept everything
that happens, both those that are obviously good and those that are
incomprehensible, with the same positive attitude that "all that G-d
does is for the good," even though it is beyond human understanding.

Nevertheless, G-d has made it possible for human beings to grasp some
aspects and insights about life and afterlife. One of these revealed
truths is that the neshama is a part of G-dliness and is immortal. When
the time comes for it to return to Heaven, it leaves the body and
continues its eternal life in the spiritual World of Truth.

It is also a matter of common sense that whatever the direct cause of
the separation of the soul from the body (whether a fatal accident, or a
fatal illness, etc.) it could affect only any of the vital organs of the
physical body, but could in no way affect the spiritual soul.

A further point, which is also understandable, is that during the soul's
lifetime on earth in partnership with the body, the soul is necessarily
"handicapped" - in certain respects - by the requirements of the body
(such as eating and drinking, etc.).

Even a tzaddik (righteous person) whose entire life is consecrated to
Hashem [G-d] cannot escape the restraints of life in a material and
physical environment.

Consequently, when the time comes for the soul to return "home," it is
essentially a release for it as it makes its ascent to a higher world,
no longer restrained by a physical body and physical environment.

Henceforth, the soul is free to enjoy the spiritual bliss of being near
to Hashem in the fullest measure. That is surely a comforting thought.

                        continued in next issue

                            WHAT'S IN A NAME
GIDON means a "mighty warrior."  Gidon, one of the Judges of Israel
(Judges 6:11), was also a warrior who defeated the Midianites in a
surprise night attack.  He was from the tribe of Menashe.

GITEL is from the Yiddish, meaning "good."  A variant form is Gite, or

                        A WORD FROM THE DIRECTOR
                         Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This coming Tuesday, June 29, coincides with the Hebrew date the 17th of
Tammuz. Until Moshiach comes and the Third Holy Temple will be rebuilt,
the 17th of Tammuz is a fast day (unless it falls on Shabbat in which
case the fast is pushed off until Sunday). The act of fasting recalls
tragic events and brings us to repent for the misdeeds that caused those
events as well as our own repetition of those misdeeds.

The first tragic event to take place on the 17th of Tammuz was when
Moses descended from Mount Sinai and witnessed the Children of Israel
sinning with the Golden Calf, which led him to destroy the Tablets.
Later on there were tragedies involving the destruction of both the
first and second Holy Temples.

In the time of the first Holy Temple, on the 17th of Tammuz the priests
were no longer able to bring the daily sheep-offering, as enemy soldiers
had surrounded the city of Jerusalem. When there were no more sheep left
in the city, their enemies prevented them from getting more.

During the second Holy Temple, on the 17th of Tammuz the walls around
the city of Jerusalem fell and the enemy soldiers broke into the city.
Both Temples were destroyed on the 9th of Av, exactly three weeks after
the 17th of Tammuz. Therefore, the 17th of Tammuz begins the period on
the Jewish calendar known as "The Three Weeks." It is a time of
mourning, when we schedule no weddings and refrain from listening to

Within this sad time also lies hope. A central belief of the Jewish
people that has withstood the test of time is the belief in the coming
of Moshiach and the rebuilding of the Holy Temple. As we read about the
destruction of our glorious Holy Temple and we mourn its loss, we should
be inspired to improve in the areas of learning the Torah and doing its
mitzvot, knowing that in doing so, we are bringing the world closer to
its purpose, the arrival of Moshiach and the rebuilding of the Holy

                          THOUGHTS THAT COUNT
The L-rd put a word in Bilaam's mouth... (Deut. 23:5-7)

Bilaam's prophecy is unique, in that it was uttered by a non-Jewish
prophet who was forced to foretell of the gentile nations' ultimate
subservience to the sovereignty of King Moshiach. Bilaam's words are
also considered part of Isaiah's general prophecy concerning the
Messianic era, when even the non-Jewish royalty will honor and serve and
Jewish people: "And kings shall be your foster fathers, and their queens
your nursing mothers; they shall bow down to you with their face toward
the earth, and lick the dust of your feet."

                                                   (Likutei Sichot)

                                *  *  *

You shall see but the utmost part of them, and shall not see them all
(Deut. 23:13)

It is only if one looks at a "part" of a Jew, a small detail of his
make-up, that one might notice any flaws; if he is considered as a
whole, no defects will be visible.

                                                       (Ohel Torah)

                                *  *  *

According to this time it shall be said of Jacob and of Israel what G-d
has done (Deut. 23:23)

It is from this verse that Maimonides derived that prophecy would return
to the Jewish people. Bilaam's prophecy was uttered in the year 2488
after the creation of the world; accordingly, the ability to prophesize
would be restored to the Jews 2488 years later. This corresponds to the
year 4976 (785 years ago or 1216), the era of Rabbi Shmuel the Prophet,
followed by Rabbi Eleazar Baal HaRokeach, Nachmanides, the Ravad, Rabbi
Ezra the Prophet, Rabbi Yehuda the Chasid and others; indeed, prophecy
flourished in the generation of the Baal Shem Tov and his disciples. In
our generation, the Rebbe has prophesied that the time of our Redemption
has arrived.

                                                  (Peninei HaGeula)

                            IT ONCE HAPPENED
It was a typical autumn day in 1906 when Rabbi Yedidya Horodner walked
into the "Tiferet Yisrael" synagogue in the Old City of Jerusalem with a
big smile on his face. With a grand flourish he placed a bottle of
whiskey and some cake on the table, and invited everyone to make a

The congregants wondered what the cause for celebration might be. A
rumor had been circulating that the day before, Rabbi Horodner had gone
to all the local yeshivot and distributed candy to the children.
Something good had obviously occurred, and they waited expectantly to
hear what it was.

Indeed, after everyone had made a blessing on the cake and lifted a few
glasses, the Rabbi filled them in:

The whole story revolved around the Rabbi's nephew, a 15-year-old boy
named Shmuel Rosen who was originally from Riga. His father, Rabbi Ozer
Rosen, had sent the lad to his uncle when he was only eight years old,
in the belief that there was no better place in the world to develop the
boy's intellectual talents than the holy city of Jerusalem.

Rabbi Horodner raised little Shmuel as if he was his own son, and the
boy flourished. He was a delightful child, and exceptionally devoted to
his studies.

A few weeks earlier, however, disaster had struck. After experiencing
deteriorating vision for several months, Shmuel was now completely
blind. The total darkness had set in as he was sitting and poring over a
volume of the Talmud.

The boy's spirit was completely broken. For days and nights he wept over
his fate, most bitterly over his inability to study Torah by himself.
Suffering from a profound sadness, he withdrew and rarely ventured from
his room.

His uncle felt helpless, until it occurred to him that a change of place
might do the boy good. He contacted his friend, Reb Shimon Hoizman of
Hebron, who agreed to let the boy stay in his house. Shmuel felt a
little better in Hebron, but remained very depressed.

At that time the Jewish community of Hebron was headed by two Torah
giants: the Sefardic Rabbi Chizkiyahu Medini (author of Sdei Chemed),
and the Chasidic Rabbi Shimon Menashe Chaikin, the chief Ashkenazic
authority in the city. Every evening at midnight, the two Rabbis would
go to the Cave of Machpeila, the resting place of the Jewish Patriarchs
and Matriarchs, to recite Tikun Chatzot (a special prayer lamenting the
destruction of the Holy Temple).

Reb Shimon Hoizman was very affected by the boy's suffering. But what
could he do to help? Then one evening, he came up with a plan...

About a half hour before midnight Reb Shimon went into Shmuel's room.
"Wake up, son," he whispered to him softly. "Get dressed and follow me."
The two went off into the night, in the direction of Rabbi Chaikin's

A few minutes later the two rabbis could be seen approaching, on their
way to the Cave of Machpeila. As soon as they reached the spot where Reb
Shimon and Shmuel were standing, Reb Shimon disappeared and left Shmuel
by himself. The two rabbis quickly realized that Shmuel was blind. With
gentleness they asked him how he had become sightless.

When the young man got up to the part about how he had become totally
blind while studying, Rabbi Medini asked if he remembered the last words
he had been able to see. "Of course I remember!" Shmuel responded. "They
were in the Talmud, Tractate Chulin, on the first side of page 36: 'On
whom can we count? Come, let us rely on the words of Rabbi Shimon [Bar

The two rabbis became very excited. "If that is the case," they said
almost simultaneously, "then you can certainly rely on the holy Rabbi
Shimon Bar Yochai to help you. Go to his grave in Meron, ask for his
blessing, and G-d will surely heal you."

The next morning Shmuel returned to Jerusalem, and the very same day he
and his uncle set off for Meron. It was a difficult journey, but after
several days they arrived safely. Even before they approached the holy
gravesite they were filled with a feeling of confidence. For days they
remained at the grave of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, praying steadily to
G-d for a miraculous recovery.

The miracle occurred exactly one week later. Rabbi Horodner was reading
aloud from the Talmud when all of sudden Shmuel let out a shadow.
"Uncle! I can see your shadow!"

Over the course of the next few days, Shmuel's vision improved steadily,
until 13 days later it was restored completely. Still camped out at the
holy gravesite, uncle and nephew broke out into a spontaneous dance, as
they sang the verses that are traditionally sung on the anniversary of
Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai's passing:

"His teachings are our protection; they are the light of our eyes. He is
our advocate for good, Rabban Shimon Bar Yochai.

                            MOSHIACH MATTERS
The Torah portion of Pinchas describes the division of the Land of
Israel, stating: "Among these, the land will be divided.... To a larger
tribe, you shall give a greater inheritance. To a smaller tribe, you
shall give a lesser inheritance.... Nevertheless, you must divide the
land by lot." Three approaches to the division of the land are
mentioned: a) inheritance, b) division based on reason ("To a greater
[tribe]..."), c) division by lots. This division of the land can be
interpreted as an allusion to the division of the land in time of

                      (The Lubavitcher Rebbe, 21 Tammuz, 5750-1990)

                END OF TEXT - L'CHAIM 1126 - Balak 5770

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