Second Chances | 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
When you've missed the boat there's nothing you can do but wave to the passengers. If the train has already left the station, you might as well sit down and wait for the next one to arrive. There are many things in life that depend on being in the right place at the right time; if you're late, you've missed that opportunity forever.
Likewise, the Torah tells us that there are specific times for doing specific mitzvot (commandments). There is a proper time to put on tefilin, a proper time to light Shabbat candles, a proper time to eat matza, and a proper time to sit in the sukka.
The Torah's narrative about Pesach Sheini - the "Second Passover" (always on 14 Iyar), thus expresses a very radical concept in Judaism.
Right before their Exodus from Egypt, G-d commanded the Jewish people to offer the Passover sacrifice, on the 14th of Nisan. One of the requirements, however, was that a Jew had to be in a state of ritual purity. As a result, not everyone was permitted to bring an offering, and the Jews who were excluded felt terrible. "Why should we be left out?!" they demanded of Moses. They were so eager to observe the mitzva that G-d relented, granting them another opportunity to bring an offering one month later, on the 14th of Iyar.
This story reveals the unfathomable depths of the Jewish soul and the infinite power of teshuva, repentance. It teaches us that every Jew is so intimately connected to G-d that when he makes a sincere and heartfelt demand, it "forces" G-d, as it were, to open up new channels through which to send us His abundant blessings.
As the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe explained, the lesson of Pesach Sheini is that it is never too late to correct the past and return to G-d. It also emphasizes the power of a Jew's initiative. When a Jew cries out, from the depths of his soul and with a genuine desire to fulfill G-d's will, G-d listens to his plea and grants his request.
There is an additional message of Pesach Sheini. What, in fact, was the cause of the ritual impurity which excluded some Jews from participating in the sacrifice? The Torah states: "There were people who were defiled by contact with the dead and were unable to offer the Passover sacrifice on that day." According to one opinion in the Talmud, these Jews were involved in the mitzva of burying a dead person found on the roadside who had no known relatives to do so. Even a kohen (priest) and even a High Priest - neither of whom is normally permitted to come in contact with the dead - is obligated to defile himself by burying the dead person.
This concept applies on a spiritual plane, as well. When we encounter another person who is spiritually "lifeless" we are obligated to get involved with him, even if it takes us away from our own spiritual pursuits.
Ultimately, Pesach Sheini teaches us that we must never despair or give up on ourselves, on others, and especially in inundating G-d with our demand that He send us Moshiach immediately.
This week we read two Torah portions, Acharei and Kedoshim. Acharei, begins with the words, "And G-d spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron." Nadav and Avihu, both of whom were truly righteous men, were consumed by a great fire. Why did they deserve such a harsh punishment?
The Midrash offers some reasons why Nadav and Avihu died: They entered the Holy of Holies without permission; they performed their service without wearing the required priestly garments; they were not married and thus had no children. But what was so terrible about these infractions that it brought about their premature deaths?
Chasidic philosophy explains that Aaron's sons died precisely because of their high spiritual stature. Nadav and Avihu possessed an overwhelming love of G-d, which ultimately blinded them to their true purpose. Their deaths were caused by their good intentions which ran counter to G-d's intent in creating the world. Aaron's sons' desire to merge with G-dliness was incompatible with human existence. Their souls so longed to be one with G-d that they could no longer remain in their physical bodies, and the two men died.
On the one hand, this attests to Nadav and Avihu's high spiritual accomplishments. But on the other hand, their behavior was considered sinful because man was not created solely to fulfil his spiritual yearnings. G-d created man for the purpose of making the world holy through the performance of the Torah's commandments.
G-d gave us the responsibility to refine the world, purifying it and enabling physical matter to become a receptacle for holiness. G-d desires a "dwelling place below," not for us to follow only spiritual pursuits and disdain this world. Nadav and Avihu's excess in the realm of the spiritual, to the exclusion of the physical, was their downfall.
This is why the verse reads, "...when they had come near before G-d, and they died." Their death was not the result of their actions, but rather, the essence of their sin. Aaron's sons drew so close to G-d that physical existence was impossible.
Entering the Holy of Holies without permission was therefore symbolic of ascending too high; performing the service while being improperly clothed shows an unwillingness to "clothe" oneself in mitzvot, which are called the garments of the soul. Nadav and Avihu wanted to take the "short cut" to G-d, without having to trouble themselves with the obstacles posed by the physical world.
Likewise, the fact that neither Nadav nor Avihu married and had children showed their refusal to lead a natural, physical existence. Such a path to G-dliness was too cumbersome for them. However, this is not what G-d wants from us.
We learn a valuable lesson from their death: Although there are certain times when we feel a strong desire and longing for G-dliness and we experience a great spiritual uplift, we must carry those feelings into our daily lives and translate them into tangible actions. This is the purpose for which we have been created - to transform our physical surroundings into a dwelling place for the Divine Presence.
Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
All Because of a Kipa!
by George Yosef Mordechai Gati
Ed.'s note: From the "slices of life" that Mr. Gati is sharing with us, we can see how every interaction with another person can be an opportunity to benefit another.
It was a beautiful Friday morning. I left my house at about 8:00 a.m. to go to my mechanic in New Jersey. During the drive I thought that I would like to do a chesed (lit. kindness, or favor) for another Jew before returning to New York.
The car repair lasted longer than I had anticipated. Finally at about 4:00 p.m. I left the garage and headed to the New Jersey Turnpike. Shabbat would start at 7 p.m.
As I was driving home, I thought about the fact that I still had not encountered anyone for whom I could do a chesed. I arrived at home and still had a few errands to run before the onset of Shabbat. I went to the dry cleaning store and realized I had an extra L'Chaim with me and I gave it to the owner, who was happy to receive it.
The dry cleaner is open on Sundays. I suggested that I could stop by on Sundays and we could share a few Torah thoughts with each other to start our week off right. He jumped up and said "What a great idea!"
It has been several months since that first Sunday, and my burning to do chesed continues! As our Sages teach, "The reward for a mitzva is (an opportunity to do) another mitzva!
Recently, I attended the Women's and Children's Fashion Trade Show in Las Vegas at the Convention Center. I always wear my kipa even at the Trade Shows. On the second day of the show, I noticed a gentleman looking into every booth he passed. When he came to my booth he asked me, "Do you have Tefilin with you?"
I answered, "Yes, I do." He then proceeded to tell me that he had forgotten to put them on that morning. I went with him to an area near the food court where he put on the Tefilin and started to pray. After he finished, another Jew man, having seen the first man with Tefilin on, asked, "May I also put on the Tefilin?"
"Of course," I said, "with pleasure!" Wow, what a great feeling I was getting from sharing my Tefilin!
On the third day of the Convention I was working with an account in my booth when a fellow Jew came over and asked, "How far do you have to drive to the nearest shul (synagogue) because I have to say Kaddish for my father." I informed him that there is a minyan right here in the building. I told him that if he would come back to my booth at 4:15 p.m. I would take him downstairs to the afternoon services so he could say Kaddish for his father.
After arriving back from the Trade Show in Las Vegas, I told Rabbi Naftali Rottenstreich, the Chabad rabbi who teaches a Lunch 'n Learn Torah class that I attend every Wednesday in Manhattan, about the many Jews attending the Convention. Within a few months, the rabbi began attending the Trade Show together with a fellow rabbi, to make Torah and mitzvot even more accessible to the participants.
So many mitzvot, so many lives touched, all because I wear my kipa even at the Trade Shows.
A few months ago, there was to be gathering at the Chabad Lubavitch Midtown Center in Manhattan.
The manager at the Jerusalem II restaurant on Broadway said he would gladly donate several cakes in honor of the event.
On Friday morning on my way to work, I decided to drop by the restaurant to remind the manager of the event to take place the following Tuesday. As soon as I entered, the manager ran over to me, grabbed my hand and said, "My Tefilin are missing, can you please get me a pair? I need 'left-handed' Tefilin!"
I rushed to an office a few blocks away where I attend the afternoon Mincha service. To my dismay they didn't have any Tefilin. I called a few other people in nearby offices. Still no luck.
I decided to go over to the Shalom Pizza Shop on 37th Street and 6th Avenue. I asked the owner if he had a pair of 'left-handed' Tefilin.
"Yes, they are downstairs in the basement." I had hit the jackpot!
In no time I was on the way to the Jerusalem II Restaurant a few blocks away. I told the manager about the Tefilin and he assured me he would go over there shortly. At around 12:30, I decided to call the manager to see if he had managed to put on the Tefilin yet. He told me that the restaurant had gotten very busy and he hadn't been able to go yet." I decided to go to the restaurant myself; perhaps there was something I could do so that he could leave for just a few minutes to put on Tefilin.
As I was walking down Broadway, I spotted a Lubavitcher carrying a Tefilin bag under his arm. I asked him if the Tefilin were for a left-handed person. "Yes," he said. He told me that he had just arrived from Milan, Italy, and was looking for a Kosher restaurant.
What Divine Providence! We rushed over to Jerusalem II and the manager was very happy to put on the Tefilin. We wished each a "Shabbat Shalom" and parted ways.
Thank you, G-d for giving me the opportunity to help someone put on Tefilin!
New Torah Scrolls
A new Torah was dedicated at Chabad of the Beaches in Long Beach, New York. The welcoming of the new Torah scroll was seen as a show of unity and the strong resolve since being devastated by Hurricane Sandy. A new Torah scroll was dedicated in Venice, Italy. It was welcomed into the Chabad yeshiva in that city.
Chabad of Chandler, Arizona, is dedicating a new 15,000 square feet center. The center will include a preschool, 450-seat sanctuary, playground, library, classrooms, modern kitchen and ample room for meetings, classes, workshops and lectures. Chabad-Lubavitch of Antwerp, Belgium, has just dedicated a new building located on the Belgeliei, the bustling main street in the city center. It includes a 250-seat synagogue, social hall, Jewish library, youth center, multimedia room, offices, classrooms, and a large playground. The 43,000 square feet of floor space is also slated to house a Museum of Jewish Life.
Excerpted from a letter dated 15 Iyar, 5724 
...It is customary to find fault with the present generation by comparison with the preceding one. Whatever conclusions one may arrive at from this comparison, one thing is unquestionably true, namely that the new generation is not afraid to face the challenge.
I have in mind not only the kind of challenge which would make them at variance with the majority, but even the kind of challenge which calls upon sacrifices and changes in their personal life.
Some of our contemporary young people are quite prepared to accept this challenge with all its consequences, while others who may not as yet be ready to accept it, for one reason or another, at least show respect for those who have accepted it, and also respect for the one who has brought them face to face with this challenge. This is quite different from olden days, when it took a great deal of courage to challenge prevailing popular opinions and ideas, and a person who had the courage to do so was often branded as an impractical individual, a dreamer, etc.
Furthermore, and in my opinion this is also an advantage, many of our young people do not rest content with taking up a challenge which has to do only with a beautiful theory, or even deep thinking, but want to hear also about the practical application of such a theory, not only as an occasional experience, but as a daily experience; and that is the kind of idea which appeals to them most.
A further asset is the changed attitude towards the person who brings the challenge.
Even though it seems logical that the one who brings the challenge to the young people should have a background of many years of identification with and personification of the idea which he promulgates, this is no longer required or expected nowadays, when we are used to seeing quick and radical changes at every step in the physical world.
If this is possible in the physical world, it is certainly possible in the spiritual world, as our Sages of old had declared, "A person may sometimes acquire an eternity in a single instant." Thus, no individual can ignore his duty to share his newly-won truth, even if he has no record of decades of identification with it. As a matter of fact, this may even be an added advantage, in that it can impress on the audience a precedent.
You will surely gather that the preceding paragraphs are in reference to the beginning of your letter, in which you express your discontent at the lack of deeper knowledge of the various aspects of the Torah.
Besides, you surely recall the saying of the wisest of all men about true wisdom, "The more the knowledge, the more the pain." For, in regard to the knowledge of the Torah, which represents the infinite wisdom of the Ein Sof, the more one learns, the more one becomes painfully aware of the distance which is still to be covered, a distance which is indeed infinite.
As a matter of fact, even in the so-called exact sciences, every discovery uncovers new unexplored worlds and raises more questions than it answers. Yet, this is what provides the real stimulus and challenge to learn and probe further. How much more so in regard to the Torah, Toras Chaim, the true guide in life, both the physical and spiritual life.
Incidentally, the present days of Sefira ["counting" the omer], which connect the festivals of Passover and Shavuot, have a bearing on the subject matter. For, just prior to the departure from Egypt, the Jews were in a state of slavery in its lowest form, being slaves in a land which the Torah calls "The abomination of the earth."
Indeed, anyone familiar with the conditions in Egypt in those days knows how depraved the Egyptians were in those days, and much of this had tarnished the character of the Jews enslaved there. Yet, in the course of only fifty days, the Jews rose to the sublimist height of spirituality and true freedom, both physical and spiritual.
Furthermore, the spiritual freedom which the Torah had brought them, and which has also illuminated to some extent the rest of the world, was linked with material freedom, namely freedom from any material problems, as the Torah tells us that the children of Israel had the Manna and the Well, and all their material needs were provided in a miraculous way.
The narratives of the Torah are not simply stories for entertainment, but are in themselves a part of the general instruction and teaching which the Torah conveys in all its parts. And in these narratives we find also the answer as to how the situation might be under certain conditions at some time in the future. If the conditions would be similar to those which existed at the time when the children of Israel left Egypt, with complete faith in G-d, following the Divine call in the desert, leaving behind them the fleshpots of Egypt and the fat of the land, not even taking any provision with them, but relying entirely on G-d, and in this state of dedication to the truth, they followed the Pillar of Light by day and by night - should these conditions be duplicated, or even approximated, then one may well expect a most radical change, not only over a period of years, but in the course of a number of days.
Naftali was the son of the Patriarch Jacob and his wife, Bilha. He was named by Rachel, the name referring to her "wrestling" with her sister Leah in competition to bear a child. Naftali was one of the Twelve Tribes. He was known for his ability to run swiftly (his symbol is a gazelle) and for his beautiful singing voice. He was blessed by his father with fertile territory whose crops ripened first. The Kings of Israel had their gardens and orchards in the territory of Naftali. In the battle against the Canaanite King Sisera, men of the tribe of Naftali fought valiantly under the leadership of the prophetess Devora and General Barak.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This coming Wednesday is Pesach Sheni, the "Second Passover." It is customary on Pesach Sheni to eat matza, together with bread, in commemoration of the day.
In the times of the Holy Temple, all those who were unable to offer the Passover sacrifice at the proper time, on the 14th of Nissan, were permitted to bring it in the second month, on the 14th of Iyar.
This special sacrifice was initiated during the second year of the Jewish people's wandering in the Sinai desert, a year after the first Passover had been celebrated in the wilderness.
Some Jews due to ritual impurity, had not been permitted to offer the Passover sacrifice.
They approached Moses and Aaron and protested, "Why are we kept back, that we may not offer the offering of G-d in the appointed season among the children of Israel?"
They complained that unavoidable circumstances had prevented them from offering the sacrifice. They did not want to be denied the great reward of performing the mitzva.
Our ancestors' request was sincere and valid, and so, permission to bring the Passover sacrifice one month later was granted to anyone, throughout the generations, who was ritually impure, in a distant place, was prevented by some unavoidable circumstance, failed unintentionally or even intentionally.
Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn, the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, points out that there are many essential lessons we can learn from Pesach Sheni, including that it is never too late to correct a past failing.
For us today, as we stand literally on the threshold of the Redemption, the most appropriate lesson is that what the Jews sincerely requested, they received!
In the spirit of Pesach Sheni, each of us today, must request, demand, ask and beg for the revelation of Moshiach and the commencement of the glorious Redemption. Then, certainly, G-d will hear our plea and answer them as in the days of old.
In the seventh month, on the tenth of the month, you shall afflict yourselves and not do any work (Lev. 16:29)
The Apter Rebbe (Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Heschel), used to say: "If I had the power, I would revoke all the public fast days on the Jewish calendar, as the generations have become weaker and more exhausted. That is, with two exceptions: Tisha B'Av, the day on which the Holy Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed, and Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year. For on Tisha B'Av, who can bring himself to eat? And on Yom Kippur, who needs to eat?"
You shall observe My decrees and My judgments, which man shall carry out and live by them (otam) (Lev. 18:5)
In this verse the word "otam" (alef-tav-mem) is written without a vav, leaving the same three letters as the word "emet," meaning truth. From this we learn, by way of allusion, that a person who reveres the truth and is always honest with himself and others can rest assured that he will "live by them" - be blessed by G-d with a long life.
(Degel Machane Efraim)
You shall not go gossiping among your people (Lev. 19:16)
There is nothing in the world as revealing as when a person opens his mouth; it divulges to all who he really is.
A person's eyes and ears are not under his control, but his mouth is.
You shall love your fellow as yourself, I am G-d (Lev. 19:18)
True observance of the mitzva (commandment) of love for one's fellow Jew, requires a lot of effort. That is why the Torah follows the commandment with the words "I am G-d": G-d is ready and willing to help us perform this mitzva, if our desire is sincere.
There was once a pious and scholarly Chasid whom the Baal Shem Tov sent to serve as rabbi in a certain city. The young man took his responsibilities seriously and worked hard to improve the physical and spiritual condition of his flock. For a long time everyone was pleased by the new rabbi. Then two incidents occurred that aroused a decree against him up in Heaven:
One day the rabbi was studying in his house when he suddenly became very thirsty. There was no water in the house and he was so thirsty that he couldn't concentrate. Looking out the window, he saw the water-carrier walking rapidly in the opposite direction. The rabbi called out the window for him to stop.
Surprisingly, the water-carrier continued walking. The rabbi called loudly out the window again, but this also had no effect. The rabbi became angry, interpreting this as an affront to his rabbinical authority. He ran after the water-carrier, and when he finally caught up with him, slapped him. "When a rabbi calls to you, you must obey," he reprimanded him. The water-carrier said nothing in his defense. The rabbi's anger was unjustified, and precisely because of his greatness, a powerful decree was aroused against him.
The second incident occurred a short time later. In the town lived a Torah scholar who had become impoverished, whereupon the community had taken it upon itself to support him and his family. Every week the scholar received an anonymous stipend that allowed him to live in dignity.
Occasionly there were other poor people in need, and the donors to the scholar's fund refused to contribute, claiming that they had already given enough charity. When the rabbi heard what was happening, he declared that the needs of the many must take precedence. At that point several of the regular donors stopped contributing to the scholar's fund entirely, and others cut down on their contributions. From week to week the amount that was collected shrank, until eventually the person in charge decided that it wasn't worthwhile to expend all that effort for a few pennies, and the venture was abandoned. The next Shabbat eve the scholar received nothing. He burst into tears, which created another decree against the rabbi.
A trial was held in the Celestial court, and it was decided to deliver the rabbi into the hands of the Satan. The Satan was very pleased with his new mission. After much consideration he decided that he would punish the rabbi with a fate worse than death: he would cause him to renounce his faith!
The following Shabbat, immediately after the morning services, the rabbi was seized with an inexplicable urge to convert. Rushing home from synagogue, he threw off his tallit and started running through the streets in the direction of the priest's house, as if in the throes of a delirium.
When the priest opened his door and saw the rabbi standing on his threshold he was very surprised. He knew the rabbi very well, and even secretly respected him. He asked him the reason for his visit.
"I wish to renounce my faith," the rabbi replied. "And the sooner the better!"
The priest was shocked yet overjoyed. However, he invited him inside. After plying the rabbi with food and drink, the priest left him alone while he hurried off to prepare for the conversion ceremony. The rabbi, who had drunk a glass of whiskey, climbed into the nearest bed and immediately fell asleep.
One of the Baal Shem Tov's customs was to bring to mind all his Chasidim during the third Shabbat meal. The Baal Shem Tov would check on what each was doing to determine if help was needed. That Shabbat, however, when the Baal Shem tried to think about the rabbi he couldn't find him anywhere, neither in the higher realms nor in the lower. The Baal Shem Tov utilized all kinds of spiritual means until he finally located him in the priest's house, about to renounce his faith.
The Baal Shem Tov immediately protested to the Heavenly court, but the court insisted that the rabbi's punishment was just. The Baal Shem Tov disagreed and began to enumerate all of his merits, but to no avail. As a last resort, the Baal Shem Tov mentioned that the rabbi was very careful to wash his hands for bread at the Melave Malka meal after Shabbat. The Baal Shem Tov was told that this particular merit had the power to save the rabbi but on condition that he wash for Melaveh Malka this Saturday night, as well.
Immediately after Shabbat, the Baal Shem Tov handed a challa to one of his Chasidim and instructed him, "Take this and go. And may G-d help you."
The Chasid did not ask questions but set out at once. He had no idea where he was going, but surely G-d would help. A few steps later and he found himself standing outside an unfamiliar house. It was the home of the priest, many hundreds of miles away...
For the second time that day the priest was surprised to find a Jew on his doorstep. Ushering him inside, he led him into the room where the rabbi was babbling in a drunken stupor about renouncing his faith. The Chasid then understood why the Baal Shem Tov had sent him.
The Chasid offered the rabbi the Baal Shem Tov's challa. The rabbi grabbed it and was about to eat when the Chasid stopped him. "You are still obligated to wash your hands and make a blessing before eating." The rabbi agreed, washed his hands, made the appropriate blessings and took a bite.
The holiness of the Baal Shem Tov's challa had an immediate effect. The rabbi awakened as if from a dream. "What have I done?" he began to wail. "Will I ever be able to find a tikkun (rectification) for such a terrible sin?"
The Chasid calmed him and offered him encouragement. "In the same way the Baal Shem Tov has always taken care of you, so will he continue to lead you along the right path and show you a tikkun."
"But how can I even go to the Baal Shem Tov?" the rabbi wept. "He is many thousands of parsangs from here..."
"Do not be afraid," the disciple reassured him. "I arrived here in a miraculous manner. Hold my belt. We will start walking..."
No sooner had they taken a couple of steps than the two men were miraculously transported to Mezhibozh and were standing outside the Baal Shem Tov's house. In fact, the Baal Shem Tov was still sitting at the table with his Chasidim, engrossed in thought. The rabbi resolved that he would not leave until the Baal Shem Tov gave him a tikkun, and indeed, he eventually returned to G-d in complete repentance.
Repirnted from Beis Moshiach Magazine, told by Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Ginsberg
Mitzvot (commandments) are referred to as "seeds," as it is written, "Sow for yourselves for charity." For every mitzva is an infusion of Divine-energy into our material world, which when cultivated will blossom and bear fruit. In an ultimate sense, the fruit of the seeds will be the Redemption, the era when the G-dliness invested in the world through the Divine service of the Jewish people for thousands of years will flourish in overt revelation. This will remake the nature of our existence, allowing us to appreciate the inner Divine core within all being. Since the world itself will become conscious of its G-dly nature, this redemption will never be followed by exile. For G-dliness will never become concealed again.
(In the Garden of the Torah)