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There's an inner dimension to all the external aspects of life. This applies of course to experiences, whether encounters, things we do throughout the day, or mitzvot (commandments).
If, for example, in Store A the clerk is surly and inept, while in Store B the clerk is affable and informative, we obviously will have different reactions. We might even, if we are honest self-assessors, examine our own attitude or conduct - did we do anything to cause the difference in behavior between the clerks of Store A and Store B.
Chasidic teachings demand that we go deeper, that we recognize or discover the spiritual lesson and the directive in our Divine service hidden, perhaps like a buried treasure, within each experience or action.
The gem of spirituality is probably harder to find in the everyday than in the sacred; the Divine service imperative is surely easier to uncover - or discover - in a mitzva than a commonplace.
For since our Divine service is to transform the physical world into a dwelling place for G-dliness, it follows that we can learn how to do that in our discretionary acts (jobs we choose, etc.) by comparing them to our compulsory acts (mitzvot we must observe). We may say this is as true of the inner dimension as the external experience.
We present all this as an introduction to a thought about a Mishna - a statement of Jewish Law. In the last Mishna in the Talmudic tractate called Eruvin, it states:
"If an impure reptile is found in the Holy Temple, a kohen (priest) carries it out with his belt, so as not to prolong the impurity; says Rabbi Yochanan ben Beroka. Rabbi Yehuda says, with wooden tongs, so as not to increase the impurity."
A brief explanation: the word used for "impure" in the Mishna, "tamei" more correctly translates to ritually or spiritually impure. Objects that are tamei must be removed from sacred space of the Temple. Also, depending on the object and the type of contact, the impurity can be transmitted to a person - temporarily preventing the individual from engaging in "sacred space" activities (i.e., a priest working in the Temple) until the individual undergoes a purifying ritual.
All this seems far from us today. But...
Rabbi Yochanan's statement results in getting the impure reptile out of the Temple as fast as possible. True, the belt will also become tamei (but in this case, not the person). But shortening the time of spiritual impurity is more important than limiting how many things become spiritually impure.
Rabbi Yehuda argues, use wooden tongs (though that requires time to fetch them) as wooden vessels do not become spiritually impure. According to Rabbi Yehuda, it is more important to prevent an object from becoming spiritually impure than it is to worry about the time taken to protect it.
So, which is more important - time or things (space)? When it comes to protecting spirituality - and that can be a range from the words of prayer to the words we speak causally (do we use wholesome language and avoid gossip?), from mitzvot like keeping kosher to "voluntary" acts of charity and goodness and kindness - do we concern ourselves most with how long it takes (how fast we can do it)? Or do we concern ourselves most with the object - or task - before us? Do we focus on protecting the thing we're using for - elevating - to spirituality? The words, the objects - is it even the time we give to a person, or the person himself or herself - as he or she is, demanding and deserving our attention, our total focus?
While we must not waste time, but 'spend' time wisely, and therefore spiritually, the law follows Rabbi Yehuda: more important is to preserve - or increase - the holiness - the G-dliness of the world, even if it takes a little longer.
This week's Torah portion, Teruma, opens with G-d's command to Moses: "Speak to the Children of Israel, that they may bring me a contribution, from every one whose heart prompts him... gold, and silver and copper." As we find out further in the Torah reading, the Jews responded in droves, donating much of their wealth for the purpose of erecting the Tabernacle in the desert. Vast amounts of precious metal were amassed, necessary for making all of the Tabernacle's many implements.
Obviously, the person who donates gold is at a higher level than one who donates silver or copper - commodities that are worth far less. Our Sages interpreted the contribution of each metal as symbolic of the different levels that exist in the giving of tzedaka (charity).
The Hebrew word for "gold" is "zahav," an acronym for "he who gives in fullness of health (ze hanoten bari)." This refers to the highest level of charity, when one shares his wealth with others solely to fulfill the mitzva (commandment) of tzedaka.
Kesef (silver), stands for k'shey esh sakanat pachad - when a person gives tzedaka because he is fearful, hoping that the merit of his charity will prevent evil from befalling him. This level of giving tzedaka is lower than the first, for the giver is motivated by the desire for personal gain.
The lowest level of charity is that of copper - nechoshet, the letters of which stand for netinat choleh she'omer tenu - the charitable donation of one who is ill. This person, motivated by the desire to alleviate his own suffering, remembers to fulfill the mitzva of tzedaka only when he himself is in pain, hoping thereby to alleviate his misery.
On a deeper level, the differences between gold, silver and copper symbolize the differences between the First, Second and Third Holy Temples. Gold, the most precious metal, alludes to the First Holy Temple, the most perfect and complete of G-d's dwelling places. Silver, although valuable, is worth far less than gold. This alludes to the Second Holy Temple, which was missing five items present in the First, among them the Ark of the Covenant.
These deficiencies reflected the fearful state of the mind of the Jewish people at that time, who worried that the Holy Temple would once again be destroyed. Indeed, history proved that their fears were legitimate. Lastly, copper is symbolic of our present condition, while we yet suffer the pains of the exile. Like one who is stricken with any other illness, we must cry out to our Father in Heaven, begging Him to establish the Third and Final Holy Temple that will last forever.
Adapted from a talk of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Vayigash 5752
A Broken Heart or Love?
by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton
The following was related to me by Rabbi Yosef Zaltzman about his grandfather Rabbi Avraham Zaltzman.
Once, at a gathering, Rabbi Avraham Zaltzman told a story about his wild childhood in his yeshiva-days in the town of Lubavitch almost 100 years ago.
When Avraham was 12 years old, he had a very difficult time sitting for long hours and studying Torah. He and two other boys in the yeshiva with similar natures were given various odd jobs to keep them busy in positive ways.
One of these jobs was to milk a few goats in a nearby farm and supply milk to the pupils. But this too became boring and one terrible day, desperate for action, they somehow managed to get one of the goats to drink vodka. They then led the intoxicated animal to the entrance of the large study hall. While all the pupils were diligently immersed in Talmudic studies, Avraham and his friends pushed the goat in.
The goat, totally oblivious to the holiness of the place, jumped on tables, knocked over several rabbis and scattered books and papers in all directions. It was hours before the decorum could be restored and, of course, it was no secret as to who was to blame.
The three boys were summoned to the dean of the yeshiva, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, who was the son of the Lubavitcher Rebbe at that time and founder of the Yeshiva. They were told to pack their belongings and leave.
With no other choice they did as they were told and several hours later were waiting in the train station in the nearby city of Rodna, with their suitcases in hand to return to their homes.
Suddenly Avraham turned to his friends and said, "What are we doing?! We can't leave! We have to go back and plead for mercy!" But the others just shook their heads "no."
"It won't work. Did you see the look on the dean's face? He doesn't want to see us again. We're finished!" One answered
The other boy agreed. "He's not going to take us back this time. We're out for sure!"
But Avraham didn't give up and before the train arrived he succeeded in convincing one of the boys to come back with him and give it a try.
They said good-bye to their friend and trudged back to Lubavitch with no real idea what their next step was but Avraham wouldn't go down without a battle.
They couldn't go back to the dean. And the Rebbe also wasn't the one to approach; he would not override his son's decision... especially here.
Their only chance was the dean's grandmother, the Rebbe's mother, Rebbetzim Rivka. She had a wonderful, warm heart. Maybe she could help.
They went to her house, knocked on the door and when she answered Avraham poured out his heart. When he was finished, her answer was to the point.
"I can't go against the decision of my grandson; he's the dean of the yeshiva. The only one that might be able to do that is my son, the Rebbe. But I can't talk to him about this either. I simply can't mix in.
"But, what I can do is this: every morning at 10 o'clock, my son, the Rebbe, sits in his room and drinks a cup of tea. Come tomorrow morning and I'll show you where the room is ... but you will have to do the talking."
The next morning, Avraham reported back to Rebbetzin Rivka while his friend, who was simply too afraid, waited outside.
She let him in and pointed out the room where the Rebbe was sitting. The door was open and when the Rebbe saw Avraham standing there he looked at him for a moment and asked him what he wanted.
"I want to learn in Lubavitch." He was almost crying.
"Lubavitch?" smiled the Rebbe as he motioned him to come closer, "but there are so many other good yeshivas!" And the Rebbe listed all the other Torah academies, about 20 of them, in the area.
"But I want to learn here, in Lubavitch!" When the Rebbe heard this he began to smile and when Avraham saw the smile he began to cry. Suddenly the Rebbe became serious and said, "We will think about it... come back later today."
Avraham backed out of the office, but suddenly he stopped, and just stood there looking sheepishly at the ground.
"What do you want now?" the Rebbe asked.
"I have a friend," Avraham answered. "He's waiting outside."
"A friend? We will think about him also," the Rebbe replied. "Come back in a few hours."
"Well, the story has a happy ending," Rabbi Avraham concluded to his listners. "We returned to the Rebbe a few hours later. The Rebbe took us into his son, said a few words and left.
"His son imposed a stiff fine on us: we had to learn by heart tens of pages of Talmud and Chasidut. But he accepted us back. And that is the story of how my broken heart got me back into yeshiva."
Rabbi Mendel Futerfas, who was at the gathering and had been listening with interest was the first to comment. "Tell me, Reb Avraham, why do you think he did that? What made him accept you back into the yeshiva?"
"Like I said," he replied, "because I wanted so much to learn in Lubavitch that I actually wept! A person should want to study Chasidic teachings so much that his heart is breaking!!"
"No!" said Reb Mendel. "You are wrong. Your broken heart is not what got you back into Lubavitch.The reason the Rebbe took you back was because you worried for your friend! You thought of another Jew! That's why he took you back! Because of your brotherly love!"
Rabbi Levi Yitzchok and Shoshana Sarfati will soon move to Auckland, New Zealand, to join the local Chabad emissaries there. A new Chabad House that is under construction has opened ahead of schedule to accomodate the influx of Israeli tourists and the additional programs that the new emissaries will be implementing. Rabbi Shmueli and Chasia Feldman have recently moved to Canberra, Australia, to serve as the new emissaries for the Chabad House that serves the growing Jewish community.
Chabad of Tokya, Japan, dedicated a new mikva. Until now, the closest mikva was 325 miles away in Kobe.
24 Tammuz, 5726 (1966)
In reply to your concrete questions, it would seem logical for you to continue with the type of occupation in which you had experience. No doubt it would also be easier for you to make connections in this line.
You ask whether you should wait until September to resume your job, or should, in the meantime, seek employment in Atlantic City. You do not mention what prospects there may be for you in Atlantic City, but I do not think there is much of a future for you there.
With regard to the question about seeking psychiatric advice, judging by the description of your mood, etc., it would seem advisable. However, for reasons which need not be entered into here, most psychiatrists are prejudiced in relation to parents, and in relation to G-d and religion.
One should, therefore, reckon with this, and more importantly, one should try to find a psychiatrist who is free from such prejudices through the recommendation of a doctor-friend, or by independent inquiry.
Needless to say, it is most advisable for you to keep in contact with the element (religious people) you mention as being new to you, involving also the study of a field of knowledge which is entirely new to you - Torah. For this would obviously broaden your horizons, in addition to the essential aspect - the importance of the subject itself for its own sake.
I trust, therefore, that you will continue along these lines, and, as in all new ventures of this nature, it is necessary to apply yourself with enthusiasm and gladness of heart, which the subject merits, and which also is the way to ensure the utmost success of intensive and extensive comprehension.
I was very much surprised to read in your letter, that by becoming religious you would have to seclude yourself from the world.
This is diametrically contrary to the concept of the Jewish religion and way of life, wherein, as you surely know, there is no such thing as monasticism, celibacy, and the like.
It is even more foreign to the spirit and way of the teachings of Chassidus which emphasizes that the purpose of every Jew is not only to make himself personally a "vessel" for the Divine Presence, but also to do his utmost to make his immediate surroundings (his share in the world) a fitting abode for holiness.
This cannot be accomplished by secluding oneself from the world, or by withdrawing from it, but rather by actively participating in, contributing to it.
Of course, before this can be done, it is necessary to have the proper preparation, in order to forestall any possibility of falling under the influence of the material world with all its temptations and passions, and to ensure that one will be master over it.
I would like to make a further observation in regard to the idea (which I believe is not your own), that in order to acquire a particular system or discipline, it is first necessary to acquaint oneself with all other systems, to be able to judge and verify its truth, to the extent of being noncommittal to any discipline, pending personal verification.
Such an idea is the best rationale and excuse that an individual can find(while he still needs a rationale) to indulge fully in a licentious life, and give free rein to his carnal appetites.
As I have often emphasized - if one will not accept the first two Commandments, "I am G-d, your G-d," and "You shall have no other gods, "one will inevitably break all other Commandments, including "You shall not murder," "You shall not steal," not to mention "You shall not covet," however self-evident these precepts may seem.
This has been amply demonstrated by Hitler and the German nation. All the philosophies which the Germans had invented and expounded were of no avail because they made the human mind the supreme and final judge, creating the concept of a "superman," etc.
There is, obviously, quite a difference in a system which leads to human perfection through stressing the Divine qualities in man, which can be developed only through self-discipline and the curbing of natural desires and propensities. There can be no relationship between the two systems; they are diametrically contradictory.
This brings me to the final remark, which is actually the essential point of the letter.
The problem in your case, as with others in similar situations, is the lack of self-discipline, and it is due to the fact that it means curbing one's desires and passions, and this lack of discipline, therefore, extends itself also in other areas, such as regular study and daily routine, so as not to have to think and decide each day what to do with it.
You should also bear in mind that the Yetzer Hora [the evil inclination] will try to counteract this effort by causing a depressed mood and planting the thought that by breaking the discipline, the mood will improve.
The truth is, however, that even if momentarily there seems to be a relief, it is only a fleeting one attained at the cost of a regulated and orderly life which alone can assure success and contentment of a lasting nature.
Much more could be said in regard to all the above, but I trust the above lines will be adequate.
Amram was the great-grandson of our Patriarch Jacob. His grandfather was Levi, his father Kehot. He and his wife Yocheved were the parents of Miriam, Aaron and Moses. Amram was the leader of the Jewish people when they were enslaved in Egypt. He was named Amram because "am Ram" and exalted nation, was to descend from him. He was one of 4 sinless people who died only because death was introduced to the world.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
The seventh of Adar (Sunday, February 17 this year) is the birthday and yahrzeit (anniversary of the passing) of Moses.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe spoke numerous times about the significance of this date in our lives as Jews. In one of the Rebbe's last public addresses, the Rebbe delved further into the significance of this date.
On a person's birthday, "his mazal (source of influence) shines powerfully." If this concept applies to the birthday of any Jew, surely it applies with regard to the birthday of a leader of the Jewish people. Nor is this relevant merely as an event in the past. Instead, each year, the positive influence associated with the Seventh of Adar is increased, reaching a level immeasurably higher than in previous years.
The birthday of a Jewish leader affects every member of the Jewish people, for the leader is the source of influence through whom G-d's blessings are drawn down for the entire people. Seven is symbolic of a complete cycle.
Thus, the Seventh of Adar should inspire every Jew to carry out his service in a complete manner. The positive influence of the month of Adar will facilitate the performance of this service.
Similarly, these positive influences will hasten the coming of the Redemption. It is of utmost importance that the Redemption come sooner, even a moment sooner, for the Divine Presence and the Jewish people are in exile. Therefore, it is important to hasten the coming of the Redemption; every single moment its coming can be speeded is significant.
The potential for this certainly exists: the very next moment can be the last moment of the exile, and the moment that follows, the first moment of Redemption.
Our Sages stated: "Money is more dear to the righteous than their own bodies."
At first glance this seems wholly inappropriate. How can wealth be so important to a truly righteous person? However, the Maharam of Lublin explained that only the righteous perceive the true power of money and the great good that can be done with it. How many mitzvot can be accomplished, how many poor people fed and Jewish educational institutions maintained!
(Maayana Shel Torah)
They shall make Me a Sanctuary and I will dwell in their midst (Ex. 25:8)
Conversely, the "indwelling" of G-d in the Sanctuary is directly proportional to the amount of effort we invest in sanctifying our lives. When a Jew brought holiness into his daily routine and mundane affairs, it caused the holiness in the Temple in Jerusalem to intensify as well.
And you shall make two cherubim of gold (Ex. 25:18)
As explained in the Midrash, all of the Sanctuary's vessels could be made from another metal if gold was unavailable, except for the cherubim. The cherubim were unique in that no other substance besides gold was acceptable. The cherubim, with their faces like that of children, are symbolic of Jewish children and the need to provide them with an uncompromising Jewish education. Indeed, the position of the cherubim on top of the holy ark reminds us of the primacy of our obligation. For when it comes to teaching children Torah and supporting Jewish education, only our best efforts will do.
(Maharam Shapira of Lubin)
And you shall set upon the table showbread before Me always (Ex. 25:30)
The Hebrew expression for "showbread" is lechem hapanim - literally "bread of the faces." Its appearance was different to each individual as the person's own nature was reflected in what he saw. A person with strong faith in G-d perceived the bread as fresh and steaming hot even days after it was set on the table; a person with little faith saw it as cold and stale, for it reflected his own indifference to Judaism.
(Rabbi Avraham Mordechai of Gur)
Many years ago, in a little Russian town, there lived a Jew named Mottel Goldgrebber. Now, this was quite a funny name, for a digger ("grebber") he was, but certainly not a digger of gold. He was, in fact, a digger of sand and lime, which he would sell to local builders who used it to manufacture mortar and cement. Unfortunately, there was not much building going on in the little town, and so, Mottel's sales were few and far between. As a result, he earned very little, and his family had barely enough to survive.
Years passed thus, and it was time for his oldest daughter to marry. But Mottel had a big problem. For without money, how could he make a match? To make matters worse, the match of Mottel's dreams was a Torah scholar, and with no dowry to speak of, that would surely remain what it was, just a dream.
Then, one day, Mottel became rich! He was digging as usual, when his shovel struck something hard. Mottel bent down and picked up a stone that looked like a piece of glass. He was about to throw it away, but something told him to put it into his pocket, which he did. There it remained for several days until he took it to the only diamond dealer in the little town. The man studied it through his glass. He scratched it and bit it, and then he spoke: "This is no piece of glass. It is a diamond of enormous value!"
Mottel nearly collapsed. "How much would you venture to say it is worth?" he managed to ask.
"I don't have enough to buy it, but I advise you to go to London to my cousin, who is a diamond dealer there. He will tell you how much it is really worth. You are a rich man, Mottel!"
Mottel was dumb-founded. "I can't go to London. I have no money!"
"Don't worry. I'll advance you the money for the trip," the diamond dealer offered. "When you go to London, sell the stone and buy a lot of smaller stones. When you come home, we'll go into partnership together."
Mottel made all of the necessary arrangements and soon arrived at the port. By the time he arrived, though, he had spent nearly all of the money the diamond dealer had advanced to him, for he was not accustomed to managing more than a few pennies at a time. He approached the captain of the ship and showed him the stone, explaining that he had no money to pay his passage now, but he would soon be wealthy. The captain agreed to take him and soon Mottel was comfortably ensconced in a first class cabin.
Mottel couldn't believe his luck. He would often take the diamond from his pocket and hold it up to the sun to marvel at its beautiful glittering colors. Even when he was eating he would take out the beautiful stone to admire. One day, as Mottel was reciting the blessing after the meal, the steward arrived to clear away the remnants of his repast. He gathered up the cloth and shook the diamond together with the crumbs out the porthole.
Mottel was horrified at what had happened, but what could he do? He calmly blessed G-d for having given and taken away, and then set about to think through the new development. Things looked as bad as possible, but Mottel was a man of faith and he was sure G-d would not forsake him.
One morning, as Mottel was strolling on the deck, the captain confided in him. "I want to ask you a favor, which will also be to your advantage."
The captain then explained that along with cargo which belonged to the king, he was carrying precious ore which was his own property. The problem was that the king's men would take that cargo as well as the king's. The captain proposed to put the ore in Mottel's name and Mottel would sell it when they reached London.
The documents were duly signed and sealed. The captain instructed Mottel that exactly two weeks after docking he would come to collect the money from the sale, less ten percent commission.
On the appointed day everything was completed. Mottel waited and waited, but the captain did not come. After several days, Mottel went to the docks to inquire about the captain. There he heard the shocking news that the captain had been involved in a drunken brawl and had been stabbed to death! Mottel investigated and found out that the captain had absolutely no living relatives. He had inherited the huge profits from the ore deal. He was richer now than he would have been had he sold the diamond.
Mottel couldn't understand his good fortune. When he returned to his little town in Russia, he discussed everything with his friend, the diamond dealer, who offered this explanation: "You had done nothing to merit the diamond. It was simply a gift of Divine grace. But when you lost it, your faith never waivered. You put your trust in G-d and for that reason, you merited the second fortune, which is not only larger than the first, but which will undoubtedly remain yours as long as you keep your faith in G-d."
The numerical equivalent of the Hebrew word "shulchan," meaning "table" is 388, the same as the phrase "l'Moshiach," "for [the era of] Moshiach." In the Messianic era, all of the Holy Temple's vessels and implements that have been plundered or hidden away - including the golden table upon which was placed the 12 special loaves of bread - will be restored for use in the Divine service.