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When Reb Pinchas Horowitz first became a disciple of the Maggid of Mezritch, the Maggid advised him to study with Reb Zusha of Anapoli.
Reb Pinchas went to Reb Zusha and told him of the Maggid's advice. Reb Zusha humbly replied that he could not understand why the Maggid would send anyone to study with him, but that he would be happy to join as great a sage as Reb Pinchas in his studies.
"What should we study?" Reb Pinchas asked.
"Whatever you are studying," Reb Zusha replied.
Reb Pinchas took out a volume of Talmud and began explaining the following passage. "When there are only nine people in the synagogue, there is an opinion that the ark of the synagogue can be counted to complete the quorum of ten necessary for prayer.
As Reb Pinchas stated this, Reb Zusha interrupted: "What does the Talmud mean: 'Is the ark a person?' Everyone knows the ark is only an object."
Reb Pinchas was puzzled; the question was obviously rhetorical. Didn't his partner appreciate that?
Reb Zusha continued: "Maybe the intent is that a person can be an ark in which the Torah is contained, a veritable repository of knowledge, but unless he is a person, unless that knowledge is integrated with his humanity, there is a question if he can be counted among the community."
Reb Pinchas understood that this was the lesson the Maggid had wanted him to learn from Reb Zusha: not how to augment his knowledge, but how to use his knowledge to refine himself and change his character.
Judaism considers personal growth a lifelong task for each of us, 365 days a year for every year of our lives. Nevertheless, every year, a period of time is set aside when these efforts become the focus of our attention. This reflects the spiritual significance of Sefirat HaOmer, the 49-day period between Passover and Shavuot.
The Hebrew word "sefira"means, "counting." Every night we count one of these 49 days. But sefira also means, "shining." During these 49 days, we should endeavor to make our personalities shine.
According to Jewish mystical teachings, we have seven fundamental emotional qualities. These qualities then interrelate, combining each one with another to form the full range of human feeling. Seven times seven equals 49, the number of days mentioned above. This is not coincidental, for the cultivation of our spiritual personalities during these 49 days involves the refinement of our emotions, eliminating their coarseness and directing them to Gdliness. As we work to upgrade our emotional potential, we prepare ourselves to relive the experience of the giving of the Torah on the holiday of Shavuos.
The ultimate experience of personal refinement will come in the era of the Redemption, when "there will be neither envy nor competition...." For then the Gdly spark that is latent within every person will be revealed. At present, effort is necessary to look beyond our fundamental self-concern and appreciate the inner, spiritual core that exists within ourselves and within others. In the era of the Redemption, such an endeavor will not be necessary; it will be the way we naturally view things.
What can we do to hasten the coming of this era? Conduct ourselves at present in a manner that demonstrates our awareness of this inner Gdliness. When we show genuine love to another person, we are highlighting the Gdly spark that both we and the other person possess and are establishing a connection between the two. How more Messianic can one be?
From Keeping in Touch, by Rabbi Eliyahu Touger, published by Sichos in English.
This week we read two Torah portions, Tazria and Metzora. In the second portion, One of the laws pertaining to the Biblical affliction of leprosy (discussed in this week's Torah portion, Metzora), seems somewhat surprising.
If a person discovered an eruption, a bright spot, or a white hair indicative of the disease on part of his body, he was pronounced "impure" by the priest. If, however, the leprosy covered his entire body, he was pronounced pure. "[If] it is all turned white, he is pure," the Torah repeats.
How can it be that when the leprosy is confined to one area, the person is impure, yet once it has spread all over his body, he is pure? There are two possible explanations:
The sole reason he is considered pure is because it is G-d's will. According to logic, the person whose leprosy covers all of his flesh should be impure; G-d, however, has decreed that he is pure.
The law itself is logical. When the leprosy appears on only a part of a person's skin, it is obvious that he is suffering from some sort of malady. If it covers all of his skin, it is indicative of the individual's constitution and nature, not symptomatic of a disease.
The Talmud cites this law in connection to the concept of redemption, using the affliction of leprosy as a metaphor for sin. "The son of David [Moshiach] will not come until all authority has become heretical," i.e., when G-dlessness is officially sanctioned and widespread throughout the world.
Here we may ask the same question raised regarding leprosy: If the world will be entirely dark, how will it be possible for the light of Redemption to shine through? Why will the Redemption occur precisely when evil is so powerful that it has overcome the entire world?
Again, the above two explanations may be applied to solve our dilemma:
There is no logic involved. Moshiach will come when he does only because G-d will have decreed it thus; the Redemption will occur independent of the world's condition. An all-powerful and eternal G-d can certainly bring Moshiach no matter how degraded and evil the world becomes.
The fact that evil is ascendent throughout the entire world is proof that something unusual is taking place; were this not so, some pockets of good would certainly have remained. Rather, the absolute supremacy of evil indicates that all the negative forces have become externalized, as they have already been fully vanquished from within.
Thus, the phenomenon of "all authority has become heretical" is actually part of the world's purification, a process of separating good from evil that will ultimately culminate with Moshiach's revelation. At that time, the world will be sufficiently prepared for the light of Redemption.
Adapted from Likutei Sichot of the Rebbe Vol. 32
Passover Wasn't Passed Over
The nearly 3,000 Chabad-Lubavitch centers around the world organized pre-Passover programs for their communities as well as public Passover Seders for locals and visitors alike. Pre-Passover events were as diverse as Model Matza Bakeries, humanitarian food distribution, kosher for Passover cooking demonstrations and camps. Passover events centered around the Seders - large and small - that enabled tens of thousands of our brothers and sisters to celebrate the holiday as one united family.
In Israel, a group of soldiers who were stationed in an out-of-the way place contacted their closest Chabad shaliach (emissary of the Rebbe) whom they found via google.Though the call came in just hours before the onset of the holiday, the shaliach managed to arrange for the soldiers to have everything necessary for the Seder delivered to them in time for them to celebrate like their brethren around the world. All Seder photos taken before the onset of the holiday
30 Tishrei, 5720 
I received your letter of the 17th of Tishrei in which you write about your background and activities. I was especially gratified to read about your activities to strengthen Yiddishkeit [Judaism] in your environment, in the field of kashrus [the kosher dietary laws], etc.
I was especially pleased to read you realize that there is a great deal more to do. For the realization that there is more to be done ought to bring forth additional forces to meet the challenge. All the more so, since every one of us is commanded to go from strength to strength in all matters of holiness, which should be on the ascendancy.
In this connection it is well to remember the saying of my father-in-law, of saintly memory, that at this time every Jew should consider himself in the position of a mountain climber climbing a steep mountain.
In this situation he must continue to climb or slide back, for he cannot remain stationary... It is also a well-known law of physics that the rate of a falling object accelerates. The lesson is obvious.
I read with interest about the books you read and study. I was surprised to note the absence of the Tanya [the basic book of Chabad Chassidic philosophy]and other works on Chassidus, which you no doubt could study in the original, though part of this literature is available in English.
The study of Chassidus would not only be greatly inspiring to yourself, but would have a great influence on your work and inspiration on behalf of others.
Young people not burdened by family responsibilities, and full of youthful energy, should make the fullest use of their opportunities.
I trust that you have friends among Anash [members of the Chassidic community] with whom you can discuss a method of learning Chassidus and what sources you should study, though I imagine you should have a fairly good idea. But nevertheless, many heads are better than one.
As for your question with regard to my attitude towards the Holy Land etc., I trust you saw my reply to the question "What is a Jew?" which has been published both in Eretz Yisroel [the Land of Israel] and here in America. Your particular question with regard to emigration and settling in Eretz Yisroel does not indicate whether it refers to yourself or is in a general way. But my answer would depend on the circumstances of each individual, for it is not possible to give blanket advice on such an important question.
As for your question with regard to my attitude towards the Holy Land...
I should like, however, to emphasize one general point. No matter how much is expected of a Jew in regard to Torah and Mitzvoth [commandments], wherever he may be, a great deal is expected of him if he is in Eretz Yisroel, of which the Torah says "It is the land on which the eyes of G-d are upon, from the beginning of the year to the end of the year." So much so, that it is regarded as a Holy Land even among non-Jews. Our Sages refer to it as "The Palace of the King." A person wishing to enter the Royal Palace must be prepared to answer such questions as on what business he is there, and he must be properly prepared in every way. It is demonstrated by his conduct and actions that he realizes he is in a Royal Palace. It is unnecessary to elaborate.
May G-d grant that you will succeed in what is your true and inner purpose in life, namely to spread Yiddishkeit, and in an ever-growing way, and may you have good news to report always,
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
Connecting Passover and the Holiday of Shavuot is the period known as sefira. We count the days of the Omer starting on the second day of Passover - our day of liberation from slavery. We continue counting for 49 days until the day on which we commemorate the receiving of the Torah - the culmination of our liberation.
What, we might ask, is the point of counting days, measuring time? Time just marches on. We can all march to the beat of a different drummer, but we can't actually change time, can we?
Quantitatively, time cannot be changed. But, we learn from sefira, that qualitatively, time can be changed. Time is like a container. We can fill it with nothingness by wasting it away, or, we can fill it with meaningful activities.
In the days between Passover and Shavuot, we are preparing for the receiving of the Torah. During this preparation period, we should make sure to fill our time "container" with meaningful accomplishments.
In this way, we will actually be able to "stretch" time. By instilling our actions in the here and now with Jewish content, we fill our limited time with infinite and eternal acts. We transfer and elevate our own time beyond and above time.
Every day when we count the Omer, we are reminded to fill our time with the mitzvot that need to be attended to on particular day and not push them off for another time. In doing so, we will certainly hasten the Redemption and bring Moshiach, NOW!
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.
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.
For many years the Jews of Bukhara were terribly persecuted by their Muslim neighbors. In one historical period, the Muslims enacted 18 separate laws designed to oppress them and cause public humiliation.
Failure to comply with any of these edicts was punished by whipping, having one's hands or feet cut off, and worse. If the infraction was more serious, the Muslim courts had no compunctions about sentencing a Jew to death.
In addition, whenever a Jew was arrested and imprisoned he would be subjected to immense pressure to convert to Islam, lured by the promise of a reduced sentence. The Muslims believed that their religion compelled them to convert as many Jews as possible. It was not unheard of for Jewish children to be kidnapped from their homes.
In the event that a Jew did convert, willingly or unwillingly, his every step was eagerly scrutinized. If it was discovered that he had retained any Jewish custom or practice, he was immediately put to death.
The story of Khudadad, a young Bukharan Jew whose Hebrew name was Netanel, took place approximately 200 years ago. One day Khudadad was walking through the streets of the city when he thought he recognized an old childhood friend. Without thinking twice, the young man said hello and extended his hand in greeting. The stranger took the outstretched hand and shook it before he could see to whom it belonged.
It was then that the unfortunate error was discovered. The stranger was not an old acquaintance but, in fact, a religious Muslim, whose hand Khudadad was prohibited from shaking by law. The Muslim was very upset by what had happened. Through no fault of his own he had allowed himself to be disgraced publicly.
Khudadad was the first to recover. In an attempt to smooth things over and dissuade the Muslim from hauling him off to the nearest police station, he clapped him on the shoulder. This, of course, only incensed the Muslim further, who even more than he hated Jews was worried about what his friends might say if they saw him. "No matter, my friend," Khudadad said with a smile. "Do we not all believe in the same G-d and agree that He alone is the Creator of the world?"
The Muslim, who by then had gathered his wits, seized the Jew's words as if he had suddenly stumbled upon a great treasure. "Did you hear that?" he cried out in a loud voice to the crowd of onlookers. "This young Jew just accepted the Muslim religion upon himself!"
Khudadad was immediately led to the emir's palace, where the Muslim testified that the Jew had converted to Islam of his own free will. Several Muslim bystanders also swore that they had heard the Jew's declaration of belief in G-d and the prophet Muhammad with their own two ears.
Khudadad realized that he was in far more trouble than he would have faced for merely shaking a Muslim's hand. "They're lying - it just isn't true!" he protested, but no one believed him. The emir accepted the witnesses' testimony and pronounced Khudadad an authentic Muslim.
But the young Jew was unwilling to cut himself off from his Judaism, even outwardly. "You can believe whatever you want, but I was born a Jew and I'll die a Jew," he insisted. In the face of such sacrilege the emir had no choice but to throw Khudadad into prison.
The leaders of the Bukharan Jewish community did everything they could to save him, but the only concession they won (with the help of a sizeable bribe) was that Khudadad was allowed to remain under house arrest until his trial.
Even though the outcome of the trial was a fait accompli, Khudadad conducted himself calmly during this period, offering encouragement to his parents, brothers and sisters, and young wife. "Just make sure to tell my children when they grow up that their father sacrificed his life for G-d and for the honor of the Torah," he told them.
On the day of the trial a huge crowd of Muslims and Jews gathered around the emir's palace, waiting tensely to hear the verdict. Again Khudadad was offered the opportunity to save his life by accepting Islam.
But Khudadad remained unimpressed, and with a disdainful smile he refused their gesture. "Hurry up and carry out your sentence," he declared. "My revenge will ultimately be taken by the G-d of truth." That very day Khudadad was executed.
The story of Khudadad, the young Jew who bravely sanctified the name of G-d, was passed down from generation to generation, and later greatly encouraged the Jews of Bukhara under the totalitarian Communist regime. At the end of the nineteenth century his children emigrated to the Holy Land and settled in Jerusalem, and many of his descendants are today pious Jews and Chasidim.
When a fetus reaches full term, its mother's body naturally initiates birth; the child descend and emerges of its own accord. By contrast, when a caesarian is necessary, the child is removed with external force. Had the Jews remianed in Egypt for their full term of 400 years, Pharoah would have released them naturally, avoiding the need for the plagues. However, the Jews were at grave risk and G-d removed them early, with external force. By contrast, the final redemption will occur at full term, when the work of recitification is complete. Not only will the nations not resist, but they will assist, as Isaiah prophesied (66:20), "They will bring all your brothers from all the nations as a tribue to G-d.
(Shem MiShmuel/Yalkut Moshiach UGeula al HaTorah)