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                         L'CHAIM - ISSUE # 1173
                           Copyright (c) 2011
                 Lubavitch Youth Organization - L.Y.O.
                              Brooklyn, NY
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   Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.
        June 3, 2011             Nasso             1 Sivan, 5771

                              Don't Sleep

When we're anxiously looking forward to something, we get nervous and
"pumped up" with anticipation. Often, we're too excited to sleep.

Shavuot, the holiday celebrating the giving of the Torah, has many
customs. Among them is the custom to stay up all night (or most of it)
studying Torah. This custom makes sense on its own: receiving the Torah
is such a momentous event, who can sleep anyway?

Staying up all night is also a re-enactment of the first time the Torah
was given:  After all, what could be more momentous, more exciting, more
"pulse-pounding" than receiving the Torah?

The Jewish people had a sense of what was coming - a direct revelation
from G-d, a new relationship as a result, and the power to transform the
world, to invest and imbue creation with holiness, through the "simple"
act of performing a mitzva (commandment). Not only would the Jewish
people become a holy nation, a nation of priests, but they also, through
their study of Torah and observance of mitzvot, would become a "light
unto the nations," making possible Tikkun Olam,  the perfection of

But the custom to stay up the night of Shavuot is actually based on a
Midrash. The Midrash teaches that the first time around, when the Torah
was to be given on Mount Sinai, the Jewish people not only fell asleep
that night, they "slept in" the next day - they overslept! G-d had to
wake them up!

How could that be? For 49 days the Jewish people had anxiously and with
great anticipation counted the days. They'd gone through a whole series
of preparations. And yet, when the time came they fell asleep! And they
didn't even wake up on time.

As a result, as a correction, we stay up all night studying Torah.

But still, the question remains,  what happened?

Chasidic philosophy provides an answer. It discusses the nature of our
comprehension of, and attachment to, G-dliness. Chasidut explains that
however deep that comprehension or great that attachment of the soul
within the body, the comprehension and attachment is magnitudes greater
for the soul when it resides above.  (Tanya, ch. 37)

When we sleep, our soul ascends to the heavenly realms. So the sleep of
the Jewish people the night of Shavuot, the night before the giving of
the Torah, was actually meant to be a higher level of preparation,
allowing the soul to achieve a closer connection beforehand, and able to
have a deeper comprehension of the nuances and meanings of the Torah
once given.

But if that's the case, why do we have to stay up all night now, as a

The answer is that Torah is not in heaven. The Torah was given so that
the physical world could be perfected, purified, made into a fit
dwelling place for G-dliness. This requires mitzvot, and mitzvot can
only be done by a soul in a body.

And that means just as the Torah requires a soul in a body, so the
preparation for receiving the Torah should be by a soul in a body.
"Sleeping through it," letting the soul go to heaven to prepare on its
own, goes against the purpose. So we must fix it by not sleeping.

This week's Torah portion, Nasso, describes the offerings that the 12
tribal leaders of Israel brought for the altar beginning on the day the
Tabernacle was consecrated. On each tribe's appointed day, its leader
brought a gift.

The Torah, normally sparing in its use of words, enumerates every detail
of each tribe's offering, even though all the gifts were exactly the

The Torah is not a history book, recording events that occurred long
ago. It's teachings are relevant to each person in every generation.
What, then, can we learn from the repetition of the exact same offerings
12 times?

There are 12 different paths by which a Jew can become closer to G-d,
corresponding to the twelve tribes of Israel. Each tribe followed a
unique path in its service of G-d. Each leader dedicated the offerings
according to his own manner of spiritual service.

Despite the uniqueness of each offering, and the spiritual path which
each represented, they were considered to be communal offerings. They
were brought, not on behalf of the individual, but on behalf of all the
Jewish people. It is for this reason, explains the Midrash, that the
Torah does not distinguish whose offering was brought on which day.

This juxtaposition of the uniqueness of the individual and the equality
of the collective whole is mirrored in the fact that the tribal leaders'
spiritual intentions were unique while the actual physical offerings
were the same. This is also true of the Jewish people; each Jew is
unique and yet all Jews are equal.

There are certain qualities which all Jews share equally. And, there are
also other qualities within each Jew which are uniquely personal.
However, even the uniquely personal qualities can lead to unity among
the Jewish people.

How so? When Jews realize that all Jews need each other, and that only
by binding ourselves with our fellow Jew can we be complete.

The dedication gifts from the tribal leaders, mentioned above, were
offered in a similar manner. Each leader brought his tribe's gift in a
unique way on a separate day. However, each of these offerings was
imbued with, and accompanied by, the feeling that this offering was also
a communal offering-united with all the other leaders and tribes.

     Excerpted from The Wellsprings of Chassidus - adapted from the
        works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe by Rabbi Sholom B. Wineberg.

                             SLICE OF LIFE
                            Explaining Life
                           by Rabbi Eli Hecht

Recently, when visiting my ailing father the following took place:

It was 3:30 a.m. My father was sitting in his wheelchair. He was helped
into his wheelchair by the 24-hour nurse. He was just too weak to lift
himself. "I don't have any strength," he said.

So it has been for a year, that he goes to sleep and after an hour or
two wakes up.  He has a drink of tea and then is helped back to bed. He
sleeps another hour or two and then gets up and asks to be put back into
the wheelchair to have tea and biscuits. He stays up as long as he can
and then falls asleep in the chair.

This is his nightly routine. It's every night, week after week, month
after month. Nothing changes. Somehow his nights are extensions of his
days. He just can't sleep a regular night. Days have become nights and
everything is topsy turvy.

Well, that night I could not sleep so I joined my dear father at 3:30
a.m. for tea and a philosophy talk.

We begin to discuss what is the purpose of living when enduring so much
pain and suffering. And what could be the reason that his children,
grandchildren and great grandchildren must see him in pain. It was a
heavy night indeed. Both of us were coming to terms with the entire
spectrum of the life cycle and we were having a father/son moment.

I thought and then observed that  "It's not up to us to deal with
finding a reason to live or to die. It's up to G-d Almighty."

Let me qualify with a teaching of Judaism.

A Midrash says that Moses petitioned G-d, "Please reveal to me Your ways
of conducting the world." G-d replied, "No man can see Me and live!"
Before his death, G-d wanted to demonstrate Moses' greatness to the
Heavenly hosts. He therefore called the angel Gavriel and ordered him,
"Go and bring to Me Moses's soul!"

"Master of the Universe, how can I cause the death of a human being who
is equal to the Jewish nation?"

Then G-d commanded angel Michael to carry out the mission.

"I cannot bear to see him die," replied Michael. "I used to be his

The Almighty then turned to the Angel of Death, "Go and bring to Me
Moses' soul!"

The Angel of Death took hold of his sword ready to carry out his
mission. When he found Moses he was writing a Torah scroll.

"I came to take your soul," said the Angel of Death.

"And who sent you?" Moses asked.

"G-d Who created all," replied the Angel of Death.

"I take the souls of all human beings, such is the natural law of the

"But I am not subject to the laws of nature," insisted Moses. "I am
Amram's son. I am holy from birth. I was able to walk and talk on the
day of my birth like Adam. When I was 80 years old, G-d had me perform
many miracles in Egypt. I led the Exodus of 600,000 Jews in broad
daylight out of Egypt. I split the Sea into twelve parts. I turned
waters bitter, sweet. I sojourned in heaven and conversed with the
Almighty face-to-face. I brought the Torah and the secrets of angels
down to mankind. I fought against the mighty giants Sichon and Og. I
made the sun and moon stand still during battles.

"Who else, among mankind, can do all this? Natural laws that allows you
to take man's soul does not apply to me."

The Angel of Death, confounded, conceded defeat.

Then a Heavenly Voice proclaimed, "Moses, the time of your death is at

"Please do not deliver me to the Angel of Death," Moses begged G-d.

"Do not be afraid," the Heavenly Voice declared. "I Myself will take
care of you."

Moses arose and prepared himself for death, sanctifying himself like one
of the angels.

G-d descended together with the angels and summoned his soul. "My
daughter," He addressed the soul, "I planned for you to remain in Moses'
body for 120 years. Now you must leave, do not delay."

The soul replied, "Master of the Universe, there is no purer body than
Moses', I do not want to leave him."

"I will store you under My Heavenly Throne of Glory, with the angels,"
G-d promised. And so Moses was taken from his earthly body.

So it seems that even Moses, the greatest prophet who ever lived, did
everything possible to stay alive. But he was told by G-d he could not
live in his body but would live in another world and see his work
continue! Moses would now meet all his family that preceded him - Amram,
his father and even the sons of Jacob and the Matriarchs and Patriarchs.
He would see all the future generations grow.

Jews believe in a heaven where souls meet and bask in the glory of G-d.

I said "The main thing is not to leave earlier than we are meant to! G-d
makes the choice and then there is nothing to worry about. When leaving
the body by the express command of G-d and not by choice of man, you
truly live forever. We need to surrender to destiny, then all is well."

So with that my father said, "Eli, I think you've made a strong case.
Worry not. I'll be around as long as I can. Good night and sweet

The Midrash HaGadol teaches: Three things the Lord has kept from His
people: the hour of death, the Day of Judgment and the reward of good
deeds (Midrash Hagadol).

In the meantime we all pray for the health of Avraham Dov ben Sara.

    Rabbi Eli Hecht is vice-president of the Rabbinical Alliance of
    America and past-president of the Rabbinical Council of California.
    He is the director of Chabad of South Bay in Lomita, California.

                               WHAT'S NEW
                               Be There!

Each year on the festival of Shavuot we relive the giving of the Torah
to the Jewish people by G-d at Mount Sinai by hearing the Ten
Commandments read in the synagogue from a Torah scroll. It is a special
mitzva (commandment) for every man, woman and child to be in the
synagogue on Shavuot to hear the Torah reading. This year, the Torah
reading that tells of the giving of the Torah will be read on the first
day of Shavuot, Wednesday, June 8, in synagogues around the world. Many
Chabad-Lubavitch Centers sponsor "ice cream" parties (in keeping with
the ancient tradition of eating dairy products on Shavuot) for the young
and the young at heart. To find out about the closest Shavuot ice cream
party call your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center.

                            THE REBBE WRITES
                    Rosh Chodesh Sivan, 5726 [1966]

This year's Annual Banquet is taking place within several days of
Shavuoth, the Festival of Mattan Torah, the Giving of the Torah at
Sinai. I trust that all participants will bring with them to the Banquet
a goodly measure of the inspiration and joy of this great Yom Tov, and
make the Banquet the success it deserves in every respect.

Our Sages tell us that when G-d was about to give the Torah at Mt.
Sinai, He requested guarantors to ensure that the Torah would be studied
and observed. All guarantees were rejected, until Moshe Rabbeinu [Moses,
our teacher] declared: "Our children will be our guarantors!"

Without this guarantee, not even Moshe Rabbeinu could have received the
Torah. Henceforth, it became the responsibility of Moshe Rabbeinu and,
indeed, of all Jews, to see to it that the Torah and the Torah-way of
life would be perpetuated through our children.

The Torah is called Toras Chaim, the Torah of Life, meaning that it is
both the source of everlasting life as well as the true guide in the
daily life, for Torah means "guidance" and "instruction." It is the
Divine and eternal Torah which we receive annually on Shavuoth and,
indeed, every day throughout the year we renew and reaffirm our eternal
bond with it, as it has been throughout the ages, and in all places
wherever Jews have lived.

It is the work of the Merkos L'Inyonei Chinuch [Central Organization for
Jewish Education established by the Previous Rebbe], in many parts of
this country and the world over, to strengthen the bond between our
Jewish people and the Torah, and particularly, to see to it that the
children would be able, not only to receive their great heritage, but
also transmit it for future generations. Fortunate indeed is the Jewish
community of the Twin Cities [S. Paul and Minneapolis], to have the
Merkos in its midst, and to have also, many devoted friends and
dedicated partners, in this very vital endeavor.

May the Almighty bless each and every one of you, with success in your
efforts in behalf of our children - "our guarantors" - for the
perpetuation of our Jewish way of life, and, indeed, for our survival
and happy future.

                                *  *  *

                          3 Sivan, 5711 [1951]

On the approach of Shavuoth, the Festival of our Receiving the Torah, I
send you herewith my best wishes for an inspired and joyous festival.

The Torah, being G-d-given, is infinite in its aspects. To some it may
be a means to gain reward and avoid punishment, as promised in the
Torah. To others, the Torah is a guide to good, wholesome living, and an
ideal social system. Both views are limited.

Chabad goes deeper than that, delving into the profound inner
significance of the Torah. Accordingly, the underlying purpose of the
Torah is to serve as the link between the Creator and creation.

To amplify this but very briefly: The Creator is Infinite; creation is
finite. There is no common denominator between the two (as is fully
explained in Chabad literature). In this respect, there is no difference
between the "Four Kingdoms" of creation, between the highest intellect
among the men, and the crudest stone, for both are creations, and
consequently have no co-relationship with the Creator.

That is why even the most intellectual of men cannot grasp G-d with his
intellect. However, in His infinite goodness, G-d gave man a possibility
to approach and commune with Him. G-d showed us how a finite created
being can reach beyond his inherent limitations and commune with G-d the

Herein lies the most important aspect of the Torah and Mitzvoth
[commandments], for they provide the ways and means whereby we may reach
a plane over rand beyond our status as created, mortals. Clearly, this
plane is incomparably above the highest perfection which a man can
attain within his own created (hence, limited) sphere.

In this deeper sense we may now understand the words of the Torah: "And
you who cleave unto G-d your G-d, are all living this day."

Wishing you and yours a happy Yom Tov [holiday], with lasting
inspiration throughout the year,

                            WHAT'S IN A NAME
Emanuel means "G-d is with us." Emanuel was the son of the prophet
Isaiah (Isaiah 7:14). In English, it can also be spelled Immanuel.

Elisheva means "G-d's oath." Elisheva was the wife of Aaron (Exodus
6:23). When the Bible was translated into Greek by the 70 Sages (this
translation is know as the Septuagint) the name Elisheva was translated
as Elizabeth.

                        A WORD FROM THE DIRECTOR
                         Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
As the holiday of Shavuot approaches, we are reminded of the beautiful
Midrash which teaches that the Jewish children of every generation are
the reason why G-d gave us the gift of the Torah:

When G-d asked what assurance the Jewish people were offering that the
Torah would be studied, loved and cherished, the Jewish people offered
our Patriarchs as security. But this was not accepted. We then offered
the Torah scholars as the guarantors. This, too, was not acceptable. It
was only when we offered our children as guarantors that G-d approved
our proposal and gave us the Torah.

On the anniversary of an event, the "spiritual energy" that was infused
by G-d into that event is at its strongest. This is the reason why, for
example, we should do our utmost to celebrate our birthdays properly
each year. This is true, too, concerning every Jewish holiday. Which
means that on Shavuot - the celebration of the Giving of the Torah - the
spiritual energy that was invested into that day over 3,000 years ago is
at its strongest.

What is the special spiritual energy of Shavuot and how can we benefit
from it? It was on Shavuot that our ancestors proclaimed, "We will do
and then we will learn." So this is the time when we recommit ourselves
to the actual performance of mitzvot - even if we haven't yet learned or
don't yet understand their reasons.

Shavuot is also the time when the spiritual energy of our children,
being the guarantors for the Torah, is at its strongest. This is the
time when we must renew our commitment to providing our children with a
proper Jewish upbringing and education as well as facilitating the
proper Jewish education of all Jewish children, wherever they may be.

We can begin doing both of the above by going to the synagogue this
Shavuot to hear the reading of the Ten Commandments and by bringing
along with us Jewish children of all ages - children in age, children at
heart, or children in Jewish knowledge. Be there, and be a part of a
3,000-year-old unbroken chain of Jewish commitment and pride.

                          THOUGHTS THAT COUNT
Two Shavuot - Two Promises

The word Shavuot, along with meaning "weeks," for it is the holiday that
comes after counting the omer for seven weeks, also means oaths. On this
holiday two promises were made. First, G-d promised that He would not
exchange the Jewish people for any other. Second, we promised that we
would not exchange G-d for another.

                                             (Book of Our Heritage)

                                *  *  *

Eating Dairy Foods on Shavuot

The numerical value of the Hebrew word for milk - chalav - is equal to
40, which corresponds to the 40 days that Moses spent on Mt. Sinai.

                                         (Rabbi Shimon of Ostropol)

                                *  *  *

A Time to Eat and Rejoice

Passover and Sukkot, which commemorate physical events, may be
celebrated in a purely spiritual manner, while Shavuot, which celebrates
a spiritual event, must be celebrated in both a spiritual and physical
manner. This is to teach us that at the time G-d gave us the Torah, the
entire physical world was affected, and holiness permeated every corner
of the world.

                                                   (Likutei Sichot)

                                *  *  *

Self Esteem and Humility

The giving of the Torah is not merely an event of the distant past, but
is something we are meant to relive every day. The study of Torah should
be approached with fire and enthusiasm, as if we had just received the
Torah today. The fact that G-d chose the smallest mountain on which to
give the Torah teaches that we need humility in order to accept the
Torah, but the fact that G-d chose a mountain, as opposed to a plain or
valley, teaches us that we also need self esteem, pride in our Jewish

                                            (The Lubavitcher Rebbe)

                            IT ONCE HAPPENED
Before the Giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai, G-d brought Moses up to
Heaven in order to teach him the entire Torah. Moses, who walked about
in Heaven as one walks on earth, was greeted by an angel who asked him,
"What are you doing here, son of Amram? What business do you, a mortal
who lives in the physical world, have coming to the holy Heavens?"

"I did not come of my own will," replied Moses confidently. "Our Master
has ordered me here in order to receive the Torah and bring it back to
the Jewish nation."

When the angels realized that Moses had come to take the Torah from the
Heavens and bring it to the Jews, they raised a mighty cry. Would they
now be parted forever more from their beloved Torah?

G-d therefore told Moses, "Go and speak with the angels. Convince them
that they have no need for the Torah and that they have no reason to
regret that it is being taken from them."

But Moses was frightened by the fiery angels. "I am surprised at you,
Moses," chastised G-d. "When I first appeared to you from the burning
bush, you had much to say. You were not afraid to ask and to argue
without end. Why are suddenly frightened by angels who are merely My

Emboldened by G-d's words, and holding on to the Heavenly Throne, Moses
gathered his courage and began. "Whatever was written in the Torah was
not intended for you," Moses told the angels gathered nearby. "What does
the Torah say? 'I am G-d your G-d Who took you out of the land of
Egypt.' Were you ever slaves in Egypt? Did G-d rescue you from there?"
Moses asked the Heavenly servants.

"The Torah also says, 'You shall have no strange gods before Me.' Do you
worship man-made idols? Do you have an inclination to steal, to covet
what belongs to others? Do you have parents that you must honor them? If
not, what use do you have for the Torah? You cannot observe its positive
commandments nor its prohibitions."

Hearing these arguments, the angels had to concede that Moses was right.

Moses remained in Heaven for forty days and forty nights, learning the
entire Written Torah and Oral Tradition. Moses knew when day or night
had passed on earth by the activities of the angels. When he saw the
angels preparing the manna which the Jews were to eat th e following
day, he knew that it was day. When the manna fell, he knew it was
night-time on earth.

One day, Moses saw G-d sitting on His mighty, exalted throne, adding
crowns to the letters of the Torah. He asked G-d to explain a reason for
these decorations and was told, "In many years to come there will be
born a great tzadik by the name of Akiva the son of Josef who will
reveal many hidden secrets of the Torah. He will know how to derive laws
and Torah thoughts from every letterhead and crown which I am now adding
to the letters."

Moses begged to be shown this tzadik. G-d showed him a building which
housed many disciples sitting in rows upon rows. At their head sat a man
who resembled a heavenly angel. Moses approached the men but could not
understand what they were saying, and he was very grieved.

Then, suddenly, Moses heard one of the students ask the angelic-looking
man how he knew all he had been teaching them. Rabbi Akiva replied,
"Everything which I am teaching and innovating before you in Torah is a
direct transmission of what Moses received upon Mount Sinai." Moses was
comforted by these words but asked G-d, "If You intend to create such a
great person, why do You not grant him the privilege of bringing the
Torah down to the Jews?"

"I have especially chosen you to bring the Torah to My children," G-d
told Moses. "But because you were so modest in thinking that Rabbi Akiva
is more fitting than you to transmit the Torah to the Jews, I will
increase your wisdom and knowledge." And at that moment, G-d opened the
fifty gates of wisdom, allowing Moses to pass through 49 of them.
Moses's wisdom was so great that no other person in the world could
compare with him. And it is from Moses, of all our other great teachers,
that we will learn Torah when Moshiach comes.

                            MOSHIACH MATTERS
Shavuot is celebrated as the period of the giving of the Torah, in which
there are 613 mitzvot (commandments). The reading of the story of Ruth
on Shavuot emphasizes the importance of every good deed and teaches that
a person may never know how performing a single good deed may bring
Moshiach and the ultimate redemption of the Jewish people.

                                                    (Vidibarta Bam)

                END OF TEXT - L'CHAIM 1173 - Nasso 5771

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