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It Once Happened | Moshiach Matters
Quick, where is it written, "Proclaim Liberty throughout all the land to all the inhabitants thereof"?
If you said the Liberty Bell, housed in Philadelphia, then you get ten points!
If you guessed the Torah, you hit the jackpot.
"The Torah?" you ask. "You mean the Five Books of Moses...the Bible?" Yes! It's written in the book of Leviticus 25:10! And in this day and age of plagiarism, isn't it nice to know the true source?
The fact that this phrase is written on the Liberty Bell, indicates how important liberty - freedom - is to our society, actually to every society!!
To punish someone who has wronged society, their freedom is taken away. They are imprisoned. While incarcerated, they are hopefully being rehabilitated. They attend classes, paint road signs and license plates. Some even become writers. This is, of course, the best scenario. Many don't reform at all; and, once back on the street, commit the same or worse crimes.
The Torah, however, has a different approach to rehabilitation. In the past, corporal punishment was used, albeit sparingly. It was a constructive means of punishment; the person could return to being a productive member of society rather quickly. And, he wasn't surrounded by hardened criminals and outcasts from society.
Another form of punishment was to be sold into slavery. The criminal lost his freedom, his liberty. But he didn't lose his dignity. A slave, according to Jewish law, must be treated well. If there was only one pillow in the home, it went to the slave! And, as you can probably imagine, the criminal/slave was placed in a home with people whose behavior he would do well to emulate. Where he would learn right from wrong and truly become rehabilitated.
In 1976, the Rebbe spoke publicly about the need for prison reform in the United States. "If a person is being held in prison, the goal should not be punishment but rather to give him the chance to reflect on the undesirable actions for which he was incarcerated. He should be given the opportunity to learn, improve himself and prepare for his release when he will commence an honest, peaceful, new life, having used his days in prison toward this end.
"In order for this be a reality a prisoner must be allowed to maintain a sense that he is created in the image of G-d; he is a human being who can be a reflection of G-dliness in this world. But when a prisoner is denied this sense and feels subjugated and controlled; never allowed to raise up his head, then the prison system not only fails at its purpose, it creates in him a greater criminal than there was before. One of the goals of the prison system is to help Jewish inmates and non-Jewish inmates ... to raise up their spirits and to encourage them, providing the sense, to the degree possible, that they are just as human as those that are free; just as human as the prison guards. In this way they can be empowered to improve themselves ... "
To learn more about the Rebbe's approach to prison reform visit chabad.org. To find out about the work of Chabad-Lubavitch with Jewish prisoners visit aleph-institute.org
The name of our portion, "Shelach," means "to send." It is the beginning of the story of how spies were sent by Moses to the land of Israel. But the portion ends with the commandment of tzitzit (ritual fringes), symbolic of and a reminder of all of G-d's commandments. What does the story of the spies have to do with the all-encompassing commandment of tzitzit?
Another question. The story of the spies begins, "G-d spoke to Moses, to say: Send for yourself..." Rashi explains that G-d was letting Moses make his own decision if he wanted to send spies to tour the Land of Israel. So "Send for yourself," was only to Moses. Yet, when a verse says "to say," it usually means that Moses should share it with the entire Jewish people. What is the message here for all of the Jewish people?
To understand this, first we have to appreciate what was the grave error of the spies. Moses told them to inspect the land. When they returned, they reported on what they had seen. So what did they do wrong?
Moses sent them to figure out which would be the best way to conquer the land. Moses didn't have a question whether or not they would conquer it. G-d had said that He would give us the land, so it was a sure thing. But we are not supposed to rely on miracles; we are supposed to do things in the most natural way possible. The spies were to scout out the best route to capture the land, with the least amount of miracles necessary. However, when they gave their report, they came to the conclusion, "We can't go up against the nation, because it is stronger than us." That was the sin! They came to their own conclusion that they can't conquer the land.
This is the first lesson from Shelach, with regard to every mitzva. We have to realize that it is G-d Who gave us the mitzvot. This means that there isn't a question if we can do them, we only have to "spy out" or figure out the best way to do them.
The second lesson here that applies to every mitzva is that we should have in mind when we perform it that we are doing it because it's what G-d wants, period. The spies were supposed to tour the land and find the best way to conquer the land, period.
Now we can understand why the portion that has the mitzva of tzitzit, symbolic of all of the mitzvot, is called Shelach. Because these messages of Shelach, pertain to and are a prerequisite for every mitzva.
This is perhaps what "to say" means here. The message of Shelach pertains to each and every one of us, therefore, it should be conveyed to the Jewish people. And it is this message of Shelach, that is the theme of our portion.
May we merit to be the partners G-d wants, and effect the world to the point that it becomes a true home for Him. This will usher in the coming of Moshiach. May he come now.
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.
Fulfilling Her Dream
by Sara Yitta Gopin
There is no event that occurs randomly, especially regarding the circumstances in which Jewish souls are born in this world. Ayala Altman shares her journey as the daughter of a Christian mother and Jewish father who remained steadfast in her determination to embrace the Jewish religion.
Ayala beings, "My parents named me Victoria, which represents that with the help of G-d I was able to overcome all of the obstacles in my path. I grew up in a town near Kiev, in Ukraine, where the tragedy of mixed marriages was common. Just as water and oil cannot combine, a Jew and a non-Jew are two separate entities.
"My childhood was extremely confusing. In Russia, religious identification is according to the father. Since my last name was distinctly Jewish I became the target of anti-Semitic bullying, such as being mocked as 'Jidka' (the Jew). My father encouraged me and my younger brother to participate in Jewish cultural activities in the area such as the Yiddish children's theatre. Simultaneously my home was decorated with non-Jewish symbols.
"My father always had a sentiment for the Holy Land and decided that I should join an educational program in Israel for Jewish children from Ukraine. My mother agreed to the idea since the living conditions and scholastic opportunities were far superior to what was available in our town.
"I was only 11 years old when I went and I will never forget the wonderful feeling that I had upon coming to Israel and living in an Observant Jewish atmosphere. As I began ninth grade my mother came for a visit. It was at that point that the school staff realized that I was not Jewish. Being that the school policy was that they only accepted Jewish students I could no longer study there.
"This was a shock for me, especially after three years of strengthening my Jewish identity. Tearfully, I returned to Ukraine. My parents had divorced while I was in Israel and I went to live with my mother who had moved to Dnieper near her family. I would visit my father occasionally, as well as my Jewish grandmother. Only in my grandmother's home, which still kept Jewish traditions, I felt that I belonged.
"One year later, my father decided to make Aliyah. Together with my brother, the three of us settled in Ashkelon. I was placed in an agricultural high school where the secular environment was unsuitable for me, but it offered stability. One day I was visiting a family that often hosted me when unexpectedly the question arose, 'Are you Jewish?' Stammering and hesitating, at that fateful moment I realized that it was time to take responsibility for the course of my future. I was 18 and ready to undergo the conversion process.
"During that time my mother came to visit me in Israel and saw my determination to convert. She passed away soon afterwards. The two years of intensive study climaxed when I immersed in the mikva and recited the verse of 'Shema Yisroel' from the depths of my heart. Immediately afterwards I felt the expansion of my soul, as if I was given the wings to elevate myself above the confining circumstances of my birth. I chose the name Ayala as it contains the Hebrew letter "Yud" twice, side by side, which represents the name of G-d. Interpreted from the Hebrew as a doe, who runs swiftly to the wellspring, the name represents my deep yearning to quench my thirst for Torah studies.
"After the conversion I visited my mother's grave in Dnieper. I had purchased a necklace with a Star of David charm to wear for the occasion. Overwhelmed, I burst into tears at the grave site. After so many upheavals I was proud to identify myself as a Jew. My mother's non-Jewish relatives in Dnieper respected my decision as well.
"Shortly after my conversion my father decided that the time came for him to undergo circumcision, and he turned to the Lubavitch emissaries to arrange the procedure. At his age it was not easy to recuperate, but when the name Vladimir was exchanged for Menachem Mendel, there was no greater joy imaginable for both of us.
"I married, built a religious home and we were blessed with three daughters. Recently I have come to discover the depth of Chasidic teachings. Since my youth whenever I would see a picture of the Lubavitcher Rebbe I would be overcome with warmth, love and a feeling of belonging.
"Going through a conversion is like reaching the other side of the river. I have fulfilled my dream but it is just one stop in my life's journey. The challenge to always find the light in darkness is never-ending, and the struggles are an inherent part of our existence. Yet I continue to witness the Divine Providence that accompanies me and draws down blessings upon my path."
Sara Gopin, originally from Riverdale, New York and now living in Rechovot, Israel, is an artist and freelance writer. You can view her art at saragopinart.com.
Rabbi Dovid and Mushky Caytak are moving to Ottawa, Canada to found Chabad of Westboro. Weekly classes, Friday night meals, monthly programming, and High Holiday services are amongst the plans that the Caytaks have for the new Chabad Center.
Feeling Better A to Z
The mitzva of visiting the sick (bikur cholim) is usually fulfilled by grown ups. How can we teach children to do it, too? Feeling Better A to Z is a lively, colorful picture book that helps young children discover so many ways in which they can cheer up someone who is not feeling well... one idea for every letter of the alphabet! Written by Malka Nussbaum Chomer, illustrated by Bill Bolton and published by HaChai Publishing.
21st of Menachem Av, 5728 
I am in receipt of your (undated) letter.
The first observation I must make is that whenever a question is to be discussed, there can be a meaningful discussion only if both sides accept certain premises as a basis for the discussion.
From your letter I see that we both recognize the Written and Oral Torah as undisputable authority.
Now it is clearly explained both in the Written Torah, as well as in the Oral Torah, that insofar as Jews are concerned, Golus [exile] comes not as a result of military circumstances, namely an outnumbered army, nor as a result of economic pressures necessitating submission to a stronger power, etc. Rather it has amply been explained again and again in the Chumash [the Five Books of Moses] (including whole Sidras [portions], such as Bechukosai, Ki Sovo, etc.) and in the books of the Prophets, and even more so in the Talmud and Rabbinic literature, that if Jews had always adhered to the Torah and Mitzvos [commandments], they would have never been banished into Exile, regardless of the fact that "You are the smallest among the nations." For, Jews have always been outnumbered and outweighed in terms of military and physical strength, as King David puts it succinctly in one sentence, "These (come) in chariots, and those on horses, but we call upon the Name of G-d."
Conversely, when Jews forsake the Torah and Mitzvos, G-d forbid, no power nor military might, nor political alliances, etc., are of any avail, as the Torah clearly states, "If you will walk contrary unto me, then will I also walk contrary unto you" etc., with the inevitable consequence of Golus.
In the light of the above, the true test of events, to see if they herald the Geulo [Redemption] or not, is to see whether there has been an essential change in the causes which have brought about the Golus in the first place, namely, a new tendency in the direction of stronger adherence to the Torah and Mitzvos.
A further point is this: After the Churban [destruction (of the Holy Temple)], when there could have been no question about the observance of the 17th of Tammuz [when the wall of Jerusalem were breached], Tisha B'Av [the Hebrew date on which the Holy Temple was destroyed], etc., there were still a number of Jews who remained in Eretz Yisroel [the Land of Israel], and it was incumbent upon them too to observe all the matters connected with the Golus. As a matter of fact, those who remained in Eretz Yisroel and saw with their own eyes the destruction, would have felt the Churban and Golus even more. Let us remember also that the observance of Tisha B'Av, etc., was in effect even during the time of Gedalia ben Achikom, the Jewish Governor of the Jewish community in Eretz Yisroel, before he was assassinated by Ishmael (II Kings, 25:25)
As in the case of many other Torah matters, there are sources where they are explained at great length. However, inasmuch as not every person has the ability or patience to study these things at length in their original sources, they come also in a short and concentrated form.
Thus we find also the subject under discussion formulated in succinct terms by the Great Teacher, the Rambam [Maimonides], who was not only the Guide for the Perplexed of his generation, but for the perplexed of all generations. In his Code Yad Hachazakah, he describes in brief but highly meaningful terms the state of the last era of the Golus as it would be, and how the beginning of the Geulo would follow.
I will quote what he states, but in English translation, with interpolations to clarify the text, with some prefatory remarks, namely, that it has been amply explained in the Written and Oral Torah that the Geulo will come through the Melech Hamoshiach [King Moshiach], and as the Rambam also declares, simply as a matter of course, in the section which is the last of his entire Code, so that it is in a sense the very seal of his Code - the section of Hilchos Melochim [the Laws of Kings].
There, at the beginning of chapter 11, he states that the Melech Hamoshiach will bring the Geulo, and at the end of this chapter he describes carefully the order how this will come about. And since this is not a book on philosophy, but a code of laws, the terms used are carefully chosen and strictly to the point, without polemics or homiletics.
Continued in next issue
LEIBEL is the pet form of Leib which means "lion" in Yiddish. It is often paired with the name Aryeh, which means "lion" in Hebrew. Lev, while also meaning "lion" if it is of Slavic origin, is different than the Hebrew name Lev which means "heart."
LEVANA means "white" or "moon" in Hebrew. LEVONA is a different name, which means "frankincense."
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
Chutzpa, stiff-necked, stubborn. These are words which have been used to describe the Jewish people, not only by other nations, but even by our own prophets and the Torah itself.
Each and every trait that a person has can be used positively or in a less than positive way. This is even more so the case when an entire nation possesses some particular characteristic.
For thousands of years, the Jewish people have waited fairly patiently for G-d to "keep His promise to us" and send Moshiach.
Now, however, the time has come for us to use our characteristic obstinacy and toughness to demand that G-d send Moshiach now.
To illustrate this point more clearly, let me tell you about a real-life incident that someone related to me. Maybe you will even recognize your own children or yourself in this story.
A mother mentioned to her children that maybe she would take them to a toy store after school if, and it was a big "if," everything else during the day went as planned.
Afternoon came, and as each one came home from school, the children began to ask if they were, in fact, going to the store. The day, however, had not gone as planned, and the toy store was out of the question.
The normally well-behaved children began to beg, beseech, whine, and even demand that they be taken to the toy store. For days and days the children chided and cajoled their parents in an attempt to go to the store, an outing that hadn't even been promised, but was just a possibility.
We are all the children of our Heavenly Father. He never said that He would maybe bring Moshiach. He promised us!
We have been well-behaved children! It is time to use our stubbornness to beg, beseech, and demand of G-d that He keep His promise to us and bring Moshiach NOW.
And G-d spoke to Moses saying: Send out some men to spy out the land of Canaan (Num. 13:1, 2)
According to Rashi, "send out" means "send according to how you see fit." The Hebrew word for send - shelach - implies a sense of mission and purpose. Every Jew is entrusted with a Divine mission to transform his surroundings into a "Land of Israel," by bringing the light of Torah and mitzvot to even the most remote and isolated locations. This mission, moreover, must be accomplished "according to how we see fit." G-d has given man intelligence to be utilized to that end.
If the L-rd delights in us, then He will bring us into this land (Num. 14:8)
Another way to interpret this verse is "If the L-rd's desire is within us" - if the desire and will to cleave to G-d is truly in our hearts, then "He will bring us into this land" - raise us up and cause us to be successful.
(The Admor of Modzhitz)
Here we are, and we will go up to the place which G-d has said (Num. 14:40)
How could the Jewish people change their minds so quickly; first, an intense fear of conquering the Land of Israel, and then being willing and ready to enter the land, saying, "Here we are, and we will go up." Did G-d show them some kind of miracle or sign to convince them that they could conquer the inhabitants of the land? The truth of the matter is that Jews are "believers, the children of believers." Even while protesting to the contrary, the Jews really believed, in their hearts, in the power and strength of G-d. The Evil Inclination, however, rose up and caused them to ignore their innate faith. But when G-d spoke to them harshly-"How long shall I hear the evil..."-the Evil Inclination was vanquished and their hearts were once more in touch with their true feelings. Their innate faith was then revealed.
The great Rabbi Moshe Sofer (the Chasam Sofer) was sitting with his students one day when they were interrupted by the Parness (the head) of the Jewish community. He hadn't want to disturb the rabbi when he was busy with his students, but when the Chasam Sofer noticed the man's distraught face, he excused himself and called the Parness into an adjoining room.
"What has happened?" the rabbi inquired.
The man answered with a sigh. "I am in deep trouble. I have lost my entire fortune. There's no hope, for I am in such deep debt, and I've signed promissory notes for others as well. I'm on the brink of utter ruin. Tomorrow, when it becomes known that I didn't go to the fair at Leipzig, my creditors will come running, and that will be my end."
"How much money do you need to go to the fair?" the Chasam Sofer asked.
"Oh, Rabbi, the amount I usually bring is not worth talking about. At this point, I would be grateful for travelling money and a bit of cash." The Parness mentioned an amount.
"That's no problem. I think I have just that amount here." The Chasam Sofer went to a certain drawer in his desk and withdrew the cash.
"Rabbi, I can't take the money from you. I came to you for advice, not a loan. If I take your money, how can I guarantee that I will be able to repay you?"
The Chasam Sofer smiled. "Don't worry, with G-d's help, you will repay me. May you have much success."
Deeply grateful and with new hope, the Parness took the money and left. He caught the early train to Leipzig, and upon leaving the train met a friend who was a big wholesaler and importer. He offered the Parness a shipment of coffee. The price was right, so the Parness gave a deposit and concluded the deal. Before the day ended, news reached the fair that the crop in Brazil had been damaged by bad weather, and the price of coffee had risen.
The Parness sold the coffee at a great profit. The next day he bought large quantities of merchandise. The pattern repeated itself every day of the fair, and by the end, he had not only recouped all his losses, but had become even richer than before. It occurred to the Parness to buy something special for the Chasam Sofer. The rabbi was knowledgeable in jewels, so he purchased a valuable gem to present to him. Back home, he went at once to visit the rabbi and tell him the good news. "Your blessings were fulfilled beyond my dreams. In addition to repaying you, it would be an honor if you would accept this gift."
The rabbi eagerly took the box and opened it, revealing the gem. "It's beautiful, and very valuable as well," he said turning the gem this way and that, all the while smiling in delight. Then he handed it back to the Parness.
"But, Rabbi, it's yours."
"No. You see, if you had given it to me at any other time, perhaps I would have accepted it, for it would support my yeshiva for some time. But since I gave you the loan, I cannot accept even something which has 'the dust of interest' on it."
The Parness left, and some students who had observed the scene came to their rabbi with a question: "If you had no intention of accepting the gift, why did you receive it with so much happiness and pay it so much attention?"
"I will tell you a story which will answer your question. Once I was traveling with my Rebbe, Rabbi Nosson Adler of Frankfurt. It was a trip of extreme urgency to the Jewish community. We started out after dark, and after we had gone but a short distance, the team of horses refused to budge. The driver went off to get help and we tried to shake off the cold by immersing ourselves in learning.
"Finally the driver returned and readied the team to continue the journey. Suddenly, my Rebbe leaped out of the carriage and began dancing in the snow. I was shocked and couldn't understand his actions.
" 'Don't you see, Moshe, the driver has harnessed a team of oxen together with horses!'
"I explained to the driver that we were forbidden to be drawn by a team composed of mixed species ("kilayim," is forbidden, since the animals have differing strengths and it causes them hardship). I offered him extra money if he would exchange the oxen for horses.
"When he had gone, I asked my teacher to enlighten me as to his strange behavior. He answered, 'My dear Moshe, when in Frankfurt do I get to do the rare commandment of kilayim? Now, that it comes my way, once in my life, should I not rejoice?'
"That is why, when I got the chance to do the mitzva (commandment) of "ribbit" (not accepting interest from a fellow Jew), I rejoiced. Who comes to a rabbi to request a free loan? When that mitzva came my way, I couldn't conceal my joy and excitement!"
At a public gathering the Shabbat after 12 Tammuz in 1984, the Rebbe lamented, "They think to themselves, 'Why is it that a Jew sits down and speaks publicly, during every single gathering, and constantly proclaims non-stop about one subject: the coming of Moshiach; and that he should actually come, this very day? Surely every Jew believes that Moshiach can come every moment, but still, why speak of it incessantly, always stressing that he can come this very instant; an idea that is not easy for one to relate to as a realistic possibility?
(Hitvaduyot vol. 4)