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The ocean sends a wave crashing onto the shore. Most of it is absorbed in the sand. Some of the water, perhaps filtered of the salt, finds it way further inland, part of the complex eco-system.
But there is an excess of the wave, and it seeps back into the ocean, carrying with it sand, silt, drift and flotsam. Until the next wave brings it back. Backwash.
A tanker-truck gets filled with kosher glycerine. The glycerine is used as a food additive, sweetener, preservative. It's used in personal care products and pharmaceuticals.
The transfer from storage unit to tanker-truck has to be carefully supervised, to make sure there's no contamination. And the amount has to be carefully measured - the shipping company, the trucking company, the manufacturer, the Department of Transportation - payment to and from is based on weight.
But occasionally a tank gets over-filled. Some of the glycerin needs to be put back. Of course, there is some spillage and waste; it can't be helped. Backwash.
A child starts to play with her toys. Then takes out the pots and pans and begins to bang away. She then explores the house some more. The house has the chaotic look. The child starts to put things away, becomes over-stimulated, becomes upset, can't put the toys away, and has to take a rest. Backwash.
We feel inspired, energetic,and accept a new project. Then another. And another. We join a committee. And another. We become involved in a civic enterprise, deep research, a new undertaking, a capital venture. As students, we join too many clubs and take too many classes.
We overcommit, and have to pull back, preserve our resources, reorganize our lives, rethink our priorities. Some commitments we keep, but delay. Some we drop. Sometimes there's understanding and support, sometimes fallout and repercussions. Backwash.
All of life has moments of back-wash, which involves three elements: excess, reversal and preservation.
Excess: File under cliches such as: Know your limits; your eyes are bigger than your stomach; etc. Excess can come from greed as well as zeal.
Reversal: After excess comes waste. After excess comes a recognition that things must change. An excess of words, emotions run high, we say too much. We are over-filled emotionally and need to reverse, reconsider, regroup, reorganize, rearrange - return and start over.
Preserve: Reversal is not a throwing away of the excess, an abandonment, a trashing of the excess, involvement, commitment or understanding. Reversal preserves the initial impetus and the positive residue, the stuff - intellectual, emotional, physical, even spiritual - that, if exercised and applied appropriately - is proper use of our abilities.
When exhausted or dejected or defeated - look for the backwash.
If you've studied Chasidut (and if you haven't, now is a good time to start), you'll recognize the physical process of "backwash" as a metaphor for the spiritual process of a spiritual account taking. Excess: A person goes too far, does the wrong thing; Reversal: We recognize our errors, regret them, and go back to where we were. The word "teshuva" doesn't "repentance" - it means "return" - a reversal or turning back. Preserve: Learning from one's mistakes, maintaining one's connection to G-d through the entire process, for the soul remains, even in a moment of excess, a part of G-d Above.
Read more at davidybkaufmann.blogspot.com
This week's Torah portion, Chukat, begins: "This is the statute (chok) of the Torah." As we immediately learn, "this" refers to the commandment of the red heifer.
The mitzva (commandment) of the red heifer falls into the category of chukim (statutes) - mitzvot for which there is no rational explanation. There are many such super-rational mitzvot, i.e., the prohibition against eating non-kosher food, or wearing shaatnez (linen and wool in the same garment). Yet the mitzva of the red heifer is the foremost example of this type of commandment, as it completely transcends human understanding.
"Chok" comes from the root word meaning "engraved." There are two ways in which letters may be written: with ink on parchment or paper, or by inscribing them on stone. When letters are written with ink, they remain separate entities from the parchment or paper; when they are inscribed, they become an integral part of the stone itself. And yet, upon examination, we see that there are two levels of "engraving":
The first level is when the letters are engraved on only one side of the stone. This type of inscription bears a superficial resemblance to the written word on parchment.
A second, higher level of inscription is that which was found on the Tablets of the Law which contained the Ten Commandments. In a miraculous manner, these letters were equally visible from both sides, seeming to float in the stone without relation to the stone itself.
These two types of inscriptions allude to the two levels of chukim. The first category contains those super-rational mitzvot which, although we do not understand the reason behind them, the human mind may begin to comprehend them on some level.
The higher category of super-rational mitzvot, however, is completely beyond the human ken, above and beyond our ability to understand G-d's Divine wisdom.
A Jew, by nature, desires to fulfill G-d's will. It is the natural consequence of his possessing a G-dly soul, which exists on a plane which is higher than the intellect. This nature finds its fullest expression in the performance of super-rational commandments.
When a Jew observes a mitzva that has a rational explanation, the fact that he is doing so simply to fulfill the will of G-d is not so apparent, for his own thoughts and understanding may obscure, however slightly, his pure motivation.
Thus it is precisely in the observance of chukim, "letters which are inscribed from both sides," that the Jew's innate desire to obey G-d's command is most obviously expressed.
Adapted from Likutei Sichot of the Rebbe, Vol. 8
School for Life
From a speech by Rikva Soroka at the Lubavitch Women's Organization annual convention.
My story is a wonderful example of G-d's enormous love for every one of His children. I was born in Ukraine, in Dnepropetrovsk. After the communist regimes in the former Soviet Union, in the generation of my grandparents and my parents, there was no trace left of Jewish laws and traditions. I grew up not even knowing that I was Jewish until 1997, when my family and I got to know Rabbi Shmuel and Chana Kaminezki, emissaries of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
I remember clearly the warm and beautiful atmosphere of their home, the environment of Shabbat for the first time in my life, and the feeling of peace and pure joy. These childhood experiences made a deep impression on me and gave me a taste of holiness and the unconditional love of G-d for His every child.
On the day of my Bat Mitzva I got a present from the Kaminezki family, a book of Tehillim (Psalms) with a handwritten note wishing me to become a true "Daughter of Israel" and bring nachas (pleasure) to my parents and G-d. At that time, I didn't know what the book was or how to read the interesting-looking letters. Nevertheless, it became very precious to me. After all, it was a present from the Kaminezki family and a souvenier reminding me of the warmest and most joyful childhood impressions ever experienced.
Soon after my Bat Mitzva my family moved to Germany. For four years I went to school in Berlin and meanwhile got to know the Rebbe's emissaries there, Rabbi Yehuda and Leah Teichtel. I would spend Shabbat in their home and Rebbetzin Teichtel became an amazing role model for me until today.
When I turned 16, I decided to go to Switzerland for a year to learn French. It had been my dream to learn this beautiful language. However I could not even imagine that exactly in Geneva, where as far as I remember, I was the only Jewish student in my college, G-d would present me with a totally new dimension of spirituality and Judaism which I never experienced before.
It happened that while I was online on Facebook I saw a wise saying of the Lubavitcher Rebbe quoted by Chabad.org. I didn't know exactly who the Rebbe was, but his words made a great impression on me. They touched something deep inside and thousands of questions began to come to mind. I began to recall those childhood memories of events connected to Judaism and the Rebbe's emissaries. It made me feel that warmth and the same pure joy as before; it made me want to connect to what the Rebbe was saying.
That is how my journey closer to Judaism, closer to my real self, and closer to Chabad Chasidut had its new fresh beginning.
At the end of the year in Switzerland, I was offered a place in a school in Oxford, England. I always wanted to see London with it's red booths and buses and the Buckingham Palace....but that's not what made me want to move to England... I found out that there was Chabad on Campus at Oxford. I was hoping to find someone to teach me and guide me in Judaism and I wanted to begin to keep kosher. I realized that this opportunity was a gift from G-d.
And so, I went to England. My very first day there, I called up Chabad of Oxford and when Rabbi Eli Brackman answered the phone, it took me tremendous courage to say, "Hello, I am Jewish. It is my first day in Oxford and I would like to become a part of your community."
Since that day Rabbi Eli and Freidy Brackman welcomed me and became my family. They slowly taught me how to observe Shabbat and kosher, and made sure I didn't take upon myself more than I could keep up with. The most amazing shluchim (emissaries) I have ever been privileged to learn from were their five children.
When I came back home to Germany in the summer, I was already keeping kosher, Shabbat and had begun to dress modestly. It was an unexpected change for my family. Even though my decisions have been hard for them, they have shown an enormous amount of patience and self-sacrifice while supporting me.
This summer I had a chance to work in Chabad's Camp Gan Israel in Berlin. There I met Chava Ginsburg, a student at Machon Chana Women's Institute, who told me about Machon Chana. I realized that G-d was giving me an opportunity to continue to learn more about Judaism and I wanted to use it.
It was one of the most important decisions in my life to go to Machon Chana and for sure the best one until now. Even though at the time my parents were in shock that their daughter was leaving university, now they are happy. They see that not only did I not miss out on the opportunities for a beautiful future, but I grew and now know what I want in life. And they see me strong and determined to have a meaningful life as well as striving to use my talents to the fullest potential for a good purpose.
Being a student in Machon Chana for a year, I can now say that there is nothing that deepens a person's appreciation of Torah and connection to Judaism like learning Chasidut, Chumash and Jewish history in a Yeshiva. I was surrounded by wise, knowledgeable teachers, Rabbi Shloma Majeski - the principal, Mrs. Sara Labkowski - the director, who take tremendous care of every single student. I also lived in the dorm with young women from all around the world and a dorm mother, Mrs. Gita Gansburg - one of the wisest and greatest women I have ever met. All this makes Machon Chana not just a home, not just an amazing Yeshiva, it makes it a school for life. Living in Crown Heights and spending Shabbat with families allows Machon Chana students to meet wonderful people and find beautiful role models. I believe studying at Machon Chana is a beautiful, unforgettable experience that every young Jewish woman needs to have!
Chabad Jewish Center of Cape Coral, Florida, dedicated their new center. The center will house classrooms, a synagogue, a family center, winter and summer camps, offices and more, under the leadership of Rabbi Yossi and Rivky Labkowski. The Chabad Jewish Center of Pierce County in Tacoma, Washington, celebrated its opening. The facility, under the leadership of Rabbi Zalman and Miriam Heber, contains a 120-seat synagogue, classrooms, Hebrew school, social hall and kitchen.
The information in etc. column of L'Chaim #1222 regarding a shlichus in Staten Island, NY, was erroneous.
14th of Tammuz, 5719 
Greeting and Blessing:
I received your letter of July 15th...
It happens that promises before elections are not always kept after elections. Therefore, even if the said person will not always abide by his promises, I trust that it will in no way affect your work for the benefit of the community. Furthermore, the Zechus Horabim [merit of the public] will stand you in good stead and you will be successful, which will at the same time also provide additional channels to receive G-d's blessings in all your affairs, public and private.
Your letter reached me during the auspicious days of 12-13th of Tammuz, marking the Liberation of my father-in-law of saintly memory from imprisonment and persecution in Soviet Russia for his work for Jews and Yiddishkeit [Judaism] there. My father-in-law had declared that his liberation was not a personal affair, but it was a victory of all the holy things for which he had fought, namely, the strengthening and spreading of Yiddishkeit in general, and of the teachings of Chassidus in particular. Therefore, these days are auspicious for everyone who is associated with his work, and a source of inspiration and blessing.
I was pleased to read in your letter of your successful business activities, and may you continue to do successful business in an ever-growing measure.
I was also particularly pleased to note in your letter that you took advantage of an opportunity when you were called upon to make a public speech at the grammar school, and you made a declaration on the importance of higher Jewish education for boys and girls. May G-d grant that this fundamental and vital idea has taken root in the hearts of all the listeners, and will bring good results with all speed. For, I have often emphasized, in the question of education, the time element is of the essence, and opportunities lost are rarely retrieved.
On this day of "Issru Chag" [the day after a festival] of the Liberation Festival, I send you my prayerful wishes that you enjoy liberation and freedom from all anxieties and difficulties, and that you carry on your good work with true inner joy and gladness of heart, going from strength to strength both materially and spiritually.
15th of Tammuz, 5723 
Blessing and Greeting:
I was pleased to receive your letter with the enclosure. I am gratified to note that you found the children well and happy, and that all is well also in the educational work.
I was, of course, also pleased to note that after our conversation, you felt much encouraged in regard to your work for spreading Yiddishkeit. In regard to your writing that you had the feeling that you could conquer the world, may I add that this is not only a manner of speaking, but has a basis in fact, as indicated in the Gemara (Kiddushin 40b), and also the Rambam [Maimonides] states something to that effect, as a matter of halachah [Jewish law], when he says that a person should always consider his positive and negative deeds as equi-balanced, and so the whole world. If one does an additional mitzvah [commandment], he places himself, as well as the whole world, in the scale of zechus [merit], outweighing the negative side.
The above is true, of course, also in the matter of spreading Yiddishkeit, and not only for the purpose of out-balancing. For the activities in Chinuch [Jewish education], starting in a sincere and hearty way, create a chain reaction, and eventually the students themselves become sources of influence, whether as teachers or in other active capacities, with the same enthusiasm and inspiration.
I trust that you observed in a suitable way the auspicious days of 12-13th of Tammuz. These days marked the liberation of my father-in-law of saintly memory from Soviet imprisonment, where his life was in jeopardy as a result of his relentless and sustained battle for the preservation of the Jewish life and institutions even under that totalitarian and anti-religious regime. His selfless dedication, as well as miraculous triumph, is an inspiration to every one of us, and proves once again that where there is a will and determination in matters of Torah and mitzvos, no obstacles are insurmountable. May the inspiration of these days be with you throughout the year.
Bilaam was the preeminent magician in an era when witchcraft and divination were common practice. He was privileged to receive Divine prophecy so the gentile nations wouldn't be able to complain that they had no prophet of great stature. When King Balak enlisted him to curse the Jews he replied: "How shall I curse whom G-d has not cursed?" The blessing he inadvertently uttered entered out liturgy: "Mah Tovu - How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, thy dwellings, O Israel!"
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This coming Monday, July 2, corresponds to the 12th day of Tammuz. On this day in 1927, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn, the Previous Rebbe was informed of his release from Soviet exile and on 13 Tammuz he actually left Kostrama.
The foremost commentator on the Torah, Rashi, explains that "The Nasi - the leader of the generation - is the entire people." Thus, whatever happened to the Previous Rebbe effects not only him but the entire generation and, in fact, the entire Jewish people for all eternity.
The redemption of the Previous Rebbe on 12 Tammuz, sparked an increase in the service of spreading the wellsprings of Chasidut outward.
Moreover, it ultimately led to the Previous Rebbe's coming to America which brought about a marked increase in spreading the teachings of Judaism in general and Chasidut in particular.
In a gathering in honor of 12 Tammuz, the Rebbe explained that "the extent to which Chasidut has been revealed and spread since then has far exceeded the nature of these efforts in previous generations."
The Rebbe continued, "The effects of these efforts increase year after year. The service of spreading these teachings serves as a preparation for the ultimate revelation in the Future Redemption. Then we will see the ultimate fusion of the G-dliness which transcends nature and the G-dliness invested with the natural order."
The Rebbe concluded, "Even before that redemption comes, we will merit a succession of Divine miracles.When one Jew will ask another, 'What was the last miracle that happened?' he will be unable to answer because the miracles are taking place in such rapid succession. And these miracles will lead to the ultimate miracles, those which accompany the Redemption from exile, when 'As in the day of your exodus from Egypt, I will show you wonders.' "
This is the statute of the Torah...a completely red cow (Num. 19:2)
Why does the Torah refer to the laws of the red heifer as the "statute of the Torah" rather than "the statute of the red heifer," which would seem more logical? To teach us that the concept of purity is central to Judaism, the very foundation of a Torah-true life. Rather than constituting only one of the Torah's 613 mitzvot, it is the basis and starting point for all the others.
This is the law, when a man dies in a tent (Num. 19:14)
When do the holy words of Torah truly endure? According to the Talmudic Sage Reish Lakish, only if a person "kills" himself (demonstrates real self-sacrifice) in the "tents" of Torah learning. And as the verse continues, "everyone who comes into the tent, and all that is in the tent" - anyone who comes into contact with the Torah scholar and supports his study will derive benefit.
(Rabbi Avraham Mordechai of Gur)
And he shall put running water (literally "living waters") into a vessel (Num. 19:17)
Just as water has the ability to move mountains, make arid deserts flourish and overcome all boundaries and obstacles, so too is the Jewish people blessed with this ability - provided, of course, that the water is flowing and not frozen into ice. When a Jew is enthusiastic and spirited in his service of G-d, anything is possible. But if he is cold and apathetic, he will achieve nothing.
(Rabbi M. Shapiro of Lublin)
By the king's highway we will go (Num. 20:17)
In our Divine service there is only one road for the Jew to follow: the "highway" of G-d, the King of the universe. As the Previous Rebbe put it, "When it comes to our religion - the Torah, its commandments and Jewish customs - no one can rule over or control us."
A woman who was a Chasid of the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe was married to a man who did not follow Chasidic traditions. Thank G-d they lived peacefully together and had no marital problems. One day the husband, who was a businessman, came home and told his wife that they had a very serious problem. Someone had accused him of engaging in illegal activities, and he had to appear in court. He had already spoken to a lawyer who said the matter was quite serious and they needed to plan a strategy for how to win the case.
When the wife heard this, she immediately said, "Go to the Rebbe and tell him the situation and ask him how to proceed."
The husband said, "I understand that the Rebbe knows how to learn Talmud, Kabbala, and Chasidut, but what does he know of legal matters?"
His wife declared, "If he's the Rebbe, then he knows everything. There is nothing he does not know!"
After some time, the husband was convinced and he went to Warsaw. He told the Rebbe about the case against him. The Rebbe said, "You need to go to Vilna where there is a dentist. Visit him and G-d should grant you success."
The man was taken aback by this advice that seemed peculiar and wholly unrelated to his problem. When he returned home he remonstrated with his wife and said, "Was that a joke? Do I have a toothache? If I go to a dentist he will ask me which tooth hurts and what will I say?"
His wife calmly replied, "If the Rebbe told you to go to Vilna, then go. There is no other choice. Go to Vilna."
It took some time, but the husband finally agreed to go to Vilna. He sat down in the dentist's chair and the dentist asked him, "What hurts you?"
"Uh, I don't have a toothache."
"So why are you here?"
"I came because I have been unjustly accused and the Lubavitcher Rebbe in Warsaw told me to come here."
"The Rebbe sent you here? Fine, come back to my office tomorrow at four."
The next day the man returned and the dentist seated him in the waiting room. As he sat there he overheard the dentist telling a patient about the case against him. The man grew angry and thought, "What is this? I told him personal information; why is he repeating it to someone else?" However, he restrained himself and said nothing.
A few minutes later the dentist came out of his room and said, "The man that you see here is a judge. I told him your problem and he wants to hear it from you. Come in and tell him your story."
The two entered the room and after the judge heard him out, he asked him what he had to say in his defense. The man said he had proof that all the accusations were false and baseless and he even delineated the ridiculousness of the accusations.
"What day must you appear in court?" asked the judge. The man told him the date.
The judge took out his appointment book, examined it briefly and then smiled broadly, "You know what? That is the day I will be in court. Listen to what we will do. You don't know me and I don't know you. You show up on that day in court and when I ask you to defend yourself, tell me exactly what you told me here without giving any indication that we've met before."
The man returned home and his wife asked him, "So what happened at the dentist?"
When he told her everything that had happened with the judge, she said, "Now do you believe that the Rebbe knows what he's doing?"
The man was still not convinced and he said, "First let's see how it works out."
"Fine, though I consider it a done deal," she said. "You will return home and everything will be fine. I am sure of it."
Of course, that is what happened. The judge ruled that there was no basis to the accusation against him and the case was dismissed.
As told by Rabbi Laibl Groner, reprinted from Beis Moshiach magazine.
There is a profound link between the red heifer and the Messianic redemption: Commandments signify life. Following the commandments attaches one to G-d and draws spiritual vitality from the Source of All Life. Sin signifies death. Violating G-d's will disrupts attachment to the Creator, thus bringing about the "impurity of death." Both the red heifer and the Messianic redemption effect purification. For just as the ashes of the red heifer are used for removing a legal state of impurity, the Final Redemption will purify the entire people of Israel from any trace of deficiency in their bond with G-d.