Feeling Free | 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
Father's Day cards fall into a few categories. There are the sweet and sentimental ones with the soft-touch drawing on the front and then there are the humorous or tongue-in-cheek cards that seem to be written especially for your dad. Some cards talk about Dad always being there, making things right, listening and caring. Others extoll Dad's virtues and then ask for the car keys, or a few extra dollars.
G-d is often referred to in our prayers as Our Father. Just like your dad, G-d is interested and even involved in the most mundane and seemingly insignificant parts of your life. He can be approached by every Jew, no matter where, no matter when. And He can and should be approached for any of the things you might ask your flesh-and-blood father for: some money for a new car, extra assistance on the final exam, a listening ear, or forgiveness, to name a few.
"I can get by with a little help from my friends," some people say. "I don't believe in asking G-d for what I need." That sounds nice. Sort of like you don't want to bother G-d with your "trivialities." But did you know that it is a mitzva to ask G-d for our needs? To pray that the refrigerator doesn't break down because you can't afford a new one right now. To ask G-d to heal a sick friend. To request success on that presentation you have to make next week.
Asking your dad for something you need - and his being able to help out - gives him pleasure. Similarly, asking G-d for what we need - and His giving it to us - gives Him "pleasure."
There are times, too, that in order to get our dad's attention we have to respectfully demand that he put down the newspaper or turn off the T.V. and LISTEN. "Listen to our voice, merciful Father, have compassion on us, accept our prayers; do not turn us away empty-handed for You hear everyone's prayers."
G-d hears our prayers, He listens to our requests, He registers our complaints. But does that mean that things always go the way we want them to? Not necessarily! Did your father always give you the car keys, or let you go to every party you were invited to, or always lend you the money you asked him for? Sometimes yes, and sometimes no.
When you got a yes, you probably never asked him why. But the no always needed an explanation.
Why a no? Sometimes, what you were asking for wasn't right. You knew it and he knew it, but you had to ask anyway. Sometimes it wasn't right, but just Dad knew it; and later, looking back, you realized Dad had made the correct decision. And sometimes, for some inexplicable reason, Dad said no without explaining himself, and you just had to accept it. This is true, too, of our Heavenly Father. Sometimes, He accedes to our requests and at other times He denies them, for He truly knows what is best for us.
There is one request, however, which we know is correct and which we have a right to demand G-d listen to. It is the plea for Moshiach, who will help the world achieve the purpose for which it was created, an era of peace, prosperity and the pursuit of G-dliness.
Father, hear our prayer, we want Moshiach NOW!
- (Back to text) Paraphrase of one of the 19 blessings that we say in the Amida prayer recited three times each weekday.
"It came to pass on the day that Moses had finished setting up the Sanctuary..." As we read in this week's Torah portion, Nasso, after the Jewish people had finished constructing all of the Sanctuary's different components, they brought them to Moses so that he could erect it. For the massive wooden planks were just too heavy; even working together, the Jews were unable to build the Sanctuary by themselves.
Recognizing the dilemma, Moses asked G-d how human beings could be expected to perform such a difficult task. G-d told him to put his hand on the enormous boards; they rose by themselves, and the Sanctuary was erected in a miraculous manner. But why was it necessary for G-d to perform a miracle?
According to historians it was the Jewish slaves who built the pyramids in Egypt. Indeed, the Torah tells us, "And they built treasure cities for Pharaoh, Pitom and Raamses." Each individual stone of the pyramids weighed several tons, yet, as depicted in ancient hieroglyphics and paintings, the slaves nonetheless managed to drag these tremendous weights and build the colossal edifices that continue to exist till this very day.
The wooden planks of the Sanctuary weighed far less than these stones. Why then did the Jewish people find it impossible to lift them? Why was it necessary for the Sanctuary to be erected by means of a miracle?
The answer lies in the fact that the pyramids were built by slave labor, by "avodat perach" (back-breaking, rigorous work). The only reason the Jewish slaves were able to move the stones was because Pharaoh compelled them to.
The Jewish people had no choice; they obeyed Pharaoh's commands out of fear. This fear motivated them to tie themselves together with rope (as seen in the paintings) and perform the seemingly superhuman feat.
Building the Sanctuary involved a different type of work entirely. The Sanctuary was to be built willingly, with joy in being able to execute G-d's command. But the wooden planks proved to be too heavy for the Jews to lift.
G-d didn't want the Sanctuary to be built out of a sense of compulsion. Its building was a happy event, not a sorrowful one. He therefore made a miracle to express this concept, and the Sanctuary was erected with a feeling of true freedom and liberation.
So it is in the creating of our own individual "Sanctuaries" - the performance of G-d's commandments. Observing G-d's commandments should never be considered "back-breaking labor"; rather, we carry out G-d's command willingly, joyfully, and with the full assistance of the Holy One, blessed be He.
Adapted from a talk of the Rebbe, 5745
by Rabbi Tzvi Lipchik
Daniel Rockowitz grew up happily in a typical secular Jewish family in Miami, Florida. The expectations of where his life would head were the norm: College. Graduate School. Advanced degree in Philosophy. But everything changed when Daniel went on a Birthright trip to Israel after graduating college. What was intended to be simply an enjoyable venture to Israel ended up being a life-changing experience. "I became exposed to a kind of Judaism that was completely foreign to me. Experiencing Jewish orthodoxy was amazing." Learning first-hand about the depth of Judaism created in him a thirst to find out more.
Daniel returned to Miami and studied in Yeshiva Torah Ohr before visiting Crown Heights and being introduced to Hadar Hatorah Yeshiva. Daniel enjoyed the classes he attended there and decided to transfer to Hadar Hatorah last summer.
Today, the highlights of Daniel's day are the Talmud class with Hadar HaTorah dean Rabbi Yaakov Goldberg, his one-on-one study sessions of Chasidic texts with Rabbi Yirmi Mehlman, Wednesday afternoons teaching Jewish public school kids as part of the Released Time Program and helping Jewish boys and men put on Tefilin during his Friday afternoon free-time. Eventually, Daniel sees himself pursuing a career in teaching, perhaps Jewish Medieval philosophy.
Recently, Daniel's father came for the annual Hadar HaTorah Parents Weekend, an opportunity for his father to learn more about Chabad and for both father and son to come to a deeper understanding of each other. "It was a wonderful experience," says Daniel. "Hadar Hatorah is a special place, the Rebbe's place."
Yosef Niezhnov attended a Jewish school in Dnieper, Ukraine. He went to University and graduated with a degree in Biology. Jewish practice was limited to one or two trips a year to synagogue where someone would help him put on tefillin.
When some of the young men his age who he met in the synagogue kept calling him, inviting him to visit the synagogue more often, he stopped to think. "The guys seem like very intelligent, normal guys. Maybe they are on to something." He began to grow in his observance and eventually decided to attend yeshiva. It was recommended for him to attend Hadar Hatorah.
Yosef was planning anyway to lead a group of children from Ukraine to spend the High Holidays with the Chabad-Lubavtich community in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. After the group returned to Ukraine, Yosef entered yeshiva.
In addition to enjoying his studies of Jewish law, Talmud and Chumash, Yosef is involved in reaching out to his fellow Jews in Brighton Beach. Brighton Beach is a predominantly Jewish Russian neighborhood in Brooklyn. Yosef feels that his Russian language skills and common culture help him to connect with the Jews he meets.
Recently, he met an elderly Jewish man who complained to him that all religious Jews are uneducated and lazy. When Yosef explained that he has a degree in biology from one the finest schools in Ukraine, the man declared that if such a well-educated person believes in G-d, then he would surely put on tefillin, and he did!
Yosef explains that, "Different people come through yeshiva, each having their own background and story how they got here. Some only arrive here after a lifetime of struggles. The rabbis are genuinely welcoming and happy to see everyone. The atmosphere in class is that everyone is accepted"
Dovid Chaim Hoffman had, in his words, "a secular Zionist upbringing." Although he grew up in a home where his family proudly supported Israel, he did not receive a strong Jewish education. His lack of Jewish education led him to explore other faiths. He read Christian texts, the Koran and even went to India to study Hinduism under a guru. But It wasn't until last year when he traveled to Stockholm, Sweden on a business trip and attended a lecture on the rise of anti-semitism in Europe, that he decided to re-examine his own religion.
"I felt ashamed," said Hoffman. "It seemed that to not acknowledge my Jewish identity was to neglect my people, my family."
Soon after the business trip Hoffman had a dream he was putting on tefillin. He awoke from the dream in a panic, searching his whole house for his tefillin. After finding the tefillin, he decided to have them checked to make sure they were kosher, since he hadn't worn them in years. This search led him to the nearest Chabad emissary, Rabbi Yitzchak Hecht, of Kingston, New York.
He got his tefillin checked and then began learning with Rabbi Hecht. But it wasn't until he discovered Hadar Hatorah, which had spent part of the summer program in the Catskill Mountains, that Hoffman's life took an amazing turn.
Hoffman studied with the yeshiva, prayed with them and then joined the yeshiva for a ten-day Taste of Yeshiva program back at their year-round home this past winter. Since then, he comes to study at Hadar Hatorah whenever he can, working and living now in Crown Heights. "It's been incredible," said Hoffman.
Yosef Geller contributed to this article. For more info about Hadar HaTorah call 718-735-0250 or visit hadarhatorah.org
Good Deed Awards
At a time when the headlines focus on the sadness and cruelty of the world, business, government and community leaders come together each year in Long Island to honor and thank outstanding teenagers for their good deeds, kindness and generous demeanor as positive role models. The Annual Good Deed Awards for Long Island Teenagers was founded in 1992 by Rabbi Anchelle Perl, director Chabad of Mineola, New York. This year 32 Long Island teens were honored.
New Mikva in Rhinebeck
The Jewish communities of Rhinebeck and the surrounding towns in Duchess County, New York, celebrated the historic opening of a new Mikva. The new Mei Rechel Mikva will service the growing group of families committed to this fundamental mitzva.
25th of Iyar, 5735 (1975)
Greeting and Blessing:
I am in receipt of your letter. I must confess that I hesitated whether or not to reply to the letter, not being certain whether the question was prompted by genuine desire to ascertain the truth, or, as it unfortunately happens too often, it might be a case where the inquirer hopes that his query will remain unanswered and thus lend support to his preconception.
As you see, I decided to place you b'chezkas kashrus [an assumption of propriety], especially in view of your references to primary sources, which attest to a positive link with our Torah. Furthermore, the name...... is in most cases identified with the Chasam Sofer.
I was also influenced by the fact that you are, as you write, a Professor of Law, which is a further indication of being a person who upholds the truth in accordance with the tenets of the Law.
Now for the question itself, quoting your letter, "How can a human civilized person today accept the Biblical commandment to wipe out the entire nation of Amalek," etc., including infants, etc.?
It is surely unnecessary to point out to you that in any kind of dialogue there must be some common ground, i.e. some mutually accepted premises, upon which the discussion can be based. In the present instance I assume that we both accept the said commandment as being part of Torah min haShomayim (Torah from Heaven). In other words, the Commander of this commandment is not a human being like you and me, but a Divine Being with all that it implies in terms of omniscience, etc. Actually, this precaution is superfluous, for the question itself rests on its Divine origin and validity for all posterity; if it were limited in time and circumstances the question would have no place ex nihilo.
A second point, which is implicit in your question, is that the original war with Amalek which gave rise to the said commandment, in itself presents no problem. It was clearly a defensive war in response to an unprovoked attack, as the Torah states: "And Amalek came and made war on Israel in Refidim," etc. (Exod. 17:8) and, again, "...who surprised you on the way," etc. (Deut. 25:18). Here was an obvious case of self-defense, or, to quote the Talmudic rule, "Whoever comes to kill you, kill him first."
Assuming, as we did, that we are speaking of a Divine commandment, we must also assume that G-d is no less clairvoyant than any human being - if there is such a human being. To put it more boldly: if we should accept, as some scientists have asserted, that were it possible to feed into a computer all the data of the universe, it could accurately predict the state of the world at any given moment in the future - we would surely have to credit the Creator with no less competence.
Now, if such a legendary computer were possible, it could correctly foresee how a newborn child would behave in adulthood, and whether that child would grow up to be harmless, useful or destructive to the society.
In light of the above, the reason behind the said commandment becomes apparent. G-d, Who is all knowing (more than any computer could be), foresaw what the seed of Amalek would develop into. Hence He commanded that on seeing an Amalekite, even an Amalekite infant, we must "remember what Amalek did onto you," remembering also, as it is immediately emphasized in the Biblical text, why: Amalek had not been threatened in any way, had not been provoked, stood to gain little from a nomad people in the desert in the way of booty. Yet he viciously attacked this peaceful people, pouncing on them suddenly, without warning, giving them no chance to defend themselves, taking advantage of their being "tired and weary." Such a barbaric people, and this kind of inhuman behavior, has no place in human society, the Torah tells us, and must therefore be exterminated without a trace. Let me emphasize again: We are not dealing here with a suspicion or apprehension, however well founded, but with an absolute certainty, for we have established that G-d's prescience infinitely surpasses the most perfect computer imaginable.
continued in next issue
Hakhel is "gather the people, the men and the women and the children." If each category was said separately, it would indicate a state of division and argument; and such a state cannot produce anything that is "good." But when it states "gather the people, the men and the women and the children," it indicates that there is no division or argument, for they are all one congregation. Of course, this gathering must be done according to Torah, as in the time of the Holy Temple, when men and women were in seperate areas. Only then is it a true "gathering," and only then will there truly be no divisions. (Not as some people mistakenly believe that such an arrangement divides the people.)
(The Rebbe, 10 Kislev, 1980)
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
In the Torah portion of Naso, we read that "all teruma (elevated gifts) that the Jewish people present as sacred offerings to the priest shall become his property." Some commentators define these gifts as acts of charity
In the Talmud, our Sages tell us that by giving charity - tzedaka - we bring the Redemption closer. In addition, it also states, "Israel [the Jewish People] will not be redeemed except through tzedaka."
Chasidic philosophy gives us some insight into why tzedaka is of such importance in relation to the Redemption.
Rabbi Shneur Zalman, in his basic book of Chabad Chasidic philosophy, explains that tzedaka elevates the world more than any other mitzva.
Charity liberates the innermost forces of the soul and releases us from our personal exile, thereby effecting the release from our national exile.
Jewish teachings explain that in our daily lives -- our interaction with others, our performance of mitzvot, etc. -- we strive to imitate G-d.
The revelation of Moshiach, the Messianic Era, and the Resurrection of the Dead at the time of the Redemption, are the greatest forms of tzedaka, whereby the G-dly light will be revealed.
Tzedaka, according to Chasidut, is the vessel to contain these revelations. Metaphorically speaking, tzedaka is the wick which captures the flame of this G-dly light.
In addition to helping others through our giving of charity, thereby ultimately helping ourselves, we also help the Divine Presence, which accompanies us throughout this long, dark exile.
Jewish mystical teachings explain that tzedaka uplifts and "lessens the pain" of the Divine Presence which also suffers in exile.
May we have the ultimate act of charity by G-d, the commencement of the Redemption NOW!
You shall take a count (lit. "Lift the heads") of the sons of Gershon (Num. 4:22)
The "head symbolizes the brain and our higher faculties, which we use to learn and understand G-d's wisdom. The Torah tells us to "lift our heads" - to constantly strive to learn more and more, for by doing so we will simultaneously "lift up" the rest of the "body," those commandments we perform with our other limbs.
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)
And every man's holy things shall be his. Whatever he gives the priest shall belong to him (Num. 5:10)
Someone once asked the fabulously wealthy Rothschild from Frankfurt exactly how much he was worth. Rothschild responded by quoting the verse, "And every man's holy things shall be his." "The only riches a person can count as truly belonging to him," he said, "are those he has used for good and holy purposes, such as giving charity and supporting Torah institutions. No one can take these away. The same cannot be said, however, for the rest of one's fortune..."
(Fun Unzer Alten Otzar)
They shall confess their sin... and he shall made restitution (Num. 5:7)
The commandment of confessing the sin is in the plural, but making restitution is in the singular form. This, unfortunately, is the way of the world. To confess with our lips, to enumerate our sins, everyone is willing to do. But, when it actually comes to doing something concrete about our sins - to make restitution - not everyone jumps at the opportunity. The plural becomes singular.
The L-rd bless you and keep you (Num. 6:24)
The Priestly blessing is said in the singular because it is primarily the blessing of unity that the Jews need.
Because the service of the Sanctuary belonged to them; they were to bear it upon their shoulders (Num. 7:9)
Worshipping G-d properly is hard work, requiring much effort and "elbow grease." The perfection of G-dly service does not just happen by itself. "If one says, 'I have not toiled, yet I have succeeded' - do not believe him."
(Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk)
Rebbetzin Freida, the daughter of the Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidism, was an erudite and pious woman. She was especially dear to her father and he would frequently deliver Chasidic discourses just for her. Chasidim attribute a certain unsigned letter that contained the deepest, most profound thoughts to Rebbetzin Freida. So great was her knowledge and so close was she to her father that when her brother, Reb Dov Ber (later to become the successor of his father, Rabbi Shneur Zalman), had a question he would often ask her for an explanation or to approach their father for the answer. On numerous occasions, the Rebbetzin would ask her father questions and receive these answers while her brother hid under the bed in the room to hear the explanations, as well.
On one such occasion, Reb Dov Ber asked Rebbetzin Freida to inquire of their father as to the spiritual significance of the special garments that the Kohanim (priests) wore while they served in the Holy Temple. Rebbetzin Freida acquiesced to her brother's request. As Reb Dov Ber was accustomed to do, he hid under the bed in the room where Rabbi Shneur Zalman was explaining to his daughter the deepest and most esoteric ramifications of each garment. For some reason, Rabbi Shneur Zalman did not describe or even mention the belt that the Kohanim wore.
Reb Dov Ber, hiding under the bed, managed to attract his sister's attention by waving his own belt slightly, thereby hinting that she should ask her father the significance of the belt. When Rebbetzin Freida asked her father to expound on the belt, Rabbi Shneur Zalman called out, "This question is surely from my son who is hiding here and he must leave the room immediately." Reb Dov Ber came out of his hiding place and left the room.
What took place here? Obviously Reb Dov Ber knew that he was not able to fool his father, nor did he intend to do so. Why, then, did he have to receive these particular Chasidic teachings in this unusual manner? The answer lies in the concept that certain teachings are intended for souls from the "feminine world" and therefore had to be delivered to or through a woman, while other teachings are intended for souls from the "masculine world" and must be delivered to or through a man. If a man has an unquenchable desire to study Torah that is intended for a soul from the feminine world, or a woman has an unquenchable desire to study Torah from the masculine world, through persistence, the person creates within his or her soul the capability of connecting with this type of Torah.
Rebbetzin Freida was not a healthy woman physically, and after her father passed away she became even weaker. When she felt that her strength was ebbing and her final day on this earth was approaching, she called a few Chasidim together and asked that after her passing they bring her to Haditch and bury her to the right of her father.
The Chasidim did not know what to do as Jewish custom dictates that men and women are not buried next to each other.
A few days later Rebbetzin Freida called the Chasidim once again. They found her lying on her bed fully dressed. She asked that they encircle her bed. She then began to say the prayer, "My G-d, the soul which You have given within me is pure. You have created it, You have formed it, You have breathed it into me, and You preserve it within me." When she came to the words "And you will eventually take it from me..." she raised her hands into the air and cried out, "Father, wait! I am coming!" And she passed on.
The Chasidim understood that the request of a person who passed away in this manner must be upheld. But still, they were uncomfortable.
On their way to the cemetery, they reached a fork in the road, one way leading to Krementzug and the other way to Haditch. They decided to let go of the horses' reins and bury her where they would lead. The horses went to Haditch.
Rebbetzin Freida was buried, as she had requested, immediately next to her father, Rabbi Shneur Zalman.
"I set up prophets from your sons and Nazirites from your young men" (Amos 2:11). This verse relates to the time of the redemption. At that time, there will be Nazirites who will attain the ultimate holiness, above and beyond that of earlier times. With the coming of Moshiach, Naziriteship will not be for the sake of simply separating from worldly matters, because these will then no longer impact negatively upon us. For in the Messianic era, "good things will be abundant and all delightful things accessible like dust, and the singular preoccupation of the entire world will be to know G-d."
(Living with Moshiach, Rabbi Dr. Immanuel Schochet)