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Devarim Deutronomy

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L'Chaim
May 20, 2016 - 12 Iyyar, 5776

1422: Emor

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  1421: Kedoshim1423: Behar  

24/7/365  |  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

24/7/365

by Rabbi Israel Rubin

Service providers and merchandisers take pride in advertising that they are 24/7/365. This impressive array of numbers demonstrating reliability and availability consistency and continuity also reflects our society's round the clock addiction to technology an endless vicious cycle that keeps us going round and round without any respite stop or pause as our hours days weeks and years turn into one long run-on-sentence so that when it actually comes down to it this amazing combination of numbers may all add up to one big zero.

Obviously, we need a break! We can't go on and on like this much longer, so let's slow down a bit.

Modern man is so wired up with all kinds of gizmos and contraptions, constantly walking and talking into thin air. Wirelessly tethered to a constant barrage of data streaming in from the office, news, "social" media, and whatever makes him virtual prisoners (no wonder they're called "cell phones").

We need Shabbat (the Sabbath)! Once a week, that 25-hour rest period from Friday evening sunset to Saturday nightfall is an oasis in time. Shabbat tunes out the cacophony of chimes, incoming and outgoing pingles and jingles, dial tones, busy signals and the static of computers. Instead, Shabbat tunes us in to the sweetest heavenly melodies.

Technological advances have certainly alleviated many of the menial chores and burdens of our ancestors who labored and toiled back in the shtetls or in the sweatshops. But ironically, we suffer today more from anxiety and hyperten-sion than did our predecessors. Shabbat prevents technology's cutting edge from ripping us to shreds, from enslaving and dominating our spiritual freedom.

People rush to the ends of the earth to find exotic vacation getaways, while Shabbat gets us away from it all without the hassles of airline tickets, airports and security clearance. Instead of seeking elusive peace elsewhere, Shabbat comes to us right in the comfort of our own home, at a fraction of the cost!

We already have our personal days, sick days, and vacation days. Shabbat, however, is not just a break from the daily grind and routine; it offers much more than leisure time to hang around and do nothing. The etymological root of "vacation," from the Latin vactus, means emptiness, a blank. Indeed, empty vacations can become so tiring that one needs a vacation from vacation!

Rather than being a day off, Shabbat is actually a day up! The soul of the week, Shabbat infuses spirituality into every part of our being, also illuminating the materialism of the rest of the week. Without Shabbat, we are a body without a soul. Shabbat is our date with G-d, so let's concentrate on our date!

Shabbat gives us quality time with ourselves, our families and our friends. Shabbat is an uplifting and inspirational day of Light, when we can see our soul and purpose. The liberating Shabbat experience returns us to the next week more inspired, newly refreshed, and above all, feeling free!

Shabbat not only transforms our here and now, it also goes above and beyond. The flickering Shabbat candlelights reflect the greater vision and promise of Moshiach, for Shabbat is a foretaste and preview of the world to come, which will be "the full and everlasting Shabbat." Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Rubin is director of Chabad of the Capital District, Albany, NY.

Living with the Rebbe

In this week's Torah portion, Emor, we read about the care of newborn animals. "When an ox, a sheep, or a goat are born, for seven days it should remain under its mother's care, from the eighth day and on it will be acceptable as a sacrifice to G-d."

Later, in the same paragraph, the Torah commands us, "And you should not desecrate My Holy Name, that I may be sanctified amongst the children of Israel...".

What could possibly be the connection that brings these two laws together?

On a deeper level the newborn animals are symbolic of our emotions that our intellect, the mother, gives birth to. Rather than allow your emotions free reign, "Seven days it should remain under its mother's care." Allow your mind time to develop the emotion before expressing it.

This is especially important to remember in situations that are out of our control, meaning that they are clearly and directly from G-d. Especially when it is impossible to make sense of. Here we need to let our thought process the notion that G-d knows what and why He does these things. Our job is to find a way to sanctify G-d through these events, so that it changes us in a positive way.


This Sunday is Pesach Sheini (the "second" Passover). If one was impure or far away when the Passover sacrifice was to be brought, he was supposed to bring it on Pesach Sheini, a month later.

A unique aspect of this mitzva (commandment) is that the Torah tells us how it came to be. "There were people that were impure... They came before Moses... Why should we lose out?... " Another unique thing is that the Jews only asked for this dispensation if they were impure, which was through no fault of their own. However, G-d added that if the individual is far, which is understood to mean a minimal distance, this too can be made up on Pesach Sheini.

What is the lesson from these two oddities, the story behind the mitzva and the addition of being far which is not really far at all?

There is the possibility to be close and far at the same time - near in distance yet detached and distant in attitude. Being here in body and elsewhere in mind, for example when praying, you are saying the words but your mind is wandering. G-d wants us to be close to Him, to love Him and yet, it is possible to be so close and totally ignore Him. To this G-d is saying, "I still want you to be close to Me, try again, do it better." Only like the people in the story of Pesach Sheini, you need to really want it. If you do, it will always be possible to get close to G-d.

At home too, our family yearns for our love and closeness. While we might be with them physically, they often feel ignored because our attention is not focused on them. How do we observe Pesach Sheini today? By realizing what you are missing out on and truly wanting to change. When it comes to family, know that they yearn for connection and will welcome your love. Don't give up on the best thing you have.

by Rabbi Yitzi Hurwitz, yitzihurwitz.blogspot.com


A Slice of Life

First Steps
by Noah Dinerstein

When I took my first step I was 10 months old. My dad was there holding me up. At six years old, he put his hands on mine as I gripped the handle bars of my two-wheeler, and guided me up and down the street for hours until he finally let go and I rode that Huffy on my own.

A few years later I was big enough that he trusted me to shift when he dramatically announced "2nd!" VROOM "3rd!" At 16 he trained me for my driving test that I passed. And when I was 18 he helped me pack and walked me to my dorm, hugged me in the parking lot, squeezing as tight as I had squeezed the handlebars on my Huffy, and we cried. He was there for every first that ever mattered in my life.

Every first except one: My first steps onto the path of Torah Judaism.

Neither my dad nor my mom were there for my first dive into the Orthodox Jewish pool. It was a phase to them. Like Pogs. When I came back from my Israel trip I talked about the trip. Whoa did I talk about the trip. "Mom did you know about all the laws of kosher? And Passover? We've never cleaned the house before! Whoa SHABBOS! We should do Shabbos!....like this week! Why not? on Friday nights we eat dinner anyway... all we have to do is turn off the TV and phone and music and it's actually pretty sweet and feels great. SHAVUOT! I never learned about Shavuot in Hebrew School! We studied Gemara all night - wait! - I didn't tell you about Gemara. Its like Jewish Law School! Dad you would love it! I feel smarter!

At first, sitting at the kitchen counter, my mom's face was one of pride and astonishment. She called her best friend Lisa and put the phone on speaker and said to me "C'mon say all those things about what you learned on your trip again!" I didn't think anything of it. OF COURSE she was excited. She had always been upset that Zack and I would choose basketball over Bar Mitzva practice. Or the epic fight we had (which she won) over going to my Hebrew school confirmation or to my school dance. So, yeah, she was pumped. My dad too. Until.....Well...Until I started actually doing it.

It had been two years since that homecoming. Two years of working in Boston and being a pretty successful young hotelier. Two years of slow learning, Shabbat meals from time to time, flexing my "Kosher-style" muscle, and so on. But none of it was in your face. I could party on a Friday night if I wanted. MacDonald was still cool. My parents still found ways to uncomfortably deny the tropical storm headed towards the east coast. Until it was upgraded to a hurricane. Hurricane Tzitzit.

I stuffed those tzitzit into my pants like tuna into a can. I didn't want them to fall out. That sunny day in spring it took one string to break loose and then so did all hell. One string showed out of the back of my Levi's and we were off. It was as if our family was in a competitive breath holding competition for two years and someone came along and smacked them all on the back at the same time.

Things were said. It's not a nice memory. It was brought to a climactic movie-worthy halt when I exclaimed with a shaking, stuttering, yelp, "I've decided. I'm going to yeshiva!" Silence. Crying. Silence. Explaining. Crying. Silence.

They tried to talk me out of it. I went anyway. They didn't pay for anything relating to yeshiva. They wrote letters to the rabbis about brainwashing. They called me. I called them. We talked. But not really. We entered a tough world of never saying enough and always saying too much. Never knowing when to swing or take a pitch. Never hitting or folding. Never giving in or giving up. Stalemate.

This is not about any of that though. It is about how my parents were at my Orthodox Jewish wedding. How my mom planned half of it with my wife's mom. How my parents met this young, beautiful, authentic girl who grew up observant and came from a family of bearded rabbis and they loved her. And her family.

It's about when my dad looked me in the eye this past Friday evening and said he was thankful to me for bringing Shabbat into the house he built. This is about my father taking pride in taping up the refrigerator lights before Shabbat so I wouldn't come to accidentally break rules he didn't even abide by.

Its about my mom calling one of the rabbis she had previously, aggressively questioned, but now was calling on to explain exactly what it would take to make her entire kitchen kosher in a town that hadn't seen a kosher kitchen since Nana's time. About checking labels looking for a semblance of a kosher symbol so they could just give their baby boy some balsamic vinegar dressing that he loves so much! Its about how my parents go to the Chabad House that opened in their town on their own volition! My mom offers to get the Rebbetzin's Sheitel (wig) styled! What is a SHEITAL?! How my dad learns new concepts from the Chabad rabbi and calls me to discuss. About the prominent moment my brother and I shared when he took a day off of work to accompany me to a 12-hour Jewish meditation seminar and hashtag emotional things went down!

This is really about how instead of thinking of all the ways my lifestyle limits our relationship, my parents and brother adapted to make sure it expanded our relationship. This is about the letter I found in my dressing room at the wedding hall where my mom, pen probably shaking in hand, dug down to the deepest most delicate place in her heart, and confessed that I was always destined for this life and she couldn't be more proud. My parents and I have never been closer and my mom tells me that she can't wait until we host them at our table for Shabbat.

My father wasn't there for my first steps of return to our beautiful, rich heritage but he was there for my most important. He walked me to my bride. When the sea of bodies parted and I saw her, I was like a laser beam of Divine connection eliciting the most powerful and spiritual experience of my life. I broke down. The arm around mine was my father's, who picked me up and was giddy with so much joy for his son. He taught me how to walk all over again.


What's New

Living Lessons

Living Lessons Pirkei Avot is packed with real-life lessons. This beautifully illustrated book for youth on Pirkei Avot - Ethics of the Fathers, includes a unique commentary blended into the English translation, meaningful stories connected to the teachings of the Mishna, short biographies on the Sages quoted, how the Mishnas relate to our lives, and more. Living Lessons Publishers.

Inner World of Jewish Prayer

At times prayer is as primitive and raw as a cry for help, and at times, a formulaic intended to effect change - but always - flowing from a place deep within, and forever with a hope for a better future. While author Rabbi Dovber Pinson pays attention to the poetry, history, theology and contextual meaning of the prayers, the intention of this work is to provide a guide to finding meaning and effecting transformation through our prayer experience. Iyyun Publishing.


The Rebbe Writes

This letter was written in 1964

Greeting and Blessing:

I am in receipt of your letter, and of the preceding one. For certain reasons, I am replying in English, though your letters were written in Hebrew.

With your indulgence, I must begin with some prefatory remarks which run the risk of being a little repetitious, as I believe I touched on the subject during our meeting. However, there are words which must be said even at the risk of repetition, rather than be left unsaid altogether.

I am referring to the concluding lines of your letter, where you mention various schools of thought in Judaism, and speak of philosophy, psychology and various conceptual approaches in general....

The essential purpose of my writing to you is the attempt to clear up what is, to me, a puzzling thing: It is many months since we had our personal encounter, yet it seems that the discussion we had at that time, and my subsequent effort to help you find yourself, so to speak, have so far been fruitless. However, inasmuch as the reasons that impelled me to take up our discussion in the first place still obtain, and have perhaps grown even stronger than before, I must restate my views even at the risk of some repetition:

1) There may be valid differences of opinion among men as to what activity or interest in the daily life should have primacy over others. But this may be justified only in normal circumstances. When an emergency arises, however, all theoretical differences must be put aside in order to deal with the emergency. To illustrate my point: It is one thing to debate what type of house - if it caught fire - is worth saving, or by what method, and by whom. It is quite another thing when one is actually facing a burning house with people trapped within - the elderly, the young, and children. At such a time there can be no difference of opinion as to the imperative need to fight the blaze and save those who are trapped. This is the duty of everyone who is nearby, even if he is not a trained firefighter, and even if those trapped inside the burning house are strangers. The obligation is immeasurably greater, of course, if those inside are one's own relatives, and especially if one has had experience and become proficient in firefighting activities.

2) Where a doubt exists as to what is good for an individual, or a group, or a nation, it is sometimes quite illuminating to consider what the enemy would desire; especially if the enemy has made persistent efforts to attain his end. For then it would be clear what precisely the opposite of what the enemy desires must be good for that individual, group, or nation.

In our generation, we have seen with our very eyes what the archenemies of our people - Hitler and his followers - desired, plotted, and unfortunately succeeded to a considerable degree in achieving, in regard to our people. He made no secret of his fiendish plan. His avowed intention was to exterminate the Jewish people and, above all, to eradicate the Jewish spirit. Therefore, his first victims were the Jewish books and synagogues, spiritual leaders, and rabbis.

There are several methods by means of which our enemies hope to attain our annihilation, G-d forbid. To Hitler's twisted mind the obvious method was simply to send Jewish men, women, and children to the gas chambers and crematoria. But the method of spiritual cremation, involving not the Jewish body, but the Jewish soul - through assimilation intermarriage, etc. - is no less devastating.

The crematoria where Jewish bodies were incinerated are a thing of the unforgettable, horrible past. By the grace of the A-mighty, these butchers were stopped before their work of destruction reached its ultimate goal. But the spiritual crematoria where Jewish souls are being consumed are, to our great distress, still ablaze, and burning more fiercely than ever. The House of Israel is on fire, and the younger generation, as things now stand, is largely trapped. You are surely not unaware of the "dry" statistics of intermarriage and assimilation in this country, and of the fact that the situation is similar in other countries. The subject is too painful to contemplate, and much more so to write about at length.

In a sense, the danger of "spiritual crematoria" is graver than that of actual physical genocide; for the heinousness of the latter can be understood without too much philosophical inquiry, while in regard to spiritual extermination, there are certain groups which do not recognize this as a calamity, and some of these groups even welcome it in the name of "freedom," "equality," "integration," and other misconceived "ideals."

continued in next issue


All Together

Hakhel - gathering together with others in this post-Sabbatical year - is something everyone can get involved in. If one has already gathered his relatives, friends and neighbors, there are more acquaintances to affect. One such acquaintance can even be himself. Hakhel is also introspective, as he "gathers" lessons learned from others, in consonance with the famous Mishna, "Who is wise? He who learns from everyone."

(Sichat Simchat Torah 5748, derher.org)


A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

Lag B'Omer, the 33rd day of the Omer (coinciding with May 26 this year), is a festive holiday marking the passing of the famed Sage Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, known as the Rashbi.

During the time of Roman persecution, Rashbi and his son Rabbi Elazar, were forced to spend 13 years in hiding. During that time, he and his son lived in a cave under extremely dire conditions.

When it was safe for Rashbi to emerge from the cave, one of the first things he discussed with the local people he encountered was whether or not there was something he could do to help them.

This anecdote provides a lesson for us in our daily lives. Rashbi suffered physically during his 13 years in hiding. But, rather than concern himself with his own needs or at least take some time to rest and recuperate after his ordeal, he immediately set about helping his fellow Jew.

That Rashbi had reached a certain level of self-perfection during his years of solitude was not enough for him. For the ultimate goal had not been reached-the coming of Moshiach and the revelation of G-dliness throughout the world. And because this had not been accomplished, there was still more to do and to achieve. Thus, Rashbi was determined to continue with selfless dedication to helping the entire Jewish people.

Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai authored the Zohar, the basic book of the mystical Jewish teachings. It states in the Zohar that with the revelation if its teachings "the Jewish people will go out of exile with mercy." May we all learn well and live by Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai's example, thereby hastening the coming of Moshiach, now.

Thoughts that Count

You shall count for yourselves, from the morrow of the Shabbat, from the day on which you bring the raised omer - seven complete weeks shall there be. Until the morrow of the seventh week, you shall count fifty days. (Lev. 23:15-16)

One of the Chasidic masters explained the significance of Sefirat HaOmer - the daily counting of the days and weeks from Passover to Shavuot commanded by the Torah - with the following parable: A person finds a chest full of gold coins, takes it home, and then proceeds to count them. His counting has no effect on the actual number of coins in his possession: he now has no more and no less than he had before he counted them. But counting them makes them real to him; he can now digest the significance of his find and deliberate how to make use of it. On the first day of Passover, we were granted the entire "treasure chest." The moment of the Exodus - the moment of our birth as a people - encapsulated within it our entire history. Then, on the following day, began the count: the process of examining our gifts, quantifying and itemizing them, translating them into the resources of our daily lives.

(meaningfullife.com)


That I may be sanctified among the Israelites (Lev. 22:32) The most flagrant desecration of God's Name is the exile, during which the world is bereaved of the Holy Temple and its spiritual radiance. The existential nature of exile is the concealment of Godliness in the straightjacket of natural cause and effect; exile thus gives the world the impression that God is powerless to overcome the forces of nature and history. In this context, the grandest sanctification of God's Name will occur in the messianic era.

(Likutei Sichot Vol. 27/Kehot Chumash)


In booths you shall dwell seven days (Lev. 23:42)

Why does the Torah use the plural booths instead of booth? Because the verse contains a double meaning: A person who observes the commandment of suka in this world merits to observe it in the World to Come - in the suka that will be made from the skin of the Leviathan.

(Nachalat Tzvi)


It Once Happened

In the last years of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, there lived a woman named Ima Shalom "the Wise." She was born into a family of scholars descended from Hillel and was related both by marriage and birth to the greatest Sages of her time.

Once, a Roman nobleman visited Ima Sholom and began to ridicule the Jewish religion. He said to her: "I have read the account of your G-d's creation of Eve. I really wonder how you Jews can believe in a G-d who is no more than a thief."

Feigning anger, Ima Shalom replied: "I am going to the Roman consul to seek justice. Do you know, last night a thief entered my house and stole all my silver cups and bowls and left vessels of gold in their place!"

The Roman laughed, "You certainly can't call him a thief - he is a friend."

"That's true, " replied Ima Shalom. "And it is the same with G-d, who took a single rib from Adam's body and left in its place a wonderful and valuable gift. Adam received a good, beautiful wife to be a comfort and helpmate and to save him from loneliness."

But the Roman still objected to her argument. "Why, then," he countered, "did your G-d first put Adam to sleep and then steal from him like a thief in the night?"

Ima Shalom called her servant and instructed him to fetch a piece of raw meat from the butcher shop in the market place. She then took the meat, seasoned it and cooked it while the Roman looked on. When it was well-cooked, she served him a portion and invited him to eat. He refused, saying, "I have no appetite for the food you have prepared, since I recall how disgusting it looked just a little while ago when it was raw."

Said Ima Shalom, "Do you think Adam would have been pleased to receive Eve if he had been able to see her being created from his own rib?" The Roman had to agree that Ima Shalom had bested him in the dispute.


Long ago in the Land of Israel in the city of Sichon, lived a wealthy Jew and his wife. They lived together in perfect happiness, loving each other with a rare perfect love. The only sadness in their life was that they had not been blessed with children, and their great house was empty of the ringing laughter of little ones.

One day, a dark shadow eclipsed their happiness. Their tenth year of marriage passed and yet they had no children. In those days the practice followed was that such a couple divorced and remained in order that they might be fortunate and have children to perpetuate their name. But the husband had no desire to send his wife away, although he felt obligated to do so. He could never love a second wife no matter how many children she might bare him.

One of the greatest rabbis of the day, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, was visiting the town of Sidon during that year, and the unhappy couple went to him to ask his advice. In his wisdom, he knew that this couple shouldn't be divorced, but instead of telling them this directly, he presented them with an unusual plan.

"Your marriage was celebrated with wonderful feast. Now, although you must part, why don't you give another banquet in honor of the happiness you shared all these years."

The couple found his advice strange, but they returned home and set about preparing an elaborate feast.

They invited their many friends and acquaintances, who marvelled at this strange paradoxical celebration. The tables were laid with great splendor, glittering with sparkling crystal and vessels of precious metals. The guests were regaled with the first meats, rarest wine and the most exquisite entertainment. At their parting each guest received a precious gift as a moments of the occasion.


Moshiach Matters

If G-d commands us to do something, it is because spiritually, He has "obligated" Himself to do the same thing. This principle applies to all commandments and it surely applies to the fundamental commandment of Kiddush Hashem - sanctifying G-d's Name. Thus, commencing the Messianic Era is obligatory, so to speak, on His part. We must constantly "remind" G-d of His obligation, both by demanding tthat He redeem us immediately and by reorienting our own consciousness away from the mentality of exile and toward the mentality of redemption.

(The Rebbe, Hitvatduyot 5745)


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