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by Rabbi Yisroel Rubin
Although the hamantash has been around for years, it was considered a moot point in higher academic circles. Scientists found nothing in the hamantash but poppy, prune and other kinds of jam. Unfortunately, the hamantash's association with Purim prevented it from being studied seriously.
New research, however, has recently discovered heretofore unknown angles of the hamantash. A comparative study on Food Design showed that there was no point at all in eating many of the foods around. Eggs, falafel, latkas, matza balls, burgers and meat balls are all round. If there is no point in eating, the appetites of four point two billion people on earth would be affected.
The quest of the proper food pointed researchers in the direction of the hamantash. It surpassed all of their expectations. Not only did the hamantash have a point, it has a 200% increase of points-all at no extra cost. Three for the price of one! Among all food known to man, only the hamantash is endowed with this unique configuration.
There is more than one side to the hamantash, but let's not go off on a tangent.
Psychologists have found that life is one long series of appointments and disappointments. Disappointments in turn, are caused by going around in circles, the result of which is that people fail to see any point in life. Without a point in life, people wander aimlessly. This in turn leads some to contemplate points of no return.
The hamantash poignantly demonstrates that there is a point to life. It points us toward a definite aim and goal. It drives the point home, providing us with a sense of purpose and direction. Then there is also a very fine point, which psychologists refer to as the point of pointlessness. As the Talmud points out, "A person should rejoice on Purim to the point of not knowing the difference between Haman and Mordechai."
You might be wondering, "So, what is the point of all this nonsense? Isn't this stretching the point a little far?"
You have a very good point there. But we are not here just to score points. The primary point of this treatise is to point out the main point of hamantashen - to use them in the Purim observance of "Mishloach Manot" - sending food gifts to friends. This is such an important mitzva, that we have no alternative but to stress the point over and over again.
So without belaboring the point any further, let us give it to you point blank: Share the holiday spirit and promote Jewish unity by sending a food gift of at least two edibles, preferably including a hamantash, on the day of Purim.
Rabbi Rubin is director of Chabad of the Capital District in Albany, New York
This week we begin reading from the Book of Vayikra (Leviticus), which deals primarily with the laws of sacrifices. In connection to the sacrifices, the Torah repeatedly uses the phrase "rei'ach nichoach la'Hashem," generally translated as "a pleasing fragrance to G-d."
Rashi, the foremost Torah commentator, interprets the word "nichoach" in the sense of "nachat ruach," pleasure or contentment. "It is a source of contentment to Me, that I said [to bring the offering] and My will was done."
Some commentators (the Mizrachi, for one) explain Rashi's comment as intending to repudiate the mistaken notion that G-d enjoys the odor of the burning sacrifices. For this reason, Rashi emphasizes that G-d derives pleasure not from the odor, but from the fact that His will is obeyed.
However, if that were Rashi's intent, the above-mentioned comment would have been made the first time the phrase "rei'ach nichoach" appears in the Torah - back in the Book of Genesis, when Noah offered a sacrifice after the Great Flood: "And G-d smelled the pleasing fragrance." In that instance, Rashi offers no comment at all!
Accordingly, we must conclude that Rashi is not repudiating something that is so self-evident, i.e., that G-d does not enjoy the physical aroma of the sacrifices. What possible enjoyment could be derived from the smell of an ani-mal burning, an odor that even humans consider loathsome?
It is therefore obvious that the contentment being derived is spiritual, from the fact that the Jewish people are fulfilling G-d's will. In truth, Rashi's comment is intended to explain why G-d derives pleasure from the sacrifices, as opposed to any other of the Torah's commandments.
The difference between the sacrifices and all other mitzvot is that all other commandments contain an element of reason or benefit. Even the super-rational mitzvot, such as the red heifer, while we do not understand them intellectually, serve to strengthen a Jew's acceptance of the yoke of Heaven.
By contrast, the sacrifices (and particularly the olah offering, which was completely burnt) do not have any perceptible "reason" in human terms. On the contrary, they seem completely illogical: Why "waste" one's hard-earned money in such a fashion?
Rashi consequently stresses that G-d's pleasure is derived from the fulfillment of His will. A Jew brings sacrifices only because G-d wants him to. The sacrifices are thus the purest form of obedience to G-d, without regard for personal benefit or other considerations. And the highest expression of this is the olah, which was completely consumed.
From this we learn that the greatest pleasure a Jew can bring G-d is to obey Him, purely and simply.
Adapted from Vol. 32 of Likutei Sichot
In 1961, the Rebbe had established the Purim Campaign to insure that Jews of all ages, wherever they were found, would fulfill two of the easiest but oft neglected Purim commandments: Mishloach Manot - gifts of food to friends, and Matanyot L'Evyonim - monetary gifts to the poor.
Ten years later, in 1971, the Rebbe issued a special call to reach out to the soldiers of the IDF throughout the day of Purim and to assist them with the mitzvot of the day. The Rebbe also requested that Mishloach Manot be given on his behalf to the widows and children of fallen Israeli soldiers. The Rebbe personally covered the expenses for those Mishloach Manot. The Rebbe also added a personal message the Mishloach Manot that the Chasidim would be delivering: "To every single one of them: happy Purim. May the verse [in the Megilla] be fulfilled for us: 'For the Jews there was light and happiness, joy and glory.'"
In 1976, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Gurevitz, then a yeshiva student, together with other students and young couples, was sent by the Rebbe as a Shaliach (emissary) to Israel. Some were sent to Jerusalem while others to Tzfat (Safed). Rabbi Gurevitz, who lives today in Migdal Ha'emek in the north of Israel, was amongst those sent to Jerusalem
"A few weeks before we left, when speaking at a public gathering about the emissaries who would be leaving soon to the Land of Israel, the Rebbe said: 'I accept upon myself the responsibility for their trip.'"
Rabbi Gurevitz continues, "When Purim arrived, the Lubavitch Youth Organization in Israel coordinated a massive Purim Campaign for the soldiers, with Chassidim branching out to army bases all over the Land of Israel.
"I was directed to an army base near Shechem. Together with several other Lubavitchers, a driver from the IDF, and another soldier, we entered an army truck and traveled the twisted, curvy roads on the way to our destination. Suddenly, we came to a shrieking halt. After a moment of deadly silence, a cacophony of ominous voices was heard outside the truck. The smell of fire filled the air, and black smoke began seeping in. We were sitting in the back and were oblivious as to what was going on outside.
"A roadblock was barring the way, and crowds of Arab youth holding stones were standing nearby. 'We have no choice, we have to turn back,' the driver said, his face white as chalk. I turned to the driver and said, 'We are not going back, we must continue on!' The driver looked at me as if I fell off the moon. 'We are turning around,' he repeated. 'I am responsible for your safety!' But I didn't give in. 'If you turn around, I'm getting off right here!' The soldier couldn't understand. Why would I want to go on in the face of obvious danger?
"I am a shaliach of the Rebbe," I said. "The Rebbe said that the responsibility for the shluchim is on his shoulders. We have no reason to be afraid."
" 'Do you really believe so strongly in your Rebbe?'' the driver asked me.
"Yes," I replied. "We have nothing to be afraid of." Hearing my strong reply, he finally gave in. The driver backed up the truck, and went full speed ahead straight into the roadblock of stones, wood, burning objects. The truck rocked back and forth and almost flipped over. We drove directly through the crowd of Arabs, as they threw heavy stones on the truck. The soldier fired a warning shot in the air, but the Arabs didn't disperse. Finally, we got out to the open; the danger had passed.
"When we arrived at the army base, the commander had already heard the story and the courage we had displayed. The commander told me that there were 300 soldiers on the base and he wanted me to tell all of them my story. 'I want them to hear about the Rebbe's assurance. And how it gave you the courage to continue and not to turn back.'
"I remember how excited the soldiers were when I told the story. We gave them Mishloach Manot, we danced with them. They were overjoyed. Many of them rolling up their sleeves to put on tefillin.
"That night, when we returned to Jerusalem, someone told me I must let the Rebbe know about what happened. I immediately called one of the Rebbe's secretaries, Rabbi Binyomin Klein, and told him all the details of the story, which he passed on to the Rebbe.
"At 4:30 a.m. Israel time, the Rebbe's Purim gathering began in Brooklyn. At one point, the Rebbe related, 'I would like to share something which took place, just a short while ago. A message arrived from the Land of Israel about an episode that shows that when a Jew stands strong for Judaism, and doesn't think twice about it - rather he does what he has to do - he is successful without getting hurt and without hurting others."
"There was a request to bring Mishloach Manot and lift the spirits of those Jews who are privileged to guard the Land of Israel. I was notified that a group of emissaries went to visit the soldiers near the city of Shechem. When they neared Shechem, they found that the road was blocked. But they were not deterred. 'We were charged with a mission to encourage other Jews in rejoicing in the festivities of Purim,' they explained.... Although the Arabs threw stones, no one was hurt, neither Jews nor Arabs. This is something that just happened now, Purim 1976.
"The Rebbe concluded with an important lesson that one need not be intimidated by the non-Jews around him and to stand up with pride in his Jewishness."
Adapted from Der Chassidishe Derher Derher.org
JNet Celebrates 8,000 Chavrusas
Over 200 people joined together for an evening of inspiration at the Third Annual JNet Volunteer Appreciation Dinner. The theme of the event, Soul Connections, captured the unity that JNet's volunteers have created through their study-partners in the past year. New this year, volunteers from around the world were also able to participate via live stream. To get a JNet Study Partner visit JNet.org
New Torah in Tunisia
A year after the terrorist attack at Hyper Cacher in France, a new Torah was donated to the Chabad Institutions in Tunisia in memory of Yoav Khattab (may G-d avenge his blood), son of the Rebbe's emissaries in Tunisia
28th of Adar, 5721 
....The unity of the material and spiritual, to which I referred above, is also one of the features of Purim. For Haman's decree began with an attack on the spiritual freedom of the Jews, as our Sages explain the verse "But Mordechai did not bend his knee nor bow down to Haman," who wished to impose his idolatry upon all, and indeed succeeded, except for Mordechai. But then his decree extended to the physical annihilation of all the Jews, young and old, children and women.
That is why the miracle of Purim is observed both spiritually and materially, with light, and gladness, and joy and glory, which our Sages explained in a spiritual sense - Light that is the Torah, etc., and at the same with a Seudah [meal], with wine, etc.
Indeed, the principle of unity is the essence of Judaism, since Abraham first proclaimed Monotheism in a world of idolatry, which came to full fruition at the Revelation at Mount Sinai. For true Monotheism as professed by us and as explained in the Jewish religion is not only the truth that there is only One G-d and none with Him, but that there nothing besides (Ein Od), that is the denial of the existence of any reality but G-d's, the denial of pluralism and dualism even the separation between the material and spiritual.
It is interesting to note that the more the physical sciences advance, the closer one approaches the principle of unity even in the world of matter. For, whereas formerly it was the accepted opinion that the plurality and compositeness in the material world can be reduced to some 100 odd basic elements and entities, and physical forces and laws were regarded as being separate and independent, not to mention the dichotomy between matter and energy. But in recent years, with the advancement of science, the basic elements themselves were reduced to several more elementary components of the atoms, viz. electrons, protons and neutrons, and even these were immediately qualified as not the ultimate blocks of matter, until the discovery was made that matter and energy are reducible and convertible one into the other.
It is well known that the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Chassidus, taught, and the Alter Rebbe [Rabbi Shneur Zalman], the founder of Chabad, explained and amplified, that every detail in human experience is an instruction in man's service to His Maker. Thus, what has been said above about the advancement of science, exemplifies also the progress of human advancement in the service of G-d.
Man possesses two apparently contradictory elements, no less incompatible than the incompatibility of matter and spirit, the counterpart of which in the physical world is matter and energy. I refer to the Divine soul and animal soul, or, on a lower level, the Yetzer Tov [good inclination] and Yetzer Horah [evil inclination]. But this incompatibility is evident only in the infantile stage of progress in Divine service, comparable to the plurality of elements and forces which were presumed to exist in physical Nature. But just as the appreciation of the underlying unity of Nature grew with the advancement of science, so does perfection in the Divine service lead to the realization of the essential unity in human nature, to the point where the Yetzer Tov and Yetzer Horah become one, through the transformation of the Yetzer Horah by and into the Yetzer Tov, for otherwise, of course, there can be no unity and harmony, since all that is holy and positive and creative could never make peace and be subservient to the unholy, negative and destructive. And in this attained unity the Jew proclaims, Hear, O Israel, G-d our G-d, G-d is one.
This is also what our Sages meant, when they succinctly said as they often compress far-reaching ideas in a few concise words - that the words "And thou shalt love G-d, thy G-d, with all thy heart" which immediately follow Shema Yisroel, mean: with both your Yetzorim [inclinations], with the Yetzer Horah, as with the Yetzer Tov.
Every event within a Hakhel year is influenced by the Hakhel spirit including Purim. In the Megilla we read: "Gather...in order that they hear, and in order that they learn...and they will observe to do all the words of this Torah." Purim and Hakhel are not only connected by virtue of them both being about conscious commitment to the Torah. More than that, our Purim is affected by the general spirit of the Hakhel Year, making this year's willing rededication that much stronger.
(The Rebbe, Purim 1967)
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
The holiday of Purim (which we will celebrate Wednesday night, March 23 - Thursday, March 24) is connected to three ideas: shleimut ha'am (the complete Jewish people); shleimut haTorah (the complete Torah); and shleimut ha'aretz (the complete Land of Israel).
The "complete Jewish people" means the recognition that we are one nation. Haman's decree was directed against all Jews, "from young to old, men, women and children." By coming together in true unity, Haman's evil decree was nullified.
The "complete Torah" means the whole Torah - every single part of it. In the Megilla, Mordechai is referred to as "Mordechai Hayehudi," "Mordechai the Jew." The term "Yehudi" implies the rejection of idol worship. When a Jew rejects idolatry, he is declaring that the entire Torah is true. In the days of Mordechai the Jewish people were called "Yehudim" because they clung to the totality of Torah, every single detail, without compromise.
The "complete Land of Israel" means that all of the Holy Land belongs to the Jewish people. The events of Purim occurred during the 70 years between the First and the Second Holy Temples. Although by that time work had already begun on the new Temple, it was interrupted by order of the Persian King. Mordechai knew that learning the laws connected to the Temple would nullify the decree to stop building. He gathered the Jewish children together and studied these laws, and his efforts were successful. The Temple was completed, and the Land of Israel was in Jewish hands.
As we celebrate the holiday of Purim, let us ponder the fact that all of the Holy Land was given to every single Jew by G-d Himself. We must therefore behave in a way that makes us worthy of the name "Yehudim," declaring the truth of our whole Torah, and remain strong in our faith in G-d. Doing so will win the respect of the nations and bring true peace, culminating in the Final Redemption with Moshiach, speedily in our day.
And He called to Moses (Lev. 1:1)
Of all the righteous people who lived in that generation - Aaron, the Seventy Elders, Betzalel and Chur - why did G-d call only to Moses? Because Moses was a person who "fled from power," as our Sages stated: "He who pursues authority and power, authority and power flee from him; he who flees authority and power, authority and power pursue him."
If his offering be from cattle (Lev. 1:3)
Three types of burnt-offerings may be brought on the altar: cattle, sheep, and fowl. A wealthy person is self-assured and prideful, and therefore most likely to sin. For this reason he must bring the largest and most expensive offering, "from the cattle." A less affluent person, less likely to sin, fulfills his obligation by offering a sheep. But the poor man, who is already humbled by his poverty, need only bring "of the fowl," the least costly type of offering.
You shall burn no leaven (chametz), nor any honey, in any offering of the L-rd made by fire (Lev. 2:11)
"Leaven" is symbolic of the kind of person who is angry at the world. Morning or evening, Shabbat or a regular weekday, he is always sour - "chamutz," (from the same Hebrew root as chametz). "Honey," by contrast, alludes to a person who is affable by nature. No matter what happens, he remains buoyant. The Torah teaches, however, that a person must learn to control his emotions, even positive ones. For there are times when it is appropriate to be "leaven," and times when it is appropriate to be "honey."
(Rabbi Shmuel of Lubavitch)
"Leaven" and "honey" are two extremes; by taste and attributes, they are opposites of each other. The Torah teaches that any kind of extreme should be avoided. A Jew must always seek the middle road, "the golden path."
(Rabbi Yosef Shaul Nathanson)
When a person will sin unintentionally from among all the commandments of G-d that may not be done...for his sin that he committed he shall bring...a sin-offering (Lev. 4:2-3)
Why should a person be expected to bring an offering for a sin he committed accidentally, i.e., without prior intent? The answer is that had he not already committed the same sin deliberately, G-d would have prevented him from being in a situation where he repeated it unintentionally. This is alluded to by the text itself: "When a person will sin unintentionally...for his sin that he committed."
(Rabbi Moses Alshich)
The last rays of the sun had already disappeared, marking the end of the "Fast of Esther,'' and the beginning of the holiday of Purim. The synagogue of Rabbi Levi Yitzchok of Berdichev was filled to overflowing. Everyone waited quietly as Rabbi Levi Yitzchok ascended the bima to begin the evening service and then the reading of the Megilla (Scroll of Esther). The sexton approached Reb Levi Yitzchok and whispered something in his ear. The Rebbe immediately went out from the synagogue into an adjoining room.
There, a poor women was standing with a chicken. She had come to ask the Rebbe if it was kosher. Rabbi Levi Yitzchok examined the chicken and found it to be not kosher. "Oy, what will I do, my husband is sick and my children are starving. I spent my last few pennies on this chicken, hoping the soup would help my husband and satisfy my children. What shall I do?" the woman sobbed.
"Do not worry, my daughter. G-d helps everyone and will certainly help you, too," said Rabbi Levi Yitzchok compassionately. "Now go to the synagogue and listen to the Megilla," he added.
When the woman had left, Rabbi Levi Yitzchok put on his overcoat and went quickly to his home. There he gathered up everything his wife had prepared for the Purim feast; fresh hamentashen, fish, chicken, soup, challah, and all kinds of delicacies. He tied it securely in a large, white tablecloth and made his way to the home of the poor woman.
Rabbi Levi Yitzchok entered the house and immediately heard the voice of the sick husband. "Is that you Sarale? What happened with the chicken?" he asked in a weak voice.
"A good Purim, happy Purim," answered Rabbi Levi Yitzchok. "G-d has sent you Mishlaoch Manot (gifts of food) for Purim." The Rebbe set the table neatly and then hurried back to the synagogue. The prayers and Megilla reading had not continued without him; despite the late hour, no one wished to miss hearing Rabbi Levi Yitzchok read the Megilla.
That year, the Megilla reading seemed to take on new meaning for those gathered in the synagogue, especially when the Rebbe read the words about sending Mishloach Manot to one's friends and giving gifts of charity to the poor (Matanot L'Evyonim). Everyone understood the implications of love and unity that were inherent in these special holiday commandments.
When Rabbi Levi Yitzchok's wife returned home, she was more than a little surprised to find that everything she had prepared for the Purim meal was missing! She entered her husband's study, but found him deeply immersed in a book, his face aglow. The Rebbetzin intuitively understood what had happened. She managed to pull together a suitable meal from leftovers here and there.
When the poor family told the town excitedly that Elijah the Prophet had visited their house and brought "Mishloach Manot from G-d" the townspeople also understood where their Rebbe had been. He had substituted for Elijah.
That year, the always generous people of Berdichev were even more generous. They sent food in abundance to Rabbi Levi Yitzchok for his Purim meal, and extra food and charity to all the poor of the city.
The Purim Megila states: "Mordechai was sitting at the king's gate." Although the Jews were in exile, Mordechai sat at the king's gate, eventually becoming the king's viceroy. Mordechai was in a position to influence the entire world. This teaches a Jew that even in exile, we can fulfill all mitzvot fully and even "sit at the king's gate." "King" here refers to G-d, "the King of the world." In addition, one must realize that if he has a position of power and influence, it is for the purpose of utilizing that position to do good in the area of his influence, be it his family, neighborhood, city or country. Conduct in this manner will immediately bring the redemption, at which time we will be together with Moshiach.
(The Rebbe, Shabbat Acharei, 1986)