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Devarim Deutronomy

L'Chaim
June 20, 2014 - 22 Sivan, 5774

1326: Korach

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


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  1325: Sh'lach1327: Chukas  

Record and Playback  |  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

Record and Playback

by Naomi Zirkind

Have you ever made an audio recording? I've recently made some audio recordings (more about that later) and done some processing of the recordings, and have discovered an amazing concept about a Jew's interaction with G-d and with the world.

These are the major steps in sound recording and playback: A person speaks into a microphone. The microphone records the sound and electronically stores it as some type of waveform in a storage medium, e.g. a computer. For example, here is the waveform resulting from my saying the words, "Good morning! How are you today?"

To play back the sound in an audible form, feed this waveform into a speaker, and the speaker transforms the waveform into a replica of the sound that was originally recorded, so that you can hear my voice saying, "Good morning! How are you today?" That's audio recording and playback in a nutshell.

When G-d created the world, He did it by "speaking", as it were. He made statements such as "Let there be light", and so on. The result of His statements is the physical world that we inhabit. In our lives, we use the physical objects in this world to perform mitzvot (commandments).

This Torah-mitzvot paradigm is analogous to the record-playback procedure. G-d's creation of the world is analogous to the recording process - He records His statements, and the world is the storage medium. When we perform a mitzva using the objects in the world, we are playing back G-d's thoughts and statements. To the right is a diagram that illustrates the analogy.

Let's look a little closer at the world-waveform analogy. This physical world is analogous to the waveform shown above. Looking at that waveform, you might say it shows some structure, or even that it exhibits intelligence. However, a skeptic could say that it's a random waveform, and just by looking at the waveform, this argument cannot be conclusively resolved. Similarly, to our human eyes, the physical world seems to exhibit vast intelligence, though some skeptics argue that it's random.

The real answer is given by the playback. If you feed the waveform into a speaker, you can hear someone saying, "Good morning! How are you today?" Even a skeptic who listens to this sound would have to agree that it exhibits some intelligence. However, the only way to discern the intelligence behind the waveform is to use the right kind of speaker. Just looking at the waveform with your eyes will not do it. Similarly, it is only by performing mitzvot that we can "play back" and truly "hear" the profound messages that G-d has embedded within the creation.

In the audio domain, there are low quality speakers and high fidelity speakers, and all of them play the same message but with varying sound quality. Similarly, our performance of mitzvot can be done with varying quality. When we perform mitzvot with great love and fear of G-d, then the "played back" message will have a very beautiful "sound."

Ultimately, all of the mitzvot performed by all Jews will combine into a glorious orchestral rendition of the "shir chadash" - the new song that will be sung when the true and complete redemption materializes, speedily in our days!

Naomi Zirkind works as an electrical engineer. In her spare time, she writes books and articles and gives speeches on Torah topics.

Living with the Rebbe

This week's Torah portion, Korach, tells about the controversy with Moses initiated by Korach and his followers. His argument went as follows: If every single Jew is a member of a holy nation, then no one person is greater than another. Why are you, Moses, entitled to special privileges? Jews can only stand united if absolutely equal rights are afforded to all, he claimed.

The Torah teaches that this claim - taken to its logical conclusion - leads to the opposite of unity, so much so that Korach's controversy with Moses became the yardstick by which all dissension among Jews is measured.

Moses alluded to this in his answer to Korach: "In the morning G-d will show who is His." Moses explained, according to the Midrash, that the same way that G-d has created natural divisions between night and day which complement each other and form a cohesive whole, so too has He created distinctions between different types of Jews, all for the sake of the unity of the Jewish people.

The world was created so that each creation has its own natural boundaries and limitations. These boundaries enhance the world's natural order and give it structure, for everything has its own particular purpose and function to perform. Unity among G-d's creatures is attained only when each one works within its own framework and fulfills its own role. Harmony is maintained only when we adhere to the Divine plan, interdependent, performing our different allotted tasks. If one creation tries to assume the role of another, the result is disharmony and dissonance.

The distinctions between Israelites, Levites and Kohanim (and even among priests themselves, between ordinary priests and the high priest) are not arbitrary. Each distinction reflects the type of soul given to each Jew, which correlates to his particular task in life and way of serving G-d. G-d desires that each of us fulfill our own unique mission in life, not that of our neighbor. True unity is only achieved when we respect the differences between us.

Each Jew is blessed with different strengths and qualities, and we are enjoined to pool these disparate resources together for the common good. Every Jew, whether Israelite, Levite or Kohen, is indispensable and is part of this greater whole.

The lesson we learn from Korach is also one which is applicable today. Some think the path to true unity and peace lies with breaking down barriers which exist between men and women, Jews and non-Jews, and different faiths and ideologies. The Torah, however, teaches us otherwise. It is only by maintaining and respecting inherent differences that we can achieve unity and true peace.


A Slice of Life

Working the World
by Miriam Karp

One Saturday morning I left the Chabad House with Rabbi Levi and a few other students, to start the jaunt to his and Bella's place. We walked up Hill Street, past an outdoor cafe. Levi was garbed in his traditional black, knee-length Shabbat coat, with his tallit (prayer shawl) draped over his shoulders. With his black fedora, he made quite the different sight, along with the rest of us in our Shabbat attire. By then my Shabbat getup was some kind of Indian cotton dress thing - my army pants and hiking boots relegated to weekdays.

I glanced at the cafe and saw my old Tamarack friend Eileen nursing a cup of tea. We'd lost touch for many months. She'd been off on a sojourn in India, at the main ashram of her group. Guess she's back, I realized. We were a bit far, but I called out, "Hey, Eileen!" to try to catch her attention. Eileen looked up from her book. I waved. She started to smile. Then her eyes widened in shock as she saw the old-world rabbi. She pushed back her chair and jumped up.

"No, no, no!" She mouthed the words and shook her head emphatically. She pointed to the rabbi and mouthed it again. "No, no, no!"

I froze. Looked at Eileen. Looked at Levi, Brocha, and the others. Reassured myself: I know they're okay. She doesn't.

"It's okay," I mouthed back, with a big smile that looked surer than I felt.

I waved and kept going, to the North Campus valley and the Goldsteins' apartment.

She shook me up. I mulled it over as I walked. Did Eileen know something I was trying not to see? Maybe I was walking down the hill to a place leading nowhere, getting pulled into a myopic and chauvinistic world. Was I fooling myself? Was there real spirituality here - one with grit, one you could lean on in hard times? Or was I lulled by sweet sound bites that these smiling, maybe too-content and heavenly people sprinkled with sugar? I used to see Levi and Aharon the same way Eileen seemed to. Old-world, naive, rigid, backwards. And I had valued her opinion and guidance. She helped jump-start my spiritual search; back at camp, as we talked and dreamed, perched up on the top bunk of my cabin, and in my first year in Ann Arbor when she introduced me to many soulful searchers.

I had popped into her ashram now and then for evening meditation. I walked in tentatively; I saw a picture of the guru on a table in the front of the meditation room. There were flowers on a little altar table, and incense gently burning. I went back and got comfortable on a large mat on the floor, closed my eyes, and joined in. I heard quiet sighs as people settled into their practice. It was peaceful, slowing my breathing, slowing my mind. But somewhere deep inside, I was on edge.

Detachment into an empty space, even emptying the ego into a deep down connected space of oneness, didn't seem like enough, didn't satisfy - though I figured I was lacking and must be a failure. I knew in the back recesses of my mind that the same India with the gurus with sparkling, serene eyes had millions of starving people and a caste system.

It bugged me. I cared. I wanted to roll up my sleeves and do. I couldn't sit impassively back and watch the wheel of karma turn. What I used to think of as my weakness, I was starting to see might be a healthy Jewish perspective. I loved the phrase Tikkun Olam - we were all needed to repair and shine up our little ol' world.

Bob the Builder, yes we can! Maybe my worn army pants with all the pockets and places to hang tools were a precursor of who I was really supposed to be: a fixin' lady, extracting and lifting up those sparks of holiness. "Hmm, this one's wedged a bit tightly, bring over the thinner drill bit."

These Jews seemed to have a different goal than peaceful serenity, a novel slant on spirituality. They didn't teach detachment.

They tried to use food, intimacy, the whole freakin' material word in a carefully guided way that they claimed would raise it up, and bring the heavens down to shine into it more.

Maybe it was easy for a suburban girl to say. I'd had a pretty gilded life; I loved this world and never wanted to see it as an illusion or distraction. If I'd grown up in a starving slum in Calcutta, or in violent anarchy in Sudan, I might think differently.

But engaging, sifting, and working the world just spoke to me. And here was a tempered way, which seemed to guide one through the maze and multiplicity: being physical without getting lost or buried in material pleasures, in desires, in the very denseness of Stuff.

Excerpted from Painting Zaidy's Dream, winner of 2013 American Jewish Press Association Simon Rockower Award: First Place for Excellence in Writing About Women


What's New

Regional Conferences

It's that time of year for regional conferences of shluchim, emissaries of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

The 11 shluchim who serve the Caribbean Islands and Mexico's Caribbean Coast gathered in Puerto Rico.

One hundred shluchot (women emissaries) from throughout Europe gathered recently for a regional conference in Budapest, Hungary.

The U.S. Southern regional conference will be taking place at the end of July in New Orleans, Lousiana.

The New York and New England regional conference was held at Chabad of the Upper West Side in NY, NY.

Regional caucuses at the Chabad on Campus International Conference in Westchester, New York, will be a highlight of the conference at the end of June.

Good Deed Awards

Thirty-two students were honored for acts of goodness, kindness and volunteerism by Chabad of Mineola, New York. The students, from throughout Long Island, were nominated for their charitable and community activities, received Good Deed Awards at a VIP ceremony attended by numerous Nassau County notables.


The Rebbe Writes

15th of Sivan, 5718 [1968]

I am in receipt of your letter of May 29th in which you write about the problem which Mrs. __ discussed with me during her visit here.

As I told her, it is undoubtedly wrong to exclude any person or persons from participating in the __ meetings and activities, for it is necessary to give every Jew an opportunity to learn our Torah, which is called the Torah of Life, in the dual sense of being a guide in life as well as the source of life. To withhold the benefit of the Torah is like withholding the fountains of life.

Moreover, as it is a question of participation in the said meetings to hear the words of the Torah, and learn more about the customs and practices of our people, there can be no room for offense to anyone. Such participation should therefore not only be tolerated, but even welcomed gladly.

On the other hand, if despite the above there are persons who cannot find it in their hearts to attend the same meetings with the others, making the issue "either-or," regrettable though it is, the choice must, of course, be in favor of the organizers and old members. So much in so far as Mrs.__ is concerned.

With regard to you and your family, while I understand your feelings, it should be borne in mind that not every member of that family is equally to blame, and there may well be certain members who did not agree with the way it acted - a thing which would be difficult to ascertain. It is therefore not right to condemn one and all on the basis of mere suspicion and doubt, and to deprive them from the opportunity of benefitting from the Torah and Mitzvoth [commandments], the loss of which is certain.

Thus, my opinion, as above, is clear: if it is a question of "either-or" - the priority belongs to the older members who put their heart and soul into the __. At the same time I must emphasize that this is not the best solution, for there should be room for all in such sacred work, as the Torah and especially Chasidism demands "Ahavath Yisroel" [love of one's fellow Jew], even where some personal sacrifice, real or imaginary, is involved.

I hope you had an enjoyable and inspiring Festival of Matan Torah [i.e. Shavuot] and Kabolas HaTorah [receiving of the Torah].


5th of Menachem Av, 5721 [1961]

I received your letter, in which you write about the old problem which we already discussed in the past, namely, the feud between families and how it reflects upon the work of __.

You will surely recall that when the problem first came to my attention, I expressed my opinion and made my suggestions on the basis of the viewpoint of the Torah. As the viewpoint of the Torah isn't changeable, it is clear that the suggestion I made at that time is still valid at this time.

Now that we are in the midst of summer, which necessarily brings about a change in the program of activity, I trust, however, that the summer months will not bring about a complete cessation, G-d forbid, of the activities of the __, but they will be continuous, and in some respects even more active, since the summer months offer special opportunities to come in contact with people of various circles, etc.

Hoping to hear good news from you,


Today Is ...

25 Sivan

In Proverbs we read, "A care in a man's heart, yash'chena." Our Sages offer two interpretations of that last word. The first is: "Remove the care from the mind" (reading yasichena, from the expression yasiach da'at "forget" or "turn one's mind away"). The second is: "discuss it with others" (reading yesichena, "talk," "discuss"). The Tzemach Tzedek commented: "...with others" who are "others" only in the bodily sense, but are completely united with him, for they empathize with him.


A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

It is just a few weeks after Shavuot, marking the pivotal moment in Jewish history when we were given the Torah by G-d. Together the Jewish people stood at Mount Sinai is perfect unity - "like one person with one heart." This week's portion, Korach, highlights a time of discord and a lack of unity amongst the Jewish people.

As a preparation for the unity we will experience in the Messianic Era, every person should work on refining him/herself into a united, coordinated personality.

To illustrate this concept, the Rebbe told the following story: Reb Zalman Aharon, the elder son of the fourth Lubavitcher Rebbe, the Rebbe Maharash, once asked his uncle if he recited his prayers "b'tzibbur" - with the community, i.e., with a minyan (a quorum). The uncle answered in the affirmative.

The next day, Reb Zalman Aharon noticed that his uncle was praying at great length, taking much more time than any member of the community. Reb Zalman Aharon approached his uncle later and asked, "Didn't you tell me you prayed b'tzibbur?"

"I do," his uncle replied. "B'tzibbur means 'with the collective.' After I unify the seven emotional and three intellectual aspects of my soul, I pray!"

But how can we accomplish this internal unity? How can one bring the divergent aspects of his/her personality into harmony? By using our talents and gifts for the purpose of bringing G-dliness into the world and uniting with G-d.

Far from being an impossible task, this job of marshalling our talents to the service of G-d is intrinsic to every Jew, for each soul - as explained at length in Chasidic philosophy - is an actual part of G-d.

Thus, uniting the diverse aspects of one's personality through devotion to G-d is intrinsic and the essential part of the existence of every Jew. When we begin working on personal unity and harmony, we find that it is much easier to foster unity and harmony amongst the Jewish people as a whole.


Thoughts that Count

Akavya ben Mehalel said: "Reflect upon three things and you will not come near sin..." (Ethics 3:1)

Three things cause a person to sin: arrogance and disdain for others; indulgence in pleasures and worldly acquisitions; imagining that there is no ultimate judgment and accounting. Hence, when a person reflects upon the three things written in our Mishna, he will uproot the causes of sin from his soul.

(Midrash Shmuel)


Reflection in this sense is indicative of the deepest levels of meditation. When a person takes the mission for which his soul descended to this world seriously, he will reflect upon the ultimate elevation of his soul - which comes about through his being in this world - and he knows that eventually he is destined to give an accounting. By reflecting thus, he will certainly not come near sin - he will not transgress inadvertently, and he will fulfill his mission in life fully.

(Ma'amarim of the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, 5705)


Rabbi Chanina, the deputy Kohen Gadol, said: "Pray for the welfare of the government, for were it not for the fear of it, men would swallow one another alive..." (Ethics 3:2)

Our Sages state that the authority on earth is like the authority in Heaven, since the former derives from the latter. Therefore, when a person "prays for the welfare of the government" below, he comes to the awareness, not only of fear of authority in this world, but also awe of the King of kings. And by virtue of this fear and his subservience to G-d, his feelings of superiority and disdain for others - due to which "men would swallow one another alive" - is suppressed and subdued.

(Likutei Sichot vol. 17)


Rabbi Elazar of Bartosa said: "Give to Him of that which is His, for you and whatever is yours are His..." (Ethics 3:7)

A person shouldn't be miserly in charitable matters and in spending for G-d's honor. A person should realize that what he gives is really G-d's, and therefore, he must give generously and joyfully. The Midrash states, "Does anyone precede Me, so that I have to pay you back? You never had to place a mezuza on the door post until I gave you a house, nor a railing around your roof before I gave you the roof, nor tzitzit on your garment until I gave you the garment!"


It Once Happened

"Where will we be staying?" Reb Yeshaya Berlin asked Rabbi Shmuel of Lubavitch (known as the Rebbe Maharash, fourth leader of Chabad.

"At the Alexander Hotel," the Rebbe replied. The Chasidim accompanying the Rebbe on this special trip were surprised. The Alexander Hotel was famous as one of the most luxurious establishments in the city. Members of royalty and other high-ranking dignitaries were its usual guests. "Common" people, no matter how wealthy, never dreamt of crossing its threshold. Yet this was where the Rebbe wished to stay.

The Rebbe then told the Chasidim that he would do the talking, as none of the other members of his entourage spoke French. In fact, the Rebbe Maharash was fluent in many foreign languages, among them Russian, French and Latin. He was also extremely well read in a wide range of subjects and disciplines, in addition to his outstanding scholarship in both the revealed and esoteric aspects of Torah.

At the front desk of the hotel the Rebbe announced that he was interested in reserving a suite of rooms. "There are several suites available at present," the clerk replied, "at a cost of 200 francs per night." It was an almost unimaginable sum of money in those days.

But the Rebbe wasn't satisfied. "Perhaps you have something better?" he inquired. "I wish to stay on the same floor as the game room," the Rebbe insisted. The clerk consulted the register for a moment. "You're in luck," he told the Rebbe. "There's an empty suite next door to the casino." He then quoted a price far higher than 200 francs. The Rebbe asked to reserve three rooms - one for himself, two for the rest of his entourage - but the Chasidim were in no financial position to stay at the Alexander, and found lodging elsewhere.

The Rebbe went up to his quarters and remained there for several hours. In the meantime, the Chasidim came back from their hotel and waited outside the Rebbe's room.

The Rebbe's face was very serious when he eventually opened the door. Much to everyone's astonishment, he then strode purposefully over to the hotel's gambling casino and went inside.

Needless to say, the players at the gaming tables were unaccustomed to guests of the Rebbe's stature joining them in their pursuits. Eyebrows were raised throughout the hall. Trailing after him, the Chasidim were just as baffled as the gamblers. But, from long experience they knew that Rabbi Shmuel certainly had his reasons.

At one of the tables sat a young Jewish man, engrossed in a game of cards. In front of him was a goblet of wine, from which he sipped every now and then. The Rebbe walked over and sat down next to him.

For the first few minutes the Rebbe said nothing and the man continued playing. Then the Rebbe suddenly stretched out his arm and placed a hand on the young man's shoulder. "Young man," the Rebbe said, "it is forbidden to drink the wine of gentiles."

The Rebbe paused a moment to let his words sink in. "Non-kosher wine dulls the mind and the heart," he continued, adding, "Be a Jew." Without further ado the Rebbe stood up, wished him a good night and left the casino.

The Rebbe Maharash was clearly very agitated. Reb Yeshaya Berlin later commented that he never saw the Rebbe in such an emotional state.

A few hours later the young Jewish man was seen making inquiries as to the whereabouts of the gentleman who had spoken to him in the casino. The Chasidim rushed over to show him where the Rebbe was staying, and he was admitted.

The private conversation that ensued lasted several hours. The next morning, the Rebbe Maharash left the hotel.

"It has been many generations since such a pure soul has come down to earth," the Rebbe later explained, referring to the young man. "Unfortunately, it had fallen into the depths of kelipa [the forces of evil]."

Whatever was discussed, the encounter proved to be a turning point in the young man's life. No longer estranged from Judaism, he began observing Torah and mitzvot (commandments) soon afterward. Today, his descendents are G-d fearing, religious Jews.


Moshiach Matters

Rabbi Avrohom Yaakov of Sadigur said: "My father, Rebbe Yisrael of Ruzhin once commented on the Talmudic passage, 'All endpoints for the Redemption have come' that just as the Divine Presence left in ten stages, so too will it return in stages. With each keitz (endpoint), the Divine Presence comes down another level into this world." Now the light of the Redemption is in the lowest heaven. But I say, that the light of the Redemption is already spread around us and is right above our heads. We don't notice it as our heads are bowed down from the presssures of Exile. May G-d raise our heads and we will see the Redemption with our own eyes!

(Sippurim Chadashim as quoted in MoshiachWeekly.com)


  1325: Sh'lach1327: Chukas  
   
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