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How did you fare in chemistry? Was the thought of memorizing the periodic table enough to make your heart palpitate? Do your palms still sweat when you see diagrams of the molecular structure of water? Or were you a science whiz who loved the smell of sulfuric acid and ammonia, thrilled at the thought of yet another experiment, perceived writing out formulae as an enjoyable challenge?
Whether you loved chemistry or hated it, whether you slept through the experiments or bounded into the chemistry classroom on lab day, there's one type of experiment you undoubtedly remember: how a very small quantity of a particular substance can completely transform a tremendous amount of surrounding matter. Its action is that of a catalyst, effecting change without itself being altered in any way.
If we put this law of science to work in our daily lives, we can infer that applying even minimal effort can sometimes enable a person to have a profound impact on forces that appear to be more powerful or beyond his abilities.
With this in mind, it shouldn't come as a surprise that in the laws of repentance, the great Maimonides wrote: "Every individual should view himself and the world as being perfectly balanced between good and evil. Should he perform one commandment, he will tip the scales in favor of the good and bring salvation and delivery to himself and to the entire world."
The salvation and delivery to which Maimonides referred is the era of personal and global peace, health, and Divine knowledge that will be ushered in by Moshiach. And one mitzva (commandment) can tip the scale.
Are any particular mitzvot weightier, more readily able to tilt the Divine scale?
From chemistry we know that putting certain chemicals together elicits no reaction, while combining other chemicals can create an enormous effect.
While Maimonides did not specify any particular mitzva and we can therefore deduce that the above law applies to all mitzvot, there are specific mitzvot that have long been connected with hastening the Redemption.
"Charity brings the Redemption closer," the Talmud states. A coin in a tzedaka (charity) box or a sandwich for a homeless person, who knows which one might tip the scale?
As the destruction of the Second Holy Temple and our subsequent exile was on account of wanton hatred among Jews, loving every Jew, even when one sees no apparent justification for loving him, can tip the scale. This is true especially today, when so many are indignantly pointing at another, declaring that he is the one who is dividing the Jewish people.
Increasing Torah knowledge in general and studying about Moshiach and the Redemption in particular hastens the Redemption. The Rebbe explained: "This is not only a spiritual means of securing the speedy advent of Moshiach, it is a way of beginning to live one's life in the frame of mind of the Messianic Era, by having one's mind permeated with an understanding of the concept of Moshiach and the Redemption."
One simple kind act or good deed can tip the scale and bring redemption to the entire world. "Moshiach is ready to come now," the Rebbe stated, and continued, "It is only necessary on our part to increase in acts of goodness and kindness."
And that one act might just be mine or yours! Let's do it!
In this week's parsha, Shemini, we read that a Kohen is not permitted to do the Temple service while intoxicated. G-d said this command directly to Aaron, instead of the usual, where He would say it to Moses or to both Moses and Aaron together.
Why the change? What can we learn from this?
Earlier in our portion we read about the death Aaron's sons Nadav and Avihu when, without being commanded, they brought incense offerings. Moses said to Aaron "This is what G-d spoke, 'I will be sanctified by those nearest to Me, and I will be honored before all the people.'" And Aaron was silent.
From here we understand that Nadav and Avihu were "those near to Me", they were at a very high spirtual plane. Hashem chose to be "sanctified" through them.
Rashi tells us that Aaron was rewarded for his silence. G-d handed down the mitzva (commandment) not to perform the Temple service while intoxicated, directly to Aaron. Aaron's acceptance of G-d's will in the most difficult and painful situation, earned him a divine communication.
Wine is symbolic of the deepest secrets of the Torah. To be intoxicated on this "wine" means to go to spiritual heights with the intention to lose yourself totally, to the extent that the soul leaves the body to become one with it's source, G-d.
Though this sounds idealistic and lofty, it is not what G-d wants of us. He wants us to reach spiritual heights for the purpose of returning with the spiritual power to infuse the physical world with G-dliness.
Wine is okay, drunk is not.
Aaron was all about the fusion of G-dliness into the physical. That is what a High Priest is all about, helping us reach spiritually higher so that we can, in turn, use our new found heights to make this world in to a home for G-d.
By being silent he demonstrated his acceptance of G-d's will. Recognizing his children's greatness, being able to attain such a high spirtual plane and yet realizing that this is not what G-d wants. And then accepting G-d's will.
We all suffer heartbreak and pain; accepting it as G-d's will, even and especially when it makes no sense at all, puts you on an exalted level, worthy of being G-d's conduit to lift and help others achieve higher heights and greater accomplishments.
I don't know why G-d makes us suffer, I wish He wouldn't. We accept the burden and pray for things to get better. However, this is His will and He surely has a good reason. All we can do is accept, and when we do we become His agent for positive change.
Adapted by Rabbi Yitzi Hurwitz, yitzihurwitz.blogspot.com
A Slap in the Face
by Rachel Graciela Mancusi
I grew up in Caracas, Venezuela, in a very warm family; I went to a secular school without any religious affiliation. While my mother is Jewish, my father is Catholic, and whatever religious rituals we did practiced in our home were Catholic.
As I grew and matured, my perception of G-d was changing. I came to understand that there is one G-d for the whole world and it was very disturbing for me to be expected to connect with something physical and calling it G-d.
When I was studying at the Central University of Venezuela I took upon myself to believe in the one G-d, and also to believe in myself. Although I consciously behaved in a manner that I thought G-d would want me to, I had no interest in studying anything to do with religion.
My time in college was amazing. I was studying in the best university in Venezuela, I was getting good marks in my classes, I had amazing friends - simply put, I was having the time of my life.
As the date of my graduation neared - my degree was in Actuarial Science - I started looking for a job. Soon I was hired by an insurance company.
A few days before I started my new job, my mom and I went shopping to buy me a piece of jewelry in recognition of this milestone. Little did I know that our innocent shopping trip was going to change my entire life.
When we had chosen a piece of jewelry and were about to pay, my mom noticed that the owner was wearing a Star of David necklace. "Are you Jewish?" my mother asked.
The owner was so excited to hear that we, too, are Jewish that she actually called her daughter to tell her that she had a customer who is Jewish. I was so confused; what was she so excited about? I just wanted her to give me my jewelry so I could leave.
A few minutes later, the woman's daughter arrived in the store, eager to meet my mother and me. Before we left the store, the daughter asked me, "Would you like to come to a Jewish retreat taking place soon outside of Caracas?" I was not really interested in attending and I was sure my mother would not think it was a good idea for me to go, especially since I was starting a new job. Figuring I would get out of it easily, I asked my mother what she thought. To my surprise, with a huge smile my mother said, Of course my love why not?"
Not only did I go to the retreat, but I brought with me my brother and two of my cousins. I felt like Christopher Columbus. I discovered a whole world that I had never known about before. For the first time in my life I heard about the Sabbath, kosher food, Jewish dress, Moshiach, and more.
I came back from the weekend "shell-shocked." I was certain that I could never do all of those things the people at the retreat had said G-d wants me to do. I decided not to even try, I'll stay with math better.
In my job at the insurance company, the colleagues I worked with most closely were a Muslim man and an evangelical Christian woman. My male colleague, though a very warm and kind person, would often say horrible things against Israel and the Jewish people when the media reported conflicts between Israel and her Arab neighbors. I felt very hurt by his words and I told him, "Excuse me! I'm Jewish!"
He looked at me and said, "I'm not talking against you, you are not a real Jew."
I didn't have anything to say. Even though I knew that I am a "real Jew" and 100% Jewish, at some level I felt he was right. I didn't know anything about my people at all. I started studying Jewish history and the history of Land of Israel. After that, every time that he said something against Israel or the Jewish people I had an answer for him. One afternoon at lunch, another conversation about the conflict in the Middle East came up and I was answering very confidently to my colleagues. In a very sincere way, my evangelical Christian woman colleague said, "Graciela, you know you're Jewish and it seems that you're not ashamed to be it, so why are you not doing anything about leading a Jewish life?"
That was the worst moral slap in the face that I had ever received. I resolved to learn about Judaism. I started studying every day and I became very excited about the Torah's approach to life. I started to keep kosher and Shabbat. It was a challenge but with a lot of work, and patience and support from my parents, we worked it out.
Over time I became fully observant, but I felt like something was missing. I wanted to develop a real relationship with G-d. At about that time I met a young woman my age who was also observant. Eventually she invited me to spend Shabbat at her Rebbetzin's home.
That Shabbat was the first time I came in contact with Chabad and my introduction to Chasidic teachings.
I fell in love with Chasidut. I learned that being a Jew is not about counting how many sins or how many mitzvot (commandments) I've done; its not about being scared of every move I make because G-d is going to punish me. It's not about doing mitzvot for a reward - material or spiritual. Chabad and Chassidut taught me that being a Jew is about truly connecting to G-d with every fiber of my body and soul. understanding that G-d gave me a mission that nobody else can accomplish but me and also to know that He gave me all the tools that I need to succeed. So whatever it is that I need to do, I have the power and ability to do it!
Last year I decide to study at Machon Chana Women's Yeshiva. I am trying to take advantage of every single day here to give myself the best opportunity for growth. I really have to say that this wouldn't be possible without my parents support.
From Rachel's speech at this year's annual Machon Chana Family Shabbaton. For more about Machon Chana visit MachonChanaYeshiva.com
Rabbi Ari and Mushkie Rubin have moved to RARA (Rural and Regional Australia) - Northern Queensland, Australia. They will be opening a Chabad House to serve the local Jews residing along the coast off the famous Great Barrier Reef, as well as the many tourists who flock to this beautiful part of the world. They will be based out of Cairns and Townsville. Rabbi Hillel and Sheina Shish will be arriving soon in St.-Maur-des-Fossés, France, a southeastern suburb of Paris. They will join the current emissaries at the Beth Habad, running youth and teen programs, including CTeen and Gan Israel day camp.
Nearly 1000 Jews from throughout Moldova gathered in Kishinev's Philharmonic Concert Hall for an evening honoring the work of Rabbi Zalman Abelsky, o.b.m. Moldova's chief rabbi until his passing two years ago. Rabbi Abelsky and his wife Rebbetzin Leah were the first permanent emissaries of the Rebbe sent to the former Soviet Union, arriving in Kishinev in 1989.
This letter was written to Irving Stone o.b.m. of the Jacob Saperstein Foundation
Rosh Chodesh Menachem-Av 5733 
Greeting and Blessing:
After not hearing from you for some time - though I have been receiving indirect regards through mutual friends - I was pleased to receive your letter of July 25th. I has-ten to reply, because of the obvious importance of the subject matter, which has to do with the problem of how best and most effectively to distribute funds from your Foundation to further Torah true Jewish education, and you ask for advice and guidance on the matter.
Permit me, therefore, first of all, to point out some of the pitfalls which have hampered such highly desired objectives on the part of similar foundations. For the avoidance of these pitfalls is the first step in meeting the urgent needs.
It has often happened, unfortunately, in various areas of philanthropy, that before actual distribution of funds is commenced, a preliminary and lengthy research or study program is initiated. While this approach is generally motivated by a desire to distribute funds more effectively, and may be commendable theoretically, the net result has all too often been to delay actual distribution of funds urgently needed immediately, quite apart from the fact that substantial funds have thus been diverted from their main pur-pose. In our day and age, considering the state of emergency prevailing in Torah Chinuch [education], the delay is even more deplorable than the diversion of funds.
A further point, which is also mentioned in your letter, is the prevalent policy of founda-tions not to touch the principal at any time, but to make distributions from income only. This policy, too, may be commendable in normal times, but in times of emergency such as now exists, I believe that a more flexible policy is clearly called for. Obviously, however substantial the income may be, it is only a fraction of the actual reserve; and where there is a case of life-saving, some of the reserves should also be brought into play.
I repeat, I fully appreciate that both guiding principles mentioned above, with which I take issue, are unquestionably businesslike and well-intentioned. But they are sound only in normal times.
The reality of the situation is, however, that we live in abnormal times, and the abnor-mality of the situation has two facets, one negative and one positive.
On the negative side, we see to our deep sorrow and dismay how a large and growing segment of our Jewish youth is utterly confused and alienated to such an extent that it is being written off in some quarters as a lost cause, G d forbid. Such a view is, of course, quite at variance with the Torah view, unequivocally expressed by our Sages of the Mishnah: "All Jews have a share in the World to Come, as it is written, but all your people are righteous. . . the work of My Hands." In other words, the eternal destiny of each and every Jew is assured by G d Himself, regardless of the present state in which the individual may be.
Fortunately, just as Divine Providence is in evidence in every thing, it is evidenced also in the fact that the negative side of the situation is compensated by the positive side of it. It is, that never before has there been a greater, more eager and honest desire on the part of our young generation to search for the truth, a desire matched by a determination and readiness to accept challenge and re-order the daily life accordingly - so long as they are convinced that they have found the truth.
The combination of the said two factors, the negative and the positive, makes it even more compelling to render the needed help immediately, without delay and in the maximum measure. There are numerous borderline cases, where it is a matter of touch or go, where every minute is of the essence: Reach out to them - and you save them; let go - and they may drift away beyond reach. For the forces pulling them in the wrong direction are many and tremendous; forces that "call darkness - light, and bitter - sweet," and many of our boys and girls are constantly exposed to them with maximum vulnerability and minimum defenses.
continued in next issue
The Talmud says, "Moshiach will come in the year after the seventh," an allusion to the Hakhel year. Why the Hakhel year? Moshiach will bring about the ingathering of the exiles. Every Jew will be brought to the Land of Israel. This assembly is at the core of the Redemption. Indeed, when enumerating Moshiach's activities, Maimonides mentions ingathering the exiles last, as the culmination of the redemptive process. The reward for involvement in Jewish unity this Hakhel year should be the Redemption and the end to the dispersion of exile!
(The Rebbe, Sichot Kodesh 5741)
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
When it comes to doing mitzvot, our natural inclination is to try to comprehend as much as we can about a particular precept. However, some mitzvot are accessible to the human mind, while others are not. Some of the Torah's commandments are completely beyond our understanding. These mitzvot are called chukim, the primary example of which is the mitzva of the red heifer, about which we read this week in the special Torah reading known as "parshat para." Even King Solomon, the wisest of all men, declared that this mitzva was beyond his ability to grasp.
Chasidic philosophy, rather than being "troubled" by these mitzvot, derives a very important lesson from them. We must strive, Chasidut teaches, to perform even the most seemingly rational mitzvot with the same sense of nullification before G-d and "acceptance of the yoke of heaven" as the ones that transcend the human intellect. We don't refrain from stealing or honor our parents because it makes sense to us; the only reason we do these mitzvot is because G-d has commanded us to observe them.
In truth, the entire Torah is "super-rational." G-d did us a favor and made it easier for us to perform certain mitzvot by "enclothing" them in logic, but a Jew's religious observance and indeed, his intrinsic connection to G-d relate to a much higher level. The bottom line is that we keep the Torah's commandments only to fulfill G-d's will.
The human mind is a wondrous creation. G-d wants us to use our minds to the best of our ability, as the mitzva to study Torah clearly demonstrates. But at the same time the mind is flexible, and the process of reasoning can sometimes lead to false conclusions.
Chasidut also explains that because logic itself is a creation, it is therefore limited. Only G-d is unlimited and eternal.
The mitzva of the red heifer thus raises our awareness of the fundamental "super-rational" basis of all of Judaism.
Moses said to Aaron, "Approach the altar and perform your sin offering... atoning for yourself and for the people... as the L-rd has commanded." (Lev. 9:7)
Rashi explains that Aaron hesitated to approach the altar because he felt bashful. Yet, G-d had chosen him for this honor and Aaron had been preparing for this G-d-given honor the entire week. However, as bashfulness is one of the three inherent traits of the Jewish people (the other two being mercifulness and kindness), Aaron was naturally bashful about assuming a position of greatness. As praiseworthy as the trait of bashfulness is, Aaron had to step up and serve as the emissary of the Jewish people in the Divine service of the Tabernacle, so Moses told him not to let his natural bashfulness get in the way. We, too, while cherishing the positive traits that we possess, must learn when to override these traits in order to perform G-d's will.
(Hitva'aduyot 5747, vol. 3)
Moses heard and it pleased him (Lev. 10:20)
According to Rashi, when Moses heard Aaron's reasoning, he acknowledged that it made more sense than his own, admitting that he had not received any instruction from G-d in the matter. The obvious lesson is never to be afraid to admit the truth, even if doing so may prove embarrassing. Moreover, we should admit the truth even if we might think that our social or religious standing obligates us not to. G-d Himself had appointed Moses as the transmitter of the Torah, and it was therefore paramount that the people truth his integrity. Moses was fully aware of this, and could have thought that any admittance of fallibility on his part might compromise his authority as G-d's messenger. But he correctly realized that, on the contrary, admitting his fallibility and demonstrating his readiness to bow before the truth would only enhance his repute and the people's respect of him.
(Sichot Kodesh, 5739, vol 2)
Adapted from the Synagogue Edition of the Kehot Chumash
In a small corner of the vast expanse of Russia there lived a Jewish innkeeper. In appearance, there was nothing special about him. He dressed like a peasant and spoke like a peasant. But this simple, earthy man was admired and respected by villagers all over his district. It was known to one and all that he was in reality a holy man, a miracle worker. Whomever he blessed, was sure that the blessing would be fulfilled.
So, after a time, the reputation of the innkeeper wonder-worker spread, until word of him reached the Rebbe of Apta, who then lived in Medzibuzh. The Rebbe became curious to meet this man and learn his secret. If the man was, indeed, as simple as they all said, then whence his mystical power?
The Apter Rebbe harnessed his horses and went to the tavern. When he arrived, he looked the tavern-keeper up and down, but could perceive no nuance of greatness in him. He studied his movements, but saw nothing remarkable in anything the innkeeper did. Finally, the Rebbe approached the man and questioned him, "Tell me, please, from where are your special powers? Why does Heaven grant all of Your blessings?"
The man smiled, and replied straightforwardly, "My powers come from my faith in G-d which is as strong as a mighty oak.
"Since my youth, I have always trusted in G-d, and no matter what ever happened to me I was always certain that it would be ultimately for the best, since it came from G-d. I never despaired and I always gave tzedaka (charity) generously, particularly when times were tough.
"As for guests, I have always kept an open house and treated passersby with the greatest hospitality."
The innkeeper paused and then continued. "One night, when I had a house full of guests, there came a knock at my door. It was a messenger from the poretz [landowner] saying that I was to appear before him at once or else he would have me thrown into prison.
"Now, I had a problem, for I had a lot of hungry people to feed. If I left at once, they would probably go to bed hungry.I stayed and took care of my guests, putting my trust in G-d that no harm would come to me.
"Only hours later, after my guests were comfortably in their rooms did I venture out to meet my landlord. When I arrived, he was brimming with goodwill; apparently he had had a change of heart. Not only didn't he throw me into jail, but he greeted me like an old friend. Everything worked out all right.
"Whenever I put my trust in G-d, I have nothing to worry about. Two years ago I lost all my money. I had no trouble maintaining my faith, but it was a different thing for my family. They were desperate and begged me to go and find a partner. They could see no other solution.
"This was against my own ideas. Why should I suddenly begin to rely on flesh and blood when all my life I had trusted only in G-d, and He had never let me down? In the end, I couldn't hold out against them, and so, I set out to find a business partner.
"I walked through the green countryside, bursting with G-d's goodness and bounty, red apples here, luscious grapes to the other side, contented cows grazing lazily, and I stopped in my tracks. My heart was almost bursting with my love of G-d, and my trust in Him had never been greater. Could not the One Who created all of the beautiful greenery and sustained it eternally also care for me and my little family? Why was I seeking out some human being to lift me up from all my troubles. I raised my eyes to the heavens and prayed, 'G-d, You are the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe, please grant my prayer. I have lost all my money, and I cannot operate my inn. My family tells me to get myself a partner, a mere mortal of flesh and blood. Why can't You become my partner? We'll split everything down the middle. Your half, I'll distribute to the poor, and my half, I'll use to support my family.
"No sooner had I finished, when I felt something in my pocket. I reached for it, and to my astonishment it was a silver coin of such value that I had never owned one like it. And I knew that G-d had accepted my proposition; we were partners, and this was the first profit.
"With this coin I replenished my stock and resumed my trade. When the first profits came in, I put one half aside for my 'partner' in a box which I keep behind the counter. I am scrupulously careful with these funds, even more so than with my own money. This is my whole story."
The Apter Rebbe, who had been listening with rapt attention, rose, thanked the tavern-keeper, and left. When he returned to his own shul in Medzibuzh he told the entire tale to his chasidim, and concluded "When one enters a partnership with G-d, and is completely honest in his business dealings, G-d enables him to perform wonders."
Para Aduma, the Red Heifer, is the aspect of repentance that involves cleansing a Jew of his sin and spiritual impurity, and binding him once again to his source in G-d. Immediately after the special reading concering the Red Heifer - which inspires Repentance - we read the special section for the new month, HaChodesh, that deals with the Rdemption of the Jewish people from the exile. For as Maimonides states, "When the Jews repent they will immediately be redeemed."
(Likutei Sichot, vol. 16)