Adar 22, 5748 * March 11, 1988
THE WEEKLY PUBLICATION FOR EVERY JEWISH PERSON
Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.
Published weekly by:
Lubavitch Youth Organization
1408 President Street.
Brooklyn, New York, 11213 USA
Rabbi Shmuel Butman - Director.
Mrs. Yehudis Cohen - Editor.
The Table of Contents contains links to the text. Click on an entry in the Table of Contents and you will move to the information selected.
Financial or Spiritual?
Much newsprint these days is taken up with a discussion of the National Deficit. In simple terms, government spends more than it takes in which causes a money shortage in the national coffers. So, the government takes out loans, with high interest rates. This, of course, is similar to how many Americans make ends meet every month.
The national deficit, and all its ramifications, however, can be examined in a different light. In so doing, one might find that its cause and effect in some ways parallel our relationship to G-d and Judaism.
When we invest all of our time, energy, and talents in the here and now, we reap the benefits now. But what about the future?
Planning activities that allow time to perform a kindness for someone today or tomorrow should be an important scheduling consideration. At the end of the day there should remain enough energy to have a clear conversation with one's Maker (or mother or father for that matter). Setting aside money for charity, to help our less fortunate brethren, even a few coins a day, has great potential.
How does this type of lifestyle help us in the future? They're all mitzvos--commandments. Figuratively speaking, every time we do a mitzvah, it goes into a special "bank account." The interest that these mitzvos accrue there is much greater than any of us can imagine.
So start planning for the future. Make sure you don't have a spiritual deficit. Open your mitzvah account today.
AN OPEN DIALOGUE
Nothing in the Torah is coincidental. Generally on Shabbat one of the fifty-three Torah portions is read. This week, however, two portions are read. The message of these two portions, therefore, is distinct yet somehow related.
The first portion, Vayakhel, describes Moses gathering the Jews together and relaying G-d's command to build a sanctuary and make its vessels. It also tells how they fulfilled these instructions. Pekudei, the second portion, lists the accounts Moses made of all the offerings of gold, silver, copper, etc., for the sanctuary; how they were used; how offerings were made. Finally, it details how these actions brought the presence of G-d into the sanctuary.
From Vayakhel we learn how the Jews devoted their property, bodies (labor) and souls (wisdom and willingness) to the building of the sanctuary, a sanctuary that was, up to this point, only a physical creation. What Pekudei adds is the Divine response to the fulfillment of the commandment--"And the glory of the L-rd filled the Sanctuary" (Exodus 40:34).
The Divine response is one of the phases in an ongoing dialogue between G-d and each Jew. G-d commands, a person performs the commandment, and G-d acknowledges this reaction by bringing a spiritual light into this mundane world.
When a person responds to G-d's command, he is rising to the challenge of being obedient and creating within himself and his world a hallowed space. This is a space that he has hollowed out from his delusions of self-sufficiency (ego?), allowing G-d to enter there and make a dwelling place.
The command, which is the opening from G-d, invites and encourages every Jew to break through his shell of self. The concluding response of G-d floods the person, and his personal sanctuary, with G-d's glory.
There exists within each of us the potential and necessity for a sanctuary. Yet, it is just as important to hallow a space in our homes as a dwelling place for G-d. By owning and reading Jewish books, keeping a charity box in a prominent place and using it, having mezuzot on the doors, for example, we are separating a place in the mundane for the holy. We are opening and improving the ongoing dialogue between G-d and ourselves.
From "A Thought for the Week,"--Detroit.
Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
HAVING IT ALL
by Esther Altman
David Lazerson is a sportsman, an environmentalist, an author, a musician, and an award-winning teacher of learning-disabled children. He is also a Lubavitcher chasid, and a resident of the modern urban "shtetle" that is in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. The vibrant, multi-talented Lazerson is a sort-of modern Renaissance man. Dressed in L.L. Bean garb, he has managed to "have it all" and, in fact quite a bit more. For he has succeeded in synthesizing his diverse talents and loves into a lifestyle which, while devoted to the spiritual, has harnessed the mundane to its service.
Like most of his contemporaries, Lazerson's experience with his Jewish heritage had been limited to family holiday celebrations and a brief stint at after-hours Hebrew school. It terminated with his ostensible "graduation" from Judaism--his bar-mitzvah. A post- high school trip to Israel was deemed a proper rite-of-passage, but what effects there might have been were ephemeral. On his return to the States he was soon swept up in the turmoil engulfing college campuses throughout America. During the '60s, the very air was steaming with the volatile brew of radical politics, anti-Vietnam protests and drugs. David Lazerson found himself caught up in the tide.
"My college transcript is indicative--I took Organic Gardening, Drugs and the Mind, Guerilla Warfare--U. of Buffalo was a very radical faculty. I felt that there was more to the planet Earth than this physical blob floating aimlessly through space. I was reading about eastern religions, Krishna, Christianity-- unfortunately, everything except what was in my own backyard. I began to feel that there was some purpose to life--though what it was, was unclear."
Lazerson decided to return to Israel for his junior year abroad, but his experiences there left him feeling disappointed and frustrated. After the many months abroad, Lazerson returned to the university hungry to learn. Just a year earlier he had left in total rebellion--now he was back and with a vengeance.
"Whereas before I had been flunking out, totally disinterested, now I was pulling straight A's. One of my courses that first semester was "Jewish Mysticism"; it was taught by Rabbi Noson Gurary of the Chabad House in Buffalo. I would say that course marked the beginning of my "return to Judaism." Before I took the course I didn't even know there were any Jews still living a Torah lifestyle. My meeting Rabbis Gurary and Greenberg [Chabad Rabbis] was an eye-opening experience. They understood the "real" world, could relate, even had a sense of humor.
"What they taught was essentially that the Torah was alive and well in 1972 in Buffalo, NY! I had always thought that we, as Jew, were preserving our ancient traditions so that we wouldn't forget about them, but that none of it had any relation to present reality. Rabbi Gurary's approach was to show us what the Torah had to say about modern phenomena of life. We discussed birth control, human sexuality, drugs, all the things that were on our minds, and the fact that he was dealing with these topics made a deep impression on me.
"These two rabbis were people I could relate to both as teachers and friends, and I started to gravitate towards them, going to their homes for Shabbos, etc. Even at that point, though, I was far from an easy mark."
Then, in the fall of 1972 a weekend in Brooklyn proved to be the pivotal experience for him. Lazerson saw the Lubavitcher Rebbe at a farbrengen (Chasidic gathering at which the Rebbe lectures on Torah topics). "I sat through the farbrengen and didn't understand a word, with the exception of the occasional shalom or Israel [the Rebbe speaks in Yiddish with large admixtures of Hebrew and Aramaic]. Someone translated for me. Here was someone who was holy in the sense that he could reach above the stars, but at the same time his feet were planted firmly on the ground. He was simultaneously worldly and very spiritual. The combination of these two aspects impressed me, accustomed as I was to the "holy men" of the other religions I had studied who were divorced from the world, cut off."
At the insistence of Rabbi Gurary, Lazerson completed his degree in education, but soon after graduation went to the Rabbinical College of America in Morristown, NJ. Even at that point he had some reservations.
"I had a crazy attitude. I was thinking, "G-d, You better show Yourself to me. After all, I'm giving You some time out of my life." After two days I was ready to leave. I thought, "What am I doing here?" A friend at the yeshiva convinced me to give it another week; I did, and wound up staying there three more years. I felt that any truth I had found over the years in all the other religions and philosophies was right there in the Torah. I was amazed and enthralled."
Now, with a doctorate in education, Lazerson incorporates the same innovative and vibrant approach he brought to his Judaism to teaching children. His experimental techniques for teaching "Special Education" children have achieved notable and award- winning results. "Motivation, that's my whole emphasis," says Lazerson, and he has succeeded in reaching students considered to be lost causes. Inner-city learning disabled children have been inspired to achieve by using a "peer-tutoring" system adapted from the yeshiva chaver-partner method. Using the Talmudic precept that true learning is achieved only by learning out loud with a partner, Lazerson pairs a "learning disabled" child with a younger student whom he then tutors. This achieves wonderful results in the learning-disabled child--confidence, and an improvement in both behavior and grades.
To develop the whole student--intellectually, physically, and morally--these are Lazerson's objectives. His special Torah-approach is the springboard which enables him to succeed.
Excerpted from "Wellsprings" magazine.
The name "Betzalel" is Hebrew and means, "in the shadow of G-d." The first person mentioned by that name was Betzalel, son of Hur from the tribe of Judah, the artisan of the Sanctuary in the desert (Exodus 31:2).
The name "Bracha" is from the same Hebrew word meaning "blessing." The masculine of Bracha is Baruch.
by Rabbi Berel Bell
WHAT'S IN A WORD?
A basic tenet of Jewish belief is that G-d has no physical form. If so, one might wonder, why is He constantly referred to in human terms? For example, in the account of the creation, we read that G-d "spoke." How can a non-physical Being, Who obviously does not have physical organs of speech, be capable of "speech" as we know it? The term "speech" would seem appropriate only when there is someone who listens. Before the world was created, however, there was no other existence to "hear" this "speech"!
The use of this terminology encourages us to contemplate on how these attributes exist on a physical level. Through reflection, we attain a better understanding of how things work Above.
Let us first examine the concept of infinity. How significant, for example, is a single drop of water in comparison with the total amount of water in the ocean? The difference, although tremendous, is still two finite numbers. It is at least theoretically possible to count the number of drops in the ocean, thereby allowing some comparison between the vast number of drops and the number one.
Infinity, however, is something different altogether. Any finite number in comparison with infinity is absolutely nothing. For this reason, mathematically, 1/Infinity = 0, for it is utterly insignificant. Furthermore, 2/Infinity, 100 or even 1 million/ Infinity is still zero. There is no comparison whatsoever between even the largest finite number and infinity.
In our example, one drop in comparison with the entire ocean is small, but at least something. This same drop, or even that entire ocean, however, is absolutely nothing in comparison to an infinite number of drops.
A human being also has a capability that has an aspect of infinity--that of speech. Practically speaking, the total number of words he will utter is finite, but this is not because his power of speech is finite--rather, it is because his life span is limited. In essence, the power of speech is unlimited.
Accordingly, the gap between a particular utterance and the person's faculty of speech is an infinite one. The word or sentence (unlike the ability to speak) is limited, both in quantity and in meaning.
MORE THAN INFINITE
On a deeper level, a person's faculty of speech is itself insignificant compared to his essential being. Speech in itself is nothing; it exists only in order to express something deeper, such as an idea or a feeling. For this reason, when one is asked to "say something" (to test a microphone, for example) it is usually difficult to come up with anything more than a vapid "testing 1, 2, 3" or similar inanity. Furthermore, many thoughts and feelings can not even be expressed verbally, because speech is itself very limited in comparison with the feeling, etc., which it is meant to express.
Therefore, just as a verbal statement is insignificant in comparison with the faculty of speech, this faculty is itself insignificant to higher, more refined powers of the person, such as thought or feeling. How much more so in comparison with a person's essence, which is even higher than any of his specific faculties.
Imagine then, the gap between a particular verbal statement and the person who utters it. Even the term "infinite" does not express it, because there was already an infinite gap between the statement and the faculty of speech. How much more so when we compare this statement to the essence of the person who spoke it.
WE'RE JUST A WORD
This gives us a hint as to why G-d's creation of the universe is described as coming about through "speech." The term gives us some understanding as to the tremendous difference between the Creator and His creation. Even the word "infinite" does not adequately describe this gap, because it could indicate a mere quantitative difference. Here we are speaking of an entirely different category of existence altogether.
Thinking into the vastness of the physical universe leads one to feel awe and humility. Ultimately, though, this is only a comparison between two physical existences--the person and the universe. There is at least some similarity in that both are finite. They are analogous to the single statement as compared to a large, or even infinite, number of words.
However, this does not even come close to the gap between the person--indeed, the entire universe--in comparison with the Creator. The difference is more than "infinite," it is totally beyond description. This is conveyed by describing the universe as a product of "speech"--reminding us of the profound dissimilarity between the creation and its Creator, similar to (and, in reality, vastly beyond) the relationship between a word and the person who spoke it.
Returning home from the funeral of the Rebbetzin, the Rebbe--to long life--spoke briefly. The Rebbe encouraged that the tradi-tional comforting of the seven days of mourning begin immediately. He explained that a major reason for the comforting process is to benefit the living, quoting the verse: "VeHaChai - the living - should take to heart." The Rebbe concluded, "Especially since we are talking about a person whose first name is Chaya."
It is in the spirit of these words--the first in public after the passing of the Rebbetzin--that this publication is named "L'Chaim," alluding to the Rebbetzin's first name, Chaya. This also reflects the Rebbe's wish that the time following her passing should be spent in the spirit of living and striving in all matters of Torah and Judaism. The letter "M" in "L'Chaim" also stands for the Rebbetzin's second name, Mushka.
May this publication be an additional memorial to the Rebbetzin and may she be a good advocate for her husband, the Rebbe, and for all Jews.
Rabbi Shmuel Butman
THE SHINING COINS
Reb Gavriel was a simple, honest shopkeeper living in the town of Vitebsk. He and his wife of twenty-five years had no children, but they never complained. Reb Gavriel's financial situation, was not the best. In fact, it had deteriorated over the past few years. Yet, no sigh escaped his lips. On the contrary, he always contributed generously whenever his Rebbe, Rabbi Schneur Zalman, asked for financial support.
A large sum of money was once needed for ransoms, and Rabbi Schneur Zalman told Reb Gavriel the amount he hoped Reb Gavriel would contribute. When Reb Gavriel mentioned this to his wife, she immediately noticed his unhappiness. After some prodding, Reb Gavriel revealed that business was bad. It was so bad that they were penniless and could not possibly come up with the money the Rebbe had requested.
His wife chided him softly, "Haven't you told me many times that the Rebbe says one should always trust in G-d, and should always be joyful? G-d will help, and enable us to contribute the amount the Rebbe expects of us!"
She then quietly collected all of her jewelry and valuables and sold them. Triumphantly she brought the money to her husband, saying, "Here is the whole amount the Rebbe asked for."
Reb Gavriel set out for the Rebbe's home in Liozna and, arriving there, placed the sack of money on the Rebbe's table. The Rebbe asked him to open the sack to count the money, which he did. They were surprised to see that the coins shone as if they had been newly minted.
The Rebbe contemplated the coins, then said, "The contribu-tions to the Sanctuary in the [Sinai] desert included gold, silver and copper. But the only metal that shone was the copper from the mirrors of the women. This was formed into the laver and its pedestal ... Tell me, where did this money come from?"
Reb Gavriel revealed to the Rebbe that for the past ten years his business had been suffering and how his wife sold her jewels to raise the money.
The Rebbe meditated for some time, then said: "Your harsh trials are over. May G-d grant you and your wife, sons and daughters, and long life to see the children of your children; may G-d grant you over and again prosperity wherever you turn, and favor in the eyes of all those who see you ... Close your shop and start dealing in gems."
Reb Gavriel hastened home to Vitebsk and brought his wife the good news of the Rebbe's blessing. And, of course, he asked her why the coins shone.
"I rubbed them for a long time with sand," she explained, "until they glistened and sparkled like stars in the sky." She wanted to do this special mitzvah in the most beautiful manner possible. "By virtue of that," she continued, "may our fortunes start sparkling, too!"
Reb Gavriel closed his shop and began dealing in gems. With G-d's help, the local nobles and squires soon became his regular customers. His clientele widened from day to day. And within a year his wife gave birth to a son!
By the end of three years, Reb Gavriel was known as "Gavriel the Likeable," and he was respected by all who knew him. He was successful at whatever he attempted, and became wealthy.
"And Moshe congregated all the ... Jews" (Exodus 35:1).
The use of the word "congregated" over the word "gathered" has a deep significance. "Congregated" implies that the assembled become not merely a collection of individuals--separate beings gathered in the same space--but rather a new entity, a congrega-tion. This was a prerequisite for the construction of the Sanctuary, whose purpose was to provide a dwelling place for G-d. For GÄd chooses only to rest in a setting of absolute unity. (The Lubavitcher Rebbe)
"... one hundred sockets for the hundred talents of gold" (Exodus 38:27).
There were one hundred sockets in the Sanctuary and each person is required to say a hundred blessings each day. Just as these sockets formed the base for the Sanctuary, so the blessings which we recite form a base for the holiness of our lives as Jews.
The Hebrew word for socket is identical to the word for "lord" or "ruler." For in each of the blessings we proclaim GÄd's rulership of the world and through this we lay the foundation for the inner sanctuary within every Jew. (Chidushei Harim)
"... they beat the plates of gold and cut [it into] threads to work with the blue and the purple [threads]..." (Exodus 39:3).
"They spun the gold together with the threads by beating the gold foils thin and cutting threads along the length of the foil. These could then be intertwined with the different shades of wool...."
The above is a special instruction for those to whom G-d has entrusted great wealth ("gold"). They should not remain proud and separate from everyone else. Rather they should make a greater effort to mingle among the less fortunate, like the one thread of gold which was twisted together with woolen strands. (Sifsei Tsadik)
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