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Devarim Deutronomy

May 13, 2011 - 9 Iyyar, 5771

1170: Behar

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

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  1169: Emor1171: Bechukosai  

Passover Again?!  |  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

Passover Again?!

by Rabbi Eliyahu Touger

Another Seder! Celebrating Passover again? Isn't one Passover enough?

No, this is not a summer re-run, and we don't hold another Seder on "Pesach Sheini - the Second Passover," but the holiday does provide us with important lessons.

The Torah tells us that in the second year after the exodus from Egypt, G-d commanded the Jews to celebrate Passover in the desert. When Moses communicated this command to the people, he was approached by several Jews who were ritually impure.

"Why should we be deprived?" they demanded. "Why can't we offer the Passover sacrifice together with the Jewish people?"

They knew that they were ritually impure, and they knew that a person who is ritually impure is not allowed to bring a sacrifice. But they did not want to be left out. They appreciated that offering the sacrifice involved a deeply moving spiritual experience, and they wanted to be part of it. With sincere feeling, they approached Moses and asked him to allow them to participate.

Moses recognized that their request was genuine and brought it before G-d.

G-d replied, telling Moses to institute a second Passover. One month after the first Passover sacrifice, anyone who was impure, on a distant journey, or otherwise prevented from bringing the sacrifice was given a second chance. On the fourteenth of the Hebrew month of Iyar, such a person could offer a Passover sacrifice.

The Previous Rebbe explained, the lesson of Pesach Sheini is that it is never too late to correct the past and return to G-d. It also emphasizes the power of a Jew's initiative. When a Jew cries out, from the depths of his soul and with a genuine desire to fulfill G-d's will, G-d listens to his plea and grants his request.

This teaches us that nothing is ever lost, that there is always an opportunity to correct our situation. Even a person who feels distant from G-d, or impure need not despair. G-d is sensitive to his sincere requests, and will create a special opportunity for him to draw close.

The way in which the holiday was instituted shows us the importance of making demands of G-d. When a Jew feels a sincere spiritual desire, he should insist to be given an opportunity for spiritual expression.

In particular, this motif applies with regard to Moshiach's coming. We should not merely passively wait for the Redemption. Instead, with a sincere and positive stubbornness, we should persist in our calls for an end to exile.

From Keeping in Touch published by Sichos In English

Living with the Rebbe

In this week's Torah portion, Behar, we learn about the laws governing the sale of lands, and the prohibitions against fraud and usury. Most of the portion, however, is dedicated to the laws of the Sabbatical Year. The Torah states: "Six years you shall sow your field. and harvest your crops, but the seventh year shall be a Sabbath of strict rest for the land, you must not sow your field." (Lev. 25:3)

"If you wonder, 'What will we eat in the seventh year?' I shall command My blessing upon you in the sixth year to yield crops for three years." (Ibid. 25:20-22)

This passage, which speaks of the mitzva (commandment) of Shemita (the Sabbatical year for the Land of Israel), may also be interpreted in the context of the world at large and the redemption.

The six years of working the land are analogous to the first six millennia of the world's existence, when everything is prepared for the seventh millennium by means of Torah and mitzvot.

Our present generation is near the end of the sixth millennium. This raises an obvious question: Why should our generation, which is qualitatively so much lower than all our predecessors, merit to experience the Messianic redemption? What makes us more worthy than the spiritual giants of the past that we shall usher in the "seventh year," the "day that is entirely Shabbat and repose for life everlasting"? In other words, we have a metaphorical paraphrase of the question, "What will we eat in the seventh year.?"

The Divine response is: "I shall command My blessing upon you in the sixth year." The stature and deeds of the earlier generations were indeed much greater than those of now. On the other hand, the present state of moral corruption throughout the world requires an unprecedented amount of fortitude and self-sacrifice to carry out even our minimal obligations. This lends our continued observance of Torah and mitzvot a quality and blessing superseding that of our predecessors. Thus we are more than worthy to experience the redemption.

We shall merit the "crops for three years," i.e., of the three stages in the Messianic era: the initial redemption, the later stage of the resurrection of the dead, and the ultimate "seventh millennium."

From Living With Moshiach, adapted from the works of the Rebbe by Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet

A Slice of Life

To Know and To Care
by Rabbi Eli and Malka Touger

Yaakov, a taxi owner from Tel Aviv, was accustomed to driving others. Now, however, it was his creditors who were driving him - to desperation.

He thought the purchase of his own cab would increase his income, because it would save him from paying a monthly percentage for a company taxi. Instead, the purchase plunged him deeper into debt. He exhausted the resources that friends and family could give him, and the interest on bank loans was devouring a major source of his income. Furthermore, he was beginning to discover that it was costly to maintain his own taxi.

Yaakov needed an urgent $1000 dollar loan, but to whom could he turn? Finally, he thought of asking the other drivers in his company. It was embarrassing, but he had no other alternative; he needed money urgently.

He thought of Amnon, a taxi driver who was Shabbat observant. Amnon was often taunted by the other drivers. "Ridiculous! Most of our income comes from Shabbat fares when there is limited bus service." They mocked Amnon's parked taxi. "Lease it to someone else over Shabbat, Amnon. At least make some commission." Amnon refused.

Yaakov was surprised when Amnon offered to lend him the entire sum. He hadn't expected him to agree so readily, and he certainly did not think that he would have had such a sum available. He had hoped for no more than part of the amount and for advice on whom to approach for the balance of the money.

But Amnon added, "Before I give you the money, I want you to hear me out," Amnon said.

Though he was in no mood for conversation, Yaakov had no choice but to listen. "Listen," began Amnon. "I experienced the same hassle you are going through when I first started out. I worked day and night, and I still couldn't get out of debt."

"Yes," Yaakov mumbled. "I remember."

Amnon continued, "You might also remember that my son became critically ill. My wife and I struggled during the weeks he was in and out of the hospital, but the doctors could not cure him. We even tried different kinds of natural remedies and healing charms, but nothing helped. One day, an observant neighbor with whom I had little contact stopped me in the hallway.

"Do you mind if I have a word with you?' he asked politely. 'I would like to give you some advice concerning your sick son.'

"I was inclined to shrug him off, but I was so emotionally spent that I listened wearily. 'A Rabbi in New York has helped many people in time of need,' he said. 'Let me give you his address. You have nothing to lose by requesting his blessing.'

"The name and address he gave me was that of Rabbi M. M. Schneerson at '770' Eastern Parkway. In reply to my letter, Rabbi Schneerson gave my son a blessing and directed me to incorporate Shabbat, kosher, and tefilin into my life. It was a difficult transition, but let me tell you, my son recovered. And since we started keeping Shabbat, my income has been steady. We have even managed to save some money."

Amnon took a deep breath. "The money that I will lend you comes from keeping Shabbat. I'd like you to try to keep Shabbat for a while as part of our loan agreement."

Yaakov needed the money and agreed to start observing Shabbat. As a result, many things in his life changed for the better. Within several months, he repaid the loan.

Shortly after the Rebbe assumed leadership, several young American men from secular backgrounds began studying in the Lubavitcher yeshiva. One of them, a student from Chicago, received his draft notice a few short months after he had begun studying.

He was very upset. "While I was not observant," he explained to his friends, "I had all the time in the world and misused it, and yet I was not drafted. Now suddenly, when I've started to appreciate the importance of time, and have begun using it wisely, I am no longer my own master. How could G-d do this to me?"

With complaints of this nature, and with some practical questions such as "Should I claim to be a conscientious objector, or should I flee to Canada and begin studying in the Lubavitcher yeshiva in Montreal?" he approached the Rebbe.

The Rebbe told him to enter the army and not to worry about the lost time. "It is a descent," the Rebbe explained, "for the purpose of an ascent."

The student spent two years in the army, serving in different posts in Western Europe. He fastidiously observed the mitzvot (commandments), finding time to pray and study in even the most difficult of circumstances.

When he completed his tour of duty, he returned to New York and prepared for a private audience with the Rebbe. He had several serious questions concerning his future: Should he return to yeshiva, or should he begin contemplating a career? Should he start considering marriage? And he had some questions regarding religious observance.

All in all, he had 10 major questions, each with several minor inquiries associated with it. He wrote down his 10 major questions, but instead of handing the list to the Rebbe, he held it in his own hand and asked the questions verbally. To each of his major questions, the Rebbe answered in great detail, anticipating all the minor questions that were in his mind.

As the young man asked question after question, he grew more amazed at the Rebbe's answers. Obviously, he was reading his mind!

After having five questions answered in this fashion, he froze in amazement, unable to continue. The Rebbe, however, continued for him, stating both the questions and the answers, until in he had dealt with all 10 issues that the young man had wished to resolve.

From To Know and to Care published by Sichos in English

What's New

New Emissaries

Rabbi Levi and Shainy Greenberg will be moving to El Paso, Texas, where they will be serving as Youth and Program Directors at Chabad of El Paso.

New Synagogue

A new synagogue for Mountain Jews of Azerbaijan took place this past month in Baku. The beautiful synagogue was built at the expense of the government and took less than six months to complete.

The Rebbe Writes

Rosh Chodesh Iyar, 5741 [1981]
To All Participants In the
Annual Dinner of Oholei Torah
G-d bless you all!

Greeting and Blessing:

I was pleased to be informed about the forthcoming Annual Dinner on the 13th of Iyar, on the eve of Pesach Sheni. May G-d grant that it should be with much Hatzlocho [success].

Pesach Sheni came about, as the Torah tells us, when (on the first anniversary of the Exodus from Egypt) there were several Jews who were unable to offer the Korban Pesach [Passover offering] and celebrate Pesach with all the Jewish people, and they voiced their unhappiness with a heartfelt appeal: "Why should we be deprived of this Mitzvah [commandment]?" And for the sake of these several Jews, indeed for the sake of each one of them, an entirely new chapter was incorporated in the Torah, and a special day was designated in our calendar Pesach Sheni, with its particular Mitzvos and all this "unto your generations" - for all posterity.

Thus the Torah, Toras Chaim ("instruction in living"), emphatically reminds us how precious each and every Jew is, and that no Jew should ever be deprived of his natural right to fulfill all the Mitzvos, by reason of circumstances, such as being on a "faraway journey," and the like.

It has often been emphasized that the best way of coping with spiritually "deprived" Jews, as in the case of any problem, is - prevention: to see to it that no Jew should ever find himself in a state of being on a "faraway journey" from Yiddishkeit [Judaism]. This can be achieved only through a Torah-true education, permeated with the spirit of dedication, that is implanted in Jewish children from their earliest childhood, in keeping with the principle, "Educate the youngster in the proper path; even when growing old he will not depart from it."

Such is the kind of education that is implanted in the students of Oholei Torah, with much Hatzlocho [success], as is well known to those who are familiar with this educational institution.

However, it is up to all of us to see to it that this Torah institution should not find itself in a position where it must come with a heartfelt appeal: "Why should we be deprived?" Surely, it must not be kept back by the lack of financial means, from carrying on its vital educational work, and, moreover, from expanding its facilities for a growing number of students. This is the obligation and privilege of the loyal friends and supporters of Oholei Torah.

With prayerful wishes to the Honored Guests and all who are active participants in this great endeavor, and with esteem and blessing for Hatzlocho,

16 Iyar 5711 [1951]

I was pleased with the opportunity to exchange a few words with you. As you connected your visit with the day of Pesach Sheni which we observed on the day before yesterday, I want to make it the subject of this letter.

One of the significant lessons of Pesach Sheni is never to despair even when one has not attained the spiritual heights of others. Thus, while all the people are celebrating the Passover at its proper time, and one finds himself "far away," or otherwise unfit to enter the Sanctuary, he is told: Do not despair; begin your way towards the Sanctuary; come closer and closer; for you have a special chance and opportunity to celebrate the second Passover, if you try hard enough.

Please convey my regards and best wishes to your circle.


What's In A Name

YEHUDI comes from the word "odeh" which means "praise." In Jeremiah (36:14) Yehudi was the name of a man who served King Jehoikim. Yehudi was used as a generic name to refer to a person from the part of Israel known as "Yehuda" - Judah. More recently, it has become the modern Hebrew word for Jew.

YAACOVA is the feminine form of Yaacov (Jacob). In I Chronicles (4:36) Yaacova was a male member of the tribe of Shimon. Today, however, it is used exclusively as a feminine name.

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

This Wednesday, May 18, is Pesach Sheini - the Second Passover.

Every year, on the fourteenth of Nissan, the Jews brought the Passover offering. This commandment was incumbent upon each Jew.

However, the Jews who were spiritually unclean, were forbidden to participate. They therefore complained, and cried out to Moses, "Why should we be different?" - How are we to achieve a similar level of closeness with G-d?

Moses, through Divine direction, informed them that, in fact, they would have a chance. On the fourteenth of Iyar they could bring the Passover offering.

This incident offers two lessons to us:

The Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, explained that Pesach Sheini proves that it is "never too late"; we always have a chance to make amends, improve.

An additional lesson relates to the way in which Pesach Sheini came about. According to Midrashic literature, the laws concerning Pesach Sheini were already "written in the Heavens." A new law wasn't created; G-d was just waiting for the people to request it.

Why is this so important? It is similar to the Third Holy Temple, which is all "ready to go" and missing only that we cry out for it. It is similar, also, to Moshiach, who is "just waiting for the signal" from us.

But, we must also remember that our request cannot be made mechanically.It must have the same quality of earnestness that our ancestors exhibited when they requested Pesach Sheini.

Thoughts that Count

Akavya ben Mehalel said: "Reflect upon three things and you will not come near sin: Know from where you came, and to where you are going, and before whom you are destined to give an accounting..." (Ethics of the Fathers 3:1)

Reflect upon three things - all three together. However, if you reflect on only one, or some of them, not only will they be ineffective, but such a meditation could even cause harm. If you reflect only on the first, you will come to the conclusion that you are not to blame for anything. If you reflect only on where you are going you might mistakenly believe that there is no ultimate judgment and accounting. Therefore, we are told to also reflect on "before Whom you are destined to give an accounting." All three aspects of this mediation are dependent upon each other.

(Midrash Shmuel)

In addition to the obvious reference to the three concepts, this Mishna teaches a person that he must have three entities in mind and when he does so, he "will not come to sin." Generally, a person thinks about two entities, himself and G-d, for "I was created solely to serve my Creator." We must be aware of a third entity, the world at large which was created by G-d for a Jew to use in service of Him, i.e., that a Jew through his service should refine his body and his soul, and spread refinement in the world at large, transforming it into a dwelling for G-d.

(The Lubavitcher Rebbe, 13 Iyar, 5751)

Rabbi Shimon said: "... three who ate at one table and did speak words of Torah there, it is as if they had eaten from the table of G-d..." (Ethics of the Fathers 3:3)

Three together can recite "let us bless," the opening phrase before Grace after Meals, and in this way they form a pool of blessing so that each person partaking of the meal can draw off water according to his needs. But this must be preceded by words of Torah which enable them to form this pool of blessing.

(Tzemach Tzedek, Or HaTorah)

It Once Happened

Once, when Reb Elimelech of Lyzhansk was travelling, he heard a heavenly voice announce that the rabbi of Nikolsburg, Reb Shmelke was having terrible problems with those who were bitterly opposed to his spiritual path. The heavenly voice promised great rewards in the World to Come for the one who would extricate Reb Shmelke.

Reb Elimelech turned to his companion and asked, "Did you hear anything?" But his companion replied that he had heard nothing at all. From that, Reb Elimelech deduced that it was up to him to travel to Nikolsburg and offer his help. As soon as he arrived he asked Reb Shmelke's permission to address his congregation with a hearty sermon that would bring them to resentence. "My friend, I certainly have no objection. But, any criticism will fall on deaf ears."

When it was announced that a visiting preacher would address the congregation, the synagogue filled to capacity. Reb Elimelech used his brilliant scholarship to deliver a speech using the most involved and seemingly erudite arguments to prove that many of the prohibitions mentioned in the Torah were actually permissible.

The congregants were very impressed with his great learning and skillful arguments. So, when they heard that he would speak the following day, they flocked to hear him. But this time he proved to them, now with genuine evidence, that all the precepts which he had so skillfully disproved the previous day were actually true. In fact, he stressed that any deviation from them went completely against the teaching of the Sages.

His words were received in the manner intended, as "words from the heart enter the heart," and the people were moved to repentance. When they realized that the words of their own rabbi had been echoed by this guest preacher, they went as a group to beg Reb Shmelke's forgiveness.

Reb Elimelech left Nikolsburg and continued on his way. Soon after he left the town, he again heard a heavenly voice, this time proclaiming: "Reb Elimelech, because you helped Reb Shmelke, whomever you bless within the next 24 hours will have the blessing realized."

Reb Elimelech's initial happiness over this marvelous gift gave way to bitter disappointment, when after many hours of walking he met not one person he could bless. He cried out his complaint to G-d: "Why did you give me this gift, when you haven't sent me anyone that I can bless?"

Just as he finished his plaint he saw a lone woman walking toward him. He ran up to her and began to heap blessing on the startled woman. Seeing her fright, he reassured her that he meant no harm. He questioned her gently, and she told him about her life situation and the difficulties she and her husband were having with their livelihood. He finished blessing her, and they parted ways, each continuing on his own journey.

From that day on the woman and her husband experienced no more hardships and prospered in their endeavors. Their business grew more and more successful, until they had a comfortable life. They generously shared their blessings with those less fortunate and they were always sure that the stranger who had blessed them was none other than Elijah the Prophet.

Years later Reb Elimelech and his brother Reb Zusha were travelling to collect money for the mitzva (commandment) of redeeming captives. They heard that in a certain city there was a very generous merchant who dispensed a great deal of charity. When they arrived at his residence, they were ushered into his parlor where he was sitting with his wife. No sooner had they seated themselves, than the wife swooned to the floor. When she regained consciousness, she said to her husband, "That is Elijah the Prophet who blessed us, and I'm sure that he has come to remove the blessing."

Reb Elimelech had heard her comment, and he replied, "I am not Elijah, but just a simple Jew, and I am not here to take any blessings from you. Through G-d's will my blessings were brought to fruition."

The merchant turned to Reb Elimelech and asked him how much money he needed to redeem the imprisoned Jews. Hearing the huge sum of five hundred gold rubles, he went to his room and brought out the entire sum and handed it to the Reb Elimelech. But Reb Elimelech was not willing to accept it; he preferred to give other Jews the opportunity of joining in that great mitzva. He accepted a large sum of money, bid a warm farewell to the couple, and continued on his travels.

Moshiach Matters

The coming of Moshiach must be prepared for specifically in the time of exile - a time during which there is "hesech hadaat" (one's reason set aside) from the Redemption, a time during which an enlightened appreciation of the imminent Redemption is set aside. When one lights up the darkest of all places - a situation in which there is hesech hadaat and the very antithesis of the light of Moshiach - the son of David will come.

(The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Shabbat Parshat Mattot-Masei, 5713 [1953])

  1169: Emor1171: Bechukosai  
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