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1582: Pinchas

1583: Matos-Masei

Devarim • Deutronomy

July 26, 2019 - 23 Tamuz, 5779

1582: Pinchas

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The Weekly Publication For Every Jewish Person
Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.

  1581: Balak1583: Matos-Masei  

Barbecue Time!  |  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

Barbecue Time!

Summer time seems like a good time to talk about barbecues!

Does anyone use old-fashioned grills anymore? You know, the kind they used in the "olden days" before gas grills became the standard mode of barbecuing. To barbecue you took out the grill, charcoal briquettes, lighter fluid, matches, long-handled tongs and spatula, and Dad cooked supper for a change rather than Mom.

Did Dad ever teach you how to set up the charcoal so that it would heat efficiently and quickly? "First, you pour the coals into the grill," he advised.

"Then, you move around the coals until you've made them into a mountain - now don't wipe the black dust on your clean clothes. Douse it with enough lighter fluid to get a good fire going, but not so much that the food will taste like lighter fluid.

"Make sure to stand with your back to the wind so that when you light it the smoke and flames won't go toward you. Check it in a little while, and when you see the edges of the coals getting white you take a long stick and spread out the coals evenly on the bottom of the grill. If you do it too soon, though, the coals won't have the fire burning inside and they'll go out."

If you followed Dad's advice you made a pretty good barbecue. To get things moving even more quickly. you also know to carefully add a little more lighter fluid once the coals "looked" like they were out and all the coals were aflame once again.

When the Jewish people were given the Torah on Mount Sinai, all of the souls of all the Jews who would ever live were there. Cold and lifeless like charcoal until then, as one united mountain of souls we were doused with a revelation of G-d and an intrinsic understanding of our mission in this world that has lasted through the millennia.

The fire that was set alight within each and every coal/soul never goes out. At times, the flame is hidden. Occasionally, the heat itself is also not felt, covered as it is by so much dust and ash.

Like the coals in the barbecue that aren't spread out until they have a fire burning within, G-d did not scatter us to every continent in the world until the flames in our souls were ignited. Our small acts - mitzvot (commandments) - are what enable the smoldering flame to glow and radiate warmth to others. They keep us connected, despite distance, to all other Jews and to our Source. Each time we do a mitzva we connect with our Creator and the Jewish People.

As we are in the midst of the Three Week Period of mourning for the destruction of the Holy Temple and the numerous disasters that befell the Jewish People, poke and prod the fire within your soul by uniting with other Jews. Unite by lighting Shabbat candles or encouraging another woman or girl to light them, by giving extra charity, by praying for the end of exile and the beginning of the Redemption, by attending a class (at this time in particular on topics that relate to the Holy Temple). These are all mitzvot that we are told actually hasten the Redemption. May that long awaited time commence now!

Living with the Rebbe

Looking at this week's Torah portion, Pinchas, you can't help but think about Israel. Our portion talks about the laws of inheritance of the land of Israel. Then Moses appoints Joshua to be the next leader, the one who will lead the Jewish people into the land of Israel. The portion also talks about the sacrifices brought at different times in our Holy Temple in Jerusalem, Israel.

The strange thing is, that this portion begins in middle of a story about Pinchas. The portion tell about how Pinchas killed two people, thereby stopping a plague that had taken lives of 24,000 Jews. For this act, G-d gave him the title of Kohen, priest, for him and all his future descendants and the namesake of our portion, Pinchas.

What are we meant to learn from Pinchas about the land, the leaders, and the Temple service of Israel?

There are times that we are faced with a dilemma: Do what is right or do what is popular? Unfortunately it is very difficult to stand up against what is popular, because "What will people say?" "Everybody is doing it" and "They won't like me."

Pinchas was faced with this dilemma. No one was ready to stand up and do the right thing. In the face of that he stood up and did what was necessary. He "saved the day," stopped the plague, and was rewarded with the priesthood.

The same is true for the leadership of Israel. The whole world is against them, but they need to do what is right. It is very difficult to be like Pinchas, but ultimately that's what stops our people from dying. That's how we inherit our land. That's leadership.

But this lesson of standing up for what is right does not only apply on a national level. The same is true for each of us. G-d chose us because we have it in us to stand up for what is true and what is right. If we do what G-d wants in the face of what is considered popular, we too earn our title of a kingdom of priests and a holy nation and we will merit to have our Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

Let us pray that G-d strengthen the leadership of Israel, that He keep our brothers and sisters there safe, and that He protect our soldiers from harm.

Adapted by Rabbi Yitzi Hurwitz from the Rebbe's teachings, Rabbi Hurwitz, who is battling ALS, and his wife Dina, are emissaries of the Rebbe in Temecula, Ca.

A Slice of Life

Rain and a Mikva for Croatia
by Mendy Dickstein

Rabbi Pini and Raizy Zaklas are the Rebbe's emissaries in Zagreb, Croatia. They arrived in Croatia in 2004 and in 2018 completed the building of a five story Jewish Center. The building housed all of the institutions needed to maintain an active Jewish community. The one thing that marred the celebration was the fact that the mikva remained unfilled.

The Jewish Center's new mikva was the first one built since the end of World War II. Every mikva in the country from before the war had been destroyed. The newly built mikva would enable local Jewish couples to observe the fundamental commandment of Taharat HaMishpacha (laws of family purity).

The Jewish Center was inaugurated in early spring. In Croatia rain is plentiful in the spring as well as the summer. However, despite rainfall throughout the entire country, the clouds skipped over the capital city and left it dry for an unusually long period of time. For months no rain fell inside the city limits.

Spring passed and autumn arrived. But the summer dry spell continued into the fall, which was considered most strange. Local media began to comment in amazement about the bizarre phenomenon of the rain, and even snow, which had begun to fall in many parts of the country, skipping over Zagreb.

A few times there was actually rain, but the reservoir pit of the mikva never accumulated enough natural water to render the mikva operational.

One evening, the Zaklas couple were sitting and talking, with the topic of the mikva taking center stage. During the conversation, Mrs. Zaklas told her husband that she had recently read a number of stories about mikvas that were unable to begin operations due to inexplicable turns of events, and when the people involved consulted the Rebbe, he instructed them to check if the mikva was kosher from a Jewish legal perspective. In each story, only after the mikva was checked and fixed, did everything work out fine. As she suggested, "It is possible that we, too, have a problem that we are unaware of, and that is what is preventing the mikva from filling up properly."

Although Rabbi Zaklas had been in regular contact with highly experienced experts in mikva construction throughout the entire building process, perhaps some detail had escaped their attention and this was preventing the rain from filling the reservoir.

The rabbi decided to solicit another opinion from an expert in the field of mikva construction and contacted Rabbi Shmuel Levin, an expert of international renown. Rabbi Levin was already acquainted with every detail of the site, as he had paid a personal visit during the construction, so he was familiar with the reservoir and the immersion pit.

Rabbi Levin asked Rabbi Zaklas to photograph the entire mikva from every corner and angle. When Rabbi Levin received the pictures, he immediately identified the problem that seemed to be the heavenly cause for holding up the works. The contractor innocently had thought of a certain addition to the reservoir that would make it easier to access. However, that little addition rendered the entire mikva not kosher and unfit for use until that unsuitable "improvement" would be corrected. In fact, if the reservoir had filled as expected, besides for any immersion in the mikva being invalid, the problem would never have been discovered once covered by water!

By a stroke of amazing Divine Providence, on the very day that the problem was identified, a world renowned expert in the field of mikva supervision, Rabbi Yehuda Leib Mintzberg, arrived in Croatia. He had been invited by the Rabbinical Centre of Europe to conduct a round of visits in Europe and to check the mikvas in each place. Rabbi Mintzberg saw to it that the mikva was fixed that very day.

What was truly amazing (or not?) was that on the very next day, the residents of Zagreb were informed of a major winter storm system heading towards the city. Two days later, the powerful storm hit the city and dropped huge amounts of precipitation on the city, easily filling the reservoir to satisfactory levels. The mikva that had stood forlorn for many long months was inaugurated with a great celebration and the participation of the local residents, the donors and many visiting dignitaries.

Despite the happy ending to the story and the impressive launch celebration, the entire episode left Rabbi Zaklas filling ill at ease. Why did he have to endure the tremendous aggravation? Why did there have to be this hitch that caused the mikva to remain deserted for close to an entire year, causing so much heartache?

He decided to write to the Rebbe and ask for a special sign that the entire building, and especially the mikva, is pleasing to the Rebbe and that the delay should not be seen as a sign of some lack or flaw in their work as the Rebbe's emissaries.

Shortly after, Rabbi Zaklas was called by his relative Yosef Yitzchok Lipsker, who had recently become engaged. In his search for rare letters of the Chabad Rebbes to include in a wedding memento, he discovered a three-page long letter of the Rebbe written in Croatian!

Rabbi Zaklas asked his cousin to send the letter. The content of the letter was just as amazing to the rabbi as the timing of when he found out about it and the fact that the letter even existed.

The Rebbe begins the letter by explaining Maimonides' legal ruling by which it is possible to identify Moshiach. Following that, the Rebbe explains that the only way to leave the exile is through being particular in the study of Torah and the performance of mitzvot.

The general attitude in the Jewish community of Croatia was guided by the assumption that Judaism is purely a cultural matter, associated with the folklore of an ancient people with interesting traditions and history, but certainly not something that came with obligations or a coherent belief system meant to guide a person through every step of life.

The Zaklas' have been involved throughout the years in deep discussions about this very matter, and now here was a letter from the Rebbe written in the local language clearly delineating the significance of Judaism, and how the way to actualize it is specifically through the study of Torah and practical mitzva performance.

Reprinted from Beis Moshiach Magazine. The details of this article were verifed with Rabbi Zaklas.

What's New

Jewish Center for Young Adults

The Far East of Russia celebrated the opening of the first Jewish Youth Center in Birobidzhan, in the famous and historical Jewish Autonomous Region of Russia. The center will be a place where Jewish teens and young adults can explore their Jewish heritage, culture, traditions, religion and language in a formal as well as informal setting. Yahad and EnerJew are slated to hold their gatherings and meetings at the center as well.

Friendship Circle Adults

Friendship Circle of Palo Alto, under the directorship of Rabbi Ezzy and Nechama Schusterman, is expanding their programming to include adults with special needs. Friendship Circle for adults will provide opportunities for social and educational engagement for adults between 20 and 35. Programs will include trips, holiday functions, and creative activities. Aside from a more mature bent, participants will have a say in choosing and planning their slate of programming. Like its parent organization, each participant will be paired with an adult volunteer with on-site therapists facilitating.

The Rebbe Writes

5 Tammuz, 5743 [1984]

I have just received your letter of 3rd of Tammuz.

To begin with a blessing, may G-d grant that henceforth you and all your family should have only goodness and benevolence - in the kind of good that is revealed and evident.

At the same time, you must make every effort to regain the proper state of mind, despite the pain.

You should remember the teaching and instruction of the Torah, which is called Toras Chayim, the Guide in Life, and Toras Emes, the Torah of Truth, meaning that what it teaches is not just to ease the mind, but the actual truth.

Thus, the Torah, taking into account human nature/feelings, in a case of bereavement, and the need to provide an outlet for the natural feelings of sorrow and grief, prescribes a set of regulations and periods of mourning.

At the same time, the Torah sets limits in terms of the duration of the periods of mourning and appropriate expression, such as shiva [the first seven days], shloshim [30 days], etc.

If one extends the intensity of mourning which is appropriate for shiva into shloshim, it is not proper, for although shloshim is part of the overall mourning period, it is so in a lesser degree.

And since the Torah says that it is not proper to overdo it, it does no good for the neshama [soul] of the dear departed. On the contrary, it is painful for the neshama to see that it is the cause for the conduct that is not in keeping with the instructions of the Torah.

A second point to bear in mind is that a human being cannot possibly understand the ways of G-d. By way of a simple illustration:

An infant cannot possibly understand the thinking and ways of a great scholar or scientist - even though both are human beings, and the difference between them is only relative, in terms of age, education and maturity.

Moreover, it is quite possible that the infant may some day surpass the scientist, who also started life as an infant. But the difference between a created human being and his Creator is absolute.

Therefore, our Sages declare that human beings must accept everything that happens, both those that are obviously good and those that are incomprehensible, with the same positive attitude that "all that G-d does is for the good," even though it is beyond human understanding.

Nevertheless, G-d has made it possible for human beings to grasp some aspects and insights about life and afterlife. One of these revealed truths is that the neshama is a part of G-dliness and is immortal. When the time comes for it to return to Heaven, it leaves the body and continues its eternal life in the spiritual World of Truth.

It is also a matter of common sense that whatever the direct cause of the separation of the soul from the body (whether a fatal accident, or a fatal illness, etc.) it could affect only any of the vital organs of the physical body, but could in no way affect the spiritual soul.

A further point, which is also understandable, is that during the soul's lifetime on earth in partnership with the body, the soul is necessarily "handicapped" - in certain respects - by the requirements of the body (such as eating and drinking, etc.).

Even a tzaddik (righteous person) whose entire life is consecrated to Hashem [G-d] cannot escape the restraints of life in a material and physical environment.

Consequently, when the time comes for the soul to return "home," it is essentially a release for it as it makes its ascent to a higher world, no longer restrained by a physical body and physical environment.

Henceforth, the soul is free to enjoy the spiritual bliss of being near to Hashem in the fullest measure. That is surely a comforting thought.

continued in next issue

All Together

MEIR means "one who brightens" or "shines" (from the Hebrew word "ohr" meaning "light"). Rabbi Meir was a leading second-century Talmudic scholar, one of the most brilliant of Rabbi Akiva's students. A variant spelling is Meyer.

MERAV means "contender" or "to increase." Merav was the eldest daughter of King Saul and his wife Achinoam, and the sister of Michal (I Samuel 14:49).

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

We have entered the time period in the Jewish calendar known as the "Three Weeks." It is a time of semi-mourning for the destruction of the Holy Temple and our exile from the Holy Land.

A chasid of the Tzemach Tzedek (the third Chabad Rebbe) wanted desperately to move to the Holy Land. The Tzemach Tzedek told the chasid that his particular mission was in the place where he, and he should "make this place the Holy Land."

The Rebbe explained that this directive applies in all times and in all places, even here and now. What it means is that we should work to make our surroundings a place where Judaism and G-dliness thrive.

That a person finds him or herself in a certain place at a certain time is not a mere accident but has a purpose. There is a mission and intent for every moment and every place and that purpose is to transform this world into G-d's dwelling place.

To quote the Rebbe, "Effort has to be invested into each place, and every situation, reflecting within it the ultimate intention, that it become part of G-d's dwelling, as will be revealed in the Holy Land in the Era of the Redemption."

Each person has as his inheritance his own "portion" of the world. Thus, everyone possesses an individual responsibility to make his portion of the world the Holy Land. Each person lives in a particular place and has a specific and individual mission there. Similarly, each day and more particularly each moment, is associated with a specific Divine mission. And therefore, to prepare the world at large for the Redemption, each person must "Make this place - his individual portion of the world - the Holy Land."

The Rebbe concluded by saying, "By fulfilling the intent associated with his individual portion of the world, he can bring the entire world to a state of fulfillment."

Thoughts that Count

And G-d said...take the sum of all the congregation of the Children of Israel from twenty years and upward (Num. 26:1,2)

The Midrash explains that the Jewish people are counted in nine places in Scripture; the tenth and final census will be taken in the Messianic Era. This will be done either by Moshiach, according to the Aramaic translation and commentary of Rabbi Yonatan ben Uziel, or by G-d Himself, according to the Midrash.

(The Rebbe, Shabbat Parshat Chukat 5750)

Let the L-rd, G-d of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation (Num. 27:16)

Conventional thinking holds that as the generations become progressively lower and more degraded, mediocrity in leadership becomes more acceptable. However, the Torah tells us that the opposite is true: the more inferior the generation, the more it needs the guidance of superior leaders. Analogously, the more ill the patient, the more he needs to see a specialist...

(Chidushei HaRim)

It is a continual burnt offering which was offered at Mount Sinai (Num. 28:6)

A continual burnt-offering hints to the "hidden love" which every Jew has. This love is continuous, it never ceases.

(Ohr HaTorah)

It Once Happened

In the period between the First and Second World Wars there lived a pious Jew named Yehuda Schwartz, in the central Hungarian village of Mezcsát. Reb Yehuda was the proprietor of a small tavern located next to the railroad station.

Most of Reb Yehuda's business was conducted with the local wine growers, from whom he purchased his supplies. Some of the wine was served in his tavern, while the rest was sold to wholesalers in the larger cities.

The business grew and grew until eventually Reb Yehuda acquired a partner, a Jew by the name of Hopstatter. Over the course of time a clear division of labor was established: Schwartz traveled from village to village buying the wine from the vineyards, while Hopstatter dealt with the wholesalers and other merchants. All payments he received were handed over to his partner, who could then pay the wine growers whatever they were owed.

At the end of each season, after the wine had been fully fermented and sold, the two partners would sit down to do their books. Both men were G-d-fearing individuals, and the two partners trusted each other implicitly. Not even once had they argued over figures or the division of profits.

One time, however, it happened that each partner made his calculations separately, with drastically different results. Hopstatter claimed that he had given 10,000 kronen to Schwartz, while Schwartz insisted that he had never received the money. After going over their records a second time with the same results, they decided to go to the Rabbi.

In those years, the legal authority in the village was the famous Rabbi Yehuda Altman, author of the scholarly work, Yam Shel Yehuda. The rabbi listened carefully as the two sides presented their respective cases.

Standing before him were two good men, ethical and honest. Each was convinced he was speaking the truth. Hopstatter insisted that he remembered putting the bundle of money in his partner's hand. Schwartz was equally adamant that it never happened. Unfortunately, neither partner had any documents to back up his claim.

In such cases, the rabbi had no choice but to ask the defendant to take an oath. Hopstatter declared that he was willing to swear, but Schwartz was dead set against it. As it was patently obvious that his friend was mistaken, Schwarz argued, he had no desire to cause him to commit the sin of taking a false oath.

"I am against it on principle," he continued. "If the tables were turned and I were asked to swear to the truth, I wouldn't do it even then. How much more so am I opposed to it now, when I see my friend about to stumble." At that point Schwartz announced that he was dropping his claim against Hopstatter. The 10,000 kronen weren't that important...

The two partners looked at the rabbi expectantly, awaiting his verdict. After a brief moment he pronounced that as there was no longer any case pending, there was no need for an oath, and everyone could go home.

A short time later a vendor who was a casual acquaintance of Reb Yehuda Schwartz visited the tavern. In the course of conversation, Reb Yehuda mentioned the recent misunderstanding he had had with his partner.

"Hey, wait a minute," the vendor said as a thought occurred to him. "I might be able to tell you something that can shed a little light...

"A few months ago I was making my rounds at a certain inn, and I bumped into your friend Hopstatter. I didn't really talk to him, but I noticed him speaking to the owner. At a certain point a third man, someone I didn't recognize, walked in and went over to Hopstatter. The two men shook hands, whereupon Hopstatter took out his wallet. I saw him remove a bundle of money tied with a string and hand it to the stranger. The stranger then sat down at a side table and counted the bills. When he was satisfied it was the proper amount he left the premises."

Immediately, Schwartz took out a pen and paper wrote a letter to his partner describing the incident, and asked if it had any significance. After posting the letter he went back to work.

About a week later a carriage pulled up in front of the tavern, discharging a rather emotional and distraught Hopstatter. Rushing inside he practically fell upon Schwartz, hugging and kissing him. "I can't believe it!" he cried. "You saved me!"

He related that although he clearly remembered preparing the bundle of money for his partner, he had completely forgotten that he had given part of it to the man at the inn.

That evening Hopstatter told everyone in the synagogue the story of what had happened, and invited everyone to a festive meal in honor of his dear friend, who had prevented him from committing a grave sin.

Reb Yehuda Schwartz was murdered by the Nazis (may G-d erase their name) in June of 1944. This story was told by his great-grandson, Avigdor Sharon of Israel.

Moshiach Matters

In this week's portion we read, "My sacrifice... you shall observe to offer to me in its time." (Num. 28:2) The Hebrew word used for "observe" is often used to imply hopeful anticipation of a future happening. Though we do not have the opportunity to observe the laws of sacrifice while in exile, our constant anticipation and hope for the rebuilding of the Temple gives us a portion in the sacrifices which were previously offered there.

(Sefat Emet)

  1581: Balak1583: Matos-Masei  
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