Strike the Last Word | 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 U.S. House of Representatives operates under rules of parliamentary procedure. These rules may seem strange to those of us not familiar with how they work. Even their names can be confusing: point of order, question of privilege, yield the floor, etc.
In order for any business to occur, these rules and procedures must be followed. Each action is directed by the Speaker. A representative rises and is asked for what purpose he or she rises. He then states that purpose, and then action follows: the representative can speak, someone can object, and so on.
One of the reasons for "rising" (that's one of the terms) is to "strike the last word."
"Strike the last word" means "get in the last word." That is the representative requests to "strike," which here means to take or have (think of "strike the last blow") the last word - to offer an amendment (thus changing the wording of a bill).
This allows the representative to speak for five minutes - rules say you can talk about an amendment for only five minutes. It's an unwritten rule that after the five minutes, the amendment will be withdrawn (hence, pro forma - it also prevents an opponent from having five minutes for rebuttal). So it's a clever way to get an extra five minutes to talk about a bill - or whatever.
What does it mean in a spiritual sense to "strike the last word"?
When a representative rises to "strike the last word," the intent is not to change the legislation; the intent is to increase our understanding of it or clarify its meaning.
So, too, in each area of our Jewish observance, we can "strike the last word."
In general terms, this means adding something to our lives on a regular basis that takes "just five minutes," like saying the bedtime "Shema" before going to sleep, putting on tefilin each weekday morning, looking carefully for kosher symbols on food labels when grocery shopping, or reading a Jewish teaching each day.
In more specific terms, this can mean to "strike the last word" for a mitzva (commandment) that we are already performing. This can be accomplished by adding to the beauty, the meaning, the power of the mitzva. Our Sages call this hiddur mitzva - beautifying the mitzva, making it more glorious, more important. We do this by performing the mitzva in the best way possible, through not being satisfied with the minimum. It's qualitative, not quantitative.
Take, for instance, reciting a blessing or prayer. "Strike the last word" by understanding the words that you are saying or making sure that each word is pronounced accurately. Hiddur mitzva in Torah study might be to fully grasp the nuances and implications of the subject being studied before moving on.
As in so many conversations, then, as when Congress debates a bill, so too in our Jewish observance, it's important to not only have, but to "strike the last word."
This week's Torah portion, Behaalotcha, is read after the holiday of Shavuot, on which we celebrated the giving of the Torah. It begins with the command to Aaron the High Priest to light the menora in the Holy Temple. Rashi, the great Torah commentator, explains that Aaron's job was to kindle the lamps "until the flame was able to rise up by itself." The lights of the menora had to be self-sustaining.
This command is symbolic of the task of every Jew, each of whom is likened to a menora, whose function is to illuminate the world around him. A menora consists of two parts - the candles or flasks of oil which are actually lit, and the base into which they are placed. The Jew is also made up of two such components - the holy Jewish soul, and the physical body the soul inhabits. The Torah states, "The soul of man is the candle of G-d." The corporeal body is only the vessel from which the Jewish soul may shine forth to illuminate the physical world.
Just as Aaron kindled the lamps in the Holy Temple, so does G-d light the Jewish spark within every Jew. G-d sends the soul down into this world and ignites it, giving it the power to illuminate and to sustain itself.
Yet G-d does not want man to rely solely on the Divine boost he gets from above. The world was created imperfect, for man to perfect through his actions. G-d grants us free will to utilize our talents and abilities to this end. The service of the Jew is to imbue his surroundings with holiness and G-dliness through the study of Torah and the performance of mitzvot (commandments).
But how can we claim that our actions are performed of our own initiative, when the initial "spark" is "activated" by G-d? This problem is resolved by the Talmudic dictum which states that "assistance has no substance." Although G-d "assists" the individual by animating the inert, physical body with a G-dly soul, this in no way bestows an advantage when it comes to the moral choices a person must make. Man's job is to bridge the distance between the spiritual aid he receives from above, and the lowly physical world. This is done by converting that G-dly energy into concrete, positive deeds.
G-d created the world in such a way that only man, through his actions, can uncover the spirituality hidden within. G-d lights the menora in every Jew to enable him to bring holiness into his own personal life and to positively influence his surroundings, until those sparks are also self-sustaining. This process will ultimately reach its culmination with the coming of Moshiach and the final Redemption, speedily in our days.
Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe
Pay It Forward
by Chava Tombosky
It was Friday morning when my family learned that my father was in critical condition in a hospital in Chico, California. Within two hours we were on a plane headed to Chico for Shabbat.
What is in Chico, California? Nothing except a hospital, a small college, a Starbucks coffee house, and of course, a Chabad House.
We called the Chabad rabbi, Mendy Zweibel, to tell him about our emergency. Despite the fact that his wife Chana had come home just that day from the hospital after having a baby, he invited all nine of us to spend Shabbat with his family. This young couple was hugely inconvenienced, and clearly just adjusting to a new baby added to their family of three young children. Yet, without any hesitation at all, they invited us with open arms into their home for two days.
Please understand, we are not an easy bunch! We are emotional, we are loud, and we are quite honest about our feelings. To put it mildly, when we came home from the hospital that Friday night after witnessing our father's untimely passing, we weren't shy about our grief. If there's one thing the Shallmans are not good at, it is composure during crisis. After crisis we are the best to have around, but during a crisis, we are a melodramatic, hot-blooded tearful bunch. (Mostly it is me doing the hysterical rambling, but I feel better making it sound like it is all of us, so I don't seem too insane. You can surely exclude my brothers from this, mostly it's my sisters and me. Okay it is mainly me.)
I really wanted to apologize to the Zweibels for having to deal with such an awfully awkward and unbearable Shabbat. I felt so bad that we disrupted their family time, this woman's recovery time, this sweet rabbi's private time. Of course, I had clearly traumatized their children with my ranting, crying fits. Leaving them a donation just didn't seem enough. I really wanted to repay them with something, anything. But what do you get a family who has seen you at your worst, welcomed you into their home unexpectedly, and even walked far in the middle of the night to deliver food to a family they had never met at the hospital only minutes after they have learned their father died? You pay it forward. Because if it's one thing Chabadniks do best, it is realizing that every good deed is there to pass on to another person in need.
Three weeks after my father's passing I had the privilege of sharing in this couple's gift that they had given to my family. I received a call from a relative. Her dear friend was flying into Los Angeles from Israel to be with his sister who was in hospice near my home. She asked if I would host her friend. I was getting ready for Rosh Hashana and preparing for a trip to Chico for my father's memorial. But I remembered the rabbi and rebbetzin in Chico and their kindness. I did not hesitate to welcome my new guest.
Upon arriving to my home, his voice crackled as he relayed the sad news that his sister had died that very night. I was so sad for him. Yet, at the same time I was so very grateful that I could return the favor by sharing my home with him in this most difficult time, as Rabbi and Mrs. Zweibel had done for my family less than one month prior. And because I had the privilege of having such great role models, I knew exactly what to do. I even offered to let him express himself using whatever emotional tantrums he felt like using to let off some steam. (He didn't have the urge to participate in any loud tirades that resulted in embarrassing outbreaks.)
The gentleman sat shiva (seven days of mourning) while staying at my home and I insisted his family come and stay with us for Shabbat as well. His niece and I cried over losing our parents in the same month. We laughed about the irony of circumstances that revolved around our good fortune to meet each other even if it was as a result of her mother's passing. I even got to send over dinner to the shiva house and re-pay the favor of feeding mourners, as so many had done for my family only a few weeks earlier.
In all my years, I have never ever had anyone stay at my home with this particular situation. What a strangely providential series of events that allowed for me to re-pay this great mitzva (commandment) back. My family and I will forever be in the Zweibel's debt for their kindness and their hospitality. Words cannot truly express my thanks towards them for opening their home, and for modeling this mitzva with so much grace and kindness. May they be given many blessings for their kindness and continue the Rebbe's work as lamplighters for anyone in need through the Rohr Chabad Jewish Center at Chico State University in California.
Reprinted from the N'Shei Chabad Newsletter.
Chava Tombosky is a screen-writer, independent film producer, and the author of a Blog for the Algemeiner Journal entitled "My Big Fat Jewish Life." Chava is also a noted lecturer on Jewish women's issues, and offers her listeners a refreshingly honest and down to earth perspective on Judaism and Torah values. She is currently working on her first single entitled "Eternally Hopeful" which she has dedicated in her father's memory as well as her first book, a dark comedic memoir entitled "Falling From Eden."
Rabbi Avraham and Miriam Denisov arrived recently in Moscow, Russia, to work in the Mesivta High School, a boarding school for Jewish boys from throughout the former Soviet Union. Rabbi Mendel and Chaya Ceitlin will be arriving soon in Metairie, Louisiana, where they will working at the Chabad Jewish Center, focusing on community outreach. Rabbi Levi and Rochel Leah Stein will be moving to Carolina, Puerto Rico, where they will be bolstering the work of Chabad of Puerto Rico.
The Chabad Spanish Center in Coral Springs, Florida, recently completed a new Torah scroll. It was dedicated by Mr. Arel Tasa. The Chabad of Arizona regional headquarters in Phoenix, Arizona, completed a new Torah scroll. The new Torah was dedicated by Mr. Bob Sarraf in honor of a speedy recovery of his wife Nazine Sarraf.
26 Tammuz 5725 
Blessing and Greeting:
I am in receipt of your letter of July 13th, in which you ask for guidance how to influence an old friend who had been quite frum [religious] in the past but has weakened in his conviction.
Needless to say, it would be difficult for you to accomplish much by way of correspondence alone. Therefore, it would be well for you to find some mutual friends on the spot, who could exercise their influence in the desired direction, while your correspondence with the party in question would act as a further stimulus from time to time, being guided by the mutual friends on the spot as to when and what to write to your friend.
As a general observation, I want to tell you of my experience which has convinced me that in most cases such as you describe, the true reason for the weakening in the convictions was not the result of a more profound study or deeper insight, but rather on the contrary, it came as a result of the fact that the convictions which one has held have proved an obstacle to the enjoyment of certain material aspects in life. And, human nature being what it is, one wishes to appease one's troublesome conscience by trying to find faults with the convictions and spiritual aspects.
In view of the above, the most effective approach in most cases is not to attempt to debate the spiritual matters, convictions and beliefs, but rather to try to bring the person closer to the kind of daily life and activity which bring their fruits also in this material world. I have in mind an activity in the Jewish community, or in the field of kosher education in particular, where he could see the good results of his work, and at the same time gain personal satisfaction from his success. The discussions mentioned above would only be of secondary importance, so as not to leave any of his questions unanswered.
What has been said above is in general terms which would apply to most cases. However, there are undoubtedly special factors connected with the individual himself, especially with his personal character, etc. Therefore, any action directed at influencing him should first be consulted with people who know him personally and would know his reaction to such efforts.
A further point which is also valid almost always is that in such a situation a wife or a fianc้e can accomplish a great deal, perhaps not so much directly as indirectly. This should therefore also be considered as a channel of influence. For as I gather from your letter, the person in question is still single. Therefore, it would be very well for him if his friends could find him a suitable shidduch [match].
Incidentally, insofar as "scientific proof" that the Torah is G-d-given is concerned, which seems to both your friend, the fact is, however strange this may seem, that the best proof is still the oldest, namely that the Torah was transmitted from generation to generation in an unbroken and uninterrupted chain of tradition, from the time of the Divine revelation at Mt. Sinai and the giving of the Torah in the presence of 600,000 adult male Jews (several million Jews in all), to the present day. There is no stronger scientific verification of any fact than the Revelation at Mt. Sinai, which has been attested to by so many witnesses from generation to generation.
ACHIYA means "G-d is my brother." One of King David's warriors was named Achiya (I Chronicles 11:36). Achiya of Shilo, a prophet in the times of King Jereboam (I Kings 11:29), was born in Egypt during the Jewish people's enslavement there. He lived an exceedingly long life that enabled him to be the teacher of Elijah the Prophet. He revealed himself to the Baal Shem Tov and taught him Kabala for 10 years after which he told the Baal Shem Tov that he must reveal himself and the new teachings to the world.
ANAT means "to sing." In Judges (3:31) Anat was the father of Shamgar, an Israelite Judge. Today, however, it is used primarily as a feminine name.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
Many of us are already involved in making plans for the summer. We consider the weather, prices, accommodations, attractions.
But, there should be many other concerns on our list of considerations. If we're away over Shabbat, is there a place we can hook up with that will allow us to celebrate Shabbat in the proper spirit? Will there be kosher food for body and soul?
When we look for a day camp or overnight camp for our children, we must make sure to check into the atmosphere of the camp. A Jewish camp run on authentic Jewish ideals can not only fill our children's hours with healthy activities for their bodies and minds, but for their souls as well. At a Jewish camp, run on Torah ideals, a Jewish child can learn to be proud of, and love, his heritage in a positive, hands-on environment. Unencumbered by books and desks and black-boards, Judaism literally comes to life through stories, songs, activities and practical mitzvot.
Vacation time is the perfect time to check out the really important "attractions" in life. Experience a traditional Shabbat, bask in the sunlight of mitzvot (commandments), swim in the deep pool of Torah study.
Include Torah and mitzvot at the top of your list of considerations this summer for you and your family.
Ethics of the Fathers
Ethics of the Fathers, a section of the Mishna containing ethical guidelines and rules governing moral behavior, is introduced by a detailed account of the transmission of Torah down through the generations. Although non-Jewish thinkers have also produced works on ethics and codes of conduct, our Sages wanted to emphasize the Divine origin of the sayings contained in the Ethics of the Fathers.
All of Israel have a share in the World to Come (introduction to Ethics of the Fathers)
Every Jew - righteous and not so righteous - deserves reward just for being Jewish. A portion of the World-to-Come is his just by virtue of belonging to the Jewish people. Without a proper Torah education, an untutored Jew's mitzvot (commandments) performance may be lacking. Yet he is still part of the nation of Israel and deserving of eternal life. Even the simplest Jew is full of mitzvot, like seeds of a pomegranate, by the weight of Jewish fate and responsibility.
(Blossoms, by Rabbi Yisroel Rubin)
Be of the disciples of Aaron...loving your fellow creatures, and bringing them near to Torah (Ethics 1:12)
One must never make the mistake of thinking it permissible to adjust the Torah to the level of those who may be disaffected or estranged from Judaism, in an attempt to bring them closer to observance of Torah and mitzvot. It is forbidden to alter or deviate from any part of the Torah. Judaism must remain in its entirety. Our efforts must lie in bringing alienated Jews closer to the authentic Torah.
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)
Shimon his son said:...not learning is the main thing, but doing. (1:17)
In short, theory is not as important as practice. Our own Jewish community seems to be sinking by the sheer weight of its own wordiness. Conferences, conventions, and commissions continue to grind out reams of paper with endless words. We bemoan, we bewail, we diagnose and prescribe. But all these are no substitute for actions and deeds of meaning.
(Ethics from Sinai, Rabbi I. Bunim)
Reb Moshe Zvi of Savran was once on visit to Berditchev where he stayed at the house of his father-in-law, a chasid by the name of Reb Moshe Yosef Chodorov. The craftsmen of the town at the time were busy deciding on the regulations that would govern their newly-found Chevrah Tehillim, a comradely fraternity whose chief aim was to bring together groups of artisans to chant the Psalms in unison. Once agreed upon, their regulations were entered for posterity in the pinkas, the community register. Most of the members of the fraternity were unlearned, though honest and God-fearing. And in case in any future communal situation they should require the services of someone more learned than themselves, they asked two of the respected young married scholars of the town to add their names to the list of members, and these two young scholars obliged.
When the founders of the Chevrah Tehillim heard that Reb Moshe Zvi of Savran was in town they decided to send him the pinkas with the request that he append his signature to their newly-inscribed regulations; And if he wanted to add or change anything they had written, they indicated that their agreement was assured in advance. One of their two young scholarly members was chosen to be honored with this mission. When he arrived at the lodgings of the visiting Rebbe, he found that there was already an erudite caller sitting importantly there: a local heavyweight pedant, a veritable genius.
When this pillar of learning heard that the new arrival had joined the commoners as a member of their Chevrah Tehillim, he turned to him in amazement and exclaimed: "What on earth are you doing in a Chevrah Tehillim? Leave Psalms for the artisan and the simple folk who can do no better. You should be reserving your talents for the Talmud and the legal codes, not spending your time on Psalms!"
"And since when should a Torah scholar not read the Psalms?" challenged the young man. "You recall what the Midrash says on the verse from Psalms: "May the words of my mouth find acceptance." On this verse the Midrash elaborates that King David prayed that whoever read the Psalms should be accounted in the sight of heaven as of equal worth with him who engaged in the study of the intricate laws of purity and impurity."
Replied the pedant: "And I once heard from the mouth of a prominent scholar that this Midrash says that King David made a request; it does not say that his request was accepted. In support of this view, allow me to cite another case in which we see that King David made a request that was not granted. For we find in the Talmud - Tractate Bava Batra - that 'There were seven people whose bodies were not overcome in the grave by worms.' And the Talmud goes on to say: 'There are those who say that the same applies to King David, as it is written, 'My flesh too dwells secure.' Another view holds that David prayed for this." From this we see that this was only a request of his but that it was not granted."
Reb Moshe Zvi of Savran had been listening quietly to this dialogue, but these last words of the pedant were more than he could bear in silence.
"Who is it you say whose prayer was not granted?" he exclaimed excitedly. "Are you talking about David, King of Israel?! Woe is me, that I should hear such words. And besides, your prominent scholar friend has misunderstood the meaning of that passage from the Talmud. The Sages had listed the seven people who were granted this privilege without having requested it, while 'David prayed for this.' Because it came to him as the result of his request, his name does not appear among the seven. This passage, therefore, proves the very opposite of your thesis. The prayer of David was accepted!"
With that Reb Moshe Zvi of Savran took the pinkas in hand, opened up at the page on which the artless worshippers had entered the statutes of their Chevrah Tehillim, and signed there with gusto.
Reprinted from A treasury of Chasidic Tales
Whenever the holy Rebbe Reb Simcha Bunim of Pshischa would go to sleep, he would put his talit (prayer shawl) and tefilin near his bed. One of his close disciples asked about this custom and he explained, "Since we believe that Moshiach is coming any second, it is possible that while I'm resting, the good news that Moshiach has arrived will suddenly be heard. I want to be ready to go with Moshiach to the Holy Land and not stay in this bitter exile for an extra second. I am all my assets, but my talit and tefilin I have to take, so I keep them close to me."
(Siach Sarfei Kodesh)