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   1606: Shemos

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1610: Yisro

1611: Mishpatim

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Vayikra Leviticus

L'Chaim
February 21, 2020 - 26 Shevat, 5780

1611: Mishpatim

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


  1610: Yisro1612: Terumah  

It's on the Money  |  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

It's on the Money

Do you have any money? No, this isn't a shake-down. But, if you have a U.S. one dollar bill, pull it out before continuing to read this article.

Being such an integral aspect of our lives, there must be something valuable money can teach us!

Turn to the side of the dollar bill that doesn't have the picture of George Washington. The most conspicuous item, you will notice, is the word, "ONE."

"One" is a very prominent concept in Judaism. A basic tenet of our faith is that G-d is one and there is nothing but G-d in the world - the belief that nothing exists but G-d, or that everything exists only because of G-d is ultimate oneness.

Interestingly enough, the word "one" is directly below another major Jewish concept, "In G-d We Trust." The Jewish people's trust and faith in G-d has kept us going throughout the ages. This trust, however, is not limited to the Jewish people as a group, but encompasses our individual lives as well. Kabbala teaches - and the Baal Shem Tov expounds on this teaching - that we are never alone, G-d is always with us. Even in a person's darkest moments, G-d is with him and we can put our trust in Him, because each person is truly one with G-d.

The concept of the oneness of the entire universe is further reflected in the Latin phrase in the eagle's beak, "E Pluribus Unum - From many you make one."

The eagle is holding arrows in one claw and what many horticulturists consider to be an olive branch in the other claw. This suggests the time of peace spoken about by our great prophet Isaiah when we will "beat our swords into plowshares..."

The number of arrowheads, the number of leaves on the olive branch, the number of stars above the eagle's head, are all 13. Thirteen, certainly, was the number of the original Colonies. But in addition, and perhaps not so coincidentally, it is the numerical equivalent of the Hebrew letters in the word "echad," which means "one."

Also, the stars above the eagle's head, in the shape that has become known as a "Jewish star" and has become a symbol of Judaism, have light emanating from around them. The Jewish people were commanded by G-d to be "a light to the nations."

Let's look for a moment at the other sphere across from the eagle - the one containing the pyramid. Two Latin phrases are in this circle. "Annuit Coeptis," according to the Webster dictionary, means, "He [G-d] has favored our undertaking." The second phrase, "Novus ordo seclorum," means "a new order of the ages," which in yesterday's lingo would be "a new world order" and in today's lingo "the Era of the Redemption."

The pyramid itself - work of human beings - is incomplete. It becomes complete only when joined with the eye, symbolizing most probably G-d's all-seeing Eye. It is only when we connect the work of our own hands with G-d and when we acknowledge G-d's assistance in our own work that we can complete our job. As G-d tells us, "Not through your courage nor through your strength but with My spirit."

Just as the eagle symbolizes the United States, the pyramid is symbolic of a country - though much more ancient than the USA. The pyramid is Egypt - the location of the Jewish people's first exile. It is from Egypt that the first Redeemer, Moses, took us out and brought us to freedom and the Giving of the Torah. And it is from our last place of exile - symbolized by the eagle - that the call has come forth, "The time of our Redemption has arrived. Get ready for the coming of Moshiach."


Living with the Rebbe

This week's Torah portion, Mishpatim, follows the Giving of the Ten Commandments that we read about in last week's Torah portion. The giving of the Ten Commandments was the greatest revelation ever.

Following the Ten Commandments, G-d gave a series of laws and ordinances to the Jewish people for the smooth and upright running of society. These include laws regarding the indentured servant, murder, kidnapping, assault and theft. Also civil laws regarding damages and loans and courts of justice.

As well, this portion discusses laws about the festivals, gifts to the Holy Temple, kosher and prayer. In all, Mishpatim contains a total of 53 mitzvot (commandments)!

Mishpatim starts with a number of basic, mundane laws concerning our daily interactions with people.

One would think that after so great a spiritual high we would be discussing loftier pursuits, prayer, meditation, love and fear of G-d, not base tort laws concerning others.

This teaches us that to G-d it is more important that we get along than that we be "spiritual." First love your fellow, then connect to G-d.

This is hinted in this week's extra Torah reading, Shekalim. Shekalim is the first of the four special additional Torah readings in the weeks before Purim and Passover. In Shekalim we read that every Jewish male was required to give a silver half shekel coin which went for the communal offerings.

Why a half shekel?

The Maggid of Mezrich explains that each of us is like a half. We become whole through our connecting with other half shekels, other Jewish people.

From the Torah portion itself as well as the extra Torah reading this week, we are told and then reminded: More than G-d wants us to connect with Him, He wants us to connect with and love each other.

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, California.


A Slice of Life

Talk to G-d
by Gutman Locks

The Israeli man pictured above put on tefillin at the Kotel Tefilin stand and read the Shema quickly. He almost knew it all by heart. Then he rushed to take off the tefilin.

"Wait a minute! Fulfilling a mitzva (commandment) opens the Upper Door. Talk to G-d in your heart. Tell what you want for the family, the Israeli soldiers, the Jews in danger, tell Him, 'thank You.' Take a minute and talk to Him in your heart."

He went to the Wall, covered his head with the tallit (prayer shawl), and stood there for at least five minutes talking to G-d. He came back to take off the tefilin with tears in his eyes.

The Mishna tells us, what makes our mitzvot pleasing to G-d is not the size of the offering, not how much it costs us to do the mitzva, but whether or not we direct our hearts to Heaven.

***

Josh called a young man over. I would not have thought to ask him if he was Jewish. He lives in Germany (of all places). His father is Korean, but his mother is Jewish. He was visiting his mother's brother who lives in Tel Aviv. It was the first time he ever saw tefilin. He had no idea that having a Jewish mother made him a Jew, nor did he have any idea that being a Jew meant anything.

Josh put tefilin on him, had him say the Shema, and had him stand by the Kotel praying for his family and for his other desires. He said that he never had an experience like that before.

Shmuli made contact with the Chabad House in the city where he lives and he said he was going to go meet with them.

I explained to him; "One out of 516 people in the world are Jews. For some reason you were created a Jew. Nothing just happens by accident. This is what you are."

The door has been opened. Will he begin to search out the ways of his people, or will he shrug it off and return to his entirely secular life? I do not know. But I do know that his visit to the Kotel the other day gave him an opportunity that up until then, he did not know that he had.


He is a physician from America visiting Jerusalem with his son. His son's mother is not Jewish. He is 69 years old and had no idea what tefilin are. He had never even seen them before.

"What are these? What are you doing to me?"

I explained they are in fulfilment of the commandment to Jewish men to take G-d's words and bind them for a sign upon our arms and as a reminder between our eyes. "It means that we will do what G-d told us to do and we will think about what G-d told us to think about."

I said, "Say, 'Baruch'..." He said, "Baruch... and he went on and said almost all of the blessing! I was amazed. I helped him with the ending of the blessing and had him read the Shema in English. He read it slowly and clearly, out loud.

Then I told him, "What you are going to do now is what you came all the way from America to do.

"When you fulfil a commandment, especially here in this holy place, and especially today being the first time you have ever fulfilled this mitzva, G-d is going to open the door to Heaven for you. Go stand by the Kotel, close your eyes, picture everyone you love one at a time with light on their faces and smiling and ask G-d to bless them. Pray for the Jews in danger, say thank You. Go take a couple of minutes and talk to G-d in your heart."

He stood there next to the Kotel talking to G-d for well over ten minutes. When he came back I asked him, "How was the experience?"

He said, "It was an amazing experience."

When I was taking the tefilin off, I asked, "How is it possible that you have never even seen tefilin before and yet you were able to say almost all of the blessing?"

He said, "I don't know. I haven't said anything like that since I was seven years old. It just came out."

Everything we see or learn throughout our entire lives is somewhere inside of us. All it takes is the right thing to bring to the surface again.

Yossi at the tefillin stand asked me to try to bring over an older American and his son to put on tefillin. They were refusing everyone who asked. I went over and they refused me too. He's 83 years old and didn't remember when (or if) he had ever put on tefillin.


The son said, "We have to hurry. We don't have time!"

"Don't worry the pizza won't get cold."

"We only have one minute here."

"Come, use the one minute for this. You'll have a good time, I promise."

The son walked away not wanting anything to do with it.

I wrapped the tefilin on the father and then his son walked back over to us. I had the father bless his son and somehow, I was able to bring the son in, too. Maybe, since his father did it, he felt that he could do it to.

After saying the Shema I explained how doing the mitzva opens the spiritual door above. I had them stand by the Kotel and pray for their loved ones, and for the things they want to happen in the world.

A few minutes later the father came back and I said, "You should see your face now. You look totally different than you did when you first came in. Really... I wouldn't lie to you."

It is amazing how the face changes when a person talks to G-d in his hearts!

I told him, "Your son who didn't have any time and had to leave in one minute is still standing by the Kotel talking to G-d."

The son came back and we took pictures ... they had a really great time.

Gutman Locks is well-known at the Western Wall's Chabad Tefillin Booth for over two decades. With humor, warmth and love, he helps thousands of Jews try this mitzva. He is the author of several books, musical tapes and many educational videos. See more of his writings at www.thereisone.com


What's New

New Torah

Krakow, Poland's historic Izaak synagogue celebrated the completion of a Torah scroll. Locals and visitors for the special occasion marched through the streets of Krakow's historic Jewish quarter, and from there to the Izaak synagogue. The completion ceremony was on the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

Expanding Center

The Schottenstein Chabad House at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, has bought the neighboring property in order to expand. In May at the conclusion of the school year the Chabad House plans to demolish the existing buildings on their current and new property and begin construction on a new center 20,000 square feet center that will include a larger social hall, expanded Jewish library, two kosher kitchens, a larger synagogue, a student lounge, recreation room, offices, classrooms and guest accommodations.


The Rebbe Writes

Erev Shabbos Parshas Shekolim, 5726 [1966]
To All Participants in the
"Evening With Lubavitch" in
Philadelphia, Pa.

G-d bless you -

Greeting and Blessing:

It is significant that the "Evening With Lubavitch" is taking place on Rosh Chodesh Adar [the new month of Adar]. In olden days, when the Beis Hamikdosh [Holy Temple] was in existence, the first day of Adar was noted for the "Shekolim Call" which went out on that day, whereupon every Jew contributed a half-shekel [coin] to the Sanctuary chest which provided the public sacrifices in behalf of all the Jewish people.

The saintly Rebbe the "Tzemach Tzedek" (so named after his monumental Halachah [Jewish Law] work) [Rabbi Menachem Mendel, third Rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch] - and this year marks the 100th anniversary of his demise - in discussing the Mitzvah [commandment] of Machtzis haShekel [the half shekel] in one of his renowned Chassidic-philosophical works, offers some insights into this Mitzvah requiring no more and no less than half a shekel. It indicates, he explains, that when a Jew makes a contribution toward a sacred cause, it is immediately matched by a similar benevolence from G-d to him, in accordance with the principle that human initiative acts like an impulse which calls forth a corresponding impulse from On High. The two, together, constitute the complete Shekel haKodesh ("holy shekel").

Moreover, though human endeavor must be voluntary and spontaneous, the assurance has been given that where there is a resolute intention, the person receives aid from On High to carry it to fruition in the fullest measure.

To be sure, the physical Sanctuary in Jerusalem was destroyed and the sacrificial service has since been interrupted. Nevertheless, in a spiritual sense the Sanctuary and all that was connected with it have never ceased; they exist in our daily experience and practice of the Torah teachings and Mitzvos. This is one of the aspects of our infinite Torah, which is in no way subject to the limitations of time and place.

The Mitzvah of the Half Shekel teaches us, among other things, that human effort, provided it is sincere and resolute, is "met halfway" by Divine Grace. Thus, though the goal may, at first glance, seem too ambitious or even beyond reach, we are not limited to our own human resources, since our initial effort evokes a reciprocal "impulse" from On High which assures the attainment of even the "unattainable."

The Mitzvah of the Half-Shekel was originally related to the Beis Hamikdosh, where simple material objects were transformed into things of holiness, through dedication and sacrifice. Such is the unlimited power which the Creator vested in the Jew by means of the Torah and Mitzvos originating in the En Sof (Infinite).

Every Jew has the power to transform small and ordinary things of nature into values and categories which transcend Nature - through living his daily life in accord with the will and command of G-d. In this way the Jew fulfills his purpose in life and the ultimate destiny of Creation, namely, to make an abode for the Holy One here on earth, in fulfillment of the Divine command, "Let them make Me a Sanctuary that I may dwell among them." (Exod. 25:8).

To the realization of this destiny of the individual Jew and of the Jewish people as a whole, the Lubavitch activities in all parts of the world are dedicated.

I take this opportunity to extend prayerful wishes to each and all participants in the "Evening With Lubavitch." May it be a source of lasting inspiration to you all, and an abiding influence towards the experience of a fuller, nobler, and, indeed, holier daily life, where the material "half-shekel" is balanced by its heavenly counterpart "in the scale of holiness" (b'Shekel hakodesh), ensuring a harmonious and truly happy life, materially and spiritually.

With blessing,


All Together

Who was Rabbi Yehoshua ben Chananya?

Rabbi Yehoshua ben Chananya (d. 131 ce) was born before the destruction of the Second Holy Temple in Jerusalem and was one of the greatest sages of his time. He was one of the five most prominent disciples of Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai, who rebirthed Torah learning in Yavne after Jerusalem was laid waste by the Romans. Rabbi Yehoshua was a Levite and one of the singers in the Holy Temple.


A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

This Shabbat we bless the new month of Adar. Our Sages have taught that when the month of Adar begins we should increase in happiness.

Happiness is related to Moshiach in numerous ways. For starters, we are taught that "Happiness breaks through boundaries." Moshiach, too, is referred to as one who "breaks through boundaries."

Additionally, the word Moshiach, is sometimes spelled without the Hebrew letter yud. At these times it is the same letters as the Hebrew word for happiness - samayach. When we are samayach - happy, we bring Moshiach.

The story is told about one of the great sages of Poland that when he was a little boy he asked his father for an apple but was refused.

The enterprising youngster recited the blessing for fruit. His father could not possibly allow the blessing to be recited in vain and promptly handed his son an apple.

The Rebbe used this story to describe the relationship between happiness and the imminent Redemption. The Rebbe explained that, "If the Jewish people begin now to rejoice already in the Redemption, out of absolute trust that G-d will speedily send us Moshiach, this joy in itself will (as it were) compel our Father in heaven to fulfill His children's wish to redeem them from exile."

Why is happiness such an effective means of hastening the Redemption and preparing ourselves for Moshiach's imminent arrival? Again, let us look at the Rebbe's words.

"The nature of happiness is that it permeates through the entire scope of the person's existence. When a person is happy, he lives joyfully. This happiness affects the way he conducts his life and all the people with whom he comes in contact. The person shares happiness with those around him and his happiness brings him success in all matters."

Live Moshiach! Make someone happy today. It doesn't take much - a smile, a kind word, a phone call to say, "I was thinking of you."


Thoughts that Count

They gazed at G-d and they ate and drank (Exod. 24:11)

There is a connection between the spiritual delight of seeing G-d and the physical acts of eating and drinking. The Torah is telling us that before eating and drinking at home or outside of the home, we should make sure that we are in a G-dly environment, and that the establishment is a truly kosher one.

(Pardes Yosef)


When you lend money to My people, the poor among you (Exod. 22:24)

The words "among you" seem to be superfluous. The Hebrew word for "among you" is "imach", which also means "with you." Sometimes a person might establish an amount of money that he will give to a particular charity, and even if his wealth increases, the amount he gives remains the same. The Torah is telling us that when we are enriched, the poor should be enriched with us.

(Reb Shmelke of Nikolsburg)


He who strikes a man, so that he dies (Ex. 21:11)

The numerical value of the Hebrew letters of the words "he who strikes a man" and "a man who strikes" (Lev. 24:17) is the same as the letters of the name "Esau." Violence and murder are the attributes of Esau, and not Jacob.

(Nachalat Chamisha)


If you lend money to My people, to the poor with you, you shall not be demanding (Ex. 22:24)

A group of Chasidim once came to the Rebbe the Tzemach Tzedek and heard him explain how great a mitzva it is to lend money to another Jew. The Chasidim, who were not very educated but were extremely pious, decided to lend money to each other just to fulfill the mitzva, even though none of them was particularly needy. On their next visit to Lubavitch the Rebbe remarked that he could hardly recognize them, as their faces were illuminated by a great light. The "mystery" was solved when they related what they had done....


It Once Happened

The young woman rose early. She hurriedly dressed in the half-light, making her way down the hill. Her attention was taken up by thoughts of the future. Following the sound of melodious voices, she arrived at the House of Prayer, and took up her usual position outside. It was here she came every morning, to sit upon the large rock and allow the sounds to enter her and fill her soul.

From the moment she knew there was life within her, her plan was clear. She would go every day to the House of Prayer and then to all the Houses of Study. Her child, though yet to be born, would gradually come to know the sounds of the holy words of Torah.

When asked where she was going, she would reply, "I am going to the House of Prayer, so that my baby can hear the holy words." No one could fathom her design; but to her it was perfectly clear.

On this particular cold, winter day, she sat immersed in her own prayer to the One Above to bless her child with wisdom and the ability to toil in His Torah. She sat until the scholars emerged. Shyly, she approached the first: "Please, bless my child with wisdom." The old man smiled at the young woman whose presence no longer surprised him. "May your child shine with the light of Torah," he replied. She then continued on to the various Houses of Study where she would sit beneath the open windows, the words of Torah permeating her essence.

The months passed. The young woman still made her early morning rounds, but now she was accompanied by her new son, her precious treasure.

She still visited both the Houses of Prayer and the Houses of Study, but now she propped up the small baby in his cradle which she carried from home. And from the early morning until the heat of the day had passed, the tiny baby sat, dozed, ate, and dozed again while the sacred melodies of Torah learning filled the air, enveloping him and filtering into his consciousness. The young mother was joyful with her lot and confident in the future of her small child, Yehoshua.


Rabbi Yehoshua was tired. The road to Rome was long and difficult. But, thank G-d, his mission had met with success. His nerve-wracking debates with the vicious Hadrian had yielded the hoped for result - the severe decrees against the Jews had been rescinded. He could return to Yavne in peace, with good news for all his fellow Jews. Rabbi Yehoshua was enjoying his repose. Rabbi Yehoshua's thoughts turned to home. He longed to return to the Holy Land, to resume learning Torah with his beloved comrades, to enjoy the serenity of life's routines.

He was immersed in reverie when he was jolted by the appearance of a young Roman woman who stood before him with a saucy look on her face.

"So, you are Rabbi Yehoshua ben Chananya," she said with disdain.

"So, I am," answered Rabbi Yehoshua, for even in his humility he was aware that his fame extended to Rome. His wisdom, though, was equalled by his penetrating insight and deep-felt love for his fellowman.

"I have heard many tales recounting your wisdom," she replied. "But never would I have imagined that G-d would pick such an ugly vessel for his wisdom!"

Rabbi Yehoshua smiled at the girl's rude, but honest description of his appearance. He thought for only a moment and looked her in the eye, "Tell me, does your father have much old wine?"

"Yes, of course. We have quite extensive cellars," the girl answered.

"Well," he continued, "how does your father store the wine?"

"In clay jugs, of course."

"Can he not afford silver casks?" asked Rabbi Yehoshua, feigning surprise.

"Certainly he could, but everyone knows that wine will spoil if it is stored in silver. Clay is the proper material for preserving wine."

"Ah, now you have your answer! The Creator of the World knows the proper receptacle for his wisdom, and thus has He created me! So, if you have some complaint, you must take it to my Creator!"

The Roman woman was both embarrassed and impressed by Rabbi Yehoshua's discourse with her. She quickly took her leave, murmuring apologies, but as for Rabbi Yehoshua, he was unperturbed by the whole encounter.

Back in Yavne, Rabbi Yehoshua felt an immense relief. Now, life's rhythms could begin anew; and to him life was synonymous with Torah. And for his great learning and his loving nature, he was loved by all whom he touched. The years accumulated greatness and honor, but Rabbi Yehoshua's aim never changed.

One day, already an old man, Rabbi Yehoshua sat with his students exploring a question in Jewish law. Was it incumbent upon the parents to bring their small children to hear the reading of the Torah during the Hakhel year? Rabbi Yehoshua listened to the discussion, and then related the story of how his mother would rise before dawn to sit beneath the open windows and allow her child to absorb the feel and essence of the holy words. All his life, Rabbi Yehoshua continued, he recalled his mother with blessing, for it was she who instilled in him the holiness to which his soul became attached.

Rabbi Yehoshua's comment sealed the Jewish legal conclusion with his own beautiful truth.


Moshiach Matters

In this week's Torah portion we read, "Six years shall he serve, and in the seventh he shall go free" (Ex. 21:2) "Six years" symbolizes the six thousand years of the world's existence; "shall he serve" refers to our mission to learn Torah and perform mitzvot; "in the seventh" refers to the seventh millennium, when "he shall go free," when the Messianic Era shall reign on earth and G-dliness will no longer be hidden but revealed.

(The Rebbe)


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