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                         L'CHAIM - ISSUE # 1480
                           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 14, 2017           Pinchas           20 Tamuz, 5777

                           If Not Now, When?

The great Rabbi Hillel was known to say, "If I am not for myself, who is
for me? And if I am only for myself, what am I?"

Though stated more than 20 centuries ago, Hillel's words sound like
great, middle-of-the-road advice to all of us, including the
post-millenial Generation Z population.

Basically, it sounds like Hillel is telling us, "You have to look out
for number one, but make sure not to forget that there are other people
in the world, too.

Sounds pretty sane, doesn't it?

Actually, though, Hillel wasn't talking about our typical pursuits; he
was giving us a deep insight into how we should view our involvement in
spiritual pursuits and lofty goals.

Hillel was talking about taking responsibility for ourselves spiritually
and building up our own cache of mitzvot. Thus, we shouldn't expect to
fall back on the good deeds, mitzva observance, or the piety of our

On a more personal level, it is a statement about how we must be
self-motivated when it comes to Judaism. I can't expect anyone else to
take me by the hand and lead me, step by step, toward growth and
advancement. I have to do it myself. I can't sit back, relax, and wait
to be inspired by an amazing teacher or encouraged by a friend. It's up
to me: If I am not for myself, who is for me?

To be more specific, we can't expect G-d to be the one to push us,
either. I can't say, "If G-d really wanted me to give lots of charity,
have time to pursue Jewish studies, and not work on Shabbat, He'd
arrange for me to win the lottery." Or, "If G-d wants me to do this
particular mitzva, He'll remove all obstacles from my path."

On the other hand, if I am only for myself, if I am so caught up with
and involved in my own personal growth and advancement, that I'm not
around to help or guide others, what am I? Just because I can't expect
or wait for someone else to hold my hand or inspire me, doesn't exempt
me from extending my hand to someone else. It doesn't absolve me from
reaching out to another person, from teaching someone else the Hebrew
alphabet if I know it and he doesn't--even if the alef-bet is all I

The only remaining question one might have after considering Hillel's
statements in this light would be, "When should I start getting serious
about learning, growing, advancing? And when do I have to begin reaching
out to others?" To this, Hillel has a ready reply, actually the closing
words of his statement: "If not now, when?"

This week we read the Torah portion of Pinchas. The Haftora is from the
book of Jeremiah, and begins with Jeremiah's lineage - that he is from a
priestly family.  It continues with G-d informing Jeremiah that He chose
him as a prophet "Before I formed you in the belly, I knew you..."

Jeremiah's response is, "I don't know how to speak, for I am a youth."

G-d assures Jeremiah, "Don't be afraid of them, for I am with you to
protect you...See I have appointed you today, over nations and over
kinG-doms, to uproot, to crush...  to build and to plant."

G-d then tells Jeremiah of the devastation of Judah and tells him to
warn the Jewish people. The Haftora ends on a positive note, describing
how G-d remembers that we followed Him into the desert, trusting in Him.

The theme of the Haftora is always connected either to the weekly
portion or to the special time of year that we are in. The prophecy of
devastation makes sense, as we are currently in the Three Weeks of
mourning for the destruction of the Holy Temple. But what is the
significance of Jeremiah's lineage and how he became a prophet?

Jeremiah lived in a time of great spiritual darkness. In addition, he
personally experienced darkness as he was taunted because of his
pedigree. (His ancestress was Rachav, a gentile woman who became a
righteous convert to Judaism.) It seemed that Jeremiah had the cards
"stacked" against him, and yet he effected change from his dark

We've had many great prophets and leaders. Some, like Moses, effected
the world from a place of light with great miracles and revelation. With
so much light, the Jewish people were awed by the wonder of the moment.
But when the revelation ceased it was clear that while the light
effected them, it did not change them.

Pinchas, like Jeremiah, was also coming from a place of darkness. He was
also living in a time of deep spiritual darkness. And he, too, was
taunted because of his pedigree. (His mother was Jethro's daughter.) But
his actions caused the Jewish people to repent and change themselves.
This kind of change is real and everlasting. Therefore his reward was an
eternal one: he and all his descendants would be part of the priestly

The Three Weeks is a time of darkness, symbolic of our dark exile.
Through the Haftora, G-d is telling us how to approach dark times, and
how specifically in this darkness, we can bring true, everlasting change
and light to the world.

The first thing you have to know is that you are worthy.  You may think,
"Who am I to make a difference, the whole world looks down at me?" To
this G-d answers, you are from the Priests, you are holy and worthy.

The next thing is that we were hand-picked by G-d for this task. "Before
I formed you in the belly, I knew you..."

Don't say "I am a youth," thinking you don't have the wherewithal to
withstand the world's negativity. You can do it, "Don't be afraid...,
for I am with you."

This is the purpose of the exile: G-d has spread us all over the world,
he has appointed us "over nations and over kinG-doms," to have a
positive effect on our surroundings. And this is the message of The
Three Weeks, that specifically from the darkness, we are able to do the
most good.

           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
                              Is This Me?
                           by Sammi Merenfeld

         From Sammi's speech at the Machon L'Yahadus graduation

Growing up I definitely identified with being a Jew but it didn't define
me. It was always in my surroundings but not penetrating on a deeper

That was, until my brothers became Chabad  Lubavitcher Chasidim when I
was nine or 10. While the immediate effect was minimal on my life, I did
enjoy spending time with them. Whether it was at a Shabbat meal or
inside a Sukka didn't matter to me, when your brothers are 10 years
older than you and in yeshiva they are the coolest people in the world.

Fast forward 10 years. I had spent four years in and out of college with
a handful of people I called "friends," two jobs I loved, three siblings
who were Lubavitchers (my older sister followed in my brothers'
footsteps), and in an intense relationship.

But, I hadn't finished college in those four years, I questioned my
friends' integrity, and I knew that my jobs and relationship weren't
going to be permanent.

I never felt like I needed change. I was always comfortable with my
routine and personal agenda, but I definitely was not satisfied. I
always felt like I had something missing, but I couldn't put my finger
on it.

So what changed? On the day of my sister's wedding in October of 2015, I
took a long look in the mirror and asked myself "What are you doing with

The following day, much to OUR surprise I asked my sister, "Why did you
decide to go to study at Machon L'Yahadus?" Her answer was very simple
and logical and good enough for me. She told me that if we're Jewish why
shouldn't we act like it.

My curiosity was piqued and I spent the next few days questioning my
siblings about why and how they ended up living the Lubavitch lifestyle.
After receiving a very similar answer to what I got from my sister, I
started to question why I in fact don't "act Jewish." These answers
resonated with me and before I knew it the floodgates opened and I
finally uttered the words,"I think I want to go to learn at Machon

I called Mrs. Yehudis Cohen (assistant principal) who enthusiastically
shared information the upcoming Winter Program or even the spring Taste
of Yeshiva. I said "no" to both and thought long and hard about why I
refused to come even though I know I wanted to. Mrs. Cohen questioned
what was holding me back and for the first time in my life I had an
"AHA" moment. What held me back was that I knew I would be hooked once I
came and my life would change forever; I couldn't commit to such a
change even though I knew I wanted it.

After a conversation with Rabbi Shloma Majeski, principal of Machon
L'Yahadus, I was sure that nothing would change if I didn't want it to
and there was no harm in coming. I decided to come  in the Fall, a good
eight months away from when we were having the conversation. So then it
was final, and in September 2016, I arrived to Crown Heights and started
unpacking my suitcase at a girls only dorm on President Street. The
streets were familiar because of my siblings who had preceded me but
that was about all I had going for me.

It feels like yesterday, I can relive the nerves and conversations with
the girls if I close my eyes. My roommate and I unpacking side-by-side
sharing pieces of our lives and how we ended up here. I remember her
trying to convince me what a life changing experience this will be for
both of us.  "You're going to grow here" is what she said to me. I
rolled my eyes and mumbled a silent "whatever." I couldn't believe her,
thinking I would be on the next plane out and back to Florida. I was
only there for a brief trial run.

I hate to admit when other people are right, but when you know, you
know. What I know now is that my roommate was right because you don't
realize how far you've come until you take a step back and see where you

My friend Eliana says that you can be in school for most of your life
and never learn how to be a good person. This is true and even more
obvious coming from a secular school system to a school whose foundation
is based on Torah. Machon L'Yahadus teaches you not just the practical -
which blessing to make when lighting candles on the holiday, or which
cheese you have to wait 6 hours for, or even how to be patient when
waiting for the washing machine, not that these aren't all valuable
skills to have.

There's no scale to judge which is more important, but  if it wasn't for
Machon L'Yahadus I would never know how to treat another person with
ahavat Yisrael (love) no matter how crazy they make you, how to identity
your rough edges and refine them in a way you didn't realize was even
necessary, how to integrate the Torah into your life in a healthy way
that makes sense, and most importantly to respect and listen to your
parents, teachers, and friends because without them, this experience
wouldn't be happening. We're here to inspire each other to do good and
be good, and to use your strengths and weaknesses to help each other and
ourselves. I couldn't be more proud to have the privilege to study here
under Rabbi Majeski, Mrs. Cohen, Mrs. Nemni, and the rest of our amazing
all-star staff that surround me every day, and especially all the girls
with the same goals.

This hasn't been the easiest year of my life, but that's what this is
about. Challenges are meant to be recognized and not run away from. G-d
trusts us to make the right decisions and gives us the strength to
overcome the challenges we're faced with. Like swimming in an ocean
against the current, the work-out is better when you're not just being
pushed to the shore. G-d appreciates the effort and rewards us for it.

Tanya teaches that the mind rules over the heart, but sometimes it's not
in sync. I came to Machon L'Yahadus planning to only be here for a
month, because my heart was content in Florida, while my mind was living
like a Jew. Well, one month turned into two, turned into me standing at
graduation telling my story because my mind knows that this is where I
need to be and my heart agrees to the fullest. And I'll be back next
year for the second year program!

          For more on Machon L'Yahadus visit

                               WHAT'S NEW
                        New Emissaries on Campus

Rabbi Mendy and Ariella Weg are moving to Evanston, Illinois, to work
with the Jewish students studying at Northwestern University. The new
emissaries join Rabbi Dov Hillel Klein and Rabbi Meir and Yehudis Hecht.

Rabbi Yaakov and Hadassah Zar are moving to New York City to work with
the dynamic team of Rabbi Dov Yona and Sarah Korn at Chabad House
Bowery. The Zars will be focusing on outreach to undergrad and grad
students in the area as well as alumni.

                        CTeen Leadership Retreat

Over 200 emissaries and teen leaders from around the world participated
in the 4th Annual CTeen Leadership Retreat and Conference, to connect
with one another and to gain and share insight for the year ahead.
Workshop topics included team building strategies, mental health
awareness, how to delegate effectively, and real-life training

                            THE REBBE WRITES
                      26th of Tammuz, 5733 [1973]

I was pleased to receive your letter of 18th of Tammuz, following our
conversation when you visited here. May G-d grant that just as your
letter included good news, so should you be able to continue reporting
good news in the same vein and in a growing measure.

You mention that you had some questions and doubts. Of course, one must
not feel any shame in asking for clarification, and certainly one should
not keep any doubts within oneself, but should seek answers. However,
there is only one condition: Whatever the questions and doubts may be,
this must not affect a person's simple faith in G-d and in His Torah and
mitzvoth [commandments], even if the answers have temporarily eluded
him. This condition goes back to the day when the Torah was received at
Sinai on the principle of "naaseh" [we will do], before "v'nishmah" [we
will understand], the guiding principle for all posterity. The "naaseh,"
the doing, follows "v'nishmah," the understanding, for G-d, the essence
of goodness, desires us to follow the path of Truth on the basis of
faith, and then to follow it up with knowledge and understanding. For
only then is the whole person involved in serving G-d to the fullest

One must always bear in mind, however, the limitations of the human
intellect in general, and particularly in relation to the area of
G-dliness, which is essentially beyond human comprehension. By way of
analogy, even within the realm of human intellectual achievement, a
small child cannot possibly comprehend an advanced mathematical or
scientific formula conceived of by a great professor, although the
latter was a small child at one time, and the former could one day even
surpass the intellectual prowess of the professor. The relationship
between the human mind and the Divine mind is quite different, for it is
a difference not in degree, but in kind. It is the difference between a
created being and its Creator. Therefore, the Torah and mitzvoth, which
are G-d's Wisdom and Will, can at best be comprehended in only a limited
fashion. A person is welcome to inquire and probe to the extent of his
capacity, but, as above, he must not lose sight of the basic condition
of doing and then learning in order to understand.

G-d, the essence of goodness, desires us to follow the path of Truth on
the basis of faith, and then to follow it up with knowledge and

What has been said above is especially pertinent in the present Three
Weeks, which commemorate the destruction of the Beis Hamikdosh [Holy
Temple] and our Exile. For, as we say in prayer: "Because of our sins we
have been exiled from our land." Hence, every one of us must do our
utmost to rectify and reverse the cause of our Exile by studying more
Torah and doing more mitzvoth, and spreading them throughout the
environment. Thus we hasten the reversal of the effect of the sins, and
bring about the fulfillment of the Divine prophecy that these days shall
be converted into days of joy and gladness, with our true and complete
Redemption through our righteous Moshiach.

                              ALL TOGETHER
                       What is Chitat ("Chitas")?

Chitat is an acronym for Chumash (the Five Book of Moses), Tehilim
(Psalms) and Tanya (the basic book of Chabad Chasidic philosophy). The
Previous Rebbe instituted a study schedule that included reading daily
from the week's Torah portion with the commentary of Rashi; a number of
chapters of Psalms; and a daily passage of Tanya. The Rebbe continuously
urged people (of all persuasions) to study Chitat regularly, as well as
the daily portion of Maimonides' Mishna Torah (or Sefer HaMitzvot).

                        A WORD FROM THE DIRECTOR
                         Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
We presently find ourselves in the "Three Weeks" between the Fasts of
the Seventeenth of Tammuz and the Ninth of Av.

What is the purpose of a fast? Fasting brings one to repentance. It is
also, according to Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidism, the
path by which we can weaken and even eradicate our desires and impulses
toward that which is not good and proper.

Fasting, however, significantly weakens the body, making it difficult to
do even that which we are supposed to do.

The Baal Shem Tov recognized that our bodies are not as strong as they
were in times of old. He encouraged his followers not to abstain totally
from eating or mortify their bodies. Rather, he broadened the term of
fasting to include refraining from a "craving."

By holding ourselves back from gossiping or speaking ill of another
person, for instance, we are "fasting." We are abstaining from a
negative aspect of communication and are also training ourselves not to
continue this bad habit.

If a person is very impatient by nature, taking the time to count to ten
before responding or reacting is an effective fast.

Rabbi Shneur Zalman was a disciple of the Baal Shem Tov. When he stated
that fasting is the method by which we can eradicate our bad traits, it
was the Baal Shem Tov's definition of fasting that he encouraged.

This, of course, relates only to times that one wished to take upon
himself a "personal fast." However, the public fast days, defined by the
Torah or our sages, are fast days in the traditional sense. They are
days when we abstain totally from all forms of food and drink.

May the Seventeenth of Tammuz be the last public fast day, and may we be
privileged to celebrate the Ninth of Av all together in the Holy city of
Jerusalem, may it speedily be rebuilt, NOW.

                          THOUGHTS THAT COUNT
All Israel have a share in the World to Come (Introduction to Ethics of
the Fathers)

In Hebrew, the verse literally says, "All Israel, they have a share in
the World to Come." The plural is used to indicate that it is only
because of their brotherhood and unity that the Jewish people is
deserving of reward. According to Maimonides, a person who is otherwise
totally scrupulous in religious observance but separates himself from
the Jewish community is not worthy of a portion of the World to Come.

                                    (Blossoms, Rabbi Yisroel Rubin)

                                *  *  *

Moses received the Torah from Sinai (Ethics, 1:1)

Why doesn't the verse say, "Moses received the Torah from G-d"? Just as
the Jews received the Torah at Sinai with awe and reverence, so too must
all Torah study be approached with the same respect. Furthermore, the
Torah in its entirety was revealed at Sinai, including those
commandments which G-d had previous given the Jewish people. All mitzvot
(commandments)  are done solely by virtue of their being given at Sinai.

                                             (Biurim L'Pirkei Avot)

                                *  *  *

And passed it on to Joshua (Ethics, 1:1).

Just as Moses passed on to Joshua the complete body of Torah knowledge,
so too must we impart the entire Torah to future generations. Because
all Jews inherit the Torah from Moses, as it states, "The Torah that
Moses commanded us is the heritage of the congregation of Jacob," we
must likewise emulate his actions as well.

                                                        (The Rebbe)

                                *  *  *

Whoever engages in excessive talk brings on sin (Ethics, 1:17)

Rabbi Abraham Yaakov Sadigorer used to say: "The train was invented to
teach us that every minute in life is important; a person may miss the
train if he arrives even one minute late. The telegraph was invented to
teach us that our every word is precious, numbered and accounted for.
And from the telephone we learn that everything that is said is also

                                            (Fun Unzer Alten Otzar)

                            IT ONCE HAPPENED
Millions of shining pin dots of lights spotted the black sky, and not a
rustle or breath of sound was heard as Rabbi Avraham Halevi Bruchim made
his nightly rounds through the narrow, winding streets of Safed.

Every night, without fail, Rabbi Avraham walked up and down the streets
calling to the sleeping inhabitants: "Awake, awake, Jews; Awake Reb
Yaakov! Get up, Reb Yitzchak!" calling each by his name until sleep was
shaken away and they rose to address the Creator of the Universe.

According to custom, it was time to begin praying the "Tikun Chatzot" -
the midnight supplication prayers; the sleeping scholars of the city
must be roused from their slumber.

It was time to remember the Holy Temple, and plead with the Master of
the Universe to remember His children and fulfill His promise to rebuild
the Holy Temple.

The age-old custom of praying for the Holy Temple was maintained with
great devotion in Safed, and the scholars who lived there never
overslept thanks to the dedication of Reb Avraham Halevi.

He persistently called the people of Safed to their prayer and study
until the many study halls were filled and the voices of the Jews
blended into a melodious spiritual symphony of prayer and study
spiraling through the starry skies in a crescendo which reached all the
way up to the Celestial throne.

The holy AriZal, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, the famed Kabbalist, lived at
this time and knew the saintly Reb Avraham Halevi very well.

Once, the AriZal came to Reb Avraham with very grave tidings: "It has
been disclosed to me that your life is coming to its end. All the years
allotted to you have passed. However, I see one possibility for you to
live. If you travel to Jerusalem and pour out your heart in prayer at
the Western Wall, G-d may look favorably upon your prayer. If you are
granted a vision of the Shechina, the Divine Presence, it will be a sign
that your petition has been accepted and you will live another 22

Rabbi Avraham Halevi immediately did as the AriZal had instructed him.

He travelled to Jerusalem and prepared himself to storm the Heavens by
fasting for three full days and nights.

When he finally reached his destination, he was ready and the prayer
rose from the depths of his soul and he wept and begged the Alm-ghty to
spare his life.

When he lifted his eyes to gaze at the Western Wall, he saw a vision of
the G-dly Presence and the glory of what he saw cause him to fall upon
his face on the stones. He wept from the great and turbulent emotion
until he fainted.

In his unconscious state he dreamt that the Shechina again appeared to
him and said, "My son Avraham, take comfort, for there is hope for your
future. Your sons will return to their borders, for I will return the
captives from their exiles, and I Myself will comfort them."

Rabbi Avraham awake from his faint in elevated spirits, filled with joy.

He returned to Safed and resumed his activities there.

One day the AriZal met him on the street. "I see by looking at your face
that you had success in Jerusalem and that you did see the Shechina. You
will surely live another 22 years."

The prediction of the AriZal was realized.

Rabbi Avraham lived 22 more years, bringing many Jews to prayer and

A full 22 years after this event occurred he passed away to his eternal

The AriZal said of him that he was a reincarnation of the Prophet
Jeremiah, who also called his fellow Jews to repentance before the
destruction of the First Holy Temple.

                            MOSHIACH MATTERS
The mitzva (commandment) of inheritance is listed last by Maimonides.
This indicates that the laws of inheritance complete the laws of the
Torah. The laws of inheritance will only be fully applicable in the
times of Moshiach, which completes the purpose of giving the Torah.
There are three methods of dividing the land - by tribal size, by lot,
by inheritance. These three methods correspond to three stages in Jewish
history, the final stage being when we will truly inherit the land, and
the unity of the Jewish people with the Essence of G-d will be truly

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

               END OF TEXT - L'CHAIM 1480 - Pinchas 5777

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