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Are you an only child? If not, did you ever wish you were?
For people from multi-sibling families, being an only child conjures up images of having your parents' undivided attention, not having to share your possessions, having your own bedroom, not needing to vote in order to decide where to go on family outings.
On the other hand, the life of an only child can also be a bit boring. There are no "live-in" friends to play with or to make long, rainy Sunday afternoons a little more exciting. No co-conspirator for family pranks. No one to complain to when Mom and Dad are being "unreasonable." No big brother or sister to stick up for you in school or little sibling to show off to your friends.
There are certainly benefits and disadvantages to being either an only child or one of many. However, there is a kind of mystique that goes with being an only child. And though, of course, we know that in families blessed with more than one child, love is not "divided" amongst the children, still, somehow, we can also appreciate that when there is a situation of an only child, the parents' love, aspirations, attention, and hopes are highly concentrated on that one child.
The Baal Shem Tov, founder of Chasidism, said that every Jew is as precious to G-d as if he or she were G-d's only child.
"That sure sounds nice," one might think, "but what does it do for me and what does it require of me?"
Being an "only child" has a lot of plusses. It means that G-d is always there and always listening. It means that I can ask for a lot of things (though G-d is not over-indulgent and sometimes the answer will be "no"). It means that I am very important and what I do makes a difference, as the Talmud teaches, "Every person is an entire world." It means I can hold my head up high, I'm "somebody."
Being an "only child" also brings with it responsibility. G-d is counting on me, He's putting His hope in me and I have to try to live up to G-d's expectations.
Remember, though, that the Baal Shem Tov said that every Jew is an only child. So a huge part of this very nice teaching is that there are a lot of other "only children" out there. And each one of them is an entire world, each one is a "somebody." Each one deserves respect and love (which, as noted above, are unlimited).
Children in general, and an only child in particular, play "make-believe," creating invisible friends and fantastic situations. The Rebbe said that we are poised at the threshold of the Redemption. When we cross that threshold, it will come naturally to respect and love not only every Jew, but all of creation. Until then, may it commence very soon, let's be "childish" and make-believe.
This week's Torah portion is Tazria. We also read an extra Torah reading, "Hachodesh - this month" In Hachodesh we are given the first commandment as a Jewish nation - to sanctify the new month on the testimony of two witnesses who saw the birth of the new moon.
The words in the Torah that teach us this mitzva (commandment) are "This month, for you, will be the first month." G-d showed Moses the sliver of the new moon and said "this" is how the moon should look.
At the same time, with the same words, we are taught: "This month" the month of Nissan, "for you" for the Jewish people, "will be the first month" or literally "the head of months."
Why is it so important for G-d to tell us, by the first mitzva, that Nissan be our "head month"?
In the month of Nissan we became a people, and in the month of Nissan we were redeemed. Asking us to consider Nissan as our head month, tells us that there is something about this month that defines us as a people.
"This month" has several names. It is called Nissan, which comes from the word nes, which means miracle. This teaches us that we are a miraculous nation, with miraculous abilities. We have the ability to change the world, to make the mundane holy by doing mitzvas. This is because though we have physical bodies we have been infused with a soul, which is a piece of G-d. This makes us a G-dly people, above nature, enabling us to take two opposites, holy and mundane and fuse them together. Making the physical world G-dly.
It is called the month of Aviv, spring. Spring is the time that trees bud new growth. This teaches us that we cannot be comfortable with our past accomplishments, we must be constantly growing, adding in Torah, service, and good deeds.
It is also the month of Geula, redemption. This teaches us that we are a truly free people. We must never feel that we need to be like "them." We have our way, the Jewish way, which is by far superior, and by far more humane.
This is why it is told to us by the first mitzva, because as a Jew, first you need to know who you are. You are imbued with these incredible traits, specifically to do mitzvot and infusing world with G-dliness.
This is who we are. It is OK to be proud of who you are.
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.
Jewish Learning Network
by Ian Harris
Ian Harris, an electrical engineer, is a JNet (Jewish Learning Network) member. He lives in Bakersfield, California.
I grew up on Long Island, New York, attending a Conservative Synagogue. I attended Hebrew school three days a week for two hours after a full day of public school. I stopped going to Hebrew school after my Bar Mitzvah, but I did attend synagogue services on Shabbat.
One day in my teen years, my uncle took me to Crown Heights to properly experience a real Shabbat. The thing that fascinated me the most was a Talmudic study session. In that moment, I realized I knew nothing about Judaism. The Talmud was the real way to understand Judaism, and I was determined to start studying it, but I did not know how. The opportunity never presented itself.
I heard about JNet in 2005 when I was attending a JLI class at Chabad in San Diego, California. The rabbi teaching the class talked about a new opportunity for one-on-one learning about any subject in Judaism. Naturally, I jumped at the chance. This was finally my moment to study the Talmud. Finding a long-distance study partner was difficult because of the three-hour time difference between New York and California, so I could only study late at night.
I first started studying with Rabbi Moshe Leiblich, who is now the Rabbi of Chabad of Wilmington, North Carolina. I then studied with Rabbi Shmulik Hillel and Rabbi Hershy Lasry. I am thankful for the time we spent together, and they are all wonderful teachers.
I now study with Moshe Simon. We have been studying together for many years, and consider each other family. I am honored by all of the time that Moshe dedicates to studying the Talmud with me, going into the depths of each page and constantly asking questions to find the deeper meaning.
I have studied the following Talmud tractates through JNet: Berachot, Shabbat, and Rosh Hashanah. I am currently studying tractate Yoma. Moshe and I also discuss a talk from the Rebbe on the current week's torah portion.
JNet has helped realize my dream to study the Talmud. I am much more confident in my knowledge of Judaism, and have a much greater understanding of the Torah. After completing each Talmudic tractate, I have been able to hold a Siyum (completion ceremony) and celebrate my learning with my teachers.
Rabbi Moshe Lieblich, Ian's first study-partner, relates:
While still living in Crown Heights, I looked for opportunities to learn and connect with people, and to contribute to their Jewish experience. JNet was a natural and obvious choice to meet these goals.
I recall learning with Ian and seeing him advance in his Jewish observance and knowledge, and his growth was very heartening to see.
JNet provided me the opportunity to connect and learn with someone from a completely different background than my own. This partnership was an invaluable experience that I think everyone should participate in.
Rabbi Shmulik Hilel, Ian's second partner, shares:
I grew up in Montreal, Canada and spent significant time studying in Yeshivas in the U.S. and in Israel. I married my wife Yael in Australia in 2010.
During my student years in Montreal, a wonderful weekly evening learning program existed where students in elementary school were paired up with older yeshiva students to study a talk of the Rebbe on a weekly basis. My "study partner" was a spirited student named Yudi Dukes. Fast forwarding several years, Rabbi Yehuda Duke had become the director of JNet. He reached out and asked if I would be interested in signing up. The rest, as we say, is history.
I have wonderful memories of the time spent learning with Ian Harris. We often got so caught up in the material, we wouldn't notice that several hours had passed. We did have the privilege of meeting up in person when I attended a friend's wedding in San Diego. After moving to Australia, time differences and commitments made it so that we were no longer able to continue our weekly chavrusa learning. But the impact continued. An Australian friend of mine happened to bump into Ian in California. Hearing his Australian accent, Ian mentioned my name and shared about our learning history. When the Australian friend returned home, he attended an event where he was approached by someone looking to set up a learning session. With his encounter with Ian still fresh on his mind, he suggested I get in touch with this fellow, and in Ian's merit, a new chavrusa (study partner) was born here in Australia.
Rabbi Hershy Lasry also studied with Ian:
I had the privilege of joining the JNet family in 2010. My first chavrusa was Ian Harris, with whom I studied Talmud weekly for a number of years. I was later paired up with someone else and we studied Chassidic teachings on Pirkei Avot. These chavrusa sessions were always a wonderful, uplifting experience. We learned a great deal from each other, and I continue to treasure these enriching experiences to this day.
Rabbi Moshe Simon is Ian's current chavrusa:
I started volunteering with JNet in 2007. I was matched with a few chavrusas. I started learning with Ian in 2011 and we have been going strong since. We have learned tractate Yuma and we are now doing Beitzah. I feel like learning with someone is an essential part of my hiskashrus to the Rebbe. With my schedule it is difficult for me to get out and do mivtzoim or go and meet someone to learn. I also make sure to learn at home so that my children can see that their father not only learns but shares his knowledge with others as well. The avir (atmosphere) in the home gets affected the more learning and giving that your family sees you do.
To find out more about how you can become a Jnet learning partner call 347-770-JNet or visit jnet.org.
5000 Children Helped
More than 5,000 Jewish children throughout Ukraine and Russia received seasonally appropriate (and fashionable) clothing under the auspices of the Federation fo Jewish Communities' "Taste of Life" program. The program is generously supported by the IFCJ, founded and headed by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein obm unitl his sudden passing last month, and the Gloria Jeans foundation.
Rabbi Gedalia and Chaya Mushka Herz will be moving soon to England where they will grow and expand the work that is already taking place at the Lubavitch Center on Kingsley Way. "Kingsley Way" is the center for Chabad activities in London's Hampstead Garden suburb of London. Rabbi David and Yiska Farkash are moving to Rechovot, Israel, to expand the activities at the Chabad of Science Park, Rechovot.
Freely translated and adapted
Motzoei Shabbos Kodesh, Mevorchim Chodesh Nissan, Parshas HaChodesh, 25 Adar, 5742 
To the Sons and Daughters of Our People Israel, Everywhere, G-d bless you all!
Greeting and Blessing:
After Purim, we turn our attention to the preparations for Pesach [Passover]...
Our Sages of blessed memory connect the redemption of Purim with the redemption of Pesach, although the two deliverances were quite different. Yet the two also have certain features in common. One of them is the emphatic imperative to remember and observe these days to all posterity. Thus, in regard to Pesach the Torah declares (in Parshas HaChodesh): "And this day shall be unto you for a remembrance... unto your generations." Similarly, in regard to Purim it is written: "And these days shall be remembered and done in every generation and generation. "
It has often been emphasized that a remembrance in Torah, as in Jewish life in general, is not meant for the purpose of merely recalling an important event that happened in the past. Rather, the real purpose is to derive specific practical lessons for today and tomorrow.
We will focus here on one of the important points, common to Pesach and Purim.
The Passover sacrifice required that every man individually take a lamb (or kid) for an offering, for himself and his household. In complying with this Mitzva (commandment), each person, each family, each chavurah (group) acted as a separate entity, distinct from the whole Jewish people - each a world in itself. But at the same time they were all unified within "the whole congregation of Israel" which had received the same Divine commandment, to carry out the same Mitzva, at the same time, in the same manner, as emphasized in the verse: "The whole assembly of the congregation of Israel," all unified in the performance of a Mitzva that is connected with the Exodus from Egypt, when all Jews came out together triumphantly as one nation from the first exile, which is also the harbinger of the ultimate and complete redemption from the present and last exile.
Similarly it is underscored in the Megilah [Scroll of Esther], which tells the story of the Miracle and redemption of Purim, that even when Jews are in exile, "scattered and dispersed among the nations," - every Jew a world unto himself - they remain, nevertheless, "one people" and "their laws (of the Torah, their way of life) are different from those of all other nations."
And also in the observance of Purim there is a similarity to the Passover sacrifice, as noted above, requiring that every Jew, individually, hear the reading of the Megilah, send portions (mishlo'ach monos) "a man to his friend", and give "gifts to the poor", etc. But the intent (soul) of these Mitzvoth is to bring closer and unify all these individuals ("a man," and "his friend," "the poor") as well as - "young and old, infants and women" - so that everyone can see that they are one people, whose unity is emphasized also earlier in the Megilah, as the first step toward the Redemption: "Go assemble together all the Jews."
It is in this way that we achieve (while still in exile) the position that "For the Jews there is light, joy, gladness, and honor."[...]
There is a practical instruction that follows from the above that should permeate every detail of the daily life of every Jew, man and woman:
Every Jew is a complete world in himself and has a G-d given task from the Creator-of-man; a task that has to be carried out in the fullest measure according to the capacities that have been given him. This task has to be carried out by each person himself, individually, without relying on someone else, or on the community, to carry out his task for him.
On the other hand, he must know that he is a part of the one people, composed of millions and millions of Jews (may their numbers increase), a nation blessed "as the stars of heaven for multitude."
In a deeper sense, moreover, it is a one people that is composed of all generations of Jews, from the time the Torah was given to the end of time.
It is clear, therefore, that every individual's task is an integral part of the whole community of Israel; and the good of the community outweighs personal considerations and personal interests.
It also follows that when a Jew acts for the benefit of the community, for the good of the one people that embraces all generations, he draws strength from the inexhaustible wellspring of the eternal people, and he is bound to succeed in this effort, and thereby also in all in his personal affairs, both material and spiritual...
SHIFRA means "handsome or beautiful." In Exodus (1:15) it was the name of the Hebrew mid-wife who, together with her helper, Pua, saved many babies from death at the hands of the Egyptians. According to Rashi Shifra and Pua were Yocheved and Miriam, Moses' mother and sister.
SHALOM means "peace." A fourth century Jewish scholar was named Shalom. A variant spelling is Sholom.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This Shabbat is one of the four special Sabbaths preceding the YomTov of Pesach. It is called Shabbat Parshat HaChodesh. We read a special Torah portion from the book of Exodus that states: This month shall be the head month for you. It shall be the first month of the year.
Shabbat Parshat HaChodesh always falls either on the Sabbath when we bless the month of Nisan or on the first day of Nisan itself such as this year.
The month of Nisan is special in that it is a month of miracles-not the everyday miracles of human existence, or hidden miracles such as those that took place on Purim. But, rather, Nisan contains revealed miracles that are higher than nature itself.
With the command that the month of Nisan, a month of revealed miracles, be designated as the first and "head" of the months, the Torah emphasizes that in all the months of the year, whether we see open miracles, miracles in the cloak of natural events, unusual success or a seemingly unchangeable cycle of nature, we must realize that G-d is the Creator of the Universe, the sole Master of the world, who directs and cares about even the smallest detail of the world and each individual person.
If each and everyone of us would sit down for only a brief few moments and pay close attention to what has happened to us personally, we will detect minor and major miracles that happen in our personal lives. We are many times "just too busy" to stop for a moment and take stock of what has happened. But we shouldn't pass it off as another "natural" happening. It is a miracle of G-d, whether it has occurred in the month of miracles, or an average day.
When a woman conceives and gives birth... (Lev. 12:2)
Giving birth to a child is compared by the Prophet Isaiah (66:8) to the Redemption. Just as birth takes place in a day, the Redemption can come and the Jewish nation be "reborn" in a moment.And bears a son...
And bears a son...On the eighth day, the child shall be circumcised (Lev. 12:2-3)
"Bearing a child" hints at the future redemption and "eighth day" hints at the eight strings on the harp for use in the Third Temple, may it be speedily built in our days.
On the day of his purity he shall be brought to the priest (Lev. 14:2)
Why must a person come to the priest specifically on the day when he became pure from the leprosy? The leprosy came as a result of speaking ill of another person or talebearing. This kind of behavior very easily becomes habitual. On the day when the person is once again allowed to re-enter society, he might immediately begin speaking improperly once again. Therefore, he is brought to the priest to receive extra strength and guidance to deal with this habit.
Shortly before the Baal Shem Tov's passing, he gave each of his closest disciples a special task to enable Chasidism to continue to grow. One of his disciples, Reb Yaakov, was given the task of travelling from town to town telling about all he had seen in his years with the Baal Shem Tov.
Reb Yaakov carried out his mission for several years, but after a time, he yearned to return to his home. He began to wait for a sign that his mission had been fulfilled.
One day Reb Yaakov arrived in Italy. He had heard that in Rome lived a wealthy Jew who paid well for every story he was told about the Baal Shem Tov. Arriving at this Jew's house, Reb Yaakov was received royally and given the finest accommodations. He prepared a number of stories to tell on the coming Shabbat at the meals.
Shabbat arrived, and Reb Yaakov stood up to begin his tales. But, to his shock and horror, his mind went blank; he could recall not one story. The surprise of the crowd was no less than his own; only his gracious host was unperturbed by this strange lapse.
The host urged Reb Yaakov to rest, and try again later. Reb Yaakov went to his room and suddenly, in a flash, all the stories flooded his mind. However, the next day, on Shabbat afternoon, when he stood in front of the crowd to begin his tales, he again fell speechless. When, by the third Shabbat meal, Reb Yaakov was still unable to tell even one story, he was filled with overwhelming sadness and sorrow. "This must be a punishment from Above for some terrible misdeed of mine," thought Reb Yaakov to himself.
When Shabbat was over, and Reb Yaakov joined his host at the Saturday evening meal, the host cautiously said, "Now that we are alone, you might possibly be able to remember something about the saintly Baal Shem Tov." But try as he might, Reb Yaakov could remember nothing. With great embarrassment and sorrow, he told his host he would depart immediately.
"Please, don't hurry," begged the host. "Stay a few more days, and if by then you don't regain your memory, I won't detain you." When the appointed day arrived and Reb Yaakov could still not tell one story, he prepared to leave. But no sooner had he mounted his carriage when a story flashed into his mind.
He lost no time recounting the following story: "About ten years ago, just before the Christian holiday of Easter, the Baal Shem Tov and a few of his disciples set out on a journey to an unfamiliar town. The gentile townspeople were gathering in the main square to hear a sermon from their bishop. The Jews were terrified that the bishop's words would provoke violence from the crowd, and closeted themselves in their homes. But the Baal Shem Tov was completely unconcerned. In fact, he told me to approach the bishop with the order to come to the Baal Shem Tov at once.
"I delivered this message in Yiddish, exactly as the Baal Shem Tov had told me. The bishop showed no surprise, but told me he would come immediately following his sermon. I hastened back to the Baal Shem Tov and told him what the Bishop had said. The Baal Shem Tov told me to go to the Bishop and order him to come at once. When I told the Bishop the Baal Shem Tov's words, his face turned pale and he followed me without question. The Baal Shem Tov secluded himself with the bishop for many hours. Then, as suddenly as we had arrived, we returned home without even a word of explanation. And that's the end of my story."
The rich Jew listened with rapt attention, then suddenly exclaimed, "Thank G-d! The Alm-ghty be praised!" After calming down, he explained to Reb Yaakov, "Everything you've told me is true in every detail! I know it because I was there...I was that bishop!"
The host continued, "I was born and raised a Jew, but the lure of a great career tempted me to convert, for a Jew could not enter the university. At first I practiced my religion clandestinely, but little by little I forgot my origins.
"After I had attained the office of bishop, I began to be haunted by dreams and visions of my youth - it seems my holy ancestors had pity on my lost soul - but I was able to dismiss them from my mind. One night the Baal Shem Tov came to me in a dream and demanded that I return to my people. I began to think of repenting, but wondered if I had the strength. The night before my sermon, the Baal Shem Tov appeared to me again, saying that he was coming to help me. It was hard for me to break with my past, but I finally returned fully to our beautiful heritage. The Baal Shem Tov gave me instruction for carrying out my repentance. When I asked him how I would know that my repentance had been accepted, he replied: 'When a man comes to you and tells you the story of what happened that day, you will know that your repentance has been accepted.'
"I faithfully followed all of the Baal Shem Tov's instructions. When you came here, I recognized you immediately. And when you could not remember a single tale, especially my tale, I knew that my repentance was not yet complete. These past few days I have done a lot of soul searching and, thank G-d, now I know that my repentance has been truly accepted."
Our portions includes the verse, "A woman who conceives and bears a son..." (Lev. 12:2) "Woman" is a common metaphor for the Jewish nation. "Conceives," in the Hebrew literally "gives seed," is analogous to the performance of good deeds. Bearing a child is the final Redemption. The performance of mitzvot is compared to the sowing of seed because one tiny seed can be the starting point for an abundance of fine produce. Similarly, just one mitzva can be the source for abundant G-dliness.
(Ohr HaChayim as elucidated in Ohr HaTorah)