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                         L'CHAIM - ISSUE # 1479
                           Copyright (c) 2017
                 Lubavitch Youth Organization - L.Y.O.
                              Brooklyn, NY
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   Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.
        July 7, 2017             Balak            13 Tamuz, 5777

                      Reflections on Independence

Not only is the red, white and blue of the American flag a fine symbol
of patriotism, it also symbolizes the freedom and independence for which
the Founding Fathers of the United States fought so tirelessly over two
hundred years ago.

If you questioned a cross-section of people on how they define freedom,
you would undoubtedly get a wide range of answers. Freedom to a typical
teenager is totally different from the "freedom" of a parent whose
children have all left home. And neither of these definitions will have
much in common with freedom as defined by someone who emigrated from the
former Soviet Union when it was still a communist country.

In Ethics of the Fathers Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi discusses how one can
become a truly free person: through studying the Torah. He quotes the
verse: "The Tablets [with the Ten Commandments] were the word of G-d,
and the writing was the writing of G-d engraved ('charut') on the
Tablets." Says Rabbi Yehoshua, "Do not read 'charut' but 'cheirut'
('freedom'), for there is no free person except one who occupies himself
with the study of Torah."

"What?" one might ask incredulously. "How can you call a 'religious' Jew
who learns and lives Torah free? Isn't he anything but free? His life is
filled with so many do's and don'ts. "And," the person adds in a
whisper, almost conspiratorially, "aren't rules made to be broken? No,"
such a person might conclude, shaking his head emphatically, "true
freedom means being able to do whatever you want whenever you want."

A cursory look each day at the front page of any newspaper or a glance
at a network news program will quickly highlight the fallacy of such
statements. For we are living in times when rules are constantly broken,
where people do whatever they want, whenever they want. And we are
anything but free.

Before we enter our car to return home each night from work, we check
the back seat. We buckle up to save ourselves as much from a fluke
accident as from drunk or drug-crazed drivers. We reset the car alarm
upon arriving home and open the door that has been double-or
triple-locked. This is freedom? It's certainly not the freedom envisaged
by the Founding Fathers of the United States who came to these shore
because they wanted freedom - freedom to practice their religion as they
saw fit.

According to the Midrash, if you fill your life with spiritual pursuits,
your soul will not be "enslaved" to your body. And even those material
needs that the body does have become elevated through one's spiritual

In the words of Rabbi Nechunya in Ethics of the Fathers, "Whoever takes
upon himself the yoke of Torah - the yoke of government and the yoke of
worldly cares are removed from him..."

A person who involves himself in Torah, says the Maharal of Prague,
elevates himself above the cares and concerns of this physical world and
is freed from the natural order of the universe. Thus, though a person
needs a livelihood in order to live, the "yoke" of making a living is
removed from him; it is put in G-d's "hands" and comes more easily.

In this week's Torah portion, Balak, we read how Balak and Bilaam
schemed to curse the Jewish people. G-d protected them, not allowing
Bilaam to curse the Jews; instead Bilaam blessed them and eventually
prophecized the coming of Moshiach. The Torah portion concludes on the
"low note" of the Jewish people getting involved in indecency and

The weekly Haftora reading from the prophets is always connected to the
essential themes of the Torah portion.

In the Haftora, Micah prophecizes about things that will happen with the
coming of Moshiach. Then, he brings the plaint of G-d to the Jewish
people. "What have I done for you... I brought you up from Egypt... from
a house of slavery. I redeemed you... I sent before you Moses, Aaron and
Miriam... remember please what Balak advised and what Bilaam answered
him... So you can know the righteous acts of G-d..."  The Haftora
concludes with Micah saying G-d doesn't care for grandiose gestures,
rather, "He has told you... what is good and what G-d demands of you,
only to do justice, to love loving-kindness and to walk modestly with

The Torah portion and Haftora both have two themes: G-d affording us
safety and protection, and the coming of Moshiach. And at the end of the
portion and Haftora we are conveyed the key as to how to receive these

In Balak, we see that our failure to keep the commandments and a lack of
modest conduct, caused us to lose our protection.

The Haftora conveys this in a positive, proactive way. It gives us three
rules to follow:

Do justice - which means to keep G-d's laws, mitzvot (commandments),

Love loving-kindness - In Torah language, love is not a feeling, it is
an act. Here it means to do acts of loving-kindness.

To walk modestly with G-d - to be aware of G-d's presence. When one is
aware of G-d's presence, it is more than belief. Being aware means our
relationship with G-d has reached a point where you know He is there, He
is real to you. This changes the way you do things. The way you talk,
act, dress and even think become more refined, because G-d is part of
your reality.

These three things are who we are; it is the definition of acting and
living Jewishly. When we get away from our essential selves, we lose our
protection, because G-d wants to protect us, not someone whom we are

Becoming who we are meant to be by living according to these three
principals - keeping G-d's laws, doing acts of loving-kindness and
making G-d part of our reality - is the key to bringing Moshiach as
prophesied in our portion. May he come soon.

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

                             SLICE OF LIFE
                         Bar Mitzva In the Sky
                         by Rabbi Uriel Vigler

A close friend and community member was getting married in Israel and I
very much wanted to be there to share in the joy of his simcha. But oy!
The 10-hour flight, not to mention all the time spent waiting in lines
and going through security, was enough to make me reconsider. I
vacillated for a few days, but in the end I decided to go. I booked an
in-and-out flight, giving myself just 20 hours on the ground in Israel,
which meant I could be back with my family for Shabbat.

My departing flight was a day-time flight, so after the seat-belt sign
was turned off, I began walking the aisles looking for tefillin
"customers." "Excuse me sir, are you Jewish?" I convinced 15 people to
do the mitzva of tefillin right there on the airplane, culminating in a
Bar Mitzva for one of them - Mark, who had never put on tefillin before
in his life.

Mark was flying on a birthright trip together with about 40 others. I
explained to them that while I've performed many Bar Mitzvas over the
years, this would be the very first at 30,000 feet above ground!

I asked the flight attendant, who is also a close friend, for some
whiskey. We said l'chaim, sang some songs, and celebrated in style.

My favorite moment was when one of Mark's friends, after seeing me run
around the plane asking people to put on tefillin and getting into some
intense conversations along the way, said to me, "Rabbi, you don't
really have a wedding in Israel, do you? You just like to ride the plane
back and forth for the tefillin thing." If only she knew how much I
detest travelling!  But it was all worth it, for the wedding I got to
attend, as well as all the tefillin moments along the way.

We are all travelers, journeying through this transient world. This is
the message of this week's parsha, when the Torah describes the Jewish
people's journeys through the desert. Every day is a journey, every
moment a priceless lesson that we should treasure. Every day of that
journey, everywhere we go, we should search for the opportunity to
create meaningful moments and encounters, so that we live each day to
its fullest. Every moment wasted is one we can never recoup.

And oh, the flight ended up being so much fun. Hope the passengers
enjoyed it as much as I did.

                                *  *  *

We said goodbye to Yarin Ashkenazi who we hosted for 10 days as a guest
on our Belev Echad trip.

Yarin is a sergeant in the Givati Brigade and he was injured 18 months
ago when a terrorist rammed his car into him at 70 miles an hour. Yarin
was able to shoot at the car, causing it to overturn, but it still
crashed into him, injuring him severely in the head and legs. The
terrorist then exited his car and went after the other soldiers with an
axe. Fortunately, one of the other soldiers was able to shoot and
neutralize him, preventing more injuries and deaths.

At the end of the week, I asked Yarin what had been the highlight of his
trip. I assumed he would choose the helicopter ride, motorcycle trip, or
one of New York's famous tourist attractions, but he surprised me by
choosing our visit to the Lubavitcher Rebbe's Ohel in Queens.

"It was a very moving experience," he explained.

"What did you pray for?" I asked.

"I prayed for a blessing to be strong in Torah and mitzvot."

"Did it work?"

"Yes! For the first time since my injury, here on the Belev Echad trip,
I kept Shabbat fully! I did not answer my phone or check my emails. I
kept Shabbat 100%."

I was astounded!

Here is a man who has suffered tremendously over the last year and a
half. When he arrived at the hospital after the attack, the doctor's
tried to revive him three times without success. The head doctor
indicated they would try once more before giving up, and it was that
final time that brought him back to life. After that he had to undergo
tremendously risky surgery, where the doctors reattached his skull. He
had to re-learn how to walk, talk, eat, laugh, smile, and perform basic
daily functions that every child knows how to do.

And when presented with the opportunity to pray at the Rebbe's grave and
ask for a blessing, what does he choose? He asks for strength in Torah
and mitzvot!

On Simchat Torah 49 years ago the Lubavitcher Rebbe told a story. He had
received a letter from a young student in Russia, who was stuck behind
the iron curtain, persecuted for being Jewish. In the letter, he asked
the Rebbe to bless him with the ability to properly focus on his

As he told the story, the Rebbe cried profusely. The boy did not beg for
an easier life. Even though he was suffering tremendously in Russia, he
didn't beg for freedom. All he asked was for help in serving G-d better.

I think the Rebbe received another such letter from Yarin last week!

    Rabbi Vigler and his wife Shevy direct Chabad Israel Center of the
    Upper East Side in NYC. From Rabbi Vigler's blog at

                               WHAT'S NEW
                           Unique Convention

Recently in the city of Girona, Spain, 48 shluchim (emissaries) to 25
small  countries in Europe and Central Africa gathered together to
participate in the first ever conference of its kind. Regional
Conference of Emmissaries of its kind. While the annual Shluchim
Conference each winter at World Lubavitch Headquarters in Crown Heights,
Brooklyn, attracts thousands of emissaries, this special Conference was
organized specifically for emissaries tending to Jewish communities that
are very small or remote.

                             Torahs on Loan

The Beis Yisroel Torah Gemach,  in conjunction with Merkos suite 302,
the Jaffa Family Foundation and the Gross Family Foundation have
acquired and loaned out  eight more Torahs this month. The locations
that have received the Torahs are; Chabad of Almere, Netherlands; The
Nun Daled Shul; Chabad of Croatia; Chabad of South Dakota; Chabad of
North Dakota;  Chabad of Northeast Portland; Chabad of Nanaimo, Canada;
Chabad House center of KC Kansas.

                            THE REBBE WRITES
         Freely translated from a letter of the Rebbe addressed
         to "all campers in summer camps, everywhere," written
                three months before the Yom Kippur War.

                           Tammuz 5733 [1973]

I hope and pray that you are making the fullest use of the present
summer days to gain new strength and strengthen your health - both the
health of the body and the health of the soul, which are closely linked
together. And since the health of the soul is bound up with the Torah,
which is "our very life and the length of our days," and with its
mitzvos (commandments), "by which the Jew lives," you are surely doing
your utmost in regard to Torah study and the observance of the mitzvot;
in which case you may be certain for the fulfillment of the promise -
"Try hard, and you will succeed."

I wish to emphasize one point in particular, in connection with the
forthcoming "Three Weeks." You are, no doubt, familiar with the events
and significance of these days. The point is this:

I want you to consider carefully the special merit which Jewish children
have, a privilege which affects our entire Jewish people, to which King
David refers in the following words: "Out of the mouths of babes and
infants You have ordained strength - still the enemy and
avenger" - including also the enemy that has caused the "Three Weeks"
and still seeks vengeance to this day. In other words, the way to
vanquish and silence the enemy is through the study of the Torah, called
"strength" (oz), by the mouths of young children. Indeed, so great is
their power, that our Sages of blessed memory declare: "The whole world
exists only by virtue of the breath of little Jewish children, whose
breath is pure and free of sin," referring to children who have not yet
reached the age of responsibility for wronG-doing, that is, boys and
girls of pre-Bar/Bat Mitzva age.

In this connection it is necessary to bear in mind the words of our
Prophet Isaiah (in the first chapter): "Zion will be redeemed through
justice (mishpat) and her returnees through righteousness (tzedaka)."
"Mishpat," here, means that through the study of the Torah and the
observance of its mitzvos [commandments], especially the mitzva of
tzedaka [colloquilly charity], the Redemption is brought closer. And
tzedaka - in the light of what has been said in the beginning of this
letter - includes both tzedaka for the body and tzedaka for the soul.
Tzedaka for the body is, simply, giving tzedaka to a poor man, or
putting money in a tzedaka box. Tzedaka for the soul is done by helping
one's classmates and friends spiritually - that is, to encourage them in
matters of Torah and mitzvos, through showing them a living example of
how Jewish boys and girls should conduct themselves, and also by talking
to them about these things.

Since it is my strong wish, and also great pleasure, to be your partner
in this tzedaka activity, I have sent out instructions to give each and
every one of you a token amount of money in the currency of your
country, which is to be my participation in the said tzedaka campaign.

May G-d bless each and every one of you and grant you success in all the
above, especially in your Torah learning and practice of tzedaka, in a
steadily growing measure, so that even when you return home from camp
and throughout the next school-year (may it be a good one for all of us)
you will - with renewed vigor and in good health, in body as well as in
soul - go from strength to strength in your study of Torah with
diligence and devotion, and that your studies be translated into deeds -
in the practice of mitzvos with beauty; and all this should be carried
out with joy and gladness of heart.

And may we all very soon, together with all our Jewish brethren, merit
the fulfillment of the prophecy that these days of the Three Weeks be
transformed from sadness into gladness and joy.

With the true and complete Redemption through our righteous Moshiach,
"who will reign from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the
earth...and all the earth will be filled with G-d's Glory."

                              ALL TOGETHER
                           Unique Convention

Recently in the city of Girona, Spain, 48 shluchim (emissaries) to 25
small  countries in Europe and Central Africa gathered together to
participate in the first ever conference of its kind. Regional
Conference of Emmissaries of its kind. While the annual Shluchim
Conference each winter at World Lubavitch Headquarters in Crown Heights,
Brooklyn, attracts thousands of emissaries, this special Conference was
organized specifically for emissaries tending to Jewish communities that
are very small or remote.

                             Torahs on Loan

The Beis Yisroel Torah Gemach,  in conjunction with Merkos suite 302,
the Jaffa Family Foundation and the Gross Family Foundation have
acquired and loaned out  eight more Torahs this month. The locations
that have received the Torahs are; Chabad of Almere, Netherlands; The
Nun Daled Shul; Chabad of Croatia; Chabad of South Dakota; Chabad of
North Dakota;  Chabad of Northeast Portland; Chabad of Nanaimo, Canada;
Chabad House center of KC Kansas.

                        A WORD FROM THE DIRECTOR
                         Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This coming Tuesday is the fast of the Seventeenth of Tammuz. On that
day, Moses descended from Mount Sinai and saw the Jewish people sinning
with the Golden Calf, prompting him to break the Tablets of the Law.
Years later, five calamitous occurrences befell our forefathers on the
same date, beginning with the breaching of the walls of Jerusalem and
culminating with the destruction of the Holy Temple. (Both Temples were
destroyed on the Ninth of Av.)

The Seventeenth of Tammuz begins the three-week period known as "Bein
Hametzarim," literally "Between the Straits." It is a time of mourning
when no weddings are scheduled and we refrain from listening to music.

At this time, when the loss of "G-d's Chosen House" is more keenly felt,
it is customary to increase our learning about the Holy Temple. In the
Written Torah, this involves studying Chapters 40-43 in the Book of
Ezekiel, and in the Oral Torah (the Talmud), Tractates Tamid and Midot.
Maimonides' "Laws of the Temple" are also studied during this period.

The Midrash relates that "The Holy One, Blessed Be He said: The study of
it [the Temple] is as great as its building... Let them busy themselves
studying the Temple's form, and I will consider it as if they are
actively involved in its erection." Similarly, in a discussion of the
sacrifices, the Talmud relates: "He who studies the laws of the
sin-offering is considered as if he has offered one."

Studying the laws of the Holy Temple thus allows us to actively
participate in rebuilding it, even during the exile.

It is also desirable to give extra charity during the Three Weeks, as it
states, "Great is charity, for it brings the Redemption nigh."

In such a way Biblical prophecy will be realized: "Zion shall be
redeemed with judgment, and those that return to her with righteousness
(literally 'charity')," for it is through "judgment" - the study of the
Torah's laws - that Jerusalem will be redeemed, and the Jewish people
will return to the Holy Land, in the merit of their charity.

                          THOUGHTS THAT COUNT
Rabbi Meir said: "Whoever occupies himself with the study of Torah for
its own sake merits many things..." (Ethics 6:1)

The Hebrew word "osek," translated "occupies himself," is related to the
Hebrew word for businessman, ba'al esek. A person's occupation with the
study of Torah must resemble a businessman's preoccupation with his
commercial enterprise. Just as a businessman's attention is never
totally diverted from his business, the Torah should always be the focus
of our attention.

                                        (Likutei Sichot, Vol. XVII)

                                *  *  *

Rabbi Yehoshua Ben Levi said: "Each and every day a Heavenly Voice goes
forth from Mount Horeb..." (Ethics 6:2)

Our souls exist on several planes simultaneously. This Heavenly Voice
reverberates, and is "heard" by our souls as they exist in the spiritual
realms. And this causes our souls as they are enclothed within our
bodies to be aroused to repentance.

                                          (Likutei Sichot, Vol. IX)

                                *  *  *

Whatever the Holy One, blessed be He, created in His world, He created
only for His glory; as it is stated, "Everything that is called by My
name, it is for My glory that I created it; I have formed it, indeed, I
have made it"; and it says, "The L-rd will reign for ever and ever."
(Ethics 6:11)

Never fear, says our text: "The L-rd will reign for ever and ever."
However dark and twisted the world seems today, however worse the mess
and blunder of mankind seems to get, mankind moves on to its destiny. By
a thousand ways we can hardly surmise, mankind inches forward to its
"spiritual breakthrough," when "the L-rd will reign." That day will
come. It is inherent in a creation that was wrought originally to bring
Him glory.

                            (Ethics from Sinai, Rabbi Irving Bunim)

                            IT ONCE HAPPENED
Reb Wolf Kitzes, one of the most devoted and loyal followers of the Baal
Shem Tov, had a burning desire to visit the holy land. He tried to push
aside this desire because he did not wish to leave his saintly Rebbe,
the Baal Shem Tov. His yearning for the Land of Israel gave him no
peace, though, so he decided to tell the Baal Shem Tov about it.

The Baal Shem Tov listened carefully and replied: "You should not go

The reply was enough for Reb Wolf and he said no more.

But after some time, Reb Wolf again was haunted by his unquenchable
thirst for the Holy Land, which drove him again to ask the Baal Shem Tov
if he could go. The Baal Shem Tov would still not give him permission to
go, so Reb Wolf would not travel to the Holy Land.

Reb Wolf allowed some time to elapse before he again approached the Baal
Shem Tov, and finally the Baal Shem Tov agreed to give his consent for
Reb Wolf to undertake the long and difficult trip.

Before leaving, the Baal Shem Tov said to Reb Wolf: "If anyone on the
way asks you a question, think carefully before you reply."

Reb Wolf boarded the first ship sailing to the Holy Land.

One day the ship anchored at a small island. All the passengers
disembarked and so did Reb Wolf. When it was time for the afternoon
prayer, Reb Wolf found a quiet spot and began to pray. He got so carried
away with his prayers, he failed to hear the ship's blast calling the
passengers to return to the ship.

When Reb Wolf looked up, he suddenly realized with shock what had
happened. The ship was disappearing in the distance and he was left
behind. The inhabitants who had come to meet the boat also disappeared,
and he found himself all alone on this desolate island.

"Don't be discouraged," he told himself. "Have faith in the Alm-ghty. He
will not desert you, and everything will be all right."

Feeling thus encouraged, Reb Wolf set off to look for perhaps a Jew on
this unknown island. But there was no sign of any human being. Suddenly,
as he approached a forest, he noticed some smoke rising to the sky.
There seemed to be no road or path to follow, but he made his way
through the trees until he came upon a small hut.

He quickly knocked on the door and was delighted and relieved to see the
door opened by a dignified, fine looking old Jew, who greeted him with a
warm "Shalom." Reb Wolf breathed a sigh of relief. Thank G-d he was now
out of danger. He told the Jew what had happened to him and his host
assured him that there was no reason to be afraid. The island was not
altogether uninhabited. There were people living on the island through
not many. True, he was the only Jewish resident, and he, in fact, would
not stay there very long.

"Ships pass here regularly," he said. "The island belongs to Turkey, and
a Turkish officer and his soldiers take care that the island should be
free of robbers and pirates. Don't worry, Reb Wolf," he continued "a
ship will soon be here on route to the Holy Land and you will be able to
continue your journey. In the meantime, the Sabbath is approaching and
you are welcome to be my guest."

Reb Wolf was delighted with his good fortune. He wondered why his host,
who was obviously a learned and G-d fearing Jew, was living here,
without a family and also, how he knew his, Wolf's, name. But he didn't
dare ask.

Shabbat passed very pleasantly. On the following day, a boat docked, and
Reb Wolf thanked his gracious host for all his kindness.

Just before leaving, his host said to Reb Wolf: "You have travelled
through Russia and Poland. How are the Jews living there in galut

"Thank G-d," replied Reb Wolf, "The Alm-ghty takes care of them."

Reb Wolf was already aboard the ship when he suddenly remembered what
the Baal Shem Tov had told him to think carefully before answering any
question put to him by anyone on his way to the Holy Land. He was
terribly upset to think that he had forgotten his Rebbe's advice and had
answered his host without thought. He decided that at the next port of
call he would disembark and wait for the first ship to take him back to
the Baal Shem Tov.

Several weeks later, Reb Wolf presented himself to the Baal Shem Tov.
Reb Wolf told the Baal Shem Tov everything that had happened and that
because he had forgotten the Rebbe's advice, he immediately turned back.
Now he humbly asked how he could correct his mistake. The Baal Shem Tov
replied: "You, personally, have already paid for your mistake by
returning home without seeing the Holy Land. Now I can tell you the rest
of the story.

"Our Patriarch Abraham had complained to the Alm-ghty about his children
and asked why He has kept them so long in exile, making them suffer so

"The Alm-ghty replied: 'It's not so bad. They don't suffer so in exile.
If you want proof, ask a Jew who never lies and hear what he says. That
Jew is Reb Wolf Kitzes. He only speaks the truth.'

"So it was arranged that our Abraham should be your host and the rest
you know. Had you been thoughtful enough to add a few words about how
much Jews long for Moshiach, and how ardently they pray daily, 'May our
eyes behold your return to Zion in mercy...,' Moshiach might have
already come by now."

                            MOSHIACH MATTERS
Traditionally, the prophecy of Bilaam is seen as a comparison between
King David and Moshiach. At first glance, it would seem more appropriate
to compare Moses and Moshiach, since both are redeemers of the Jewish
people. However, Moses is unique in that he gave the Torah to the Jewish
people. King David and Moshiach are comparable in a number of ways,
especially that they enable the Jewish people to actually observe the
Torah. The prophecy of Bilaam contains four parts; each part alludes to
a different qualification shared by King David and Moshiach.

      (From Reflections of Redemption by Dovid Yisroel Ber Kaufmann
                          o.b.m., to whom this column is dedicated)

                END OF TEXT - L'CHAIM 1479 - Balak 5777

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