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L'Chaim
May 11, 2012 - 19 Iyyar, 5772

1220: Emor

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  1219: Achrei Mos-Kedoshim1221: Behar-Bechukosai  

The River Flows  |  Living with the Rebbe  |  A Slice of Life  |  What's New
The Rebbe Writes  |  Who's Who  |  A Word from the Director  |  Thoughts that Count
It Once Happened  |  Moshiach Matters

The River Flows

Rivers fascinate. And rivers are like thoughts. Not the other way around, as we'll discuss.

First, some facts about rivers: Rivers always flow downhill. They begin in mountains or, paradoxically, spring from underground. Rivers begin in hidden places.

And rivers flow in ways we don't usually consider. We see the river flowing in its channel, between its banks. What we don't see is the river flowing beneath the substrate, the bottom of the river. We don't see is the river flowing beneath the ground of its own banks. The area where the water flows between the crevices and rocks is call the hyporheic zone.

Sometimes rivers flow swiftly; sometimes they surge; sometimes they cascade; sometimes they run their course; and sometimes they drift in a lazy rhythm. Sometimes a river is rapid, sometimes it meanders.

Rivers collect rivulets. Rivers change constantly. They change the land through which they flow.

Rivers can erode the land, pulling rocks, soil or vegetation from its land channel and transporting them down stream. And as rivers change the land through which they flow, they change their own course, find new channels in which to flow.

And thoughts: They also flow. They flow "downward," from the inner resources of our minds, from our souls. Thoughts flow downward into speech, and then action. And there is much beneath the flowing thoughts that we don't "see," don't realize is there.

Where do our thoughts come from? For they exist in the "subconscious," in a mental - or spiritual "hyporheic zone" - and emerge into our awareness. Thoughts spring from hidden resources of mind and soul, cascading from the higher "mountains" or emerging from the underground "springs."

Sometimes thoughts flow swiftly, like rapids, chaotic. Sometimes, thoughts overwhelm us, so that we are awed by what has appeared in our minds - like watching a cascading waterfall. Our thoughts cut deep channels into the "landscape" of our being, creating the canyons and flood plains of our interactions and reactions.

And our thoughts can change course. They do find new channels. Sometimes the change is rapid; sometimes the change meanders. But our thoughts are redirected - by our experiences, yet also by our conscious choices: we can gather the rivulets and carve out the canyons - the deep commitments - and flood plains - the actions with which we engage and transform the world.

Rivers have long been a symbol of life. But when they overflow their banks, they can wipe out all that has flowed from and through them, all the life - vegetable, animal, human - that depends on them. Thoughts, too, give life. But when they overflow their "banks," when our thoughts overflow with negative character traits and destructive emotions, our thoughts can destroy all that depends on us - all those who depend on us.

We can control our thoughts, re-channel them, give them a new course to follow. For Will - our soul-directed desire - is higher than thought. No, it's not easy. Rivers are stubborn things. They have their passages. They are conduits - and they narrow. After all, "narrows" refers to a channel connecting two bodies of water.

Still, just as G-d directs rivers, we direct our thoughts.

And that's why rivers resemble thoughts, not the other way around - even though we make the analogy the other way around.

How flows your river?

Inspired by a discourse by Rabbi DovBer of Lubavitch. Read more at davidybkaufmann.blogspot.com

Living with the Rebbe

In the beginning of this week's Torah portion, Emor, G-d warns the priests against becoming ritually impure through contact with a dead body, with seven exceptions: father, mother, brother, sister, son, daughter or wife. A high priest is forbidden to become impure even for these relatives.

A general principle in Judaism is that G-d performs the same mitzvot (commandments) He commands the Jewish people. In this vein, the Talmud relates that a heretic once asked Rabbi Avahu how G-d, the ultimate 'priest,' was able to immerse Himself after He buried Moses and thereby became ritually impure. Rabbi Avahu replied that G-d 'immersed' Himself in fire.

Our Sages explain this exchange in several ways. The Tosefot comments that the heretic's question was not really about 'impurity,' as Jews are considered G-d's children, and a father is allowed to become ritually impure for his son. Similarly, the Zohar states that in the future, G-d will become "impure" in order to redeem every Jew from exile. But the question still remains. If G-d is a "high priest," isn't it forbidden to become impure even for His children?

In order to understand, let's examine the idea that G-d performs the same mitzvot we do. Obviously, this doesn't mean that G-d puts on a huge pair of tefilin, or sits in an enormous celestial suka. It means, rather, that the mitzva of tefilin or suka exists Above in a more refined spiritual form. In fact, the only reason the mitzva exists in our physical world is because of its spiritual source up Above! Nothing exists down here without a higher, spiritual counterpart.

When we say that G-d puts on tefilin or sounds the shofar, we are discussing abstract spiritual concepts. As human beings in a physical world, we can accomplish these same spiritual processes by performing the mitzva in a physical manner, i.e., with a horn of a ram, parchment of a mezuza, etc.

Nonetheless, even though there is a similarity between a mitzva as it exists down here and as it exists Above, it only applies in the positive sense. For example, if the performance of a particular mitzva is restricted in any way due to the limitations of the material world, this does not imply that the mitzva is limited Above, as G-d is higher than all limitations.

Accordingly, the prohibition against the high priest becoming impure indicates that on the spiritual level, the high priest is above all impurity. In our world, however, given the limitations of the body, it could conceivably happen that a high priest might become impure. From this perspective, the Torah's prohibition is simply a "concession" to materiality, rather than a reflection of the essence of high priesthood.

In truth, the spiritual reality of the "high priest," i.e., G-d, is impervious to impurity. G-d's burial of Moses or redeeming us from exile has no effect on His true Essence.

Adapted from Likutei Sichot, Vol. 7


A Slice of Life

If It's Friday, It Must Be Time for a Chabad Visit
by Jill Garbi

Every Friday morning, carloads of rabbinic students from Chabad of Western Monmouth County hit the shopping plazas along Route 9 in Manalapan, Marlboro, and Freehold. It's not good deals the young men are in search of - it's good deeds.

The students split up into five groups, visiting up to 100 businesses owned or managed by Jews. Just as the merchants dive into their workday, the young men make their entrance, offering challah and a chance to put on tefilin and discuss the Torah portion of the week.

Longtime merchants along the Route 9 hub, who have welcomed the weekly visitors for nearly 15 years, say they look forward to the infusion of Judaism in their ordinary workday. The faces of the students may change from year to year, but the sentiment they spread remains the same.

On a recent Friday morning, Ira Kaplan and his son Brett, owners of Cruise Holiday of Marlboro, welcomed the visitors with beaming smiles. They store yarmulkes in their top desk drawer for such occasions.

"We look forward to their visits," said Brett. "It's a nice experience that makes you feel very connected to your heritage."

"We just can't let it get away," said Ira, referring to Judaism. "These are hardworking boys. We enjoy the party they bring each week. They give their viewpoint on the Torah portion and bring it to life."

The passion and energy of the students, as well as that of Chabad director Rabbi Boruch Chazanow and adult program director Rabbi Levi Wolosow, are contagious, the Kaplans said.

"Once Rabbi Chazanow spotted me driving near the intersection of Route 9 and 520," Brett said. "He suddenly stopped in the middle of traffic and jumped out of his car to give me shmura matza. It was absolutely crazy, and I will never forget it."

Wolosow keeps a close eye on the community and makes cold calls to new stores to identify whether they are Jewish-owned. He recently added an upscale women's clothing boutique to his growing list of Friday destinations.

"We opened a week ago, and I already love these Chabad guys," said Valentina Fainman, owner of Feminique Boutique in Manalapan. "They are unbelievably sweet and will help you with any question you ask of them. I try my best to stay connected to Judaism."

In an adjacent shop, Shoes by Wayne Stevens, owner Lana Aveti juggled conversations with the yeshiva students, a NJJN reporter, and a customer seeking strappy silver sandals for a June wedding. "When they show up on Fridays I feel blessed," Aveti said. "They teach me to appreciate all the blessings and all the good in life. They also helped me find a prayer book in Russian. I am blessed that I have them in my life."

In addition to the students from Yeshiva Beis Menachem, which operates out of Chabad, a carload of students come each week from the Rabbinical College of America in Morristown to help tackle the growing lineup of businesses. Two young professionals from Marlboro, Cory Stein and Mike Fleisher, also pitch in when they can. Chabad followers taught them both how to put on tefilin when they were teens, and now they are paying it forward.

"It's very rewarding to see how much people appreciate the time you take on a Friday to help them put on tefilin and get in touch with G-d for just a few minutes," said Stein, who helps run his family's appliance company. "Once I visited a Route 9 barber shop that was packed with customers waiting in line. Not only did the barber put down his scissors to go in the back to put on tefilin, but many of his Jewish customers joined us too. It's like an uplifting chain reaction."

"The purpose of our Friday visits is to awaken the Jewish spark within," said Fleisher, an accountant. "Every Jew I come in contact with is looking for something, and it is my job to try to find it. The responses vary as much as the people do. Even if all I accomplish after a few hours is that a Jew felt pride in his or her Jewish identity, it makes it worthwhile."

The chain reaction has made an impact in the life of Joel Russo, owner of the Snack Exchange sweets shop in Manalapan.

"When Chabad first came in to offer to put on tefilin, I hadn't put them on for years and I liked the idea. But I wondered how my customers were going to feel about it," said Russo. "One Friday a man in his 80s walked in for ices and was amazed to see tefilin being put on. He joined us by putting them on himself. He told us the last time he had put them on was 70 years ago at his bar mitzva."

Russo's 17-year-old son, Brandon, now also puts on tefilin, particularly before wrestling matches, and joins his dad for Sunday study sessions at Chabad.

Although it's part of his weekly routine, the Friday visits never become routine, said Yeshiva Beis Menachem student Yoel Sebbag, 21, of Montreal. "It is so fulfilling to see people's spirits lift," he said. "They love to become more involved in their religion. They just don't know how to start and where to go with it. It makes me really appreciate how important what we are doing is.

"We are reaching out to every Jew in love, whereas historically they were once hunted down in hatred."

This article originally appeared in New Jersey Jewish News (www.njjewishnews.com).


What's New

New Emissaries

Rabbi Sholom and Rivka Galperin are establishing Chabad of Windsor, Ontario, Canada. They will serve the local Jewish community as well as students at the University of Windsor. Rabbi Levi and Leah Dubrawsky recently moved to Denton, Texas, where they have established a new Chabad House serving the Jewish students at The University of North Texas and Texas Women's University. Rabbi Avremy and Chaya Raskin will arrive soon in Brattleboro, Vermont, where they will establish Chabad of Southern Vermont.

97th Rescue Mission

Chabad's Children of Chernobyl (CCOC) has completed its 97th rescue mission bringing 26 more children to safety in Israel and commemorating the 26 years since the Chernobyl disaster. CCOC evacuates kids from the radioactive Chernobyl region and provides them with critical medical care, new homes, and excellent education in Israel.


The Rebbe Writes

29 Tammuz 5713 [1953]

Sholom u'Brocho [Peace and Blessing]:

Your two letters duly reached me, and I wondered why you did not mention anything in the second letter about your cousin Debbie, either with regard to a shidduch ([marriage partner] the best thing for her), or what progress she has made towards greater Yiddishkeit [Judaism].

Referring to your questions regarding several points in Chassidus:

Regarding the five "faculties" of the Soul - Nefesh, Ruach, Neshama, Chaya, Yechida - which you find difficult to grasp, I will endeavor to throw some light on the subject with the aid of analogy, but such explanation must, of necessity, be somewhat sketchy in the course of a letter. Nevertheless, I hope it may be helpful to you.

The soul, as a "part" of G-d above, is essentially "unknowable;" we do not know what it is, but it manifests itself in various ways, and it is in the revealed area of the soul that we distinguish five "faculties."

Nefesh is that faculty of the soul which manifests itself in natural life, similar to the life spirit manifested in every living thing. Reason or emotion does not enter here, except in a rudimentary way, and not only higher emotions born of the intellect, but even the lower emotions born of the "heart," play no part.

Ruach corresponds to the manifestation of life where in addition to the above the emotional aspects of the soul are manifested.

Neshama (in a particular sense, as different from the meaning of "soul" in general), is still a higher faculty of the soul, where the influence of the intellect is in evidence.

These three aspects of the soul are clearly reflected in the early life of a human being as successive stages: In the first few years after birth the nefesh ("sensitive," i.e. of the senses, aspect of the soul) predominates. From the age of two or three, the emotional faculties begin to develop manifestly, and in due course the intellect begins to play an ever-growing part in human life.

The other two aspects of the soul are termed makifin ("transcendental") and are more seldom revealed.

Chaya is associated with ecstasy, after one has bent all three aspects (nefesh, ruach, neshama) of the soul to Divine worship. It was much in evidence with our prophets of old, and in the sacred part of life it is the area of chaya which expresses itself in Divine service.

Yechida is even more rarely found in evidence, when the very core of the soul, the Divine "spark," comes out into the open, diffusing throughout one's being and permeating every fiber of the soul, to the exclusion of all else. It finds expression in mesiras nefesh [self-sacrifice]in actuality, in sacrificing one's life for kiddush Hashem [sactification of G-d's name].

The above is a very brief explanation, and as you learn more Chassidus in the kuntresim [collected works] and ma'amorim [discourses], you will be able to grasp it more fully.

continued in next issue


Who's Who

Chulda

Chulda, one of the seven women prophetesses, was the wife of Shallum, the royal chamberlain of King Josiah. She was the sole prophet to the women of her time but also prophecized to the entire Jewish people before the destruction of the first Temple. Chulda was a descendant of the Jewish leader Joshua and his wife Rachav - a righteous convert. Chulda was also a relative of the prophet Jeremiah. She was buried in Jerusalem. In the times of the Second Holy Temple the Chulda Gates were named for her It was through these gates that most of the pedestrian traffic to and from the Temple passed.


A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

This week we study the fourth chapter of Ethics of the Fathers, a collection of practical advice and counsel from our Sages. One pearl of wisdom reads as follows:

"Rabbi Yonatan said: Whoever fulfills the Torah in poverty will ultimately fulfill it in wealth. But whoever neglects the Torah in wealth will ultimately neglect it in poverty."

On the simplest, most literal level this teaches that G-d repays us according to our deeds measure for measure. A poor person who works long and hard to make a meager living, yet takes time out every day to learn Torah, will be rewarded with material riches. A wealthy man who neglects his Torah study to spend his days eating, drinking and lounging about will eventually lose his money.

On a deeper level, poverty and wealth refer to a person's understanding of Torah. A Jew who is not so knowledgeable about Judaism yet zealously observes the little he does know will eventually "fulfill it in wealth," as G-d will bestow him with wisdom. Conversely, a person who is knowledgeable about Judaism but doesn't bring it down into practice will eventually forget what he once knew.

Poverty and wealth can also refer to a Jew's level of faith, the very foundation of our relationship with G-d. A Jew's belief in G-d is an innate part of him, an integral component of his nature. Yet no matter how neglected that Divine spark may be, the Torah promises that it will flourish and grow into wealth if properly stimulated and nurtured.

Our Prophets have told us that when Moshiach comes and ushers in the Messianic era, material riches will be as abundant as the dust of the earth, reflective of the spiritual wealth of Divine knowledge that will permeate all of creation.

May it happen immediately.


Thoughts that Count

And you shall sanctify [the priest], for the bread of your G-d does he offer; holy he shall be to you, for I am the L-rd Who sanctifies you, I am holy (Lev. 21:5)

Despite the fact that the kohanim (priests) derive their sustenance from your donations of food, you must never treat them with disrespect or contempt. When a person gives food to a holy person or a Torah scholar, it is considered the same as bringing an offering in the Holy Temple. The service of the kohanim is the channel through which G-d sanctifies the entire Jewish people, and they should be treated accordingly.

(Ktav Sofer)


And out of the sanctuary he shall not go (Lev. 21:12)

A Jew's thoughts must always be of holy matters, connected to G-dliness and sanctity, even when engaged in seemingly mundane affairs. At such times (such as when conducting necessary business), the Jew should consider himself as having left his "home" temporarily, with the intention to later return. The warm influence of the home will carry over also when he is in the street.

(Baal Shem Tov)


You shall not profane (Lev. 22:32)

The Hebrew word for "profane" - "t'chal'lu" - is related to the word meaning "empty" or "void." "Do not cause a void or emptiness to come between us," G-d cautions, referring to transgressions that place a barrier between a Jew and G-d. "Furthermore, make sure that no place is void of Me." Haughtiness pushes away the Divine Presence, which is incompatible with pride and lack of humility.

(Likutei Torah)


It Once Happened

Rabbi Chaim of Sanz never turned away anyone in need, but when Shmuel needed to marry off his daughter, the tzadik just looked at him and refused to give him a penny. "I will give you some advice," said the Rebbe, "and I will provide you with a letter of introduction to a person in Vienna named Nachum ben Yosef.

You must get from him 500 gold rubles. Just remember one thing: Don't take even one penny less than that amount."

"But Vienna is a great city; how will I be able to find this person?" asked a stunned Shmuel.

"Don't worry. Just go into one of the shuls. There you will meet a man who will take you to him for five silver coins," replied the Rebbe.

The poor man soon found himself outside of the Rebbe's room, perplexed at his situation. The way to Vienna was very far; his pathetic old horse would never make it. He sat down on a bench and thought for a while. He decided to sell the horse and proceeded on the journey.

When Shmuel finally arrived in Vienna there were many shuls. He entered the first one and went up to the caretaker.

"Perhaps you know a person named Nachum ben Yosef?" Shmuel was afraid the man would laugh at him, but instead, he replied, "Yes, I know him and I'll lead you to him for five silver coins."

The traveler was thrilled with his good fortune. He gave the man the silver coins and a short time later they were standing in front of Nachum's house. Shmuel knocked on the door and a distinguished-looking gentleman invited him inside. Shmuel handed him the letter from the Rebbe.

"I don't understand why the Rebbe thinks I should give you such a tremendous sum of money. I will be happy to give you one or two rubles, but 500 is out of the question."

"No," protested Shmuel, "The Rebbe told me that I am not to accept even a penny less than the entire sum, and I am following his instructions!"

"All right, I'll give you 50 rubles, but that's it."

"You don't understand. The Rebbe told me I have to get the entire 500, and I must do exactly as he told me!"

This continued for another half hour or so, with the gentleman offering a bit more, and Shmuel flatly refusing to budge. Finally, the Viennese gentleman was so frustrated he didn't know what to do. He wanted to honor the Rebbe's request, but 500 rubles was a fortune! He decided to ask his wife's opinion on the matter.

After reading the letter from the Rebbe the woman said, "Please give him all the money he requests, and I will explain everything to you.

"Do you remember our trip to Budapest? When we were there, the Rebbe was also visiting. A wedding was about to take place, but none of the rabbis would agree to officiate because no one knew the groom. The bridal party was in a tizzy, not knowing what to do, when word was brought to them that the Rebbe himself would come.

"Finally the Rebbe arrived. He stood to the side, deep in thought, and suddenly asked that the bride's parents be brought to him. 'Tell me,' he asked, 'Did you ever have other children?'

" 'We had a little boy who drowned many years ago,' replied the father.

" 'Would you tell me how it happened?' asked the Rebbe.

" 'One day, we went on an outing to the countryside. The children went bathing in the river, and our son disappeared under the water. We ran, but by the time we came, there was no trace of him.'

" 'Do you remember if he had any particular distinguishing mark on his body?' asked the Rebbe.

" 'Yes,' answered the mother, 'He had a deep scar on his knee where he had once fallen on a tree trunk.'

"The Rebbe called over the bridegroom and asked him to roll up his trousers. Sure enough, there was the exact mark the mother had described. The parents fell on their son's neck with tears pouring down their cheeks. With the power of his holy vision, the Rebbe saved the brother and sister from a terrible transgression. Word of this miracle spread from town to town, and people flocked to see this tzadik with their own eyes.

"I was present at the time, and I also went to the tzadik. I offered to give him a large sum of money to distribute to the needy. At the time, I didn't understand his reply, for he refused to accept any money from me. He said that one day, one of his Chasidim would come and I could 'pay him back' then. Now I am asking you to give this man the entire sum of money that the tzadik requests from you."

The gentleman took the sum of money from a drawer and presented it to the Chasid. When the Chasid left, the woman turned to her husband and said, "There is one more thing I didn't tell you. The bridegroom in the story is none other than our own son-in-law, the husband of our daughter!"


Moshiach Matters

"You shall not profane My holy name, so that I may be sanctified among the Children of Israel." (Lev. 22:32) When a Jew gives up his life rather than commits certain transgressions, G-d's name is publicly sanctified. The desecration of G-d's name is taken just as seriously. The Prophet Ezekiel refers to the exile of the Jewish people as a desecration of G-d's name.The ultimate sanctification of G-d's name, however, will take place when Moshiach comes and the entire world is redeemed, at which time "My great name will be sanctified...and all the nations will know that I am G-d."

(Likutei Sichot Vol. 27)


  1219: Achrei Mos-Kedoshim1221: Behar-Bechukosai  
   
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