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Devarim Deutronomy

May 22, 2015 - 4 Sivan, 5775

1372: Bamidbar

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

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  1371: Behar-Bechukosai1373: Nasso  

Finding Direction  |  Living with the Rebbe  |  A Slice of Life  |  What's New
The Rebbe Writes  |  Teachings  |  A Word from the Director  |  Thoughts that Count
It Once Happened  |  Moshiach Matters

Finding Direction

by Izzy Greenberg

A young man came to his rabbi looking for a wife. The rabbi arranged for the young man to meet several fine young women as potential matches, but he was not satisfied. In each of the women he immediately found a fault that made her undesirable.

"I think you need to focus on becoming more humble," the rabbi counseled the young lad. "Perhaps then you will be more ready to find your match."

So the young man engrossed himself in concentrated learning and prayer in order to become more humble. After several months, he came back to the rabbi for potential matches. The rabbi immediately suggested one of the young women that the young man had previously rejected.

The young man was taken aback. "If she wasn't good enough for me before, how could she be good enough for me now that I have become so humble!?"

If we pay attention, the natural world can teach us the most profound lessons in life. Look at the earth at your feet (you might have to go outside for this one). The dust of the earth is perhaps the lowliest element within all of creation. It is hardly valued. It is trampled on, taken for granted, and altogether disregarded, especially in our increasingly urbanized existence. But one thing is for certain: The earth is the source of life. Everything that lives depends on the nurturing power of the earth to feed it.

This is the way humility operates. On the one hand, it is the subjugation of the ego by the spirit, a feeling of intense meekness betrayed by an unassuming nature. On the other hand, humility is, in a more metaphysical sense, the source of all life. Through humility we can truly love, because only a love stemming from humility can be truly unconditional. Through humility we can experience pure joy without the ego's interference. With humility as the foundation, the recognition that everything comes from Above, the individual can appreciate life and accomplish more with the gifts that she or he is given.

This is, perhaps, the greatest challenge of attaining humility. To admit your greatness without letting it get to your head. Because it's easy to ignore who you are, and assume the identity of some alter ego that is more humble, or, alternatively, to deny the importance of being humble altogether and coast through life completely self-absorbed. In both cases, you miss the point. The challenge is to be yourself and to be humble; to recognize that you are unique (just like everyone else) and acknowledge the Source of that uniqueness. Then the greatness you have is not just a privilege that you can exploit as you see fit, but a responsibility - a mission - that is uniquely yours to fulfill.

This is why the Torah was given on Mount Sinai, the lowest of mountains. The Torah is, among other things, the tool with which we unite the spirit and the matter of our lives. The starting point of this quest must be humility: You are a mountain of an individual, but because your special stature comes from Above, you are a small mountain- but a mountain nonetheless. And it is humility that allows us to appreciate the true nature of our qualities and talents, and those of others, and utilize them for their proper purpose.

Izzy Greenberg, a writer, scholar and teacher, and the Creative Director of Tekiyah Creative. To learn more and to read his writings, visit

Living with the Rebbe

In this week's portion, Bamidbar, we read about how Moses, Aaron and the leaders of the tribes conducted a census of the Jewish people at G-d's command. "Take a census of the congregation of the Children of Israel... you and Aaron... and with you there shall be a man of every tribe."

Counting the number of citizens who reside in a particular country is something that is done all over the world. There are no stringent requirements for becoming a census-taker; anyone may do so.

A census-taker goes to each house writing down the number of residents on a special form. Other pertinent details are also recorded: a person's age, his occupation, etc. After tabulating all the data, the exact number of residents in the country is arrived at.

The census of the Jewish people in the desert, however, was conducted in an entirely different manner. The census-takers were not unemployed or simple folk; rather, they were the most important people in the entire nation - Moses, Aaron, and the heads of each tribe!

Moses was asked by G-d to conduct the census. G-d wanted Moses, the consummate Jewish leader and teacher of Torah, to abandon all his other affairs and go from tent to tent, counting the number of Jews over the age of 20!

But why was Moses chosen for the task? Why did it have to be Moses, Aaron and the tribal leaders - the Jews with the highest status - who conducted the census?

The answer is that appointing only the most prominent individuals expressed the intrinsic value and tremendous significance of the Jewish people. Counting Jews is an act of great consequence; not just anyone is permitted to do so. Each and every Jew is so precious that only people with the stature of a Moses, an Aaron or a leader of a tribe may take their number.

Conducting a census of Jews is not a secular activity, it is a holy one. Every single Jew is holy, a "veritable part of G-d above," and counting the members of a holy nation is a mitzva (commandment). This was reflected in the way the census was taken. The census-takers were required to wear their Shabbat finery as they made their rounds from tent to tent. The census was a serious affair.

Counting, in and of itself, is a mundane task, but when it comes to counting Jews it is a holy matter.

So too is it with all the worldly affairs and daily activities of the Jew. Because of his unique spiritual nature, even his mundane activities take on a higher significance. Eating, drinking, managing a Jewish household and educating one's children - all these are uplifted and transformed into holy pursuits, for each and every Jew is invaluable to G-d.

Adapted for Maayan Chai from Hitva'aduyot 5745

A Slice of Life

A Seven Mile Walk Pays Off

Before the holiday of Shavuot, Rabbi Sholom Leverton from Chabad in West Windsor, New Jersey, had called a number of Jews in his area, inviting them to attend services and hear the reading of the Ten Commandments.

One of them, "Dr. Fischer," had firmly declined. "I'm in a large medical center," he explained, "It's too hard to take off time in the middle of the week, even just a few hours."

So on Shavuot morning, the rabbi was shocked to see Dr. Fischer walk into the synagogue in time for the Torah reading. What could have changed his mind?

At the kiddush after the services, the doctor stood up and asked if he could say a few words. "I was driving to the hospital this morning and I saw something I'd never seen before" he said. "Three Chabad young men were walking on the side of the highway.

"I stopped and asked them what they were doing there. Surely there's no shul in this area? They explained that they were going to make a minyan at the local jail so that the Jewish inmates could hear the Ten Commandments read from the Torah."

The doctor paused. "I thought to myself, am I more imprisoned than those prisoners? If they can have a minyan, I can go and pray too! I turned around and came to shul (synagogue) right away - work can wait."

Rabbi Leverton shared the story on an online forum for emissaries (shluchim) of the Rebbe and received impressed responses. A few hours later, the story got even more interesting...

Rabbi Avi Richler, the emissary in Mullica Hill, New Jersey, works with the Aleph Institute, an organization that helps Jewish prisoners. He posted the following comment:

"I want to share the other side of the story," he wrote.

"I was involved in assigning those boys to visit that prison. Usually, yeshiva students who come to help out for weekends and holidays stay at the hotel in Fort Dix, a few minutes' walk from the prison.

"I got a call last Friday that two weeks ago a wall had been erected between the military camp and the prison, and the boys would have to walk out of the base and around to the prison (seven miles each way).

"At the last second I spoke with the associate warden at the prison, and we found another hotel about two-and-a-half miles up the road where they could stay. The only problem was they had to walk on the highway...

"It seems G-d has a plan for all of this. Perhaps this doctor would never have made it to shul without that fence being built!"

From the very beginning of the Rebbe's leadership, the Rebbe instituted that at a very minimum, on the holidays of Simchat Torah, Passover and Shavuot, his Chasidim to walk to other synagogues - even if they were miles/kilometers away - to celebrate with them and share words of Torah. These walks are known in Chabad vernacular as "tahalucha," a parade. The following is from a talk of the Rebbe on Shavuot, 1984

When a Jew leaves his shul in order to make Jews in other shuls rejoice, this is like the trip from Mount Sinai. Indeed, since his shul is likened to Mount Sinai, his trip is comparable to traveling from Mount Sinai. As he walks he cannot say the Tikkun (a book compiled of different parts of the entire spectrum of Torah recited on the first night of Shavuot), and he cannot be properly involved in Torah study!

They go far distances in order to make other Jews rejoice with the joy of Yom Tov (the holiday). On the Yomim Tovim, when there is a need to include others in the joy, "he, his children, and his wife and his grandchildren and all those who accompany him," including "the convert, the orphan, and the widow, etc." one must go and make other Jews rejoice with the joy of Yom Tov; Jews whom he does not know and whom he never saw before, but since he heard that in a certain place there is a shul in which Jews gather, he drags his feet to that place without considering how far away it is, in order to increase the joy of Yom Tov for these Jews.

We see how great is the joy of these Jews when they realize that a Jew put himself out on their behalf, with no benefit to himself, to the point that he did not avoid the bother of going far away in order to make them rejoice. This itself increases their joy.

One cannot take his wife and household on Tahalucha for then one would not be able to go... So he goes alone, and takes only those children who are old enough. He brings even the smallest children to shul to hear the Ten Commandments, but not on Tahalucha, for there is no purpose in wearying a Jew just like that. However, when one goes to make another Jew happy, then, on the contrary, not only does the physical discomfort not deter him, G-d forbid, from doing a Jew a favor, but this is a true benefit for the body!

This is the idea of Tahalucha - that despite the fact that during the walk there will be a period of time in which he will not delve into Torah, in any case he is going from Mount Sinai to fulfill the mission of the leader of the generation, as mentioned earlier about the travels of the Jewish people from Mount Sinai, which is the content of the Torah portion of "the time of the Giving of our Torah," as it comes out this year.

What's New

Be There!

Each year on the festival of Shavuot we relive the giving of the Torah to the Jewish people by G-d at Mount Sinai by hearing the Ten Commandments read in the synagogue from a Torah scroll. It is a special mitzva (commandment) for every man, woman and child to be in the synagogue on Shavuot to hear the Torah reading. This year, the Torah reading that tells of the giving of the Torah will be read on the first day of Shavuot, Sunday, May 24, in synagogues around the world. Many Chabad-Lubavitch Centers sponsor "ice cream" parties (in keeping with the ancient tradition of eating dairy products on Shavuot) for the young and the young at heart. To find out about the closest Shavuot ice cream party call your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center.

The Rebbe Writes

22nd of Iyar, 5726 [1966]

Greeting and Blessing:

I send greetings and best wishes to the esteemed chairman, committee members, and all participants in this annual event. May the Alm-ghty bless your efforts to make it the success it deserves in every respect.

It is noteworthy that this year's Anniversary Dinner takes place in the meaningful days of the counting of the omer which serve as a preparation for Shavuos, the festival of Mattan Torah [the Giving of the Torah].

Our Sages tell us that when G-d was about to give the Torah on Mount Sinai, He requested guarantors to ensure that the Torah would be studied and observed. All guarantees were rejected, until Moshe Rabbeinu [our teacher] declared, "Our children will be our guarantors!" Without this guarantee, not even Moshe Rabbeinu could have received the Torah. Henceforth it became the responsibility of Moshe Rabbeinu, and, indeed, of all Jews to see to it that the Torah and Torah-way of life would be perpetuated through our children.

Thus we are taught that no matter how great a man may be, and however important the task in which he is engaged, the Torah education of our children takes precedence, and none may be excused from participating in work and effort dedicated to Torah-true Jewish education.

It is also significant that this year's Annual Dinner is taking place in the week of the sedra [Torah portion] Bamidbar, "Numbers" as this fourth Chumash is called after the sedra, because it begins with the Divine commandment to number the Children of Israel.

This portion of the Torah is always read on the Shabbos before Shavuos - an indication that when it comes to receiving the Torah, all Jews must stand up and be counted, for each and every Jew has a Divinely given share in the Torah and is soulfully bound up in the holy Torah. We are also forcefully reminded that no single Jew must ever be given up as "lost."

The above-mentioned basic tenets are truly exemplified in the work of the Merkos L'Inyonei Chinuch in many parts of this country and the world over. Fortunate indeed is the Jewish community of Detroit to have the Merkos in its midst, and to have also many devoted friends and dedicated partners in this very vital endeavor.

May the Alm-ghty bless each and every one of you with success in your efforts in behalf of our children - "our guarantors" for the perpetuation of our Jewish way of life and, indeed, for our survival and happy future.

Isru-Chag HaShavuos, 5739 [1979]

Blessing and Greeting:

I received your correspondence, and may G-d grant the fulfillment of your heart's desires for good in the matters about which you wrote.

I trust you had an enjoyable Shavuos - Z'man Mattan Toraseinu, the Season of the Giving of Our Torah - in that the inspiration will be with you in all the days ahead throughout the year.

The designation of Shavuos as the Festival of Mattan Torah is significant in that - among other things -- it conveys the concept that the Torah was given as a "matana," a gift. For unlike a sale or barter - involving an exchange of value for value, or an award or prize - for a special effort or merit, a gift is given freely and graciously, without previous effort on the part of the receiver.

Needless to say, if the giver of the gift is a very distinguished person and, moreover, the receiver is a person of humble station, it makes the gift even more precious, and the receiver cherishes it all the more, treats it with honor and pride, and takes good care of it.

Reflecting on the above, and remembering that the Giver of the Torah is G-d Himself, and the Torah and Mitzvoth [commandments]are the most precious gift which G-d gave us to keep as our Torah, and that we received it out of pure love, without effort on our part - should surely make every one of us most appreciative and grateful, and absolutely determined to cherish and honor it.

As to how we have to honor the Torah - this is clearly indicated in the Torah itself: by conducting our everyday lives in full accord with the spirit and letter of the Torah, with the accent on the actual fulfillment of its Mitzvoth, for the essential thing is the actual deed.

May the inspiration of Z'man Mattan Toraseinu permeate every aspect of your daily life in an ever-growing measure.


Rabbi Meir said: Whoever occupies himself with [the study of] Torah for its own sake merits many things (Ethics, 6:1)

The Hebrew word for "occupies - osek" relates to the word for "businessman," "baal esek." A person's occupation with the study of Torah must resemble a businessman's preoccupation with his commercial enterprise. Just as his attention is never totally diverted from his business, so too should the Torah always be the focus of our attention. (Likutei Sichot, Vol. XVII)

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

Shavuot begins this Motzei Shabbat/Saturday evening. At this time, we are reminded of the beautiful Midrash which teaches that the Jewish children of every generation are the reason why G-d gave us the gift of the Torah:

When G-d asked what assurance the Jewish people were offering that the Torah would be studied, loved and cherished, the Jewish people offered our Patriarchs as security. But this was not accepted. We then offered the Torah scholars as the guarantors. This, too, was not acceptable. It was only when we offered our children as guarantors that G-d approved our proposal and gave us the Torah.

On the anniversary of an event, the "spiritual energy" that was infused by G-d into that event is at its strongest. This is the reason why, for example, we should do our utmost to celebrate our birthdays properly each year. This is true, too, concerning every Jewish holiday. Which means that on Shavuot - the celebration of the Giving of the Torah - the spiritual energy that was invested into that day over 3,000 years ago is at its strongest.

What is the special spiritual energy of Shavuot and how can we benefit from it? It was on Shavuot that our ancestors proclaimed, "We will do and then we will listen/study." This is the time when we recommit ourselves to the actual performance of mitzvot - even if we don't yet understand their reasons.

Shavuot is also the time when the spiritual energy of our children, being the guarantors for the Torah, is at its strongest. This is the time when we must renew our commitment to providing our children with a proper Jewish upbringing and education as well as facilitating the proper Jewish education of all Jewish children, wherever they may be.

We can begin doing both of the above by going to the synagogue this Shavuot to hear the reading of the Ten Commandments and by bringing along with us Jewish children of all ages - children in age, children at heart, or children in Jewish knowledge. Be there, and be a part of a more than 3,000-year-old unbroken chain of Jewish commitment and pride.

Thoughts that Count

Take a census of the entire congregation of the Children of Israel (Num. 1:2)

Our Sages note that the giving of the Torah at Sinai required the presence of all 600,000 Jews; if just one had been missing, the Torah would not have been given. The Torah portion of Bamidbar is always read before Shavuot, the day on which the Torah was given, to remind us of this principle. Furthermore, it reminds us that it was not enough for all Jews to be present; it was necessary that the Jewish people be united in love for one another. "Israel camped there [before Mount Sinai] as one man with one mind." This peace and unity is the channel for all Divine blessings, including the greatest of all - the coming of Moshiach.

(Peninei HaGeula)

Jewish law teaches that once something has been counted it can never be nullified, even if it is only one out of a thousand. G-d likewise counted the Jewish people, so that although they are far outnumbered by the nations of the world, they can never be nullified.

(Chidushei Harim)

And the charge of the Children of Israel (Num. 3:8)

The function of the Levites, to "guard the honor of G-d," also serves to protect the Jewish people as a whole, as it states, "G-d is your guardian, G-d is your shadow." Why a shadow? Because G-d conducts Himself with man in the very same manner as He is served...

(Kiflaim L'Toshia)

It Once Happened

Shavuot is the anniversary of the passing of the Baal Shem Tov, founder of the Chasidic movement.

There was a wealthy Jew, whose only daughter was becoming of marriageable age. While there were many promising young Torah scholars in his own town, he desired to have an exceptional Torah scholar as a son-in-law. After much effort, he indeed found one such young man. The couple were married, settled down and were extremely happy. The young man learned in the yeshiva study hall and grew in his learning and Torah knowledge. Everything was going as desired.

Some years passed, and the wealthy father-in-law began noticing small changes in his son-in-laws conduct and observance of mitzvot (commandments). At first, he tried to dismiss them as insignificant changes, and perhaps his learned son-in-law has reasons to conduct himself in this new manner. After all he knows much more than I do, so who am I to question him!

But as the weeks and months passed, he began noticing that he was taking off much more time from his learning and was seen in the company of others who were known to be completely non-observant. This was a situation that he was no longer able to ignore and pretend all is well.

So one day, he sat down with his son-in-law and asked him, "What caused this drastic change. Are you perhaps unhappy about something or is something or someone bothering you?"

The son-in-law replied, "I am extremely happy and fortunate. Your daughter is an excellent and kind hearted person. She is the perfect wife, and you are very gracious to us. A man couldn't ask for more.

"But you want to know if everything is perfect, what caused these changes? I began having some questions about G-d's ability to do certain things that our sages stated had happened. I noticed that some of the great commentators also wrote that these things are exaggerations. So I no longer knew what is real and what is being said as a way of a parable or metaphor.

"Whoever I asked either replied that those are dangerous questions, that one is not allowed to ask, or gave me such weak answers and explanations, that they themselves admitted weren't complete answers, they weren't satisfactory. So now I have my doubts about many things, such as does G-d really care about such minute details, for example, when you wash your hands for bread, does it have to go until the wrist and a drop off makes it invalid or it isn't so important. And therefore I decided not to do it all."

The father-in-law was torn with grief. This is the son-in-law that he had hand-picked for his wonderful daughter, who is so proper in her observance of every mitzva (commandment). Is everything lost G-d forbid? "No! It can't be," he told himself. "I must find a way to correct this."

Turning to his son-in-law he said, "My dear son-in-law, you are much more learned than I, and if the great Torah scholars of the town couldn't answer your questions satisfactorily, I for sure don't have the ability. However, I am asking you one thing, please come with me to a great sage and allow him to answer and clarify everything."

Wanting to please his father-in-law, especially as he always has the ability to say that the answer this sage gave was not a convincing or even good answer, he agreed.

The father-in-law didn't waste any time, but immediately set out with his son-in-law to see the Baal Shem Tov. They arrived in Mezibuzh on a bright sunny day and the father-in-law poured out his troubled heart to the Baal Shem Tov and pleaded with him that he does whatever is in his ability to bring the son-in-law back to the ways of G-d.

The Baal Shem Tov asked them to join him on a small journey. With the father-in-law sitting on his right and the son-in-law sitting on his left, they left Mezibuzh. Once they were out of the city and on the road in midst of an open field, the Baal Shem Tov turned to the son-in-law and said, "Young man can it rain now?"

Looking at the clear blue sky, the young man replied, "No, there isn't a cloud in sight."

The Baal Shem Tov said, "And I say it can rain!"

Looking up once again, the young man peered in all directions to make sure that he saw correctly and indeed there wasn't a cloud in sight. So he smugly retorted and said, "It is impossible! No way in the world can it rain here at this very moment."

The Baal Shem Tov smiled and said, "And I say it will rain momentarily!" A few seconds later the heavens opened and a deluge of rain came pouring down. The young man was bewildered at this happening. Not only is it pouring from a cloudless sky, but the Baal Shem Tov's wagon is remaining completely dry. This is truly miraculous and beyond human comprehension.

Being an extremely intelligent person, he realized why the Baal Shem Tov showed him this and didn't try to answer his questions verbally. Far be it that the Baal Shem Tov was merely showing off to him his miraculous powers. It was much more than that; he had clearly demonstrated, that stories of our sages that are beyond human comprehension, doesn't mean that they never occurred or are not real. There are many happenings that human intellect says one way, but in actuality they happened the opposite way - the way he thought was impossible.

Once this question was answered, he realized that all of his other questions and doubts were based on this premise. And therefore if this was resolved they all have nothing to stand on.

Full of remorse he turned to the Baal Shem Tov and beseeched of him, to guide him back to the way of G-d.

During the first year after his passing, the students of the Baal Shem Tov gathered and many of them related a miraculous story of the Baal Shem Tov that they personally were privy to. That night the Baal Shem Tov came to one of his students and said, "My greatness is not my ability to do miracles, it is my awe of heaven for even the smallest detail of a mitzva.

As told by Rabbi Shalom Dovber Avtzon.

Moshiach Matters

The census of the Jewish people as conducted by Moses caused the Divine Presence to dwell among them. Each and every Jew's "head was raised" with the knowledge that the individual possesses the power to determine the future of the entire world. Similarly, Maimonides writes that "Every person should regard himself as if he is half innocent and half guilty, and the whole world as if it is half innocent and half guilty. By doing one good deed, he can tip the scales for himself and the entire world to the side of merit, and bring salvation and deliverance."

(The Rebbe)

  1371: Behar-Bechukosai1373: Nasso  
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