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1128: Matos-Masei

Devarim Deutronomy

July 9, 2010 - 27 Tamuz, 5770

1128: Matos-Masei

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  1127: Pinchas1129: Devarim  

Cosmic Entanglement  |  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

Cosmic Entanglement

One of the strangest parts of quantum mechanics - in modern physics, the science of the sub-atomic world - is the phenomenon called entanglement. When quantum entanglement occurs, objects (sub-atomic, sub-microscopic particles, to be sure) appear to communicate at speeds faster than light; they apparently influence one another instantaneously, regardless of how far apart they are.

Einstein called this "spooky action at a distance," and rebelled against the idea. But scientists have repeatedly proven that measuring one of an entangled pair immediately affects its counterpart, no how great the separation.

Here, in brief, is how quantum entanglement works: If a sub-atomic particle decays into a pair of photons, the two photons are automatically entangled. That is, if Photon A has spin-up (yes, that's a real term!) then Photon B has spin-down.

Now comes the fun part: according to the theory (supported by the math and formulas) of quantum mechanics, we can't determine an observable feature of a particle, such as spin, until we measure it. But once we do determine the spin on Photon-A, Photon-B, which is entangled with Photon-A, must now also, immediately and instantaneously "choose" the other state - if Photon A "chooses" spin-up, Photon-B, no matter where it is, absolutely must "choose" spin-down.

This result may mean that information might be traveling faster than light! Other ideas, such as quantum computers, are emerging from these experiments.

Judaism also posits the idea of "cosmic entanglement." Because of the innate connection between a Jew, specifically, the Divine soul of the Jew, and G-d, the actions of a Jew, mitzvot (commandments) performed or, G-d forbid not done, affect all the spiritual realms.

The Torah declares, "For His people is a part of G-d; Jacob is the rope of His inheritance." Chasidic philosophy explains the analogy of the rope: the upper end is bound above and the lower end is bound below. This applies to the soul of a Jew. In this case, the "upper end" is the aspect of the soul which is an "actual part of G-d Above, and the "lower end" is the part of the soul enclothed in the body.

When one pulls the "lower end" of the rope, the higher end is moved and pulls after it as well.

When a Jew pulls on the lower end in a negative way - by violating a commandment, he draws the Divine life-force into the chambers of spiritual evil, giving them vitality. When a Jew pulls on the lower end in a positive way, performing a mitzva and learning Torah, he draws a revelation of G-dliness into the spiritual realms.

In other words, the mitzvot and Torah of a Jew are "cosmically entangled" with the spiritual life-force and revelation of G-dliness not only in this world, but in all the spiritual realms. Choosing to do a mitzva creates an automatic and instantaneous - a faster than light - response in the highest spiritual worlds, and throughout all creation.

Living with the Rebbe

This week we read two Torah portions, Matot and Masei. In the second Torah portion, Masei, Moses recounts the Jewish people's travels through the wilderness. In connection with their encampment at Mount Hor, the Torah provides us with the details of Aaron's passing.

Actually, this is the second time we are told of Aaron's passing. The first account appears earlier, in the portion of Chukat, which relates the Jews' journey toward Mount Hor.

However, there is a difference in the two accounts. The first account does not elaborate; the second informs us that Aaron died "at the commandment (literally "at the mouth") of the L-rd," i.e., that he died by Divine kiss. Additionally, we are told the date of his passing ("in the fifth month, on the first day of the month" - the first day of the month of Av), the year ("in the fortieth year after the coming out of the Children of Israel from the land of Egypt"), and the age Aaron had attained at the time of his passing ("And Aaron was 123 years old when he died at Mount Hor").

An obvious question is raised: Why does the Torah wait until the second reference to Aaron's passing to fill us in on all the details? Indeed, including this information in the portion of Chukat would have seemed a more logical choice, as the events it relates are chronologically closer to the actual time of Aaron's passing.

One of the explanations offered is that the Torah portion of Masei is always read on or around Rosh Chodesh Menachem Av, the yartzeit (anniversary of the passing) of Aaron the priest.

On a spiritual level, the original event that occurred on a particular date is "reawakened" and "relived" each and every year. Accordingly, the Torah relates the details of Aaron's passing precisely in Masei, as the week in which it is read coincides with the actual date of Aaron's death.

From this we learn the importance of studying the daily Torah portion as instituted by the Previous Rebbe - Chumash (the Five Books of Moses with Rashi's commentary), according to the division of the seven Torah readings of the forthcoming Shabbat, i.e., the first reading on Sunday, the second on Tuesday, etc.[1]

Just as Masei is relevant to the season in which it is read, so is each portion that corresponds to a given day specific and timely; it pertains to that particular day and should therefore not be postponed.

Adapted from Likutei Sichot, Volume 8



  1. (Back to text) To learn how to implement this study schedule, with the daily Psalms and Tanya study, known together as Chitat, call your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center or study it on the web at

A Slice of Life

Lost Years Reclaimed

As related to Rabbi Tuvia Bolton by Reb Nechemia, an elderly Chasid who lived in Kfar Chabad, Israel:
I was born into a religious family, but like many young people in those days in Russia, I was restless and wanted freedom. I joined the Czar's army before WWI, served valiantly as a commander, and even earned several medals for bravery. When I finished the army I was considered a loyal citizen to the highest degree, until the Communist Revolution came. Before long, I received a summons to the "Peoples Court." Innocently, I believed that my combat record and medals would prove my loyalty and I confidently strode into the courtroom. After a ten-minute trial, I was sentenced to 15 years of "Correctional Hard Labor in Siberia" for the crime of maintaining loyalty to the old regime! I was led from the courtroom, completely bewildered, directly to prison. I waited there for several weeks to be shipped off to a Labor Camp.

While in prison, unexpected "good" news came. The government needed volunteers for an icebreaker ship that was going to forge its way into some obscure sub-zero temperature territory in Siberia to build an army camp. The food was more plentiful (a full loaf of bread every day), the hours of work shorter, and as an additional incentive, each year would be counted as three years of my sentence. So I jumped at the opportunity and signed up.

The plans were bold, optimistic, and well thought out. We worked hard. But despite all this, the whole thing failed miserably. After five years, most of the crew had died from disease or cold, the project had to be abandoned, and the few that were left, returned home. Miraculously I was one of the lucky survivors, and to add to the good news, upon return from Siberia I was released.

I should have been grateful...but something was bothering me; I couldn't accept the fact that absolutely nothing had resulted from all my work. I really should have just forgotten the whole thing, but I couldn't take my mind off it. I kept thinking to myself, "There must be some reason why I spent five years of my life doing something that resulted in absolutely nothing." Eventually, I became obsessed with figuring out the reason but no one had an answer. In fact, most people didn't even understand what I was talking about.

Then late one Thursday night I was walking down a lonely street when I heard soulful singing. I followed the sounds and eventually entered a room where a group of ten or so Chasidim of various ages were sitting together, a bottle of vodka on the table, singing. After I entered, they raised their small glasses, said "L'chaim," took a sip, and one of them began telling a story:

"Once there was an old, wealthy Polish Baron who had an eccentric idea. He wanted a statue of himself made from a certain rare type of marble found only in the Far East that would be used as his gravestone after he died. He found a man whom he trusted, a Jewish dealer in precious stones, and gave him an unusually large sum of money to accomplish the task. He was to travel to India, buy a large block of this marble, and accompany it back to Poland where the Baron would commission a sculptor to do the job. This Jew, being a Chasid of the Holy Rebbe Yisroel of Ruzhin, traveled to his Rebbe to ask for his blessing for the undertaking. The Rebbe warmly blessed him and encouraged the journey.

"The Chasid sailed to India, certain of success. A month later he arrived, bought the stone, had it loaded on the ship and began his return voyage to Poland. One night, he awoke to an eerie silence and his room being on a dangerous slant. The ship was sinking! He went up onto the deck and realized that he was the only person still on board. He jumped overboard into the black, ominous sea. After a few minutes he saw a rowboat adrift and he pulled himself up into it. Somehow, he rowed to an island and was saved! What happened to the other passengers he would never know. He spent three years on that island until one day he saw a ship in the distance, and he was rescued.

"A month later the Chasid was back in Poland, but he was in for a strange surprise. He went to the Baron's castle but the Baron was missing, his Castle had been sold, and no one had any idea where he was. It was as though the entire previous three years had been a figment of his imagination!

"The Chasid went back to the Ruzhiner Rebbe who explained to him that there were sparks of holiness on that island that were entrapped. Over the three years that he had been there, praying, reviewing Torah that he knew by heart, reciting blessings on food that he ate, observing Shabbat, he had been able to free and elevate those G-dly sparks."

Though raised in a religious home, I had never heard such concepts before. But I felt that this was the key to understanding my five years in Siberia. I asked the Chasidim for an explanation.

They invited me to sit down and took out a thick book called Likutei Torah filled with Chasidic discourages from Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi. In it I learned that the reason the Jews had to suffer 210 years in Egypt and make 42 journeys in the desert was to raise the sparks of G-dliness hidden there. This process is called "birrur" (refinment).

Everything in the world - the money we earn, the clothes we wear, even the food we eat and the very air we breathe - seem to exist for themselves. But when they are used for a G-dly purpose their "sparks" are "refined," the truth is revealed. They are really a facet of the Oneness of G-d, an infinitely meaningful part of an infinitely "Big" picture. That is why there are different types of Jews spread over the world during this long exile.

This was the explanation I was looking for! I had been in Siberia elevating "sparks." Then and there I decided to remain with the Chasidim and learn more.

Reprinted from

What's New


Exploring the Laws, Customs & Meanings of a Boy's First Haircut

Upsherin makes clear the custom of cutting a Jewish boy's hair for the first time at the age of three years. The book contains a complete guide to the ceremony, as well as providing Kabalastic explanations of the nature of hair and the meaning of covering the hair. The author, Rabbi DovBer Pinson, is the director of the IYYUN Center for Jewish Enrichment in Brownstone Brooklyn.

The Rebbe Writes

13th of Cheshvan, 5734 [1973]

Greeting and Blessing:

With further reference to our correspondence, I wish to emphasize here another point about the urgency and speed that should propel every activity for the strengthening of Yiddishkeit [Judaism] in general, and Torah Chinuch [education] in particular.

In normal times, steady, albeit slow, progress might be satisfactory, and sometimes steady progress and speed may not even be compatible. However, we live in "abnormal" times, when things move with whirlwind speed, and we must not lag behind the times in our method of tackling problems in the vital area of Torah and Chinuch. Indeed, in light of the Baal Shem Tov's teaching that a person must learn from everything around him how better to fulfill his purpose in life, especially in fundamental matters, the present jet age and supersonic speed should inspire the idea of time-saving in the spiritual realm. A distance that not so very long ago took days and weeks to cover, can now be spanned in a matter of hours, and a message that took as long to communicate can now be transmitted instantly.

If this could be accomplished in the physical and material world, surely the same should be true in the spiritual realm, whether in the area of personal achievement, or in the area of effecting a change in the environment. To be satisfied with less in the realm of the spirit would be like arguing to return to the era of the horse and buggy on the ground that this was satisfactory in olden days, all the more so since spiritual matters have never been subject to the limitations of time and space.

If anyone may entertain any doubt about his ability to meet a challenge which Divine Providence has thrown into his lap, suffice it to remember that G-d does not act despotically or capriciously, and most certainly provides the necessary capacity to meet the challenge, and to do so joyously, which is the way of all Divine service, as it is written, "Serve G-d with joy," and which, incidentally, is a basic tenet of the Chasidic approach to all matters.

With all good wishes, and

With blessing,

Rosh Chodesh Menachem Av, 5743 [1983]

Greeting and Blessing:

I received your letter of the 19th of Tammuz, and I appreciate your thoughtfulness in writing to me in detail about our esteemed mutual friend. No doubt you have already heard from your patient, who has kept in touch with me.

I am most gratified to note the personal attention and concern you have shown towards your patient. There is certainly no need to emphasize to you how important it is for the patient - also therapeutically - to know that his doctor is taking a special interest in him. This is all the more important in a case of a sensitive person, and especially as our mutual friend is truly an outstanding person who lives by the Torah, and particularly, by the Great Principle of the Torah V'Ohavto L'Re'acho Komocho [the commandment to love one's fellow Jew as one loves oneself].

The above, incidentally, is particularly timely in connection with the present days of the Three Weeks, which remind all Jews to make a special effort to counteract, and eventually eliminate, the cause which gave rise to the sad events which these days commemorate, and hasten the day when these sad days will be transformed into days of gladness and rejoicing.

Wishing you Hatzlocho [success] with this patient and all your patients, and in all your affairs.

With blessing

What's In A Name

REFAEL means "G-d has healed." He was one of the angels sent to heal Avraham after his circumcision. In Chronicles I 26:7, Refael was a Levite who served in the Temple.

RACHEL means "ewe," a symbol of purity and breeding. Rachel was the wife of Jacob (Genesis 29:16) and father of Benjamin and Josef. Rachel's tomb lies just outside of Bethlehem. Rabbi Akiva publicly declared that all his learning was due to the encouragement and hard work of his wife, who was also named Rachel.

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

We are currently in the period of the Jewish calendar known as the "Three Weeks" when we mourn the destruction of the first and second Holy Temples.

Jewish teachings explain that G-d obligates Himself to the same commandments that He gives the Jewish people. How can we explain the destruction of the Holy Temple, in light of the Torah's prohibition against wanton destruction? According to the Torah, it is forbidden to needlessly ruin a garment, vessel or any other object. Destroying the Temple would certainly involve an even greater transgression, as it is prohibited to "demolish a stone of the altar or any part of the Temple." If damaging a small part of the Holy Temple is prohibited, how could G-d have allowed Nebuchadnezzar to destroy the Holy Temple in its entirety? Did G-d transgress His own commandment? And if the Jewish people weren't worthy of having the Temple, why didn't G-d take it away from them in some other manner instead of razing it completely?

The answer to this question is that under certain circumstances, the Torah does allow for the act of destruction, but only when the objective is to build anew. For example, Jewish law permits an existing synagogue to be torn down in order to build a larger and more magnificent one.

G-d wanted the Holy Temple to be even more majestic than it was and to endure forever. To that end He was allowed to destroy it - temporarily - creating the exile and all it entails, for the sole purpose of one day restoring His Divine Presence and establishing His dwelling place forever.

This also explains the cryptic statement of the Midrash, "The lion rose up under the mazal [astrological constellation] of the lion and destroyed Ariel [literally "lion of G-d"] - in order for the lion to come, under the mazal of the lion, and to rebuild Ariel." Nebuchadnezzar, the mighty Babylonian king, destroyed the Holy Temple (called Ariel) in the month of Av (whose astrological constellation is the lion), in order for G-d to rebuild the Holy Temple, transforming the month of mourning into a month of joy and celebration.

May it happen at once.

Thoughts that Count

If a man makes a vow to G-d (Num. 30:3)

In contrast to other mitzvot that first begin to apply at the age of Bar Mitzva (13), a vow is considered binding "from the age of 12 years and one day." The reason is that when a person makes a vow and declares something prohibited to himself (above and beyond the Torah's prohibitions), the extra caution he must exert prepares him for "regular" Torah observance. (It also prevents him from being "a scoundrel who observes [the letter of the law ].") This preparation is allowed to commence a full year before Bar Mitzva.

(Likutei Sichot)

He must not break his word; he must do all that he expressed verbally (Num. 30:3)

When a person is faithful to his every utterance and lives up to his word, he merits that G-d will "do all that he expressed verbally," as the saying goes: "The righteous man decrees, and the Holy One fulfills it."

(Kedushat Levi)

These are the journeys of the Children of Israel (Num. 33:1)

Moses documented all the journeys of the Children of Israel through the desert; this record then became part and parcel of the Torah. Similarly, all the wanderings and misfortunes of the Jewish people during the present exile are being recorded; when Moshiach comes, they will constitute a book from which all will learn.

(Rabbi David of Lelov)

It Once Happened

Reb Leib Sarah's, one of the greatest of the Baal Shem Tov's disciples, had long desired to live in the Holy Land. After years of struggle, of wandering, of perfecting himself to the utmost of his ability, his deepest desire was to settle in the Holy Land, to be able to attain spiritual achievements unreachable elsewhere.

Although he was himself a person of renown, he was also a chasid, and so, he went to his rebbe, the Baal Shem Tov, to ask his permission and blessing for the trip. "Rebbe," he asked, "I request your permission to settle in the Holy Land, which is my heart's desire." But, to his surprise, the Baal Shem Tov's reply was negative. The next year Leib Sarah's again went to his rebbe with the same petition. But, again, the Baal Shem Tov denied his request, without even an explanation. This scenario repeated itself year after year for several years, and Leib Sarah's was deeply disappointed.

One year he decided that he wouldn't go to his rebbe at all; he just wouldn't ask. The desire to travel and settle in the Holy Land had become so strong within him, that he could no longer deny it. So, Leib Sarah's sat down with his wife and then with his children and discussed the question of moving to the Holy Land, there to perfect his soul in the service of his Maker. His wife and children were all agreeable, and so it was decided to go. Wasting no time, he sold all of his worldly goods save the barest necessities, and gathering all of his money, he bought tickets for himself, his wife and children for the long journey to the Land of Israel.

When everything was in order, Reb Leib Sarah's packed up his belongings and set off with his family through Russia toward Turkey, whence he would travel to Israel. It was a slow and arduous journey overland with many stops in the small towns and villages through which they had to travel. One day they came to a small town and noticed some sort of excitement in the town. Leib Sarah's inquired of the villagers, and was shocked when he heard their reply. For none other than the famous Baal Shem Tov was unexpectedly visiting the town, and the people were overwhelmed by the great honor of receiving such a personage.

Leib Sarah's was even more overwhelmed by his own dilemma. He thought of the possibility of not going to greet his rebbe, thereby avoiding any embarrassment because of his disobedience, but how could he not acknowledge the presence of his great rebbe and teacher? He sat in his wagon deliberating, when suddenly he had no choice, for the Baal Shem Tov's carriage pulled up next to his own. Reb Leib Sarah's dismounted and approached the rebbe. The Baal Shem Tov appeared to be surprised and asked, "What are you doing here?"

"Rebbe, please forgive me for not heeding your words, but I am now on my way to settle in the Holy Land."

The Baal Shem Tov replied, "Well, if your wish to go is so strong, then go. But now, where are you going to spend the Shabbat?"

"I am just now searching for a place, but it's difficult since I spent all of my money on the tickets for the journey," replied Reb Leib. The Baal Shem Tov offered to host Reb Leib and his family for the whole Shabbat. When they were in their rooms preparing for the arrival of the holy day, the Baal Shem Tov knocked on Reb Leib's door, asking if he had immersed in the mikva yet. "No," he replied, "I have no money remaining, so I will forego the mikva this week." To this, the Baal Shem Tov replied that he would pay the entrance fee for him, and they should go together to the mikva. Reb Leib Sarah's joy was unbounded, for he understood the profound meaning of the immersion and was relieved not to miss his usual ritual.

Upon arriving at the mikva the Baal Shem Tov said, "Reb Leib, you go first." But, he refused, saying, "Please, Rebbe, you go; you are my teacher, after all."

The Baal Shem Tov was adamant, and Reb Leib immersed first. After the prescribed immersions were completed, he rose from the water, turned to his rebbe and said, "I have changed my mind. I will not go to the Holy Land. I will return to Medzibozh, to you. Let me tell you what I saw in the mikva during my immersions. As I entered the water I saw a continent. As I looked closely I saw the Land of Israel, and as I looked even more closely I saw Jerusalem. As I narrowed my focus still more, I could see all the parts of the Temple Mount, even the Holy Temple itself. Then I looked inside and saw the Holy of Holies, but though I strained my eyes as hard as I could, I couldn't see the Holy Ark, the Tablets of the Law, or the Divine Presence. In my anguish I cried out, 'Where are the Tablets? Where is the Divine Presence?' But a Heavenly Voice answered me, saying, 'They are found in Medzibozh.' Therefore, I am following you back to Medzibozh to fulfill my Divine Service. I now see that during the exile, the Divine Presence dwells with the leader of the generation."

Moshiach Matters

The Zohar describes the First and Second Holy Temples as "the building of mortal man which has no lasting existence," while the Third Holy Temple, "the building of the Holy One, blessed be He," will endure forever. The First Holy Temple corresponds to Abraham; the Second Holy Temple corresponds to Isaac; the Third Holy Temple corresponds to Jacob. And since the dominant characteristic of Jacob is truth which can be neither interrupted nor changed, the Third Holy Temple will stand forever.

(Likkutei Sichot, IX, p. 26)

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