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Did you ever do a double-take when you were in a store and you noticed a mannequin that looked alive? Or maybe you were in a wax museum and sat down next to a person only to find out that it was a wax figure.
In either case, what gives the mannequin or the wax figure away is the lack of even a small, slight, almost imperceptible movement. It could be the blink of an eye or the ever-so-faint rise and fall of the chest. Or maybe a nose twitch. But it is always some kind of movement all the same.
Movement is a dead giveaway for the existence of life. Which is one of the reasons why, according to Jewish teachings, people are called "movers" whereas angels are called "stationery."
A person moves, stretches, bends, reaches, climbs, falls.
A person moves both physically and hopefully - and more importantly - spiritually.
The noun "mover" when applied to people as compared to angels is specifically referring to spiritual matters. And it is in spiritual matters as well that a person stretches, bends, reaches, climbs and sometimes falls, but gets up again to climb once more.
Just as physical movement is a sure sign of life, spiritual movement is a true indication of the vitality of the soul.
How do you move your soul? Simply by making an even small, slight, almost imperceptible move.
By learning Torah concepts that stretch you. By reaching out to another person with love and compassion. By bending your will to G-d's will. By climbing, one step at a time, through the mitzvot (commandments). By falling once in a while, but then by getting up again.
Torah study (and Torah as used here is not confined to the Five Books of Moses but encompasses all areas of Jewish teachings) is limitless. It is full of joy and life and movement and excitement and mind-expanding concepts.
Mitzvot, as well, give us a chance to move. With mitzvot we cleave to G-d, we connect to another Jew, we help shoulder a friend's burden, we laugh and sing and dance.
A Midrash relates that when the dove was created she complained to G-d, "It is not fair. I am so small and I have no way of outrunning my many pursuers who would like to capture me."
So G-d added wings to the delicate body of the dove.
But once more the dove objected. "These wings are so heavy. Now I certainly have no way of escaping my predators." G-d taught the dove that the wings are not a burden but can be used to fly.
Torah and mitzvot are not lifeless weight that we have to shlepp along but rather are wings to help us access heights otherwise unattainable. They can help us reach higher and higher. They can help us grow. They help us move in the most graceful, exhilarating way possible.
This week's Torah portion, Behaalotecha, begins with Aaron being commanded by G-d concerning lighting the lamps of the menora.
We also read about the "Second Passover" that was instituted in response to the Jewish people's demand "Why should we be deprived?" G-d instructs Moses on the procedures for Israel's journeys and encampments in the desert, and the people journey in formation from Mount Sinai, where they had been camped for nearly a year.
The mitzva (commandment) of Pesach Sheini. If someone was impure or far away when the Passover sacrifice was being brought, he should bring it on Pesach Sheini, a month later.
The first unique thing about this mitzva is that the Torah tells us the story of how this mitzva came to be. "There were people that were impure... They came before Moses... Why should we lose out?... "
Another unique thing is that they only asked about being impure, which was no fault of their own. However, G-d added that if he is far, which is understood to mean a minimal distance, this too can be made up on Pesach Sheini.
What lesson can we take from these two oddities, the story behind the mitzva and the addition of being far which is not really far at all?
There is the possibility to be near and far at the same time. Near in distance yet detached and distant in attitude. Being here in body and elsewhere in mind. For example, it could be that while you are praying and saying the words, your mind is wandering. G-d wants us to be close to Him, to love Him and yet, it is possible to be so close and totally ignore Him. To this G-d is saying "I still want you to be close to Me, try again, do it better." Only like the people in the story of Pesach Sheini, you need to really want it. If you do, it will always be possible to get close to G-d.
At home too, our spouses and our children yearn for our love and closeness. While we might be with them physically, it is often the case that they feel ignored because our attention is not focused on them.
Not being able to move, I yearn to hug and play with my kids. I realize the value of spending quality time with them and I do the best I can in my circumstance to be with them.
First you need to realize what you are missing out on, then you need to truly want to change and finally you have to know that they yearn for this connection and will welcome your love. Don't give up on the best thing you have.
Adapted by Rabbi Yitzi Hurwitz from the teachings of the Rebbe, yitzihurwitz.blogspot.com. Rabbi Hurwitz, who is battling ALS, and his wife Dina, are emissaries of the Rebbe in Temecula, Ca.
The Flowering Potential
by Batya Schochet Lisker
It was the end of a long and exhausting school day during my first few weeks as principal of Cheder Menachem in Los Angeles. I thought I was alone in the building, the janitors had long since mopped the floor and emptied the garbage cans, when suddenly I heard the sound of footsteps. They echoed through the hallway and stopped right outside my office. Mendel, a first-grader accompanied by his big brother Zalman, tentatively opened my door, cleared his throat and said, "Mrs. Lisker, I brought you a present but forgot to give it to you this morning. Zalman came all the way back to school with me so I could bring it to you!" He opened his sweaty palm, dropped something on my desk and said, "Here it is."
I saw what appeared to be a small black bead. "Hmm... wow, thank you. That is so nice of you," I said.
"It's a seed, you know," he said, "and if you take a flower pot, put some soil into it, plant the seed and take very good care of it, it will grow into a beautiful flower. And don't worry about using up the seed because the flower will have many other seeds, and then they will be yours, too."
The next morning when Mendel arrived at school, he immediately asked me, "Did you plant the seed?" I looked at his hopeful face and fumbled for an appropriate excuse. "Umm, it was late when I left last night... I have to get a flower pot... go to the store and buy some soil..."
That night I made sure to plant the seed.
Every day, Mendel had the same question for me. "Is my plant growing yet?"
I tried to explain to him that plants have growing seasons. It was now November. Perhaps this seed only grew in the spring, even though it was still warm in California. But Mendel was unwavering in his belief. "Make sure to water it and put it in the sun. If you take good care of it, it will grow. You'll see."
I was deeply touched, honored even by the confidence he had in me but privately I wondered, "Does every seed really become a plant?"
Then one morning, there they were: two tiny green shoots had pushed themselves up through the soil. I was delighted and could hardly contain my excitement. I waited until the plant had grown a few inches, then I excitedly took it to school and waited for Mendel to arrive.
"Mendel, you asked me for this and I'm glad you did. Look at the surprise I have for you!"
Mendel stared long and hard at the plant and then announced, "That's not my plant. If it were my plant, it would have flowers."
"Now, look here, Mendel," I said, "I didn't even believe your seed would grow into anything at all at this time of the year. Flowers grow in the spring, not in December."
But Mendel calmly insisted, "If you take good care of it, it will have flowers. It's all up to you."
I'll be frank, it was a very difficult moment for me. Mendel expected me to make some promises and he was planning to hold me to them. I muttered that I would try. Dubious, I placed the plant on the window sill in my office. And then, one Monday morning I could hardly believe my eyes. Mendel's plant was beginning to flower, in the middle of January!
Nothing is more fun than savoring a victory, but this was not "my" victory, it was our victory, for it was Mendel who had kept the faith and propelled me forward with his confidence. Mendel, however, did not understand my desire to celebrate. To him there was never a question or a doubt; if I did what I had to there would be flowers.
Two mornings later, my spirit flagged. I saw it instantly- the plant had been knocked off the window sill and the tender buds had broken off.
I berated myself. Why didn't I have more foresight? Why had I placed the plant on the windowsill where it could be knocked down so easily? I was surprised at the extent of my disappointment. But then Mendel stated pointedly, "Don't be sad, Mrs. Lisker. Now you know that the plant can grow flowers. Just wait and take care of it and flowers will grow again."
Mendel taught me a great deal:
It's all up to me.
If my heart "understands" the potential and I take very good care,
I will have flowers -
Lots and lots of them.
Our job as parents and educators is a difficult one. But if we bring to it a fresh and determined spirit, adjust our aspirations upward, keep the children as the focus of every decision that we make, challenge accepted ideas and do not shrink from challenges, we can and we will grow flowers.
As the Lubavitcher Rebbe encourages us: "When you plow and you sow - things grow."
Batya Schochet Lisker was the principal of Cheder Menachem and the founding principal of Bais Chana Chabad Girls' High School of Los Angeles. She is currently program administrator of the Machne Israel Development Fund Early Childhood Initiative.
Reprinted from the N'Shei Chabad Newsletter
Rabbi Avi and Mushky Feldman have opened Chabad of Iceland in Reykjavik. 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 the Chabad Jewish Center will be the first synagogue in Iceland's 1,000-plus years of history.
New Torah Scrolls
Chabad of Centrepointe and the Soloway Jewish Community Centre in Ottawa hosted a dedication ceremony for a new Torah scroll that was being sent to an army base in Israel.
Friendship Circle Brooklyn were the proud recipients of a newly written Torah scroll that was commissioned by Dovi and Racheli Chaimson in honor of the Bar Mitzvah of their son, Baruch Schneur.
15th of Iyar, 5724 
Greeting and Blessing:
...I wish to take this opportunity to acknowledge receipt of your letter in which you wrote about your participation in a symposium on the future of the American Jewish community as it will be one hundred and twenty years hence. Generally speaking, I take no pleasure prognosticating, even in regard to a more immediate future than one hundred and twenty years. For one thing, there is the consideration that it is one of our basic principles of faith to wait and expect Moshiach every day, when the whole world will be established under the Reign of the Almighty. But apart from this, everyone, even a non-religious person, can see clearly what unforeseen changes have taken place "over night." Therefore, it serves no useful purpose to forecast what the state of affairs will be a century from now. However, this is a point of which you are not unaware, as is indicated in your letter.
I wholeheartedly agree with you that when a Jewish audience can be gathered together, the opportunity should not be wasted on empty platitudes, but should be made use of to the utmost, to provide them with a lasting inspiration which should be expressed in the daily life. Of course, I do not know what kind of an audience there is going to be in this particular instance. I believe, however, that the following observations are valid for any type of Jewish audience:
It is customary to find fault with the present generation by comparison with the preceding one. Whatever conclusions one may arrive at from this comparison, one thing is unquestionably true, namely that the new generation is not afraid to face a challenge. I have in mind not only the kind of challenge which would place them at variance with the majority, but even the kind of challenge which calls for sacrifices and changes in their personal life. Some of our contemporary young people are quite prepared to accept this challenge with all its consequences, while others who may not as yet be ready to accept it, for one reason or another, at least show respect for those who have accepted it, and also respect for the one who has brought them face to face with this challenge. This is quite different from olden days, when it took a great deal of courage to challenge prevailing popular opinions and ideas, and a person who had the courage to do so was often branded as an impractical individual, a dreamer, etc.
Furthermore, and in my opinion this is also an advantage, many of our young people do not rest content with taking up a challenge which has to do only with a beautiful theory, or even deep thinking, but want to hear also about the practical application of such a theory, not only as an occasional experience, but as a daily experience; and that is the kind of idea which appeals to them most.
A further asset is the changed attitude towards the person who brings the challenge. Even though it seems logical that the one who brings the challenge to the young people should have a background of many years of identification with and personification of the ideas which he promulgates, this is no longer required or expected nowadays, when we are used to seeing quick and radical changes at every step in the physical world. If this is possible in the physical world, it is certainly possible in the spiritual world, as our Sages of old had declared, "A person may sometimes acquire an eternity in a single instant." Thus, no individual can ignore his duty to share his newly-won truth, even if he has no record of decades of identification with it. As a matter of fact, this may even be an added advantage, in that it can impress on the audience a precedent.
You will surely gather that the preceding paragraphs are in reference to the beginning of your letter, in which you express your discontent at the lack of deeper knowledge of the various aspects of the Torah. Besides, you surely recall the saying of the wisest of all men about the true wisdom, "The more the knowledge, the more the pain." For, in regard to the knowledge of the Torah, which represents the infinite wisdom of the Ein Sof, the more one learns, the more one becomes painfully aware of the distance which is still to be covered, a distance which is indeed infinite. As a matter of fact, even in the so-called exact sciences, every discovery uncovers new unexplored worlds, and raises more questions than it answers. Yet, this is what provides the real stimulus and challenge to learn and probe further. How much more so in regard to the Torah, Toras Chaim, the true guide in life, both the physical and spiritual life.
continued in next issue
YOSEF (Joseph) means, "G-d will add." Yosef was one of the twelve sons of Yakov from his wife, Rachel (Genesis 30:24). There were many great sages with the name Yosef. A variant form is Yosi, the name of many Jerusalem and Babylonian scholars. Yosel is the Yiddish diminutive form.
YEDIDA means "beloved of G-d." Yedida was the mother of King Yoshiayahu -- Josia (Kings II 22:1).
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
Summer is a great time for kids. Without the pressures of school, children have the opportunity to spend their summer vacation in enjoyable and educational pursuits. The summer schedule is particularly suitable for children to grow spiritually, by attending a day or overnight camp with a vibrant, exciting and Torah-true Jewish atmosphere.
Each year, without exception, as the summer approached, the Rebbe emphasized the importance of Jewish children attending Jewish camps. The amount that a child can learn in the summer, unencumbered by the pursuit of reading, writing and arithmetic, goes far beyond what he can accomplish at any other time of year. And, as this knowledge is being imparted in an atmosphere of fun and excitement, in an environment totally saturated with Jewish pride, it remains with a child long after the summer months are over.
It's still not too late to enroll your child in a Jewish camp. And it's certainly not too late to facilitate other children attending a Jewish camp if you do not have camp-age kids. By calling your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center, or the National Headquarters of Tzivos Hashem, you can find out about a summer camp experience for someone you know whose benefit will last a lifetime.
By the way, adults, too, should take advantage of the more relaxed atmosphere of summer to revitalize and nourish themselves Jewishly. Try a Jewish retreat or even just a weekly Torah class to enhance your Jewish pride and knowledge.
And may this summer be our last one in exile and our first in the Era of the Redemption.
Rebbi would say: "Which is the right path that a man should choose for himself? That which is honorable to himself and brings him honor from man. "Be as careful in [the performance of a seemingly] minor mitzvah as of a major one, for you do not know the reward given for the mitzvos. (Ethics 2:1)
Be as careful - The Hebrew word zahir, translated as "careful" also means "shine." All the mitzvos share a fundamental quality; each of them enables one's soul to shine forth.
Be wary of those in power, for they befriend a person only for their own benefit; they seem to be friends when it is to their advantage, but do not stand by a man in his hour of need. (Ethics 2:3)
"Those in power" can refer to our conscious egos, thoughts and feelings. Although we must rely on these powers to control the functioning of our lives, we must be aware of their fundamental self-interest, that they are concerned only for their own benefit. Our essential selves, by contrast, are pointed towards self-transcendence. And it is through such self-transcendence that a person achieves what is truly to his benefit - a good far higher than can be perceived by intellect.
He used to say: "Make His will your will, so that He may fulfill your will as though it were His will. Set aside your will because of His will, so that He may set aside the will of others before your will." (Ethics 2:4)
Make His will - This teaching conveys a fundamental lesson: Each of us has the ability to remake G-d's will, as it were, to arouse a new desire on His part. To apply this principle: A person might think that since it is G-d's will that we are in exile, we should resign ourselves to the situation. Nothing is further from the truth. G-d is anxiously waiting for us to arouse a new will on His part. He is waiting for us to motivate Him to bring the Redemption.
(The Rebbe, Shabbat Parshat Masei, 5744)
From In the Paths of Our Fathers, sie.org
For several weeks, snowstorms and a thick layer of ice had rendered the roads impassable. As farmers from the surrounding villages couldn't bring their produce to market, there was a shortage of many food items in the big city of Lublin. And while most of these commodities weren't essential, there was one thing the Jews of Lublin couldn't live without: onions.
Onions played a very important role in the Shabbat menu. In all of Lublin, it would have been very difficult to find a Jewish household in which the traditional dish of chopped eggs and onions wasn't eaten on Shabbat. Indeed, a shortage of meat or fish would have been less distressing.
Everyone was troubled by the lack of onions, but most particularly the family of the famous tzadik, the "Chozeh" (Seer) of Lublin. Try as they could to obtain the prized vegetable, there just weren't any to be had.
One Friday morning, the Chozeh's disciple, Rabbi Naftali of Ropshitz, was on his way to the synagogue when he saw something that made him stop. There, in the middle of the town square, was a farmer sitting next to a bulging sack of onions. The farmer, well aware of their market value, had traveled a great distance to make what he hoped would be a sizeable profit.
A daring idea suddenly popped into Rabbi Naftali's head. Without further ado he approached the farmer and asked to buy his entire stock of onions. The farmer was surprised, but didn't ask any questions. He named a rather exorbitant price, and Rabbi Naftali paid him on the spot.
"Oh, and I also want to buy your sheepskin coat and hat," Rabbi Naftali added. At first the farmer was appalled by the thought of having to return home without his warm clothing, but the thick wad of bills the Jew pressed into his hand managed to convince him. A few minutes later Rabbi Naftali was hurrying home with his new purchases: a large bag of precious onions, and a peasant's sheepskin coat and hat.
That afternoon, a well-bundled "farmer" set up shop across the street from the Chozeh's house. "Onions," the farmer cried out, "onions for sale!" The peasant's body was swaddled inside a thick sheepskin coat, and his furry hat obscured most of his face. His boots were covered with mud, obviously trekked in from the countryside...
Within minutes there was a large crowd of Jews vying for his wares. The farmer named his price, then suddenly announced that he had changed his mind: he was not interested in selling his onions.
"Please!" the Chasidim begged him. "We need the onions for a holy man, a great tzadik. Surely you will be blessed if you let us buy them."
"If that is the case," the farmer replied, "I will only sell them directly to the tzadik himself." The Chasidim were wary, but what could they do? They led the farmer across the street and brought him to the Chozeh.
At that moment, the tzadik was doing what he did every Friday afternoon in honor of the Sabbath: polishing his golden Kiddush cup. It was a very unusual goblet, a true masterpiece of workmanship. Fashioned out of pure gold, the cup was engraved with scenes from the Holy Land: the Tower of David, the Western Wall, and the Mount of Olives.
There were many rumors circulating about this goblet, but the general consensus among the Chasidim was that it had belonged to a holy tzadik of a previous generation. One thing they were sure of: whoever recited a blessing over the cup and drank from it was very fortunate.
In fact, the Chozeh was the only person who ever used it. A whole week long the Kiddush cup was packed away; only on Friday would he take it out and polish it lovingly. The contrast between the burnished gold and the white Shabbat tablecloth was truly a sight to see.
"How much do you want for your onions?" the tzadik asked the farmer.
"One minute, one minute," the peasant answered. "What's your rush? My bones are frozen. First give me something to drink."
"Bring him a small glass of whiskey," the Chozeh instructed his servant.
"What?" the farmer raised his voice. "Only a small glass?"
"Bring him the whole bottle," the tzadik amended his words, but this only offended the farmer more. "What do you think I am, a drunkard?" the peasant sputtered. "That's it!" he said suddenly, jumping up and walking toward the door. "I'm going home. I don't need to sell you anything."
The Chasidim tried to placate him and eventually calmed him down. "All right," the farmer said, "I will sell you the onions, but only for a glass of whiskey from that cup." He pointed to the golden cup. The Chasidim were scandalized, but the tzadik himself hurried to fill the goblet with trembling hands.
The farmer picked up the cup, closed his eyes and then said in a loud voice: "Blessed are You, L-rd our G-d, King of the Universe, by Whose word all things came to be."
Everyone was too shocked to speak, with the exception of the Chozeh. "Lechaim, Naftali!" he said with a broad smile. "You are very clever, and truly deserve to drink from this cup..."
Since in the times of Moshiach, all Jews will be as prophets, now, in the days preceding Redemption, we must prepare ourselves by learning what Torah has to say about prophecy Prophecy occurs in such a way that the prophet becomes so unified with the Word of G-d that it actually becomes clothed within his mind. Thus, it is a basic principle of Judaism, one of the foundations of our faith, to know - to experience, realize and understand - that G-d reveals His secrets, becomes unified with the da'as - the knowledge of the prophet. G-d's Wisdom becomes enclothed in the mind of the prophet.
(From Reflections of Redemption based on Likutei Sichot 23, by Rabbi Dovid Yisroel Ber Kaufmann o.b.m.)