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1261: Ki Sisa

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Devarim Deutronomy

L'Chaim
March 1, 2013 - 19 Adar, 5773

1261: Ki Sisa

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Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.


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  1260: Tetzaveh1262: Vayakhel-Pekudei  

Heartfelt Logic  |  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

Heartfelt Logic

"Warning: The Surgeon General has found that cigarette smoking causes..."

We're all used to the warnings and small print about cigarette smoking, alcohol, artificial sweeteners, etc. Even if you don't partake of any of the above-mentioned chemicals, you still see the warnings plastered all over the product, billboards and ads in various types of media.

Rumor has it that more often than not, the very people who are doing the studies which determine the ill effects of these chemicals on our systems themselves smoke, drink (at least socially) and/or use artificial sweeteners.

What's going on here? How can there be cancer specialists who smoke, dieticians who are overweight, people who work in detox centers who imbibe a little too much once in a while? Don't they know the deleterious effects of their behavior from their own studies and work?

In answer to these questions, we might want to define, very briefly, the acronym for the branch of Chasidic philosophy established by the first Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Shneur Zalman. The word Chabad stands for the three aspects of the intellect: Chochma - wisdom; Bina - knowledge; Da'at - understanding. The difference between wisdom and knowledge - the first two aspects of intellect - and knowledge is that "understanding" is only acquired when one has internalized the wisdom and knowledge.

With all of the studying, thinking, philosophizing, experimenting, and memorizing in the world, one does not truly even acquire the wisdom and knowledge until it goes from the "head" to the "heart" - until one has internalized it and understands it as it applies to oneself and it becomes a part of the person. Therefore, the subject matter that remains in the intellect and does not even begin to become internalized has not really completed the intellectual process.

This is the explanation of how someone who daily reads the X-rays of lung cancer patients can smoke, or how a dietician who has book knowledge of the dangers of obesity can be fat.

The need for intellect to permeate the heart is taught throughout the stories, laws and lessons of the Torah. But a most unique way of emphasizing the importance of joining the mind and the heart is by looking at the last and first letters of the Torah.

The very last letter of the Torah is the lamed in the word "Yisrael" (Israel, i.e., the Jewish people). The very first letter of the Torah is the bet in "Breishit." Combining the two letters gives us the numerical value of 32, and according to Kabala, 32 is the number of different aspects of the intellect. But the letters lamed and bet also spell the Hebrew word "lev" meaning "heart." Even when one studies something using all 32 aspects of the intellect, it is not complete until it has entered the "heart."

Based on a talk by Rabbi Dr. Nissan Mangel.


Living with the Rebbe

In this week's portion, Ki Tisa, G-d commands Moses to make a washing basin and place it in front of the Tent of Meeting. This basin was for the priests to wash before they performed their service, as it states, "Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and feet from it when they go into the Tent of Meeting."

The act of washing had two objectives. The first was for cleanliness and purity, as the kohen (priest) was required to maintain a higher standard than others. The second was for the purpose of holiness: by washing himself the priest received an extra measure of sanctity. In fact, the very act of washing is called the "sanctification of the hands and feet."

Although the Holy Temple in Jerusalem is no longer standing, the lessons we derive from the services that were performed there are eternal. Every Jew is considered a "priest" (the entire Jewish people is called "a nation of priests and a holy people"), and the concept of washing before serving the Creator exists on many different levels.

In his Laws of Prayer, Maimonides writes that one must "wash his face, hands and feet before praying the morning service." Nowadays, when we cannot bring actual sacrifices, our prayers are offered in their stead. Washing before we pray follows the example of the priests, who washed before performing their Temple duties. But why does Maimonides stipulate that the face must be washed - something the priests were not obligated to do? The answer is that the concept of "face" has a special significance during the period of exile, after the destruction of the Holy Temple.

Hands and feet are symbolic of man's physical ability and prowess; the face is symbolic of his higher powers (intellect, sight, hearing, speech, etc.) The more mundane aspects of life are to be carried out by the hands and feet alone, whereas the higher powers are to be reserved for man's higher calling - the service of G-d.

When the Holy Temple stood, the overall spiritual level of the Jewish people was higher. It would never have occurred to the "face" to involve itself in lower matters; thus, it didn't need an added measure of protection and holiness. During the exile, however, the Jew is sometimes so demoralized that he forgets himself and invests his higher powers in affairs that are truly unworthy of their attention. His "face," as it were, must therefore be safeguarded.

In practice, many authorities rule that the "Modeh Ani" prayer said upon awakening, thanking G-d for restoring the soul, is sufficient preparation for prayer; washing one's face is not strictly necessary. For the Jew's innermost essence is always pure and connected to G-d, and thus always ready to worship the Creator.

Adapted from Likutei Sichot of the Rebbe, Vol. 31


A Slice of Life

And When You Walk
by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton

The following story happened to my wife, Rochel. Rochel runs a successful advertising agency near Tel Aviv. One day she was told that a certain business might be interested in her services. She followed the lead, called the owner, introduced herself and asked if he had plans for advertising.

The owner said that he wasn't interested in advertising at this stage as his budget didn't allow for it. However, if she was interested in hearing a personal story connected with the Lubavitcher Rebbe he would be happy to tell her at his office.

(As my wife is a successful Chasidic businesswoman, she has been written about in a number of Israeli publications. It seems he had read about her in a business magazine and he knew she would appreciate the story.)

Rochel visited the man's office several days later and was shown in immediately. He began by apologizing profusely that he didn't have an advertising budget, and then he began his story.

"When my daughter was 15 years old she was a very talented and promising dancer. Although she had doubts about going professional, she loved to dance and spent hours each day practicing.

"Then one morning, unexplainably, she couldn't get out of bed. She screamed and we ran to her room and then frantically called an ambulance; she was paralyzed and had lost all feeling from the waist down! What a tragedy!

"A month and tens of experts later the unanimous decision was that there was no hope. The doctors were supposing that she had contracted a rare nerve disease because all of the tests concluded that her nerves were destroyed and there was no cure.

"With no alternative we brought her home and a pall of sadness and depression replaced the music and joy that had until recently filled out home.

"Then, one day, a Lubavitcher who I know came to my office to ask for a donation. Usually I donated generously but that day I was not in the mood and just told the fellow to leave me alone.

" 'Did something happen?' the young man asked. 'Maybe I can help. Forget the donation. You look really sad, what happened?' Try as I could I couldn't get rid of him so finally I told him about what happened to my daughter.

"The fellow heard the story and as soon as I finished he had a 'solution.'

" 'Listen, the Lubavitcher Rebbe often encourages people to check their mezuzas whenever an issue comes up! Did you check your mezuzas? You have mezuzas on the doors of your office and your home, I bought them for you! You must have them checked. I'll take care of it for you, what do you care?'

"I gave him permission to do whatever he wanted and then I put the whole thing out of my mind.

"Late the next day, the Lubavitcher was back with an excited look on his face.

" 'I went to your house yesterday, took off the mezuzas from the doors and, have a look! The one on your daughter's door had the letter "lamed" of the word "U'v'lecht'cha" (and when you walk) partially worn away. I bought a new one and I'm on my way to your house now to put it up.'

"About a week later my daughter woke up shouting. Her legs were tingling! We rushed her to the hospital. They ordered tests. The results came back that there were definitely some changes evident. The next day she moved her foot and a few weeks later she was already trying to stand up! The doctors all wanted to know which specialist was treating our daughter. They refused to believe the mezuza story! In fact, as many times as I've told it, no one appreciated it. That is why I wanted to share it with you when you called.

"That was over five years ago. Today she is walking like everyone else. She is still not dancing yet but thank G-d it was a real miracle!"

Rabbi Tuvia Bolton is co-director and a senior lecturer at Yeshiva Ohr Tmimim in Kfar Chabad, Israel. He is also a musician and author of a weekly column on the Torah portion that appears on ohrtmimim.org from where this article is reprinted. Together with his wife, Rochel, they have four children and many grandchildren. Rochel runs a leading advertising agency in Israel, Bolton Advertising, Ltd. She was recently listed on The Marker's List as one of of Israel's most powerful women.

What's New

It's Always the "Season"

Rain, shine or snow, it's always the "season" in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, home of World Lubavitch Headquarters. The first weekend in February, which was the 25th anniversary of the passing of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson, was the "Kinus HaShluchos" - the Conference of (Women) Emissaries of the Lubavitcher Rebbe from around the world. Over 3,000 women attended the annual conference. There was a special program for the daughters of the shluchos, with hundreds of girls in attendance. As well, a convention for high school girls from throughout North America was also held that weekend with the participation of over 2,000 teens. The following weekend, 700 teens from across the United States and Canada converged on Crown Heights for the fourth annual CTEEN Shabbaton. CTeen is a club where teens learn about themselves and their heritage through giving to others and participating in interactive, hands-on activities. There are currently 85 chapters. The annual Shabbaton gives teens the opportunity to forge new friendships while experiencing a meaningful Shabbat and enjoying the thrills of the Big Apple.


The Rebbe Writes

22 Adar I, 5719 [1959]

In answer to your letter in which you outline the events of your life from the time of your marriage until today, the impressions of this and your desire, etc.

After carefully reading your letter, my opinion is that in spite of all the undesirable happenings, there is absolutely no basis to disrupt a Jewish home, which according to the marriage blessings is an eternal edifice, and especially since these occurrences were experienced at a time of moving from place to place, not only in the physical sense but also in the spiritual one.

Since moving into the state of married life and from country to country are major transitions - and primarily taking into account the greatness of peace, particularly peace in the home, about which G-d says, "It is better that My name be erased, so as to achieve peace between man and wife" - it is imperative that you lay open your grievances before a rabbi (understandably in the presence of your husband), so that the Rabbi will hear both sides, a fundamental condition for elucidating the truth. And certainly you will find the means to rectify and improve the relationship, understanding that you both wish for this - this wish being a sacred obligation, as our Sages point out in various places, and as we say every morning that this is "from those things whose fruit we eat in this world and whose benefit we derive in the next."

I hope that you will think into these lines, though they are few in number, with an introspection that befits the seriousness and importance of this matter, and may G-d grant you success.

With blessings for good tidings in all of the above.


16th of Adar I, 5738 [1978]

...I trust that it is unnecessary to emphasize to you at length that the daily life and conduct in accordance with the will of G-d, namely in accordance with the Jewish way of Torah and Mitzvoth [commandments], in addition to being a must for its own sake, is also the channel to receive G-d's blessings in all needs. Therefore, every additional effort in this direction is bound to bring additional Divine blessings, and there is always room for advancement in all matters of goodness and holiness, Torah and Mitzvoth, which are infinite, being derived from, and connected with, the Infinite.

The above is particularly important since, as I note, you are planning to spend Pesach [Passover] in Eretz Yisroel [Israel]. As I had occasion to mention this to others, visiting another country often requires a visa, and the "visa" insofar as a country which is recognized even by non-Jews as the "Holy Land," is surely in terms of an extra measure of holiness.

Our Rabbis speak of Eretz Yisroel as the "Palace of the Supreme King," and it is understandable that when a person is about to visit a palace of a king or a president, one makes appropriate preparations in regard to dress and particularly conduct befitting the occasion.

Thus, however satisfactory the position may be in regard to goodness and holiness, Torah and Mitzvoth, in one's personal life an extra measure of it is called for when visiting the Holy Land, both before and, certainly, during the visit.

Wishing you and your son a pleasant visit to the Holy Land in the above spirit and in every respect.


Who's Who

Choni HaMaagal was a scholar from the first century BCE. His name "HaMaagal" means "the circle drawer." This name is derived from an incident that is recorded twice in the Talmud. When Israel suffered from a terrible drought, the people approached Choni to pray for rain. He drew a circle around himself and swore to G-d that he would not leave the circle until G-d provided "rain of blessing." This prayer for rain that was answered took place on 20 Adar (this Shabbat). His tomb, a place of prayer for many, is in Chatzor HaGlilit, Galilee.


A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

This Shabbat a second Torah scroll is taken out of the ark and Parshat Para, a special chapter enumerating the laws of the red heifer, is read. The ashes of the red heifer (of which only nine have ever existed) have the power to remove the spiritual impurity that is caused by contact with a dead body. The tenth and final red heifer will be prepared by Moshiach, who will purify the Jewish people in the Messianic era.

The mitzva (commandment) of the red heifer is a prime example of a "chok" - an "illogical" commandment that completely transcends human understanding. While the person upon whom the ashes were sprinkled was purified, the one who performed the ritual was rendered unclean. The mitzva of the red heifer has long been derided by the non-Jewish world for its inconsistencies. The Evil Inclination wants Jews, too, to feel uncomfortable about it. But like other commandments in this category, it reminds us that the basis for our observing Torah and mitzvot is not how much of Judaism we can understand and "agree" with. A Jew's faith in G-d is higher than the limitations of the human mind.

Of course, as human beings blessed with intellect we are obligated to study Torah and comprehend it to the best of our ability. Faith and intellect are two sides of the same coin, each one complementing the other and making us complete. But the bottom line is that the Torah is Divine, and we can't expect to understand everything.

The mitzva of the red heifer thus contains an important lesson: G-d promised us Moshiach; it doesn't matter if it makes "sense," or if there are skeptics who ridicule our belief. In the same way our forefathers were redeemed from Egypt in the merit of their faith, so too must we remain strong until the Final Redemption with Moshiach is a reality.

May it happen at once.


Thoughts that Count

This shall they give, every one that passes among those who are numbered (Ex. 30:13)

The commentator Rashi explains: G-d showed Moses a coin of fire and said, "Like this shall they give," to teach us that when a person gives charity he should do it with fiery enthusiasm.

(Sefer HaDarush)


G-d showed Moses a "coin of fire" to show the similarity that exists between money and the phenomenon of fire. Fire is a vital element without which the world could not survive, but it is also capable of great destruction. So, too, are the characteristics of wealth. When a person utilizes his money in the proper way, it brings great benefit to many, but when it is used improperly terrible damage may be inflicted.


And they shall give - venatnu - every man, a ransom for his soul to G-d (Ex. 30:12)

The Hebrew word "venatnu" (they shall give), spelled vav, nun, tav, nun, vav, is read the same from left to right or right to left. This teaches us that when a person gives charity, he should not worry that he will suffer any lack, for the goodness he sows will be returned to him as in return.


It Once Happened

Bruria sat at the table staring at the open scroll of Torah, but she didn't see the words before her. Her anguished past was usually held at bay by her intense study of the Law, but on days like today the painful scenes intruded into her present and irrepressibly dominated her thoughts.

The horrible scene was as fresh in her mind as the day on which it had occurred. "Father, Father," she screamed over and over. She had tried in vain to go to him, whether to help him or to join him in his martyrdom. It seemed like only hours had passed since his pure soul escaped from his tormented body, flying heavenward together with the holy letters of the Torah scroll wrapped around his body which refused to burn. The same day saw the martyrdom of her holy mother and the enslavement of her sister.

Her husband, Rabbi Meir, entered the room, interrupting her thoughts, but she didn't look up. "What are you thinking of, my wife?" he asked softly.

"So much time has passed since that terrible day. I'm thinking about my poor sister. Oh, Meir, we must do something again to try to ransom her. It's been so long since we've tried. Please, I can't bear to think of her a captive of the wicked Romans. I can't live with myself, imagining what she's going through."

"You're right, Bruria. I promise to try. Perhaps G-d will have mercy on her and intercede on her part. Perhaps this time I will succeed."

The following day Rabbi Meir prepared for his mission. He changed from the clothing which marked him as a scholar and dressed for the road. He loaded his horse with provisions, and carefully tucked in his belt a bag of gold coins. With this small fortune he hoped to bribe the prison guard and free his sister-in-law.

When he reached the Roman fortress, he dismounted and approached the guard. "Halt! What is your business here?" barked the Roman guard.

"I have come to ransom the Jewish girl who is being held here."

"If that's it, you may as well get back on your horse. There's nothing I can do about it. I have superiors to answer to. Do you think I can let prisoners out just like that? What do you think would happen to me?"

"I understand your problem, well," replied Rabbi Meir as he removed the bag of gold from his belt. He made sure that the guard saw the bag and heard the clinking of the coins.

"Maybe the contents of this bag will solve your problem," said Rabbi Meir. "Keep half for your trouble, and use the rest to keep the other guards quiet. I'm sure that now you can free the girl."

The guard stood wide-eyed, looking down at the bag. Only his fear stopped him from grabbing it. "If they find me out, I'll be in the kind of trouble there's no getting out of."

"I will make you a promise: If you need help, just cry out, 'G-d of Meir, answer me!' and you will be saved."

"How can I trust you?" No sooner had the guard uttered his question when Rabbi Meir spotted a pack of wild dogs. He picked up a few stones and threw them at the dogs who leaped at him with bared fangs.

"G-d of Meir, answer me!" cried out Rabbi Meir. Instantly, the dogs ran away. When the guard saw that, he reached for the bag of gold. Obviously, this wasn't your average horseman, but a miracle-worker.

In a few moments Bruria's sister was running down the road, free.

When news of the girl's escape reached Rome, a government investigation was quickly begun. It wasn't long before the guard was implicated, convicted, and condemned to death by hanging. He was led to the gallows and the rope placed on his neck. But he hadn't forgotten what Rabbi Meir had told him, and at the last moment he cried out, "G-d of Meir, answer me!" At once, the rope snapped. The hangmen brought a new rope, but no matter how they tried, something always went wrong. Even the executioners sensed that something out of the ordinary was occurring.

They removed the guard from the scaffolding and asked him, "What's going on here? It seems that some great power is saving you. Nothing like this has ever happened before!" The guard told them about the strange horseman who had come to ransom the girl, and about his promise of help.

The strange story was told and retold until it reached the ears of the highest officials in Rome. Rabbi Meir's reputation as a holy man who could work miracles was well known to them, and they surmised that the daring horseman was none other than Rabbi Meir himself. No effort was spared to apprehend and punish him. Those Jews would be taught an indelible lesson.

One day as Rabbi Meir was walking down the street, he was recognized. He fled down the winding, narrow paths as fast as he could, but soon they would catch up to him. Just then he saw a non-kosher restaurant. This was the perfect place to hide. Why, who would imagine that the great Rabbi Meir would be found inside a treife restaurant? He entered, ordered some food, and sat with the plate in front of him, sticking one finger into the food, while licking another.

Just as he had assumed, his pursuers arrived in no time. They looked into the door and stared hard at Rabbi Meir. No, it couldn't be - they must be mistaken. True, there was a man who looked just like Rabbi Meir, but he was sitting and licking his fingers, enjoying the plateful of non-kosher food. No, it couldn't be Rabbi Meir. They quickly left to continue the search elsewhere.

Rabbi Meir waited another few minutes and then left. He knew that he couldn't stay in the Holy Land any longer. That very day Rabbi Meir would make plans for his escape to Babylonia and safety.


Moshiach Matters

Special oil (shemen hamishcha) was used to anoint the High Priests and Kings of the House of Dovid. Moses prepared only 12 lug (about 2 gallons) of this oil. Miraculously it was enough for all past generations and all future generations. It was still used in the times of the Second Holy Temple and it was hidden when the Holy Temple was destroyed. In the Messianic Era, it will be returned to us.

(Rashi Ex. 30:31. Talmud Krisus 5b)


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