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629: Matot-Masei

Devarim Deutronomy

July 28, 2000 - 25 Tamuz, 5760

629: Matot-Masei

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Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.

  628: Pinchas630: Devarim  

Judgement Call  |  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

Judgement Call

The dictionary defines judgment as, "The forming of an opinion, estimate, notion, or conclusion, as from circumstances presented to the mind." Forming judgments is basic to the very fabric of huma nexistence. We are called upon to "judge" or evaluate people and situations every day. And yet, aphorisms aboudn about how unwise it is to judge our fellow man. We are told: "Don't be judgmental," "Don't judge a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes," "Don't judge a book by its cover."

Who could imagine that judging another favorably brings great benefit to the "judge"?

The Talmud teaches that "He who judges his fellow man favorably, is himself judged favorably." (Shabbat 127b) This means that on a Divine level, G-d will also judge the person in a favorable manner.

In connection to this concept is a Jewish teaching that explains that after 120 years (as we say in French), when a person enters the World of Truth, he is shown a "video" of the deeds and actions of another person and is told to pass judgment. Then, he is shown a "video" of his own life. Voila (as we say in English), he realizes that he performed the same deeds and actions committed in the first "video"; the judgment previously passed on the other person is his own.

Judaism does not tell us to be non-judgmental. We are encouraged to be very judgmental but to judge favorably. At every opportunity we should judge--favorably. Rabbi S.R. Hirsch declared: "Better that a hundred should be judged too favorably than that one should be wronged in judgment."

The famous codifier of Jewish law, Rabbi Moses Maimonides, goes one step further. He states: "If there is a person you do not know to be either righteous or wicked, and you see him doing or saying something which might be interpreted either favorably or unfavorably, interpret his action favorably and do not suspect him of evil."

Though coming to these types of conclusions might seem more than a little difficult, our Sages offer us practical advice on how to implement this plan of positive action. "Judge every person--kol adam--on the scale of merit," the Mishna (Avot 1:6) teaches.

"Kol Adam" can be interpreted also as "the whole person" i.e., "Judge the whole person on the scale of merit." Do not see only his faults, but look at the whole person and you will surely find good in him to judge him favorably (Sfat Emet).

When confronted with another person's seeming reprehensible action or deed, consider the entire person. Certainly he has redeeming qualities; assuredly there is a reason for this lapse; or possibly it is not a faux pas (as we say in Yiddish) after all, but rather the observer's lack of omniscience.

Living with the Rebbe

The first of this week's two Torah portions, Matot, contains a seemingly unusual request by the tribes of Reuben and Gad. Citing their "great multitude of cattle," the sons of Reuben and Gad asked Moses to grant their portion of the land of Israel on the other side of the Jordan. "The a land for cattle; and your servants have cattle," they said. "If we have found grace in your eyes, let this land be given to your servants as a possession; do not compel us to go over the Jordan."

Even more surprising is the fact that Moses acceded to their request. How many verses in the Torah speak of G-d's promise to Moses to bring the Children of Israel into the promised land? Yet these verses mention only "the land of Canaan," an area west of the Jordan river. If so, why would the tribes of Reuben and Gad have even considered settling in the cities of "Atarot, Divon, Ya'zer and Nimrah" on the eastern shore of the Jordan, part of the land of Sichon and Og? Did these tribes intentionally seek to distance themselves from their brethren?

Furthermore, how valid was their claim that the territory east of the Jordan would provide superior grazing land for their cattle? Why would the tribes of Reuben and Gad have willingly forgone entering the promised land with their wives and children just to benefit their livestock?

In order to understand what really occurred we need to refer back to G-d's very first promise to Abraham concerning the land of Israel. At that time, G-d said to Abraham, "To your seed will I give this land...the [land of] the Keni, the Kenizi and the Kadmoni..." In all, G-d enumerated ten nations that the Jewish people would one day inhabit. Seven of these nations were defeated by the Children of Israel soon after they left Egypt; the other three will only be conquered by the Jewish people in the Messianic Era.

The true intent behind the request of Reuben and Gad to dwell east of the Jordan was in order to hasten this process. The portion of land they settled, formerly belonging to the kings Sichon and Og, was part of the territory of the three nations that still remained to be conquered. This is the reason Moses agreed to their request and granted them their inheritance east of the Jordan, for he saw their settlement of that territory as a "preparation" for the full and complete settlement of the land of Israel that would occur in the Messianic Era.

In truth, the actions of the tribes of Reuben and Gad lent an added dimension to the Jews' first conquest of the land, one that brought our ultimate conquest of the entire land of Israel in the Era of the Redemption much closer.

Adapted from a talk of the Lubavitcher Rebbe

A Slice of Life

Higher Connections

By Elie Estrin

The Federal Penitentiary in Montgomery, Alabama was run by an easy-going warden, and all the projects Rabbi Itche Meir Lipszyc (at that time, the Rebbe's emissary in Alabama; currently the Rebbe's emissary to the Crimea) planned were ok'd. Alas, good things don't last forever and the warden was replaced. Rabbi Lipsycz was warned that the new warden was a rabid anti-Semite.

A week before Rosh Hashanah the new warden arrived. But it wasn't until a few weeks before Chanuka that the problems started.

The rabbi entered the warden's office and sat down. "Every year, we bring the prisoners to my offices in Birmingham," he began. The warden interrupted. "I regret to inform you that this year you must be accompanied by armed guards."

"No problem!" Rabbi Lipsycz exclaimed congenially. The warden looked disturbed as Rabbi Lipsycz got up to leave.

It was the day before the Chanuka party. The phone rang. "Is this the Chabad House?" asked a woman on the other end.

"Yes, may I help you?"

"My name is Lucy Von Hague. I saw your advertisement and I was wondering what you are."

"We are a religious Jewish organization helping Jews of all affiliations celebrate their religion."

"I'm Jewish. What programs do you run?"

"We have adult classes, holiday programs, aid for poor and prisoners... In fact, tomorrow we have a Chanuka party for Jewish prisoners at 5:00 p.m."

"Would it be okay if I come with a friend?"

"Of course! We look forward to meeting you."

That evening, the warden called the Chabad House at 11:00 p.m. "Rabbi, We have decided against the Chanuka party, for security reasons. I'm sure you'll understand."

"Absolutely not! Why is this year different?"

"The subject is closed. Good night."

"What chutzpa!" Rabbi Lipsycz muttered. Though the hour was late, the rabbi called the woman as he did not have her work number to reach her the following day.

Apologizing for the lateness of the call, he explained the situation. "Rabbi, do you think that this was an anti-Semitic act?" she asked.

"I have reason to think so, but I have no proof."

"In that case, leave it to me. I'll take care of it. I shall see you tomorrow then?"

Early the next morning, the phone rang. "Hello, Rabbi Lipsycz. My name is Dr. Riggs from Washington, and I am the Head Chaplain of the Federal Prison System. I hear you are having a problem?"

Briefly, the rabbi outlined the situation. Dr. Riggs listened intently. "May we make a conference call with the warden?"

Rabbi Lipsycz responded affirmatively. He hung up the phone, checked his watch, and then decided to run over to the Chabad House to settle some details of the party, assuming that the conference call would take some time to arrange.

Minutes later, the phone rang. "This is Dr. Riggs for Rabbi Lipsycz... Please ask him to be available at 11:00 a.m."

Mrs. Lipsycz hung up, then picked up the phone to call her husband, unaware that Dr. Riggs and the warden were still connected. She heard their conversation:

Dr. Riggs: "I don't understand the situation, but I must warn you; do not mess around with this rabbi! He has friends in the Oval Office!"

At 11:00 Dr. Riggs called back. The warden apologized profusely, adding that in the future there would be no such limitations placed on the Rabbi's services without a few weeks notice.

The rest of the year passed quietly, until a new president was elected. The scheming warden now thought that the rabbi's "friends" had disappeared with the Carter administration. He called the rabbi into his office.

"Rabbi, your family will not be allowed inside the prison for Rosh Hashana services this year."

"In that case I will come alone."

The warden was thrown off guard.

On the eve of Rosh Hashana, the guard met Rabbi Lipszyc apologetically. "Rabbi, the special holiday foods that you're bringing have to stay outside. I have orders from the warden."

"Where is he?!" Lipsycz demanded.

"He's gone for the day. The assistant warden is in charge and he's at the other side of the camp."

"Call him immediately! And pass me that phone, please." The guard saluted and dashed from the room. Rabbi Lipsycz called Mrs. Von Hague and quickly explained the problem, adding that the holiday was to begin in 25 minutes.

"Rabbi, don't worry. I'll call you right back."

Rabbi Lipsycz glanced out the window to see the assistant warden walking towards the office. The rabbi began, "I am holding you responsible for the damage you are causing!"

The assistant was taken surprised by his fiery demeanor and backed off. "I'll let you. But tomorrow, you'll have to deal with him!"

The phone rang. "Rabbi, this is John Von Hague. Everything has been dealt with successfully. A very happy holiday to you!"

The night's celebration passed without further incident, and an exhausted Rabbi Lipsycz retired to his hotel room in the army base located nearby. At 7:00 a.m. he began the trek back to the prison.

As he neared the barbed wire gates, an anxious guard ran out to greet him. "Morning, Rabbi! The warden would like to speak with you."

The burly warden sat in the corner of his leather chair like a beaten puppy, his head hanging. His voice trembled as he mumbled, "Do whatever you want."

The rest of Rosh Hashana flew by joyfully and it was an ecstatic Rabbi Lipsycz who came home that Monday night. As he stepped over the threshold, the phone rang.

"Rabbi, this is Riggs. How was your holiday?"

"Just fine, thank G-d."

"Glad to hear that. Can you do me a favor for the future? I'm going to give you my personal phone number. If there's a problem, contact me directly and don't get the President involved!!"

What's New


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The Rebbe Writes

26th of Sivan, 5719 [1959]

Greeting and Blessing:

I was pleased to receive your letter of the 10th of Sivan, in which you write that you have been elected as Gabbei in the Lubavitch Youth Minyan, and that you also participate in the Mesibos Shabbos [Shabbat groups], and are trying to use your good influence to strengthen Yiddishkeit and the observance of the Mitzvos.

It is surely unnecessary to emphasize that in order to have a good influence effectively, it is necessary to be consistent in what one preaches and does, so that the theory and practice go hand in hand together. In other words, it is necessary to serve as a living example as to how a Jewish boy should conduct himself every day. Needless to say also, where the Torah and Mitzvos are concerned, there is always room for improvement and advancement, since the Torah and Mitzvos are endless. Therefore, I hope that you will make growing efforts all the time in this direction.

Enclosed you will find a brief message which was given to a group of boys active in the field of education and influence. I am sure you will find it inspiring and useful, especially as you are a Gabbei yourself, whose function is, among others, to illuminate the Shul and inspire the worshippers.

I send my prayerful wishes to you and all the children who attend the Minyan and Mesibos Shabbos. I hope every one of them will serve as a bright candle to spread the light of Torah and Mitzvos around him.

With blessing,

20th of Sivan, 5721 [1961]

Greeting and Blessing:

I received your recent letter, as well as the previous two.

With regard to your study program, I believe I have already suggested to you that you should discuss this matter both with . . . as well as with your friends who know you and can also evaluate the efforts that may be entailed, etc. It has been said that a good solution comes as a result of many consultations.

You write that you wonder why G-d does not help you, etc. This surprises me, for surely you have had many occasions to recognize G-d's kindnesses to you. Every one of us receives G-d's blessings daily and that is why we recite in the morning prayer twenty bles sings to thank G-d for His daily kindnesses. On the other hand, the fact that you feel some dissatisfaction could be applied to good use, in making growing efforts to improve your spiritual posi tion as well as to increase the benefits bestowed on others.

With regard to your question about a Jewish girl who wants to learn in Gateshead or in Beis Yaakov in London, I do not understand why you should be opposed to this. For, at her age, it is just as im portant, and perhaps even more important, to learn in an environment which is permeated with the utmost degree of Yiras Shomayim [fear of heaven], and where she would have good friends of her own age, etc. For all these reasons Gateshead would be the ideal place for her.

On the question of translation and the changes which you find nec essary to introduce this is also something which would be well to discuss with other people locally. Above all, a translation must always be a free translation, which is also the case of all translations that are made here, for the important thing is to con vey them in a fluent and readable language....

Rambam this week

26 Tamuz 5760

Positive mitzva 91: burning the remnant of consecrated offerings

By this injunction we are commanded to burn the remnant of consecrated offerings. It is contained in the Torah's words (Lev. 7:17): "But that which remains of the flesh of the sacrifices on the third day shall be burned with fire."

A Word from the Director

The Book of Psalms contains a verse from which we learn that G-d keeps the same mitzvot He commands the Jewish people to observe: "He tells His words [Torah] to Jacob, His statutes and ordinances to Israel,"

How then can we explain the destruction of the Holy Temple, in light of the Torah's prohibition against wanton destruction? According to the Torah, it is forbidden to needlessly ruin a garment, vessel or any other object. Destroying the Temple would certainly involve an even greater transgression, as it is prohibited to "demolish a stone of the altar or any part of the Temple." If damaging a small part of the Holy Temple is prohibited, how could G-d have allowed Nebuchadnezzar to destroy the Holy Temple in its entirety? Did G-d transgress His own commandment? And if the Jewish people weren't worthy of having the Temple, why didn't G-d take it away from them in some other manner instead of razing it completely?

The answer to this question is that under certain circumstances, the Torah does allow for the act of destruction, but only when the objective is to build anew. For example, Jewish law permits an existing synagogue to be torn down in order to build a larger and more magnificent one.

G-d wanted the Holy Temple to be even more majestic than it was and to endure forever. To that end He was allowed to destroy it - temporarily - creating the exile and all it entails, for the sole purpose of one day restoring His Divine Presence and establishing His dwelling place forever.

This also explains the cryptic statement of the Midrash, "The lion rose up under the mazal [astrological constellation] of the lion and destroyed Ariel [literally "lion of G-d"] - in order for the lion to come, under the mazal of the lion, and to rebuild Ariel."Nebuchadnezzar, the mighty Babylonian king, destroyed the Holy Temple (called Ariel) in the month of Av (whose astrological constellation is the lion), in order for G-d to rebuild the Holy Temple, transforming the month of mourning into a month of joy and celebration.

May it happen at once.

Thoughts that Count

If a man makes a vow to the L-rd (Num. 30:3)

The Torah teaches that vows are praiseworthy, terming them "a fence around abstinence," yet at the same time states that "the [existing] prohibitions of the Torah are sufficient." How do we reconcile these two statements? A person who conducts himself properly is not encouraged to abstain from worldly matters. On the contrary, he is obligated to work "within" the world, in order to elevate and sanctify the physical plane of existence. A person whose conduct is deficient, however, can sometimes prevent further deterioration by means of vows. (Likutei Sichot)

He shall not break his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth (Num. 30:3)

The commandment to carry out one's verbal declarations was given primarily to the "heads of the tribes" - to the leaders of the Jewish people. As authority figures, they are responsible for setting the highest standards for the rest of the community. That is why the Talmud states in Berachot: "Concerning one who recites the Shema but [his words] do not reach his own ears, Rabbi Yosai opines that he has not fulfilled his obligation." A person must never chastise or reproach another unless he has first applied the same criticism to himself. (Mei'otzareinu HaYashan)

These are the journeys of the people of Israel (Num. 33:1)

There is nothing in macrocosm that does not also exist in microcosm. On the spiritual level, the 42 journeys of the Jewish people are reenacted in the life of every Jew, from the moment he is born till his last day on earth. (The Baal Shem Tov)

In the entire narrative of the Jewish people's journeys through the desert, the Hebrew letter "zayin" does not appear even once. This alludes to the fact that they did not journey on Shabbat ("zayin," with a numerical equivalent of seven, alludes to the seventh day), and that they did not need to resort to weapons ("zayin" also means weaponry or arms). (Ahavat HaTorah)

It Once Happened

A chasid who lived in Vitebsk remained childless for many years. Several times he had traveled to Liozhna to beseech his Rebbe, Rabbi Shneur Zalman (the Alter Rebbe, founder of the Chabad movement) to arouse heaven's mercy with the Rebbe's prayers and blessings. But strangely, the Rebbe responded each time that it wasn't in his power to help him.

Once more he decided to seek the Rebbe's help. He enclosed with his written request to merit children a charitable contribution (a combination commonly known as pidyon hanefesh-"soul redemption").

Again the Rebbe answered that it was not within his power to help him, but this time he offered a surprising recommendation: to go to the Rebbe, R. Shlomo of Karlin, that he would be able to help him.

Now, it is well known how Lubavitcher chasidim feel about going to other Rebbes. Nevertheless, the Rebbe himself had suggested it, the need was great, and the years were slipping by, so off he went.

Arriving at Karlin, he consulted with some of the local chasidim. They recommended that the best time to gain access to the Rebbe was when he set out on one of his journeys. On the way, the Rebbe would regularly give advice to those that accompanied him. So the chasid stayed in Karlin several days, until finally the Rebbe announced he was about to leave on a trip, and that anyone who needed anything of him was welcome to come along. The chasid climbed aboard the caravan of coaches and wagons, which soon after set off.

The Rebbe and his entourage passed through many towns and villages. The journey continued, but still the chasid had not received any encouragement to present himself to the Rebbe. Finally, after they stopped at a certain village, the Rebbe summoned the chasid and told him that if he would turn over to him a certain large sum of money, he would then merit to be blessed with offspring.

The chasid was by no means a wealthy man. Also the extended traveling had already cut deep into his resources. What to do? Eventually he made up his mind that he just could not meet the Karliner's demand. He respectfully took leave of the Rebbe and departed for home, but in his heart he felt resentful: how could a tsaddik request so much money for a blessing?

After he was home for a period of time, the chasid decided to go again to Liozhna to visit the Alter Rebbe. When his turn came for a private audience, the Rebbe asked him if he had gone to the Karliner Rebbe, and if so, what had the tzaddik advised him? The chasid answered that indeed he had gone, and had invested a lot of time and money in a long journey with him. But in the end the Rebbe had requested a large sum of money which he wasn't able to provide, and what kind of business is this anyway to demand so much money for a blessing?

Said the Alter Rebbe: "The reason you don't have children is because you once gravely insulted a Torah Sage."

"But I never insulted a Torah Sage in my life!" cried the chasid.

"Yes, you did," insisted the Rebbe, "the great scholar and righteous man, the Rabbi of Lubavitch, Rabbi Yisasschar Ber, of blessed memory."

"But I never thought him to be a sage," said the chasid.

"Is that so?" marveled the Rebbe. "You should know that Elijah the Prophet was revealed to him everyday.

"It is written in the Talmud," continued the Rebbe, "that part of the appeasement process is to pay a liter of gold. But as R. Yisasschar is no longer in this world, it was no longer possible for you to apologize to him and make amends. There are certain latter rabbinical authorities, however, who have ruled that even posthumously, paying the liter of gold helps to ease the censure. The Karliner Rebbe took you around with him to all the places where those Rabbis are buried in order to garner support for you. The large sum of money he requested from you was exactly equivalent to a liter if gold. Unfortunately, you passed up the opportunity.

"I, myself am not able to help you in this matter," explained the Rebbe, "because R. Yisaschar was my teacher, and a student cannot forego the honor of his teacher."

From the Ascent Weekly (, translated and adapted by Yrachmiel Tilles.

Moshiach Matters

May the Merciful One grant us the privilege of reaching the days of Moshiach and the life of the World to Come. (From the Birkat Hamazon-Grace After Meals)

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