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1375: Sh'lach

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Devarim Deutronomy

L'Chaim
June 19, 2015 - 2 Tamuz, 5775

1376: Korach

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  1375: Sh'lach1377: Chukas  

We Want...  |  Living with the Rebbe  |  A Slice of Life  |  The Rebbe Writes
A Word from the Director  |  Thoughts that Count  |  It Once Happened  |  Moshiach Matters

We Want...

We want Moshiach now. A simple yet powerful phrase coined and made into a song at a gathering of young children with the Rebbe. The word "want" has two usages - to desire something and to lack something - and the two meanings are intimately connected.

We want that which we are wanting; we desire that which we are lacking. Our will is drawn toward the things that give us profound pleasure, such as love, wisdom or new experiences. However, more often than not, the decision-making process focuses more on avoiding pain than on acquiring pleasure; we decide to do something in order to avert the consequences, such as shame or guilt, of not doing it.

Ironically, we accomplish the avoidance of suffering using the faculty that is most suited for generating pleasure. Similarly, we are attracted to things that we are lacking; the recognition of the deficiency awakens a greater desire and propels us to work harder to achieve it. That's why there is nothing more lacking than someone who thinks that she or he is lacking nothing. Without recognizing what we are missing, what is the incentive to grow?

So when we say that we don't want something, it often means we think we are not lacking it; when we want something, we are acknowledging that which we are lacking.

There is no greater pleasure than getting something that you feel you're missing, and no greater recipe for complacency than someone who wants nothing because he thinks he has it all.

We want Moshiach now. We desire Moshiach because of our awareness that we are lacking it. The world is incomplete. I am incomplete. Each individual and all of us collectively feel a lack of love, a lack of harmony, a lack of happiness. We want all of these things. And therefore we want them. Now.


We live in a state of dichotomy, hovering somewhere between the ideal and pragmatic self. The ideal self would rather spend more time playing with our children than placating our thirst for superficial pleasures, and exert more energy on pursuing spiritual purpose than chasing the mighty dollar. But we get caught up because of the wall that separates us from this deeper, truer self. We get distracted from the ideal because these stones cut us off from our hearts.

The world at large operates under a similar dichotomy. On one side, the world and all its inhabitants really want to live in peace with each other and with the earth. On the other side, "reality" dictates that wars have to be fought, children have to get caught in the crossfire and natural resources need to be plundered and burned.

But what we really want, what the world really wants, is for this wall to come crumbling down. We want to live in peace. Moshiach is standing on the other of this wall, looking through the windows, peeking through the cracks and crevices, waiting for us to make it happen.

But it doesn't take a large-scale revolution to bring it down. Just as the wall was built by human thoughtlessness, so too every action taken with sincerity and sensitivity has the potential to chip away at the wall, bringing our real dreams that much closer to fruition.


Living with the Rebbe

In this week's Torah portion, Korach, we read of Korach's questioning and eventually rebelling against Moses and G-d. Korach's first question to Moses was, "Does a garment made completely of turquoise wool still require a single turquoise thread in its tzitzit - fringes?" Moses' answer was "yes." Korach believed Moses' response was absurd.

Why the commandment for one strand of turquoise wool in the tzitzit? The Talmud explains because turquoise is a spiritual color. It resembles the oceans and the heavens, reminding a human being of G-d's majesty.

In truth, Korach and Moses debated the nature of spiritual leadership, the question of how to inspire human beings toward idealism and holiness. Korach believed that you need to overwhelm people with the magic and majesty of your message. Let their entire "garment," their entire identity, become all-turquoise, melting completely in the "blue" of heaven.

Moses disagreed; to let people's spirits soar is splendid, but never enough. For inspiration to leave a lasting impact, it must find expression in individual specific acts, words and thoughts. To make a real transformation in people's lives, you must give them a single act through which they can connect to G-d and bring His morality into the world on a daily basis. You need to inspire people to make one strand of their lives blue.

This was an argument about what should become the great emphasis of Judaism. According to Korach, Judaism was about awakening a passion to revolutionize the universe. But Moses understood that in order to accomplish this goal, the primary focus of Judaism needed to be on individual daily behavior, changing the world one mitzva at a time.

Korach's message seemed logical. If we can electrify a soul with a passion for making the world a G-dly place, is the individual mitzva ultimately relevant? Let us talk about changing people and changing the world, not about small individual acts!

Korach felt that Moses was misrepresenting G-d's true intent. By focusing so much on mitzvot, Moses was stifling the spiritual creativity in the souls of Israel. Moses was robbing the community of its grandeur.

Korach was a revolutionary, a soul on fire. But Moses was a leader, a shepherd. Moses, to be sure, deeply identified with Korach's message. If anybody understood the value of impassioned idealism, it was Moses, a man who left everything behind in his quest for truth. But a leader is not an individual lofty soul; a leader is a person who encompasses within his own heart an entire nation, and who is deeply in-tune with human nature.

Moses knew that a message that inspires boundless awe and excitement, but that does not demand individual life changes, won't have a lasting impact.

When an idealistic spirit speaks of transforming the universe and uplifting all of humanity, but fails to focus on building this universe through daily actions and words, at the end, he might fall very low, perhaps even become swallowed by the abyss. This indeed occurred to Korach and his men.

The lesson is clear: Living a Jewish life on a daily basis, saturated with Torah study and mitzva observance, and passing on these sacred deeds to our children - is what will secure Jewish continuity and heal the world.

Adapted by Rabbi Yosef Y. Jacobson from a talk of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, June 16, 1974. To subscribe to Rabbi Jacobson's weekly essay, visit www.theyeshiva.net


A Slice of Life

How a Box of Tissues Changed My Life
by Sara Esther Crispe

I was a junior in college when I decided to spend my year in Israel studying abroad. It was an intense time on many levels. A major disagreement with my parents had resulted in almost a year with no contact. I was financially independent and struggled to support myself. I was working 40 hours a week while taking a full load of courses. And I was seriously exploring, for the first time in my life, who I was, where I came from and where I wanted to go.

During my search I had started to learn and connect with Chassidic philosophy and had been introduced to the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. As a student of literature, I was astounded by the depth of meaning and symbolism that his teachings offered and the way foundational and conceptual ideas in Jewish philosophy had such profound relevance to my 20 year old self.

I was filled with questions. Pained by turbulence in my relationships. And overall in need of guidance and direction. I had hit a crossroads. I desperately wanted to stay in Israel and continue my Jewish exploration. But I only had one year left to graduate. As short as a year is, at the time it seemed like an eternity and I didn't necessarily trust myself in an environment that had created more confusion and questions than stability.

It was suggested that I write to the Rebbe for advice. I had never met the Rebbe but felt a very strong connection. I knew he knew me. I knew he would understand and give me guidance that I desperately needed. And so I wrote my first letter. I don't remember all the details but I explained my situation and asked for advice. My main question was whether I should stay in yeshiva at that point and continue my Jewish learning or return to college and attain my degree.

While I was visiting Crown Heights, New York, I handed my letter to Rabbi Binyomin Klein, one of the Rebbe's secretaries. The second I saw him I liked him. He had these warm, brown eyes and his smile was welcoming with an "I totally get you" type feeling. I gave him my letter and was told that he would be in contact after the Rebbe responded.

A few weeks went by. I wasn't exactly sure how the process worked but I was worried that maybe my letter had been forgotten. So I went to 770 to find Rabbi Klein and follow up. When he saw me he started excitedly saying that he had been looking all over for me and couldn't find me. Then in his humorous way he reminded me that when I wrote the Rebbe I never included my personal information such as my name or phone number. He was laughing as he gently reminded me: "The Rebbe knows who you are! But you need to include your details for me. I don't know who you are!"

Now by the time I came for my response, my circumstances had greatly changed. My plan had been to return to California and live with the family of the Chabad emissaries near my parent's home. However by the time I came to Rabbi Klein I had discovered that the only way I could return to college was if I agreed to live at home. As I knew my parents were less than thrilled with my interest in living an observantly Jewish life, I did not think living at home was a wise move. To put it lightly.

Rabbi Klein immediately began to tell me that the Rebbe was adamant I return to California and get my degree. As he put in, I was to "finish what I started." Now half of my dilemma was solved as having that guidance and support to return to college was exactly what I needed to believe it was the right move. However, being that this plan required moving back home was the part that I didn't know how to handle.

I started to explain that I couldn't go back home. I needed Rabbi Klein to ask the Rebbe again with my new circumstances explained. There was simply no way the Rebbe would send me back to California knowing what I now knew to be the situation. But Rabbi Klein was insistent. He said he had never seen the Rebbe so clear in a response. There was no question that the Rebbe wanted me to return.

I tried again to say that it wasn't so simple. Now generally I can be fairly calm and eloquent when trying to make a point. But for whatever reason before I knew it I was on the verge of sobbing. I started to say that I really needed him to ask again when out of nowhere the wellsprings opened and I was full on bawling. Not crying. But completely shaking and hyperventilating with tears pouring down my face. I was a mess. Literally.

Poor Rabbi Klein had not signed up for this. We stood in his office and he wasn't exactly sure what to do with this hysterical girl. At first he tried to console me with words, but it wasn't working. I recall other rabbis entering his office, only for him to shoo them away to give me the privacy I needed. He then grabbed a box of tissues and handed me one after the other while I tried to gain some sense of composure.

I kept going for quite some time before I could even catch my breath. Rabbi Klein did not know me. I certainly did not come across as terribly stable in this incident, and yet he stood there, giving me all the time I needed, handing me tissues and telling me things would be ok, as if nothing else was on the calendar of one of the busiest men in Crown Heights, none other than the personal secretary of the Rebbe.

When I eventually calmed down, Rabbi Klein assured me that the only reason he didn't feel the need to ask the Rebbe again was because he was confident that the Rebbe's advice still applied. Then he gave me his contact information. He told me that if for any reason I found myself in California and crying like this, I was to give him a call and he would pay for my plane ticket back to Crown Heights. He made it clear that he would take care of me.

And take care of me he did. I returned to California. I moved back in with my parents, and while challenging, it was an important part of the much-needed reconciliation. Then I returned to college at UCSD, a few hours south of my parent's home in Los Angeles.

It was a few weeks later that it was pretty apparent why the Rebbe was insistent that I return back to California. While an entire story in itself, the brief version is that because I was returning to school, my family decided to spend the first long weekend of my return with me in the gorgeous area of La Jolla near my campus. It was the end of January, 1994, and they were staying at a hotel when the earth shook violently. We soon discovered that one of the largest earthquakes to ever hit California had just taken place in Northridge, where my parents lived. Their very intersection was the epicenter of this quake.

Weeks later when it was finally safe to return and survey the damage it became clear that had my family been home at the time, they may not have survived the quake. Our house was totaled. The damage was unbelievable. And yet everyone was safe. Because they were visiting me in college. Because I had returned back to college from New York. Because the Rebbe had guided me to. And when I hadn't wanted to listen, Rabbi Klein insisted. Because he told me it would be OK.

He was right.

Soon after graduation I moved to Crown Heights, this time to dedicate myself full time to my Jewish studies. Rabbi Klein's home became a second home to me. I would spend many a Shabbat meal there and soon became very close with one of his daughters as well. Every time Rabbi Klein would see me he would smile, ask if I was ok and if I needed a tissue. He was always joking and yet through his humor could get to the deepest part of an issue or concern.

Rabbi Klein and his wife Laya always made me feel like I was their most important guest. They were so excited when I entered and treated me with such love, care and focus. When I moved to Israel soon after getting married, they called me when they were visiting and had me come see them in Jerusalem. Even when years would go by and we wouldn't see each other, if I called they would know me by my voice, before I could even introduce myself.

It has been just over 21 years from my first meeting with Rabbi Klein. Last year I was fortunate enough to spend a Shabbat with the Kleins and stayed in their home. This past Sunday I was in Crown Heights for just a few hours before taking a train back to our home in Vermont. I didn't have any time to visit people. But I did make sure to stop by the Kleins. I was immediately welcomed by Mrs. Klein who is always so calm, composed and positive. She joked about how she still quotes something I told her right after I got married 18 years ago. She asked about my kids, our move to Vermont, and as always, was uplifting and supportive.

It is now less than a week later. I am once again on the same train, this time back to NYC. I just opened a news site. There was Rabbi Klein's picture. And above it the words, "Baruch Dayan Ha'Emet - Blessed is the True Judge."

So I sit here and type and cry. The world has lost such an unbelievable soul. He has left behind so many children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and a generation that he has impacted and uplifted. And yet, as devastated as I am, through my tears, I also smile. Because when I close my eyes I see his face, with the warmest, most loving smile, and hear his voice as he asks: "Nu, do you need a tissue?"

Reprinted with permission from chabad.org


The Rebbe Writes

28th of Teves, 5721 [1961]

I received your recent letter, and the previous one. Needless to say, I was somewhat taken aback by the tone. It is a good illustration of how it is possible for a person to read and to learn and to receive instruction from books and teachers, and yet when it comes to actual experience, all of this instruction goes by the wayside.

I refer to the things which you have surely learned in books of Mussar [ethical works], and especially Chassidic teachings, about the tactics of the Yetzer Hara, the evil inclination, to instill a spirit of depression, discouragement and despondency in order to prevent a Jewish person from fulfilling his Divine mission. This is the most effective approach. If the Yetzer Hara would attempt to dissuade the person directly from fulfilling his mission, he would not be easily misled. However, instead, the Yetzer tries to discourage the person in all sorts of ways, using "pious" arguments, which unfortunately, often proves effective, at least in some degree.

This is exactly what has happened in your case, and I'm surprised that you do not realize it. The proof is that from the information I have received, I can see that you have accomplished a great deal more than you can imagine....

Let me also add another important and essential consideration. You surely know of the saying of the Baal Shem Tov that a soul comes down to live on this earth for a period of 70-80 years for the sole purpose to do another Jew a single favor materially or spiritually. In other words, it is worthwhile for a Jewish soul to make that tremendous journey and descend from heaven to earth in order to do something once for one fellow Jew.

In your case the journey was only from the USA to Milan, and can in no way be compared with the journey of the soul from heaven to earth. And however pessimistic you might feel, even the yetzer hara would have to agree that you have done not only a single favor, but numerous good deeds, and even only your work with the children of the gan [kindergarten] would have justified it.

Considering further that every beginning is difficult, especially where there is a change of place, environment, language, etc., and yet the beginning has proved so successful, one is surely justified in expecting that as time goes on and the initial difficulties are minimized and overcome, there will be a more than corresponding improvement in the good accomplishments....

As for your mentioning the fact that no one seems to be interested in your work, etcetera, surely you will admit that G-d, whose knowledge and providence extends to everyone individually, knows and is interested in what you are doing. especially as you are working in the field of education of Jewish children, boys and girls, which is so much emphasized in the Torah. After all, to teach children to make a beracha [blessing] and to say the prayers, etc., this is living Yiddishkeit [Judaism]. (I need hardly mention that I, too, am interested in your work.)

If it seems to you that you have been left to carry the ball yourself, it is surely only because there is confidence in you, and that since you have been sent to Milan, you undoubtedly have the ability, qualifications and initiative to do your work without outside promptings, etcetera.

Since one is only human, it is not unusual to lapse occasionally into a mood of discouragement. But as has been explained in the [book of] Tanya and in other sources, such a relapse should only serve as a challenge to bring forth additional inner reserves and energy to overcome the tactics of the Yetzer Hora and to do ever better than before.

I trust that since you wrote your letter, your mood and outlook have considerably improved and that this letter will find you in a completely different frame of mind. Nevertheless, I am sending you this letter since one is only human and subject to changes of mind as mentioned above.

Finally I want to say that the above should not be understood to mean that if you do find yourself in such a frame of mind, you should not try to conceal it and not write about it, for our Sages have said when a person has an anxiety he should relate it to others, for getting something off one's chest is in itself already a relief.

One should also bear in mind, as the Alter Rebbe [Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidism] has stated most emphatically in the laws of learning and teaching Torah, that a person who is engaged in teaching children should especially take care of his health since it directly affects the success of the work. I trust therefore that you are looking after yourself in matters of diet and rest, etcetera, and that you will always be in a state of cheerfulness and gladness. Hoping to hear good news from you.

With blessing...


A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

A basic teaching of Chasidic philosophy is that everything that happens in this world is guided by Divine Providence.

The book "Hayom Yom - From Day to Day," was compiled by the Rebbe in 1942 at the behest of his father-in-law, the Previous Rebbe, and contains short thoughts for each day from the teachings of the Previous Rebbe.

The thought included by the Rebbe for this Shabbat, Gimmel (the third of) Tammuz, reads:

"A Jewish groan which, G-d forbid, arises from physical misfortune, is also a great repentance; how much more so then, is a groan arising from spiritual distress a lofty and effective repentance. The groan pulls him out of the depths of evil and places him on a firm footing in the realm of good."

Though Gimmel Tammuz is actually the day in 1927 on which the Previous Rebbe's death sentence by the Russian government was commuted to life in exile -- thus marking the beginning of his liberation -- the Rebbe chose not to include a message appropriate to these happy tidings, but rather, a thought about the tremendous power of a Jewish sigh.

How many Jewish groans were emitted on Gimmel Tammuz 21 years ago for the spiritual distress of the Rebbe's passing? How many sighs are uttered each day, each year, that passes that we still find ourselves in exile?

But, as the Rebbe himself asked a chasid after the passing of the Previous Rebbe, "What good are your tears?" i.e., crying will not help the situation, it is action that is demanded and required to bring Moshiach.

By each one of us adding on or enhancing in mitzva observance, surely we will all be placed on a firm footing in the realm of good, the ultimate good of the Redemption, may it commence immediately, NOW!


Thoughts that Count

The Torah portion of Korach

How is it possible that a portion of the Torah is named after a sinner as great as Korach? The Torah wants to emphasize that we can learn something constructive even from Korach's bitter controversy. Just as Korach wanted to be a High Priest, every Jew should similarly desire to draw near to G-d.

(Likutei Sichot)


And Korach took [a bold step]...together with Datan and Aviram...and Ohn, the son of Pelet (Num. 16:1)

The Torah criticizes Datan and Aviram more than any other participants in Korach's rebellion as they mixed into a controversy that was none of their business. They weren't firstborn sons who might have resented having the priesthood taken away from them, nor were they even from the tribe of Levi. The priesthood was none of their concern.

(Machane Belula)


And Moses sent to call Datan and Aviram (Num. 16:12)

It states in the Talmud (Sanhedrin 106): "From this we learn that one should not 'hold on' to controversy." Even if several attempts to make peace have been made without success, it is forbidden to throw up one's hands and assume that nothing more can be done. Rather, one must continue one's efforts until peace is attained. Thus despite the fact that Moses had already spoken to Datan and Aviram several times, he attempted one more time to dissuade them.

(Rabbi Yitzchak of Vorky)


And you shall give there of the heave-offering of the L-rd to Aaron the Priest (Num. 18:28)

If, as we read in the Torah, Aaron the Priest passed away in the desert before entering the Land of Israel, how would the Jews be able to fulfill this commandment? Rather, this is an allusion to a time after the Resurrection of the Dead, when Aaron will again be alive and able to receive his due.

(Peninei HaGeula)


It Once Happened

by Nosson Avraham

Matan Yehoshua Sadovnik is an expert in Shiatsu and Chinese medicine and practices in the Maccabi Health Services in Safed, Israel.

Matan shared a story that happened to him three years ago. "I had built our house myself in the Baal Shem Tov woods in Miron. I did everything with my own hands. Toward the end of the building process, I began to feel agonizing pain in my back. I naively thought that these pains would dissipate as quickly as they came, but unfortunately, I was quite mistaken. The back aches became more intense. I had never encountered such acute pain before.

"I lay in bed at home for three days, unable to move a muscle. Every movement was accompanied by sharp pain. After three days, when I saw that there was no change, I decided to do something. I turned to a highly regarded and professionally trained healing expert who had taught me the art of Shiatsu medicine. After explaining the situation to him he proceeded to begin treatment. While he tried to the best of his ability to relieve my pain, regrettably, his efforts proved unsuccessful.

"The pain remained quite intense and I almost began to despair. After another couple of days with no change in my condition, I decided to make the supreme effort and travel to the tomb of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, located not far from my home, and pour out my heart in prayer for personal salvation.

"Walking into the sanctuary from the car was extremely difficult for me. The pain grew worse with every step and I had to sit down for a moment before going in.

"At that same time, a young Chabad chassid passed by me and placed a booklet on the table. It was open, apparently, he wanted to come back later and start reading from the point where he had left it open. I looked at the booklet and then picked it up and started to read.

"The text on the page before me was a letter of the Lubavitcher Rebbe that included a lengthy discussion on the vertebrae. The Rebbe noted that while the vertebrae are an important part of the human body, enabling a person to stand upright, they are not counted among the limbs. Similarly, we find regarding prayer: While it connects a Jew to his Creator, it is not considered one of the 613 mitzvos of the Torah.

"I read all this with incredulous eyes. Here I am, right now, suffering from terrible back pains. I could see the incredible Divine Providence. Eager to find the answer to my nagging problem, I continued to read. "In the following letter, the Rebbe mentioned the importance of checking one's tefillin. Suddenly, I thought, 'Now was the time to have my tefillin checked, something that I had never done before.' I hadn't been able to stand up straight for Shmoneh Esrei. Maybe there's some problem with my tefillin?

"I didn't waste any valuable time. Despite the physical pain and discomfort, I immediately made my way from the Rashbi's tomb straight to the home of a very devout Torah scribe living in Safed. I asked him to open my tefillin and have them checked as soon as possible. He agreed to do so in my presence without delay. When he opened them up and removed the parchments, he said emotionally, 'Your tefillin are not kosher!'

"It turned out that a worm, of all things, had somehow managed to wriggle its way into one of the compartments and rendered the script on the parchment unfit. It was a shocking sight.

"The scribe lent me one of his spare pairs of tefillin to use in the meantime. As I was making my way home my mind was a complete jumble. On the one hand, it was very disturbing to realize that I had been putting on non-kosher tefillin all this time. On the other hand, it was also quite amazing how the Creator had arranged for me to come across a letter from the Lubavitcher Rebbe that led me to get my tefillin checked and start putting on kosher t'fillin from now on. Yet, even I couldn't imagine what was about to happen.

"When I arrived home, I quickly donned the tefillin and started to pray. I stood up with great difficulty and held on to a chair placed in front of me to pray the Shemona Esrei, silent standing prayer. When I came to the last section, 'Oseh Shalom Bimromav,' when one customarily bows the body in various directions, I turned my body to bow to the right, center, and left, and realized that I had done so without any sharp pain.

"Since that moment, the pains in my back disappeared as if there had never been a problem.They went as quickly as they had come. It was a miracle. I attribute this to the great virtue of G-d's emissary, the Lubavitcher Rebbe. I don't want to think about what my situation would be like today if I hadn't come across the Rebbe's letter recommending that I check my tefillin."

Reprinted from Beis Moshiach Magazine


Moshiach Matters

Even if a single individual carries out his service in a perfect manner, what effect can such activity have on the world at large? On the surface, the world seems to be going on without being affected by a Jew's service in spreading the wellsprings of Chasidic teachings outward or preparing for Moshiach's coming. This, however, represents a very narrow view of what is going on in the world. In truth, the world is ready for Moshiach's coming and when a Jew carries out his service in the proper manner, the world itself and the gentile nations will assist him. In practice, from the Third of Tammuz onward, efforts must be made to intensify our service of spreading the wellsprings of Chasidic teachings outward.

(The Rebbe, 3 Tammuz, 5751-1991)


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