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Devarim Deutronomy

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Devarim Deutronomy

April 15, 2005 - 6 Nisan, 5765

866: Metzora

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

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  865: Sazria867: Achrei Mos  

The Rebbe Keeps Us In Mind  |  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

The Rebbe Keeps Us In Mind

One Saturday night, soon after the Sabbath, Rabbi Leibel Groner, the Rebbe's personal secretary, received a phone call. It was an elderly chasid whose wife had been in the hospital and her condition was critical.

"Could Rabbi Groner ask the Rebbe for a blessing?" the chasid asked.

Rabbi Groner said that it was often difficult to reach the Rebbe on a Saturday night. He would try, but if it was not possible, he would relay the message first thing Sunday morning.

Rabbi Groner was unable to reach the Rebbe that night. Sunday, when the Rebbe came to 770, Rabbi Groner told him of the chasid's wife. The Rebbe told Rabbi Groner to call Rabbi Chodakov, the Rebbe's senior aide.

After speaking to the Rebbe for several minutes, Rabbi Chodakov told Rabbi Groner to call the chasid so that he, Rabbi Chodakov, could communicate a message from the Rebbe.

Several moments later, the elderly chasid called Rabbi Groner back and told him the entire story. His wife had been seriously ill for several days. On Friday night, her condition had become so desperate that the doctors abandoned all hope. Early Saturday morning, however, her condition sharply improved. Nevertheless, since it was still serious, the chasid had called Rabbi Groner to ask for the Rebbe's blessing. She continued to improve, and the doctors were confident that she would recover.

"The Rebbe had said that my wife's condition had begun to improve about 5:00 a.m. on Saturday. In case I might think this was due to other factors, the Rebbe told me to tell you her recovery came about because she had been brought to mind at that time," [i.e., the Rebbe had thought about her].

No one had told the Rebbe about the woman's condition, yet the Rebbe knew. Not only could the Rebbe sense her predicament, his positive thinking was able to bring about her recovery.

The above story is not an isolated phenomenon. Even the most hardened skeptics must admit that the childless were blessed with progeny, the ill with health, and that fortunes were made or saved because of the Rebbe's blessings.

What does this mean today, several years after the Rebbe's physical passing?

The Rebbe still keeps us in mind. After the passing of his father-in-law and predecessor, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, the Rebbe told the chasidim to continue writing to him and he would find a way to answer. As countless stories indicate, even in the present years, the Rebbe has found ways to answer those who seek his blessings.

The Rebbe has also provided us with insight and an awareness of who we are and where we are going that empowers. Each person whose life he has touched has become richer and a source of inspiration for others. The chain reaction that this dynamic initiated continues to produce change in many people's lives.

Yud-Alef Nissan is the Rebbe's birthday. Our Sages teach us that on a person's birthday, his or her spiritual potentials and goals are given additional power. This is the day when the Rebbe's goals and purposes are highlighted and given greater expression.

In one of his letters, the Rebbe writes that from his earliest childhood, he would picture the future Redemption in his mind. Perhaps the most appropriate birthday present we could give to the Rebbe is to do something to advance that purpose, and the Rebbe has told us exactly what he would like us to do:

Learn about the era of G-dly knowledge, peace, and cooperation that Moshiach will initiate, and share that awareness with others; and be proactive by reaching out to those around you with deeds of love and kindness.

By living with the Redemption, anticipating the knowledge, harmony, and peace of that era in our daily lives, we can precipitate the time when these values will spread through the entire world with the coming of Moshiach.

From Keeping In Touch by Rabbi E. Touger, published by S.I.E.

Living with the Rebbe

This week's Torah portion, Metzora, details the special laws governing the plague of leprosy, an affliction whose root cause was spiritual and bears no resemblance to the modern disease of the same name.

This leprosy altered the skin of the suffering individual, causing a radical change in the appearance of the affected area.

It is therefore, surprising that the Talmud refers to Moshiach as suffering from this affliction. "What is Moshiach's name?" the Talmud asks. "Chivra (Aramaic for 'Leper') is his name," the Talmud concludes.

How can Moshiach, a person of flesh and blood, who stands head and shoulders above all other Jews by virtue of his spiritual perfection, be referred to as a leper?

Moshiach will be distinguished not only by his vast wisdom, but also by his prophetic powers.

We must therefore, conclude that the term "leper" contains a deeper significance, one which will shed light on its inner meaning.

Leprosy is an external disease, one which affects only the outer skin of the sufferer.

The internal organs of the leper remain healthy and unaffected, as does the flesh itself. Only the outermost part of the individual is afflicted, causing the color of the skin to undergo transformation.

Throughout the thousands of years of exile, the Jewish people has been involved in learning Torah and performing mitzvot, in an effort to illuminate the darkness of the exile by strengthening the forces of good over evil.

Exile is characterized by G-d's seeming withdrawal from the affairs of man; the coming of Moshiach and the Final Redemption will usher in an era in which G-dliness is open and apparent.

By their consistent and ongoing service of G-d throughout the centuries, imbuing the four corners of the earth with G-dliness and holiness, the Jewish people has succeeded in healing the world of its internal sickness, the seeming absence of G-d from the physical world.

We stand now at the very end of the exile, on the threshold of the Messianic Era.

All that prevents Moshiach's imminent arrival is a tiny and external blemish, an affliction of "leprosy on the skin of the flesh."

The final touches on the world's preparation for Moshiach have been entrusted to our generation, the generation which will be worthy of witnessing Moshiach's revelation.

Up until that time, however, Moshiach is said to be "leprous." For Moshiach himself suffers the pain of the end of exile - "the affliction of leprosy" - as he waits with longing and impatience for the moment the world will be fully prepared for his coming, at which time he will reveal himself and redeem the Jewish people and the entire world.

From a talk of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Parshat Tazria-5751

A Slice of Life

A Present from the Rebbe
by Pesach Nussbaum

The ice storm of the century hit Montreal in January 1998. Our electricity, as well as that of close to one million other Quebec households, went out early Tuesday morning for an entire week.

By Thursday our house was getting very cold, so we decided to go for Shabbat to a hotel near the Chabad House in downtown Montreal. Downtown was too essential to lose power, or so we thought.

On Friday, as we were making the last preparations for our makeshift Shabbat, it happened. The irony of it all. The power went out in the hotel, the Chabad House, and the entire downtown sector. "Oh well," we said, "this too is for the good." The food at the Chabad House was being kept warm on a gas range and the hotel's generators were already providing heat and emergency lighting.

The Shabbat services at Chabad were recited by the regular contingent of college students, as well as a few families who had had the same idea as us. The Shabbat meal, illuminated by candlelight, had a very spiritual quality to it, with singing, sharing Torah thoughts, and storytelling, until the candles flickered and went out.

Shabbat morning, and in fact the rest of Shabbat, was celebrated with the special quality of the previous evening. On Saturday night, I found a table in the hotel mezzanine where our family could sit together for the "Melave Malka" meal escorting the Shabbat queen. My wife prepared sandwiches and I went in search of paper goods to use with the meal. I approached a young woman who worked in the hotel restaurant.

"I follow a special diet and was wondering if the restaurant could provide paper goods?" I asked.

"I'll be glad to get you whatever I find," she said. She went to the kitchen and returned with some fancy napkins as well as plastic cups and a box. "I know that you can't use cutlery from our restaurant, but can you use this new cutlery?" she asked, opening the box to reveal new, wrapped cutlery.

"Yes," I said gratefully, "that's totally acceptable." After our meal, I went back to the restaurant to return the cutlery. I thanked her for her kindness and told her how touched I was.

Without hesitation, she began to tell me about herself. "My father was Jewish but my mother was Catholic," she said. "Do you know the rabbi who lived in New York, who passed away a few years ago?" she asked me.

"You mean the Lubavitcher Rebbe?" I asked.

"I met him," she told me. "I waited on line one Sunday to receive a dollar for charity and a blessing from the rabbi. When I came in front of the rabbi, I was shy to speak, but he began speaking to me in my language. He told me in French, 'Whatever way you choose for yourself in life, G-d will be with you.' "

She added that she had a painting of the Rebbe. "I have been looking to give this painting to the right people. Would you accept this painting and keep it or find the right people to give it to?" she asked.

"I am very flattered," I said, "but why would you give away a painting that means so much to you?"

She intimated that she felt her lifestyle was beneath the dignity of the painting and the greatness of the Rebbe. She insisted that the painting be given away and that the recipient had been revealed. I really didn't know what to make of this. Nonetheless, I jotted down her name, Audrey Anne, and number.

I spent the entire Sunday dragging electrical cables to power up our oil furnace. I spent Monday gearing up my office which had been closed for two days due to the power outage and impossibly icy conditions. I was busy, but my mind never strayed from the events of the previous Saturday night.

I came home from the office early on Tuesday in anticipation of another evening of semi-darkness. I decided to call Audrey Ann. We spoke for a few minutes about Montreal's "ice age" and then she said, "I hope you're calling about the painting." She offered to come to our house with the painting that very evening.

Audrey Ann arrived with a friend at 7:30 p.m. My wife and I welcomed both guests. We were filled with anticipation, not only for the painting to be unveiled but, even more, for the story to be revealed.

As soon as Audrey Ann entered the dining room where tea and cake were waiting, she uncovered the painting. We inspected the large canvas with flashlights. It was a famous pose of the Rebbe at a Lag B'Omer parade masterfully painted.

I placed the frame on a chair. We took our places at the table. We had many questions, and thankfully, Audrey Ann was eager to share her story.

"My father died when I was five years old. Soon after, my mother developed cancer and was near death. I was placed in a foster home as my mother was unable to care for me. I prayed constantly for my mother's recovery. I would close my eyes, concentrate, and see before me a very saintly image. My mother recovered by the grace of G-d and the image of the face I saw remained with me.

"As a young teenager, I'd developed a talent for drawing and I drew the face according to my recollection. My mother kept this drawing. When I was 15, I was channel hopping on the T.V. when I happened on a Chanuka special. There I saw the face from my recollections as a five year old - it was the rabbi. I called frantically for my mother. She came running and when she saw the rabbi's face she fainted. She recognized him from my drawing.

"By calling the number on the screen during the broadcast, I was able to get more information. I resolved to go to New York to see the rabbi but my mother wouldn't allow me to travel until I turned 18.

"Three years passed until I stood in line with the greatest trepidation to meet the rabbi. When I was finally standing in front of him, I couldn't say a word and could not even lift up my eyes. The rabbi spoke in French. 'Whatever way you choose for yourself in life, G-d will be with you.' The rabbi waited until I looked up at him and then gave me a dollar.

"I bought a photo of the rabbi that I brought home. I told my mother about the experience and how I wished to have a painting made from the photo. She laughed, asking how a young girl of no particular means could commission a painting. I suggested that she would pay for it. My mother was usually very careful with the little money she had, but she agreed without hesitation.

"We commissioned an artist and he painted this picture. It hung in the most prominent place in our home for the last five years and had a good influence on whoever came to our house. My mother would look at the painting and speak to the rabbi every day.

"This past spring my mother and I shared a most pleasant dinner. When the meal was over, my mother became very serious, looked at the painting and said, 'Now it is time for you to go and it is time for me to go.' I didn't understand it at the time but a few months later my mother passed on.

"Before she died, she made me promise that I would give the painting to its rightful owners. I speak to my mother each day and the day before I met you, I lamented to her that I hadn't yet found the painting's rightful owners. I asked that the person come forward, and you came into the restaurant."

As Audrey Ann concluded her story, the electricity come on after an entire week of darkness, and has stayed on ever since.

Mr. Nussbaum is an Information Systems Architect. He and his family reside in Montreal, Canada

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The Rebbe Writes

25th of Cheshvan, 5735 [1974]

Greeting and Blessing:

As I inquire periodically from our mutual friends about you and your family, I was pleased to receive word about your recent birthday.

No doubt you know that Chasidim observe special customs in connection with a birthday. These also reflect the significance of a birthday in Jewish life.

In general, these customs comprise three items: 1) an Aliyah (being called up to the Torah) on the preceding Shabbos; if at all possible, 2) additional Torah study on the birthday itself, 3) an extra donation for Tzedokoh [charity] on the birthday - if a weekday, or before or after, if it occurs on Shabbos.

Needless to say, Jewish customs are meaningful in many ways. It would take us too far afield to mention more than one aspect in regard to each of the above three customs.

The Aliyah to the Torah, on the preceding Shabbos, which is by way of preparation for the birthday, emphasizes that with each birthday the Jew rises to a higher spiritual level. This is indicated also by the word Aliyah ("going up"). And, although the term also refers to the physical ascent of actually going up to the Bimah which is on a higher level than the floor of the Shul, its real meaning is the spiritual aspect. Indeed, it is precisely because of the spiritual ascent (achieved through the reading and study of the Torah) that the Bimah is elevated.

The particular relevance of the birthday is this: a person, of course, grows physically and mentally from day to day and from year to year, so that in some respects the person is not exactly the same today as the day before. Certainly in the spiritual sphere the birthday is meant to bring about an essential (not merely superficial) change, since on that day his Mazel is renewed.

By that is meant, as the Gemoroh expresses it "mazelayu chozi", the "root" of the soul, which remains attached to its Source On High, while only an extension of the soul, as it were, descends into the body and vitalizes it. For, obviously, the soul which is eternal and part of "real G-dliness" could not be "wholly confined" within the body, any more than G-d Himself could be con fined within the world He created. And just as G-d is both in the world and beyond it (immanent and transcendent) so it is in regard to the soul and body.

Therefore, when the birthday comes, the Jew is expected to ascend to a higher level in an essential way, namely by strengthening the very root of the soul, when, as a matter of course, the change is felt also in the "lower" aspect of the soul that vitalizes the physical body. Such a change can be achieved only through Torah, which is "our very life and the length of our days."

The second observance - an increase in the actual Torah study - follows the first, but in a more tangible way, namely the study of the Torah with understanding and comprehension, so that it permeates the mind and is reflected in actual living experience in the daily life.

The third item - the giving of Tzedokoh - signifies the giving of oneself, both of body and soul. Since a person consists of both body and soul, his growth and advancement has to encompass both the spiritual and the physical. If the Aliyah and Torah study primarily reflect the spiritual, the giving of Tzedokoh reflects the physical and material, namely the sweat and toil of earning money, which is then converted into some thing spiritual and sacred, since it is dedicated to a sacred cause, as indicated by the term "Tzedokoh."

Being kept informed by our mutual friends about your consistent advancement both spiritually and materially (in matters of Tzedokoh), there remains for me only to express the hope that since your recent birthday, you have been doing this with even greater inspiration and joy, and that the advancement is evident in both quality and quantity.

With blessings,

Rambam this week

Due to space limitations, this isssue did not contain the "Mitzvah a Day" column.

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

It is a Jewish custom to say daily the chapter of Psalms associated with the number of one's years. Many also have the custom to recite daily the Rebbe's chapter. The 11th of Nissan (Wed., April 20, this year) marks the Rebbe's 103rd birthday, and so, we begin reciting chapter 104. It is appropriate then, to study a few verses in this chapter.

This chapter begins as the previous chapter began and ended, "Bless the L-rd my soul." One of the reasons for the repetition of this phrase, is to teach us that we should constantly bless G-d, thanking Him and showing appreciation for His goodness toward us.

Verse 4 begins, "Who makes the winds His messengers." The commentator Radak says that this verse has a powerful lesson for us. If even the invisible winds do G-d's bidding, how much more so we, who are dependent on G-d continual kindness, should be willing to do G-d's bidding.

Radak also explains verse 11 in a way that can give us a message for life. Describing springs and streams of water, the verse reads: "They water every beast of the field, they quench the wild creatures' thirst." G-d is concerned even with wild creatures that inhabit the barren wilderness, for He cares for all creatures. From this we can infer that if G-d is concerned with even wild creatures, surely He is concerned with and cares for each one of us. "You matter," in essence, is what this verse is telling us.

In verse 14, we read about how G-d provides sustenance to all living creatures. The verse concludes with man's food: "To bring forth bread from the earth." But does bread actually come from the earth? Isn't it wheat that comes for the earth which is ground into flour and baked into bread?

Before Adam's sin, whole loaves grew on trees. The Talmud states that when Moshiach comes, the Land of Israel will become perfect again and trees will produce loaves of bread. This is why we say in the blessing over bread, "Who brings forth bread from the earth." These words commemorate the perfect world of the Garden of Eden and encourage us to look forward to the future Redemption.

Verse 24 reads: "How abundant are Your works, G-d. With wisdom You made them all. The earth is full of Your possessions." "Your possessions," kinyanecha in Hebrew, can be translated as "ways to acquire you." The world is full of clear evidence of G-d's mastery, explains the Kotzker Rebbe, thus there are infinite opportunities for man to acquire a solid faith in the Creator.

In verse 31 we read, "Let G-d rejoice with His works." In verse 34 we read, "I will rejoice in G-d." Implied here is that both G-d and the Jewish people have much reason to rejoice in each other. May the rejoicing of G-d and the Jewish people usher in the era of ultimate rejoicing, when true simcha will be felt throughout the world, the Messianic Era.

Thoughts that Count


The Torah portion is called metzora - "leper" - though it deals primarily with the purification process of an afflicted individual. This teaches us that the affliction was not only a punishment for slander, but to cause one to repent. Accordingly, the leprosy was actually part of the purification process, for once detected one was prompted to change.

(Lubavitcher Rebbe)

On the subject of afflictions, the Talmud states, "A person sees all defects, except for his own," meaning that we are sometimes blind to our own faults. The Baal Shem Tov explained that when a person notices a spiritual defect in another, it is a sure sign that he suffers from the same problem himself, at least to a small degree. The Hebrew verse can also be read, "All defects that a person sees in his fellow, are his own defects."

And he shall slaughter the sheep in the place where the sin-offering and the burnt-offering are slaughtered (Lev. 14:13)

Even though the burnt-offering was of a much higher sanctity than the sin-offering, they were brought in the same place to avoid embarrassing penitents who might hesitate to publicly proclaim their transgressions; onlookers would not know which offering was being brought.

(Mishna Sotah, 32)

This is the law concerning the metzora - leper. (14:2)

The Biblical form of leprosy (tzaraat) is the punishment for an "evil tongue." This is hinted to us by the word "metzora" - motzei [shem] ra - one who brings forth a bad name.

(Midrash Tanchuma)

When Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev would hear someone speak poorly of another person he would go up to him and say, "My dear friend, aren't you ashamed? You are slandering G-d's tefilin upon which it is written, "Who is Your People Israel."

It Once Happened

By Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Freiman

Last month, I got a phone call from Dovid, who attends the Chabad House in Zichron Yaakov (located in the north of Israel slightly below Haifa). He told me that his neighbors' son, Avrohom Yeshaya ben Lillian, was taken the day before to the hospital after suffering from stomach pains for a few days. The boy had appendicitis and the toxins had spread throughout his body. He was taken immediately to the operating room. After the operation, the doctors said that had they come one hour later, it would have been too late.

The people of the community in Zichron Yaakov were asked to pray for him, since the doctors said that his life was still in danger. I immediately wrote a letter to the Rebbe on the boy's behalf and put it randomly into volume 25 of Igrot Kodesh - the Rebbe's letters. The letter I opened to was to an Israeli soldier in which the Rebbe wrote that since he was at war and in danger, he had to be particular about the mitzva (commandment) of tefilin, because this mitzva protects a person.

When I saw this answer, I understood that it would be appropriate to check the boy's tefilin. I called Dovid and asked him to bring me the tefilin to be checked. A few minutes later, he brought me the tefilin and some of the mezuzot in the house. I gave the tefilin in to be checked by a scribe.

At eleven o'clock that night, the scribe called me and said that the mezuzot were kosher but the tefilin had a problem. There was a question about a letter in the last word, and under these circumstance, the halacha (Jewish legal ruling) is that a child has to be consulted to identify the letter.

I went to the family's home and told them what the scribe had said, and how a child who can recognize all of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet but doesn't yet know how to read had to be shown the tefilin.

A little brother of Avrohom Yeshaya happened to be awake at that late hour and he was the perfect person for the job. I took him along with one of his older brothers to the scribe's house. The scribe showed him some letters in the tefilin parchment and the child knew them all. Then the scribe showed the child the last word "ha'aretz" (the earth), where the question was whether the letter was a "reish-r" or a "vav-u" The child said it was a vav. This meant that the tefilin were not kosher to start with, and the sick boy had never fulfilled the mitzva of tefilin!

Since the problem was in the last word, the scribe was able to fix it, and that very night, the tefilin were made kosher.

When Avrohom Yeshaya's mother said that it was night time, when one doesn't put on tefilin anyway, I told her the following story. Once, people came to the Rebbe for a blessing for a man who was sick. The Rebbe said his tefilin should be checked. The sick person was abroad and he had left his tefilin in Israel but the Rebbe said that the very fact that he possessed kosher tefilin would protect him (though naturally, he was supposed to put them on, too). I said the same was true here, that since her son's tefilin were fixed, even though it was night, it would certainly help him, as the Rebbe had written.

Indeed, the boy's condition began to improve and by Thursday, he was able to put his kosher tefilin on by himself for the very first time. The doctors said his recovery was miraculous, and the family is planning to celebrate his recovery with a seudat hodaa - a meal thanking G-d.

Rabbi Freiman is the Rebbe's emissary in Zichron Yaakov. Reprinted from Beis Moshiach.

Moshiach Matters

Through their Divine service in this world, the Jews cause wonders to take place in a revealed manner. These wonders are of a personal nature as well. G-d will point with His finger, as it were, and show each individual the open and revealed miracles which are happening to him, and how G-d cherishes him as parents cherish an only son born to them in their old age. May speaking about these wonders lead to the immediate coming of the Redemption when G-d will reveal Himself to every Jew.

(The Rebbe, 11 Nissan, 5751-1991)

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