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Devarim • Deutronomy

L'Chaim
June 7, 2013 - 29 Sivan, 5773

1274: Korach

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  1273: Sh'lach1275: Chukas  

What the Rebbe Is  |  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

What the Rebbe Is

by Izzy Greenberg

People often ask me what it means to have a Rebbe. It is a difficult question to answer off the cuff, standing on one foot. Is the Rebbe a spiritual guide? A teacher? A prophet? Yes, the Rebbe is the ultimate spiritual guide, a teacher of awesome depth and a prophet of a new era. He is also mother and father, and guardian angel. Yet the Rebbe is much more than all that.

When I first started studying philosophy, I though that it would lead me toward a path of enlightenment. I was enamored by the likes of Plato, Nietsche, Descartes and Chopra. But something was missing. As much as the theories were intelligible and mind-tingling, there was a vast divide between the concepts and their relevance to my personal life and the collective experiences of the Jewish people and humanity as a whole. While I enjoyed using the teachings as fodder for my creative writing and filmmaking, I wanted something with a more tangible relevance to my personal life. I felt my mind awakened and inspired, but my heart was dead.

I moved on to dabbling in various forms of spirituality. I was looking for something I could live with, something through which to break free of the rigidity of rational, systematic thought that was holding back my spiritual development. However, although I found the study and meditation liberating, I had a hard time integrating the teachings into my daily life, or finding a way to bring the spirituality down to earth.

Before I made it to India, I suddenly came in contact with Judaism through a friend who was becoming observant. While I was impressed with the depth and sophistication of the teachings, which were not like anything I was exposed to in 12 years of Jewish day school, I was not able to replicate the spiritual journey of my other areas of interest in a Jewish context. Also, the lengths to which people were going to prove to me Judaism's relevance today made me cynical; were they afraid to let the teachings speak for themselves and let the student draw the conclusions?

For some time, I continued to deepen and intensify my exploration of Jewish wisdom, while at the same time continuing my love affair with philosophy and eastern spirituality. I was becoming more spiritually attuned and increasingly aware of the relationship between the microcosmic and macrocosmic worlds, but I was also becoming gradually more confused about my role in all of it. I lost sight of my sense of a clear spiritual path; I was going in circles in getting nowhere. The philosophy, the mysticism, the rabbis, the writing... it all lead me to a dead end. I started to feel disillusioned and depressed. I finally realized that it wasn't some external ivory tower of truth that I was chasing - I was looking for myself. And either I wasn't finding it, or I was refusing to admit that what I did find was all there was to me.

That's when the Rebbe found me. I happened across a newsletter that contained some of the Rebbe's teachings about the power of the soul and its purpose - the purpose of life. It was the first time I saw life discussed as a spiritual journey in a Jewish context, and the first time I heard the word "purpose" applied to both the individual and universal experience simultaneously. I was completely blown away by the content and tone of the message - an optimism that was not cheapened by naiveté, a realism that was not tinged with cynicism.

I was spinning out of control, but the Rebbe didn't try to slow me down - he made me spin harder. As I studied more and more of his teachings, I saw that all I learned, and indeed everything in life, could be unified if stripped down to its essence - if I was willing to engage in this ongoing struggle. Like a centrifuge, the various pieces of the puzzle I picked up along the way began to purge themselves of the unwanted elements, and the pure serum that remained from each one blended together. I felt like my soul was speaking to me. It was the beginning of a rocky but fruitful correspondence.

This, for me, is what the Rebbe is.

Izzy Greenberg, a writer, scholar and teacher, is the Creative Director of Tekiyah Creative and the editor of Exodus Magazine. To learn more and to read his writings, visit izzygreenberg.com

Living with the Rebbe

It states in this week's Torah reading, Korach: "And G-d said to Aaron... All the best (chelev)... the first fruits... that they shall offer to the L-rd, these I have given you." Of all the offerings that were brought by the Jewish people, the kohanim (priests), Aaron's descendants, were to be given only the finest.

These contributions consisted of all kinds of commodities and were only of the highest quality. "Chelev," generally translated as the "best," is literally the fattiest part of the animal. First fruits are also the most select produce. The Jewish people offered only the best of their harvest and resources to G-d, and as we read in our portion, G-d commanded these be given to the Kohanim.

Maimonides writes: "The law, as it pertains to everything that is for the sake of G-d, is that it must come from the finest and the best. For example, when one is feeding a hungry person, he should be served the tastiest and sweetest food on one's table. When one clothes a poor man, he should be given the nicest garment. When one builds a house of prayer, the edifice should be more beautiful than one's private abode, as it states, 'All the best to the L-rd.' "

Of all the commodities a person possesses - food, clothing and shelter - the finest and best must be dedicated to matters of holiness.

There is, however, another commodity to be dedicated to G-d, and that is time. Time is extremely precious; it is therefore fitting that in addition to one's material blessings, a person dedicate the very best portion of the day to G-d.

The morning, the beginning of one's day, is the optimal time of the 24-hour period. In the morning, a person's mind is more at ease. He is not yet concerned by problems that may plague him later in the day. Thus the morning is the most appropriate time to dedicate oneself to holy matters.

The Previous Rebbe explained the verse "From the first of your dough...you shall give an offering to G-d" in the following manner:

The Hebrew word for dough, "arisa," also means a cradle or bed. From this we learn that as soon as a person wakes up he should give an "offering" to G-d - an offering consisting of the first and finest portion of the day.

This is accomplished in several ways, one of which is to thank G-d immediately upon arising by declaring "Modeh Ani - I offer thanks to You..." Another way is by reserving the first part of the day for prayer and Torah study.

The very best of whatever we possess - food, clothing, housing and time - should be reserved for our Divine service. And in this manner we will merit the fulfillment of the Priestly Blessing, "May the L-rd bless you and guard you."

Adapted Likutei Sichot, Volume 2


A Slice of Life

A Heavenly Visit
by Mordechai (Motty) Ziegelboim

This past December, Rabbi Yosef Geisinsky, founder and co-director with his wife Chanie of Chabad of Great Neck, New York, suffered a severe heart attack. Congregants, friends and relatives around the world prayed for a complete recovery and the miracle happened. His extraordinary return from the dead, literally, became the talk of the day. Perhaps less well known than his speedy recovery, in direct opposition to the doctors' predictions, and at a rate that left even the most optimistic among them in shock, is the chilling story of his heavenly visit.

It was almost the third night of Chanuka. The sun would be setting soon and Rabbi Geisinsky was on his way to the public menora lighting. On the way, he did not feel well and he decided to pass by his house to get a drink of water. He arrived home and felt overcome by weakness. He collapsed on the floor. His nine-year-old son found his father unconscious.

The boy quickly shouted for his mother and they immediately called for an ambulance. In the ambulance, they tried to revive the rabbi, to no avail. There was no pulse, no reaction. The paramedics did all they could but were unsuccessful. Rabbi Geisinsky had no pulse for over 40 minutes! An eternity in the medical world.

The resuscitation efforts continued in the emergency room. Everything was tried as the family members stood and prayed. The doctors nearly pulled the sheet over his body, but then one of the doctors noticed faint signs of life. Herculean efforts continued to be made to bring the rabbi back to life.

Among the doctors was a doctor-friend who knew Rabbi Geisinsky personally. He was the one who insisted that they continue the resuscitation efforts. (After the rabbi's miraculous recovery, the doctor visited him and said that usually, after 30 minutes of trying, if there is no pulse, they stop. "From a medical standpoint, this is death." Nevertheless, he insisted that they keep trying, saying that he knew the rabbi personally and would find it so difficult to tell the family the bad news.)

As soon as they saw the first signs of a pulse, a number of medical interventions were done. But the doctors told the worried family, "We did what we could; from here-on-in, only prayers will help you. Pray, pray hard. At least 72 hours must pass before we know whether we were successful."

For 72 hours Rabbi Geisinsky was in a coma. Then he opened his eyes. From that point on, his condition swiftly improved. Only three weeks later, he was released to his home. The doctors consider him an unprecedented medical miracle.

I am the cantor at the Chabad House of Great Neck during the High Holidays. Rabbi Geisinsky asked me to come for Shabbat, Rosh Chodesh Shvat, when the special Hallel prayer was recited, not only in honor of the special day but also to thank G-d for his miracle. I was happy to be there when he first rejoined his community after his illness.

It is hard to describe the tremendous excitement felt in the community upon his return to the Chabad House for the first time. That was a Hallel like none other that I've ever experienced. When I said the words, "I will not die for I will live and tell the deeds of G-d ... Open for me the gates of righteousness and I will enter," I could not help but look at the walking miracle among us.

After the reading of the Torah in which the rabbi was honored with the aliya of Maftir and he recited the HaGomel blessing, he addressed the packed congregation. It wasn't easy for him, for he was still weak, but this is what he told them:

"After I fell unconscious, I felt myself rising to the supernal worlds, just like I've heard has happened to other people in my condition. My father, of blessed memory, and other deceased family members came to greet me.

"At a certain point, I was greeted by one who introduced himself as the angel Michael. He took me to the chambers of various tzadikim. I saw that each tzadik sat in his own chamber and taught Torah. (The rabbi asked me to omit some of the details of his story though he told it in full to his congregation).

"I asked the angel to take me to the chambers of the Baal Shem Tov (founder of the Chasidic movement)and the Alter Rebbe (founder of Chabad Chasidism). He agreed and I stood facing the Baal Shem Tov and then the Alter Rebbe.

"The angel then said to me, 'We must return to the heavenly court where your trial is taking place. They have not yet made a decision.' The angel explained that when they don't arrive at a clear decision, they leave a little bit of life-force within the body so that outright resurrection of the dead won't be necessary if they (the heavenly court) decide to allow the person to stay alive.

"We went to the heavenly court where I saw the members of the court discussing my case. One said this and another said that. They turned to me and asked me what I had to say. Should you return to the world or remain here? Trembling, I responded, 'I am a Chasid of the Rebbe. Whatever he says, I'll accept.'

"They said, 'If so, let the Lubavitcher Rebbe come and state his opinion about the fate of Yosef Yitzchok ben Chaya Luba.' I stood there, frightened, waiting for my sentence.

"Then I saw the Rebbe appear, in all his glory, with all those present according him the greatest honor. The Rebbe said, 'I am working so that Moshiach comes and brings the complete Redemption. I sent my emissaries all over the world so they will finish the job. I need my Chasidim at their posts. So Yosef Yitzchok ben Chaya Luba needs to return to life in a physical body to complete his work.'

"It was then that I heard the announcement that Yosef Yitzchok ben Chaya Luba - to life. I awoke from my coma. Apparently, everything I saw took place during the 72 hours that I was unconscious."

Reprinted from Beis Moshiach Magazine


What's New

New Emissaries

Rabbi Mordey and Shaina Richler will be moving to S. Lake Tahoe, California to open a Chabad Center. Their goal is to strengthen Jewish awareness and pride for the residents and vacationers alike.

New Centers

The new Chabad Center for Jewish Life & Learning in S. Antonio, Texas, was recently dedicated amidst much rejoicing. The new center includes a beautiful sanctuary and social hall, offices, classrooms, Library, and a state-of-the art mikva recently opened. After nine years of creative and devoted programming, Chabad of S. Clemente, California, has acquired a permanent home. The new facility will be officially dedicated before the High Holidays this year. The Ottawa Torah Center in Barrhaven, Ottawa, Canada, recently broke ground for their new center. When complete the new facility will include a synagogue, gathering hall, classrooms, meeting rooms, offices and a library.


The Rebbe Writes

Gimmel Tammuz. The date itself, while ingrained in the minds of Lubavitcher Chasidim around the globe, has significance for all Jews and, indeed the entire world population.

Although we have not seen the Rebbe with our physical eyes since Gimmel Tammuz 19 years ago, his presence in the lives of his hundreds of thousands of Chasidim and millions of admirers is evident. And the Rebbe's involvement in the thousands of institutions he established, and the dozens of institutions set up since Gimmel Tammuz, is palpable.

Gimmel Tammuz is the third day in the Hebrew month of Tammuz.

The number three has much significance in Jewish teachings. Our Sages teach that the world stands on three pillars: Torah study, prayer, and acts of kindness. In addition, they teach that the Tzadik is the foundation of the entire world.

What has been the thrust of the Rebbe, the foundation of the world, in his decades of leadership? As is well-known to our readers, since the Rebbe's acceptance of the mantle of leadership he stated clearly the purpose of our generation, the seventh generation, is to bring the Redemption.

In hundreds of public addresses, the Rebbe elucidated how we can accomplish this in a three-fold campaign: through Torah study, prayer, and acts of kindness.

Our Torah study should be increased in all areas of Jewish knowledge in general, Chasidic philosophy in particular, and specifically those matters found everywhere in Jewish teachings that deal with Moshiach and the Redemption.

Our prayers should be suffused with heartfelt requests of G-d to bring the Redemption, crying out "How much longer?" and even to the point of demanding the Redemption (as explained by the Chofetz Chaim).

Lastly, through love of our fellow Jew in general and even simple acts of kindness and good deeds, we can prepare ourselves for the Redemption and hasten its inception.

May we be together with the Rebbe this year on Gimmel Tammuz, not just "feeling" his presence but actually seeing the Rebbe, leading us to the Holy Land and ushering in the complete and eternal Redemption.


Who's Who

Joshua (Yehoshua) was born Hoshea ben Nun from the tribe of Efraim. He was Moses's faithful disciple for 40 years. He was one of the 12 spies sent by Moses to scout out the Land of Israel in preparation for its conquest. He was Moses' successor and led the people in conquering the Land. During a battle in Givon on 3 Tammuz 1273 bce, Joshua commanded the sun to stay in the sky until the battle was won. Joshua was second in the chain of transmitting the Oral Torah from Moses to the 70 Elders.


A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

Gimmel Tammuz. The date itself, while ingrained in the minds of Lubavitcher Chasidim around the globe, has significance for all Jews and, indeed the entire world population.

Although we have not seen the Rebbe with our physical eyes since Gimmel Tammuz 19 years ago, his presence in the lives of his hundreds of thousands of Chasidim and millions of admirers is evident. And the Rebbe's involvement in the thousands of institutions he established, and the dozens of institutions set up since Gimmel Tammuz, is palpable.

Gimmel Tammuz is the third day in the Hebrew month of Tammuz.

The number three has much significance in Jewish teachings. Our Sages teach that the world stands on three pillars: Torah study, prayer, and acts of kindness. In addition, they teach that the Tzadik is the foundation of the entire world.

What has been the thrust of the Rebbe, the foundation of the world, in his decades of leadership? As is well-known to our readers, since the Rebbe's acceptance of the mantle of leadership he stated clearly the purpose of our generation, the seventh generation, is to bring the Redemption.

In hundreds of public addresses, the Rebbe elucidated how we can accomplish this in a three-fold campaign: through Torah study, prayer, and acts of kindness.

Our Torah study should be increased in all areas of Jewish knowledge in general, Chasidic philosophy in particular, and specifically those matters found everywhere in Jewish teachings that deal with Moshiach and the Redemption.

Our prayers should be suffused with heartfelt requests of G-d to bring the Redemption, crying out "How much longer?" and even to the point of demanding the Redemption (as explained by the Chofetz Chaim).

Lastly, through love of our fellow Jew in general and even simple acts of kindness and good deeds, we can prepare ourselves for the Redemption and hasten its inception.

May we be together with the Rebbe this year on Gimmel Tammuz, not just "feeling" his presence but actually seeing the Rebbe, leading us to the Holy Land and ushering in the complete and eternal Redemption.


Thoughts that Count

And Moses sent to call Datan and Aviram (Num. 16:12)

It states in the Talmud (Sanhedrin 106): "From this we learn that one should not 'hold on' to controversy." Even if several attempts to make peace have been made without success, it is forbidden to throw up one's hands and assume that nothing more can be done. Rather, one must continue one's efforts until peace is attained. Thus despite the fact that Moses had already spoken to Datan and Aviram several times, he attempted one more time to dissuade them.

(Rabbi Yitzchak of Vorky)


For the whole congregation is holy, and G-d is within them (Num. 16:3)

Some Jews, when spoken to about keeping Torah and mitzvot (commandments) or being more stringent in their observance, respond with the excuse, "But I have a Jewish heart! Deep inside where it counts I'm a good Jew." This was the argument of Korach and his supporters, who claimed that even though they didn't behave as they should, "G-d is within them" - deep inside they were good Jews.

(Divrei Eliezer)


And Korach took [a bold step]...together with Datan and Aviram...and Ohn, the son of Pelet (Num. 16:1)

Ohn, the son of Pelet, was one of Korach's 250 followers in his insurrection against Moses. Yet when the Torah lists those who were punished, Ohn's name is omitted. Why? Ohn was saved by his righteous wife. When she learned of her husband's intentions she persuaded him that it was wrong to go against Moses. Ohn, however, had a dilemma. He had already promised Korach he would join him. What did she do? Ohn's wife gave him a large meal and strong wine, causing him to fall asleep. When Korach and his group came looking for him, she pointedly sat in front of her tent, immodestly uncovered her hair and began to comb it. Korach and his followers would not approach her. Because of his virtuous wife, Ohn's life was spared.

(Midrash)


It Once Happened

by Rahel Davidoff

I had travelled to Crown Heights, Brooklyn, from London, England, for the Convention of Chabad-Lubavitch Women Emissaries this year. At one point during my visit, my daughter and I took a cab to a different Brooklyn neighborhood. The cab driver was friendly and told us of his background; he was raised in Ghana. He then asked me if I belonged to the Lubavitch community in Crown Heights. When I told him I was Lubavitch, but lived overseas, he asked, "Do you visit the Grand Rabbi's grave?"

Without waiting for an answer, he exclaimed, "He is a great man and performs miracles, even these days! I had a miracle through him!"

He enthusiastically continued his story: "A few years ago, I was badly injured in a car accident. I couldn't drive for a full year, and since driving is my livelihood, I was left without any way to earn money. To make matters worse, I didn't fill out my insurance claims properly, so I didn't receive any payments. I was left with nothing. Somehow, I made it through the year, and then went back to work driving my cab.

"One day someone from the Crown Heights Lubavitch community asked me to drive him to the cemetery in Queens. He went to pray at the Grand Rabbi's resting place, while I waited for him in my car outside, by the curb. I thought to myself, 'Why don't I ask for a blessing?' I had driven enough people to the resting place to know what to do; you write a letter with your request. So, that's exactly what I did. Then I thought, 'If you, Grand Rabbi, represent us humans to the G-d on high, you can do it from anywhere.' I took my letter and slipped it through the wire fence near the street.

"Let me tell you what happened. Within a week, I received full payment from my insurance company for the entire year, all in one lump sum. You can't imagine what that meant for me! But wait, I have another miracle to share with you, that happened with my friend:

"I have a friend from Ghana who lives with his wife in Canada. He came to New York to visit me. When he arrived, he looked so downcast and miserable. I didn't want to pry into his business, but I wanted to be helpful. I said to him, 'You look like you have worries, I know a place you can get blessings that will help you...come let me take you there.'

"My friend agreed and I took him to the Queens cemetery. By mistake, I came on Saturday and realized it was not a good day to come, so we headed back. However, I told him I could take him on Sunday. We went on Sunday and he prayed. The next day he returned to Canada.

"A few days later, I called him to find out if anything improved after his visit to the Grand Rabbi. He answered, 'You will not believe this, you called just as my wife and I reached home, after our day in court! Let me have my wife tell you all about it.' His wife got on the phone to explain.

"They were brought to court over an eviction case. They had not been able to pay taxes and were about to lose their home. They tried pleading for an easier payment term, to make payment plans...but the government refused. The day I called him was the last day of their hearing where the judge was expected to give the final verdict.

"Well, my friend was running late and asked his wife to go ahead of him, and he would meet her shortly in court. When he got there, he noticed his wife was trying to tell him something, speaking so fast, 'Talk to our lawyer! Go! He'll tell you what happened!'

"My friend hurried to his lawyer to hear what his wife was so excited about. The lawyer told him that his case was canceled, annulled, without any explanations! He no longer owed any taxes and he could keep his home! His wife was so shocked and euphoric by this sudden turn of events, this, after such a long period of terrible anxiety, thinking she would lose her house.

"Then, the cherry on top. My friend's son, who lives in Europe, called home. He had a strange illness for awhile. He called to tell his parents that all of the sudden, he felt better as if he never experienced his illness in the first place. They were just overjoyed by all these blessings! Like I said, the Grand Rabbi is making miracles happen these days!"

How amazing it was for me to see that non-Jews also recognize and experience that the Rebbe is with us...it's up to us to do our part!

Reprinted from the N'Shei Chabad Convention Journal 2013


Moshiach Matters

The mitzva (commandment) of guarding the Tabernacle in the desert, and later the Holy Temple, is in this week's Torah portion. This mitzva was purely ceremonial, to arouse respect for the holy site. Even after the destruction, the sanctity of Holy Temple's site remains in full force. Why then don't we guard it even during the exile? Until Moshiach comes, speedily in our days, the Jewish people is in danger from the nations of the world. This applies even when the Holy Land is in Jewish hands - and even when peace treaties have been signed with our enemies. As "saving even one life takes precedence over the entire Torah," for reasons of safety we are unable to perform the mitzva of guarding the site of the Holy Temple today.

(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)


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