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In a little village, two Jews met each other on market day. David was wealthy, and Meir was financially challenged.
David asked Meir, "How are things going, friend?"
To which Meir responded, "Thank G-d, I have two keys."
(Of course, this conversation was in Yiddish, as were most conversations amongst European Jews in those days. However, we left untranslated only the final word, "keys," which means "cows.")
When David went home, he asked his wife to purchase their milk the following day from his friend Meir, to give him a bit of business.
Early the next morning, David's wife went to Meir's home and asked if she could buy some milk.
"I would be happy to sell you milk, but I have neither cows nor milk," Meir toldher.
When David's wife reported this information back to him, he was puzzled and decided to find out what the story was.
That evening, when David saw Meir he queried, "Didn't you tell me you have two keys (i.e. cows)? I asked my wife to buy milk from you but you told her you don't have milk or cows!"
"It's true I don't have two keys (cows), but I do have two other keys ('because' in Hebrew): 'Key - Because we hope all day for Your salvation' and 'Key - Because Your kindness is always before my eyes....' With these two 'keys' I manage, thank G-d."
Although we should all strive to reach Meir's level of faith in the face of life's challenges, many of us have a hard time not losing these "keys," at least once in a while.
However, there is a different kind of key that every Jew has, and can never lose, regardless of level of observance, Jewish education, age, rank or serial number.
"The key to the Redemption is in the hand of absolutely every individual" the Rebbe said. "It is the task of every Jewish man, woman and child, from the greatest of the great to the smallest of the small, to bring about the Redemption. This mission is unaffected by distinctions in prayer rites, ideological circles, or parties: it is the concern of the entire House of Israel."
We are on the threshold of the Redemption, an era of personal and world peace, health, prosperity, and appreciation for and understanding of G-dliness. All we need to do is to use our key to unlock the door.
What are today's keys? Certainly not cows, and not just "becauses." Our keys are mitzvot, good deeds, Torah study. As Maimonides writes in Mishna Torah (Laws of Repentance), "Every person should view himself and the whole world as if perfectly balanced between good and evil. If a person fulfills one mitzva, he tips the scales in favor of himself and of the whole world, and brings about redemption and salvation for himself and for the whole world."
Most people would never only have one car key, house key, mailbox key, etc. Concerning keys to the Redemption (mitzvot), we should also make sure to have a few spares and duplicates.
In this week's Torah portion, Chukat, we read about the red heifer. It begins, "This is the statute of the Torah."
What are we meant to learn from the verse, "This is the statute of the Torah?"
To understand this, let us take a deeper look at this verse. There is a famous question on this verse. If we are talking about the red heifer, why does it say, "This is the statute of the Torah," and not, "This is the statute of the heifer?"
Because the decree of the red heifer, has something that applies to the whole Torah. And the red heifer is the decree of all decrees of the Torah. As King Shlomo, the wisest of men, was able to understand the reason for every decree, but about the red heifer he said, "I tried to understand, yet it is far from me."
To explain. Every mitzvah is the will of G-d, and that is the true reason for a mitzva, because that is what G-d wants. That is what we say in the blessing before mitzvot, "He commanded us." And we don't say the logical reason behind the mitzva. When we do a mitzva, we should truly do it because that is G-d's will, and not because of its logic.
You may ask: The whole study of Torah, is to understand the logic and the details of the mitzvot, so how could you tell me that it is not the reason? When a mitzva makes its way down into the world, it is wrapped in logic, however, in its essence, it is the will of G-d, and the logic is an addition. It doesn't mean that the logic isn't important, obviously it is, it is Torah, but there are different parts of a mitzva, and in its essence, it is the will of G-d, and we should have that as the essential reason for the mitzva.
Now we can understand why the red heifer is the decree of the Torah. Because we have no reason for doing it, other than that it is G-d's will. And that is also the reason for all the mitzvot and the whole Torah. In other words, "This IS the statute of the Torah."
This is the meaning of what our Sages say, "You shouldn't sit and weigh the mitzvahs of the Torah," "And you should be careful with a lenient mitzva, as you would with a strict one." A person should keep all mitzvot equally, as if they have the same importance.
You may ask: How could I be expected to keep a lenient mitzvah as I keep a strict one? The Torah itself suggests that some are stricter than others. Even the statement, "You should be careful with a lenient mitzvah, as you would with a strict one," suggests that there are mitzvot that are more important than others.
This is the lesson we are meant to take from the laws of purity and impurity. When it comes to our understanding, there are differences between mitzvot, some are more strict and others are more lenient. But when it comes to the essence of every mitzva, they are all equally G-d's will.
May we merit to fulfill G-d's will all together and equally with the coming of Moshiach. May he come soon.
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.
Souls on the Don
by Yanky Ascher
A few weeks ago I traveled to Israel for a whirlwind 20 hours for a dear friend's bar mitzva. When I arrived at La Guardia I was told that most flights for the day had been cancelled or significantly delayed because of the heavy rain. Fortunately, mine was still scheduled to depart on time, and I breathed a sigh of relief. I had a connecting flight in Toronto, and a delay could mean I would miss my trip entirely.
So I checked in and headed towards my gate through the milling crowds of irritated travelers. Sure enough, minutes later the boards started showing my flight had been delayed. I did some quick calculations and realized if I really rushed off the plane in Toronto, I could still make it. So I stayed.
But soon my flight was further delayed, and I realized that to make my Israel-bound connection I would need to leave behind my luggage (nothing personal for such a quick trip, just a package I had agreed to take for a friend) and sprint through the Toronto airport. Still doable, but only just.
When I saw that my flight was delayed by another hour, I knew there was no point hanging around. I would miss my flight to Israel entirely. So I asked for luggage back, left the airport, and headed home.
On the way I called my travel agent to explain the situation. "How badly do you want to go to Israel?" he asked. "Let me see if I can get you on another flight."
And just as I arrived home, he called me back and told me that if I left that minute, there was a flight from JFK to Israel (via Frankfurt) that would still make it on time for the bar mitzva the following morning.
And this is when the real internal struggle happened. I realized I had the perfect excuse to avoid this crazy shlep for a bar mitzva - two days of travel for less than 24 hours there. I'd tried. I'd made the effort. I could stay home in my dry, comfortable house without feeling bad. After all, I'd tried.
But can't we do that with every mitzva? It's so easy to find excuses for ourselves. Don't want to lend a friend money? Blame it on cash flow problems. Don't want to visit someone in the hospital? Say you're busy. We all are. Don't want to host guests? Easy. It's an invasion of privacy. There is no shortage of excuses when we're looking to get out of something.
With every mitzva and every sin we do, there is an "oy!" and there is an "ah!" The only difference is in the timing. When a person stretches themselves to do a mitzvah, while they are doing it they may feel the "oy!" But later, they can enjoy the "ah!" - the satisfaction of knowing they did the right thing even when it was hard. But when a person sins, they first get the "ah!" - this is pleasurable. But later, they are struck with the "Oy! What did I do?!"
With this in mind, I asked the travel agent to get me on that second flight and whisked myself out the door and off to JFK. The shlep was definitely an "oy," but once I arrived and joined in celebrating my friend's simcha (with a stop to pray at the Kotel), I knew I had done the right thing and was able to enjoy the "ah" that comes along with that.
I found myself solo-parenting all eight kids while my wife went to London with her sisters. I knew it would be quite a task, but I psyched myself up with the good old, "I can do this!"
And then the first night began. I went to bed feeling confident and well-intentioned. At 2:58 a.m. one of the triplets started screaming. I gave it a few minutes to see if he would self-soothe and fall back asleep, but when triplet two woke up and joined the action, I figured I only had a minute or two until the third joined in. So I swooped in with bottles for all, and decided to push off the sleep training until my wife returned.
By 3:15 a.m., I was back in my bed, drifting off to peaceful silence...
Minutes later my five-year-old was at my side with complaints about a sore voice. "Your voice hurts you? Now? At 3:20 a.m.?!" I asked, bewildered.
"Yes!" and she started talking in a croaky voice to demonstrate.
"That's what happens to everyone when they haven't slept!" I explained. "Why would you wake up at 3:20 to test your voice! Go back to bed." She refused, so I let her sleep in my bed and peace reigned once more...
I snoozed off for a few minutes, until my three-year-old showed up, wanting - of all things - to get dressed and go to school. Now, on the average morning it's nearly impossible to get my kids up and dressed and ready for school, but here she is at 3:40 a.m. insisting we get ready immediately! It took about 15 minutes to convince her that it's the middle of the night. I had to literally go over to the window and show her that it was still dark outside before she relented and went back to bed.
It's now roughly 4:05 a.m. and I'm back in bed deciding if I should even bother trying to get back to sleep. Lo and behold, in comes my seven-year-old, "I had a bad dream, Tatty..." I thought to myself 'hey, you're not the only one buddy"
When my wife got back from London, I shared my ordeal with her, to which she replied, "Oh, that's a typical night for me!" And yet, she does it with love and patience because these are her children and she loves them more than anything in the world.
The truth is, we do the same thing to our Father in Heaven. We cry out to him about our problems and issues. One Jew asks for livelihood, others for children, health, a spouse, etc. We all turn to Him with our challenges and requests. And G-d listens to each of us lovingly. He listens to each of our supplications with patience and compassion. He never gets frustrated about the hour of day (or night!) or the amount of requests, because He loves each of us as an only child.
Rabbi Uriel Vigler, with his wife Shevy, directs the Chabad Israel Center of the Upper East Side of Manhattan.
Welcoming Torah Scrolls
The Jewish community of Krasnoyarsk, Russia, welcomed a new Torah scroll into their synagogue, marking the 30th anniversary of Jewish revival in their city.
A new Torah scroll was welcomed to the special Kol Avrohom children's program and youth Minyan of Bais Bezalel Chabad in Los Angeles, California. Hundreds of men, women and children gathered together to welcome in a very special Sefer Torah, the first of its kind in the rapidly growing community of Pico-Robertson.
Thousands participated in the emotional procession marking the return of the four Torah Scrolls that were stolen from the Tiferes Shimon synagogue on Rabbi Akiva Street in Bnei Brak, Israel. Border Police located the four stolen scrolls in a sheep pen in the Shomron town of Kafr Akraba.
The streets of Frankfurt, Germany, were filled at a joyous ceremony welcoming a new Torah scroll to the Chabad House in Frankfurt.
3rd of Tammuz, 5741 
To All Participants in the Annual Bais Chana Scholarship Dinner Minnesota
I was gratified to note that the forthcoming Annual Dinner will take place on the 10th of Tammuz, during the auspicious days between the 3rd and 12th-13th of Tammuz, the anniversary of the liberation of my father-in-law of saintly memory from imprisonment in Soviet Russia, for his extensive activities to strengthen and spread Yiddishkeit [Judaism] in that country in defiance of the regime.
The point that is particularly pertinent to the Dinner is the fact that the main reason for his arrest and threat to his life was his special dedication to the Torah education of Jewish children, and this was the only way to preserve Jewish identity and Jewish existence, which the regime endeavored to obliterate. But it is also precisely because of it that Hashem granted him a miraculous Geulo [redemption], which not only saved his life but also enabled him to expand his activities for Jewish education and general strengthening of Yiddishkeit on an even greater scale than before.
The obvious lesson for every one of us is that if in the circumstances prevailing in that country at that time it required real Mesiras Nefesh [self-sacrifice] to work for Torah education and Yiddishkeit, no such price is demanded of all of us living in a free country and conducive circumstances. All that is required of us here is to have the good will and determination to take advantage of the happy circumstances and support such vital institutions as Bais Chana financially and through personal involvement.
I trust that each and all of you will indeed give this institution your most generous support in every possible way, in order not merely to carry on its vital work, but also to enable it to expand and grow to meet the challenges of the present day and age.
Wishing you Hatzlocho [success] and the fulfillment of your heart's desires for good, materially and spiritually.
With esteem and blessing,
9th of Tammuz, 5724 
I received your letters in which you write about things that happened after your return home. May G-d grant that you should always have good news to report.
As we are only a few days away from the auspicious 12th-13th of Tammuz, the liberation of my father-in-law of saintly memory, no doubt you have made arrangements to observe these days and also organize a gathering. May G-d grant that it should be successful, and that you and every one of us should derive lasting inspiration and blessings from these auspicious days.
10th of Tammuz, 5726 
I duly received your letter.
In addition to the regards and blessings which were conveyed to your husband, and through him also to you and your children, I wish to reiterate again herewith my prayerful wishes, all the more so since these are auspicious days connected with the 12th-13th of Tammuz. No doubt you know about the history and significance of this Liberation Day of my father-in-law of saintly memory.
It is surely unnecessary to emphasize that whenever I write to your husband with special blessings on various occasions, particularly in connection with the Yomim Noroyim [Days of Awe] and other festivals, you, the Akeres Habayis [mainstay of the home] and helpmate, are of course included, together with the children.
May the inspiration and influence of the 12th-13th of Tammuz stand you and all yours in good stead.
CHANANYA means "compassion of G-d." Chananya ben Azur was a prophet during the times of King Zedekia (Jeremiah 28:1). Another biblical Chananya, together with Daniel, Mishiel and Azarya, was taken captive in Babylonia by Nebuchadnezzer. Chananya ben Akashya is quoted in the Mishna. Rabbi Chananya ben Teradyon was one of the 10 martyrs mentioned on Yom Kippur. CHASYA means "protected by G-d." Derived from the (male) name Chasa mentioned in the Talmud, the word "chasya" means "mercy" or "merciful" in Aramaic.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This coming Monday, July 15, corresponds to the 12th day of Tammuz. On this day in 1927, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn, the Previous Rebbe was informed of his release from Soviet exile and on 13 Tammuz he actually left Kostrama.
The foremost commentator on the Torah, Rashi, explains that "The Nasi - the leader of the generation - is the entire people." Thus, whatever happened to the Previous Rebbe effects not only him but the entire generation and, in fact, the entire Jewish people for all eternity.
The redemption of the Previous Rebbe on 12 Tammuz, sparked an increase in the service of spreading the wellsprings of Chasidut outward.
Moreover, it ultimately led to the Previous Rebbe's coming to America which brought about a marked increase in spreading the teachings of Judaism in general and Chasidut in particular.
In a gathering in honor of 12 Tammuz, the Rebbe explained that "the extent to which Chasidut has been revealed and spread since then has far exceeded the nature of these efforts in previous generations."
The Rebbe continued, "The effects of these efforts increase year after year. The service of spreading these teachings serves as a preparation for the ultimate revelation in the Future Redemption. Then we will see the ultimate fusion of the G-dliness which transcends nature and the G-dliness invested with the natural order."
The Rebbe concluded, "Even before that redemption comes, we will merit a succession of Divine miracles.When one Jew will ask another, 'What was the last miracle that happened?' he will be unable to answer because the miracles are taking place in such rapid succession. And these miracles will lead to the ultimate miracles, those which accompany the Redemption from exile, when 'As in the day of your exodus from Egypt, I will show you wonders.'"
Therefore it is said in the book of the wars of G-d (Num. 21:14)
The strength and uniqueness of the Jewish People lies in the following: While the nations of the world wage war with conventional weapons, the "weapon" of the Jewish People is the Book - the Torah which they learn and in whose light they live their lives. Zecharia the Prophet said: "Not by might and not by strength, but with My spirit, said the L-rd of Hosts."
(Rabbi Meir Shapira)
This is the torah (law), a man...(Num. 19:14)
The Torah is arranged in the same form as a person's body. Just as there are 248 limbs and 365 sinews in the body, correspondingly there are 248 positive and 365 negative commandments in the Torah. The 248 limbs of a person receive their sustenance from the 248 positive commandments, and the 365 sinews draw their sustenance from the 365 negative commandments.
Have them bring a completely red cow, which has no blemish on it, upon which no yoke has ever come (Num. 19:2)
If a person considers himself perfect, without finding the smallest trace of fault, this is a sign that he has never borne a yoke - the yoke of Heaven. He who accepts the yoke of Torah is always cognizant of how far he is from perfection.
(Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchak of Lublin)
The priest shall take some cedar wood and hyssop ... and throw it into the midst of the burning cow (Num. 19:6)
The cedar wood and the hyssop were also thrown into the fire. Cedar symbolizes excessive pride, and hyssop symbolizes excessive humility. Both of these character traits are not seemly in a person. The same way that one should not hold himself too high, one should also not walk around depressed all the time. A person needs a certain amount of enthusiasm and pride, as it says, "And he lifted his heart in the ways of G-d."
Along the same lines, Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk used to say: A man should have two pockets. In one he should put the concept of "I am but dust and ashes," and in the other, "For me the world was created."
Once, when Rabbi Michoel Vishetzky met with a rabbi in his Bronx shul (synagogue), he was surprised to find the rabbi, Rabbi Rabinowitz, sitting at the corner of the table with the head of the table oddly empty. The elderly rabbi didn't permit Michoel to sit at the head of the table either, saying, "No one sits in that place." When the rabbi noticed Michoel's surprise, he began to tell him the following story.
"When I came to America, I was privileged to meet with the Previous Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak [known as the Rebbe Rayatz]. I told him everything that had happened to me in Europe and asked him what I should do with my life.
"The Rebbe Rayatz said, 'Since you are a Torah scholar, you should look for a position as a community rabbi.'
"Soon after that, I was recommended for a position in this shul, here in the Bronx. I asked the Rebbe Rayatz if I should take the job. The Rebbe Rayatz said, 'A shul is a shul, and so it's very suitable, but I don't like the shammas (caretaker).'
"Why did the Rebbe mention the shammas? The Rebbe Rayatz saw that I was confused and repeated, 'A shul is a shul, but I don't like the shammas.'
"Time passed. Everything seemed to be going smoothly until I found out that the shammas was not pleased with me. After the passing of the shul's previous rabbi the shammas had assumed many responsibilities - and had become the unofficial rabbi. He felt that I had pushed him aside and he began to cause trouble for me. Eventually the situation became unbearable.
"When it became too much for me, I went to see the Rebbe, who had by now assumed the leadership. Before I even had a chance to open my mouth, the Rebbe said, 'My father-in-law said that a shul is a shul and he did not like the shammas. Continue to serve as rabbi in the Bronx. As for the antics of this shammas, he will soon need to worry how long he will keep his job.'
"I was amazed by the Rebbe's words. When I had spoken with the Rebbe Rayatz, no one else had been in the room, and I had never discussed the matter with the present Rebbe.
"A few nights later I couldn't sleep. Thoughts of the shammas would not leave me. At daybreak I decided to go to shul a little earlier than usual. On my way, I was surprised to meet the president and manager of the shul walking in the same direction as I. The manager pointed to a light in the windows of the shul. It looked suspicious. We quietly opened the door and walked in.
"The shammas was standing next to the bima holding the tzedaka boxes. He was emptying the money into his pockets. Needless to say, we fired him.
"The next few years passed peacefully. Then something even more incredible happened. The shul shared an adjoining wall with a butcher's shop. Business went very well for the butcher, and the shop soon became too small. He found a much larger shop, and sold the old shop to the shul as the congregation needed more space. After some friendly negotiations, a deal was struck. The whole transaction was conducted without a written contract.
"A few years later the butcher began to look for a storeroom. When he couldn't find one, he remembered that there was no official contract with the shul. Without any scruples, the butcher went to the shul management and asked them to give him his shop back. He hired a lawyer and was positive that the court would find in his favor as there had been no written contract of sale.
"After a short court case, the shul board received a court order telling them to vacate the premises by a certain date. If they disobeyed, the police would be called in. The date was drawing near. I went to the Rebbe for a blessing. When I described the situation, the Rebbe said, 'My father-in- law told you clearly that a shul is a shul. Everything will turn out the way it should.'
"The night before the critical date, I had a dream which I will never forget. In the dream I went to the shul and I saw the Rebbe Rayatz sitting in the chair at the head of the table - the very same chair which I never let anyone sit in. Standing next to him was the Rebbe. He said, 'Don't worry. G-d will let everything turn out for the best.' He then pointed to the Rebbe Rayatz. 'The Rebbe told you that a shul is a shul. What do you have to worry about?'
"I stood there in astonishment. The Rebbe Rayatz was right there, even though he had passed away ten years ago. I was still marveling at this extraordinary sight when I woke up. I ran to shul as fast as I could. A crowd had gathered outside the shul and people were arguing loudly with policemen who had blocked the entrance. They had started to remove the furniture. Then something very dramatic happened.
"On a nearby street, in the butcher's large shop, a light fixture fell suddenly from the ceiling. The butcher was knocked unconscious. When he regained consciousness, his first words were, 'Please, stop emptying the shul.' When the police arrived, the butcher admitted that he had made false accusations against the shul. He had, indeed, received payment for the old shop.
"Now you understand why I don't let anyone sit in that chair. The image of the Rebbe Rayatz sitting there will be in front of my eyes forever," Rabbi Rabinowitz said as he finished telling his story.
Reprinted from The Rebbes, vol. 2, Mayanot Publishing.
There is a profound link between the precept of the "red heifer" and the principle of Messianic redemption: Mitzvot signify life. When one follows the commandments one attaches himself to G-d and draws spiritual vitality from the Source of All Life. Sin signifies death. Violating G-d's will disrupts attachment to the Creator, thus bringing about the "impurity of death." Both the red cow and the Messianic redemption effect purification. For just as the ashes of the red cow are used for removing a legal state of impurity, the Final Redemption with Moshiach will purify the entire people of Israel from any trace of deficiency in their bond with G-d.