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Devarim • Deutronomy

May 27, 2011 - 23 Iyyar, 5771

1172: Bamidbar

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The Weekly Publication For Every Jewish Person
Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.

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  1171: Bechukosai1173: Nasso  

The G-d Particle  |  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 G-d Particle

The term "the G-d Particle" was coined several years ago by Leon Lederman, a Nobel Prize winning physicist. It's a catchy name, one easier for journalists to write about than other exotic names for sub-atomic particles.

So, what is "the G-d Particle" and does a whimsical name in quantum cosmology really have anything to do with G-d?

The "G-d Particle" has a proper physicist name: the Higgs Boson. Peter Higgs was a Scottish physicist who proposed the particle's existence more than 40 years ago.

But to understand what a Higgs boson is, and why it was called the "G-d Particle," we first have to understand about sub-atomic particles - at least a little.

Atoms, as most people learn in high school, are made up of sub-atomic particles: proton, neutron and electron.

But these sub-atomic particles are themselves made up of other sub-sub-atomic particles of which there are two main types: fermions and bosons.

All the particles have been observed, in nature or the lab - except the Higgs boson. And the Higgs boson is important because it, theoretically, gives everything else mass. It "creates" sub-sub-atomic substance. Makes the quarks and neutrinos real, so to speak.

And the universe is suffused with a field of them. Higgs bosons everywhere.

Hence the name.

All this theorizing leads scientists to some interesting conclusions: Despite the complexity of the universe, there's a fundamental simplicity to creation. Also, the cosmos emerged from "almost nothing." Big things - like stars and people - came from the sub-sub atomic stuff, densely packed. According to the big-bang theory, the universe once had no dimensions, no time, no laws of physics.

This sounds a lot like Genesis, doesn't it? "In the beginning, G-d created...the world (universe) was null and void."

Judaism also posits the absolute oneness, simplicity, and unity of G-d: "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our G-d, the Lord is One." G-d is infinite and indivisible.

G-d "operates" through invisible forces - "angels," emanations, etc.

OK. So the language of modern physics and cosmology sounds like the language of Torah and Chasidism. And therefore?

Obviously an honest scientist won't claim to have discovered G-d in a Higgs boson. And a perceptive Torah scholar - actually, every Jew - knows that G-d, being infinite, transcends our perceptions, descriptions and, well, everything about us. That's why we have mitzvot (commandments) - as a way to connect with the holy, the otherwise totally separate.

But we can learn three things from this confluence of science and Torah: they are not essentially in conflict; questions about the world we live in do not contradict, impede or negate the obligation, value or spiritual force of a mitzva - just the opposite, science reinforces the importance of mitzvot; and finally, we are truly on the verge of Redemption.

The Zohar tells us that in the time before Moshiach, the "fountains of the deep will break open" - scientific knowledge will increase - and "the windows of heaven will open" - mystical knowledge, Chasidut, will be revealed. And the former - the fountains - depend on the latter - the windows of heaven.

Living with the Rebbe

Throughout the thousands of years of Jewish history, countless men, women and children have willingly given up their lives rather than deny their Jewishness. Not only scholars and learned Jews went to the auto-da-fe‚ with the "Shema" on their lips; simple and untutored Jews also chose to die sanctifying G-d's name without hesitation.

This irrational willingness to give up one's life for the sake of G-d seems odd in light of the dictum which states that "nothing can stand in the way of repentance." With the sword at their throats, who could have faulted our ancestors had they agreed to bow down to whatever idol worship was being forced upon them? Why didn't they save their lives by uttering some meaningless phrase or performing some other seemingly insignificant gesture demanded by their tormentors? Could they not have later fully repented and returned to G-d?

This question may be answered by understanding the special nature of the Jewish soul and the relationship it enjoys with G-d. That inner spark of Jewishness, described in Chasidut as "an actual part of G-d above," exists on a plane above time and space. It cannot bear to be severed from its Source for even a moment; the threat of separation from G-d is always utter and absolute. The willingness to give up one's life rather than lose that connection is a consequence of the soul's very nature.

This concept is well illustrated in this week's Torah portion, Bamidbar, in which G-d commands that a census be taken of the Jews. Rashi, the great Torah commentator, notes that because of the great love G-d has for His people, "He counts them at every moment."

This comment must be interpreted beyond its literal meaning, for since the exodus from Egypt, there have only been nine censuses of our people. The tenth census will be taken after the Final Redemption. What then, does it mean that G-d counts the Jews "at every moment"?

The act of counting reduces the objects being counted to their common denominator; both great and small are counted as one. The common denominator among all Jews, without regard for educational status, societal standing or wealth, is the Jewish soul, which exists in every Jew to the same extent and renders all Jews equal.

G-d unceasingly "counts" His children and holds each of them dear, all the time. This love is so overwhelming that the Jew cannot endure being cut off from it for even a moment, even with the knowledge that his later repentance has the power to restore the relationship to what it had been. It is G-d's perpetual "counting" of His children which reveals the innate power of the Jewish soul.

Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

A Slice of Life

Cold Calls
by Mark Siet

Rabbi Mendel Slavin, the director of the Chabad Jewish Center of San Clemente, started building the Chabad synagogue in San Clemente by leafing through the phonebook and calling up Greenbergs and Cohens.

Now the Chabad Center is the heart of a thriving community of practicing Jewish people in San Clemente.

Rabbi Slavin has lived in San Clemente with his wife co-director Tzippy, and their three children, Shua, Yossi and Zelda since 2004.

San Clemente Patch: How do you build a community?

Rabbi Slavin: The way we started was similar to the way Rabbi Boruch Shlomo Cunin, who is the head Shliach (Emissary) of the west coast started.

He (Rabbi Cunin) tells the story about when he first came out here, and you can hear this from most Chabad Rabbis. In those days you had pay phones and you had the yellow pages and the white pages.

You went into a phone booth 'cause you were staying who knows where; you went into a phone booth and looked for the Cohens and the Greenbergs and all the Jewish-sounding names.

You call them up and tell them you are here and are starting a Chabad house and we would like you to come join us. Nine out of 10 people would hang up the phone and the 10th person would most likely kick you out of his house after five minutes.

So you went and you trucked along and, slowly but surely, you got people to come.

You have to realize what our message is. It is one of love, kindness, of making Judaism fun, making sure the children are able to learn. That is the message we are trying to give over.

Eventually we had our core of people who started coming. The first day of Rosh Hashanah when we started we had eight people, the second day 10. So we keep moving along. We meet new people. Sometimes they stop me on the street or in the store.

San Clemente Patch: What made you choose San Clemente to begin your mission?

Rabbi Slavin: For starters, not everybody who has the education that I had chooses to open up a Chabad house. It is choice you make. The Rebbe's (Chabad leader's) vision was to try to get as many people as possible to go out and do it, to encourage it and to say that this is a generation following the holocaust, and assimilation has been so high that desperately needs people to go out. People are not coming to us. We need to go to them, to reach out to them in all the different places of the world.

Before we got married we spoke about opening up a Chabad house and becoming Shluchim. Shluchim are emissaries of the Rebbe to further the Rebbe's vision and to bring people closer to Judaism. All my friends do the same in places like Seattle, Russian, France, Germany, all over the world. At the time we were thinking of coming out here, Chabad was opening up more places in California and my wife Tzippy has family in Long Beach.

We spoke to people about what Jewish life was like here and what it would mean to have a Jewish center; without doing an extensive amount of research, we came to the conclusion that this is the place where a Jewish center could be built and we decided to come. There has been a lot of growth.

San Clemente Patch: Did you have to sell people on their Judaism? What were some of the challenges you faced?

Rabbi Slavin: People who have come to live in San Clemente are here because-and someone told me this - they have come here to get the furthest they can from a synagogue, from practicing their Judaism. The challenges we have here primarily is that people have not been connected to their Judaism for the longest of times.

It is not that they do not like it, they are just not used to it. They have carved a different kind of life out for themselves. My task is to make them comfortable so they should want to come seek Judaism; telling them that materialism is not necessarily what it is; you have to connect to your Jewish roots.

The way we are going about it is to build a network for social events: Friday night dinners, the holidays that are social like Purim and Chanukah.

When they come to these events and meet other Jews that they didn't know lived here, then they get connected to their Jewish roots and start to come to services already. It is an easy sell after that.

San Clemente Patch: What would you say is the most important part about what you do in your work?

Rabbi Slavin: I have a two-fold answer for this. One, in the economy that we are in right now, people are struggling. The help that we can offer to people is one that I consider to be of extreme importance-whether it's helping people with their job through the network that we connected, or helping people financially or just being there for people to speak to giving them guidance based upon what Judaism teaches us; how to get through these tough times.

Equally important is getting somebody to do a mitzva (an act performed as a religious duty). We find ourselves in a time now where we are awaiting the Moshiach (Messiah) every day.

As we say in our prayers three times a day, we want Moshiach to come right now. The way to do this is to look at the world as equal, fifty-fifty, good and bad, and if you do a good deed you tip the scale to the good and Moshiach will come.

This means every time I get somebody to light a Shabbos (Sabbath) candle, put on Tefillin (black boxes containing scrolls with passages of scripture), give charity, come to Shul (worship at the synagogue) do another mitzva that could be the one mitzva that will make Moshiach come.

Reprinted with permission of the author

What's New

Hashem is Truly Everywhere

Hashem is here, Hashem is there, Hashem is truly everywhere! Join a curious boy and his good friend, Tzvi, Who go for a walk to look and see, Up and down and all around, Exactly where Hashem is found! This delightful book, written by Chani Altein and illustrated by Marc Lumer, has laminated pages to keep it clean even from sticky fingers. Published by HaChai Publishing

The Rebbe Writes

In the Days of Sefirah, 5734 (1974)

The official opening of the New Wing of ... in these days of Sefira is truly in keeping with the Mitzvah [commandment] of Counting the Days of the Omer, as reflected in the traditional text - which calls for cardinal numbers ("two days," "three days," etc.) rather than ordinal numbers ("second day," "third day"), as might have been expected.

The idea behind this form of counting is that in all matters of holiness, the results and benefits are cumulative, thus establishing a stronger base for further and greater advancement.

Similarly, the New Wing - a most welcome extension of pre-existing facilities - goes beyond its added value, for it enhances the entire complex of the Centre,

By way of illustration, the weight that two persons can lift together is greater than the sum total of the individual capacities.

In the area of Torah education, the addition of such a facility as the New Wing is a significant contribution not only materially but also spiritually.

For, when the student sees that his school is expanded and flourishing, it strengthens his pride in it and stimulates him to greater achievement in his studies, whether his classroom is in the New Wing or in the older building.

And speaking of Torah education and the building in which it is based, there is a symbolic connection between the essential aspects of both.

For, to be sure, the external aspects of a building are important, and due consideration should be given to make the premises comfortable and attractive even at a glance. Yet it is self-evident that ultimately the most vital part of the building is its foundation, though people hardly even speak about it.

And, insofar as the foundation is concerned, the essential thing is that it should be made of the most durable material, which has been tested and is known to be resistant to the elements of change and erosion. It is of no concern what a bypasser or neighbor might think about the foundation's appearance.

This is especially true of Torah education:

To be sure, the external aspects of the premises are important and praiseworthy.

Indeed, in regard to all Mitzvoth our Sages enunciated the principle of beauty, as witness the commentary on the words of the Torah, "This is my G-d, and I will beautify Him" - "can a man beautify G-d? But I will make myself beautiful to Him through the Mitzvoth... a beautiful Sukkah, beautiful Tzitzith, beautiful Tefillin..."

But one must not lose sight of the fact that the most important thing about Torah education is the quality of the Torah education itself - to permeate the child with the kind of Torah education that will be his unshakable foundation upon which to build a truly beautiful edifice of adulthood, family life, and future generations.

It is surely in this Torah education that the Lubavitch Community Centre takes greatest pride, and deserves the utmost cooperation, both materially and spiritually.

Lag B'Omer, 5721 (1961)

I received your letter of the 8th of Iyar, and I was pleased to read in it your efforts to strengthen Judaism among the youth.

You write that you have been invited to lecture to a youth group, and ask for some suggestions in this connection.

You surely know my general principle, that the accent should be placed on action, in accordance with the teaching of our Sages, "The essential thing is the deed."

This applies to every activity, including lectures, which must bring some practical benefit to the participants in their daily lives in the actual fulfillment of the Mitzvoth.

Thus, while the actual background of the audience is not known, the emphasis should be placed on the need for religious practice and experience in everyday life, and not to limit it to special occasions or special days, such as the High Holy days, Shabbos and Yom Tov. For the greater part of life has to do with the everyday, and it is the purpose of Jewish life to bring sanctity even to the weekdays; in the everyday contact with the secular environment.

As we are now in the days of Sefirah, connecting the Festival of Passover - the season of our liberation, with the Festival of Shavuot - the season of our receiving the Torah, we are especially reminded that true freedom can be accomplished only through the Torah and Mitzvoth, and on the principle of Naaseh [doing] before Nishmah [understanding], again emphasizing that practice must come before theory.

May G-d grant you success in your activities to strengthen and disseminate true Judaism to the utmost of your ability and this will surely be the channel and vessel to receive G-d's blessings also in your personal needs.

What's In A Name

YIRMIYAHU means "G-d will raise up." Yirmiyahu (Jeremiah) was one of the greatest prophets in Israel. He is especially known as the prophet who foretold the destruction of the First Holy Temple.

YERUSHA means "inheritance." Yerusha was the wife of King Uziah of Judah (II Chronicles 17:1) and the mother of King Yotam.

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

We are in the midst of the Sefira time period approaching and readying ourselves for the Giving of the Torah celebrated on Shavuot. The public revelation of the Torah, which occurred before millions of people, is the central and most definitive event in the history of the world.

Our Sages explained that one of the prerequisites for receiving the Torah was Jewish unity. As it is now right before Shavuot, it is an especially appropriate time to increase our Ahavat Yisrael (love for our fellow Jews) and strengthen a sense of true Jewish solidarity and brotherhood among our ranks.

The Baal Shem Tov taught that we must love every Jew without exception, regardless of merit. To illustrate, he used the following analogy:

G-d performs the same mitzvot He commands the Jewish people to observe. We keep Shabbat, He keeps Shabbat. We put of tefilin, He puts on tefilin. G-d's tefilin, however, do not consist of parchment and leather straps but are the Jewish people themselves, as it were.

G-d's tefilin "shel rosh" (the tefilin that are worn on the head) are the learned Jews, who have utilized their intellect to acquire the Torah's wisdom. His tefilin "shel yad" (tefilin that are worn on the arm) are the simple Jews who perform His mitzvot. Both the tefilin of the head and the tefilin of the arm are necessary components in the mitzva. And yet, in actual performance, the tefilin of the arm take precedence; the tefilin of the head are donned only after the tefilin shel yad have been wrapped on the arm.

From this we learn just how important it is to love every Jew, regardless of social standing or intellectual achievements. For even in G-d's scheme of things the simple Jews come first!

May our firm resolve to increase in Ahavat Yisrael tip the balance in our favor and bring about the immediate revelation of Moshiach now.

Thoughts that Count

There were 10 generations from Noah to Abraham to indicate how great is His patience...until Abraham our father came and received the reward of all of them (Ethics, 5:2)

The generations before Noah had no redeeming virtues whatsoever. They "repeatedly angered G-d" and lived in constant friction, conflict and discord. In contrast, although the generations before Abraham also "repeatedly angered G-d," they at least shared a kindred spirit and treated each other with love. But although their conduct generated reward, they themselves were unfit to receive it. Because Abraham, unlike Noah, sought to influence the people around him for good, he "received the reward" of all the camraderly deeds of the generations that preceded him.

(Likutei Sichot, Vol. III)

A 20-year-old should pursue a living (Ethics, 5:22)

The first 20 years of a man's life should be largely devoted to toiling in Torah (beginning at age five): five years dedicated to Scripture, five years entirely Mishna, and five years devoted to Talmud. This method of learning is not designed to have an effect on the world, as such, but rather on the person himself, so that he will develop properly. From the age of 20, a man's duty is to be a "soldier." He must go to war to conquer the world and make it a fitting dwelling place for G-d by fulfilling the mitzvot.

(Biurim L'Pirkei Avot)

The world was created by means of ten [Divine] utterances (Ethics, 5:1)

According to the principles of Torah numerology, five represents a level of G-dliness above all limitation, while ten reflects the structure of our finite, material world. The intent of this chapter of Ethics of the Fathers is to reveal the G-dliness which transcends all limitations within the context of our material existence.

(Sefer HaSichot 5751, Vol. II)

It Once Happened

The rabbi was sitting at his desk, immersed in study, when there was a knock on the door. Opening it, he saw a Jew clutching a bundle of money. The man explained that he was on his way to a nearby village on business. Now that it was almost nightfall he was afraid to travel with so much. He asked if he could leave the money with the rabbi until his return trip.

At first the rabbi hesitated, as it was very large sum of money. But the man begged and implored him, and in the end he agreed. The rabbi put the bundle in a safe place and resumed his study.

A short time later there was another knock at the door. This time it was a Jew from his own village, who begged the rabbi to lend him five rubles to buy a cow that was being offered for sale very inexpensively. The man said he would return the money the following morning after he had sold the cow.

"I would gladly help," the rabbi said, "but I don't have five rubles."

The rebbetzin, who had overheard the conversation, whispered into her husband's ear: "What about the rubles in that bundle? Surely you can lend this man five rubles overnight."

The rabbi hesitated. The Torah prohibits tampering with a pledge. But the rebbetzin pleaded the man's case so fervently that the rabbi gave in. The man promised to leave the cow in the rabbi's courtyard overnight.

That evening, the rabbi went to sleep uncomfortable about having tampered with the pledge.

Early the next morning a loud banging awakened the rabbi. It was the police. Pointing to the cow in the courtyard, they informed the rabbi that it had recently been stolen from its rightful owner. The rabbi realized that he had fallen into a trap, but it was too late. He was led off to the police station.

Foremost on the rabbi's mind was the disgrace this could bring upon the Jewish community. G-d forbid that the affair should become public knowledge! He convinced himself that in an emergency situation like this, surely he was allowed to use some of the money in his keep. He bribed the prison guards handsomely and was quietly released before word spread.

Much to the rabbi's surprise, however, the man who had deposited the money with him for safekeeping came back earlier than anticipated. He arrived that very day to reclaim it.

When the rabbi muttered ashamedly that he no longer had the money, the man turned white. Despite the rabbi's assurances that he would find the money, the man became increasingly agitated until he suddenly fell to the floor. A doctor who was summoned confirmed that he was dead.

For the second time in a day the police led the rabbi off. But this time the charges against him were worse. The investigation that ensued revealed his tampering with the original pledge, his bribery of the guards, and his role in the depositor's death. The rabbi was sentenced to 10 years in jail.

Overnight, the rabbi was reduced from a respected leader of the community to a common criminal. Even his cell mate, a young Jewish man who was also serving a ten-year sentence, felt pity for him.

Time passed, and the village priest paid a visit to the hapless inmates. Addressing his words to the younger Jew, the priest promised his freedom if he renounced his faith. The young man rejected the offer adamantly.

After the priest left, the young man brooded for awhile before revealing what was troubling him. "Maybe I made a mistake. I could always run away to another country and resume my Judaism there..."

"How could you even consider it?" the rabbi replied, aghast. "How many Jews have willingly given up their lives rather than renounce G-d's Name for even a single moment?"

The following year the priest returned and repeated his offer. This time the young man took him up on it, and he was freed.

Another year passed, and the priest returned. Again the rabbi pushed him away with both hands, but this time the priest would not be deterred. All the rabbi had to do was accept Christianity in his presence, and freedom was his.

The rabbi knew that it was forbidden by Jewish law, but he was so despondent that he agreed. Surely it was preferable to transgress for a single moment than to remain in prison for years...

At that moment the rabbi awoke from his dream, shaken to the depths of his soul. He could not believe that he, an esteemed rabbi, had entertained such a notion even in a nightmare!

A few days earlier the rabbi had been at the deathbed of an elderly Torah scholar. He had helped him recite "vidui," the final confession. They recited the part stating that if the dying person utters anything against G-d in his final moments, it should be considered null and void. The rabbi wondered: How is it be possible for an 80-year-old Torah scholar to deny G-d, even in his final moments?

"Now I have my answer," the rabbi whispered to himself. "Our Sages were certainly justified when they said, 'Do not be sure of yourself until the day you die.'"

Moshiach Matters

The Hebrew word for "redemption" (geula) is composed of the word "exile" (gola) with the addition of the letter "alef." This implies that the redemption is "composed," so to speak, of our service of G-d during the time of golus. Just as the word geula is not made from a separate set of letters, but from the very letters of the word golus, so too the redemption comes through our service in exile - not through some different sort of service.

(The Lubavticher Rebbe, 30 Iyar, 5751-1991)

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