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L'Chaim
February 21, 2014 - 21 Adar I, 5774

1310: Vayakhel

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


Text VersionFor Palm Pilot
  1309: Ki Sisa1311: Pekudei  

Fast Food Judaism  |  Living with the Rebbe  |  A Slice of Life  |  What's New
The Rebbe Writes  |  Today Is ...  |  A Word from the Director  |  Thoughts that Count
It Once Happened  |  Moshiach Matters

Fast Food Judaism

Long before WHO recommended that governments have tighter regulation of fast-food advertising to curb obesity, before Fast Food Nation examined the local and global influence of the United States fast food industry, and even before fast-food emporiums began to dot the landscape like mushrooms after a rain, the Jewish Sages suggested we implement fast-food mentality into our lives. With a Jewish twist, of course!

"Grab and eat, grab and drink," Rabbi Shmuel told his student Rabbi Yehuda Shenina (as recorded in the Talmud). "For life is like a party which will soon be over."

Far from being a fatalistic outlook, or one that places the emphasis on physicality, Rabbi Shmuel's words teach us how to define our goals and motivate ourselves Jewishly.

Mitzvot (commandments) are likened to food and the Torah is likened to water, in Chasidic philosophy. "Do mitzvot, study Torah," Rabbi Shmuel taught. "For life - in this world - will soon be over and in the World to Come those same opportunities to do mitzvot and study Torah will no longer be available."

Picture yourself in a fast-food line (kosher, of course!). Are you going to stand there leisurely contemplating the menu as you would in a fine restaurant, discussing it with the people joining you, maybe even asking the waiter what he suggests? Or would you order quickly from the list on the wall (after you've determined what is the healthiest choice) and hungrily gobble it down? Most likely you would do the latter, since expedience and swiftness are major reasons for your choice of restaurant styles.

Similarly, Chasidut explains that since we are getting closer every day to Moshiach, we shouldn't spend time contemplating a menu of mitzvot. We don't have time any longer to sit and relax at a fine restaurant, dilly-dallying until we make our choice. Action is the main thing. Grab and eat, grab and drink. Whatever mitzva comes your way, do it. Whichever Jewish learning opportunity is available, benefit from it. We're living life in the fast-lane, traveling on the express train.

A Jewish fast-food mentality means taking hold of every opportunity to do a mitzva, regardless of whether or not we think it should be the next one in our repertoire. Shabbat is approaching? There's no time for, "How can I light Shabbat candles if on Saturday I ..." Someone offers to help you put on tefilin? Don't start wondering, "Why should I put on tefilin if I don't..." You hear about a class on a topic of Jewish interest? Don't worry if you don't yet know the Hebrew alphabet. You pass by a tzedaka (charity) box - drop in a coin.

"Grab and eat, grab and drink" means that these last few moments before the Messianic Era need to be filled with action not contemplation, deeds not meditations. Soon the party will be over, or will it just be beginning?


Living with the Rebbe

"And he made the candlestick of pure gold," we read in this week's Torah portion, Vayakhel. "And six branches were coming out of its sides: three branches of the candlestick out of its one side, and three branches of the candlestick out of the other side."

Surprisingly, a widespread misconception exists concerning the menora that stood in the Holy Temple. This misconception, whose origin lies in non-Jewish sources, has unfortunately filtered down into Jewish circles, resulting in a faulty understanding of the genuine appearance of the menora.

In truth, the six side branches of the seven-branched candelabrum rose upward diagonally in a straight line from the center; they were not, as is commonly pictured, rounded in a bow-shape.

What makes this error even more regrettable is that it is derived from the famous Arch of Titus, may his name be blotted out forever. The Roman emperor, seeking to memorialize his destruction of the Second Holy Temple and his pillage of the Temple's vessels, commissioned a work to secure his place in history. Its depiction of the menora, however, is not an accurate representation of the one that was stolen from the Holy Temple. Titus wished to "improve" upon the original and therefore "beautified" it by rounding out its branches.

The Hebrew word for "branch" - "kaneh" - alludes to the menora's true shape, for its literal meaning is "a reed" - a plant which grows at the water's edge in an unbending, straight line. Both Maimonides and Rashi concur that the branches of the menora were straight; Maimonides even drew a picture of the menora so there would be no room for doubt.

This ancient forgery that, unfortunately, has found its way into many synagogues and study halls, must be corrected once and for all, and the true form of the holy menora be accurately depicted.

Another interesting feature of the menora was its "cups": "Three cups, shaped like almond blossoms, were on one branch, with a knob and a flower; and three cups, shaped like almond blossoms, were on the other...on the candlestick itself were four cups, shaped like almond blossoms, with its knobs and flowers" - a total of 22 cups in all.

In his drawings, Maimonides depicts these cups upside-down - the bottom of the cup on top, the wider opening on the bottom.

What are we to learn from the cups' unusual configuration? The purpose of the menora was to illuminate - not only the inside of the Holy Temple, but the entire world.

This concept is also reflected in the fact that the windows of the Holy Temple were constructed to be narrow on the inside yet wider on the outside of the structure, thereby channeling the light of the menora outward, to the world at large.

Similarly, a cup that is upside-down represents the act of pouring out and providing sustenance, symbolic of the Jews' role as "light unto the nations."

Adapted from the Rebbe's Likutei Sichot Vol. XXI


A Slice of Life

Deaf Russian Jewish Group Experiences Israel for First Time
By Anav Silverman

It was an unusual sight on Friday night at Judaism's most sacred site, the Western Wall. Amidst the multitudes of Sabbath prayer-goers, a group of young adults were holding hands and dancing - in complete silence.

The group consisted of young deaf Jewish adults, many from Russia who were visiting Israel for their first time thanks to a special trip led by Chabad Rabbi Yehoshua Soudakoff[1].

In a special interview with Tazpit News Agency after Shabbat, Rabbi Soudakoff and group participants explained through sign language, an interpreter, and typed-out responses, what their experience in Israel had entailed.

"It was beautiful," wrote Irina Normatov, 34, originally from Uzbekistan, who immigrated with her family to New York when she was nine. "I felt a powerful energy praying at the Kotel (Western Wall) and other Jewish holy sites including the Tomb of Rachel - like an electrifying energy going straight to my soul."

"It was good to communicate in Russian Sign Language with the group and learn some Israeli Sign Language as well," Normatov explained to Tazpit. She demonstrated the sign language for Kotel, mishpacha (family), and B'Ezrat Hashem (with G-d's help).

Rabbi Soudakoff believes that trips like this one are vital for the Jewish deaf population from Russia. "It brings us together as a family," he signed through the interpreter. "We are a community spread far and wide - there are people here on this trip from the United States, Ukraine, and Russia."

"Here, we are not alone. We see that we have peers and a community behind us. And just as important, visiting Israel and seeing the sights have a powerful impact on our Jewish identity."

Rabbi Yehoshua Soudakoff, 22, grew up in Los Angeles and later attended a Chabad-Lubavitch rabbinical school in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, where he lives today. It is his first time leading a group of deaf people - 13 participants and three staff members - to Israel. The idea for the unique trip began this past summer.

"I was working on a summer camp project for Jewish deaf boys in Moscow," explains Rabbi Soudakoff. "In the process of searching for deaf children in Russia, I came across young adults who were too old for the summer camp but still wanted to be part of some kind of program."

Consequently, the Israel trip was born but not without plenty of challenges along the way and during the trip as well.

"We found out that we needed double the time for tours!" Rabbi Soudakoff exclaimed. "People that hear can just look around and listen to the tour guide speak. However, because we are deaf, we have to watch the tour guide and only after the interpreter translates into sign language, can we look around. That's just one example, but it slows things down."

The eight-day trip included visits and tours of Jerusalem, the Dead Sea, Tel Aviv, Masada, and Hebron. The group's Russian Sign Language interpreter, Bella, made aliya to Israel from Ukraine, 26 years ago. "I hope to see some marriages come out of this visit," she teased the group on their last day in Jerusalem.

The project was made possible thanks to Russia's Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar and Rabbi Mendy Wilansky and Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky of the Chabad Global Jewish Youth Initiative, which provided the funding for the trip.

Reprinted with permission of Tazpit News Agency.

   

Notes:

  1. (Back to text) Rabbi Yehoshua Soudakoff, born in Los Angeles, California, is a second generation member of a Deaf family. He currently lives in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, New York. Among his many projects is a premier website for the Jewish Deaf community, called Jewish Deaf Multimedia (jewishdeafmm.org), which provides a wealth of videos, blog posts, and resources for the Deaf Jew.


What's New

Ten Day Yeshiva

Fifty young people from Russia, Ukraine and other countries of the FSU spent ten days of break from university participating in a "Yeshivaction" program. Lecturers from the U.S., Israel, Ukraine, Germany and Russia taught and lead workshops. Participants also enjoyed recreational activities such as snow-tubing, paintball shooting, and a visit to the new Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center. in Moscow.

New Center

In Brush Park, an area in downtown Detroit that has some of that city's newest development, an historic home is becoming the new Chabad of Detroit. The new center is the former home of Albert Kahn who was the foremost American industrial architect of his day, sometimes called the architect of Detroit.


The Rebbe Writes

Freely translated
10 Mar-Cheshvan, 5716 (1955)

Peace and blessing!

You asked: What should be your response when told that science allegedly has proof that the world has existed for more that 5715 years? Can this be answered with the famous statement of our Sages that G-d "built worlds and destroyed them?"

The meaning of that statement is not that G-d actually created earlier physical worlds. Rather, the intent there is to spiritual worlds, as recorded by the Alter Rebbe (Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidism) - based on the writings of the Arizal (Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, 16th century Kabalist) - in his Torah Ohr on the Torah portion of Shemot.

Their statement that science has proofs is absolutely false. Science has no proofs at all, only estimations built on flimsy foundations. It is hard to explain all of this in a letter of requisite length. The main point is, however, that the statement in scientific texts with regard to the world's having existed for several billion years, etc., is based on the following theory:

Since a specific number of years are needed (according to today's conditions, such as temperature, atmospheric pressure, wind movements, the proportions of elements in the environment, etc. etc.) for every hundred feet of sand accumulation at the banks of a river, and since there are mountains of this sand which are several miles high, therefore (if one is to assume that these mountains were gathered bit by bit from grains of sand, by the movements of this same river, and that all of the above conditions haven't changed in thousands of years) such and such number of years would be needed. This number is far more than 5715.

When one asks, however, where these grains of sand came from, they have no answer.

When one asks: Just as it is possible for grains of sand to have come to be at a certain point on a flat plain, may it not be possible that mountains too came into being all at once? Again, they have no answer.

When one asks: How do you know that five thousand years ago all of the conditions, of water, wind, river patterns, etc. were exactly the same as they are now? For this, too, they have no response.

When one asks, in addition to all of the above: If you are claiming that your proofs are scientific, how can it be that the results of the research into the age of the world according to astrophysics, according to archeology, according to geology, and according to radioactivity, all contradict each other,3 from one extreme to the other? For example, one concludes that the world can be no more than half a billion years old, while the other concludes that it cannot be less than two billion!

These contradictions are clear proof that all of these discussions and research are only theories built on thin air. Here is not the place to delve into this at greater length.

From Mind Over Matter, translated by Arye Gotfryd


Today Is ...

21 Adar I

Rabbi Sholom Ber of Lubavitch said: Truth is the middle path. An inclination to the right, to be overly stringent with oneself and find faults or sins not in accord with the truth, or an inclination to the left, to be overly indulgent, covering one's faults or being lenient in demands of serving G-d out of self-love - both these ways are false.

(From Hayom Yom)


A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

As this year is a leap year on the Jewish calendar, there are two months of Adar, known as Adar Rishon and Adar Sheini, or Adar I and Adar II.

In talks before and during the two months of Adar, 5752 (1992), the Rebbe emphasized the importance of simcha in turning the darkness of exile into the light of Redemption.

The Rebbe also stressed that, being as there are two months of Adar this year, there are 60 days during which we are to increase our simcha. More importantly, in Jewish law, the quantity of 60 has the ability to nullify an undesirable presence.

Specifically, this concerns food, as we see that if a quantity of milk, for instance, has accidentally become mixed with meat, if the meat outnumbers the milk by a ratio of 1:60, the milk is nullified and we may eat the meat.

Similarly, explains the Rebbe, 60 days of simcha have the ability to nullify the darkness of the present exile, allowing us to actually turn the darkness into light.

Concerning the kind of things that should be done to arouse simcha, the Rebbe suggested that each person should proceed according to his level: a child, for instance, should be made happy by his parents; a wife by her husband, and visa versa. The bottom line, my friends, is that the Rebbe did not let up on encouraging an increase of simcha in all permissible manners during the entire month.

We must hearken to the Rebbe's words and utilize simcha, especially during this month, to turn darkness into light, sadness into joy, and pain and tears into rejoicing with Moshiach in the Final Redemption, may it take place, as the Rebbe so fervently prayed, teichef umiyad mamash - immediately, literally.


Thoughts that Count

Six days a week shall work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be to you a holy day, a Sabbath of rest to G-d (Exodus 35:2)

The Torah does not state "you shall do work," but rather, "work shall be done," to teach us that our labors must always be viewed as if they are accomplished by themselves, without our active participation. A Jew must always strive to maintain this healthy attitude towards work to make it easier for him to mentally divest himself of his business worries on Shabbat. Investing an inordinate amount of mental energy into one's business makes it harder for him to properly appreciate the spiritual dimension of the Shabbat day.

(The Rebbe)


And they came, the men with the women, whoever was generous of heart, and every man who waved a wave offering of gold unto G-d (Ex. 35:22)

The Jews were so eager to make donations to the Sanctuary that they didn't stop to calculate the amount of gold they were contributing. Rather, they "waved it about" and gave with an open hand, like a rich benefactor who disburses his charity liberally.

(Be'er Mayim Chaim)


He made the altar of incense of acacia wood (Ex. 37:25)

A Chasid once came to Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidism, and asked him, "Is it possible that the real intent behind the incense was only to dispel the smell of the animal sacrifices?" Rabbi Shneur Zalman told him that this was not so. "Whenever a person offered a sacrifice in the Temple," he explained, "the first thing he had to do was regret his sins and return to G-d with a whole heart. Then and only then were his sins atoned for. Sometimes, however, it happened that a person didn't repent completely, and there was still a trace of sin in the air. The purpose of the incense was to dispel its foul odor."

(Shmuot VeSipurim)


It Once Happened

The Chasidim wanted to call a doctor; maybe there was still something that could be done to help their ailing Rebbe, Rabbi Yekusiel Yehuda Teitelbaum. But Rabbi Teitelbaum would not here of the suggestion. Instead, he said, "Let me tell you a story."

Rabbi Yoel Sirkes, later to be renown as the "Bach" (for his book Bayit Chadash) one day visited his son-in-law, Rabbi David ben Shmuel HaLevi, later to be renown as the "Taz" (for his book Turei Zahav.)

When Rabbi Yoel arrived, the entire town went out to meet him and welcome him with the traditional greeting of "Shalom" except for one young scholar, who did not step forward.

"What nerve," Rabbi David objected to the young man.

"I was informed by Elijah the Prophet himself that Rabbi Yoel has been placed in a ban of excommunication by the heavenly court, and for this reason I did not extent a formal greeting to him," replied the young man.

Rabbi David was shocked and asked the scholar for more details.

"Once, Rabbi Yoel was passing through a certain town. Two men were arguing about a wagon full of wood that one man had sold to the other. The purchaser claimed that he had agreed to a price of three gold coins while the seller was adamant that he had sold it for 3 1/10 gold coins.

"When the two men saw Rabbi Yoel, they asked him if he would arbitrate their claim.

" 'What among of money is under dispute,' asked Rabbi Yoel.

" 'One-tenth of a gold coin,' they responded.

" 'I should delay my journey and be inconvenienced for one-tenth of a gold coin?' Rabbi Yoel remonstrated.

"The accusing angels in heaven had a heyday with the rabbi's flippant comment, for our Sages teach, 'A suit involving one copper coin is to be treated as earnestly as a suit involving a hundred coins.' "

Rabbi David hurried to his father-in-law to ascertain whether or not this story was true. Indeed, Rabbi Yoel remembered the incident as it was out-of-character for him to have made such a comment.

The two men realized that this young scholar had been brought by Divine Providence into their midst on this day in order to help Rabbi Yoel do teshuva (repent) and set things right. They convened a rabbinical court that immediately annulled the heavenly ban.

Rabbi Yoel then approached the young man and asked him a favor. "I see that you are an upright and G-d-fearing person in the eyes of heaven. I therefore would like to give you my manuscript, a commentary on the Arba Turim (a section of the Code of Jewish Law) that I plan to publish under the title Bayit Chadash. Before I publish it I would like you to look it over and give me your opinion."

The young man agreed. A little while later, Rabbi Yoel approached the young man and asked him if he had had a chance to look over the manuscript and was ready to return it.

"I will not return it to you even in twenty years," responded the young scholar.

Shocked, Rabbi Yoel asked for an explanation. "Does my work not meet your approval? If so, tell me what is wrong with it for I gave it to you so that you would look it over with a critical eye."

The young man said, "Your book is good and does good. However, as soon as you publish it and it is distributed around the world, you will have completed your life's mission and there will be no reason for you to live in this world. Therefore, I will do all I can to delay its publication so that you remain here with us in this world."

"If that is the reason why you have withheld your comments, then I will not delay its publication," said Rabbi Yoel. "For, as you yourself noted, the world needs it."

The young man had no option but to return the manuscript to its author, who set about publishing it, volume by volume. Over the course of nine years it was published. In 1640, soon after the publication of the final volume, Rabbi Yoel Sirkes passed away.

Rabbi Yekusiel Yehuda Teitelbaum completed his story. Then he added, "So it is with me. If with G-d's help I have completed my mission here in this world, then I have nothing to do here and do not want you to call another doctor."


Moshiach Matters

Jews today do not face decrees forbidding the observance of mitzvot (commandments) or Torah study as in previous generations. However, our generation faces a different kind of that is sometimes more difficult - abundance and wealth. In order to withstand this challenge, we must battle the yetzer hara (negative influence)fiercely. And since this is the task of this last generation before Moshiach, we were obviously given the ability to awaken the inner strength of in our souls, so that we can dedicate ourselves to G-d, His holy Torah and its mitzvot.

(Sefer Hamaamarim Melukat)


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