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                         L'CHAIM - ISSUE # 1324
                           Copyright (c) 2014
                 Lubavitch Youth Organization - L.Y.O.
                              Brooklyn, NY
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   Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.
        June 6, 2014          Beha'aloscha         8 Sivan, 5774

                            Chewing It Over

There is a loud crunching sound. You look around wondering if anyone
else hears it. Everybody else seems to be oblivious to the noise, or
perhaps they are just being polite. You wonder, don't they notice it

But, of course, they don't hear the sound because it's you who is
munching on the celery or chomping on the carrot. Since you are the
perpetrator of this cacophonous conduct and the clamor is emanating from
inside your head it resonates in your ears, blocking out other more
subtle sounds. But ask someone seated just a few feet away from you if
they can hear you chewing and they will assure you that they don't
detect anything.

Perhaps it is for this very reason that the great Jewish thinker and
sage, Rabbi Joshua ben P'rachya taught in the Mishna (Ethics of the
Fathers 1:6) "Provide yourself with a master; acquire for yourself a
friend; and judge every person favorably."

When a person finds himself in a situation where he has to make a big
decision, he's sure to "chew" it over or "ruminate" on it for awhile.
But, inevitably, whatever thoughts or opinions are in that person's head
will come through loudest and clearest, making an objective decision
essentially impossible.

However, if a person takes Rabbi Joshua's teaching to heart, he will
find a "master," someone he respects and whose opinion he values. A
master is not a friend whose advice we solicit but when we don't like
the recommendation we ignore it. A master, or rav in the original
Hebrew, is someone whose wisdom and knowledge of Torah teachings guide
his advice, someone who will tailor his counsel to the person's nature,
character and unique situation.

Consulting with a "master" when making decisions that affect one's
quality of life will enable a person to come to conclusions that are
acceptable to himself, pleasant to those around him, and pleasing to

It is worthy to note that Rabbi Joshua was a nasi, a leader of the
Jewish people. That it was Rabbi Joshua who presented this advice
teaches us that even someone of a very high stature, a person who is
very learned and who has perhaps even reached the peak of human
perfection, should humble himself and seek a teacher or "master."

Rabbi Joshua also recommends that we "acquire a friend." Jewish
teachings speak of the importance of friendship and urge us to exert
ourselves in these relationships. Unlike a master, though, a friend is a
peer, someone on our own level who can share the trials and tribulations
of life with us. They've been there and done that (or they're in the

The Hebrew words for "acquire" can also be understood as "buy." Rabbi
Joshua is not suggesting that we "buy" our friends. Rather, we should
know that even if we have to go out of our way, to give of ourselves, we
must do so in order to nurture friendships.

Whether master or friend, another person will help us filter out our
more personal ruminations and cogitations allowing us to really "chew
over" the matter in a more objective manner.

This week's Torah reading, Behaalotcha, describes the preparations for,
and initial stages of, the journey of the Jews through the desert after
having camped at Sinai for more than a year.

At Mount Sinai, the Jews received the Torah and soon after constructed
the Sanctuary there. Yet, our people did not remain content with having
achieved these spiritual heights. Rather than staying in the desert
where G-d provided for all their needs, they set out on a mission - to
journey to Israel.

The desert is barren and desolate. Yet as the Jews traveled through the
desert, they transformed it, albeit temporarily, into a settled land, a
place where crops, trees, and even flowers grew. For the Jews did not
travel empty-handed. With them, they took the Torah that they had been
given and the Sanctuary that they had constructed. G-d's presence, which
rested within the Sanctuary, and which is given expression in our lives,
brought about these positive changes in the surroundings in which they

The Baal Shem Tov explains that the journeys of the Jewish people
through the desert are reflected in the journeys of every individual
through life. Some of the phases that we pass through may appear barren
and desolate. Nevertheless, we must appreciate that this is only the
external setting in which we are placed. It should not reflect our inner
state - for G-d's presence accompanies us at all times and the Torah is
with us in all surroundings.

In a similar vein, the journeys of the Jewish people through the desert
also allude to the journeys of our people through the ages toward the
Messianic Era. Accordingly, throughout history the Jews have wandered
from country to country pursuing the Divine mission of revealing the
sparks of holiness everywhere by utilizing physicality in fulfilling the
Torah's commandments.

To explain this motif: Our Sages state that G-d exiled the Jewish people
in order that converts should be enabled to join them. In addition to
the simple meaning of this statement, Jewish mysticism expands the
meaning of the word "convert" to refer not only to individuals who
accept Judaism, but also to the sparks of the G-dly life-force which are
hidden within the world's material substance.

When a Jew uses an object for a mitzva, he or she releases these hidden
sparks of G-dliness and enables them to be overtly revealed. So from
land to land have our people wandered, completing phase after phase of
this mission.

In the process of doing so, they have made "the desert blossom." They
have endowed the world with spiritual meaning and purpose, pushing it
toward the culmination of this process; Moshiach's coming, when the
G-dliness that pervades our existence will be manifest and apparent.

      From Keeping In Touch by Rabbi E. Touger, published by Sichos
                                                        In English.

                             SLICE OF LIFE
                  Psychiatrist by Day, Scribe by Night
                           by Allie Freedman

Page by page, line by line, letter by letter, Richard Epstein has spent
the past eight years meticulously handwriting the words of G-d. Using a
turkey feather quill and kosher animal skin parchment as his pen and
paper, he masterfully created a Torah scroll for the Chabad Shul of
Potomac. Running his own private practice in general psychiatry by day,
Epstein, 74, devoted his nights and weekends to crafting his holy work.
On Sunday, Epstein will complete his sanctified journey by penning the
final of the scroll's more than 300,000 letters at a dedication ceremony
at the Chabad center.

"In Deuteronomy 31:19, G-d says, 'Write for yourself this song.' That
means, every Jew should write a Torah scroll," says Epstein. "It is a
great honor and responsibility to inscribe the Torah.

"The first Torah scribe in the world was Moses himself," he continues.
"Every time I sat down to write, I became engrossed in the work. I feel
a strong sense of awe, as I am so moved by the beauty of the Hebrew
letters. I am doing G-d's work. It is one of the most amazing tasks I've
ever done in my life."

Living until the dawn of the 21st century a primarily secular life, the
Brooklyn-born psychiatrist always felt a strong connection with the
Torah, he says. He discovered Potomac's Chabad center 15 years ago and
began studying the Torah with Rabbi Mendel Bluming. Throughout his
studies, he immersed himself in the medieval commentary of Rashi and
realized that he wanted to become a scribe.

"Rashi's teachings opened up a new world and meaning of the Torah for
me," says Epstein. "After studying with Bluming, I wanted to contribute.
I realized our synagogue needed a new Torah, and I knew writing the
Torah would bring me closer to G-d."

Discussing his personal admiration for Epstein, Bluming says he was
inspired by his longtime study partner's decision to take on the
time-consuming task of writing a Torah.

"Dr. Epstein was one of the first people I met when I came to Potomac in
2000, and we began to study together regularly," says Bluming. "I was
struck by his earnestness and genuine thirst for Torah knowledge and
observance. His connection to learning the Torah inspired him,
ultimately leading to inscribing his own Torah scroll."

Embarking on the new adventure, Epstein first had to perfect his
knowledge of Hebrew scripture. He became an apprentice to a sofer
[scribe] and studied the intricate laws detailing the stylizing of the
Hebrew letters and the specific spellings of certain words. After
practicing the art of writing the unique script of religious literature,
Epstein began his side career as a scribe by working on a Megillah,
since G-d's name is not included in the text. (According to Jewish law,
the name of G-d is so holy, that mistakes made in its formulation can
render an entire text - or sections of text - invalid for ritual use.)

Epstein then moved on to writing about a dozen parchment scrolls for
placement in mezuzahs to prepare for writing G-d's name. Finally, he was
ready to tackle the much larger project of writing a complete Torah

"I became so absorbed in my work," says Epstein. "Before I start
writing, I say a prayer and give money to tzedakah [charity]. Then, I
would say each word and each letter out loud as I wrote. After each
line, I would read the line both forward and backward to ensure there
were no mistakes. At this point, it would take me between 12 and 15
minutes to complete one, single line."

With 42 lines per page, Epstein uses a numbered celluloid strip to keep
his place. In addition, he often writes the name of G-d in the text
beforehand. If a scribe makes a mistake on G-d's name, the parchment is
buried in the ground, because according to Jewish law, G-d's name cannot
be thrown away. In today's hi-tech society, several computers checked
the work for accuracy. In addition, the Torah was proofread four times
by hand to guarantee perfection.

Epstein's act of inscribing the Torah quickly became a communitywide
event at the Chabad Shul of Potomac. Throughout the past eight years,
Epstein displayed each completed page of the Torah to the synagogue. He
wanted the public to feel immersed in the process. In addition, Epstein
has allowed some members of the community to fill in some letters of the
Torah and to dedicate Torah portions.

"I feel as if I am an ambassador to helping people fulfil the mitzvah of
writing the Torah," says Epstein. "As I hold the quill with members as
they inscribe their letter, I watch people connect to the Torah on a new
level. This is our community's Torah. I am just a regular congregant
with a day job. I hope that will inspire others to fulfill mitzvot."

Once Epstein finally fills in the last letter, the synagogue will parade
its brand new scroll down the streets. Joining the procession,
neighboring synagogues Beth Sholom Congregation and Talmud Torah and
Young Israel Ezras Israel of Potomac will bring out their own Torahs.
After the parade, the synagogue will provide refreshments and a
presentation on the scribal arts.

"This has been a truly transformative eight year journey for our
community," says Bluming. "The extent of community excitement and
involvement from day one is incredible. I never imagined how much of an
impact this would have on us. Dr. Epstein has inspired many in our
community to re-examine their bucket lists and expand their horizons.
This is something that I want my children and the children of our
community to witness and remember forever."

In celebration of the completion of the long journey, Epstein will read
from his new scroll at morning prayer services on Monday. As a scribe,
he plans to continue writing mezuzah scrolls and playing an active role
in the Jewish community.

"Every mitzvah is a challenge and an opportunity," says Epstein. "G-d
provides the Jewish people the 613 mitzvot to enhance their lives. I
feel as if the Torah wrote me rather than I wrote it. I'm deeply
grateful that G-d provided me this opportunity to bring his Divine light
into the world with this mitzvah.

          Reprinted with permission from the Washington Jewish Week

                               WHAT'S NEW
                         Torah Scrolls Welcomed

The Jewish community of Kharkov, Ukraine, welcomed a new Torah Scroll.
Amidst the current economic and political instability participants felt
uplifted and inspired by the community simcha.

The Jewish community of Las Flores, Buenos Aires, Argentina, welcomed
for the first time ever their own newly completed Torah Scroll. The new
Torah will be used in the local Chabad House.

The new Bais Menachem Shul in Novosibirsk, Russia, welcomed a Torah
Scroll amidst dancing and rejoicing.

The Chabad Jewish Community Center in Folsom, California, finally has a
Torah Scroll of their own and no longer has to borrow from other
congregations. The Torah was proudly paraded through the local streets.

A Torah Scroll was completed in Auschwitz coinciding with this year's
March of the Living. Survivors filled in the final letters and then sang
"Ani Maamin" - "I the coming of Moshiach." The Torah was
commissioned by Chilean philanthropist and businessman Leonardo Farkas.

Chabad of Rio Grande Valley, Texas, welcomed a Torah Scroll that had
previously been used by a congregation in Brooklyn, New York.

                            THE REBBE WRITES
                     Freely translated and adapted

                           Sivan, 5715 (1955)

I received your letter, in reply to mine, in which I dwelt on the
subject of simple faith, as emphasized by the festivals of Passover and

In your reply you refer to what seems to you a contradiction to the
beauty of "simple" faith in the fact that the complexity and
multiplicity in nature, particularly in the world of plants and animals,
adds to rather than detracts from, the beauty of things, and you wonder
if the same may not be true of faith.

The argument would be valid perhaps, if we were speaking of the
"superficial," and not of the innermost and essential aspects of things.
Actually, the analogy from nature only confirms what I wrote to you in
my previous letter.

For, needless to say, I did not mean to imply that a person, especially
a Jew, should content himself with faith alone, or that our religion is
a simple matter. As you know, the Torah contains 613 different and
varied precepts, and each one has a variety of facets. G-d expects every
Jew and Jewess to reflect upon them in their daily lives according to
their circumstances. This certainly makes for a variety of religious
experiences and practices. I say, "to their best ability," etc., for, as
our Sages ruled, "a rich man bringing a poor man's offering has not
fulfilled his duty," which, of course, applies to the realm of the
spiritual as well as that of the material. However, all this religious
practice and experience, in all its variety, has to be based on, and
permeated by, the same basic faith in G-d, a simple and absolute faith.

The analogy in nature is to be found in the fact that with all the
complexity and multiplicity of plant and animal life, their basic and
ultimate components are single cells, though the cell itself has a
variety of components which science has by no means fully unravelled. It
is only when these elementary cells behave properly in their simple
function of growth, division and multiplication, without interference of
foreign elements, etc., that the complex organism is properly attuned
and can carry out its most amazing functions.

Even in the inorganic world, the great complexity and multiplicity of
things have been reduced to a small number of some one hundred basic
elements. The endeavor of science is to reduce even the complex of their
nuclear composition to a minimum, in order to get closer to the secrets
of nature. Here, too, the basic function of nature is determined not by
the principle of complexity but by that of simplicity, the small
particle, the atom, the core of things, and, more deeply by its very few

You write that although you believe in G-d and His closeness, you are
endeavoring to find your own way of serving Him. This is a long and
round-about way. It is analogous to the person searching for the secrets
of the functions of the physical body, e.g., how food is converted into
blood, tissue, energy, and sustains life; it would surely not be the
right approach to stop eating and drinking, pending the conclusions of
the study. Even a reduction in the necessary caloric intake would weaken
his powers of reasoning and research and handicap him in his ever
attaining his objective. Similarly, in an effort to find a way of
serving G-d, one must not postpone such service until one has completed
one's search. Moreover, the absence of the religious practice itself
handicaps the powers of the intellect to grasp the truth. Furthermore,
since the human intellect is by its very nature limited, while the
subject it desires to grapple with is related to the Unlimited, it is
only with the aid of the Infinite G-d that one can hope to be lifted
across the unbridgeable chasm separating the created and the Creator,
and such Divine aid can come only through Divine service.

Finally, there is obviously no contradiction here to the principle of
the freedom of personal choice. The real issue here is the proper
approach and method to be undertaken now, until one has arrived at the
stage where one's intellect becomes sufficiently clear to confirm the
established truth.

The key to the solution is "Na'ase v'nishma," ["We will do and then we
will understand"] where "Na'ase," practical religion in daily life, is
the prerequisitive condition for "Nishma," study and understanding.

                              TODAY IS ...
                                10 Sivan

The Alter Rebbe, Rabbi Shneur Zalman - founder of Chabad Chasidism,
responded to an individual in a private audience: "...The Jewish people
are called neirot, lamps. A lamp comprises a vessel, wick, oil and
flame. But one must kindle the flame - and then it sheds light. You have
a good lamp, but you lack the igniter. By sharply striking the stone of
the animal soul, a spark of fire flies out and kindles the G-dly fire."

                        A WORD FROM THE DIRECTOR
                         Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
In this week's Torah portion, we read about the daily lighting of the
seven-branched golden candelabra in the Sanctuary by Aaron the High

King Solomon writes: "The soul of man is the lamp of G-d." Just as a
flame rises constantly upwards so man's soul is constantly seeking to
rise higher. Aaron's lighting of the Menorah symbolized the task of all
Jews, to "light up" the souls of the Jews.

Rabbi Sholom Ber of Lubavitch was once asked: "What is a Chasid?" and he
replied, "A Chasid is a 'street-lamplighter.'" In Rabbi Sholom Ber's
days, a street-lamp lighter kindled each street lamp by hand. The lamps
were there in readiness, but they needed to be lit. Rabbi Sholom Ber
implied that a Chasid is one who goes out into the street, finds the
lamps - Jewish souls - that need to be lit, and carefully and gently
kindles them with he beauty, warmth and light of Torah and mitzvot.

Every Jew can be, and in essence is, a street-lamp lighter. Every Jew is
obligated to search out other Jews whose souls remain ready but are not
yet ignited with the fire of Judaism. And certainly, in his so doing,
nothing will be detracted from the "streets lamp lighter's" own flame.
For, as we all surely know, lighting one candle from another does not
diminish the flame of the first. Rather, when two flames burn together
they burn even stronger with less of a chance that one will be

Let us go from flame to flame until the entire Jewish menora will be
proudly lighted and together illuminate the darkness of the night of

                          THOUGHTS THAT COUNT
Antigonos of Socho received the tradition from Shimon HaTzadik. He used
to say: ...And let reverence for Heaven (literally, the fear of Heaven)
be upon you (Ethics Ch. 1:3)

After Antigonos emphasizes that one should not serve G-d with a view to
receiving reward, but out of complete love for Him, he declares that a
person must also be careful regarding his reverence for G-d. One who
serves with love is eager to fulfill a positive commandment, and one who
serves with reverence is careful regarding negative ones. Thus, by being
careful in both aspects, a person's service is complete.


                                *  *  *

Hillel said: Be of the disciples of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing
peace, loving other people, and drawing them to Torah (Ethics Ch. 1:12)

Moses drew G-dliness down to the Jewish people from Above by means of
the Torah which was given through him. Thus he is referred to as "the
chaperone of the King" - analogous to the escort who accompanies the
groom to his bride. Aaron, by contrast, brought the Jewish people closer
to G-d from below to Above, and is thus referred to as "the bride's
chaperone," analogous to the escort who accompanies a bride, leading her
up to the groom who awaits her.

                                  (Sefer Ha'Arachim Chabad, Vol. 2)

                                *  *  *

[Hillel] used to say: If I am not for myself, who is for me? And if I am
only for myself, what am I? (Ethics Ch. 1:14)

In many areas of Jewish life the individual and the community are
completely integrated and harmonized, with equal emphasis on both.
Hence, "If I am not for myself" expresses the importance of the
individual. At the same time, each person is part of the whole Jewish
community, and if he is not, i.e., "if I am only for myself," isolated
from the community, what is the individual truly worth?

                                           (Likutei Sichot Vol. 18)

                            IT ONCE HAPPENED
Long before Rabbi Meir of Premishlan was known as a tzadik (righteous
person), his unusual kindness and compassion were demonstrated. Even as
a young child he would go from door to door collecting money for the
poor. Rabbi Meir was simply unable to bear seeing someone in an
unfortunate situation. He would do everything in his power to relieve
the other's suffering.

At the same time, he was extremely modest and went out of his way to
avoid drawing attention to himself. A year after he was married, he
hired himself out as a tutor for an estate owner's children, a common
way to support one's family in those days.

It did not take Rabbi Meir long to realize that the wealthy landlord was
a coarse individual. Nonetheless, the children seemed to be progressing
nicely under his tutelage, despite their father's rough and boorish

Rabbi Meir was particularly distressed by his employer's stinginess.
Whenever a poor person knocked on the door asking for a donation or a
crust of bread, he was treated condescendingly and with a tight fist.

For the first few weeks in his new position Rabbi Meir tried to
concentrate on his teaching and ignore what was happening. But as time
wore on he found it increasingly difficult to restrain himself.

One day, Rabbi Meir approached the owner of the estate and made a
suggestion. "From now on," he proposed, "every time a poor person comes,
I'd like to you give him a coin, which you can deduct from my salary."
The landlord agreed to the plan, as there was no reason for him not to.

From that day on, every beggar who arrived on the doorstep received a
coin, and sometimes even a light meal to ease his hunger. In the
meantime, the owner of the estate was carefully recording every penny
that went to charity in his ledger. No one could understand the miserly
landlord's sudden generosity, but at least the beggars were happy.

Six months passed, and soon it was almost Passover and time for Rabbi
Meir to go back home. Before he left, the owner of the estate called him
in to pay him his salary. Taking out his ledger, he deducted all the
coins and food he had "wasted" on the poor, and was shocked to see that
nothing remained. And not only that, but Rabbi Meir actually owed him
money! The landlord was furious. How could he, a smart and savvy
businessman, have allowed himself to fall into such a trap?

Rabbi Meir was banished from the estate without a penny in his pocket.
Why, he was lucky to even have a pocket, as the landlord had briefly
considered taking Rabbi Meir's overcoat as payment for the "damages" he
had incurred, before changing his mind at the last second.

Rabbi Meir, however, was not particularly upset by what had occurred. In
fact, he was in a good mood. Passover was coming, he was going home, and
there were many things in the world more important than money...

Rabbi Meir was on the outskirts of Premishlan when something shiny in
the road caught his attention. Looking closer, he saw it was a very
valuable gold coin, worth far more than the entire salary he was
supposed to have received as a tutor!

Rabbi Meir, however, did not think along the same lines or in the same
way as "regular" people. The whole way home his thoughts had been
focused on higher, more spiritual matters. His initial reaction upon
seeing the coin was hesitation. "Is this the way it has been decreed
from Above that I derive my livelihood?" he thought to himself. "Does
G-d really want me to make a living from the dust of the earth?" Rabbi
Meir continued walking and did not bend down to pick it up.

Rabbi Meir's wife was overjoyed to see him after a half-year's absence.
Several days later, when her husband still hadn't mentioned any
earnings, she thought it was strange, but having full faith in him she
did not bring up the subject, assuming he had his reasons.

By the following week she decided the time had come to allude, very
delicately, to their financial situation. But her husband only responded
cryptically, "Let's wait until tonight..." and left for the synagogue.
In shul, money was soon the farthest thing from his mind.

That evening, Rabbi Meir was in the study hall when the servant of one
of the wealthiest inhabitants of Premishlan suddenly tapped him on the
shoulder. Handing him a gold coin he said, "My master asked me to
deliver this to you."

Rabbi Meir jumped up as if bitten by a snake. "What is the meaning of
this?" he inquired. The servant related that earlier that day his master
had returned to Premishlan after a long journey, and had found the coin
lying on the ground. After some deliberation he had decided to give it
to a young Torah scholar, and Rabbi Meir's name had been drawn from a

"I see this coin really was supposed to be mine..." Rabbi Meir smiled,
pondering the ways of the Creator.

                            MOSHIACH MATTERS
L-rd our G-d, You have loved us with everlasting love; You have bestowed
upon us exceedingly abounding mercy ...L-rd our G-d, may Your mercy and
Your abounding kindness never, never forsake us. Hasten and speedily
bring upon us blessing and peace; bring us in peace from the four
corners of the earth, break the yoke of the nations from our neck, and
speedily lead us upright to our land. For You are G-d who performs acts
of deliverance, and You have chosen us from among all nations and
tongues, and have, in love, brought us near, our King, to Your great
Name, that we may praise You, and proclaim Your Oneness and love Your

                                         (From the morning prayers)

             END OF TEXT - L'CHAIM 1324 - Beha'aloscha 5774

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