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March 21, 2014 - 19 Adar II, 5774

1314: Shmini

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  1313: Tzav1315: Sazria  

The Power of One  |  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

The Power of One

by Rabbi Uriel Vigler

In 1999, I was a 19-year-old Yeshiva student, studying in Israel. I heard that Chabad in Ukraine was seeking volunteers to lead public Passover Seders throughout the country and I volunteered. I was young, full of energy, and excited to embark on this new and different mission. I travelled with approximately 30 other students, and we were looking forward to spreading the warmth of Judaism in a foreign country.

Looking back, I was also very naive. I found myself in the city of Shepetivka, population 40,000, including 200 Jews, where indoor plumbing and electricity were either non-reliable or non-existent. Our bathroom was outdoors and we had hot water for only one hour per day. On the eve of Passover, the electricity shut down and we had to draw water from a well.

I missed the Seders at home with my family, and I missed the modern conveniences I had been raised with. I couldn't wait for the holiday to end.

Why was I there? I didn't even share a language with the 200 local Jews! What were we accomplishing? What value did our Seder have to these Jews?

Recently, I found my answer.

The world has been watching the political situation in Ukraine very closely. This is the biggest crisis since the end of the Cold War. The region is tense and other countries are watching to see how things will play out.

According to Reuters, "When the history of the bloody turbulence in Ukraine is written, a 26-year-old who learned combat skills in the army cadets may be recorded as the man who made up Viktor Yanukovich's mind to cut and run." Volodymyr Parasiuk made an impromptu speech, rallying the protesters and convinced them not to settle. Yanukovych fled and an urgent state of unrest continues.

Judaism teaches that the power of goodness is infinitely greater than the power of evil. If a single act can bring nuclear powers to the brink of war, imagine how much more a single mitzva (commandment) can reverberate throughout the world.

That's what I accomplished that Passover. I remember the Seder clearly. I didn't speak a single word of Ukrainian, and my translator apparently didn't understand a word of English! But the basics we were able to communicate. When it was time to eat matza, everyone ate matza. When it was time to drink wine, everyone drank wine. And everyone understood that we were there to celebrate the freedom of the Jews. So, 200 Ukrainian Jews had a Seder that year. That's what I accomplished.

Fast forward 15 years to 2014; Judaism in Ukraine is flourishing. There are 170 Chabad couples serving 154 communities. This impressive network boasts 49 educational centers, 7 orphanages, 32 soup kitchens, as well as synagogues, mikvas and community centers.

Chabad is at the forefront of caring for the Ukranian Jewish community during this crisis. Despite the real danger, rabbis and their families are selflessly leading their communities, providing a comforting shoulder, emergency aid and inspiration in these trying times.

We know how much power a single act can have; how much it can accomplish. We may be far from Ukraine physically, but we have two mitzvot which can significantly help our brethren there: tzedaka (charity) and prayer.

So let's take a minute to send a contribution (chabadic.com/ukraine), and pray for the safety and well-being of our brothers and sisters in Ukraine. Do that one good deed that will bring nuclear powers to peace and usher in the era of Moshiach.

Rabbi Vigler and his wife Shevy direct Chabad Israel Center of the Upper East Side in New York. From Rabbi Vigler's blog at www.chabadic.com

Living with the Rebbe

The Torah portion, Shemini, discusses the pure animals that we are allowed to eat, and the impure ones that we are forbidden to eat. The Torah gives two signs to recognize a pure animal: it chews the cud and it has split hoofs.

One of the reasons offered for the dietary laws is that everything a person eats is transformed into blood and flesh, becoming an integral part of that person. The Torah thus prohibits certain foods in order to prevent man from assimilating the evil characteristics of the forbidden food.

If there is a prohibition against eating animals which do not have a split hoof and do not chew the cud , it follows that the proper conduct for man should be one that embraces the concepts of a split hoof and chewing the cud.

The hoof must be split entirely, from the top to the very bottom. The hoof is divided into two, to indicate that our walking on this earth, i.e., our mundane involvements, must include two basic principles: drawing near to oneself that which is good and proper and pushing away that which is not.

But the sign of a split hoof by itself is not sufficient. There must also be the sign of chewing the cud.

One must very carefully "chew over" every mundane activity which one intends to undertake. One must clarify and determine, once and again, whether to do it altogether, and if so, how to do it. Only then will the action itself be a "pure animal" - something which can and is used for our spiritual mission in life.

Regarding fowl, we do not rely on signs alone, but we also require a tradition affirming that species' purity. Off hand, one could ask why we need such a tradition. Observing the signs would seem sufficient. However, this comes to teach us that one cannot rely on one's own intelligence. It is possible to study the Code of Jewish Law and even follow a course of behavior which one's own intellect determines to be "beyond the letter of the law."

One must follow the tradition. The Hebrew word for tradition is mesora, which is related to the word mesira - devotion and being bound together. In order to follow the Jewish tradition we must be devoted to and bound together with other Jews and Torah leaders who can teach us the ways of our tradition.

Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.


A Slice of Life

Jewish Teen Pride
by Stephanie Blitshtein

From her speech at the 6th annual CTeen Shabbaton

CTeen chapters from near and far

Uniting together in the month of Adar

Shabbos, tracks, and Alex Clare

Breathing in the freezing New York air

Memories that will last forever,

Friendships that will never sever.

Growing in our Yiddishkeit

Lighting up the world, making it so bright.

CTeen is what I look forward to all year long

With all of you is where I belong

Last year I went to the Shabbaton,

I'd like to share how much I've grown.

About one year ago, three girls from Plano, Texas and I won free tickets to the CTeen Shabbaton. The weekend was truly indescribable. When I returned home, I knew I wasn't coming back the same Stephanie that had left. Once my eyes were opened to the beauty of Torah and mitzvot (commandments), I could not imagine my life without them.

The four girls who attended the Shabbaton and our incredible Shluchim Yudi and Esther Horwitz started a CTeen chapter in North Texas. Today, I stand before you, a CTeen leader of one of the largest groups attending the Shabbaton this year. We went from 4 to 27 teens!

Not only was our CTeen growing, but so was I. When I got home from the Shabbaton, I started with one goal I set for myself: turning my phone off on Shabbat. I'll be honest, at first I thought, "What am I getting myself into, this is going to be really difficult?" However, as the weeks went by I began to look forward to escaping my Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and texting addiction, that I had during the week. I realized the beauty of having a real conversation with people, not just through a glass screen.

This one thing I took on, helped me to relax and chill out for a single day every week. This one thing I took on, led me to aim even higher in what I could do. As I look back on the past year of my life, I am stunned at how my list of goals has grown and grown.

Just one year ago, I could not tell you what the Hebrew letter "alef" looked like, I had no idea how to daven (pray), I mixed milk and meat together when I ate, I didn't know the walking path from my house to the shul, I didn't know about Tanya or about what a Jew does when she first wakes up in the morning, and I couldn't tell you what the first portion in the Torah was called.

But today, I can. It is Bereishit! And after Adam breaks the one rule G-d gave him by eating from the tree of Knowledge, G-d asks Adam, "Ayeka, where are you?" G-d knows where every single person is so why would He ask this? The question does not relate to physical location, but to your spiritual GPS. "Where are you Adam? I gave you one rule to follow and you broke it, is this really how you want to live your life? Adam where are you? Where are you headed?"

Although each and every one of us are completely unique and come from all walks of life, we are here, right now, exactly where we are meant to be. Each one of us here was just given something extremely valuable and precious. We were just given gold, pure gold. What will any businessman tell you to do if you have something extremely valuable? He will tell you to invest it. And that is why we are all here today. To become investors, investors in the Jewish people. The Pew study was published this year and it described the loss of a Jewish identity in most of the U.S. However, we are the next generation. The generation that will have Pew publishing a study called "Judaism makes a comeback."

Everyday in the Shema we say "You shall teach them to your children." Our children as members of CTeen are the Jewish people. When we go home, share what you have learned with your family, your friends, your community and your peers. Invest the knowledge you have gained in others because you never know how much it will affect them and don't forget to invest in yourselves because one day, G-d will come knocking on your door and ask you "Ayeka? Where are you?" My hope is that each and every one us is able to greet him with open arms!

Fellow members of the tribe,

There is something to you that I want to prescribe.

We are ending a weekend of so much meaning,

All of your faces are literally beaming.

But today we all part ways,

Til next year, 365 days.

I have a mission for you

Go home and nurture your inner Jew

We have just been given gold,

Lets all make it last until we're old.


The 1,000 CTeen shabbaton participants from over 110 communities around the world would have never dreamed of the climax to the three-day shabbaton, that was to take place during the Havdalah ceremony in Times Square.

The 10 jumbo screens of the American Eagle building broadcasted slogans encouraging teens to perform mitzvot and acts of goodness and kindness, accompanied by supporting footage of teens positively channeling their incredible energy at their local CTeen programs and at CTeen's two-week traveling camp, CTeen Xtreme. The main screen displayed a live feed of Alex Clare's stellar Havdala service and concert, and peaked with a specially made video of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, the inspiration behind the Chabad Teen Network, speaking of the incredible power of youth.

The International CTeen Shabbaton is an annual reunion of Jewish teens from across America, Europe, and Israel. Building on the success of the past shabbatons, this year's fresh program and revised itinerary was unmatched. The Friday program featured seven different-styled tours of the Big Apple, geared for the first timers to New York, the adventurous types, the shoppers, and the cultural types.

During the Friday night program of the shabbaton, Alex Clare, of Microsoft's famous "Too Close" song which peaked at number 4 on the UK singles chart and number 7 on the US Billboard Hot 100, shared his personal journey with the teens who were amazed to learn how the British superstar keeps kosher, Shabbat, and learns Torah even on tour.

The event culminated with a Choice Award Gala which honored the teen leaders for their great efforts in strengthening their local CTeen chapters and their involvement in planning and arranging programs with the international leadership board.

CTeen is a social club where teens learn about themselves and their heritage through giving to others and participating in interactive, hands-on activities. The CTeen International Shabbaton is open to all Jewish teens in the community, regardless of affiliation.


What's New

New New New

Chabad Jewish Center in Temecula, California recently welcomed a new Torah scroll. The Torah was written in honor of a complete recovery of the Chabad Center's rabbi Yitzchok Hurwitz (Yitzchok ben Bracha) who is battling ALS/Lou Gehrig's disease.

Chabad of the Shore in Long Brand, New Jersey, recently purchased a 2.26-acre parcel of land and school that will become the new location for their Chabad Center.

Rabbi Berry and Shayna Nash have moved to Missoula, Montana, where they are opening a new Chabad Center to cater to the Jewish community and University of Montana students in Missoula, the Bitterroot Valley and NW Montana.


The Rebbe Writes

18th of Adar II, 5725 [1965]

Insofar as I have heard about your husband from visitors from London, I am surprised to read your description of his present state of discouragement. Surely he knows that it is not only a matter of world outlook for a Jew, but one of the very foundations of the Jew's faith, that G-d's Providence extends to everyone individually, and in every aspect of one's individual life. How much more so where it is not only an individual matter, but is related to the parnasa [income] of the whole family. At the same it should be remembered that G-d's Providence is a benevolent Providence; that G-d is the Essence of Goodness and desires to do good, for, "It is in the nature of the good to do good." Therefore, it is easy to see how right King David was in the holy Tehillim [Psalms] when he said, "G-d is with me, I shall not fear," "G-d is my shepherd, I shall not want," etc. It is only necessary to reflect upon this frequently and deeply, and all anxiety and worry will be dispelled at once.

Needless to say, trust in G-d does not mean relying solely on miracles. For the Torah demands the Jew to do everything possible in the natural order of things in matters of parnasa, etc., except that he should at the same time remember success and blessing comes from G-d. And so it is written in the Torah, "G-d will bless you in all you do."

If the above is true in every case and at all times and places, it should certainly be obvious to Jews in our own times, since every one of us has seen G-d's kindness, especially Jews who had a miraculous escape from the dangers of the second World War. How can one allow himself to be so confused by the Yetzer Hara [evil inclination] as to be so overcome by anxiety or worry?

Of course there are times when things do not go as expected or as desired. But the Torah has already forewarned us to regard such times as temporary trials and tests of one's faith in G-d. As a matter of fact, the stronger remains one faith in G-d even under adverse circumstances, the sooner it will become clear it was all a matter of a test. But this faith should not be merely a matter of lip service, but must have the full force of conviction. And this is not hard to achieve, if one reflects on what has been said above, and frequently, calmly and objectively.

I trust that the above lines will suffice and that you, on your part, will also be a source of encouragement and confidence to your husband. May G-d grant that you should have good news to report in the spirit of Purim on which we celebrate the reversal of the Jewish position from sadness to gladness and, in the words of the Megila, "For the Jews there was light, joy, gladness and honor."

P.S. You may, of course, show this letter to your husband, if you think it will serve a useful purpose. The important thing is that the message of the letter should be effective, and that you should soon be able to report about an improvement in your husband's state of mind, to go about his business with confidence and joy, and this will be the first step to an improvement in parnasa.


8th of Nissan, 5722 [1962]

I trust that during the time since our meeting much has been accomplished in the matters which we discussed. More over, I hope that the difficulties which seemed to exist at the time turned out to be much less formidable than anticipated, and that this will therefore stimulate greater and much more rapid advancement, especially as when one is determined to do the right thing, one receives special help from On High, as our Sages assure us.

With the approach of Pesach, the Season of Our Freedom, may G-d grant every one of us a greater measure of freedom from all manner of anxiety and difficulty, so as to be able to serve Him with joy and gladness of heart without hindrance, in good health physically and spiritually, which go hand in hand together.

Wishing you and yours a kosher and happy Pesach [Passover],


Today Is ...

23 Adar II

The Rebbe Rashab once said to a senior rabbi, who prayed fervently and was an especially diligent scholar: A rabbi must continuously remember that he always stands on the threshold between being one of those who bring merit to the public and, G-d forbid, one of those who cause the public to sin - the threshold between the loftiest of heights and the most abysmal depth. All issues must touch him at the innermost core of his soul, literally, because his very soul is at stake.


A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

This week we read the third of the four special Torah portions, Parshat Para.

Parshat Para describes the offering of the red heifer (para aduma) and begins, "This is the decree of the Torah." These words indicate that the significance of the red heifer relates to the Torah and its mitzvot in its entirety.

The mitzva of the red heifer reveals two tendencies in a person's G-dly service: a yearning to lose oneself in G-d, known as "ratzo" and the willingness to return to this world to carry out G-d's will, known as "shov." These two qualities are fundamental thrusts.

The burning of the red heifer represents the thrust of ascending upward - ratzo. Fire is characterized by movement and a constant upward movement. The use of "living water in a vessel" which was combined with the ashes of the red heifer refers to the service of shov, for water naturally descends from above to below. Furthermore, when found on a flat surface, water remains in its place, reflecting the quality of tranquility.

Ratzo and shov are fundamental thrusts in Torah, not merely because of the unity they can bring about within the world, but because these two tendencies reflect positive qualities in our service of G-d. A Jew must possess the quality of ratzo. He must not be content with remaining at his present level, but must always seek to advance further. Even though he has reached a high level, he must always seek to attain higher heights.

In contrast, ratzo alone is insufficient; he must internalize all the new levels he reaches, making sure that they become a part of his nature. This is reflected in an approach of tranquility and settledness (shov). It does not, however imply complacency. Rather, the internalization of one level produces the desire to reach higher peaks. After reaching those new peaks, one must work to internalize them, which, in turn produces a desire to reach even higher peaks.

May we all grow in both areas of movement and tranquility, ratzo and shov until we reach the highest height of all and actually greet Moshiach.


Thoughts that Count

Moses told Aaron, "Come close to the altar" (Lev. 9:7)

Rashi states: Aaron was reserved and afraid to come close. Moses said to him, "Why are you reserved? For this you were chosen." The Baal Shem Tov explains Rashi's comments in the following manner: You were chosen for this - because of your reserve and modesty, and your doubts about being worthy to carry out the Divine service. These are the qualities that demonstrate your being fit for the job.


And Aaron raised his hands (yadav) toward the people and blessed them (Lev. 9:22)

At that moment Aaron merited to receive the Priestly Gifts, and merited that his descendents, the kohanim, would bless the Jewish people until the Resurrection of the Dead.

(Midrash Rabba)


Fire came forth from before G-d and it consumed them, so that they died before G-d (Lev. 10:2)

What was the failing of Nadav and Avihu, two sons of Aaron, that they were killed by a G-dly flame when they offered an unauthorized fire? They desired to be one with G-d spiritually (through the sacrifice) rather than remain in this physical world. The spiritual high was not brought down into practicality.

(Rabbi Sholom Ber of Lubavitch)


Yet these you may eat (Lev. 11:21)

The Torah does not content itself with giving us signs of purity to look for when it tells us which animals are kosher, it actually lists each and every one which is permissible. In the thousands of years which have elapsed since the Torah was given, not one animal, bird or creature has been discovered by man to possess those signs, which were not specifically mentioned in the Torah.

(Kuzari Hechadash)


It Once Happened

Reb Leib Sarah's was born with the blessing of the Baal Shem Tov (Besht). Early on, he became famous as a miracle-worker, and he was sent on many missions by the Besht to aid Jews.

One day, as he stood in the marketplace of Berdichev, a Jew approached him and exclaimed, "Thank G-d, I've found you!" The Jew, named Reb Binyomin, was the head of the community of Kobrin, and he had a serious problem.

The small town of Kobrin belonged to the Count Upinsky. While the old count had been friendly to the Jews, inviting them to settle on his lands rent-free, his son and successor was a bitter anti-Semite. The young count was now threatening to expel the Jews and seize all their property unless they paid him both rent and interest for all the years they had lived on his estate.

Reb Leib listened attentively to this terrible story, and then promised to try to intercede with the count. The very next day Leib Sarah's travelled to Kobrin and stood before the nobleman, ready to plead the Jew's case. The count was momentarily startled by the sudden unexpected appearance of the stately old Jew, but he recovered quickly and demanded immediate payment of the "debt."

Reb Leib replied in measured tones: "Sir, your father never expected or demanded rent from the Jews, and I ask you in all fairness to cancel their debt, for payment had never been intended. In return they will pray for your success and well-being all the days of your life."

"I do not need their prayers, but their money I cannot do without!" was his angry reply.

Leib Sarah's shot the count a burning, penetrating look that had the effect of calming his anger. The count soon regained his composure and continued: "Listen, I am going to make you an offer in the strictest confidence; take care no Jew betrays me. Our Polish people are tired of the Russian Czar's oppression. We are organizing a rebellion and we want Jews to join our side. If you agree, the debt will be cancelled."

"No, sir, this we cannot do. Our religion commands us to support the government under which we live. We may not join you."

His reply enraged the count. "Get out," he screamed. "You will pay dearly for this!"

Reb Leib returned to Binyomin with news of his failed mission. "Now, I will send you to someone who can indeed help. But you must keep this strictly secret."

Deep in the forest was a small hut where a poor broom-maker lived with his wife. It was here Binyomin was to go with all his provisions for Shabbat. Arriving at the hut Binyomin saw an old woman sitting in a poorly-furnished room. Just then her husband arrived, his face showing no surprise at the unexpected guest.

Binyomin prayed under the fragrant fir trees, and then entered the hut to find the old man reading the Grace After Meals slowly like a small child. After quickly eating, Binyomin lay down on a bench outside and fell asleep.

In the middle of the night he was awakened by the sound of a voice singing Shabbat melodies. The voice came from the hut, but a heavenly voice seemed to echo back. The hut shone with a burning light; Binyomin quickly shut his eyes, and when he opened them again, it was morning.

The night's vision convinced Binyomin that the broom-maker was no ordinary man. He could hardly wait for the end of the Shabbat to reveal his mission.

But before he could relay his request, the broom-maker came to him and said: "The Guardian of Israel has heard the prayers of the Holy congregation of Kobrin. The count's decree is null and void. Go in peace, but never tell anyone about this Shabbat."

The next morning Binyomin returned home to hear what had occurred. On Shabbat morning a refinement of Russian cossacks stormed the count's castle, arresting him for treason. The governor it seems, had suspected Upinsky of traitorous activities. One day a letter was intercepted which said that the count had been unsuccessful in enlisting the support of the Jews for the rebellion. With this evidence the castle was seized and the rebellion quashed.

In appreciation of their loyalty, the Czar awarded the Kobrin Jews the land of the Upinskys as a perpetual free hold, rent and tax-free.

Adapted from Talks and Tales


Moshiach Matters

Our Sages (Sanhedrin 91b) state that our people will be resurrected with their blemishes and (afterwards) be healed. And they elaborate more in Bereishis Rabbah 95:1, stating: "Just as a person departs, he will return. If he departed blind, he will return blind.... Just as he departed clothed, he will return clothed.... Afterwards, I will heal them." From the Zohar, Vol. I, p. 203b, it is evident that the healing will come from the sun, as our Sages state [in the World to Come...the Holy One, blessed be He, will draw forth the sun from its sheath: the righteous shall be healed...] (Nedarim 8b)

(From a letter of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, 7 Shevat, 1946)


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