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1168: Kedoshim

1169: Emor

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Devarim Deutronomy

May 6, 2011 - 2 Iyyar, 5771

1169: Emor

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

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  1168: Kedoshim1170: Behar  

The Path of Greatest Resistance  |  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

The Path of Greatest Resistance

When confronted with a problem, the advice we usually get is to "follow the path of least resistance." Generally, this makes sense: When trying to get to the other side, of whatever, why bang our heads against a metaphoric wall when we can turn the knob and go through the door?

It's not just a metaphoric path. Science notes that it's an "urge" of nature. Given a set of alternate pathways, physics posits that an object will "take" whichever path offers the least resistance, that is, allows it to move forward fastest. Water flows downhill, "looking" for the quickest and easiest channel. Electricity works the same - the amount of current charging through a circuit is inversely proportional to the electrical resistance the circuit presents. Storms do it, too - they rush toward zones of low barometric pressure, that is, places where the air density is lower.

Librarians have taken up the cause, recognizing that an "information seeking" client will use the most convenient search method, in the least exacting - demanding - manner. Once minimally accepted results are found, the search stops. And others have, as is often done but rarely acknowledged, followed the librarians lead.

Yet our Sages seem to tell us the opposite - follow the path of greatest resistance. The Rebbe Maharash, the fourth Lubavitcher Rebbe, was known for the saying "l'chatchila ariber" - to begin with, go over. He explained: "When confronting an obstacle, some say to go under, others say to go around, but I say, 'to begin with, go over!' " In other words, acknowledge the obstacle or difficulty and tackle - climb it, overcome it - straight away. Don't avoid it.

Similarly, the Lubavitcher Rebbe has told more than one individual that the mitzva (commandment) which presents a special difficulty, the mitzva which is hardest for you to do - that's your special mitzva. The very fact that it seems so hard is proof that you have a unique merit in performing it. The resistance is strongest at exactly the most important point. It seeks to block the most spiritually valuable path.

We all face challenges in our Jewish lives, in moving forward Jewishly. And for each of us the challenge is different - and changes. Once we've overcome one obstacle - once we've achieved l'chatchila ariber in one situation, another arises. The opposition doesn't rest. As we move forward and upward in Jewish observance, the path of greatest resistance changes.

It might help to note the words of someone who in more than a metaphorical sense took the path of greatest resistance to Judaism and observance. In Judaism Online, Shoshana Zakar writes: "The fear that 'culture shock' might yet prove to be the one insurmountable hurdle to becoming observant was still very real.... I decided to take on the challenge. It became a test of my own personal religious commitment. I wanted to know whether I could 'handle' this."

Shoshana learned that, though it was a struggle, she could indeed 'handle' the challenge - and the other challenges to growing into Judaism. But of course, she just realized the assurance our Sages give us when we start on the path of greatest resistance: according to the effort is the reward.

Living with the Rebbe

The name of a Torah portion alludes to the common thread that runs through the entire narrative. Thus, although this week's Torah portion, Emor, contains many different ideas, the name itself is significant and expresses the central theme of all of them.

The literal meaning of the Hebrew word "emor" is "say." It implies an ongoing action, a perpetual commandment that applies in all places and in all times.

Emor teaches us that thought is not enough; a person must carry the thought process one step further and express what he is thinking in speech as well. Speaking requires the person to weigh and assess his thoughts, working them over in his mind until he comes to a satisfactory conclusion.

Yet why is merely thinking insufficient? Because as human beings, we cannot know what is going on in someone else's mind; if our thoughts are not expressed verbally, no one else can derive any benefit from them. Thus the Torah commands us to "say" - to reveal our good thoughts and ideas, and to share them with our fellow man.

In accordance with the commandment "And you shall love your fellow as yourself," a Jew is obligated to share whatever good he possesses with others. Good thoughts, thoughts that have meaning and significance, are in this category, for expressing them can bring enjoyment, enlightenment and encouragement to our fellow Jew.

The way in which our thoughts are expressed is also important. The Jew is required to convey them in an effective and pleasant manner so they will have the desired effect on the listener.

Significantly, the name of the Torah portion is Emor (say), and not "Daber" (speak). Daber is a harsher term, implying the use of strong language to convey a point. Emor, by contrast, implies a softer kind of speech, and a more pleasant way of communicating.

The commandment to reveal our thoughts to our fellow man and exert a positive influence on others must be carried out in a tender and loving manner. Threats and intimidation have no place in the Jew's vocabulary. Every Jew without exception is worthy of being addressed with affection and respect, regardless of their spiritual standing or actions.

This then is the lesson of this week's Torah reading: Having good thoughts is not enough. In order to have a positive influence on others we must reveal them verbally, and in the most pleasant manner possible.

Adapted for Maayan Chai from Hitva'aduyot 5742

A Slice of Life

The Tefilin Challenge
by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton

Every Friday I leave my home in Kfar Chabad, Israel, and go to downtown Tel Aviv to encourage people to fulfill the mitzva (commandment) of putting on Tefilin.

Accompanied by a friend or two, I go to a huge outdoor artsy market in Tel-Aviv, take three pairs of Tefilin, borrow a table from one of the restaurants, set up a stand and ask men and boys walking in the street if they want to come over and do a mitzva.

Literally hundreds of people, perhaps thousands on a sunny day, pass by our table and often as many as 50 put on. But one Friday something happened that made me appreciate anew this "Tefilin Campaign," that was established by the Lubavitcher Rebbe right before the Six Day War.

It was a beautiful summer day, the market streets were filled with people browsing around or bustling to and from their destinations.

I looked up when I heard man bring his mountain bike to a screeching halt in front of our table, get off, look us over contemptuously like a Baron reviewing his serfs, narrow his eyes, and say, "Aren't you ashamed!?"

He looked like a typical Israeli intellectual. Perhaps a professor; healthy build, in his 60s, a ring in his ear, white hair drawn back into a neat little pony tail, dressed in shorts, a sleeveless t-shirt and superiority was written all over his face.

His tone was that of a teacher who had just caught his pupils writing on the bathroom walls.

"Aren't you disgusted with yourself?!" He repeated.

I thanked him, told him that I wasn't feeling particularly disgusted today and asked him why he asked.

"Why?! Ha Ha!" He scoffed. "I'll tell you why! Don't tell me you don't know why! Ha!!"

I just turned my palms up, shrugged my shoulders and he continued.

"You are standing here in the street, throwing your guilt-trips and Divine retribution hang-ups and neurosis on people, making them feel ashamed, inferior, guilty, depressed and miserable!!

"And," he paused for a moment, leaned a bit closer to me, and calmly announced, "I want it stopped! Here is NOT going to be Iran!! Here everyone is free from your medieval superstitions!"

Interestingly enough he said all this without really raising his voice. I had to think fast because people were passing by, I wanted to ask them to put on Tefilin and it didn't look like he was going to leave.

"Maybe you're right," I answered feebly, trying to force a smile. "I certainly don't want to make people feel bad. I'll tell you what. You stand over here behind me and the first person that you notice who reacts to me with a sour face, just tap me on the shoulder and I promise that I'll stop everything and listen to you for ten minutes. Maybe you're right."

He took his place off to a side and I asked the first man that passed,

"Hello there my friend! Come put on Tefilin."

He, looked at me with a big smile and without stopping, raised his hands and shook his head "no" as he passed me by.

"Sir, Tefilin?" I shouted at the next passerby.

He smiled, pointed to his watch, and kept going.

"Hey, Yehudi (Jew)! Have you got a minute for Tefilin? Only one minute on the clock."

He too broke into a smile and said, "Nope, not me!"

The next one also grinned and let out a big "tsk" sound with his lips (which Israeli's do when they mean "Sorry, I can't help you") and kept going.

Meanwhile I notice that everyone is replying with a smile and I am feeling pretty good about myself. Suddenly another biker comes to a screeching halt about 10 feet away from us..

He was a man of about 50, healthy build, rings in both ears, white hair drawn back into a neat little pony, dressed in shorts and a sleeveless t-shirt... in other words a typical Israeli intellectual.

"Oy," I thought to myself, "I've got two of them! What am I going to do now?!"

He got off the bike and approached with absolutely no expression on his face, just like the first one did. So, expecting the worst, I forced a smile and said the only thing I know how to say in such situations,

"Nu, want to ...... put on ......Tefilin?"

He stopped about two feet in front of me, stuck out his arm, grinned and said, "Sure!"

I shot a glance over my shoulder to see if the biker behind me was observing all this and saw only his back profile fading into the distance on his bicycle. He had biked away!

I realized something very important that afternoon: We Jews like to do mitzvot. Maybe we don't do them all the time, maybe we don't understand them, maybe we even oppose them sometimes, but somewhere down deep we like them.

What's New

New Torah Scrolls

Chabad Jewish Center of Palos Verdes, California, dedicated a new Torah scroll. The project was initiated by a young woman who was one of the first students of the Chabad Palos Verdes Hebrew School 20 years ago. A new Torah Scroll was dedicated to the Chabad House of Caulfield, Melbourne, Australia. The Torah was dedicated in memory of Tova Herszberg by her family. The Jewish community of Rostov-on-don, Russia welcomed a new Torah scroll. The Torah was dedicated by Mr. Isaac and Frieda Kamhin of Hong Kong. It was completed at the Ohr Avner Chabad Jewish Day School in Rostov, and paraded to the Saldanski synagogue.

New Chabad Centers

Lubavitch of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, had a groundbreaking for a new Chabad House. The 14,000-square-foot Chabad House, situated on 2.1 acres, will include a synagogue, preschool, Hebrew school classrooms, social hall, library and commercial kitchen. Chabad of Playa del Carmen, Mexico recently acquired a new facility. The building will house the Chabad House and the JCC, and will include a synagogue, Hebrew School, tourist center, kosher restaurant, a library, kosher grocery store, and social hall.

The Rebbe Writes

11 Tevet, 5718 [1968]

Having heard of you through mutual friends to the effect that you are seeking the true path which each and every Jewish man and Jewish woman should follow in life, although it is always difficult to evaluate secondhand information, I trust the following lines may be helpful to you.

The importance of heredity in transmitting physical, mental, and spiritual characteristics is well known and obvious, even in the case of several generations. How much more so where a trait is transmitted and intensified over the course of many generations uninterruptedly, when the trait becomes part and parcel of the very essence and being of the individual, his very nature.

It is also clear that when a person - as in the case of all living things - wishes to change an inborn trait which is deeply rooted in him, not to mention something that touches his essential nature, it de-mands tremendous effort, and the outcome is bound to be destructive rather than constructive, creating a terrible upheaval in him, with most unfortunate results.

I have in mind particularly the Jew, man and woman, who, belonging to one of the oldest nations in the world with a recorded history of over thirty-five hundred years, is naturally and innately bound up with the Jewish people with every fiber of his life and soul.

Hence, such sects or groups which tried to depart from the true Jewish way of life of Torah and Mitzvos [commandments] could not survive, as history has amply demonstrated. Such dissident groups uprooted themselves from their natural soil, and, far from being constructive, became the worst enemies of the Jewish people and their worst persecutors.

Only Jews who have faithfully adhered to the Torah and Mitzvos, as they were revealed on Mount Sinai, have survived all their oppressors, for only through the Torah and Mitzvos can the Jewish people attach themselves to the Superior and Supreme Power, G-d, who has given us the Torah and our way of life.

Since the Torah and Mitzvos and the Jewish way of life come from G-d and His infinite wisdom, they are not subject to man's approval and selection. Human reason is necessarily limited and imperfect. Its deficiencies are obvious, since with time and study it improves and gains knowledge, and personal opinions change. To confine G-d to human judgment would do violence even to common sense.

In our long history we have had the greatest human minds possible, who nevertheless realized their limitations when it came to the knowledge of G-d and His laws and precepts.

We have had great thinkers and philosophers, who not only fully accepted the Torah and Mitzvos, but have been our guiding lights to this day, while the dissident groups and individuals (whose number are very few) were cut off from our people and either disappeared completely, or, worse still, continued as painful thorns in the flesh of our people and humanity at large.

Anyone who is familiar with our history requires no illustrations or proofs of the aforesaid.

I trust you will reflect on the above and you will cherish the great and sacred knowledge which has been handed down to each and every one of us, in the midst of our people, generation after generation, from the revelation at Mount Sinai to the present day.

Accepting this sacred tradition unconditionally and without question does not mean that there is no room for any intellectual understanding.

Within our limitations there is a great deal we can understand and which we can further enrich, provided the approach is right; our insight into His commandments grows deeper with our practicing them in our daily life and making them our daily experience. In this way the Jew attains true peace of mind and a harmonious and happy life, not only spiritually but also physically, and fully realizes how happy one is to be a son or daughter of this great and holy nation, our Jewish people.

Hoping to hear good news from you, and

With blessing,

What's In A Name

GAD is from the Hebrew meaning "good fortune." According to one commentator it could also be from the Hebrew word for a small group. Gad was one of the sons of Jacob from his wife Zilpa (Genesis 30:11).

GA'ALYA means "G-d has redeemed." A similar name with a totally different meaning is GALYA, which means "hill of G-d."

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

This Friday, the second of Iyar (May 6 this year) is the birthday of the Rebbe Maharash, Rabbi Shmuel, the fourth Lubavitcher Rebbe.

When the Rebbe Maharash was seven years old, he was once tested in his studies by his father, the Tzemach Tzedek. He did so well in the test that his teacher was enormously impressed. Unable to restrain himself, he said to the Tzemach Tzedek, "Well, what do you say? Hasn't he done marvellous?" The Tzemach Tzedek responded, "What is there to be surprised about that 'tiferet within tiferet' does well?"

What is tiferet within tiferet? Tiferet is the sixth of the ten sefirot (Divine Emanations), and the third of the seven emotive attributes within Creation.

The Rebbe Maharash's bithday, the second of Iyar, takes place during the period known as "Sefirat HaOmer" (the Counting of the Omer) when we count the seven weeks between Passover and Shavuot. Each of these 49 days is associated with a different combination of the seven emotive attributes. The second of Iyar is associated with tiferet within tiferet, i.e., beauty with beauty - an extraordinarily high spiritual level. (For more on the Counting of the Omer and its relevance to our lives today visit

The second of Iyar is also associated with the Rebbe Maharash's characteristic pattern of conduct, known as "lechatchila ariber."

As the Rebbe Maharash would say, "People usually say, 'If you can't crawl under, try to climb over,' and I say, lechatchila ariber: 'Right from the outset, you should go over.'" This approach can and should be actualized by each one of us in our daily lives and when properly internalized will help us fulfill our individual mission in the world.

Thoughts that Count

Rebbi [Yehuda HaNasi] said, "...Be as careful in a minor mitzva as with a major one, for you do not know the reward given for the mitzvot (commandments)..." (Ethics of the Fathers 2:1)

Fulfill all of the mitzvot in order to please your Creator, not in order to receive reward or honor. One who is interested in achieving honor through the mitzvot tries to fulfill the "major" mitzvot, whereas he tends to place less emphasis on the "minor" mitzvot. That is, he fulfills the mitzvot which will bring him more honor.

(Or Torah of the Maggid)

He [Rabbi Gamliel] used to say: "Fulfill His will as you would your own will, so that He may fulfill your will as though it were His will..." ((Ethics of the Fathers 2:4)

Try to make the will of the Almighty your own will, and fulfill His will as you fulfill your own wholeheartedly and with enthusiasm. And if the Almighty's will is difficult for you to fulfill, set aside your will because of His will. As a reward, the Holy One, blessed is He, will nullify the will of others, who do not agree with the way you would like things to be, and He will agree with your view.

(Machzor Vitri)

He used to say: "...The bashful person cannot learn, neither can the short-tempered teach..." ((Ethics of the Fathers 2:5)

A student should not be too bashful in front of his colleagues to say, "I do not understand." Rather, he should ask and ask again, even several times.

(Shulchan Aruch HaRav)

A teacher who is overly rigid and oppressive prevents his words from being accepted by his audience. His students will not be able to discuss their learning with him in the proper way.


It Once Happened

Rabbi Yehuda Leib was on his way home to Vitebsk after having visited the Rebbe Maharash (the fourth Chabad-Lubavitch Rebbe, Rabbi Shmuel). Sitting in the train station, he noticed a bearded Jew pacing back and forth. Every few minutes he would look toward him as if he wanted to communicate something to him.

Suddenly, the Jew stopped pacing and approached him. "Are you a Chasid of the Lubavitcher Rebbe?" the Jew asked.

When Reb Yehuda Leib answered in the affirmative, he continued, "Then you should know that your Rebbe is a holy man, who possesses Divine knowledge. Please allow me to tell you my story. It relates very closely to the Rebbe, and I'm sure you will find it very interesting. And the man continued:

"I was born into an observant family and lived in one of the small towns which dot this region. I learned in yeshiva like all of my friends, and I was an excellent student. My memory and facility in Torah learning marked me as one of the best students of our group. However, at that time, when I was young, many of my fellows were attracted to the glamour and excitement of the big cities. They wanted to acquire secular knowledge, and many left their small towns and traveled to the big cities.

"I was no exception and I, too, wanted to expand my knowledge: I, too, wanted to see the world and not be 'trapped' in our little town. So, I left home and went to Petersburg, where I was accepted as a medical student in the university there.

"I was very successful. I completed my studies easily. Then, I married a non-Jewish woman and within little time, I assimilated completely into the society of the Russian intelligentsia, who were my new friends and companions. They accepted me fully and it wasn't long before I completely forgot about being Jewish altogether.

"Everything was going along quite well, and I was enjoying my life until one night. On that night my whole life changed. That night I dreamt that my father came and begged me to repent of my ways.

"I ignored that dream, for after all, it is a known thing that dreams are mere fantasies. But the dream repeated itself night after night until I was consumed by it and could think of nothing else.

"One evening my wife and I were invited by some friends to attend a soiree. The party was in full swing, the orchestra was playing and elegant couples circled the dance floor. Suddenly, the old Jew from my dream appeared accusingly in front of me. I always carried a pistol with me, and, in a burst of anger, I drew it and fired at the phantom.

"At once the music stopped and everyone looked at me in horror. For myself, I returned home, mortified at my own senseless behavior. After a sleepless night of reflection, I decided to change my life.

"The following day I headed for Lubavitch where I intended to beg the Rebbe to guide me and prescribe a path of repentance for me. But when I entered his room, he abruptly stood up and turned away from me. Without a glance in my direction, he said, 'What is a man who murdered his father doing in my home?'

"I nearly fainted. Before me stood a holy man who saw with Divine insight, who knew everything that was in my heart. I burst out in bitter tears which sprung from the depths of my broken heart, and I begged the tzadik to tell me how I could repent.

"He commanded me to sell all my possessions quietly and move to a location where no one knew me. He also gave me very specific directions for the atonement of my soul.

"Before I departed from the Rebbe, I asked him how I would know that Heaven has forgiven my sins. He gave me a specific sign. Since that time many years have passed, during which I have fulfilled his instructions to the letter, all the while waiting and hoping to see that sign. A short time ago the sign which the Rebbe gave me was fulfilled. Now I am on my way to inform the Rebbe of the good news. Since you are the first Chasid I met on my way, I felt I had to share this story with you. I hope you found it interesting."

Adapted from Journeys with the Rebbes

Moshiach Matters

In the days of Moshiach there will be a stupendous revelation of Divinity. For G-d, who is known as "the tzaddik (righteous one) of the world," this revelation will be a kind of "teshuva" (repentance) - for having withheld this light from His people throughout all the years of exile.

(Or HaTorah, Vayikra, p. 235)

  1168: Kedoshim1170: Behar  
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