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L'Chaim
April 4, 2014 - 4 Nisan, 5774

1316: Metzora

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


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  1315: Sazria1317: Achrei Mos  

Your Texting Works?!  |  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

Your Texting Works?!

by Rabbi Uriel Vigler

I have a friend who I text from time to time. Mysteriously, he never, ever responds.

"Can you make it to our Sunday morning services? We really need you for the minyan."

No response.

"Can you join us for a Torah class on Tuesday night?"

No response.

"We need a pair of hands to set up for our Purim party, are you available?"

No response.

"Got an hour to help us get our sukka up?"

No response.

Now, it's fine if someone can't, or doesn't want to, help out. But most people at least text back to let me know. To just completely ignore me? Who does that?!

So I confronted him.

"I don't understand, Rabbi," he said. "There must be something wrong with my phone. I haven't received any of your texts!"

Hmm... this guy has the brand new Iphone 5, with all the latest apps, and it works perfectly in every other way except getting my texts? So I continued texting him, and he maintained his silence.

Then, this past Friday afternoon, I was completely astounded (shocked! astonished! flabbergasted!) to receive a text message from this very same friend. Suddenly, his text messaging system is working flawlessly... and at such a convenient time - right when he needed something. Ha. Mystery solved.

Such is the story of our lives. When G-d wants something from us, we are nowhere to be found. We have all kinds of excuses, and we convince ourselves that even the ludicrous ones sound plausible. But when we need G-d, all our excuses fall by the wayside and we are suddenly ready, willing and able to reach out.

It's like the young man who dreamed of heaven. An angel was showing him around a large workroom, staffed by angels.

First they stopped at the Receiving Station. Here, all prayers and petitions to G-d are received. There were rolls and rolls of paper, from all over the world. Dozens of angels scurried about, organizing and sorting.

Further along, they reached the Packaging and Delivery section. This is where the blessings are packaged and delivered to the people who asked for them. Like the previous area, this station was extremely busy. Dozens of angels worked feverishly to get the blessings back to Earth.

The last station was at the very back of the room. Unlike the first two, this one was practically deserted. A single angel sat there idly. "This is the Acknowledgement station," my guide explained. "Unfortunately, after people receive the blessings they seek, very few send back appreciation and acknowledgement."

Every day, with each good deed that we do, we work towards building the third and final Holy Temple. This is what we can do for G-d on a daily basis.

Let's remember to acknowledge and thank G-d for the beauty and goodness in our lives. Of course, we can turn to him when we are in need, too. But let's not wait until then. Let's start right now, with gratitude and appreciation.

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

This week we read the Torah portion of Metzora. Metzora begins with the laws concerning the purification of the leper. Can we "live with the times" - find a contemporary lesson from a Torah portion about leprosy? Most know leprosy simply as a highly contagious and disfiguring disease. But, in Biblical times it was seen as a physical punishment from G-d for the sin of slander. Quite a harsh punishment for transgressing a commandment between man and his fellow man. Or is it?

It was the punishment Miriam received for speaking ill of Moses. And Moses, at the burning bush, saw his hand turn leprous. This was an intimation from G-d that his harsh words about the Israelites were slanderous.

A leper was isolated from the rest of the people once his illness had been diagnosed, and made to live outside the camp in the desert where the rest of the Israelites dwelled. Since the disease had a spiritual as well as a physical dimension, this was not simply a hygienic precaution, but had a moral purpose. Likewise, his purification was a recovery of spiritual as well as physical health.

The leper was required to remain outside the camp, and even people who were "impure" for reasons other than leprosy were not allowed near him. Rashi comments, "Because he, by slanderous statements, parted man and wife, or a man from his friend, [therefore] he must be parted [from everybody]." He was excluded from the camp because of his association with strife and dissension.

Unlike other forms of spiritual impurity, slander is progressive. At first it is turned against ordinary people, then against the righteous, then against G-d Himself.

On the day of the leper's purification, the Torah tells us, "He shall be brought to the kohen (priest). And the kohen shall go out of the camp" to meet him. Who is to go to whom? The answer lies in understanding that these two expressions are actually two aspects of the leper's spiritual cleansing.

The first indicates an assurance that even one who stands "outside the camp," isolated-even by a sin between two people- will in the end be motivated to turn to the "kohen" in repentance.

The second stage is when the kohen meets the leper, and in so doing initiates and awakens the desire to return. He will then strive to translate his revelation into a cleansing of the whole circumstances of his life which led up to the transgression.

Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe


A Slice of Life

Life After Death of Self
By Dr. Robert M. Schwartz

The picture window in my downtown Pittsburgh psychotherapy office overlooked the Allegheny River offering a view of the now demolished Three Rivers Stadium. Stadiums situated on rivers embody the vital flow of life symbolized by water and the life affirming exuberance that draws people to sports, especially in Pittsburgh. It's an ironic backdrop for a curious convergence of two consecutive, middle-age therapy clients I saw one morning many years ago.

In successive sessions, they both uttered the exact same words: "My mother wants to die." Their mothers were old, tired, and unhappy, but not suffering any unusual pain. Yet they complained bitterly to their sons saying, "I want to die." One old world Jewish mother proposed a very modern solution: "I vant someone like dat Dr. Kervorkian. But him I don't vant. Him I don't like." Even for euthanasia, she sought a second opinion!

Since that event 25 years ago, more than a few contemporary opinion writes have argued that when life has lost all meaning, the true compassion for aging parents is to release them from their misery, to hasten rather than delay their end. But before rushing to adopt the view that life without intellect or language is devoid of meaning, consider this.

During my mother's 10-year decent into Alzheimer's disease, I instead renewed my belief in the inestimable value of human life despite the fading cognitive capacities and nearly total loss of self that accompanies this affliction. Towards the end of life, my mother sat much of the day in chair with a fixed tray that prevented her from wandering, as Alzheimer's patients, yearning for home, are inclined to do. In this adult "highchair", she moved her hands rhythmically around the tray and spoke mostly gibberish. Although she didn't have a clear idea of exactly who I was, she knew we had some special connection, sometimes confusing me with my deceased father. And Mom still enthusiastically enjoyed her meals - a robust residue of the life force.

Since Thanksgiving was a traditional family gathering, I prepared to make the fall visit to rural Connecticut where she lived with my sister and her husband. This trip was different because I planned to introduce my mother to Amy, the woman I was seriously considering marrying. En route to Connecticut, Amy and I first stopped at the grave of the Lubavitch Rebbe (Rabbi) to ask for a blessing. In the traditional note left at the Rebbe's grave, I specifically asked for the clarity of mind and heart to confirm my belief that this marital choice was blessed in G-d's eyes. Previous visits to his grave were productive, but none were as dramatic as this one.

Since Amy performs therapeutic music for the elderly, it wasn't surprising that she connected well with my mother. Amy held her hand and sang songs that she shares with her clients in the nursing homes. The power of music stunned us when my mother began to speak full sentences when previously she uttered only incomprehensible sounds. "You've got to do what you've got to do" was her first piece of sage advice. Then, she succinctly added, "Let it be," a line that I like to think directly influenced the Beatles. Finally, she concluded by saying, "Remember, Amy, always play the lady." We are still pondering the deeper meanings of this last message, but regardless of its content, the amazing thing is that Mom addressed Amy by name. The face of her caregiver for many years revealed a look of envy since Mom no longer used her or anyone else's name.

The denouement came when I entered the room and sat to my mother's left with Amy seated to her right. Mom's hands made the familiar circular motions on the tray of her chair. Then, like the biblical Jacob blessing his grandchildren, Mom reached for Amy's left hand and brought it onto the tray. She then reached for my left hand and moved it so that my ring finger was above Amy's. As my wife tells the story, in response to this gesture indicating my mother's blessing of our marriage plans, we both "burst into tears." In my version I did NOT "burst" into tears. But indeed we both wept.

As the spiritual power of a deceased holy person continues to influence our lives, so can the spirit of those living - albeit diminished - loved ones inspire and guide us. Human life is sacred, even when veiled in seeming senselessness. Contemplating the limitations of his old-age blindness, a poet famously penned the line, "They also serve who only stand and wait." Drawing on the Rebbe's inspiration, we can go further and say, "They also serve, even those who only sit and wait."

Robert M. Schwartz, Ph.D., is President of Cognitive Dynamic Therapy Associates, a multi-specialty psychological group. He is the author of scientific articles on positive thinking and most recently authored, Holy Eating: The Spiritual Secret to Eternal Weight Loss. (www.holy-eating.com).


What's New

Saturday Night Full Moon

Saturday Night Full Moon is a collection of 33 Chasidic stories of Kabala sages, Chasidic masters and other Jewish heroes dating from 16th Century Israel to 21st Century USA. Fully indexed with biographical information, as well as verses, names, dates and topics, this first volume of Rabbi Yerachmiel Tilles' stories is certain to become an oft-turned-to family treasure.

From the Heavens to the Heart

From the Heavens to the Heart by Tzvi Jacobs contains inspirational stories of extraordinary happenings in the lives of ordinary people. The book is back in print and has been completely revised. This amazing collection of true stories has inspired and entertained thousands of readers. Be prepared to laugh and cry. It will truly touch your heart and soul. Available as an Amazon Kindle edition (ebook) and as a paperback.


The Rebbe Writes

10th of Nissan, 5721 [1961]

Greeting and Blessing:

I received your letter, in which you write about your efforts to implement my suggestion in connection with Purim. I trust that you have also been active in the matter of distribution of Shemura Matza [matza made from specially watched wheat] before Pesach, together with our friend Mr. -.

With regard to the question of Gehinom [purgatory] and how it affects sinners in general, and suicides in particular, you can well imagine that this is a subject about which I do not encourage discussion, especially in the case of a young man whose whole life is ahead of him and who has to utilize the years which G-d bestows upon him, and utilize them with energy and joy and complete trust in G-d. Thus, this and similar morbid topics are not conducive to the proper attitude and activity which should fill one's life. However, in order not to leave your question altogether unanswered, let me say briefly this. Besides the fact that one who takes his own life has no share in the world to come, and this is a result which few transgressions bring about, there is the added consideration that there is no escape from G-d, and, as it is written [A verse in Hebrew the translation of which is "If I ascend to Heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in the lower world, behold! It is You" (Psalms 139:8)]

Therefore, one who takes his own life in the hope of avoiding suffering actually adds to his woes in that in addition to having to go through all the things which he had hoped to escape, he has to suffer also the consequence of having tried to escape his duties and obligations etc. However the main point is, as mentioned above, this is not a topic to be delved into, but one should be totally immersed in the Torah, which is called Toras Chaim, the Law of Life, and the Mitzvoth [commandments]whereby Jews live, and to do one's utmost to spread the light and life of the Torah and Mitzvoth in the environment at large.

Hoping to hear good news from you, and wishing you a Kosher and happy Pesach,

With blessing,


3rd of Nissan, 5727 [1967]

Greeting and Blessing:

I just received the telephone message about your condition, and am awaiting good news about your treatment and relief. May G-d grant that you should have a speedy and complete Refuo [recovery], and that everything turns out to be for the good, the visible and obvious good.

Having entered the auspicious month of Nissan, the present time is particularly propitious for good tidings for all Jews, both materially and spiritually. Moreover, if at all times throughout the year a Jew is to serve G-d in good health and with joy and gladness of heart, this is particularly true for the month of Nissan, a time of considerable preparation for the forthcoming Festival of Liberation, especially the removal of Chometz [leaven] and the bringing in of Matzoh, with all that this signifies, including a thorough spiritual "spring cleaning." There is no need to elaborate on this to you.

I had intended to write to you these days in any case, but will now take advantage of this opportunity to express my gratification at the enthusiasm which your speech evoked at the gathering in the home of Mr. and Mrs. . . ., organized at the initiative of Prof. and Mrs. . . . I am also informed that it left a considerable impact on the audience.

Similarly I have been informed by the Tzeirei Agudas Chabad about the success and lasting impressions of your other appearances.

There is a connection in this continuity of the above, since the inference is how much you can achieve in good health, both in your immediate and distant environment. Hence, it will surely stand you in good stead.

Hoping to hear good news from you in all the above, and wishing you and yours a Kosher and inspiring Pesach.

With blessing,


Today Is ...

10 Nissan

On the subject of the campaign to popularize the observance of taharat hamishpacha (the laws of Family Purity) in your community, ponder this deeply: Let us imagine that G-d were to give you the opportunity to save a Jewish community from extinction (G-d forbid), you would certainly be willing to risk your life for this and you would thank and praise him for His great kindness in offering you an opportunity of such enormous merit. The same then holds true to an even greater degree with regard to the campaign for taharat hamishpacha; it is an endeavor which literally saves lives.

(From Hayom Yom)


A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

This past Wednesday, the second of the Jewish month of Nissan, we commemorated the anniversary of the passing in 1920 of the fifth Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Shalom Dovber, known as the Rebbe Rashab.

Before his passing, the Rebbe Rashab told his son and successor, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok (the sixth and previous Rebbe), "I am going up to heaven; my writings I am leaving for you."

A brief perusal of the Rebbe Rashab's writings brings to light the following gems:

"A single act is better than a thousand groans. Our G-d lives, and Torah and its commandments are eternal; quit the groaning and work hard in actual spiritual work, and G-d will be gracious to you."

"Cherish criticism, for it will place you on the true heights."

"When Moshiach will come, then we will really long for the days of exile. Then we will truly feel distress at our having neglected our avoda (spiritual work); then will we indeed feel the deep pain caused by our lack of avoda. These days of exile are the days to prepare ourselves for the coming of Moshiach, speedily in our time, amen."

"And this is the main thing in these last moments before Moshiach, that we don't go according to our intellect and our reasoning. Rather, we should study Torah and perform mitzvot (commandments) above and beyond what reason dictates."

May we immediately merit the Final Redemption, when all righteous Jews (and all Jews are considered righteous!) will be resurrected with the Revival of the Dead.


Thoughts that Count

For the person undergoing the purification there be taken two live kosher birds, cedar wood, yarn dyed crimson in the blood of a worm, and a hyssop branch. (Lev. 14:4)

The disease of tzaraat is the result of slanderous talk which is like babbling words. Consequently birds which babble continuously were required for his purification. The disease was also caused by pride. Through humility one rid himself of this trait. The lowly hyssop and the worm from the purification process allude to the necessity of viewing oneself with humility.

(Rashi)


When Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev would hear someone speak poorly of another person he would go up to him and say, "My dear friend, aren't you ashamed? You are slandering G-d's tefilin upon which it is written, "Who is Your People Israel."


He shall shave off all his hair - his head, his beard, and his eyebrows. (Lev. 14:9)

Tzaraat came as punishment for three things: haughtiness, gossip, and jealousy. Therefore, the cleansing process for one afflicted with tzaraat was done in the following order: First, the hair on the head was shaved off, because the person's excessive pride caused him to desire to be above others; second, the hair of the beard was removed, because he did not control his mouth and spoke slanderously against his fellow man; and third, the eyebrows were shaved off, as they did not prevent his eyes from looking narrowly and with avarice at the possessions of others.

(Klai Yakar)


And he shall slay the lamb in the place where he shall kill the sin offering and the burnt offering (Lev. 14:13)

The sin offering was slaughtered in the same place as the burnt offering (on the northern side), even though the burnt offering had a higher level of holiness. This was done to avoid embarrassing the sinner, as no one would know what type of offering he was bringing.

(Sotah 32)


It Once Happened

The Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn, told the following story:

During the winter of 1903, when I accompanied my father for the couple of months he spent consulting medical specialists in Vienna, he would sometimes go out in the evening to visit the shtiblach (small informal "houses" of study and prayer) of the local Polish Jews - to be among Chasidim, to hear a story from their mouths, to listen to a Chasidic saying, and to observe fine conduct and refined character.

One Wednesday night, on the eve of the 15th of Shevat, my father visited one of these shtiblach, where several hoary Chasidim were sitting around together and talking. As my father and I drew nearer, we heard that they were telling stories of the saintly Rabbi Meir of Premishlan.

Among other things, they related that the mikveh (ritual bath) in Rabbi Meir's neighborhood stood at the foot of a steep mountain. When the slippery weather came, everyone had to walk all the way around for fear of slipping on the mountain path and breaking their bones - everyone, that is, apart from Rabbi Meir, who walked down that path whatever the weather, and never slipped.

One icy day, Rabbi Meir set out as usual to take the direct route to the mikveh. Two guests were staying in the area, sons of the rich who had come somewhat under the influence of the "Enlightenment" movement. These two young men did not believe in supernatural achievements, and when they saw Rabbi Meir striding downhill with sure steps as if he were on a solidly paved highway, they wanted to demonstrate that they too could negotiate the hazardous path. As soon as Rabbi Meir entered the mikveh building, therefore, they took to the road. After only a few steps they stumbled and slipped, and needed medical treatment for their injuries.

Now one of them was the son of one of Rabbi Meir's close Chasidim, and when he was fully healed he mustered the courage to approach the tzadik (righteous person) with his question: why was it that no man could cope with that treacherous path, yet the Rebbe never stumbled?

Replied Rabbi Meir: "If a man is bound up on high, he doesn't fall down below. Meir'l is bound up on high, and that is why he can go up and down, even on a slippery hill."

My father was under doctor's orders to walk about outdoors for a certain period every day. So from the shtibl we stepped out into the clear and balmy night, and strolled along the garden path that ran down the middle of one of the local avenues, where the moon lit up every detail for several paces ahead.

My father was so deep in meditation that he drew the attention of many passersby. Whenever I observed him in this state I yearned to know what he was thinking about. I watched intently for any facial expression or movement that might disclose a hint of what thoughts were engaging his mind, and what world his mind was now surveying.

Chasidic teaching discusses the differences between speech and thought, one of which is that speech reveals something to another, whereas thought obscures: one person can think all day long, and the next person will not know what he is thinking about. It is further pointed out, however, that it is the details of his thought that remain hidden. A general perception of his thinking - whether it concerns an intellectual concept, or an emotional matter - can be gleaned from his facial features.

We walked on together for such a long time that I began to feel uncomfortable. Continuing our stroll in this way made me feel morose and downhearted. Every minute lasted an hour, until at length a deep sigh inadvertently passed my lips.

At this my father stopped short and looked me through - all the way through - and said: "Why do you sigh? If a man is bound up on high, he doesn't fall down below."

From Likkutei Dibburim translated by Uri Kaploun and published by Kehot Publications.


Moshiach Matters

The Maharal states in Netzach Yisrael, "In order for the new state of Redemption to be born the previous state must rst dissolve." His descendant, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, added (in Torah Ohr) that this is why shortly before the Jews were redeemed from Egypt, the exile worsened. In preparation for the new revelation at the Giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, whatever light remained had to be withdrawn. His great-great grandson, the Rebbe Rashab explains in a Chasidic discourse that during the nal exile, it is our task to elevate the highest sparks that have fallen the lowest. This is the reason for the immense challenges that we face during the present exile.

(L'maan Yishmeu)


  1315: Sazria1317: Achrei Mos  
   
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