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Devarim Deutronomy

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Devarim Deutronomy

May 18, 2018 - 4 Sivan, 5778

1522: Bamidbar

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The Weekly Publication For Every Jewish Person
Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.

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Where Did I Park?  |  Living with the Rebbe  |  A Slice of Life  |  What's New
The Rebbe Writes  |  All Together  |  A Word from the Director  |  Thoughts that Count
It Once Happened  |  Moshiach Matters

Where Did I Park?

by Rabbi Uriel Vigler

We took the children to Six Flags, during the intermediate days of Passover, anticipating a fun family day. Because it was Passover, thousands of others had the same idea and the place was jam packed. We found a parking spot quite far from the entrance, and my wife asked me to look around and make a note of where we'd parked, which I did. We were in "section three," near the trees, far from the entrance. Easy! Or so I thought...

Fast-forward several hours, and after an exhilarating but exhausting day, we were ready to leave. I left my wife and oldest children at the front gate to save them the walk, and I took the baby and went to find the car. Well, I went straight to section three and looked around car! I walked up and down the rows, but there was no sign of it.

I tried to call my wife but her phone was dead, so I had no way of letting her know why it was taking so long. I was also carrying my baby who was getting heavier by the minute, and this little misplaced car issue was turning into quite a problem.

Fortunately, my brother happened to have had the same idea and brought his family to the same park, so he was able to give me a ride through the parking lot in his car, to look for my missing car. But still we couldn't find it.

After waiting a while, my wife and older kids walked to the car. She knew exactly where it was and she borrowed someone's phone to explain to me that there are dozens of "section threes" at Six Flags! Apparently I had parked at section three of a particular cartoon character and now I was in section three but the wrong one. She even texted me a picture of the right cartoon character to make it easier to find, and finally, I found them!

3330 years ago the Jewish nation stopped roaming the desert and parked at the foot of Mount Sinai. There, G-d revealed Himself to us in all His glory. He gave us our mission statement, the reason for our existence. He gave us the tools with which to live in the physical world-the Torah.

But fast forward 3330 years to the holiday of Shavuot in 2018, and some of us are struggling to remember where we parked. In fact, some of us have even stopped looking! Every day from Passover until Shavuot we have counted down in anticipation of the holiday. The counting is intended to remind us of the day G-d entrusted us with His Torah, and to build anticipation for Shavuot, when we will re-accept the great gift He has bestowed upon us.

He gave it to us so we would live with it and use it to elevate our material world. It's our job to keep doing those mitzvot (commandments) that will bring us closer and closer to our parking spot. Put on tefilin, keep Shabbat, give charity, love your fellow Jew, etc. Each mitzva brings us closer to finding that spot - remembering how and why G-d gifted us the gift of all gifts, His holy Torah.

Rabbi Vigler co-directs with his wife Shevy the Chabad Israel Center of the Upper East Side in New York City. From Rabbi Vigler's blog at

Living with the Rebbe

The Torah portion of Bamidbar is always read before Shavuot. This year we read it on 5 Sivan - the eve of Shavuot. What is the connection between Bamidbar, Shavuot and especially 5 Sivan?

The Talmud tells us, "On the second of Sivan Moses ascended the mountain... On the third he ascended... On the fourth he ascended... On the fifth of Sivan he built an altar and offered a sacrifice."

Why did Moses have to build the altar? Couldn't it have been built by others? Wouldn't his time be better spent reaching new spiritual heights by ascending the mountain?

We must conclude that only Moses could build the altar and in fact doing so was more important than ascending the mountain.

The day before every Shabbat and holiday is called "erev - the eve of" Shabbat or Yom Tov. It is the time we prepare for Shabbat or Yom Tov. But even more than that, it is a time that a ray of holiness of the upcoming holy day is already shining, and is therefore part of the upcoming holy day, which in our case is Shavuot.

The essence of Shavuot is that G-d himself descended into the physical world, onto Mount Sinai. The joining of the G-dly and the physical is what the Torah and our mission as Jews is about. We are to take this physical, mundane world and infuse it with G-dliness, uplifting the everyday to make it holy. We do this through performing commandments with physical objects, and by using our daily activities to aid us in our service of G-d.

This is also the reason why G-d didn't bring us up into the spiritual realms to receive the Torah, rather He chose to do it in the physical world on a mountain. To demonstrate, that it is our interaction with the physical that is most important.

The fifth of Sivan, Shavuot eve, is already connected with Shavuot. The command to build the altar and bring a sacrifice is thus part of the giving of the Torah. Every step of the giving of the Torah was done with and through Moses. He had the special soul that could actualize the process of receiving and implementing the Torah, G-d's will. Every Jew has a part of Moses in our soul that gives us the strength to do our mission, to uplift the physical world, making the world into a place where G-d's presence can dwell openly.

By Moses taking physical stones and building the holy altar he was clearly demonstrating this principal. Offering a physical sacrifice on the altar, completed the altar, because now it was actually used for its holy purpose.

Bamidbar means, "in the desert." The Torah was given to us in a desert, where nothing grows and people don't live. Why? Because it is symbolic of the lowest level of the physical and mundane. To show us, that we can and should infuse even the lowest, and most mundane, with holiness.

Shavuot, the eve of Shavuot, building the altar and Bamidbar all convey the same message: We can change the world, and make it a dwelling place for G-d's presence, which we will witness at the conclusion of our mission, with the coming of Moshiach, now!

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.

A Slice of Life

Every Mitzva a Protection

Mr. Eugene Schlesinger, a holocaust survivor, came to the Hebrew Academy of Long Beach, California, to share his experiences during the war.

Mr. Schlesinger passed away in 2012, but his incredible story of survival - as well as his generosity of spirit and his philanthropy - will impact lives for decades to come.

Here is the story that Mr. Schlesinger told to the seventh grade class at the Hebrew Academy, shared by the school's principal Rabbi Yitzchok Newman.

My name is Eugene and I wish to share with you the story of these tefillin that I am holding. I grew up in a small village in Czechoslovakia. We were a very traditional Jewish home in a small village which had a handful of Jewish families. There were similar villages in the area, all with their handful of Jewish families. None of the villages had a synagogue or the capacity to make a minyan. So Shabbat services rotated from village to village. Each Friday afternoon the families from the villages would travel to the designated village of that week and would stay with the few families in that village. This way we were able to make a minyan and to hold services.

We had no rabbi, but in Europe most Jews were well versed in reading Hebrew and knew basic tenets of the customs, traditions and Jewish law, so we could organize our services without a rabbi.

When the Nazis came to our village and ordered me to follow them, they allowed me a few minutes to part with my mother. The parting words she told me were, to wrap my Tefillin each morning and she said that will help you stay alive. Throughout the four years that I was a prisoner in the various concentration camps, I kept her command, wrapping the tefillin on my hand and placing it on my head.

You understand that I couldn't do it in public; it would have been taken away from me. So often it was put on in the most extreme conditions. I had to wake up much earlier than everyone else. I always wonder how they never found it or caught me. Indeed Hashem (G-d) was watching over me.

Toward the end of the war as the German war machine was collapsing, and the guards were trying to save themselves, I managed to escape from the camp I was in. As I was walking on the road, I saw a dead German soldier and I changed into that cursed German army uniform. I felt it was safer to walk in that uniform than in the clothing we wore in the camps.

One day as I was walking, I came upon a field and saw a large assemblage of German soldiers standing with their arms up. I realized that they were prisoners of an advance Russian unit. I stood there contemplating my next move. Obviously I too would be taken as a prisoner, but perhaps when the Russians interrogate me and will see the prisoner number tattooed on my arm, they will take care of me.

I hesitantly and apprehensively began walking towards them, and barely had I taken a few steps when I was spotted. I was stopped by a Russian soldier who ordered me to hand over my knapsack. He rifled through it and pulled out my tefillin bag. He looked at me (in the German uniform) in astonishment and shaking his head, he said in Russian, 'Ivri (Hebrew/Jew)?'.

I nodded. The Russian soldier pointed to the forest and I realized that I need to leave right away and as fast as possible. I ran toward the forest to safety and a few moments later, I heard the rattle of machine gun fire behind me, as all the German soldiers who were being held as prisoners in that field, were gunned down by the Russians. At that point I realized that the Russian soldier was a fellow Jew and he realized that I was a Jew who was wearing a German uniform to survive.

He realized this only because he saw my tefillin, the tefillin that I held on to so persistently and with a resolve that I and them will never part. Yes doing this mitzva saved my life!

Children, with Hashem's kindness you are living in a beautiful country, where we pray that these or similar atrocities never happen again. It is not dangerous to put on tefillin, or some other mitzva and declare that you are a proud Jew.

But sometimes, when things are going easy, people become lax, thinking it is ok if I don't put it on every day. So I want you to remember my mothers' words. One day this or some other mitzvah may protect and save your life as it did mine.

Yes each and every mitzvah we do, is an extra protection for us.

After the war, Eugene met and married his wife, Eva, another survivor from Czechoslovakia. They moved to America and started Center Meat Company with a partner, building it into the largest independently owned retail meat company in the Los Angeles area. The Schlesingers helped fund the Alpert Jewish Community Center, were early supporters of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., and endowed the Cal State Long Beach Eva and Eugene Schlesinger Teacher Training Workshop on the Holocaust.

What's New

Security for the Land of Israel

There are many coalitions throughout the world, from without and within, that are attempting to undermine Israel's security by imposing impossible and ruinous demands that Israel relinquish its G-d-given rights to their own Land. The Rebbe dedicated hundreds of talks to the security of the Land of Israel and the millions of people who live there. Rabbi Binyomin Schlanger collected and skillfully translated into English the Rebbe's cry for sanity in the Holy Land. Published by C.I.S.

New Chabad House

A new Chabad House opened in Le Cannet, in the French Riviera. Le Cannet, a city bordering Cannes, has 250 Jewish families reside. The new Chabad center is under the directorship of Rabbi Levi and Mouchka Gourevitch. The Chabad House is the first synagogue ever in Le Cannet.

The Rebbe Writes

Rosh Chodesh Sivan, 5715 [1955]

. . . It is surely unnecessary to elaborate on the close relationship between the physical and the spiritual, which even modern science has become convinced of.

Physically, at this time of the year, we find Nature again in full bloom. After a period of hibernation, it springs back to life with renewed vigor and vitality, faithfully reproducing the same elements which characterized the same period a year ago, and two years ago, and all the way back to the first seasons of the Nature cycle.

In our religious and spiritual life, also, we have the seasons and festivals which recur year after year, and reproduce the same spiritual elements which first gave rise to them. Thus, at this time of the year, with the days of Sefirah connecting the festival of Passover (physical freedom) with its culmination in Shavuoth (spiritual freedom), we can - if we are sufficiently prepared and attuned to it - relive the experiences of our ancestors who actually witnessed the Revelation and accepted the Torah at Sinai.

What a long way our ancestors covered in the course of but 50 days; from the abominations of Egyptian "culture," in which moral depravity and polytheism reigned supreme (as recent archeological discoveries have amply brought to light) - to pure monotheism at Mount Sinai, where the Jew receives the Torah with the call of Na'aseh v'nishma [we will do and we will understand]. Na'aseh first, i.e., complete surrender of man to G-d.

Through the medium of the Torah, G-d "descends" on Mount Sinai, and the Jew ascends to G-d - the soul is released from all its fetters tying it down to earthly things, and, on the wings of fear of G-d and love of G-d, unites with the Creator in complete communion. It is then that it can fully appreciate the inner meaning of "I am G-d thy G-d, Who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, the house of bondage," and the rest of the Ten Commandments, till "Thou shalt not covet," i.e., not only refrain from taking what is not yours, but not even desire it.

This great rise from the abyss of Egypt to the sublime heights of Sinai was attained by pure and simple faith in G-d, from the day when parents and children, women and infants, several million souls in all, set out on the trek through the desert, not dismayed by the irrationality of it, but simply obeying the Divine call with absolute trust. This won special Divine favor, in the words of the Prophet: "I remember unto thee the kindness of thy youth, the love of thy betrothal, thy going after Me into the wilderness." It is this faith that carried the Jews through the ages, an insignificant physical minority in the midst of a hostile world, a spot of light threatened by an overwhelming darkness. It is this absolute faith in G-d that we need nowadays more than ever before.

It is said, the whole sun is reflected in a drop of water. And so the whole of our nation is reflected in each individual, and what is true of the nation as a whole is true of the individual.

The core of Jewish vitality and indestructibility is in its pure faith in G-d: not in some kind of an abstract Deity, hidden somewhere in the heavenly spheres, who regards this world from a distance; but absolute faith in a very personal G-d, who is the very life and existence of everybody; who permeates where one is, or what one does. Where there is such faith, there is no room for fear or anxiety, as the Psalmist says, "I fear no evil, for Thou art with me," with me, indeed, at all times, not only on Shabbos or Yom Tov [holiday], or during prayer or meditation on G-d. And when one puts his trust in G-d, unconditionally and unreservedly, one realizes what it means to be really free and full of vigor, for all one's energy is released in the most constructive way, not only in one's own behalf, but also in behalf of the environment at large.

The road is not free from obstacles and obstructions, for in the Divine order of things we are expected to attain our goal by effort; but if we make a determined effort, success is Divinely assured, and the obstacles and obstructions which at first loom large, dissolve and disappear.

I wish you to tread this road of pure faith in G-d, without over-introspection and self-searching, as in the simple illustration of a man walking: he will walk most steadily and assuredly if he will not be conscious of his walk and not seek to consciously coordinate the hundreds of muscles operative in locomotion, or he would be unable to make his first step.

Wishing you success in all above, and hoping to hear good news from you and yours,

With the blessing of a happy Yom Tov of Receiving the Torah with inner joy,


All Together

RUT (Ruth) is from the Hebrew meaning "friendship." Megilat Ruth tells the story of the Moabitess who embraced Judaism and was the great-grandmother of King David, from whom Moshiach will be descended.

REUVEN (Reuben) means "Behold, a son." He was Jacob's first-born son by his wife Leah. First mentioned in Genesis 29:32.

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

Shavuot begins this Saturday night (May 19 this year). Shabbat goes directly into Shavuot.

There is a beautiful Midrash which teaches that the Jewish children of every generation are the reason why G-d gave us the gift of the Torah:

When G-d asked what assurance the Jewish people were offering that the Torah would be studied, loved and cherished, the Jewish people offered our Patriarchs as security. But this was not accepted. We then offered the Torah scholars as the guarantors. This, too, was not acceptable. It was only when we offered our children as guarantors that G-d approved our proposal and gave us the Torah.

On the anniversary of an event, the "spiritual energy" that was infused by G-d into that event is at its strongest. This is true, too, concerning every Jewish holiday. Which means that on Shavuot - the celebration of the Giving of the Torah - the spiritual energy that was invested into that day over 3,000 years ago is at its strongest.

What is the special spiritual energy of Shavuot and how can we benefit from it? It was on Shavuot that our ancestors proclaimed, "We will do and then we will learn." So this is the time when we recommit ourselves to the actual performance of mitzvot - even if we haven't yet learned or don't yet understand their reasons.

Shavuot is also the time when the spiritual energy of our children, being the guarantors for the Torah, is at its strongest. This is the time when we must renew our commitment to providing our children with a proper Jewish upbringing and education as well as facilitating the proper Jewish education of all Jewish children, wherever they may be.

We can begin doing both of the above by going to the synagogue this Shavuot to hear the reading of the Ten Commandments and by bringing along with us Jewish children of all ages - children in age, children at heart, or children in Jewish knowledge. Be there, and be a part of a 3,000-year-old unbroken chain of Jewish commitment and pride.

Thoughts that Count

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

Whoever occupies himself - The Hebrew word "osek", translated "occupies himself," relates to the Hebrew word for businessman, "baal esek."A person's occupation with the study of Torah must resemble a businessman's preoccupation with his commercial enterprise.6 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. 17)

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

Each and every day a Heavenly Voice goes forth from Mount Choreb - 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 return to G-d.

(Likutei Sichot, Vol. 9)

We have learned: Whoever quotes a concept in the name of its author brings redemption to the world, as it is stated:30 "And Esther told the king in the name of Mordechai." (Ethics 6:6)

Whoever quotes a concept in the name of its author brings redemption to the world - Associating a concept with its author enables one to associate the Author of the ten utterances of creation with His statements, i.e., one is better able to appreciate how G-d's speech is the life-force for creation. This awareness helps one bring the world to a state of Redemption - when the G-dly core of all existence will be openly revealed.

(Sichos Kodesh, Motzoei Shabbat Parshat Balak, 5738)

From In the Paths of Our Fathers,

It Once Happened

When the second Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Dov Ber (known as the "Mitteler Rebbe") passed away, there were three prospective successors.

Though all three were immensely qualified for the leadership of the Chabad movement, all three unanimously declined the importuning of the Chasidim. These three were: Reb Chaim Avraham, the brother of Rabbi Dov Ber and youngest son of Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidism, Reb Menachem Nachum, the Mitteler Rebbe's son, and the Tzemach Tzedek, the son of Rabbi Shneur Zalman's eldest daughter.

As time passed, the pressure among the Chasidim to find a successor escalated, though it seemed that no solution was in sight. Finally, despairing of a solution being found, two of the Chasidim declared, "It is impossible to be without a Rebbe!" They decided to travel to Ruzhin with the intention of accepting the Ruzhiner Rebbe as their Rebbe.

The Ruzhiner Rebbe, Reb Yisrael, was the grandson of the Mezritcher Maggid, and so highly thought of for his enormous piety that he was called the "Holy Ruzhiner."

These two Chasidim travelled to Ruzhin for Shavuot. As was the custom there, (as well as among many other Chasidim) the Ruzhiner distributed shirayim - food from his table - to his Chasidim. It was Yom Tov and the Ruzhiner began to distribute wine from his own cup to each of the Chasidim. The two Chabad Chasidim also wanted to participate and receive wine from the Ruzhiner and they proffered their cups for the "cup of blessing."

The Ruzhiner, however, refused them, saying, "If you want some wine, you may take it yourself, but I will not give it to you."

The two were very surprised and protested, "Why won't you give it to us, after all we have come here in order to accept you as our Rebbe?"

Upon hearing those words, the Ruzhiner sat down at the table and began to deliver a deep Chasidic discourse based on the theme, "The Giving of the Torah began, not at Mount Sinai, but at the burning bush."

He explained in great depth that when G-d gave Moses the task of taking the Children of Israel out of Egypt, G-d told Moses to "tell the Jews that I have remembered you and want to take you out of Egypt."

Moses' reaction was strange. He replied that he was afraid the Jews would ask him what is G-d's name. To this G-d replied, "Tell them My Name is, 'I will be what I will be.'"

The Ruzhiner posed the question, "Why did Moses ask this question of G-d? For Moses did know G-d's name as he had been handed down a tradition that it was spelled Yud-Kei-Vav-Kei*! And why did G-d answer, 'I will be what I will be.'"

The Ruzhiner elucidated the point through the use of numerical equivalents which are often used to explicate texts. He explained that the numerical equivalent of Yud-Kei-Vav-Kei is 26, while that of the words "I will be what I will be" equals 441 which is "emet" - truth. G-d desired that Moses be able to reveal to the Jews the truth.

"The word 'emet'," continued the Ruzhiner, "is also an acronym for, "Torat Menachem Emet" ("the teachings of Menachem are true").

When the two Chabad Chasidim heard these words being spoken by the Holy Ruzhiner, they realized that he was intimating that they should return home to the city of Lubavitch and that the Tzemach Tzedek, whose name was Menachem Mendel, should become Rebbe.

Upon arriving in Lubavitch two weeks later, the Tzemach Tzedek had already acquiesced. The returning Chasidim repeated to their fellows the discourse they had heard from the mouth of the Holy Ruzhiner in regard to the word "emet," intimating that the Tzemach Tzedek should be the Rebbe.

The Chasidim recalled with amazement that the Tzemach Tzedek had delivered the same discourse that very same Shavuot! But when he reached the part which identified the acronym of "emet" with his name, Menachem, he merely hesitated and smiled to himself. Now, they all understood why he had smiled.

*) The Hebrew letter "hei" has been represented by "kei" here because of the prohibition of pronouncing G-d's name.

Moshiach Matters

The Jewish people are to be a "kingdom of kohanim."They are to be spiritual rulers and leaders. The goal is to be involved in the world, transforming it into a dwelling place for G-dliness. Like the Levites, we have a special task. We are not to withdraw from the world, but lead it and guide it. This is our preparation to receive the Torah - whether for the first time at Sinai, every year following the reading of Bamidbar, or in the immediate, imminent future, when by preparing the world, we will receive the Torah of Moshiach.

(From Reflections of Redemption, based on Likutei Sichot vol 18, by Dovid Yisroel Ber Kaufmann o.b.m.)

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