Parshat Bamidbar, 5757

Sivan 1, 5757
June 6, 1997

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Your Shavuot Guide
Sivan 6-7, 5757 * June 10-12, 1997


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Maimonides, Principles of the Faith, No. 12


Click here, to see pictures of the Rebbe


We are pleased to present, to the visually impaired and the blind, the 113th issue of our weekly publication, Living With Moshiach.


This week's issue focuses on the festive holiday of Shavuot, which begins on Tuesday night, June 10.

Therefore, we present here "Your Shavuot Guide,"(*) and other related material about Shavuot.


It is our fervent hope that our learning about Moshiach and the Redemption will hasten the coming of Moshiach, NOW!

Rabbi Yosef Y. Shagalov,
Committee for the Blind

Lag B'Omer, 5757
Brooklyn, New York


*) Published by Prestige Litho.

Adapted from the Works of the Rebbe

Parshat Bamidbar

In this week's portion, Bamidbar, we read about how Moshe, Aharon and the leaders of the tribes conducted a census of the Jewish people at G-d's command. "Take a census of the congregation of the Children of Israel... you and Aharon... and with you there shall be a man of every tribe."

Counting the number of citizens who reside in a particular country is something that is done all over the world. There are no stringent requirements for becoming a census-taker; anyone may do so. A census-taker goes from house to house writing down the number of residents on a special form. Other pertinent details are also recorded: a person's age, his occupation, etc. After tabulating all the data, the exact number of residents in the country is arrived at.

The census of the Jewish people in the desert, however, was conducted in an entirely different manner. The census-takers were not unemployed or simple folk; rather, they were the most important people in the entire nation --Moshe, Aharon and the heads of each tribe!

Moshe was asked by G-d to conduct the census. G-d wanted Moshe, the consummate Jewish leader and teacher of Torah, to abandon all his other affairs and go from tent to tent, counting the number of Jews over the age of 20!

But why was Moshe chosen for the task? Why did it have to be Moshe, Aharon and the tribal leaders--the Jews with the highest status --who conducted the census?

The answer is that appointing only the most prominent individuals, expressed the intrinsic value and tremendous significance of the Jewish people. Counting Jews is an act of great consequence; not just anyone is permitted to do so. Each and every Jew is so precious that only people with the stature of a Moshe, an Aharon or a leader of a tribe may take their number.

Conducting a census of Jews is not a secular activity, it is a holy one. Every single Jew is holy, a "veritable part of G-d above," and counting the members of a holy nation is a mitzvah. This was reflected in the way the census was taken. The census-takers were required to wear their Shabbat finery as they made their rounds from tent to tent. The census was a serious affair.

Counting, in and of itself, is a mundane task, but when it comes to counting Jews it is a holy matter.

So too is it with all the worldly affairs and daily activities of the Jew. Because of his unique spiritual nature, even his mundane activities take on a higher significance. Eating, drinking, managing a Jewish household and educating one's children--all these are uplifted and transformed into holy pursuits, for each and every Jew is invaluable to G-d.


The Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson of Lubavitch, issued a call that "The time of our Redemption has arrived!" and "Moshiach is on his way!"

The Rebbe stressed that he is saying this as a prophecy, and asks us all to prepare ourselves for the Redemption, through increasing acts of goodness and kindness.

Let us all heed the Rebbe's call.


Dear Friend:

Following Pesach--the Festival of Our Liberation, comes Shavuot--the Festival of the Receiving of Our Torah. The days of sefirah (counting of the Omer), beginning immediately on the morrow of the first day of Pesach and ending on the eve of Shavuot, connect these two great festivals.

Many significant lessons can be learned from this, of which I will point out but one:

Our Sages tell us that when Moses was about to lead the Children of Israel out of Egypt, he told them of G-d's promise to give the Torah to His beloved people following their liberation from bondage. At once they asked when would that happy day be, and Moses replied that it would be fifty days later. Every day the Children of Israel counted: One day is gone, two days, three, and so on, and eagerly looked forward to the fiftieth day. For the Children of Israel understood that there could be no real freedom--freedom from any fear of oppression by others, and freedom from one's own evil inclinations--except through laws of justice and righteousness, which only the Creator of all mankind could make, because He knows best what is good for them. It is not surprising, therefore, that they were so eager to receive the Divine Torah, containing those wonderful laws to guide them and all the world.

Let us also remember that we cannot be truly free men, nor would we be worthy of such freedom, unless we take upon ourselves to observe and do all that G-d commanded us in His holy Torah. Like our ancestors at Mount Sinai, we also must proclaim: "Naaseh v'nishma"--we will do and obey; and only then will we have lasting freedom. Indeed, it was their determination, while still in Egypt, to accept the Torah that merited them their liberation from enslavement. Likewise at this time, our return to the Torah and its observance, while awaiting the Redemption, will hasten the coming of Messiah and merit us the true and complete Redemption in our own day.

Wishing you a happy Shavuot,

Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson


Each year when the holiday of Shavuot approaches, we are reminded of the beautiful Midrash that teaches that the Jewish children of every generation are the reason why G-d gave us the gift of the Torah:

When G-d asked what assurance the Jewish people were offering that the Torah would be studied, loved and cherished, the Jewish people offered our Patriarchs as security. But this was not accepted. We then offered the Torah scholars as the guarantors. This, too, was not acceptable. It was only when we offered our children as guarantors that G-d approved our proposal and gave us the Torah.

On the anniversary of an event, the "spiritual energy" that was infused by G-d into that event is at its strongest. This is the reason why, for example, we should do our utmost to celebrate our birthdays properly each year. This is true, too, concerning every Jewish holiday. Which means that on Shavuot--the celebration of the Giving of the Torah--the spiritual energy that was invested into that day 3,309 years ago is at its strongest.

What is the special spiritual energy of Shavuot and how can we benefit from it? It was on Shavuot that our ancestors proclaimed, "We will do and then we will learn." So this is the time when we recommit ourselves to the actual performance of mitzvot--even if we haven't yet learned or don't yet understand their reasons.

Shavuot is also the time when the spiritual energy of our children, being the guarantors for the Torah, is at its strongest. This is the time when we must renew our commitment to provide our children with a proper Jewish upbringing and education as well as facilitating the proper Jewish education of all Jewish children, wherever they may be.

We can begin doing both of the above by going to the synagogue this Shavuot to hear the reading of the Ten Commandments and by bringing along with us Jewish children of all ages--children in age, children at heart, or children in Jewish knowledge. Be there, and be a part of a 3,309-year-old unbroken chain of Jewish commitment and pride.


Three people in Jewish history are particularly associated with Shavuot: Moshe, King David and the Baal Shem Tov. And these three great leaders were also intimately connected with Moshiach and the Redemption.

As the one through whom the Torah was given to the Jewish people, Moshe is intimately connected with Shavuot. The Torah, in some places, is even referred to as Torat Moshe (The Torah of Moshe). Moshiach will be so like Moshe in his leadership qualities, humility and Torah scholarship that our Sages even stated, "Moshe is the first redeemer and the last redeemer."

Shavuot is the birthday and anniversary of the passing of King David. One of the functions of Moshiach is that he will restore the Davidic dynasty, for Moshiach will be a descendant of King David, a human king.

Finally, we come to the Baal Shem Tov. The Baal Shem Tov, too, passed away on Shavuot. In a famous letter to his brother-in-law, the Baal Shem Tov described a spiritual "journey" when he visited the chamber of Moshiach. He asked Moshiach, "Master, when will you come?" Moshiach replied, "When your wellsprings--your teachings--will spread forth to the outside."

The Baal Shem Tov's teachings--Chasidus--were recorded and expounded upon by his various disciples. They are a foretaste of the new and deeper revelations of Torah that we are promised will be revealed and taught by Moshiach himself.

This year on Shavuot, when all Jews, young and old, gather in our synagogues to reexperience the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai, let us also reconnect with the essence of the holiday and cry out for the ultimate revelation of the Torah and G-d through Moshiach.

Sivan 6-7, 5757 * June 10-12, 1997


Shavuot, a Major Festival

Shavuot, the second of the three major festivals, comes exactly fifty days after Passover. It marks the giving of the Torah by G-d to the entire Jewish people on Mt. Sinai 3,309 years ago. In Hebrew the word Shavuot means "weeks" and stands for the seven weeks during which the Jewish people prepared themselves for the giving of the Torah. During this time they rid themselves of the scars of bondage and became a holy nation ready to stand before G-d.

The Giving of the Torah

The giving of the Torah was far more than an historical event. It was a far-reaching spiritual event--one that touched the essence of the Jewish soul then and for all time. Our Sages have compared it to a wedding between G-d and the Jewish people. We became His special nation and He became our G-d.

The Importance of Shavuot Today

Each year, Shavuot is the special time for us to reawaken and strengthen our special relationship with G-d. We can do so by rededicating ourselves to the observance and study of the Torah--our most precious heritage.

Every man, woman and child, including young infants, should attend services at least on the first day of Shavuot, Wednesday morning, June 11, and hear the Torah reading of the Ten Commandments.

Many Chabad-Lubavitch Centers have "ice cream" parties for the children to make the experience even more enjoyable. For a listing of the Centers in your area: http://www.chabad.org/chabadir-access.html. In the USA, call: 1-800-Lubavitch (1-800-582-2848).


Jewish Women and Girls Light Yom Tov Candles

For local candle lighting times:
consult your local Rabbi, Chabad-Lubavitch Center, or call: (718) 774-3000.
or: http://www.havienu.org/resrcs/hebcal.html

For a free candle lighting kit:
contact your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center.

For a listing of the Centers in your area:
In the USA, call: 1-800-Lubavitch (1-800-582-2848).

Times shown are for Metro NY - NJ

Tuesday, June 10:

Wednesday, June 11:

Thursday, June 12:


1. If lighting after sunset, light only from a preexisting flame.

A preexisting flame is a flame burning continuously since the onset of the festival, such as a pilot light, gas or candle flame.

2. Do not light before the times indicated. Light only from a preexisting flame.


After lighting the candles, recite:


Bo-ruch A-toh Ado-noi E-lo-hei-nu Me-lech Ho-olom A-sher Ki-de-sho-nu Be-mitz-vo-sov Ve-tzi-vo-nu Le-had-lik Ner Shel Yom Tov.


Blessed are you, L-rd our G-d, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us to kindle the Yom Tov light.


Bo-ruch A-toh Ado-noi E-lo-hei-nu Me-lech Ho-olom She-heche-yo-nu Ve-ki-ye-mo-nu Ve-higi-o-nu Liz-man Ha-zeh.


Blessed are you, L-rd our G-d, King of the universe, who has granted us life, sustained us and enabled us to reach this occasion.


The Written and Oral Law

The Torah is composed of two parts: the written law and the oral law. The written Torah contains the Five Books of Moses, the Prophets and the Writings. Together with the written Torah, Moses was also given the oral law, which explains and clarifies the written law. It was transmitted orally from generation to generation and eventually transcribed in the Talmud and Midrash. Throughout the generations our people have studied these works, commenting upon them, clarifying their meanings, deriving practical applications of these principles and codifying the laws derived from them. Thus, a continuous chain of tradition extends throughout the generations, connecting the scholars of the present day to the revelation at Mt. Sinai.

The 'Blueprint' for Creation

Speaking metaphorically, our Sages tell us that G-d constantly "gazes into the Torah and creates the world." The Torah is not only a practical guide for our behavior in daily life, but also on a deeper level it is actually the "blueprint" for creation. Everything that happens in our lives is a manifestation of G-d's wisdom, as expressed in His Torah. As such, Torah represents the very source of our vitality, and the key to the fulfillment of our deepest aspirations.

When we study Torah, even on the simplest level, we link our minds and hearts with G-d's true purpose in creating the world. Our actions become a direct expression of G-d's will; our feelings become imbued with His benevolence; our minds become illuminated with His wisdom.

Reliving the Revelation of Mt. Sinai

The Revelation at Mt. Sinai was a tumultuous, awe-inspiring experience. The entire universe, our Sages say, trembled with the piercing sound of the ram's horn. Thunder and lightning filled the skies. Then--silence. Not a bird chirped. No creature spoke. The seas did not stir. Even the angels ceased to fly, as the voice was heard: "I am the L-rd your G-d . . ."

Our Sages tell us that the Revelation at Mount Sinai is an event that is not merely ancient history, but an experience that can be relived each time we study the Torah. The awe and delight of Divine revelation are available to us, if we will only open our awareness to G-d's gift and learn it the proper way.

The Ten Commandments

When G-d revealed Himself on Mt. Sinai, our entire people heard His voice proclaiming the Ten Commandments:

"1) I am the L-rd your G-d Who took you out of the land of Egypt.

2) You shall have no other gods before Me.

3) Do not take the name of the L-rd your G-d in vain.

4) Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy.

5) Honor your father and mother.

6) Do not murder.

7) Do not commit adultery.

8) Do not steal.

9) Do not bear false witness.

10) Do not covet."

These ten commands range from the highest and most refined concept of the belief in the oneness of G-d to the most basic laws that every society has found it necessary to enforce for not killing and not stealing.


Keeping Secrets

Contrary to popular opinion, it was not just the Ten Commandments that we received on Mount Sinai. The Revelation encompassed every dimension of Torah, including the deepest mystical secrets. Our Sages tell us that every Jew at Sinai saw a vision of the Divine Chariot, as described (many centuries later) in the prophecy of Ezekiel. This sublime manifestation of G-dliness is the core of the wisdom of the Kabbalah.

Throughout most of our history, this esoteric, inner dimension of Torah was kept hidden, studied only by the select few. While mainstream Jewish scholarship focused primarily on talmudic logic and practical laws, the mystical aspects of Torah were taught only in private, one on one, to those deemed worthy. The secrets of the Kabbalah were considered too potent to be revealed to the masses.

The Affliction and the Cure

As the centuries passed, the Jews of the Diaspora became increasingly engulfed in the darkness of exile. Persecution and poverty eroded our faith. The spiritual awareness that had been prevalent in biblical times gradually gave way to ignorance and despair. Jewry was "fainting"; powerful medicine was required to revive her.

By Divine Providence, the "elixir" appeared: the esoteric wisdom of Torah began to emerge from private sanctuaries into the public domain. Kabbalistic texts that had been buried for centuries were suddenly unearthed and published. Sages began to promulgate profound teachings that kindled sparks in the hearts of the downtrodden. And with the advent of a remarkable man named Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov, the ancient mystical truths were eventually revealed and rendered accessible to every man. The new movement was called Chasidism, and its goal was to unleash the unlimited potential of the human soul.

Inner Vitality, Outer Joy

Chasidism explains the inner dimension of the Torah in practical, understandable terms. Those who study Chasidus find that it has a profound effect upon their lives. Spiritual concepts that may have once been obscure are imbued with new light and new relevance; mitzvot that may have once seemed rote and ritualistic become vibrant, alive and full of significance. Chasidus can transform pessimism into optimism, despair into joy--and help us reexperience the illumination of the Revelation at Sinai.

Most important, chasidic thought affects our actions. A greater awareness of the Divine inspires us to make this world a better place in which to live. We become more charitable, more just, more appreciative of one another... and ultimately, we help hasten the imminent Redemption of the messianic age.


Chasidus classes are available for people of all ages and backgrounds. For information, call your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center. For a listing of the Centers in your area: http://www.chabad.org/chabadir-access.html. In the USA, call: 1-800-Lubavitch (1-800-582-2848).


The modern-day emergence of Torah mysticism into the public domain began with the 13th-century publication of the Zohar--the kabbalistic magnum opus of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, written more than 1,000 years before.

In the sixteenth century, Rabbi Isaac Luria, known as the "Holy Ari," unveiled his systematic exposition of the mysteries of the Kabbalah. The Ari bestowed an unprecedented richness and clarity upon the esoteric teachings. But his doctrine was accessible only to accomplished scholars. It was not until the 18th-century beginnings of the chasidic movement that the inner dimension of Torah became available to the ordinary Jew.

The Baal Shem Tov (whose yahrtzeit is on the first day of Shavuot), was the founder of modern Chasidism. He and his disciples communicated the highest wisdom in everyday language, bringing mystical joy and enthusiasm to the oppressed masses of European Jewry. Then, two generations later, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi--the Baal Shem Tov's "spiritual grandson"--founded the Chabad school of chasidic philosophy. Contemporary Chabad Chasidus expounds the chasidic teachings in rational, readily understood, intellectual terms, and illuminates every facet of the Jewish way of life.


Fruits, Flowers and Greens

It is customary on Shavuot to adorn the synagogue and home with fruits, flowers and greens.

Fruits: In the time of the Temple the first fruits were brought to the Temple beginning on Shavuot.

Flowers: Our Sages taught that although Mt. Sinai was situated in a desert, in honor of the Torah the desert bloomed and sprouted flowers.

Greens: Our Sages taught that on Shavuot judgment is rendered regarding the trees of the field.

Tikun Leil Shavuot

The Torah was given at daybreak. Our tradition relates that the Jewish people did not rise early to be prepared for that revelation, and that it was necessary for G-d Himself to awaken them. To compensate for their behavior it is customary to stay up the entire first night of Shavuot studying Torah. This custom is called "Tikun Leil Shavuot."


Cheese blintzes are served hot, with sour cream or applesauce. They are a special favorite on Shavuot when it is customary to eat dairy products (not hard cheese) before the main lunch meal.


4 eggs

1 cup milk

1 cup flour

1 tbsp. sour cream

1/4 cup sugar

1 package vanilla sugar

pinch of salt


16 oz. cottage cheese

2 egg yolks

2 tbsps. margarine or butter, melted

2 tbsps. sugar

1 tsp. vanilla sugar

1/4 cup raisins (optional)

1/3 cup oil for frying


Combine eggs and milk. Add sour cream and blend well. Add flour gradually. Mix well until batter is smooth. Heat on a low flame a small amount of oil in an 8-inch frying pan until hot but not smoking. Ladle a small amount of batter (approx. 1 ounce) into pan, tipping pan in all directions until batter covers the entire bottom of the pan. Fry on one side until set and golden, approx. 1 minute. Slip pancake out of pan and repeat until all batter is used. Add oil to pan as necessary.


In another bowl mix all ingredients for filling.


Fill each pancake on golden side with 3 tbsps. of filling. Fold in sides to center and roll blintze until completely closed. Replace rolled blintzes in pan and fry for 2 minutes, turning once.


Everyone should attend, especially children and infants. 3,309 years ago, the Children of Israel stood at the foot of Mount Sinai and received the Torah from G-d. Together they proclaimed: "We will do and we will listen." Each year on the holiday of Shavuot, this historic event is relived as we commit ourselves anew to observing the Torah.

Every Jewish man, woman and child should make every effort to be present in the synagogue (at least) on Wednesday morning, June 11, as the Ten Commandments are read from the Torah.

This message is in response to a special call by the Rebbe, that all Jews, especially children who are the "Guarantors of Torah," hear the reading of the Ten Commandments and the account of the Revelation at Mt. Sinai on the Holiday of Shavuot.



Jewish Women and Girls Light Shabbat Candles

For local candle lighting times:
consult your local Rabbi, Chabad-Lubavitch Center, or call: (718) 774-3000.
or: http://www.havienu.org/resrcs/hebcal.html

For a free candle lighting kit:
contact your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center.

For a listing of the Centers in your area:
In the USA, call: 1-800-Lubavitch (1-800-582-2848).

Times shown are for Metro NY - NJ

Friday, June 6, Erev Shabbat Parshat Bamidbar:

Saturday, June 7, Shabbat Parshat Bamidbar:


3. The Shabbat candles must be lit 18 minutes before sunset. It is prohibited and is a desecration of the Shabbat to light the candles after sunset.

Laws of Shabbat Candle Lighting for the Blind

Shabbat Candle Lighting Blessing

"Let There Be Light" - The Jewish Women's Guide to Lighting Shabbat Candles.

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