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                         L'CHAIM - ISSUE # 1461
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             THE WEEKLY PUBLICATION FOR EVERY JEWISH PERSON
   Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.
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        February 24, 2017      Mishpatim         28 Shevat, 5777
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                           Just A Drop of Ink

                         by Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

I was checking the Mezuzahs at a business owned by members of the
community this week. We discovered an issue with one of the scrolls. The
form of a single letter was misshapen; there appeared to be a drop of
ink that had either run or dripped into the space of the letter
rendering it invalid.

We got to talking about the impact that just a drop of ink can have. I
recalled the passage in the Talmud where the sage warns the scribe how
careful he must be with the letters. "With one drop of ink one can
destroy the world." Seems a little hyperbolic?

The letters Daled and Reish are almost identical in form. The only
difference is a slight protrusion of ink off of the back of the top line
of the daled. It is as if a little yud sticks out of the back of the
daled, whereas the reish does not have that. What is a yud? A drop of
ink. Now picture a scribe writing the words of the Shema. The last word
of the line is Echad, ending in a daled. Imagine if a fly touched down
on the parchment at the exact spot and erased the ink of the little yud
(drop) on the back of the daled. We would then be left with a reish,
rendering the word as Acher (other) rather than Echad (one). We have now
transformed the meaning of the verse from a pivotal declaration of
Divine Unity, to a command to worship a foreign deity.

Let's explore this a little further and see what this all represents in
our personal character development. The words Daled and Reish have
similar meanings - poor and destitute. Kabbala explains that the
difference between the two is the drop of ink protruding from the back
of the daled. That drop of ink, the yud, represents humility (the yud
being the smallest letter of the Alef-bet). Let's view the poverty here
as spiritual poverty (poverty of knowledge, of character, of spiritual
sensitivity or of holiness). If so, the difference between the poor
Daled and the destitute Reish is humility. The daled (with the yud
protrusion) is humble and is therefore open to influence and change. The
reish (minus the yud) lacks humility and is therefore resistant to
influence and change. A full cup cannot accept any more liquid whereas
an empty one can.

Now we can begin to appreciate the power of just a drop of ink in the
literal sense as it relates to Mezuzahs, Tefillin and Torah scrolls, as
well in the figurative sense as it relates to personal growth. I
encourage all of us to have our ink inspected on both levels. (Chabad is
happy to help with any and all of the above.)

Rabbi Rivkin is program director at Chabad Lubavitch of Louisiana in New
Orleans. This article is from his blog.

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           LIVING WITH THE REBBE  -  THE WEEKLY TORAH PORTION
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This week's Torah portion, Mishpatim, follows the Torah portion of Yitro
that contains the greatest event in Jewish history, the revelation at
Sinai highlighted by the giving of the Ten Commandments. Mishpatim
closes with a review of the preparations the Jewish people made before
receiving the Torah at Sinai.  Sandwiched between the exciting retelling
of the giving of the Torah and the review of the preparations that
preceded it, many basic civil and business laws are detailed.

Why is it that right in middle of the most sublime, spiritual
experience, we have the most rudimentary, seemingly mundane laws?

We all yearn for a moving, spiritual experience. To be touched and
inspired. To rise above the mundane and soar, to experience a high and
experience the divine.

This sounds nice, but is it what we are all about?

Of course, we are meant to develop a relationship with G-d, but there is
something more that G-d wants of us.

By putting these laws in middle of the most sublime event, G-d is
telling us that there is something special, even sublime, about basic
laws.

Could being good, kind, honest and just, be spiritual? When you think of
these laws as rudimentary,  they are not so spiritual. However if you
see them as G-d's will, they take on a whole new meaning.

All of a sudden, the simplest things become meaningful. You are filled
with a sense of fulfillment, knowing that you are doing what G-d wants.
Inspiration can be found in kindness, honesty, and in acceptance of the
simplest Torah laws. Suddenly spirituality starts to be found in the
most unexpected places. The simplest act can be sublime, and holy.

I have found that the simplest things in life make the greatest impact.
For example, smiling at someone, can lift their spirits. An honest
compliment, can change the way a person sees him/herself. When you learn
to find joy in small things, there are always things to be joyous about.

Think of all the small things you can do to make a difference. Find joy
in small things. If you do, you will always have something to be happy
about.

           Adapted by Rabbi Yitzi Hurwitz from the teachings of the
            Rebbe, yitzihurwitz.blogspot.com. Rabbi Hurwitz, who is
       battling ALS, and his wife Dina, are emissaries of the Rebbe
                                                   in Temecula, Ca.

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                             SLICE OF LIFE
*********************************************************************
                        Without A Single Scratch
                           by Sarah Bendetsky


    As told by Victor Finkel o.b.m. to his grandson Rabbi Moishe Pesach
    Finkel and translated by Sarah Bendetsky

My zeyde often repeated these strange and frightening words: "the
Barsuki village", with his eyes closed...

This village is situated in the Kaluga region, in Mosalsky District, and
is known as the Death Valley.

It was the early February in 1942 when the Germans besieged the villages
Vyshnyee and Sitskoye cutting out all exits. Surrounded from all angles,
the divisions of the Soviet Army continued to fight. The Nazis were
strengthening their troops with new reserves.

With no ammunition and fuel, it was a life-threatening situation for the
Soviet soldiers. The regular bombings and firing resulted in a huge
number of wounded and casualties.

The remaining soldiers had nothing to eat except for the flesh of dead
horses.

When the commanding staff lost the last hope for help to arrive, a
decision was made to break the siege on their own. They hoped to attack
the Germans during the night by the Popolta River Valley to reunite with
the other divisions of the Soviet Army.

On that night, the Nazis illuminated everything around them with rockets
and fired point-blank from the submachine guns.

To imagine what was going on there without losing one's mind is next to
impossible.

A testimonial by the General-Lieutenant Y. S. Fokanov's wife states,
"... It was a living hell! Everything roared and rumbled due to
bombings. You couldn't see a thing ahead or next to you. The earth was
packed with the dead bodies of soldiers and in order to move, you had to
step on the carpet of corpses. It seemed that no one was going to come
out alive..."

But they had no choice and moved ahead. With snow up to their knees and
firing non-stop, the soldiers continued to break the siege. Most were
killed, with only a few individuals who made it to the forest.

Among them and by pure miracle, was my zeyde.

He was starving; on the way through the forest, he ate tree bark and
drank melted snow water.

Barely moving his legs, he somehow came out to a small river bank. He
kneeled and drank the ice-cold water. And then he heard, "Stop! Who's
out there? Hands up!"

It was a Soviet soldier holding a gun pointed at my grandfather. But my
zeyde couldn't believe his luck! Miraculously, he came out to territory
occupied by the 50th Soviet Army.

"It's me, your fellow Soviet soldier, please don't shoot! Take me to the
commanding staff..."

And so my zeyde was taken to an inquisitive Captain with distinct Jewish
appearance. For a long time he looked through my zeyde's documents and
then said:

"Victor Petrovich Finkel. A Jew. Born in 1922. Is that correct?

"Yes," my grandpa nodded.

"Have you studied in a Jewish religious school before the war?"

"I did."

"Can you read Hebrew?"

"Yes, I can."

"Prove it right now," said the Captain taking out a Siddur, a Jewish
prayer book.

My grandpa opened the siddur and read, "Shma Yisroel, Hashem Eloy'keinu
Hashem Echod! Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God, the Lord is one!"

The commander closed the prayer book and said in a quivering voice:

"Victor Petrovich! Please take no offence... The place is filled with
German saboteurs! How did you manage to come out alive? Almost everyone
died in Barsuki and you don't have a single scratch! It's nothing less
than a miracle! You will eat now; we have pasta for lunch. But I ask you
to eat very slowly; otherwise, you can die from all the starvation
you've experienced. Remember, eat slowly... Now, go."

... Years later, my zeyde used to say on many occasions:

"I have no idea who helped me to get out. I don't know how to orientate
in the forest. Left and right, people were shot point-blank. My own
commander lied in the snow and begged me to shoot him... And the Nazis
kept on firing, killing us, the living skeletons... They succeeded to
kill almost all of us. And I am the lucky exception because someone just
took me out... Someone from the other world... Back then, I didn't
understand that. I wasn't a believer. But now, I shiver each time the
memories of that hell come back to torture me...

I was taken out by the invisible guards who came to rescue me so that
your father, you and your sister would be able to live..."

                   From Sarah Mendetsky's blog, Baggage of Thoughts

*********************************************************************
                               WHAT'S NEW
*********************************************************************
                             New Emissaries

Rabbi Aryeh and Mushka Laufer recently established the Chabad House of
Northern Rhode Island in Lincoln, Rhode Island. The new Chabad House's
activities includes classes and Shabbat and holiday events, as well as
visits to homes and businesses.


Rabbi Menachem and Bassie Sabbach have arrived in New Caledonia,
Southwest Pacific. Located in Nouméa, the capital and largest city,
their goal is to help Jewish residents and tourists connect to their
Jewish heritage.


Rabbi Uri and Devorah Leah Medina will be arriving shortly in Rhodes,
Greece, to open a Chabad Center in the city that has more than 150,000
Israelis visiting annually. During their "trial" run in Rhodes,  the
Medinas received dozens of phone calls each day from tourists who were
looking for kosher food in the city that has a Jewish quarter dating
back to the first centuary.

*********************************************************************
                            THE REBBE WRITES
*********************************************************************
                     18th of Cheshvan, 5723 [1962]

...In addition to my letter of yesterday's date, which was confined to a
purely scientific discussion, it is this second letter which will
express my real approach to you, the Torah approach of one Jew to
another.

It is surely unnecessary to emphasize to you that the basic principle of
the Jewish way of life is "Know Him in all your ways." This principle
has been enunciated in the Talmud, Early and Late Responsa, until it has
been formulated as a psak-din [legal ruling] the Shulchan Aruch (Orach
Chayim, sec. 231). It is there explained that it is the life's mission
of every Jew to acknowledge G-d even in the simplest pursuits of the
daily life, such as eating, drinking, etc. How much more does this apply
to the mere essential aspects of one's life, especially in the case of
one who has been endowed with special qualifications, knowledge and
distinction, etc., all of which place him in a position of influence.
These are gifts of Divine Providence, which the Jew is duty-bound to
consecrate to the service of G-d, to disseminate G-dliness through the
Torah and Mitzvoth [commandments] to the utmost of his ability, in
compliance of the commandments and - the great principle of our Torah.
And since, according to the Torah view, everything in the world is
ordered and measured and nothing is superfluous, the duty and Zechus
[merit] of every Jew are commensurate with his capacities and
opportunities.

I have only seen you briefly, but I have formed some impressions, which
have been augmented by your book, the only one I have been able to
obtain so far, and by what I have heard about you and your station in
the academic world and otherwise. I have no doubt that you have unusual
opportunities to disseminate the Torah and Mitzvoth among wide circles
of Jewish scientists, students and laymen.

In recent years, especially in the U.S.A., we have witnessed two
tendencies among Jewish youth, striving in opposite directions. On the
one hand there has been an intensified quest for the Truth, a yearning
for closer identification with our people and our eternal values. At the
other extreme, the pull of assimilation, intermarriage, etc. has been
gaining, too. Aside from the colleges and universities in a few major
cities, the situation in campuses in regard to Kashrus [kosher],
Shabbos, etc. is too painful to contemplate not to mention the
widespread confusion and misconceptions in respect of the most basic
tenets of our faith.

If the first of the above mentioned tendencies were to be stimulated and
fully utilized at this auspicious time, the chances are very good that
it would gain momentum and grow wider, and in time also deeper. If, as
our Sages say, to save one soul is to save a whole world, how much more
so to save so many lost Jewish souls.

I want to express to you my fervent hope - and, if necessary, my urgent
appeal also - that you put the whole weight of your prestige as a
leading scientist behind a resolute effort in the cause of the Torah and
Mitzvoth. I am informed that you have been elected as this year's
President of the organization of Jewish orthodox scientists. You could
set the pace for the entire organization, individually and collectively,
to follow your example, and set in motion a "chain reaction."

I will conclude with a well-known saying of the Baal Shem Tov, which I
frequently heard from my father-in-law of saintly memory: "G-d sends
down to earth a soul, which is truly a part of G-dliness, to sojourn,
embodied, for seventy-eighty years on this earth, in order to render a
favor to another Jew, materially or spiritually." If a single favor
justifies a whole earth bound life, how great is the Zechus of a
consistent effort to help a fellow-Jew, and many of them, to find their
true way, the way of the Torah and Mitzvoth in their day-to-day living.

May G-d grant that your words coming from the heart will penetrate the
many hearts which are ready and eager to respond, and may G-d grant you
success in this as in all your other endeavors for yourself and your
family.

With blessing,

*********************************************************************
                              ALL TOGETHER
*********************************************************************
           Are there any special law concerning "table-talk"?

We are enjoined to discuss matters relating to the Torah at every meal.
In fact, the Mishna states that if three people eat together at a meal
and don't discuss Torah thoughts, it is as if they ate of idolatrous
sacrifices. However, if they discuss Torah, it is as if they have eaten
at G-d's table. (Ethics 3:3) We are instructed, thoough, not to speak
while actually eating, since one might choke by doing this. (Code of
Jewish Law).

*********************************************************************
                        A WORD FROM THE DIRECTOR
                         Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
*********************************************************************
This Shabbat is the first of four weeks when we read a special Torah
portion following the Torah reading. The special portion for this week,
"Shekalim," deals with the command to every Jew to contribute half a
shekel toward the building of the Sanctuary in the desert.

This half-shekel was not only a tax but served the additional purpose of
being an atonement for the sin of the "golden calf." After hearing the
command from G-d, Moses was perplexed as to how it was possible for a
half-shekel to atone for such a horrendous sin.

The requirement to give half of a coin, indeed, had significant meaning.
It signified to each Jew who gave - and every Jew did give - that G-d
and the Jewish people are one whole. We are not, as mathematicians might
think, two separate entities that join together - one plus one equals
two. Rather, we are a half and G-d, as it were, is a half. It is only
when the two halves are added up that there is one, unified, complete,
whole individual.

In addition, there is a more "down-to-earth" implication to this analogy
of a half-shekel. Each Jew, as we mentioned before, is a half. Only when
one Jew joins together with another Jew - another half - does either Jew
become whole. Whether the mitzva of charity, Torah study, visiting the
sick, hospitality, or numerous other mitzvot, it is only through
connecting with another Jew that we become whole.

*********************************************************************
                          THOUGHTS THAT COUNT
*********************************************************************
And these are the ordinances which you shall set before them (Ex. 21:1)

This section of the Torah comes immediately after the Revelation on
Mount Sinai and the giving of the Ten Commandments. Yet what is
enumerated here are not lofty principles pertaining to the relationship
between G-d and man; they are very concrete laws governing man's
relationship with his fellow man. We learn from this the lesson that
"good manners are a prerequisite to Torah." Rabbi Mendel of Kotsk used
to say: The same way that a book's preface informs the reader of the
book's contents, a person's courtesy and manners indicate just how much
Torah learning he has acquired.

                                *  *  *


Six years shall he serve, and in the seventh he shall go free (Ex. 21:2)

"Six years" symbolizes the six thousand years of the world's existence;
"shall he serve" refers to our mission to learn Torah and perform
mitzvot; "in the seventh" refers to the seventh millennium, when "he
shall go free," when the Messianic Era shall reign on earth and
G-dliness will no longer be hidden but revealed.

                                                (Lubavitcher Rebbe)

                                *  *  *


For all manner of transgression...of which he can say, "this is it" (Ex.
22:80)

Pride is the root of all transgression. The essence of sin is when a
person says of himself - "this is it" - "I am the most important thing
in the whole world!"

                                         (Rabbi Yisrael of Modzitz)

*********************************************************************
                            IT ONCE HAPPENED
*********************************************************************
Reb Yerucham was never much of a breadwinner. Instead, he devoted all
his time to Torah-study and prayer while his wife, Leah went to the
marketplace to conduct business. She would make small purchases which
she would in turn, sell to her neighbors at a small profit. The
arrangement worked well, for although they never had much, they both
felt very privileged to be able to serve G-d by devoting themselves to
His Torah.

In the winter, though, when the roads were blocked with snow and ice,
and the farmers couldn't make it into the market, Leah didn't fare so
well. She was forced to sustain her family on the few coins she had
managed to squirrel away during the previous months. Every time she had
to dip into her meager "capital" her heart fell. When only a few pennies
remained, she decided it was time to go to her husband. "Yerucham, what
are we going to do? How are we going to feed our children?"

Reb Yerucham lifted his eyes from his tome and replied, "Have faith. Our
Heavenly Father has never forsaken us before, and will not forsake us
now..."

"What good is faith on an empty stomach!" the poor woman said bitterly.
"I can't bear to see my children starving! What am I to say to them when
they cry for bread tomorrow morning?"

"Don't worry now - till tomorrow morning there is ample time for G-d to
provide for our needs. Put your trust in Him, Leah; He won't forsake
us." Poor Leah left the room very troubled, but a little comforted by
her husband's assurances.

Reb Yerucham went outside, and as he was about to come back in, he
spotted something lying in the mud. He picked it up and brought it into
the house. He washed it, and sure enough, it was a silver coin!

Now, his wife would be happy and they would be able to manage a little
longer. But then another thought passed through his mind, "If G-d had
wanted to send them sustenance, couldn't He find a better way than
throwing him a muddy coin? No, He doesn't want me to accept it this way;
He is only testing our faith in Him."

So Yerucham decided that in the morning he would put the coin into the
tzedaka (charity) box. Yerucham became so engrossed in his study that he
was startled by his wife's cry of joy when she spied the silver coin on
his table. "Don't get too excited; it's not ours!" he said quickly.

"What do you mean?"

"I have already donated it to charity."

Looking into his wife's shocked eyes which were already filling the
tears, he continued explaining, "Imagine if I were to give you a present
and throw it into the garbage heap, saying, 'Go pick it up, dear.' You
wouldn't want it anymore. Well, I believe that G-d has sent this coin to
us as a test of our faith in His readiness to provide for us. Be strong
in your faith, and you will see that I'll be proven right."

Leah walked out of the room, shaking her head. She knew that her husband
was a scholar and a saintly man, but there was not one morsel of food in
the house. Meanwhile Reb Yerucham sat by the light of a candle studying
into the wee hours.

Late that night two tired merchants were travelling through one of the
persistent snow storms that had enclosed the little hamlet. Exhausted,
they saw a faint glimmer of a candle in the pitch, black darkness. They
knocked on Reb Yerucham's door asking for accommodation. He agreed, but
very apologetically, since he had very little to offer them. The men
were just happy to have a place to sleep. They spread out their
bountiful food supplies on the table and invited their hosts to join
them in a feast fit for a king.

During the meal, the conversation took a scholarly turn and the
merchants saw that their host was no country bumpkin, but a very learned
and wise man. One of the merchants turned to his companion and said,
"Why should we trouble ourselves to travel all the way to Lemberg to
mediate our dispute when we have a great scholar right here."

"Yes, I agree," said the second, and he proceeded to explain.

"We are not only partners, but also close friends, but we have a
disagreement which we want to present before a great rabbi. We were
about to continue to Lemberg, but we feel that you are a person very
qualified to judge the problem, and G-d has brought us to your door. We
will be happy to pay you the same amount we would have paid the Rabbi of
Lemberg."

Reb Yerucham didn't usually involve himself in judgements or
arbitrations, but under the circumstances, since the two men were so
anxious to settle in a peaceful fashion, he agreed to take up their
case.

The following morning, Yerucham and his guests made their way to the
synagogue for the morning prayers. Yerucham slipped the silver coin into
the charity box, thanking G-d for not forsaking him and his family in
their hour of need, and sending him generous sustenance in an honorable
and worthy manner.

*********************************************************************
                            MOSHIACH MATTERS
*********************************************************************
We are currently in the last days of Exile, when "Behold, he stands
behind our wall, watching from the windows, peering in from the cracks."
That is, the wall of Exile has already cracked, and our righteous
Moshiach stands and "peers in from the cracks," (the cracks of the wall
of Exile)...Certainly then, at this time one should make every effort to
behave in a way of love of a fellow Jew and unwarranted love. Through
love of a fellow we will merit the Redemption.

                                   (The Rebbe, 11 Nissan 5742-1982)

*********************************************************************
              END OF TEXT - L'CHAIM 1461 - Mishpatim 5777
*********************************************************************

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