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How will you celebrate your next birthday? Hardly a question you would consider of deep, religious significance! Yet, Jewish wisdom say that there is a lot to celebrate on a birthday, even if you believe "age is just a number."
Our Sages tell us that on a birthday our "mazal" (good fortune) is strong. Generally, when our fortune is strong, it's a great opportunity to make bold moves. So why not contemplate some new adventures?
We can use this transitional time to take stock of our achievements to date, make new beginnings, and accept new commitments for the year ahead.
On the anniversary of our birth, we embark on a new year, a new stage in our development. Take advantage of this occasion and arrange a birthday gathering. Spend some of the time in the company of a few of your closest friends. Be introspective, explore the state of your spiritual life, set your Jewish house even more in order.
Just be sure the party isn't all talk and no action. Start fulfilling some of the good resolutions you'll probably come up with right there. And do something practical, like making a contribution to a charitable cause.
But why celebrate specifically the day on which you were born? Perhaps any day is the right day to celebrate your life?
Explains Rabbi Aron Moss (nefesh.com.au):
Your birthday is chosen by G-d - not your parents, your astrologer or the obstetrician. Birth is G-d saying that the world can't go on without you. It is the day that your soul's mission had to begin.
There were already nearly six billion people on earth when you were born. Did the world really need you? Can one more soul really make a difference? Obviously the answer is yes; otherwise G-d would not have sent your soul to this earth. The fact that you were born means there must be some unique gift that you have to offer the world that none of those other six billion people could possibly achieve.
Your birthday is an opportunity to reflect: This is the day that my soul was dispatched on its mission. How is the mission going? Have I been contributing my part to the furthering of G-d's purpose to create heaven on earth? Have I been doing my bit to enhance and improve myself and my world? How much time and energy do I spend on meaningful pursuits? How much time could I add to that amount in the coming year?
Your soul was sent down by priority delivery. Make sure your soul always remains a priority.
Thirty years ago, a month after the passing of his wife and on what would have been her 86th birthday, the Rebbe started a campaign to celebrate our Jewish birthdays. Since then, Jews around the world have made sure to find out when is their "Jewish birthday" and to mark it in a meaningful and Jewish manner. We encourage you to do the same!
This week we read two Torah portions, Vayakhel and Pekudei. In Pekudei we read about how the artisans made the clothing of the Kohanim, and several vessels of the Mishkan (Tabarnacle). After every item was completed, it says, that they made it, "as G-d commanded Moses." Moses was so impressed by this, that he blessed them.
Later in the portion it tells of how Moses erected the Mishkan and placed all its vessels in it. After every job done, the Torah records that he did it "as G-d commanded Moshe."
Why is it so important for the Torah to repeat this over and over again?
Artists and craftsmen have a creative spark in them. They have their way of seeing things and that influences the outcome of their work. It takes a special kind of person, who can listen to a another person, and create the others vision, completely ignoring his / her inner creative spark. It is truly difficult to do what another asks, the way they want you to do it. The fact is, "I know better." And because of this, it is amazing that by the Mishkan, every step of the way was done "as G-d commanded Moses." Therefore Moses feels that they should be blessed.
How were they able to do it? In the case of the Mishkan, the artisans took it to a whole new level. It was not that they ignoredtheir creative spark, rather they were so in tune with G-d, that their creative spark was totally in line with His will. When you are one with G-d, you find it easier to do what He wants.
The book of Exodus ends with this story, telling us that when the Mishkan was completed, G-d's presence filled it.
We too are all blessed with our own dispositions, natures and creative sparks. We all have our own unique way of thinking.
However, when people start thinking "Everyone else is wrong and I am right," the world becomes a dark place. When ego takes over, you are alone, because your ego leaves no space for anyone else.
When you bring humility in to the picture, you find value in others. When you begin to see and feel the other's way of thinking, you open the door to friendship, closeness, love and oneness.
The same is true when it comes to our relationship with G-d. We all have ideas of what G-d wants of us. However, through studying Torah, especially the esoteric, and Chasidic teachings, we get to know G-d in a more intimate way. Slowly we transform and align ourselves with Him and His will becomes our will.
Soon we will merit to see G-d's presence fill our actions, our Temple and our lives. May we come to see how our difficulties accomplished the transformation that brings Moshiach.
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.
My Mother is the Editor of L'Chaim
by Esther Horowitz
"My mother is the editor of L'Chaim."
It is something my siblings and I have said with pride hundreds of times, over the past 30 years as a way of introducing ourselves.
Growing up as the oldest of 11 children, I saw things always changing in the Cohen home: New siblings, new house, new schools, Bar and Bat Mitzvahs and weddings, but L'Chaim has been one of the constants. It's always been part of our lives and is responsible for many a cherished childhood memory.
Throughout the years, my mother has worn many hats: writer and editor, helping to run Chabad House at New York University, hosting guests every Shabbat, assistant principal at Machon L'Yahadus Women's Yeshiva in Crown Heights, and beloved teacher and mentor to many. Yet through it all, my mother's dedication to the publication remains unchanged.
Articles were often first hand interviews or transcribed from recorded talks. Each issue was painstakingly researched, compiled and edited. Inspiration for a lead/front page article or "Slice of Life" article could come from anywhere: A family trip, a crisis at school, a passing comment made by one of us kids. We would joke that we had to watch what we said, or we may end up in next week's L'Chaim.
For the past 20 years or so, my mother has been researching, editing and sending the L'Chaim to the printer via email. But 30 years ago, when she edited the first issue after the passing of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka, the modern internet didn't exist.
So, how did the drafts of the L'Chaim articles make their way to the editor before the days of email? Thankfully, the first copy editor, Mrs. Esther Altman, lived around the corner from our house. We'd take turns running the print-out to her. Once we even devised a plan to save ourselves the trip. We put the papers in a bag with a rock and tried to throw it over the garages to her backyard. I believe that bag is still sitting on top of a garage on Empire Boulevard in Brooklyn.
Once the copy was edited, we would take another trip around the corner to the home of Rabbi Nissan Mangel, who for the first five years looked over every word that was published in L'Chaim.
Each week, I would find my mother up late at night (or still up when I awoke for school in the morning) with her wax boards, a large T-ruler, protractor and giant clip-art binders spread across the living room floor, as she cut out the articles and clip-art with her x-acto knife and rolled hot wax on the backs of the various columns of text to lay out the issue.
The issue was then sent in a cab to Tovah Press, a printing house in the Boro Park section of Brooklyn, where a blueprint was created.
My mother would then drive out to review the blueprint. If we were lucky enough to join her, we were in for a tasty treat courtesy of the printer's staff, and sometimes even a much anticipated shopping trip in Boro Park.
From there, the final product was printed to be distributed around the world.
And then once a year, we would collect the issues from the year and collate them to be bound into a book. One copy was bound in leather to be presented to the Rebbe at "Sunday Dollars," by my parents and Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman, director of Lubavitch Youth Organization - publisher of the L'Chaim.
As our family grew up, my brothers would distribute L'Chaims to their steady Teffilin "customers" on Fridays, they became instant celebrities when they announced that their mother was the editor of the publication.
Now the production process is simpler thanks to the web, e-mail and programs like Pagemaker, Quark, and Indesign. Yet through it all, my mother never gave up those weekly L'Chaim deadlines. She always spoke about the special zechut (privilege) of working on a project dedicated to the Rebbetzin, the responsibility she felt, and the blessings that came her way through her commitment and dedication to keeping up this important publication.
In 1993, Rabbi YY Kazen, founder of chabad.org, began putting the issues of L'Chaim online, first on electronic bulletin boards and then on the World Wide Web, still in its infancy. In addition to the web distribution, the weekly issues are sent by email to a dozen other cities in the U.S., Canada, England, South Africa, and Australia to be printed there for local distribution. And of course, L'Chaim is still available by subscription in the United States to be delivered by the good old US Postal Service.
My eldest son is approaching an age where he will begin distributing L'Chaim, as he joins fellow Yeshiva students on their weekly "Tefillin Routes," visiting offices and stores on Friday afternoons to encourage Jews to share an inspirational thought and to perform mitzvot . I can just see him proudly saying: "My Bubby is the editor of L'Chaim."
Esther Horowitz and her husband Rabbi Yudi are Chabad emissaries in Plano, Texas.
Along with most of the 2 million tourists who visit Iceland each year, Rabbi Avi and Mushky Feldman will be flying to the island country's capital of Reykjavík, Iceland later this year. But their ticket will be one-way. They are establishing the Chabad-Lubavitch Jewish Center of Iceland. The Chabad Jewish Center will be Iceland's first institutional Jewish presence; Rabbi Feldman will be the country's first permanent rabbi; and aside from congregations formed by British and American troops during World War II, theirs will be the first synagogue in Iceland's 1,000-plus years of history.
Rabbi Berel and Rochy Slaviticki have been appointed as new shluchim (emissaries of the Rebbe) to the University of New Hampshire. UNH is home to more than 15,000 students, of which approximately 600 of them are Jewish. UNH is in the town of Durham, which is part of New Hampshire's seacoast region.
17 of Sivan, 5731 
I am in receipt of your letter in which you write about the concept of Torah min Ha'Shomayim [Torah from Heaven].
It is somewhat surprising that you should write to me on this subject, or that you should have any problems about it, inasmuch as the matter is adequately treated in various sources, especially if you have discussed it orally with your yeshivah teachers, as you note in your letter.
You write that you are interested in positive proof, but I do not know what you mean by "positive". If you are referring to so-called scientific proof, this has also been given in various sources. Some aspects on the matter will be found in the enclosed brochure, though very brief.
Inasmuch as everything is by hashgacha protis [Divine Providence], some practical use must come from this exchange of correspondence. I therefore trust you will not take amiss my following observations.
When we accept the Torah on the basis of Naaseh [we will do (the commandment)](first and then) v'Nishma [and (then) we will understand], this was not only a necessary condition of accepting the Torah in general, but this approach also serves as the true method to the understanding of the Torah and everything connected with it. This is also evidenced from the Gemoro (Shabbos 88, a/b), where we find that through the Naaseh v'Nishma approach, by accepting G-d's Will unquestioningly, and with complete faith, and not let any distracting thoughts interfere with the observance of the Torah and mitzvos [commandments]in the daily life, leads to the fulfillment of the verse: "The wholeheartedness of the upright shall lead them." (Prov. 11:3), whereas without this approach the end of that verse is inevitable.
To put it another way, if one truly wants to understand the Torah and be given deep insights into it, it is necessary to realize that the Torah is quite different from any other science. For example, there can be a great physician who is an expert on every aspect of internal medicine etc., who can give true and effective prescriptions and directions to his patients, yet in his own personal life he may act in a way quite contrary to his own directives. But insofar as the Torah and mitzvos are concerned, of which it is written, "For they are our life and the length of our days," theory and practice cannot be separated, for it is only through the practice of the Torah and mitzvos that they can be appreciated and understood, as mentioned above, and as also our Sages of blessed memory expressed it, "If he is worthy and lives accordingly, the Torah becomes an elixir of life for him and if not (G-d forbid), then - " etc.
If one truly wants to understand the Torah and be given deep insights into it, it is necessary to realize that the Torah is quite different from any other science.
Needless to say, the purpose of the above is not to preach, but with all due respect, to urge you to strengthen your adherence to the Torah and mitzvos in the daily life, and then you will find that your doubts and questions will disappear or, at any rate, you will become more sensitive and receptive to the ideas and concepts which have been expounded by our great thinkers in resolving any doubts and questions in regard to the Torah.
I would also like to suggest that you have your tefillin checked to make sure they are kosher, as well as the mezuzo in your room.
Wishing you hatzlocho [success] in your Torah studies, the kind of study that leads to the fulfillment of the mitzvos, as our Sages expressed it, "The essential thing is the deed."
From The Letter and the Spirit by Nissan Mindel Publications (NMP).
DAVID is from the Hebrew meaning "beloved." David (I Samuel 17:12) was the second Jewish king. G-d promised David that all future kings, including Moshiach, would descend from him. He compiled/authored the Psalms. He soothed the troubled King Saul with his harp and battled Goliath. DEVORAH (Deborah) in Hebrew means "bee." Devorah was a prophetess and the only female judge (Judges 4:5). She and General Barak led a successful war against the Canaanites. "Devorah's Song" is her victory poem following the battle.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This week we read an additional portion from the Torah about the "para aduma" - red heifer.
Maimonides, in his summary of the laws of the red heifer, includes an interesting historical note on this practice: "There have been a total of nine red heifers from the time this mitzva (commandment) was given until the destruction of the Second Holy Temple....The tenth red heifer will be rendered by King Moshiach, may he be speedily revealed, Amen, may it be Your will."
These last words seem out of place. Why did Maimonides include a prayer for the revelation of Moshiach in the middle of a legal work? Had Maimonides' intent been to teach the importance of praying for Moshiach, he would have included this prayer with the laws of Moshiach.
Rather, the inclusion of these words - inserted after only a "passing" reference to Moshiach - underscores that the subject of Redemption must evoke a deep and profound longing in every Jew, culminating in the heartfelt plea: "May he be speedily revealed, Amen, may it be Your will!"
It is not enough to have faith in Moshiach's eventual arrival; a Jew is obligated to actively anticipate his coming, all day, every day. The faith of a person who believes Moshiach will come but does not actually expect him to arrive is lacking.
This unquenchable longing for Moshiach stems from our realization that a Jew cannot complete his personal mission until the Final Redemption, when the entire world will reach its perfection. Every minute till then, we find ourselves in a state of spiritual deficiency.
The lesson, therefore, to be learned from Maimonides' choice of words is that when a Jew anticipates Moshiach in the proper way, the very mention of the subject must elicit such strong emotion and longing that he will spontaneously cry out, "May he be speedily revealed, Amen, may it be Your will."
And the Children of Israel did according to everything that G-d had commanded to Moses, they did it. (Ex. 39:32)
The Sanctuary, about which G-d commanded Moses, is described in the Torah portions Teruma and Tetzave. The Sanctuary which the Children of Israel actually built is discussed in the portions Vayakhel and Pekudei. The first two portions refer to, in actuality, a spiritual sanctuary, while the second two portions a physical sanctuary. For this reason, every detail concerning the Sanctuary was given twice. In essence, it was about two totally different Sanctuaries that these portions speak.
And Moses blessed them (Ex. 39:43)
Moses said to them: May it be His will that the Divine Presence rests upon the work of your hands... (Rashi) A blessing cannot come into an empty vessel. This is true in one's mundane life as well as one's spiritual service. A person is expected to act and not just to sit with folded hands. Only then will G-d help. This is what Moses meant in his benediction: When you participate, through the work of your hands, G-d's blessing will rest on your work.
The Tabernacle of the testimony (Ex. 38:21)
The Hebrew word for testimony - "eydut" - alludes to the "adiyim," ornaments or heavenly crowns, the Jewish people received when the Torah was given. When the Children of Israel sinned by making the Golden Calf, their crowns were taken back, and with them their extra measure of spirituality. When the Sanctuary was erected, G-d forgave them their sin and their crowns were returned to them.
Samuel Nunez decided he must look for a way of escape to a place of refuge. This was no simple matter for such a well-known and famous family, particularly with the two agents of the Inquisition who watched their every movement.
But the clever doctor hit upon a brilliant plan. Dr. Nunez arranged a grand dinner in his home, inviting a number of distinguished guests. After the dinner he announced that he had a pleasant surprise for his guests! A banquet and entertainment were prepared for them on his yacht, which was anchored on the river near his house.
The surprise announcement was received by the guests with delight. And they all, together with Doctor Nunez and family, trooped onto the boat. Music was playing, and the guests were more than ready to have a "Ball."
The food and drinks were more than plentiful, and the guests ate and drank merrily to their hearts' desire!
The merriment continued 'till dawn, when the half-drunken guests suddenly realized they were far away from the banks of the river where they had embarked!
This was a surprise they had not 'bargained' for. An "Ocean Cruise" no less!
The "Yacht" was, in fact, a British frigate - a small, but well-armed battleship which Doctor Nunez had secretly acquired for the purpose of escaping with his family from the bloody threat of the Inquisition.
This dangerous plan had called for much careful planning and secrecy. Samuel Nunez had secretly sold part of his possessions, and had sent the money secretly to the Mendes family his relatives in England. With their help and that of some other good friends, Doctor Nunez had worked out every detail of this great plan.
Thus, on the night of the grand dinner, the British captain had arrived and was ready and waiting with his ship, by the dock of the doctor's house.
When the guests were sober enough to be aware of their plight, Doctor Nunez assured them they had nothing to worry about, for, as soon as they reached the shores of England, a boat was waiting to return them to Portugal.
He told them that he had done all he could to assure that they would have a comfortable and enjoyable voyage both ways. He also explained to them why he had had to undertake such a dangerous plan. He told them it was a matter of life and death for himself and family, who could not continue to live under the shadow of the infamous Inquisition, who chose to disregard his loyal service to king and country. He had therefore decided to seek a friendlier country where he and his family would have no further need to hide their Jewishness and Jewish way of life.
Soon after their arrival in England the Nunez family joined a party of Jewish refugees bound for the British Colonies of America. In the summer of 1733 the group of refugees arrived safely in Savannah, Georgia.
James Oglethorpe, the English governor, received the refugees in a most friendly manner. He gave them land for housing and possibilities for agriculture and other occupations, feeling that such educated and capable refugees would surely be a blessing for the colony.
When the trustees of the colonies in London learned that the English governor was helping the refugees to settle in America, they sent a sharp protest to him in a letter, saying: "We do not wish to make our American Colonies a Jewish Colony.
But James Oglethorpe was an honest, liberal-minded man, and he ignored the protest of the English politicians in London.
America was young, big and underdeveloped. The newcomers were capable refugees. who would bring much good to the land. They had suffered much in the lands they had left, and from which they had been saved. And, like other refugees who had come to America because they had been persecuted, they too deserved, and would enjoy, full freedom.
London continued to send orders that the governor should send away the Jewish refugees. The governor made a show of paying attention to the orders but, in actual fact, continued to show the new immigrants the same friendliness as before.
When James Oglethorpe called the attention of the trustees in England to the admirable qualities of the Jewish doctor Samuel Nunez they directed that he be paid for his professional services, but insisted that all grants of land should be withheld from the Jews.
Oglethorpe, however, obviously disregarded this, for the name Nunez appears in a deed that shows him to be a landowner in Savannah, six farms having been allotted to him.
The unfriendly attitude of the trustees in London towards the Jews and other unwelcome groups prompted Doctor Nunez and family to leave Savannah, though only for a time. They moved to Charleston, South Carolina, but some members of the family remained in Savannah.
A son-in-law of Samuel Nunez moved to New York, and some members were among the leading personalities of the Spanish-Portuguese Congregation in this city.
Among the descendants of the Nunez family was Mordechai Manuel Noah of New York, who made his name famous in Jewish and American life.
According to historical documents where the name Nunez is often mentioned, the pioneer physician Doctor Samuel Nunez returned to Savannah and resided there with his family until his death.
From Talks and Tales
The ultimate purpose of the giving of the Torah was to transform the world, so that ultimately - in the era of Moshiach - "G-d will be King over all the earth." Since however, Torah - acceptance of G-d's Kingship and His mitzvos - is a "Jewish thing," the Jews alone have the ability and obligation to bring G-d's Kingship to the whole world.
(From Reflections of Redemption based on Likutei Sichot 26, by Rabbi Dovid Yisroel Ber Kaufmann o.b.m., to whom this column is dedicated)