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March 1, 2019 - 24 Adar I, 5779

1562: Vayakhel

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  1561: Ki Sisa1563: Pekudei  

A Voyage Into Space  |  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

A Voyage Into Space

by Dr. Velvl Greene

Many decades ago a noted scientist delivered a lecture at a Space Science Conference on the broader aspects of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Program in the USA. Among other things, the lecturer drew a parallel between the problems which will face space explorers in the future and our current conditions on earth.

Using a hypothetical manned voyage to the nearest star, Alpha Centauri, as an example, he emphasized the remarkable engineering, biological and sociological problems that would be encountered during the execution of this enterprise. Since the star is 4.3 light years away, a space ship travelling at 1,000 miles per second would require more than 800 years to get there and another 800 years to get back. Any original crew we launched would not survive for even a fraction of the mission's duration. Instead, we would have to "man" the capsule with men and women who would have children who would carry on the mission and would, themselves have children, and so forth for 1,600 years. Ultimately, after many generations, the remote progeny of the original crew would complete the mission.

This interstellar spaceship would have to be completely self-sustaining and self-supporting. The lecturer pointed out that the engineering and technical problems are only one side of the coin. In the space-ship, the crew would have to learn to tolerate each other, generation after generation. They would have to learn, and learn quickly, that you don't blow up only part of a spaceship.

And then the speaker touched on a key topic: Would the fiftieth generation, after a thousand years, still share the aspirations of their pilgrim fathers who set out from earth so long ago? How, indeed, can you convey to a generation still unborn the basic information about where they came from, where they are going, how to get there and how to get back?

One of the scientists stood up, and to my surprise and delight, declared: "If we could figure out how the Jews have managed to survive these thousands of years we'd have our answer!"

To a Jew this story is no mere fantastic flight of imagination. Over three thousand years ago, at Mount Sinai, we were launched with specific instructions and suitable maps. For more than a hundred generations we knew where we came from, were we were going, why we were travelling, who was the Project Officer, and how to get back. And we had no real difficulty in transmitting this intelligence - unbroken from generation to generation - because the Torah, our Divine log book, not only contains cosmic guidance about the overall mission (and how to resolve sociological and political problems, how to approach the technical question of physical survival and well-being), but also contains the very directions about how it should be transmitted to young and old.

And despite all problems, philosophies, explanations and rationalizations, this log book has met the only real criterion of the empirical scientists - it worked. Our presence demonstrates that it worked.

But somehow, not too long ago, a generation of "astronauts" arose who decided that they could write a better log book. They thought the original was old-fashioned and too restraining, and too complicated and irrelevant to the problems of modern times. They lost their "fix" on the celestial reference points. They know something is wrong, but cannot pinpoint the malfunction and cannot get back on course.

There are some left - and their numbers are growing - who use the log book and can compute the original trajectory. They communicate with The Immortal Monitor and per-severe in getting the vehicle and its inhabitants back on course. It is the privilege and responsibility of all of us to become familiarized again with this program, especially since we near the completion of the "Mission" - with the coming of Moshiach.

A former Fulbright scholar and a pioneer in exobiology, the late Professor Velvl Greene spent years working for NASA searching for life on Mars.

Living with the Rebbe

In this week's Torah portion, Vayakhel, we read about the participation of all the Jewish people, men and women, in donating to and construction of the Tabernacle.

After the sin of the golden calf, G-d's presence left the Jewish camp. The Tabernacle was meant to be a dwelling place for G-d's presence, so that G-d be among us once again. G-d's command to build the Tabernacle was a clear indication that He forgave us.

Later we had various Tabernacles in Israel and finally the first and second Temples in Jerusalem.

Now that we have neither Tabernacle nor Temple, how do we merit G-d's presence in our midst?

Also, the Torah tells us that women brought more than the men. But the fact is, that they were not involved in the sin of the golden calf, so why were they so driven to be involved?

Today, one of the ways to do the mitzva of building a Tabernacle is by making our homes into a place where G-d is comfortable. Each and every one of us can be involved. Being that the woman is the backbone of the Jewish home, and she naturally understands the value of having G-d's presence blessing her home, she sets out to design and manage her home in a way that it will create an hospitable environment for G-d's presence.

The family is mostly influenced by the woman, who is the Akeret HaBayit or "mainstay" of the home. She is successful because of her attitude, her drive to create a Jewish atmosphere and her ability to move her family in the right direction. The Jewish woman knows intuitively that the future of Judaism rests in her hands.

Although the men gave to and were involved in the construction of the Tabernacle, their involvement didn't reach the level and enthusiasm that the women displayed. This is for two reasons. First, while the men were obligated to give, the women were not. The men gave from a sense of obligation, the women gave from their hearts. Second, when giving, the men felt the guilt of sin of the golden calf, while the women felt their connection to G-d and yearned for His presence and closeness.

Every man, woman and child, can now give of themselves from a place of love and closeness. In this way, every family can make their home into a Tabernacle. In this merit, G-d will surely send Moshiach. May it happen 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

My Wife Danced While I Cried
by Rabbi Levi Avtzon

Life is supposed to make sense.

And for me, it generally does. Even the impossible question of "why do bad things happen to good people?" is often abstract and impersonal. My lack of understanding doesn't often hit me in the gut. I'm comfortable with the limits of my comprehension.

And then my father died. Suddenly. On my mother's birthday. It was Wednesday afternoon, just hours before my wife was scheduled to board a direct flight from our hometown of Johannesburg to NYC for her brother's wedding. I was going to watch the kids in Johannesburg. The flight was 9:40 p.m. My wife was packed and I was working on an essay. At 3:13 p.m. I saw a WhatsApp on my family group.



Tatty is not responsive!!!!!!!!

We are calling Hatzalah.

Nine endless minutes later:

Nothing they can do

Baruch Dayan Ha'emet

Get over here now

We soon found out that he had died peacefully in his sleep from a massive heart attack.

There was no time to even feel. Logistics took over. The flight to New York was leaving in six hours. We quickly bought a ticket. Three hours later we were heading to the airport (my sister-in-law and her parents graciously took in the kids for the week).

I was going to a funeral. My wife was headed to a sibling's wedding. On the very same flight! She was flying with her gowns; I was flying with clothes that would soon be ripped and then worn for the week of mourning.

It was surreal. I kept pinching myself to remind myself that it was real. My young father had gone without warning, and my dear brother-in-law was getting married. All at once. The 16-hour flight is always long, but this time it was endless.

On that flight I let go of logic. Logic was of no help.

We landed Thursday morning and soon went to the funeral. Three days later my wife put on her gown and joined her siblings, parents, grandparents, and hundreds of others at a beautiful wedding just five minutes' walk from where my mother, siblings, aunts, uncles, and I were sitting shiva.

Just minutes before the ceremony was to begin, the groom stopped by. I walked outside (according to Jewish law a bride or groom may not enter a home of mourning on their wedding day). He was dressed so handsomely. I was in ripped, scruffy clothing. We hugged. We cried. I blessed him with everything good in this world. He shared words of comfort. And then I went back to join the ring of mourners and he went to put a ring on his bride's finger.

Does any of this make sense? Not to me.

Math makes sense. Science makes sense. We attempt to make sense of history and human psychology. Most of the educational system is about giving us the tools to make sense of life around us.

Now, you might say that as a faithful Jew (and a rabbi at that!) I'm quite comfortable with the nonsensical or illogical. After all, isn't faith the antithesis of logic?

Something that isn't logical isn't by definition illogical. If it doesn't make sense, it's not automatically nonsense.

There are some things that are indeed "below" logic - silly or nonsensical. Then there are things that are truly logical. There are also, however, those things that are above logic-larger and greater than the laws of logic.

I'm not often confronted with this third level.

In the day-to-day life of a religious person, there is lots of sense and logic. The existence of a Creator is logical to me. The existence of a Divine Code is historically true and commonsensical to me (after all, why would G-d create life without a manual?).

Following halacha (Jewish law), even those laws which my mind cannot understand, is a logical progression for me. Once my mind wraps around the idea that there is a G-d who is above nature, who created a manual, and who is interested in a relationship with me, the nuance of His requests are acceptable to me, regardless of whether I understand them.

This is true in every relationship, especially marriage. We all do things for our loved ones which seem illogical to us, just because our beloveds want it and we love them. The logic of love is to give up logic for the sake of love.

Indeed, letting go of logic has been the only solace at this time. There is a time for logic, for making sense and marrying our brain with Torah. Then there is time to let go and embrace the Dayan Haemet, the True Judge, whose judgement defies logic.

There is a G-d Who creates a reality stranger than any fiction. And He is in charge. I am finite. Running the world is His domain; living faithfully is mine.

And in some strange way, having my one family celebrate a wedding at the same time that my other family mourned offered me immense comfort. In the greatest darkness, there is light. Life never stops; joy always finds its way in.

Baruch Dayan Haemet, blessed is the True Judge, for taking my father, R' Yonah ben R' Meir, at the prime of his life.

Mazal tov, dear Levi and Mimi. May you build an everlasting edifice based upon the foundation of Torah and mitzvot.


Copyright and reprinted with permission of

Rabbi Levi Avtzon lives in Johannesburg, South Africa, with his wife Chaya and their children. He is associate rabbi and director of outreach at the Linksfield Senderwood Hebrew Congregation.Rabbi Yona Avtzon obm was the founder of and driving force behind Sichos In English ( He oversaw the publication of over 150 books of the Rebbe's teachings translated into English as well as other Chasidic and Jewish works.

What's New

Hebrew School Kids Shine

Over 1,000 students from more than 75 Hebrew Schools around the world showed off their Jewish knowledge at the JewQ School Championships. Children participated in a live game show style competition in an effort to be crowned the JewQ champions of their respective Hebrew School. The winners of the championships are attending a grand CKids Shabbaton in New York City this Shabbat. The school champions will face off at the International Championship, where the ultimate winner of JewQ will be decided.

JFuture in Bulgaria

A new Jewish Sunday school has been opened in Bulgarian capital Sofia. It is the 17th school opened as part of the new Jewish educational initiative JFUTURE.

The Rebbe Writes

3rd of Adar I, 5733 [1973]

I was pleased to be informed of your forthcoming Bar Mitzvah celebration.

You surely realize the significance of reaching the age of maturity as a full-fledged Jew, with all the privileges and responsibilities that it entails in all matters of Torah and Mitzvoth [commandments].

Included, of course, is also the "great principle" of our Torah, v'ohavto lre'acho komocho (love your fellow as yourself) - the obligation to serve as a source of good influence to your friends, bearing in mind that the most effective influence comes from showing a living example of daily life and conduct.

I want to take this opportunity of sharing with you some thoughts which are highly relevant to a Bar Mitzvah.

Considering the significance of the occasion, as mentioned above, becoming Bar Mitzvah is not simply reaching a further milestone in the Jew's life. To reach the privileged status of becoming a fully qualified member of the chosen People, whom G-d has singled out to receive His greatest treasure, the eternal Torah and Mitzvoth - certainly a deeply joyous occasion, a real Yom Tov when all Jews first became "Bar Mitzvah" at Mount Sinai.

It seems strange, therefore, that such a happy occasion should not be marked by the omission of Tachnun (supplication prayers). For Tachnun is not said on all joyous days in our Hebrew Calendar, even on the so-called "minor" festivals. (If the day of Bar Mitzvah happens to be Shabbos, when Tachnun is not said, it is due to Shabbos, not to the Bar Mitzvah. )

However, there is a profound lesson in the custom of saying Tachnun on the day of Bar Mitzvah.

You see, in matters of Torah and Mitzvoth one must never be satisfied with the achievements of the past, although these were the best that could have been accomplished in that stage of development. For, the Torah and Mitzvoth are endless, since they originate from G-d Who is infinite. Consequently, there is no limit to the devotion and joy with which a Jew can fulfill G-d's will. This is why there is always room for advancement in all matters of goodness and holiness in the daily experience of Torah and Mitzvoth. Thus, while reaching Bar Mitzvah is indeed a great Yom Tov, the Bar Mitzvah boy does say Tachnun on this occasion, to ask G-d's forgiveness for not having done better in the past; for Tachnun, as you know, is a prayer for forgiveness which all Jews say everyday (except on Shabbos and Yom Tov) for the selfsame reason.

In matters of Torah and Mitzvoth one must never be satisfied with the achievements of the past, although these were the best that could have been accomplished in that stage of development.

On the other hand, if for some reason the past was not as good as it should have been, there is certainly good reason to say Tachnun. For, in such a case, the Yetzer (one's evil inclination), which is shrewd and cunning, and whose job it is to confuse and discourage, tries to do so by saying, "Look here, you've failed in the past; it's no use. You might as well continue as before." The best answer in such a case is, again, to say Tachnun most sincerely, in the fullest confidence of G-d's forgiveness, for we have the assurance that nothing stands in the way of Teshuvah (repentance). Thus the Bar Mitzvah boy can start with a clean slate. Indeed, our Sages of blessed memory tell us that after Teshuvah one becomes even more endeared and beloved by G-d.

I trust that the above thoughts will also be your guiding principles in life, as you begin your adult life as a Jew. Thus you will be a source of constant joy - true "Yiddish Nachas" [Jewish pleasure/pride] - to your parents, your community, and all our people.

Wishing you Hatzlocho (success) to go from strength to strength in the study of the Torah and the observance of the Mitzvoth.

With blessing,

All Together

ORNA is Hebrew, meaning "pine tree," or "let there be light."

OVADIA is Hebrew, meaning "worshippers" or "servant of G-d." In the Bible, (Ovadia 1:1) Ovadia was one of the twelve minor Prophets known as "Trei Asar." Ovadia was a righteous convert, a descendant of Isaac's son Esau from the nation of Edom.

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

This Shabbat, in addition to the regular Torah portions read in shul, we will also read Parshat Shekalim, the Torah portion in which G-d commands Moses to take a census of the Jewish people by collecting a half-shekel from each one. The Rebbe explains that a census emphasizes the unique importance of each individual while at the same time reminding us that every Jew's existence is bound to that of his fellow man.

The concept of "loving your fellow man" is further emphasized by the fact that every Jew, no matter how rich or how poor, was required to give the exact same amount of money, a half-shekel. Moreover, the half-shekalim that were collected were used to bring communal offerings on behalf of the entire Jewish people. And although we are in exile we can still fulfill the mitzva of half-shekel by carrying out the custom of giving three half-dollars to charity before Purim.

These gifts will hasten the Redemption, for then "Moses will gather," i.e., Moses, "the first redeemer and ultimate redeemer," will gather every single Jew and proceed to Israel, to Jerusalem, to the Third Holy Temple.

Though we do not yet have the Third Holy Temple to which we could bring communal sacrifices, these mitzvot apply equally today. For, the Torah is infinite, not limited to time and place. While the physical Sanctuary was destroyed, the spiritual aspects of the service in the Temple are still carried out today through learning Torah and doing mitzvot.

When a Jew makes a contribution toward a sacred cause, it is immediately matched by a corresponding kindness from G-d to him. Sincere human effort is met halfway by Divine Grace, thus a goal which may at first seem unattainable to a person can actually be reached, because his goodness evokes a corresponding heavenly benevolence.

May our good deeds combined with G-d's benevolence finally bring us to attain our ultimate goal, the coming of Moshiach.

Thoughts that Count

Six days a week shall work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be to you a holy day, a Sabbath of rest to G-d (Ex. 35:2)

The Torah does not state "you shall do work," but rather, "work shall be done," to teach us that our labors must always be viewed as if they are accomplished by themselves, without our active participation. A Jew must always strive to maintain this healthy attitude towards work to make it easier for him to mentally divest himself of his business worries on Shabbat. Investing an inordinate amount of mental energy into one's business makes it harder for him to properly appreciate the spiritual dimension of the Shabbat day.

(The Rebbe)

You shall not kindle any fire throughout your dwellings on Shabbat (Ex.35:3)

Why does the Torah single out this prohibition from amongst the other 39 types of labor which are also forbidden on Shabbat? Heated arguments and disputes are like a fire; unfortunately, controversy has the power to disrupt many a peaceful home. When people are occupied with their daily tasks they do not have time to argue with one another; on Shabbat, however, they are less busy than during the week. The Torah therefore warns us not to kindle the fires of controversy on Shabbat by keeping ourselves busy with Torah study and prayer. Incidentally, rearranging the final letters of the above verse in Hebrew results in the word "shalom" - "peace"!

(Our Sages)

And he put in his heart that he may teach (Ex. 35:34)

This expression appears only once more in Scripture, in the verse, "That you be able to teach the Children of Israel all the statutes which the L-rd has spoken through Moses," to teach us that whoever is blessed with wisdom and understanding of Torah is obligated to share it with others and not keep the knowledge to himself.

(Parperaot LaTorah)

It Once Happened

Once the Rav of Brisk, Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveichik, was traveling and stopped at a Jewish-run inn in Benowitz. It was the Rav's custom to travel incognito, dressed like a common peasant, so when he knocked on the door of the inn he received no special treatment. The weather was frigid and when Rav Yosef Dov saw the lights of an inn he was relieved. Finally, he anticipated a warm fire and a bed on which to stretch out his very weary body.

He knocked expectantly on the heavy wooden door, but to his surprise, the Rav received an altogether different kind of greeting. When he opened the door, instead of welcoming the frozen man inside, the innkeeper brusquely said, "I am expecting a party of travelers to arrive any time now, and I have no room for you." Despite the bitter, biting cold, the innkeeper was about to slam the door in the face of the frozen Jew. Rav Yosef Dov began to plead with him. "Please, let me come in. I don't even need a bed. Just a warm spot on the floor will do. Please, don't turn me out on this terrible night. Why, it's possible I could even die in this cold." After a few moments of this kind of pleading the innkeeper couldn't refuse, and so, he admitted the Jew into his premises. He led the man through the brightly lit central room with its blazing fire and showed him to a cold, dark corner of the hallway. There the poor Jew was permitted to curl up on the floor and rest.

Once he was settled on that spot, the Rav Yosef Dov removed a candle from his pocket and began to study Torah by its light. It wasn't more than a few moments before the innkeeper came raging into the hall, crying, "You can't light a candle here! You are keeping the other guests awake! Put it out immediately!"

Without a word, Yosef Dov obliged and put out the candle. Then he continued learning by heart. He was quickly immersed in his thoughts and the cold, hard floor ceased to bother him. Many hours went by and very late into the night the sound of horses and carriages could be heard approaching. The rumble stopped outside the inn door and the innkeeper ran out to greet his guests.

In came a group of Chasidim accompanying their Rebbe, Reb Aharon of Koidenov. Removing their greatcoats, the men sat around the blazing fire, rubbing their hands together and warming themselves. Reb Aharon prepared to pray the evening service. As he stepped across the room to wash his hands he noticed a huddled figure lying in the dark hall.

He studied the form for a moment and then cried out, "Reb Yosef Ber, is that you? What is the Rav of Brisk doing lying on the floor?!"

When the innkeeper heard Reb Aharon's exclamation of horror, he began to tremble all over. His knees felt weak and he saw black before his eyes. Overcome with shame and remorse, he thought back to how he had treated this great man. After he recovered from his shock, he slowly approached the Rav. With downcast eyes, he said in a very small voice, "Rebbe, please forgive me. I didn't know it was you or I would never have treated you in such a disgraceful manner."

Reb Yosef Dov replied with a smile, "Of course, I forgive you. You needn't worry about that. However, I am making one stipulation." The innkeeper nodded his head vigorously. "Of course, Rebbe, anything you wish." He was ready to do any penance, give any sum to charity, anything to receive the forgiveness of the renowned Rav.

"I will forgive you on the condition that you travel to Brisk and spend two weeks as a guest in my home."

The innkeeper agreed at once. Within several weeks he arrived in Brisk and was warmly welcomed into the Rav's home. For two weeks the innkeeper observed the Rav's every movement. He watched the great care with which the Rav cared for each Jew who entered his study, burdened with questions and problems great and small. He took note of how gently the Rav treated the poor and despondent and he learned many a lesson about the art of hospitality.

When, after two weeks, the innkeeper returned to Benowitz, he had learned his lessons well. It wasn't long before his inn earned a well-deserved reputation. It became known far and wide as the place where every guest was treated with the greatest kindness and hospitality. The innkeeper never forgot the two weeks he spent as a guest of the Brisker Rav, Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveichik.

Moshiach Matters

"They shall make... the stakes of the Tabernacle and the pins of the courtyard and their tying ropes." (Ex. 35:18) The stakes were inserted into the ground to fasten the edges of the curtains, and the ropes were used for binding them. The generations that preceded us can be compared to the builders of the Tabernacle itself. Our generation can be compared to those who tie the edges of the curtains to the stakes in the ground so they will not flap loosely in the wind. Ours may be the "lowest" task, merely tying down the very edges of the curtains, some rather incidental and external details. Nonetheless, it is just this work that completes the whole job, and it is specifically what we do that will fasten the Tabernacle so that it may stand firm.

(Living with Moshiach by Dr. J. I . Schochet)

  1561: Ki Sisa1563: Pekudei  
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