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L'Chaim
March 4, 2016 - 24 Adar I, 5776

1412: Vayakhel

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


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  1411: Ki Sisa1413: Pekudei  

Global Home  |  Living with the Rebbe  |  A Slice of Life  |  What's New
The Rebbe Writes  |  All Together  |  A Word from the Director  |  Thoughts that Count
It Once Happened  |  Moshiach Matters

Global Home

Talk of the world as a global village is already passe. But discussing the world as a global home is a different twist altogether. Judaism has been teaching for thousands of years that the world is in the process of becoming one, great big home. Home to G-d.

G-d created the world with a purpose: to make it into a "home" for Himself.

We all know what a home is. "Home sweet home" is a place where we feel totally comfortable, totally at ease. Where we can be ourselves without having to hide anything. With the coming of Moshiach the world will be G-d's home. No longer will G-dliness have to be hidden to a world that is unready or unable to appreciate it. The world and everything in it will be fitting receptors to this G-dliness and G-d will be able to "be Himself," so to speak, in the world of the Redemption.

We are the contractors, the builders, the electricians and the bricklayers of G-d's home. We are its plumbers, tilemen and woodworkers. But G-d is the owner and makes the final decisions.

The 613 mitzvot that G-d gave us are our tools, materials, supplies and instructions. Some are necessary for the foundation and others are for the finishing touches. Some are for the detail work and others are for the basics. But they are all in the original blueprint approved by the Owner.

After thousands of years of working on this great global home (and you thought you had the slowest contractor around!) it's finally complete.

We stand at the threshold of the Redemption and we need only open the door and enter.

But, some ask, how can we say that the home is complete as evil in all its forms and permutations still exists in the world? Maybe we have come a long way, but we still have a long way to go!

Chasidic philosophy explains that good is cumulative whereas evil has no permanent substance. Goodness and holiness are eternal. Hence, when one fulfills a mitzva, it is eternal.

Evil, by contrast, has no true existence: it is no more than a concealment of G-dliness, the same G-dliness that will be revealed in all its glory in the world of the Redemption. Hence, when a person has been punished for his evil, or when he repents, the evil ceases to exist.

Considering, once more, the home in the process of being built, makes it easier to understand the temporary nature of evil as compared to the permanence of good. If a brick is not laid level, a pipe is installed incorrectly, or a wall is painted with a mistaken color, the wrong is righted - the "evil" ceases to exist - and the correction remains.

Since good is eternal, all the accumulated good of all the past generations still exists. And this is why now, specifically, even though superficial appearances might indicate that our generation, or the world, is not worthy, we will soon be privileged to open the door and walk over the threshold of G-d's home into the Redemption.


Living with the Rebbe

For the past several weeks the Torah readings have dealt with the Mishkan (Sanctuary) and its numerous vessels. The requirements were very exacting, involving many different types of building materials and complicated instructions on how to make the Sanctuary's various parts.

The Torah portions of Teruma and Tetzaveh contain G-d's detailed command to erect the Sanctuary and fashion its components. Immediately afterward, the portion of Vayakhel that we read this week, and Pekudei that we will read next week, speak of the actual building of it.

A question is asked: Why is it necessary to devote four separate Torah readings to the subject of the Sanctuary?

Every word of the holy Torah is deliberate and precise; not one word or letter is superfluous. If so, why does the Torah devote so much space to what seems to be a repetition? Surely the Torah could have enumerated all the details of the Sanctuary and then simply stated that the Jews followed them to the letter. From this we would have understood that the Sanctuary was built according to G-d's instructions.

However, in his commentary on the Torah (Genesis 24:42), Rashi explains a general principle: Whenever something is particularly beloved to G-d, the Torah goes to great length in its description, and indeed may repeat itself several times, even if nothing new is added by the repetition.

The Sanctuary and its vessels were extremely beloved by G-d. The Sanctuary was also especially important to the Jews, for it was the means by which G-d's Presence rested among them, as it states, "And they will make Me a Mikdash (Sanctuary) and I will dwell among them."

Moreover, to the Jews the Sanctuary was particularly beloved, for it testified that G-d had forgiven them for having made the Golden Calf. That is why it was called "the Mishkan of Testimony."

It is precisely because of its great significance, both to G-d and to the Jewish people, that a full four Torah portions are devoted to the Sanctuary: Teruma, Tetzaveh, Vayakhel and Pekudei.

The Jewish people's dedication to the Sanctuary expressed itself in their overwhelmingly enthusiastic response to the call for donations. In fact, they contributed so much of their personal wealth and possessions that an order had to be given for them to cease!

In a like manner, it is not enough to be content with the simple performance of mitzvot. Each one of G-d's commandments must be precious and dear to us, observed with willingness and devotion, and performed with alacrity and love.

Adapted from Likutei Sichot, Volume 16


A Slice of Life

How Long Will You be on the Fence?
by Rivka Chaya Berman

Rabbi Josh Gordon would have known how to start this post. He would have just the right joke that would span the utter void I am feeling now.

I grew up expecting every rabbi to be like Rabbi Gordon. My mother was one of his first preschool teachers, and we moved to Encino when I was eight. Rabbi Gordon's Shabbos speech and his parsha classes were my parents' fix. I grew up thinking every rabbi could meld California cool with a Lubavitch core, crack jokes that made you think, and also somehow answer my phone calls - when I was a kid, a teenager, a mom - while running an empire for the Rebbe, He's a tough act to follow.

We walked our mile to shul every Shabbos. I would pray for rain, a prayer not frequently answered in sunny Southern California. Because if it rained hard, we'd stay over at the Gordons, and I would hear one of his stories and Deborah would serve cholent at such a lovely table, as though hosting a family of seven for lunch was part of her plans all along. When the adults went off for a nap, then the fun - 11 kids doing who knows what - would begin. What could have been a drag of gloomy Shabbos became a highlight.

The best was sitting around in a circle on white folding chairs after Simchas Torah dancing. Rabbi Gordon would talk straight talk to my parents and other community members who had lingered. "How long are you going to be on the fence?" He asked, and because my parents were ready, they made greater commitments to live more active Jewish lives.

Rabbi Gordon rolled comfort, security, certainty and spirituality into one. I am a worrier by nature. It was soothing to know that if my parents had something to sort out, they'd go to Rabbi Gordon, and in the morning everything would be fine again. Just last week, as I was working through a big decision for one of my nearly adult children, a thought popped into my head. "I will just ask Rabbi Gordon."

The best feeling was when I knew Rabbi Gordon was proud of me. When we flew back to California, and he chose my husband to read the Torah. I knew I had done well in his eyes.

"Without Rabbi Gordon we never would have met," my husband reflected this week. It's true. Rabbi Gordon did not introduce us, but he put my parents on a trajectory that led me to live a life that brought me to my husband, to raise a minivan full of children, to make aliyah to Israel. And to think, I am just one life he touched. Innumerable others could have written this with their Rabbi Gordon stories. What an amazing legacy.

I will miss him. His roar of a laugh. The musical way he said my name, especially after I started using my Hebrew name. Without him, a foundation stone of my childhood and my identity has slid into the realm of treasured memory. Because of him, I am building a legacy of my own, of which I know he is proud.

Reprinted from Lubavitch.com. Rivka Chaya Berman grew up in southern California and moved to Israel with her family in 2010.


Rabbi Yehoshua Binyamin ("Josh") Gordon and his wife, Deborah, moved to the San Fernando Valley in 1973 as emissaries of the Rebbe. Throughout the next decades, the Gordons brought 35 additional couples who established 26 Chabad-Lubavitch centers to serve the 250,000 Jews of "The Valley."

In addition to all of his other myraid responsibilities as the founder and director of Chabad of the Valley, Rabbi Gordon taught and touched the lives of hundreds of thousands of people around the world via his daily video classes on Chabad.org. What follows are just a few of the thousands of comments written on chabad.org by his virtual students.

As for so many of us in the U.S and around the world, you were effectively able to help guide lost Jews back in modern times with modern technology.With your down-to-earth yet humorous and witty style of teaching, you were really like the shepherds described in the Chumash that G-d chose for a special mission, to be the shepherd for the children of Israel. You did that, and in a very big, yet personal way for each of us. Farmington Hills, MI

When Rabbi Gordon teaches us, he suggested hints and implications instead of conclusions. It was to guide students to the right direction without affecting the student's free thought. It was to encourage us to build our own set of opinions and logic. Only after that he mildly suggested to us widely accepted interpretations to prevent students from misunderstanding. Seoul, Korea

Because we live in a relatively isolated area in England, the service to others he generously offered will be forever appreciated. Newcastle on Tyne

I have learned Torah with Rashi before, but every day the class with Rabbi Gordon made the Torah come alive. Shiloh, Israel

I listened to his lessons on the way to work early in the morning - he was a light to the start of my day. Melbourne, Australia

As a convert, I followed his teachings and watched his videos enthusiastically. My journey will never be the same. Anchorage, Alaska

The teachings of Rabbi Gordon have brought me new understanding of Torah, Judaism and G-d, for which I will be grateful all my life. Zagreb, Croatia

To study with Rabbi Gordon visit chabad.org. His classes can also be downloaded onto your phone via a special app: www.chabad.org/RabbiGordonApp


What's New

The Gilded Cage

The Gilded Cage is drawn from the Talmud, Midrash and commentaries of renowned Jewish scholars. Writing from the perspective of Esther, Sorole Brownstein tells the story of the righteous Queen Esther as you never heard it before. Mrs. Brownstein is co-director of Chabad of Yolo County, California.

Samarkand

Samarkand by Rabbi Hillel Zaltzman, tells the story of the Chassidic underground that operated in the Soviet Union, upholding Judaism during the rule of communist terror. Gripping narrative sweeps the reader to distant lands, and paints a picture of mysterious figures in Samarkand's alleys, secret Torah study under the constant threat of arrest by the KGB, and the long and hard fought victory in inspiring Jewish renaissance throughout the Soviet Union. Available in English, Hebrew and Russian.


The Rebbe Writes

26th Iyar 5740 [1980]

Greeting and Blessing:

...In answer to your questions and to begin with the question of why Lubavitch is not active in this or that project - apparently you are not fully informed about the Lubavitch activities, since some of the specific projects you mention in your letter have not only been included in Lubavitch work, but have been part and parcel of it for many years. However, you can rectify this lack of information through your Lubavitch contacts.

Let me cite some examples with reference to some of your questions. You ask why Lubavitch Chassidim do not serve in Tzahal [the Israeli army]. Obviously you are misinformed, for many do and many have attained high rank in the defense forces on active duty; and not only in the Chaplaincy, as you thought. As for those who serve in the Chaplaincy, clearly that is where they contribute most to Tzahal and the security of the country, since keeping the morale of the defense forces on the highest level is of primary importance. It would be a poor judgment on the part of Tzahal to press one who is qualified to be a Chaplain into service as a private, as it would be to force one who is qualified to be a colonel to serve as private instead.

While on this subject, let me mention a further point, though you do not refer to it explicitly, namely, the exemption of yeshivah students from military service. As you may know, this exemption was recognized and agreed to by the founder of Tzahal, the late D. Ben Gurion. It is based on the fact that a yeshivah student can accomplish more to the security of the country by continuing his Torah learning than by military duty. Anyone who is familiar with the Sedra [Torah portion] Bechukosai and is not prejudiced can see this clearly.

Having answered some of your questions, I trust I may indulge in asking you some pertinent questions in turn.

In light of your deep concern for the security of the Land of Israel and the people of Israel and since you are aware how much this security is entwined with adherence to the Torah and mitzvos [commandments], as repeatedly stated in the Torah in the sedra Bechukosai and elsewhere - how much have you done and have you done enough, in these past years to strengthen this security by strengthening and spreading Yiddishkeit [Judaism] , Torah and mitzvos?

Secondly, since all Jews and the Jewish people constitute one entity, one organism, where a benefit to one part of it is a benefit to all - what have you done and couldn't you perhaps have done more, to encourage the observance of mitzvos in those circles where you nave influence, whereby all our Jewish people and particularly our brethren in our Holy Land, could have benefited so much?

Thirdly, being aware of the ill-conceived wrongful approach of those Jews who base their claim to Eretz Yisrael [the Land of Israel] on the Balfour Declaration and the "kindness" of the nations of the world (the very same that forced the surrender of oil wells and military installations in Sinai so vital to the security of the Land of Israel and clamor for further concessions eroding its security) - what have you done, or have you done enough to help these misguided Jews see the light, namely, that the G-d-given Torah is our charter and that it is G-d Who has given us our Holy Land as an everlasting inheritance and has reaffirmed it by an everlasting Covenant with our Patriarchs and our people ever since (as also emphasized by Rashi on the first posuk of the Torah)? What have you done to support and encourage the so-called "religious extremists" who are stubbornly fighting to prevent the dismembering and surrender of parts of our Eretz Yisrael, while those whose position is based on "Yom Haatzmaut "[Israel Independence day] namely, on the good graces of the United Nations, have already surrendered parts of the land and are eager to give away more for worthless promises?

Needless to say, these are not rhetorical or homiletic questions, but a challenge that calls to practical action, which I trust will not be lost on you, as well as those on whom you can bring your influence to bear in the right direction - if you share my views and accept my words in their proper spirit.

And surely such action is called for even if it were not related to the security of our Holy Land and our people who dwell therein, for it is an imperative of the "Great Principle" of our Torah the mitzvah of v'ohavto l're'acho komocho [loving one's fellow Jew as oneself], making it the obligation and privilege of every Jew to see to it that all Jews live by the Torah and mitzvos.

With blessing,


All Together

Hakhel - gathering once every seven years in the Holy Temple to hear the King read from the Torah - and the writing of a Torah are commandments that stress the unity of the Jewish people. Hakhel encompasses all Jews "men, women, children and proselytes" - equally. Indeed, that is why this commandment is termed Hakhel, which means "congregation." In this case, those who congregate lose their individual identity and form an entirely new totality. Writing a Torah scroll, too, stresses the concept of unity, for while Jews differ greatly in their comprehension of Torah, all are equal with regard to writing a Torah scroll.

(The Chasidic Dimension, Based on Likkutei Sichos Vol. XIX, pp. 298-304)


A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

This week we read take out an additional Torah scroll on Shabbat and read what is known as "Parshat Shekalim." We read of the "shekalim call," whereupon every Jew contributed a half-shekel to the Sanctuary chest which provided the public sacrifice on behalf of all the Jewish people.

Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch, known as the "Tzemach Tzedek,"in discussing the mitzva of the half-shekel coin, offers some insights. The mitzva requires no more and no less than half a shekel. This indicates that when a Jew makes a contribution toward a sacred cause, it is immediately matched by a similar benevolence from G-d to him, in accordance with the principle that human initiative acts like an impulse which calls forth a corresponding impulse from on High. The two together, constitute the complete Shekel ha-Kodesh ("holy shekel").

Moreover, though human endeavor must be voluntary and spontaneous, the assurance has been given that where there is a resolute intention, the person receives aid from On High to carry it to fruition in the fullest measure.

The mitzva of the half-shekel teaches us, among other things, that human effort, provided it is sincere and resolute, is "met half way" by divine grace. Thus, though the goal may, at first glance, seem too ambitious or even beyond reach, we are not limited to our own human resources, since our initial effort evokes a reciprocal "impulse" from On High which assures the attainment of even the "unattainable."

May we merit to actually contribute the half-shekel this year in the Holy Temple with Moshiach, NOW!


Thoughts that Count

These are the things that G-d has commanded you to do. (Ex. 35:1)

Immediately following this verse we read about the commandment to refrain from work on Shabbat. Why are we first instructed to actively do something, and then immediately instructed not to do something else? Shabbat is not merely a passive cessation of labor, but is something in which we must take an active, vital role. It is up to us to make the holiness of Shabbat felt, by investing our efforts towards this goal during the first six days of the week.

(Sifrei Chasidut)


Take from yourselves an offering. (Ex. 35:5)

The words "from yourselves" show that one shouldn't say that he will wait until he is rich to donate. Rather, he should take from what G-d has given him now.

(Tz'enah Ur'enah)


All the wise-hearted among you shall come, and make all that G-d has commanded. (Ex. 35:10)

When a person has the opportunity to do a mitzva (commandment), it is preferable to do it immediately and not procrastinate. Doing a mitzva with alacrity prevents all kinds of obstacles from arising to forestall the performance of the mitzva at a later time. That is why the verse says, "All the wise-hearted among you shall come" - one who is truly wise - "shall come" - without delay.

(HaDrash Vehaiyun)


And all the women whose hearts stirred them up in wisdom spun the goats' [hair]. (Ex. 35:26)

Rashi explains that the way in which the goats' hair was spun, actually on the back of the goat, was a special skill granted to certain women. The women were not commanded or instructed concerning how to spin the hair, but learned by themselves. They understood, therefore, that this special talent, given them by G-d, was meant to be used for the Holy Sanctuary. From this we learn that when G-d gives a person certain talents or skills, it is incumbent upon that person to use those talents to make a "sanctuary" for G-d in this world.

(Likutei Sichot)


It Once Happened

Moshe Shlomo never understood why, when he asked the Baal Shem Tov to bless him with children, the Rebbe ignored the request but blessed him instead that his business prosper and he be wealthy. "When the Baal Shem Tov (also known as the Besht) blesses me with riches," Moshe Shlomo would tell his wife Rivka, "it never fails to come true, for I am today a prosperous man indeed. Why, then, will he not pray that we have children?"

One day the Besht called the couple to him and said, "Why are you so sad? G-d has blessed you with many things. There are many good deeds that you can do with your money, as indeed you do." And with that, the Besht asked the couple if they wished to accompany him on a trip. Of course they agreed.

When they arrived in a small town near Brody, the Besht suggested that they walk around the town. They saw a group of children playing and the Besht asked one of the little boys, "What is your name?"

"Baruch Moshe," came the reply.

"And yours?" the Besht asked, turning to another child. "Baruch Moshe," came the reply again. "And yours?" he asked a third child. This child was also called Baruch Moshe. Each additional boy whose name the Besht asked was also called Baruch Moshe.

A little girl, sister of one of the boys, offered her name. "I am Bracha Leah," she said. Every other girl was also named similarly.

Moshe Shlomo and Rivka could not help showing their surprise. The Besht, however, did not seem in the least amazed. They continued along the village street, stopping each child they met to ask his or her name. The answer was invariably "Baruch Moshe" or "Bracha Leah."

The Besht went over to an old man sitting on a bench. "Can you explain to us why almost every child here is called Baruch Moshe or Bracha Leah?"

The old man smiled and began: "About 100 years ago, there lived in this village a butcher named Yitzchak who was full of Torah and good deeds. He had one son, whom he called Baruch Moshe. The child was sent to cheder, but it was soon evident that he was no scholar. Try as he might, nothing he was taught would stay in his head. Even private tutoring did not help. A year after his Bar Mitzva, Baruch Moshe left school to apprentice at his father's butcher shop. There he showed an aptitude he had never displayed in school.

"Years passed and Baruch Moshe married Bracha Leah. They lived a content life together and earned the respect of the community. When Baruch Moshe's parents passed away, he wanted to honor them by learning Mishna in their memory. But, try as he might, he could not learn even the simplest Mishna. He gave up in despair and instead just sat in the shul when the rabbi gave a class without even understanding half of what was being said.

"One day, a special phrase caught Baruch Moshe's attention. He heard the rabbi say that whoever teaches Torah to his friend's son can be considered as if he bore the child. These words caused him a special pang of sorrow. 'It is sad enough that we have no children of our own. It is doubly sad to know that I will never be able to teach other people's children, thereby gaining the privilege of calling them my own.' A deep sigh escaped Baruch Moshe's lips.

"The rabbi took him aside and said to him, 'Do not despair. You and your wife are still young. You may yet be blessed with children.'

"Baruch Moshe was overcome with emotion. 'I don't know if we will ever have children. And when you said that by teaching other people's children you can call them your own I felt doubly sad, for I am but an ignoramus. What will become of me?' And he burst into tears.

" 'Dear Baruch Moshe,' the rabbi said compassionately. 'My words were not meant only literally. You can be instrumental in teaching other people's children! By hiring teachers for the children of the poor and by subsidizing the schools so that they can accept more students, you are fathering these children spiritually.'

"Baruch Moshe's eyes lit up. This was certainly something in his realm. He rushed home to his wife and explained everything the rabbi had said. The next morning, Baruch Moshe went out and gathered all the poor children of the village whose parents could not afford to send them to cheder. He hired a special teacher for them, visiting them frequently to see if they were progressing in their studies. And he made generous donations to the existent schools.

"As the years passed, Baruch Moshe and Bracha Leah increased their support for the children's Torah study. I myself, as was all of my generation, was educated in the yeshiva founded by this wonderful couple.

"Baruch Moshe and Bracha Leah passed on 15 years ago. They did not leave behind any biological children. But they left behind literally hundreds of children whom they helped educate and who bear their name. We felt it our privilege to immortalize their memory by calling our children after our spiritual parents. And, each year on the anniversary of their passing, we all assemble together to say Kaddish for their noble souls."

After hearing this story, Moshe Shlomo and Rivka understood their task: they would educate Jewish children, knowing that with the support they extended they were "adopting" hundreds of children. They labored selflessly, never forgetting the example they had heard of Baruch Moshe and Bracha Leah.

Adapted from the Memoirs of the Previous Rebbe


Moshiach Matters

Moses assembed the entire nation as one. Unity between Jews is key to receiving the Torah and it is the key to the final Redemption. To achieve unity, one must have humility and be at peace with others. Jacob received his name because he grasped the heel (eikev) of Esau. A heel represents humility. Esau is numerically equal to shalom, peace. By grasping humility and peace, thereby achieving unity with our fellow Jews, we will bring down the heel of Esau, close the final chapter of our exile , and bring the recdemption.

(Ruach Chayim//Yalkut Moshiach uGeula al HaTorah)


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