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There is an interesting phenomenon that effects us almost every single day, though most of us don't even realize it, and it's called "Coherent Light."
We benefit from the "coherent light" of lasers when we make use of supermarket check-out scanners, CD-ROMS, surgery, light shows and more.
Basically, it works like this: Light particles, known as photons, generally move in orbits. By using laser technology, individual photons can be directed into a specific orbit. These individual photons influence other nearby photons to assume similar orbits. They, in turn, influence other photons which influence others photons, until eventually, huge numbers of photons are traveling in a similar, highly organized fashion.
In layman's terms, there is a snowball effect.
This example from the sub-atomic world illustrates well the concept taught by our Sages in the Ethics of the Fathers (Pirkei Avot) that we study this Shabbat: "Rabbi Tarfun said, 'It is not incumbent upon you to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.' "
Far from being a call to leave work undone or incomplete, Rabbi Tarfun is giving us good advice to help us get out of a slump or reorient our thought processes.
Don't become overwhelmed by the tremendous amount of work that needs to be done before the goal is achieved. Focus, rather, on beginning the job. Just worry about getting one "photon" in the right orbit. Influenced by the first photon of activity, the rest will fall in line.
Sometimes the hardest part of the job is simply beginning it. Don't procrastinate, Rabbi Tarfun urges us.
Instead of getting bogged down with how much needs to be changed, do one small thing to change the world (or yourself) and eventually, like all those teeny, tiny, photons, the whole world will fall in line.
The Talmud tells us that a person is never required to do more than he is able. G-d gives each person a mission which that person (and only that person) can fulfill. Together with the mission might come challenges, but they are challenges that that person is able to overcome.
Therefore, even if a person feels intimidated sometimes by the task at hand, he must know that, "He is not free to desist from it" - he must persevere. Even when he does not feel particularly motivated, or he does not derive pleasure and enjoyment from the work, he should persist. Full-hearted dedication will lead to personal fulfillment.
And, through such efforts, a person will reap tremendous benefits. For the culmination of conducting our lives in the manner described is also discussed by Rabbi Tarfun: "Know that the giving of the reward to the righteous (and the Jewish people are all righteous, according to the opening statement of Pirkei Avot) will be in the World to Come - in the Days of Moshiach."
This week's Torah portion, Shelach, tells the episode of the spies whom Moses sent to gather intelligence about the land of Canaan. Ten of the 12 spies returned with disparaging reports; that although the land was fertile, its inhabitants were too strong and their cities too well guarded to be defeated by the Israelites. This report broke the morale of the Jewish Nation.
These spies were no ordinary men. They were the leaders of their tribes, especially selected by Moses for this mission. Their report was not animated by fear of physical defeat; instead they feared a spiritual defeat.
In the wilderness, each of the Israelites' needs was met by a direct gift from G-d. Their bread was the Manna which fell from the heavens; their water came from Miriam's Well; their clothes never needed repair.
The possession of the land of Israel meant a new kind of responsibility. The Manna was to cease. Bread would come only through toil. The miracles would be replaced by labor; and with labor came the danger of a new preoccupation.
The spies feared that the concern to work the land and make a living might eventually leave the Israelites with less time and energy for the service of G-d. When the spies said, "It is a land which eats up its inhabitants," they meant that the land and its labor, and the resulting preoccupation with the materialistic world, would "swallow up" and consume all their energies. They thought that spirituality flourishes best in seclusion, in the protected peace of the wilderness where even the food was "from the heavens."
And yet, the spies were wrong. The purpose of life is not the elevation of the soul: it is the sanctification of the world.
The end to which every mitzva aims is to make a dwelling place for G-d in the world-to bring G-d within the world, not above it.
Every Jew may feel the doubts that plagued the spies. While involved with Jewish activities, he feels wholly given over to the spiritual demands of Judaism. But in his work he can see little or no religious significance. he is making the spies' mistake, of placing G-d outside the world, of failing to respond to G-d's presence in every human transaction, forgetting the imperative to "Know Him in all your ways."
The essence of spirituality lies in a Jew reaching out beyond himself to his fellow Jew, to the world of his work, extending holiness to everything he touches, without the thought that this or any situation lies outside the domain of G-d.
Divine Providence Vignettes
by Rabbi Refoel Jaworowski
Recently, a Chicago mother took a very unusual approach to purchasing tefilin for her son's Bar Mitzva. The mother called Rabbi Aron Wolf of the Chicago Mitzva Campaigns and explained that she wanted to pay double the regular price for tefilin. Actually, she wanted to celebrate her son's ascent to the ranks of Jewish adulthood with a special act of kindness. She wanted to sponsor a free set of tefilin for another boy whose family could not afford to buy him his own pair of tefilin. Touched by the mother's earnestness, generosity, and caring spirit, Rabbi Wolf assured her that he would keep the matter in mind.
Less than an hour later, a teacher from a totally different part of the county called the CMC office. One of his students came to school every day with his father's tefilin as the family were not able to buy him his own pair for financial reasons. The teacher had a strong sense that being the only one in his class not to have his own set of tefillin was making this student quite uncomfortable. The teacher, explained, that he was calling the CMC to see if they could help in any way.
With the previous phone call still fresh in his mind, Rabbi Wolf marveled at this opportunity for the CMC to act as the "match-maker" for this revealed example of Divine Providence. Needless to say, the providential circumstances surrounding this very special tefillin sponsorship engendered much happiness from all those who merited to be involved.
An elderly woman, "Mrs. C," had long anticipated the time when she would finally emigrate to Israel. She had been a long-term customer of the "lifeline" emergency alert button offered by the CMC, so she called the CMC office to schedule the removal of the machine for the day before her flight. For unknown reasons (later to be recognized as Divine Providence) the machine was not picked up at the appointed time. Mrs. C. called Rabbi Wolf, who assured her that he would be over shortly to take care of the matter himself. However, the rabbi's attention was quickly diverted to a number of more urgent matters and by the time he had a free moment, it was already 9 p.m. "It may be too late in the evening for her now," Rabbi Wolf thought to himself. "I'll go and pick up the machine first thing in the morning instead."
Later that same evening, Rabbi Wolf received an email through the emergency alert system that Mrs. C. had pushed her emergency button to call for a paramedic. As it turned out, on the one and only night that she had scheduled to be without her emergency alert machine, Mrs. C. had felt faint and weak enough to know that her life depended on being admitted immediately for treatment in the hospital emergency room!
Upon recovering somewhat the next day, Mrs. C. expressed her thanks for the clear Divine Providence that had ensured that her multiple efforts to give back the emergency alert machine the day before had failed. And she was equally grateful that Divine Providence allowed for the events to transpire in such a way that enabled her dream of moving to Israel come to fruition.
Recently, one of the receptionists at a hospital served by the CMC called Rabbi Wolf to describe the following story: Her mother, who lived alone, fulfilled the mitzva (commandment) of lighting Shabbat candles each Friday evening before sunset. She considered this beautiful mitzva especially precious because she lit candles every Friday in the candelabra that she had inherited as a family heirloom from her own mother.
Not too long ago however, the receptionist's elderly mother had accidentally set her hair on fire after kindling the Shabbat candles. Thankfully, her mother had been able to extinguish the fire immediately, but to the daughter, the incident nevertheless signified that something in her mother's regular routine needed to change, and fast. She had already tried to encourage her mother to use an electric candelabra instead of a real flame, but her mother would not even consider it; she insisted instead on continuing the tradition of using the "family heirloom" candelabra.
Recognizing the importance of this mitzva, but also understanding the need for safety, the daughter felt as though she was at her wits' end. It was then that she happened to read one of the CMC's Mitzvah Gram newsletters, and learned about the CMC's program to provide patients with battery-operated "Shabbat candle" tea lights. Divine Providence strikes again! Now the receptionist and her mother had the perfect solution. The CMC provided them with their flame less (battery operated) tea lights that are specially packaged and presented for use as Shabbat lights. The tea lights nestled perfectly on top of the mother's family heirloom candelabra, and both she and her daughter were now able to breathe easily while continuing to (safely) fulfill this important mitzva.
The CMC recently received a request to teach a young deaf man how to put on tefilin. The only way Rabbi Wolf would be able to teach him was via writing. Anticipating that this method of instruction might take a great deal of time, Rabbi Wolf proposed that the young man come in to the CMC office early in the morning. The young man, however, was only able to come at the end of the workday. As he prepared for the young man's lesson, Rabbi Wolf expected the learning process to be slow and cumbersome due to the fact that he would have to write everything down in order to communicate. But what the rabbi forgot was that Janice, the CMC's afternoon office receptionist, is proficient in sign language! Thus, when Rabbi Wolf arrived at the CMC office in time for the appointment, he was momentarily speechless when he saw the young man engaged in rapid and fluent sign communication with Janice.
By the end of the session, all agreed that it was clearly providential that the young man's appointment had been scheduled for the afternoon instead of the morning. Thanks to Janice's sign language skills, the lesson was impressively smooth, easy, and lightning-fast.
Chabad at the University of Colorado in Boulder, has begun work on a four-story building that they plan to have ready for the upcoming school year. When completed, the building will include a student lounge, a kosher kitchen, a synagogue, a library and student housing for 30 Jewish students.
The Jewish Youth Network of Thornhill in Ontario, Canada, has broken ground for a new campus. When completed, the new center will include a sports lounge, youth cafe, classrooms, social space, basketball court and playground. The JYN already serves 500 teens each week.
The Chabad Student Centre of Kingston, in Ontario, Canada, recently moved into their new home. The 6,200-square-foot, 13 bedroom historic house, known as the Elizabeth Cottage, was a retirement residence for elderly women for 6 decades. Today, it is a place where students feel at home. It will eventually house a student lounge, a library, classrooms as well as a kosher restaurant.
28 Iyar, 5734 (1974)
To the Students of Grade 2
Oholei Torah Day School
Your teacher sent me your notebooks in connection with your assignment, "My Plans for the Summer," which I looked through with much interest.
I wish you a happy and healthy summer, and since every person has a body and a soul, a healthy person is one who is healthy both in body and in soul.
As a matter of fact, the soul is the more important part of a person, and when the soul is healthy it helps the body to keep in good shape.
Since you are fortunate to be students of the Oholei Torah Day School, you surely know that the soul, like the body, needs constant nourishment, and the nourishment of the soul is the Torah and Mitzvoth (commandments).
During the school year you spend time partly in the study of Torah and partly in the study of other things, such as English and arithmetic, etc. However useful these other things are, they do not make the soul healthier, for, as mentioned above, the soul receives health and strength only from Torah and Mitzvoth.
But during the summer vacation, when you are free from other things, you have an opportunity to learn more Torah and do more Mitzvoth, and in this way to give your soul a chance to become really strong and healthy, and to also gather strength for the coming school year.
I have written more on this important subject in a special message to all students, which your teacher will surely read and explain to you.
So I will conclude with the prayerful wish that you should, with G-d's help, make the most of your summer vacation along the above lines, and G-d will surely bless you with a truly healthy summer, healthy both in soul and in body.
10th of Sivan, 5725 
I am in receipt of your letter, in which you ask why the second benediction of the Shemone Esrei [the Silent Prayer] begins with the Divine Name connoting Adnuth ("Lordship"), while it concludes with the Tetragramaton [the four-letter name of G-d ].
In general, this question belongs primarily in the realm of the Kabbalah, where the various Divine Names and their significance are explained. However, all matters of Torah are reflected in all four levels of Torah interpretation (Pshat, Remez, Drush, Sod - Pardes), and the same is true of the subject matter in question.
The benediction of Gevuroth, which begins with Atoh Gibor ("You are mighty"), and subsequently - "Who is like unto You, Baal Gevuroth," etc., emphasizes G-d's attribute of might rather than that of mercy. For the same reason the resurrection of the dead is included in this benediction, because the resurrection has to be preceded by death, which is an act of G-d's might rather than of mercy (though one attribute contains the other in a latent form).
Even the section of the benediction which begins with the words "You sustain the living in mercy" also belongs in the realm of Adnut, since G-d in His attribute of Lordship is "responsible" for His subjects, while the word "mercy" is mentioned here because G-d sustains also the undeserving. But the act of sustaining the world is, generally, an act of Gevuroth.
So much for the contents of the benedictions. However, when it comes to the conclusion of it, as indeed is the case with every other of the eighteen benedictions, the Tetragramaton is invariably used, because regardless of the content of the benediction, where it is characterized by the attribute of "might," or "mercy," or it is a prayer for knowledge, etc., we pray that G-d in His mercy grant us our request that the content of the benediction be materialized in us, in a practical way, in our daily life. For the world as a whole was created primarily in the attribute of mercy.
Seeing your interest in the inner meaning of prayers, which is one of the three pillars on which the world at large (macrocosm) and the small world of the individual (microcosm) rest, I am confident that the devotional aspect of your Divine service is on the proper level.
And in order that it be on the proper level, it is necessary to bear in mind "Know before Whom thou art standing," which in turn requires preparatory study of the Torah and of the inner aspects of the Torah, which discuss G-d's greatness and majesty and wonders, etc. Such study must, of course, be in the proper spirit, namely with a view to translating it into actions and deeds in the daily life.
May G-d accept your prayers for the fulfillment of your heart's desires for good.
This is the actual time of the "footsteps of Moshiach" (the final era before the advent of Moshiach). It is therefore imperative for every Jew to seek his fellow's welfare - whether old or young - to inspire the other to teshuva (return), so that he will not fall out - G-d forbid - of the community of Israel who will shortly be privileged, with G-d's help, to experience complete redemption.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This Shabbat we read the Torah portion of Shelach, in which we learn about the spies who Moses sent to explore the land of Israel before the Jews would enter it. This was not a commandment from G-d, but a choice left to Moses' s discretion. We learn this from the words of the Torah portion, "shelach lecha - send for you," according to your own discretion.
The Rebbe explains that the spies' mission described in the Torah portion can be compared to the soul's descent into the material world.
The mission of a Jewish soul is to descend into this world enclothed in a physical body in order to make this world a dwelling place for G-d. In order for the soul to fulfill its mission, it must "explore the land," to figure out the nature of the service that must be carried out and which conflicts and difficulties will arise, and what is the best way to transform the land into a dwelling for G-d.
This mission, like the sending of the spies, is left up to man's discretion. Indeed, G-d allows for the possibility of an error in both cases, because in order to make this world into a dwelling place for G-d, a person must act upon his or her own initiative, based on his or her own decision.
The act of the spiritual soul coming down to this physical world and elevating it to a higher spiritual plane by making it a dwelling place for G-d is the perfect synthesis of material and spiritual. We have recently celebrated the holiday of Shavuot, in which we commemorate the giving of the Torah. The act of bringing the very holy Torah into this world made it possible to fuse together the spiritual and the physical. May we imminently experience the ultimate fusion of the two in the Messianic Era.
Hillel used to say, "...nor can an ignorant person be pious" (Ethics 2:5).
Just as a fire will not burn unless it has the proper channel - wick and oil - so, too, will love of G-d not take hold unless it is contained in the proper vessel. The mitzvot (commandments) a Jew observes and the Torah he learns define his capacity to love and fear G-d and form the vessel with which this is accomplished. An ignorant person has not spent sufficient time creating that vessel and, thus, cannot be truly pious.
(Torah Ohr; Sefer Hamaamarim)
Rebbi would say, "..Be as careful in [the performance of a seemingly] minor mitzva as of a major one, for you do not know the reward given for the mitzvot. (Ethics 2:1)
The Hebrew word zahir, translated as "careful" also means "shine." All the mitzvot share a fundamental quality; each of them enables one's soul to shine forth.
Reflect upon three things and you will never come to sin: Know what is above you... (Ethics 2:1)
The Maggid of Mezritch would say: "Know that everything above" - all that transpires in the spiritual realms - is "from you" - dependent on your conduct. Each of us has the potential to influence the most elevated spiritual realms.
(Or HaTorah al Aggados Chazal)
Rabban Gamliel, son of Rabbi Yehudah Hanasi, said..., "Be wary of those in power, for they befriend a person only for their own benefit... (Ethics 2:2)
While the literal meaning is surely sound advice, there is also a non-literal interpretation. The Rebbe explains that "those in power" refers to our egos, thoughts, and feelings. Although we rely on these in order to function, we must be aware of their fundamental self- interest, and that they are only concerned with their own benefit. However, the soul - the essential self - is concerned only with being closer to G-d and observing His Torah and mitzvot.
(The Rebbe, Tazria-Metzora, 5739)
"The time has come for me to depart this world," the father whispered to his son, Matzliach. "But before I die, I wish to impart to you something I was told by own father before he passed away: Choose one mitzva (commandment) to observe with self-sacrifice and devotion, even if it means spending all your money. In the merit of this mitzva, G-d will protect you from all harm."
With tears in his eyes Matzliach promised his father to carry out his final wishes, and resolved to be particularly scrupulous about washing his hands in the ritual manner upon awakening. Indeed, Matzliach lived up to his promise, and was always very careful to observe this mitzva.
In the meantime Matzliach had become successful, with business dealings in many foreign countries. One time it became necessary for him to go on a business trip to a distant land. Aside from his talit and tefilin and a supply of kosher food, he made sure to take along a giant-sized water skin, so he could wash his hands wherever he went without difficulty.
As was common in those days, Matzliach joined a caravan of other merchants to cross the desert. The camels had only made it halfway through, however, when a terrible storm erupted. Blinding winds whipped up the sand and made it impossible to see where they were going. After a few days of wandering they realized that they had been going in the wrong direction. The wasted time meant that much of their precious water had already been used, and they would now have to pool their supply. As the head of the caravan explained, everyone would receive the same daily portion for the remainder of the journey.
This was not good news for Matzliach, who was forced to relinquish his water skin. And although he resolved to drink very little and use the rest for washing, the daily portion turned out to be a scant few ounces.
Matzliach went to the head of the caravan and explained his predicament. "I need more water to wash my hands," he said, but the camel driver only burst out laughing. "It is entirely out of the question," he told him. "In the middle of the desert washing is a luxury, not a necessity."
But Matzliach could still hear his father's words echoing in his head. "I will give you all my money for an extra allotment of water," he offered. The head of the caravan immediately agreed, and the money was divided among all the travelers. Everyone thought that Matzliach must have lost his mind when he handed over his knapsack filled with golden coins, but the Jew seemed happy with the arrangement.
Towards the end of the journey Matzliach decided there was no longer any reason for him to stay with the group. Without any money with which to conduct business, he left the caravan and set out on his own. That evening he found himself in a forest, and started looking for a spot to spend the night.
Matzliach was deep within the forest when he came across the remains of a campfire. The coals were still warm, indicating that it had only recently been abandoned. A short distance away he found a stream. He quickly bathed, drank to his heart's content and refilled his water bag.
At that moment Matzliach heard the sound of approaching footsteps and scrambled up the nearest tree to hide. When he looked down he saw a band of armed robbers, their arms filled with stolen booty and leading a prisoner along in chains. Matzliach could hardly believe his eyes: Their captive was none other than the head of the caravan, to whom he'd said good-bye that morning.
Matzliach watched as the robbers pushed aside a rock to reveal the mouth of a cave; one by one they entered and disappeared. Matzliach stayed awake the entire night. Towards morning he heard the robbers leave. When the last robber had disappeared over the horizon Matzliach climbed down, pushed the rock aside as he had seen them do, and stepped in.
His eyes were almost blinded by the treasure they encountered. Room upon room was filled with gems, precious stones and coins. Wandering about the cave, Matzliach found two prisoners in irons in a side chamber. One was the head of the caravan, who told Matzliach that their convoy had been attacked just moments after his departure. The other was the only son of the local sheik, who had led a group of soldiers on a failed mission to eliminate the band of robbers. All of the other soldiers had been killed, and the robbers were demanding a huge ransom for his release.
Matzliach immediately freed the captives and they escaped. The sheik was overjoyed to see his son, and on Matzliach's advice, dispatched another group of soldiers who this time captured the robbers and put an end to their terror.
Matzliach, of course, was amply rewarded by the sheik. But as Matzliach knew, everything had happened in the merit of his devotion to observing a mitzva scrupulously.
Have mercy, L-rd our G-d, upon Israel Your people, upon Jeruselam Your city, upon Zion the abode of Your glory, upon the kingship of the house of David Your anointed, and upon the great and holy House over which Your Name was proclaimed... And rebuild Jerusalem the holy city speedily in our days. Blessed are You L-rd, who in His mercy rebuilds Jerusalem. Amen
(From the Grace after Meals recited after partaking of bread)