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Did you ever notice what happens after you put bread outside for the birds? Within minutes there are a dozen or more birds of various shapes and kinds happily pecking at the pieces.
Where did the birds come from? How did they find out about the food? Just a few seconds ago all you saw was one little sparrow eyeing you warily! As more birds alight on your front garden to enjoy the edibles, you hear the chirping of birds on nearby trees. If you were King Solomon, who knew the language of all of the animals, you would understand what they are saying. But you are not King Solomon, and you can only guess that they are telling their friends about their find. They are sharing the good news of finding food.
The Talmud tells us that if the Torah had not been given, we could have learned important rules of behavior from animals. For instance, we can learn modesty from a cat, honesty from an ant, chastity from a dove, and good manners from a rooster. (Eiruvin 100b)
What can we learn from the common sparrow or pigeon? We can learn to share good things and good news.
If you're in a good mood, share a smile or an energetic hello. (As the Mishna teaches us, "Greet everyone with a pleasant face" and "Be the first to say 'hello.'")
When you find out about a great kosher restaurant (or simply that there is a kosher restaurant) in your area, pass the information around.
If you hear about a lecture, class or program at your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center, tell a friend and go together.
After you've finished reading an amazing Jewish book, lend it to someone else who will enjoy it.
Share a Shabbat dinner, a Passover Seder, some cheesecake on Shavuot.
Give "mishloach manot" - gifts of food presented to friends and acquaintances - on Purim (Saturday night, March 11 - Sunday evening, March 12 this year).
Though "misery loves company" and "a trouble shared is halved," call people to whom you normally complain and tell them about good news as well - when a problem has been solved or things are going well.
On the theme of sharing good news, the Rebbe suggested that we tell family and friends that the era of world peace and personal peace, prosperity, health and wisdom - the Redemption - is imminent. (The Rebbe went so far as to say that "This announcement must be made even by those who argue that they have not completely absorbed its full meaning!")
To help hasten the Redemption, spread a little goodness and kindness, as the Rebbe said, "Moshiach is ready to come, now. Our part is to add in acts of goodness and kindness."
And don't be worried that there's not enough to go around. The birds never do!
In this week's Torah portion, Teruma, we read how G-d tells Moses to ask the Jewish people to willingly bring as offerings 13 different materials. These materials will be transformed into the Mishkan, the traveling Sanctuary in the desert, that the Jewish people are commanded to make with the words, "They shall make Me a sanctuary and I will dwell in their midst."
While most of the vessels in the Mishkan were constructed from a combination of materials, two vessels - the Kaporet (the golden covering of the ark) and the Menora - were made from solid gold. Welding was forbidden, they were only to be hammered from solid chunks of gold.
What significance do these two hold? Why did they have to be made of one solid piece?
The Kaporet covered the ark. It was a rectangular plate that had two cherubim protruding from the top, one with the face of a girl and the other with the face of a boy. The Kaporet symbolized the relationship between G-d and the Jewish people. It was one solid piece because, though at times our relationship seems flimsy, we are in essence one and therefore symbolized by a single piece.
The Menora symbolized the relationship of the Jewish people to one another. The Menora had seven branches, suggesting unique qualities or differences. Yet like the Kaporet, it was from one solid piece, because at the core we are one. This core is the soul which, as is explained in Jewish mystical teachings, is truly a part of G-d. The more we are in tune with our soul, the more love we feel towards other Jewish people, because we all share a single essential core. Loving him is loving yourself.
The Kaporet and the Menora were both made of a single piece of pure gold to show how important these two ideas are. We need to implement both of these principles in our lives to accomplish our mission - to change the world into a Mishkan, a place where G-dīs presence can dwell openly.
First the Kaporet, being one with G-d, we can accomplish extraordinary things and we "can" change the world.
Second the Menora, recognizing that each of us has a unique mission, however we are all in this together. Being there for each other is necessary to accomplish our common goal. Loving each other is the catalyst for change.
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.
The Cholent Affair
by Richard Morris
I started my return to my Judaism when I was 43. Late, yes. Too late, no. I was a stand-up comedian with national TV talk show credits, steady major night club bookings and personal appearances at large arenas - opening the shows for some of the nation's top star music attractions of the day. But along with the excitement of being on a show business fast-track, I was fortunate enough to realize another fast-track I'd been on: losing my connection to my Judaism - and fast.
I grew up in a very Jewish, kosher home but my parents, my brother and I were never observant. And when I had the opportunity, by chance, to become aware of Jewish observance, it was a major culture shock. New practices, new rituals, new experiences....
But my most bizarre shul (synagogue) experience culminated one scorchingly hot July Shabbat day at a local synagogue at my first ever Shabbat lunch. Outside it was 105 degrees, inside it was about 112 degrees. My temperature, I'm glad to say, was a refreshing 98.6 degrees. I wasn't sweating yet, but I could sense that most of my internal organs and certainly my outer skin were beginning to conspire with each other to begin this process.
After services, we started the meal. We sanctified the wine (kiddush), by saying the proper blessing, we ritually washed our hands before the meal, sat down at the tables, sanctified the bread with the blessing, and started eating. And apparently it was this - eating process - that prompted the increased sweating. I began wondering if along with the blessings over the wine and the bread - could there be a proper blessing for sweat?
The room temperature soared with every slightest movement! Cold wine, cold salads, cold fish all teetered on the brink of spoiling even before each item would reach the table. And I actually thought I saw plastic forks melting! I started fanning my fork in a frantic cooling motion hoping the fork would keep its shape and continue to be indeed, a fork, and not just some warm glob of plastic. I know it might seem that I'm being rather subtle here, but I hope I've made my point: It was hot in that room!
And then came the songs in Hebrew. And not being able to speak Hebrew, these songs, I imagined, must have contained words describing how hot it was in that room! With every Hebrew lyric, I didn't need anyone to tell me what the song was about. I translated each lyric for myself: Oy, it's hot! Boy, it's hot! Ayayayaya, get me, please, a damp cloth! Then, as we clapped our hands in time to the music - I would purposely miss hitting my hands together - so I could get the full effect of the breeze!
I couldn't believe it. No air conditioner, no fan. People were delirious! And then one person got up and gave over a few words of Torah, very nice, but touching on the theme of how much time the Israelites had spent - in the desert! I was thinking, aren't there any passages in the Torah describing how the Israelites took a day off and went skiing?
But before I had a chance to bring up this point - and humiliate myself completely - someone from the kitchen came in and plopped-down, right in the center of the table, a giant silver bowl bellowing huge amounts of steam. Not unusual since everything in that room seemed to be bellowing huge amounts of steam! But this steam was different. This was definitely steam like opening the door of a sauna-bath in the middle of an ice rink. Big steam! Everyone gasped, "Wo," in unison. And I guessed wo was maybe the Chinese word - for steam! But in this context, I guessed wo might have also been the Hebrew word for steam. I had never seen anything like it. I glanced inside the bowl. It looked like a Bessemer Converter filled with beans, potatoes, onions, meat and, even though I didn't see any, I thought it must have contained the necessary main ingredient in a Bessemer Converter - iron-ore! I mean, it looked like everything that was a thing was in that steaming bowl. I looked forward to a good amount of - finished steel - coming forth from this concoction momentarily.
I looked at this smoldering bean-potato-meat mass, and the only thing I could assume was that everything on Shabbat was for a purpose. But what was the purpose of delivering a steaming cauldron of supposedly edible things to a lunch-table, on a blisteringly hot July summer's day? It looked like something they would serve in the middle of winter in nineteenth century Romania.
And that's exactly what it was. It was something called cholent: a mixture, a combination of everything I had mentioned above - except the iron-ore. The idea was that there should be enough cholent for everybody at the tables and for anybody who might drop by. It was a meal that started cooking on the stove before Shabbat started, without being stirred, and ladled out about 20 or so hours later at lunch.
Cholent! It was nourishing, it was good, and in far-off places, in the middle of winter - especially in frigid places to Jews - like Romania or Hungary or Poland, or Russia - where my grandparents and great-grandparents ate their cholent - it was life. Cholent went a long way. And even today, it goes a long way.
And I found out about cholent the hot way, in July, that all through the year there should be something hot to eat on Shabbat day when initiating cooking is not to be done. And I saw, and I learned that afternoon, that even on a swelteringly hot day in July, in a swelteringly hot room, I could be with fellow Jews, sing songs and eat bubblingly-hot cholent, and get a warm feeling inside - which I will always remember as being, if I may, quite cool.
Richard Morris is the author of the book Funny You Should Think About a Return to Judaism. He currently performs his entertaining outreach program Comedy and Coming Home at Chabad Centers, and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Nearly 2,000 teens, with their chabad rabbis and rebbetzins, converged on Crown Heights, Brooklyn, for the ninth annual international CTeen Shabbaton. The Shabbaton participants hail from all over the world including over 40 new CTeen chapters such as Munich, Rio de Janeiro and Moscow. A highlight of the Shabbaton each year has been a massive Saturday night Havdala and live concert in Times Square, New York city.
New Mikva in Nigeria
The very first mikva in all of Western Africa has recently been completed.The state-of-the-art mikva was dedicated last week with donors and women from surrounding areas, some traveling from Lagos and Ghana to participate in the gala event. Several attempts had been made in the past to build a Mikvah in the city, but due to the prohibitive costs of land and building permits, the project was delayed until last year, when construction began on the project.
7th of Adar, 5731 
I am in receipt of your letter of Rosh Chodesh Adar, containing the good news that things are progressing satisfactorily. I trust you received my acknowledgment of your previous correspondence. May G-d grant the fulfillment of your heart's desires for good, especially that you should go from strength to strength, as you write.
In reply to the two points which you raise in your letter:
Regarding Chasidus [Chasidic teachings], it is not correct to say that it is a "supplementary aid" to the proper fulfillment of the Mitzvoth [commandments], for it is that element which permeates the fulfillment of all the Mitzvoth. For example, it is possible to fulfill a Mitzvo without any Kavono [intention] whatever; it is possible to fulfill a Mitzvo with the general Kavono of fulfilling G-d's command; and it is possible to fulfill a Mitzvo with inspiration, enthusiasm and joy, as a deep-felt experience pervading one's entire being, although the Mitzvo is only a part of one's being.
By way of illustration: When taking chalo [a portion of dough separated and set aside from the rest], one can be permeated with a great joy and feeling of dedicating the first part of the dough, even before partaking from it, to Kedusho [holiness] although in our time it cannot be given to a Kohen [of the family of Aaron], and must therefore be burned.
At the same time, as explained in Chasidus (in Shaar Hayichud V'Haemunah), on the subject of the continuous renewal of Creation, one can realize that G-dliness is the actual reality of all things, except that it was G-d's Will that the spiritual should be hidden in a material frame. But the Jew, by the capacity of his intellect, Kavono, and knowledge, can reveal the spiritual through the predominance of form over matter, the spiritual over the material, the soul over the body, until he can see with the eyes of his intellect how the material is being constantly brought into existence as in the Six Days of Creation. Permeated with this knowledge, he realizes that the first of everything should be dedicated to G-d, and only then can he partake of all the things which G-d has given him.
In the light of the above, one can appreciate that Chasidus is not something supplementary, but the very soul of the Mitzvo, or, as you also mention it, creates a new dimension in the fulfillment of every Mitzvo.
In the above there is also a reply to those who claim that Chasidus looks askance on, or rejects, other Jews chas v'shalom [G-d forbid]. This is not so, for basically the Jew who fulfills a Mitzvo even without any Kavono, and even without knowing the original source of the commandment in the Torah, is nevertheless fulfilling the Mitzvo, and has to make a Brocho [blessing] and so forth. Similarly, the woman who does not know the Posuk [verse] in the Torah which speaks of Chalo, and knows nothing of the deeper significance of the Mitzvo, etc., is also fulfilling the Mitzvo. On the other hand, it is indeed a very great pity if one does not try to learn and understand the deeper aspects of the Mitzvoth. For very often even a minor detail in a Mitzvo has profound significance and implication, and even in a small piece of dough taken as Chalo, there can be hidden a profound world outlook.
With regard to your other question, whether when talking to a person who knows nothing about Torah and Mitzvoth, one should bring in Chasidus too, or only discuss the immediate matters - it is self-understood that if the person is capable of grasping the matter in the Chasidic way, there is the Mitzvo of "V'Ohavto L'Reacho Komocho," ("Love your fellow as yourself") to share a good thing with another person to the fullest extent.
On the other hand, if that person is not yet capable of grasping the inner aspects of the Mitzvoth as explained in Chasidus, one can only talk to that person in basic terms and according to that person's level of understanding.
This is what is meant by the verse, "instruct the lad according to his way," as explained at length by the Moreh Nevuchim [the "Guide for the Perplexed"], the true "guide" of all generations, namely the Rambam [Maimonides], in his Introduction to his Commentary on Mishnayos [the Mishna]. For, just as it is necessary to teach a child gradually, in accordance with his grasp and capacity, so it is necessary to teach adults who are "children" insofar as knowledge and understanding is concerned.
P.S. I trust that you have seen my talk to Jewish women on the subject of Chalo. No doubt it is available in the library of the Seminary.
Why is it customary to give charity before praying on weekdays?
To dispel whatever may hamper the acceptability of one's prayers, charity should be given before praying. Before praying Rabbi Eliezer would give a pauper a coin, in the spirit of the verse, "With tzedek - righteousness (like tzedaka - charity) shall I behold Your countenance." Also, by giving a poor person charity before prayer and thereby giving him life, one's prayers come alive.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This coming Tuesday, 9 Adar, is the anniversary of the Previous Rebbe's arrival in the United States.
In honor of this occasion, I would like to share with you an explanation of the Previous Rebbe on a point from this week's Torah portion.
In this week's portion, we read the verse, "Make Me a sanctuary and I will dwell within them." Why does G-d say He will dwell in "them" and not in "it"? Within them, as explained by Chasidic literature, means within every Jew. For, within the soul of every Jew is a place devoted and dedicated to G-dliness.
The Previous Rebbe explained: The site of the sanctuary remains sacred, even in times of exile and desolation. The Midrash says that the Divine Presence never departs from the Western Wall. The destruction of the Temple is limited to its building alone. This is true, too, of the personal sanctuary within every Jew. For, the foundation of every Jew is whole. Every form of spiritual desolation found in the Jewish people is only in those aspects of a person analogous to the part of the building above the foundation. The foundation of the individual sanctuary, however, remains in its holy state.
Expanding on this idea, the Rebbe spoke on numerous occasions about the need to turn our homes into mini-sanctuaries. This is accomplished by turning our homes into sanctuaries for Torah study, charity, and prayer. In addition, we would do well to fill the house with true Jewish furnishings - Jewish books and a charity box attached to a wall so that it becomes part of the actual structure.
Each family member, including children of all ages, can also participate by making their own rooms into mini-sanctuaries. Torah study, prayer, and charity can all be practiced in the mini-sanctuary, as well as other mitzvot.
Within every Jew, within each Jewish home, is that spark of G-dliness that remains totally indestructible. It is the sanctuary that G-d commanded us to make in this week's Torah portion. May we all merit to beautify and enhance our own personal sanctuary.
And they shall take for Me an offering (Ex. 25:2)
The word "offering" has two meanings: something set aside for a special purpose and that which is picked up and raised. An offering made to G-d achieves both of these objectives. Setting aside one's money to do a mitzva elevates the actual physical object that is bought with that money, transforming the material into holiness, as it says in Tanya: "G-d gives man corporeality in order to transform it into spirituality."
Of a talent of pure gold shall it be made (Ex. 25:39)
Man's purpose in life is to illuminate his surroundings with the light of Torah and mitzvot. This responsibility holds true no matter what the individual's circumstances or mood may be. The numerical equivalent of the Hebrew word for talent, "kikar," is 140--the same as the numerical equivalent of "mar" (bitter), and "ram" (lofty). No matter what our situation, our task remains the same.
(Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe)
Two and one-half cubits its length, and a cubit and a half its breadth, and a cubit and a half its height (Ex. 25:10)
The ark was measured in fractions, not whole numbers, teaching us that to achieve spiritual growth, one must first "break down" and shatter one's negative characteristics and bad habits.
(Sefer Hamamarim U'Kuntreisim)
And you shall make for Me a Sancutary so that I may dwell in them. (Ex. 25:8)
"In it" is not stated but rather "in them" - in every Jew. Every person must make himself into a sanctuary for G-d.
The seventh of Adar is the birthday and anniversary of passing of Moses
When the grateful Pharaoh invited the Hebrew relatives of Joseph to take up residence in the Land of Goshen, there was no way he could have known how prosperous they would become.
To the native Egyptians it seemed that there was no place void of their influence. Once the old king died, and Joseph, too, was forgotten, the question remained, how to rid Egyptian society from this Hebrew hoard.
The new Pharaoh developed a plan; enslave the Hebrews through heavy taxation and forced labor; that would surely stop their growth. But, though the Hebrews were forced to built cities, storage centers and other huge public projects, they continued to multiply at a frightening rate. If an enemy were to attack, these Hebrews would prove a formidable fifth column. When Pharaoh's astrologers predicted that a Hebrew man would eventually steal his throne, a new plan was set in place: cast the newborn boys into the Nile; allow only the girls to live and assimilate into Egyptian society.
The Hebrews were panic-stricken by the new edict. They tried every way to hide their children, but Pharaoh's soldiers had endless tricks to discover them. The soldiers would enter in pairs, carrying an Egyptian infant. One of the men would pinch the child and his wailing would bring a similar response from the Hebrew baby, who would be ripped from the arms of his weeping parents.
It was at this time that Yocheved, the wife of Amram (a grandson of Levi), gave birth to a baby boy. When their child was born they did everything possible to conceal him from the authorities, but after three months, Yocheved despaired of keeping the secret. She constructed a water-proof basket and tearfully set out for the river. She set her son amid the tall rushes that grew on the banks of the Nile and with a heavy heart, returned home alone. Yocheved had assigned her six year old daughter Miriam the duty of keeping watch over the tiny baby.
The hot Egyptian sun burned higher and higher in the sky. Suddenly, Miriam saw an entourage of maidens accompanying a woman to the river. As the aristocratic woman stepped into the water, the silence was broken by the wail of an infant. Batya, the daughter of Pharaoh had come to the Nile to bathe. She reached out her hand far into the river to retrieve the floating basket. As she removed the lid her eyes were assaulted by a blinding light. It seemed that the face of the tiny baby was shining. What could this be, she wondered, but she didn't think for too long. This was obviously a Hebrew child, and though she was aware of her father's action against the encroaching Jews, she had fallen in love with this beautiful child and in an instant, she decided to adopt him as her own. She called him Moshe because she drew him out of the water.
How ironic that the Hebrew destined to redeem his people from the Iron Cauldron of Egyptian slavery would be raised as royalty in Pharaoh's court, the king's adopted grandchild! Sitting with little Moses on his lap, Pharaoh felt no foreboding. His star-gazers had foretold that the usurper of the throne would die through water. Surely, his scheme of drowning the male infants succeeded.
Only on that one day when Moses had unexpectedly reached up and grabbed his crown did Pharaoh experience a moment of fear. The courtesans in attendance gasped, and the majority of his advisors said, "Death to the child!" But the lone, measured voice of Yitro prevailed. "All children are attracted to shiny objects," he declared. They set two bowls before the child: a bowl of burning coals and a bowl of glittering gold. Everyone looked to see which the child would choose. Moses, who would one day speak face to face with G-d, who would proclaim the Divine wisdom to the world, possessed an extraordinary intellect. He instinctively reached for the gold, but an angel intervened, and he picked up a burning coal and thrust it into his mouth. His shrieks of pain filled the hall! It was apparent for all to see that Moses was just a normal child and there was nothing to fear. Moses' speech was affected by his burned lips and tongue; but his words would convey a message that would shape the world.
When Moses became old enough to understand the plight of his fellow Hebrews, he displayed the traits which marked him as the prototype leader of his people. Leaving the palace, Moses would discard his royal robes and toil together with his brethren. When he dared to kill an Egyptian overseer who was persecuting a Jewish slave, he brought the wrath of his adopted grandfather upon his head and was forced to flee.
Moses' return to Egypt marked the beginning of the saga which eventually led to the Exodus. When Moses was eighty and his brother Aaron was eight-three they entered the palace to demand in the name of G-d, "Let My people go, that they may feast to Me in the desert." Pharaoh was unaccustomed to acceding to commands. After all, he was looked upon as a god who answered to no one but himself. Only with the giving of Torah on Sinai did the world discover the Master of the Universe also ruled the earth below. Ten bitter lessons would soon reveal this truth to Pharaoh and to all of Egypt.
The prophet Isaiah described six qualities with which the Messiah will be blessed: "G-d's spirit will rest upon him, (1) the spirit of wisdom and (2) understanding, (3) the spirit of counsel and (4) might, (5) the spirit of knowledge and (6) fear of G-d" (Isaiah 11:2). In all these qualities, the Messiah will excel all other human beings.
(The Real Messiah, Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, Moznaim Publishers)