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Devarim Deutronomy

April 23, 1999 - 7 Iyyar, 5759

565: Achrei Mot-Kedoshim

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

  564: Tazria-Metzora566: Emor  

Earth Day '99  |  Living with the Rebbe  |  A Slice of Life  |  What's New
The Rebbe Writes  |  Rambam this week  |  A Word from the Director  |  Thoughts that Count
It Once Happened  |  Moshiach Matters

Earth Day '99

The first Earth Day took place on April 22, 1970. The organizers showed how such diverse issues as pesticides, automobiles, oil spills, and nuclear power, were linked ecologically.

An estimated twenty million people in the U.S. took part in the first Earth Day.

Twenty years later, an international Earth Day was organized with events in 141 countries. Estimates of participants around the world ranged as high as 200 million. In New York City, more than 1.8 million people attended an eco-fair; a team of mountain climbers from the US, the Soviet Union and China picked up more than two tons of trash left behind from earlier expeditions on Mount Everest; in Japan, about 35,000 people gathered on Dream Island-an island made of garbage in Tokyo Bay.

In addition to the practical and pressing need to take care of our environment, for ourselves and future generations, there is perhaps a more esoteric reason why we are so concerned with the earth.

Jewish mysticism explains that the essence of life is earthbound. The soul's descent into this physical world is like planting a seed. A farm-er takes perfectly good grain-grain which could be used as actual food-and plants it in the soil, where it will soon decompose and rot. But, the farmer makes this "investment" knowing that the disintegrating seed will yield many times the quantity "squandered."

The soul, too, is buried in earth-cast into a body of clay with material drives and desires. It is worse for the wear; its spiritual senses are dulled, its moral rectitude compromised. But the soul's implantation within earth and earthiness stimulates it-and the body and environment in which it has been placed-to a far greater "harvest" than the soul alone could yield.

The human "farm" includes varied crops. On Passover we celebrate the ripening of barley-a grain that serves primarily as animal feed. This represents the development of the animalistic nature given the soul upon its descent into the physical state, but whose passion and intensity surpass anything the spiritual soul can muster for its own spiritual ideals. Properly cultivated and directed, the beast in man thus proves a priceless resource in the soul's quest to deepen and intensify its bond with its Creator.

On Shavuot, wheat, the staple of the human diet, is harvested. This represents the development of the "human" element in man, the soul's own spiritual potential, made more potent and bountiful by the challenge of material life. And so it is with the other agricultural festivals in the Jewish calendar, such as the "internalization" of the harvest on Sukot or the element of "delight" in life represented by Tu B'Shvat's fruit blossoms: each embodies another aspect of the soul's saga as buried seed, sprouting shoot and gainful harvest.

A global alliance, the Earth Day Network, works to "promote a healthy environment and a peaceful, just, sustainable world." Every individual is a "miniature world" says Jewish teachings. May we all individually and collectively work to promoting a G-dly environment which will hasten the peaceful, just, sustainable world of the ultimate Redemption.

Parts of this article were adapted from The Week in Review and information from the Earth Day Network.

Living with the Rebbe

This Shabbat we read two Torah portions, Acharei and Kedoshim. In the beginning of Kedoshim we find three commandments:

1) "You shall be holy."

2) "Every man shall fear his mother and father."

3) "My Sabbaths you shall keep."

Every word in the Torah is exacting and precise. As these three mitzvot appear together, it follows that there is a connection between them.

The first commandment in the sequence is "You shall be holy." A Jew must be holy, distinct and apart from the nations of the world, for the Jewish people is unique. And yet, the holiness of the Jew, that which makes him different from the Gentile, is not expressed in his observance of mitzvot. A non-Jew is not commanded to keep the Torah's mitzvot; he has no common ground or connection with them. Rather, the sanctity of the Jew is expressed in his daily behavior, in the way he performs the same mundane actions he seems to share with Gentiles. It must always be apparent that a Jew is different and holy, even when he eats and drinks and engages in business.

A Jew is always connected to G-d no matter where he is. Jews are a holy people; their holiness is maintained even when they are involved in the most mundane tasks of daily existence.

But it isn't enough for a Jew to be holy. His function is to have a positive effect on his family and ensure that future generations of Jews will also conduct themselves with holiness. This is alluded to in the second commandment: "Every man shall fear his mother and father," the mitzva of chinuch, education. A person's first educators in life are his parents. From the earliest age a Jewish child's mother and father imbue him with the sense that he is different, that he belongs to a holy people.

How do we influence our children - and ourselves - to be different from all other nations? The answer is contained in the third commandment: "My Sabbaths you shall keep."

Shabbat is a sign between G-d and the Jewish people. It strengthens and emphasizes a Jew's belief in the Creator of the world and His constant and ongoing supervision of everything that happens in it.

Many non-Jews, even those who believe in G-d, mistakenly think that once the world was created, G-d left it under the control of natural forces, subject to the influence of the stars and planets. Jews, however, possess emuna, faith. The existence of the Jewish people is not dependent on nature; G-d watches and guides each and every Jew with His Divine providence. This is alluded to in the third commandment "My Sabbaths you shall keep," for it is the Jew's unique faith that assists him and strengthens his resolve to be holy.

Adapted from Likutei Sichot, Volume 1

A Slice of Life


The following letters are a small sampling of correspondence received by the Prisons Department of the Lubavitch Youth Organization in response to its monthly newsletter "Reaching Out" and its assistance to Jewish prisoners throughout the country. The slogan that Chabad-Lubavitch "doesn't forget the forgotten" certainly applies in this case. In addition to other projects for the Prisons Dept., Rabbi Shmuel Spritzer and a colleague volunteer more than a dozen hours each week to personally respond to prisoners' letters.

* * *

Thank you so much for your kind letter and words of encouragement. I appreciate you placing me on the mailing list for "Reaching Out." This is most important to me with the Holidays right around the corner. Can you please send another application since the one I had seemed to be misplaced when the "officers" did a "shake-down." You also asked me to remind you of a siddur prayer book. Thank you for this is important to me.

I've been sentenced and am waiting to go upstate. Unfortunately Nassau County inmates wait as much as 5 months before being transferred.

Thank you again for your time and consideration,

Alan, Nassau County C.C.

I am writing in hopes that you might send me any material that I might study. I have been the only Jewish woman here at the Montana Women's Prison since 1988. There is no rabbi and the Jewish population in Billings is very small. The only concession made for me is a no pork diet. Other than that, I am on my own as far as my dietary laws. No one here understands what it is to be a Jew and be totally alone. I miss Sabbath services and the Seders that I enjoyed at my Grandparents' house.

We are not allowed to correspond with others institutions, so I do not even have the comfort of a letter from another of my own religion. I am looking forward to starting over on my own but will admit to being very afraid.

I did make a menora in ceramic class, but we are not allowed candles, so I will save it until I get out. I would love to hear from others Jews and would appreciate any assistance to help me become a better Jew and observe my practices.

Lori, Billings, Montana

Basically, I would like to learn more about Chabad and the writings of the Rebbe M. M. Schneerson. I have been receiving for a year now The Week in Review which is based upon the writings of the Rebbe, but would seek to learn more, much more.

I never, ever realized when I started returning to my Jewish roots how truly ignorant I am. Even now, as I have barely begun to understand, only begun to learn what questions to ask. I have come to see how far I have yet to travel. I thank G-d that there are people, and organizations, like Reaching Out, who are willing to help me, and people like me in prison.

I have written dozens of letter to synagogues and organizations. Reaching Out is the only one to not only answer but to offer concrete assistance. Most often silence is the only answer I receive.

A few have written saying that I must wait until I am free from prison and then contact my local synagogue...If my local synagogue won't answer my letters now, why should they help me in the future?

I have taken up enough of your valuable time with this, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for being there. May G-d bless you all for the wonderful work you do. I am,

Richard, Baker Corr. Instit.

Thank you so much for sending me a siddur prayer book. I also received the "Reaching Out" which came directly, in the mail. The article "Eight Immortal Flames" inspired me tremendously. It reminded me of my father and grandmother (who also was from Lithuania) and passed away as I was incarcerated. My face was swollen with tears as I read the beautiful passage....

Alan, Bare Hill C.F.

It is with regret that I cannot always respond accordingly to your letters. Out of all the letters that I have written to various rabbis and organizations you alone are the only one who has found a place in his heart to take the time to write and to teach. Hashem will bless you for this in the world to come and this one also. Torah even teaches of blessings for taking the time to teach me, a gentile and Noachide.

In response to your letter you requested to know how I utilize the prayer book you sent me before you send any more books in the future. One thing is for certain, it is not collecting dust...

James, South Bay Corr. Fac.

I received the art calendar you had sent me via Chaplain Rick McGregor, thank you so much. He was also thankful of the one sent for him.

Things are starting to pull together for me here. I'm receiving a few books on Jewish traditions my mother purchased for me from Art Scroll Publications. I should be receiving them this week. At least now I can continue with my studies.

I really owe LYO a big debt of gratitude for helping me while I have been incarcerated for sending me letters of encouragement. Thank you

Karsten, Texas Dept. of Justice.

It was nice to hear from you again. Not many people are concerned with an old, poor Jewish inmate. Some times I compare myself to a used out car in a junk yard. But at other times, I remember we are all made in G-d's image. It is up to us to find our pure soul and live it.

Melvin, Mid-Orange C.F.

What's New


People from all walks of life turn to the Rebbe's letters for guidance and instruction. The Rebbe's letters teach, advise, uplift. Twenty-four volumes of letters written by the Rebbe in Hebrew and Yiddish (known as Igrot Kodesh) have been published to date. And now, the fourth volume of The Rebbe's Letters written by the Rebbe in English has been published. Nowhere else do we find a vast responsa of this sort, encompassing such a wide array of pertinent topics, all addressed in a concise and enlightening form.Indeed, there seems to be no topic left untouched: Outer space, fossilization, science, human behavior, anatomy, geology, psychiatry, Jewish holidays, education-all these are but a fraction of the subjects discussed by the Rebbe. Published by Otsar Sifrei Lubavitch.

The Rebbe Writes

3rd of Iyar, 5732 [1972]

I duly received your letter of April 11th. As requested, I will remember you in prayer for the fulfillment of your heart's desires for good, especially that you should have true nachas [pleasure], which is Yiddish Torah nachas, from each and all of your children.

In the present day and age, when it is desired to influence children, experience has shown that it is more effective if it comes from friends or acquaintances, rather than directly from parents.

Children are less inclined to accept advice, guidance or suggestions from parents because they think that their parents still consider them immature, or wish to impose their authority on them, etc. Therefore, it would be well that you should find friends that would speak to your son, but of course, they should do so in a way that would not arouse his suspicion that they have been asked by his parents to speak to him.

Inasmuch as all members of a Jewish family constitute one body, it is clear that an additional effort by one member of the family in matters of Torah and Mitzvos is of benefit to all the family.

This is particularly true in the case of parents who, in any case, have to set an example of high standards. Needless to say, there is always room for improvement in all matters of Torah and Mitzvos which are infinite, being derived from the infinite. And although these should be observed for their own sake, they are at the same time also the channels and vessels to receive and enjoy G-d's blessings in all needs.

May G-d grant that you should have good news to report in all above,

With blessing,

3rd of Iyar, 5720 [1960]

I received your letter, in which you write about the medical treatment which your mother was to undergo.

As requested, I will remember her again in prayer for the success of the medical treatment. Needless to say, every additional effort in matters of Torah and Mitzvos on your part, as also on the part of the other members of the family, will bring additional Divine blessings to all the family, and particularly to your mother. The good conduct of a son is especially credited to his parents, and therefore stands them in good stead. In matters of goodness and holiness there is, of course, always room for improvement.

I will also remember your father, as well as yourself, in prayer, in accordance with your letter.

Hoping to hear good news from you,

With blessing,

28th of Iyar, 5720 [1960]

In reply to your letter, in which you ask my advice regarding the proper order of your two names, since your parents do not remember whether it should be Chaim Yehuda or Yehuda Chaim.

Generally speaking, in a case like this the problem is solved by the way one is called up to the Torah, or the way a Mi Sheberach is made. If you cannot ascertain the matter in this way, I note from your letter that you sign "Chaim" from which I gather that this is the more important name, and therefore it seems that it should be first, that is to say, that your full name would be Chaim Yehuda.

As we are at present in the period connecting the Festivals of Pesach and Shovuos, I hope that you are familiar with the significance of these two Festivals, and the period in between, as a period of preparation for receiving the Torah with eagerness and inner joy, and living up to its commandments in your daily life.

Wishing you success, and

With blessing,

Rambam this week

In memory of Yosef Yitzchak ben Shlomo Shneur Zalman yblc't

8 Iyar, 5759

Positive mitzva 164: Fasting on Yom Kippur

By this injunction we are commanded to fast on the tenth day of the month of Tishrei. It is contained in the words "You shall afflict your souls, etc." (Lev. 16:29). This is interpreted to mean "affliction in respect of that on which life depends, i.e., abstinence from eating and drinking."

A Word from the Director

"It is customary," we read in the prayer book, "to recite one chapter of Pirkei Avot [Ethics of the Fathers] on each Shabbat between Passover and Shavuot at Mincha time." At least one Mishna, the Rebbe encouraged, should be studied in depth. Observing this sequence, we are now up to Chapter 3 of this timeless compendium of advice from our Sages, in which we read the following:

"Rabbi Akiva said...Tradition [masoret - the transmitted oral Torah] is a fence around the Torah."

When G-d revealed the Torah to the Jewish people at Mount Sinai, it was given in two forms: written (the Five Books of Moses; the Bible) and oral. The written Torah is extremely concise, with one word or even one letter containing countless Jewish laws and teachings. The oral Torah, by contrast, was not permitted to be written down until our Sages declared special "emergency" circumstances to ensure that it would not be forgotten. This is the Mishna, Talmud, Midrash, etc.

Handed down from one generation to the next, the oral tradition teaches us how to observe the Torah's mitzvot in practical terms. The entire body of Jewish tradition is a "fence" around the Torah in the sense that it reminds us that we are not permitted to make up our own laws and interpretations. Like any fence, it implies "You may come up till here but no further."

The word masoret comes from the Hebrew root meaning to pass along. We received our Jewish tradition directly from G-d, and we pass it along to others, most importantly our children. Indeed, it implies the obligation to do so.

These weeks are thus an excellent time to prepare for the giving of the Torah on Shavuot by immersing ourselves in Jewish tradition, thereby enriching our lives immeasurably.

Thoughts that Count

You shall be holy (Lev. 19:2)

As Rashi notes, these words were transmitted during hakhel, the public gathering of the entire Jewish people. This teaches that the Torah demands that we be holy within the context of the Jewish community, not as ascetics removed from the world, uninvolved in communal matters. (Torat Moshe)

You shall fear, every man, his mother and his father (Lev. 19:3)

The obligation to fear and honor one's parents applies not only when one is too young to stand alone and needs their guidance and support. Rather, the mitzva applies even later, when one has matured and become a "man," for even then parents must be afforded the proper honor. (Ketav Sofer)

You shall not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor (Lev. 19:16)

This prohibition also applies in the spiritual sense. If one encounters a Jew in danger of "drowning," it is forbidden to stand by and do nothing. Rather, we are obligated to do all in our power to save him. If you ask, "Who am I to engage to saving souls?" Rashi comments that "It is forbidden to watch someone die when you can rescue him." The fact that you have become aware of the other person's situation is proof that you will be able to save him. (Likutei Sichot)

And you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am G-d (Lev. 19:18)

When two Jews love each other, then "I am G-d": The numerical equivalent of the Hebrew word for love, ahava, when doubled, is the same as G-d's ineffable four-letter Name. (Rabbi Chaim Vital)

It Once Happened

Shabbat had ended. Silver stars twinkled in the black sky. The Chasidim had all returned to their homes, and their Rebbe, Leib Sarah's (called such because of the extraordinary deeds of his mother and the circumstances surrounding his birth) left his shul for home.

Shortly after, he returned to the shul. Agitated, he paced back and forth, muttering "Oy, Oy." Suddenly he stood still, and after tremoring slightly, stated with finality: "Whatever happens, I must do something."

Stepping outside, he summoned his driver. In a short time they were off. The tzadik whispered something in the driver's ear, and then switched places with him, taking over the reins while the driver went to sleep inside the carriage. When he woke, the sun had already risen on Sunday morning, and he was amazed to hear from the tzadik in the outside driver's seat how far they had come. Even though, being the regular driver for the tzadik, he had experience in these miraculous-seeming journeys, this time they had actually crossed the border and were deep into Hungary. He could barely believe his eyes.

* * *

Little Isaac was only ten years old, but was already the man of the house. His father had recently passed away, and his mother Reizel desperately needed him to help support the family. She took whatever meager work was available to her, while little Isaac took care of their tiny gaggle of geese.

Actually, Isaac liked his job. Every morning he rose early to pray with the minyan in shul and say Kaddish for his father. He would then lead the geese to one of the fields outside of town. He loved the quiet and peacefulness there. After carefully counting his meager charges, he would sit against the trunk of a tree and enjoy the cool shade under its big, leafy branches.

Many thoughts would race through his little head, some joyous, some sad. In those moments when his young soul was bursting with a variety of different feelings, he would open his knapsack and seek the soothing comfort provided by his beloved flute. He would extract from it a medley of folk tunes, passed down from generation to generation in the Hungarian countryside, learned from other shepherds. Of his whole repertoire, he liked best the song that went:

Forest, forest, how vast you are.

Rose, oh rose, how far you are.

If the forest were but smaller,

Then the rose would be closer.

If you would take me from this forest,

Then we could be, the two of us, together.

Whenever he played the notes of this tune, he would close his eyes and allow the lyrics and the music to carry him off to a world of distant pleasurable visions.

Little Isaac was momentarily startled in the midst of his song, by the regal appearance of the bearded Jew who appeared suddenly from behind him. "What are you doing here, little boy?" the man asked gently. "Helping my mother by tending to our geese," Isaac answered. "But what about learning Torah in school like the other boys?" the man continued.

Isaac looked away. "Not so long ago, I was still a student. And I was doing pretty well too. But ever since my father died, I've had to help my poor mother support our family, so I had to drop out of school."

The tzadik, Leib Sarah's, immediately went to visit the poor widow, Reizel. After introducing himself, he asked her for permission to take Isaac with him. "Know that your son has a very lofty soul," he explained, "and he can become very great. But for that he must be brought up in the right way, and that means he has to study Torah intensively." He promised her a monthly stipend to more than make up for any loss of income that the boy's departure would entail.

It took a lot of entreating, but finally his mother agreed. Leib Sarah's took little Isaac to Nicholsberg, to the yeshiva of the great rabbinical authority and Chasidic Rebbe, Reb Shmelke, a friend of Leib Sarah's and one of the inner circle of disciples of the Magid of Mezritch. He said to him: "I have brought you a special soul from the Chamber of Melody. I hope you will help it to realize its full potential in this world."

The boy remained in the yeshiva for many years, and thrived and grew great in Torah and Chasidut.

Years later, when throngs of Chasidim would crowd into the shul of the holy Rebbe, Rabbi Yitzchak Isaac of Kaliv, he would sometimes relate to them the long path of his development from a goose-tending childhood to the present. He would also tell them about his favorite tune when he played the shepherd's flute: the Ballad of the Forest and the Rose.

On these occasions, he always mentioned his great debt to the tzadik Leib Sarah's, who went to such trouble to "discover" him and to redeem the holy melody which had been "held captive" for centuries.

"Now, however," he would always conclude, "the words are different." The chasidim would listen, for the Rebbe's musical talents were well-known.

Exile, exile, how long you are.

Divine Presence, how far you are.

If only the exile were shorter,

Then Your Presence could be closer.

If You would take us out of exile,

Then we could be, the two of us, together.

This song is still sung by Kaliver chasidim till this very day.

Translated by Yrachmiel Tilles. Reprinted from Ascent Quarterly, Safed, Israel

Moshiach Matters

In order for there to have been the great revelation of the Torah at Mount Sinai there had to be an exile in Egypt of 210 years. Similarly, in order that there should be the great revelation of the inner teachings of the Torah in the ultimate Redemption, this exile has had to be so long. (Rabbi Shmuel of Lubavitch)

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