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February 27, 2004 - 5 Adar, 5764

809: Terumah

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  808: Mishpatim810: Tetzaveh  

Light in the Fast Lane  |  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

Light in the Fast Lane

This article is in honor of the One Shabbat, One World campaign encouraging Jews the world over to observe Shabbat this week.
by Nechama Frank

In today's world, we have become quite proficient at multi-tasking. We dictate manuscripts while driving, edit reports during meetings, and e-mail one colleague while conference calling another. We can function on autopilot, accomplishing our tasks with little recognition of the journey. With so much going on simultaneously, it can be difficult to really see.

Technology has given us the potential to accomplish our tasks in easier and quicker ways. However, with this potential has come the expectation that our work should be done at the speed of light. In order to survive, our reflexes take over and blinders come down. It is humanly impossible to process so much data while taking the time to even notice the roses.

We often think of a journey, especially a spiritual one, as a process during which our eyes are open. Yet, in order to open our eyes, it might first be necessary to close them. When our eyes are closed, the light and stimuli to which we have become habituated disappear. Then, when we open our eyes, we discover new images and inspirations that previously went unnoticed - a color, a sound, a movement.

The idea of closing and then opening our eyes in order to see has always been a part of the Jewish tradition, both for our personal lives and for the world as a whole.

On a personal level, at the end of every week, the Shabbat arrives, a spiritual day of full and complete rest, during which we do not even think about work. Through this day of physical and emotional relaxation, we can see our world in a fresh, new light.

This special time begins with a Jewish woman lighting the Shabbat candles. She covers her eyes, pauses to pray and then removes her hands to gaze at the light. Closing her eyes and then opening them are both equally important. Within this time and movement, she creates a space in which she can perceive the Infinite.

When she closed her eyes, the demands of the world were upon her and her family, competing for equal time. When she opens them, it is Shabbat, a time beyond time. The workplace is far in the past, the million things to do on Monday are an eternity away. Now it is only the moment.

On a global level, Judaism teaches that the whole universe will experience Shabbat. According to the Jewish calendar, we are now at the end of the sixth millennium since the creation of the world. The Zohar explains that the six days of the week are a microcosm of the six millennia of history, in which our work has been to refine the mundane world. Now, as we prepare for the global Shabbat, our eyes are closed; it is our challenge to see the spiritual within the material.

Upon the arrival of the global Shabbat - the seventh millennium - we will rest from our work of refining the world; our eyes will be open.

The world will unmask its earthly appearance to reveal its inherent spirituality. Our closed eyes are a necessary precursor to appreciating the seventh millennium with open eyes: Both are equally important.

It has been said that more than the Jewish people have kept the Shabbat, the Shabbat keeps the Jewish people. The Torah says, "Six days your work shall be complete. The seventh shall be holy ...." Through our work during the six days, we appreciate the holiness of the seventh.

Shabbat teaches us how to approach our world. By closing and then opening our eyes, we can transcend our limitations to see the world anew.

Nechama Frank, Ph.D., is director of Clinical Practices in Psychology Graduate Program and Assistant Profesor of Pyschology at the University of Hartford. This article first appeared in Farbrengen Magazine, published by Chabad of California.

Living with the Rebbe

"...Bring Me an offering... the offering that you take from them shall consist of the following: Gold, silver, copper... they shall make Me a sanctuary, and I will dwell among them."

These are amongst the opening verses of this week's Torah portion, Teruma. They contain the instructions for the construction of the Mishkan - the Tabernacle - that the Jewish nation built in the Sinai desert.

Why was the Tabernacle not constructed solely out of gold? According to the Midrash, the Jews had enough gold to build the entire Tabernacle and all of its implements from pure gold. Indeed, the Midrash points out that no Jew left Egypt with less than 90 pack animals loaded with gold and silver.

In such an affluent era and for such a sanctified purpose it would seem that gold would certainly be the only metal permitted. This, after all, was the sanctuary being built so that G-d could "dwell among them."

The building of the Mishkan in this manner, with various metals, was to teach us that all Jews must join in making of themselves a sanctuary for G-d. Our ancestors were instructed to use silver and brass also, for even lesser metals - symbolizing Jews on lower levels - must become part of the sanctuary.

The Jewish people consist of a variety of individuals ranging from "the captains of your tribes" to the "hewers of wood and drawers of water." There are those individuals who belong to the spiritual category of "gold"; others belong to the spiritual category of "silver"; while still others are in the spiritual category of "brass." It is of no consequence in the building of the Mishkan - all three metals, all categories of Jews are essential for its construction.

And just as this is applicable in spiritual sanctuaries, so were the instructions given to our forefathers when they were building the physical Tabernacle in the desert. Not only gold was to be used - even though it was present in abundance - but also silver and even brass. All metals, all Jews, become integrated into the sanctuary.

(It should be pointed out the ultimate aim is to "refine" the brass and raise it to the precious level of gold. It is not sufficient to remain at the lowest level of the spectrum. But when the Mishkan was being built, there was not enough time to wait until this refinement occurred. Thus, brass was to be used, even while it was still unrefined...)

The lessons of the Mishkan and its construction from different metals are instructive to us today. Those who are at the highest level - that of "gold" - have a tendency to look down on the lower categories of Jews. To them, the Torah says: You can't do anything alone. In order to construct a sanctuary, you must include those who are lower than you. Only together with the silver and brass can you attain the level of "I may dwell among them."

And to the lower levels of our people, the ones considered "less precious," the Torah provides encouragement and joy. Whether he is inherently inferior, or whether he just appears to be in the lower categories, the Torah tells him he is a part and parcel of the Mishkan. Indeed, the Sanctuary cannot be built without him.

Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

A Slice of Life

Divine Customer Service
by Leah Sherman

Baruch Toledano, a member Chabad of East Boca Raton (Florida), is a salesperson at Bloomingdales. This past summer he served a customer who left with more "merchandise" than she could have ever imagined.

On this particular afternoon, one of Baruch's co-workers in the ladies' shoe department became inundated with customers. He asked Baruch to attend to one of his customers; a rare thing as the salespeople earn commission.

Baruch and the customer began to talk. Remarking on his French accent, the customer commented that she speaks a little French herself, and from there Baruch mentioned that he speaks Hebrew, also. The women said she hadn't spoken Hebrew since her Bat Mitzva. Baruch looked at the young girl next to the women and suggested that surely she would have a chance to refresh her Hebrew in time for her daughter's Bat Mitzva.

"She isn't Jewish," the woman told Baruch. "She is my step-daughter, though she is like a daughter to me. As a matter of fact," she told Baruch, "she loves flowers so much that I recently had a flower tattooed on my own neck."

The customer immediately told Baruch that she knew that having a tattoo is not permissible according to Jewish law and that there were ramifications when having a Jewish burial. "But, anyway," she nonchalantly told Baruch, "it isn't really an issue, as I intend to be cremated."

Hearing this, Baruch recounted a story that Rabbi Ruvi New had shared with the congregation one Shabbat.

The Rabbi related that late one night he received a phone call from a Mr. Lugassy. "Rabbi, I know we only met once, years ago, but you're the only rabbi I know and I need your help. A Jewish client of mine just lost her father this evening, and prior to his death he requested that he be cremated. He's a war veteran and the V.A. society pledged to underwrite the costs of the cremation as per his request. Because he requested cremation they will not pay for a burial. I told my client that cremation is against Jewish law, but she feels as if she must honor his wishes, and the family doesn't have the funds for a burial, anyway."

It was close to midnight when the Rabbi arrived at the door of the grieving family. He explained to them the importance of a proper Jewish burial, and that their father's wishes for cremation were no doubt made because he was unaware that it is prohibited by Jewish law. "Your father is now in the World of Truth. Think of his wishes as they are now. I assure you that he understands things differently now." As impassioned as the Rabbi spoke, the family remained resolute to honor their father's "earthly wishes."

An hour later the Rabbi was still trying to find the words that would sway the hearts of the family. Nothing seemed to be working. Having said all he knew to say, the Rabbi decided to turn to a seasoned veteran of the local Jewish Burial Society. Calling him, he asked, "What do I say to a family sincerely wanting to honor the request of a deceased family member who requested to be cremated?"

The old timer said: "Tell them the tragedy of the Holocaust consisted of three things: how many Jews died, how they died, and how they were never buried. How could you willingly deny the burial that so many were unwillingly denied? Let his burial be for the honor of one of the six million who never had the honor and dignity of a Jewsh burial. Let them not add to the tragedy of the crematoria."

Trembling the Rabbi put the phone down, turned to the family and repeated what he had just heard. As he spoke, the family's resistance all but melted away. Their deepest sense of Jewishness had been touched, and they realized that a kosher burial was not a matter of personal choice, but a Jewish obligation to their father and to his people.

But there was one more hurdle: who would pay for the funeral? Moved as they were by the Rabbi's words, the family insisted that they simply had no money for a burial. It was now 2:00 a.m. The Rabbi assured them that he would have the money by the morning and bid them good night. Immediately the Rabbi set about transferring the deceased from the V.A. hospital morgue to the Chevra Kadisha (Jewish Burial Society), so that the body would be watched by a "shomer" in accordance with Jewish law. Later that morning the Rabbi discovered that there were communal funds available for indigent burials, and informed the family that all was in place for the burial to take place that day.

As they discussed the funeral arrangements, the Rabbi told them that the service would be held at the graveside. The family insisted on a service in a chapel. The Rabbi explained that the funds allocated for indigent burial didn't include a chapel service. The family responded with an ultimatum: "chapel or cremation." Though surprised, Rabbi New said he would raise the money if that's what it would take to prevent the cremation. He began making phone calls to raise $2,000 for the chapel service, for a man that neither he nor any member of the community had known. Not one person turned him down. A fellow Jew needed a kosher burial. That was enough.

The next day, family and friends assembled in the chapel of the Jewish cemetery. There, they paid respect to a man who through Divine intervention and the love of his fellow Jews had a Jewish burial.

As Baruch retold the story to his customer in Bloomingdales, she had tears rolling down her face. She said that she had never thought about it this way. "Now I know it was no coincidence that I came here today," she told Baruch. "I am going to have a Jewish burial and funeral when I pass away, and now I know that G-d sent me here tonight for a purpose." She and her daughter held each other and cried. Baruch had served them well - a Divine encounter indeed.

Reprinted from Inside Out Magazine

What's New


The Slice of Life article, "There was a Hasid who had a farm" by Jennifer Fishbein originally appeared in The Forward and was reprinted with permission.

New Emissaries

Over a dozen young couples have recently set out to establish new Chabad-Lubavitch centers or enhance the outreach work already taking place at existing centers. Among them are: Rabbi Yossi and Shterni Bryski to S. Diego, CA; Rabbi Mendel and Tzippy Slavin to San Clemente, CA; Rabbi Shais and Brocho Taub to Milwaukee, WI; Rabbi Sholom Y. and Chana Deitsch to Ridgefield, CT; Rabbi Mendy and Chana Kornfeld to West Palm Beach, FL; Rabbi Mordechai and Blima Wollenberg to Cardiff, Wales, UK,

The Rebbe Writes

15th of Shevat, 5734 [1974]
To All Participants in the
First European Convention
of the Neshei uBnos Chabad [Lubavitch Women's Organization],
London, England.

Blessings and Greeting:

I was pleased to be informed about your forthcoming Convention. May G-d grant that it should be with the utmost Hatzlocho [success] in every respect.

In accordance with the well known adage of the Alter Rebbe [Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidism], to the effect that "a Jew should live with the times," that is to say, in the spirit of the current weekly Sidra [Torah portion], it is to be hoped that the Convention will be inspired by the Sidra Terumah, with which it coincides.

The word Terumah has two meanings; in the plain sense it means a contribution to a sacred cause, as in the case of the Sidra - the building of the Mishkon (Sanctuary) in the desert.

In a deeper sense, Terumah means "elevating." Both meanings go hand in hand together, because by making a contribution to a sacred cause connected with Torah and Mitzvos [commanmdents], the donor "elevates" not only the money from its material state to a higher spiritual plain, but thereby also elevates his whole being, with all the energy and effort that went into earning the money contributed to the sacred cause.

It is well known that in connection with the building of the Mishkon - the first great undertaking after Mattan Torah [the giving of the Torah], designed to make a Sanctuary for the Divine Presence in the midst of the Jewish people - the women excelled themselves above the men, as indicated in the verse, "And the men came (following) upon the women (Exodus 35:22)."

It has often been emphasized that the Torah, Toras Chaim, meaning instruction and guide in life, provides practical instruction in every detail of its narratives, and being eternal, its teachings are eternal for all times and places. Thus, the above mentioned vignette in the story of the building of the Mishkon provides a significant instruction that whenever a great Mitzvah or sacred task is to be undertaken, Jewish women have been given special capacities to be first and foremost in carrying it out with dedication and enthusiasm.

The greatest task in the present day and age is to revitalize Yiddishkeit [Judaism] and spread it among those of our brethren, men and women, who are not as yet fully committed to Torah and Mitzvos.

And in this task there is much that each and every Jewish woman can accomplish, and even much more can be accomplished by a concerted effort, such as your forthcoming Convention.

I therefore hope and pray that the Convention, the first of Neshei uBnos Chabad in the United Kingdom, will fulfill all its expectations, and will set in motion a veritable chain reaction of continued and growing accomplishments in the way of strengthening and spreading Yiddishkeit. May each and all of you make the most of your opportunities and capacities, and carry out all your activities in accordance with Chassidic teaching - with vitality and enthusiasm, with joy and gladness of heart.

With blessing,

Rambam this week

5 Adar, 5764 - February 27, 2004

Positive Mitzva 195: Giving Tzedaka

This mitzva is based on the verse (Deut. 15:8) "But you shall open your hand wide." The Hebrew word "tzedaka" comes from the root tzedek - "justice" and "righteous." We are commanded to give generously to those in need. All that we own is through G-d's generosity. Therefore, it is only right and proper to support others less fortunate than we are. Even a poor person is obligated to give tzedaka, even if only a small amount.

Prohibition 232: It is forbidden to ignore a needy person

This mitzva is based on the verse (Deut. 15:7) "Do not harden your heart nor shut your hand from your poor brother." G-d wants us to share what we have and give tzedaka generously. The Torah cautions us not to ignore a needy person.

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

This past week we celebrated the beginning of a new month, Adar. Our Sages tell us, "With the beginning of Adar, rejoicing is increased." Every day we are enjoined to serve G-d with joy. But when the month of Adar begins, we are told to increase that joy.

In fact, for the entire month we are expected to behave in a more joyful manner for, just as we read in the Megilla on Purim, "the month was changed for them from sorrow to joy."

What was so special about the joy of Purim that we should be expected to be joyful for an entire month? By way of analogy, light always seems brighter when it comes after darkness. In a room full of light, the flame of one candle seems insignificant. But, in a pitch-black room, even the light from one small candle can help to illuminate the entire room. Imagine, then, the impact of a spotlight in a lightless room.

Joy is similar to light. The sorrow, fear and mourning of the Jews when they thought that Haman would be able to carry out his evil plan was immense. They were in a a state of total darkness. The joy that they experienced when Haman's plan was foiled was phenomenal. But is was all the more incredible for having been preceded by such darkness.

On the holiday of Purim, we recite the blessing "Sheh-asa nisim" - Who has performed miracles for us. In this season of miracles, in this year of miracles, may we experience the ultimate miracle, which will be to us like the brightest spotlight in Jewish history, the arrival of Moshiach, NOW!

Thoughts that Count

Bring Me an offering (Ex. 25:2)

With regard to prayer (which is reckoned in place of the sacrifices all the while that we do not have the Holy Temple), it is said that a little with intent is preferrable to a great deal without intent. The opposite is true of charity, where the main point is how much assistance has been given and how much good has been wrought. The intent here is secondary.

(Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi)

They shall make a sanctuary for Me and I shall dwell in them (Ex. 25:8)

The Alm-ghty does not say, "I will dwell in it." Rather "in them," in every single Jew. Every Jew is a sanctuary to G-d. The site of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem remains holy after the Temple itself was destroyed, since the destruction involved only the structure but not the foundation. Similarly the Sanctuary within every Jew remains always intact, for there can be spiritual devastation in the structure of the Jew but the foundation, the essence of the soul, remains holy forever.

(Hayom Yom)

In the heart of every Jewish person there is a spiritual "Sanctuary." This is the Jewish spark that exists in every Jew. The spark remains whole and intact forever. It is our responsibility to awaken and fan the spark until it becomes a huge flame.

(Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn)

[The menora] all hammered out of one block of pure gold (Ex. 25:36)

The Hebrew for "hammered," mikshe, is of the same root as "difficult." The hardest thing is to attain the level of pure gold - that all one's gold and silver should be acquired from a pure source, through righteous dealing without any hint of deception or fraud. If one conducts himself properly, he becomes a pure candelabra which illuminates the heavens.

(Rishpei Eish)

Take an offering for Me... (Ex. 25:2)

First comes the Torah portion Mishpatim, which contains all the laws and ordinances by which man must live with his fellow man. Only afterwards comes this week's Torah portion, Teruma, about offerings and sacrifices. First a person must acquire possessions in accordance with the law, in a straight and righteous manner. Only then can he give a portion of his earnings to charity.

(Makor Baruch)

This is the offering you shall take from them, gold and silver and copper. (Ex. 25:3)

G-d gives a Jew material possessions so he can turn them into spirituality.

(Rabbi Shnuer Zalman of Liadi)

It Once Happened

Reb Menachem Mendel of Kosov set out for Skole to meet his Rebbe, Reb Feivish of Zabriza. Reb Menachem Mendel traveled by foot, since he had no money to pay the coach fare. Along the way, he stopped at an inn and asked the innkeeper if he could sleep there.

"You may certainly sleep here, but I cannot offer you any food. It has been many days since my family has tasted even a morsel of bread. And what is more, I owe the landlord months of rent. If I do not pay him soon, I will be thrown into jail," the innkeeper moaned.

Reb Menachem Mendel could not sleep a wink the whole night, so distressed was he by the innkeeper's situation. In the morning, he set out for Skole. Along the way, a coach passed him. A Jew inside shouted to him, "Where are you off to?"

"I am going to spend Shabbos in Skole with Reb Feivish of Zabriza," answered Reb Menachem Mendel.

"In that case, hop in. I, too, am traveling in that direction," offered the wealthy Jew.

"I will not step into the carriage until you give me 20 silver coins," demanded Reb Menachem Mendel.

"It is not enough I offer you a ride, you demand money too?" countered the wealthy man.

"It is not for myself, but for a destitute family," explained Reb Menachem Mendel. "Besides," he added, "one never knows when the wheel of fortune will change." With this thought, the wealthy Jew was convinced to not only give the silver coins, but to also travel back to the inn and personally present the innkeeper with the money.

Before leaving the inn and returning on their journey, Reb Menachem Mendel approached the innkeeper. "From now on your business will prosper. By and by you will become very rich. But my rich companion is destined to lose his entire fortune. When the time comes, remember to repay one kindness with another."

When Reb Menachem Mendel arrived at Reb Feivish's court, he related to Reb Feivish how the rich man had saved an entire family from destitution. "I know, my son, I know," answered Reb Feivish. "But did you tell the innkeeper how to act when the time comes?"

"I told him," said Reb Menachem Mendel. "And he understood."

In due time, the rich man's business floundered. Everything he turned his hand to resulted in great losses until he became destitute. He was forced to go begging from town to town. At the same time, the innkeeper became quite wealthy.

Years passed, and eventually, the once wealthy man wandered into Kosov. He was told by his fellow beggars, "You must visit Reb Menachem Mendel of Kosov. He is a great Rebbe and knows how to provide for people like us."

Reb Menachem Mendel recognized the wanderer at once. He called him over and handed him a letter. "You must go to the house of a certain wealthly individual and he will surely know how to help you."

The wanderer left immediately with the letter. Upon arriving at the wealthy man's house, he was greeted warmly by the owner. "I do not recognize you anymore," said the wealthy innkeeper to the wanderer, "but last night in a dream Reb Menachem Mendel told me that the time has come to repay one kindness with another." And with that, the innkeeper reminded the beggar of their meeting some 15 years previously.

The innkeeper made an honest reckoning of all the wealth he had acquired in the past 15 years, and went, with the wanderer, to Reb Menachem Mendel. The innkeeper gave the wanderer a generous gift and they both prospered in all future business ventures.

Moshiach Matters

We should not look at the Redemption as merely a promise of the future, but rather as an ongoing dynamic that affects our lives today. By living with the Redemption, we can anticipate the mindset that will permeate that era and use it as a force to mold our lives today.

(From Highlights by Rabbi E. Touger)

  808: Mishpatim810: Tetzaveh  
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