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Devarim Deutronomy

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   1172: Bamidbar

1173: Nasso

1174: Beha'aloscha

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1177: Chukas

1178: Balak

1179: Pinchas

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1181: Masei

Devarim Deutronomy

June 3, 2011 - 1 Sivan, 5771

1173: Nasso

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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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  1172: Bamidbar1174: Beha'aloscha  

Don't Sleep  |  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

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 creation.

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 correction?

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.

Living with the Rebbe

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 same.

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.

A 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 teacher."

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 universe."

"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 hand!"

"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 dreams!"

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 Infinite.

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 heritage.

(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 servants?"

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)

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