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1077: Chukas-Balak

1078: Pinchas

1079: Matos-Masei

Devarim Deutronomy

July 10, 2009 - 18 Tamuz, 5769

1078: Pinchas

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  1077: Chukas-Balak1079: Matos-Masei  

Heat Wave  |  Living with the Rebbe  |  A Slice of Life  |  What's New
The Rebbe Writes  |  A Call to Action  |  A Word from the Director  |  Thoughts that Count
It Once Happened  |  Moshiach Matters

Heat Wave

It's hot! Temperatures in the 90s, in many places humidity in the 90s. Heat index over a hundred degrees. It's step-outside-to-get-the-mail-or-newspaper-and-you're-drenched-with-sweat hot.

There are many things we do to try to escape the heat. And we have to be careful, because with all the fun and excitement and chances for adventure the summer brings, the heat of summer poses serious dangers. Our bodies inside and out are bombarded during the summer. Too much sun can cause sunburn, or worse. The heat can drain us, and we can become dehydrated.

And then there's what the heat can do to our minds and tempers. On the one hand, it can make us lethargic, almost slow-witted. On the other, it can inflame our passions, making it easier to get angry. The heat puts us on edge, and people can be touchy about the trivial.

That's why it's especially important in the summer to stay cool, stay hydrated, and adequately protect ourselves from the harshness of the sun.

There's a parallel in the spiritual realm as well. In Tanya, the basic book of Chabad Chasidic philosophy, Rabbi Shneur Zalman explains that "anger and pride emanate from the element of Fire, which rises upward." And fire, as we know, consumes itself. Thus, just as we can be physically consumed by the heat of summer - sunburn or dehydration - so can we be spiritually consumed by the heat of our anger and pride.

We can see why it's no coincidence that people are more short-tempered during the summer or why they think less clearly - for anger and pride (the heating of the mind) dulls the mind's ability to reason. Reason requires coolness.

And we can therefore also learn the precautions to take spiritually from the precautions we take physically. In the simplest terms, we need the spiritual equivalent of sunscreen and proper clothing, and the spiritual equivalent of lots of water.

What constitutes "spiritual sunscreen"? How do we protect ourselves against anger and pride? Well, just as sunscreen creates a barrier between our skin and the harsh rays, so an awareness of one's boundaries and limitations can create a barrier against excess pride or anger. Indeed, we need to go further, and have "bitul," a sense of self-negation.

We need proper clothing too. Chasidic philosophy tells us that mitzvot (commandment) are the garments of the soul. The more mitzvot we do - the more layers of spiritual clothing we wear - the more protected we are from pride and anger. It's not just that we're too busy doing mitzvot to get angry; it's that a mitzva, properly performed, is a humbling experience.

(Of course it's no coincidence that two of the most important ways to protect ourselves from the sun are to cover our heads and shield our eyes - be aware of G-d's Presence over us (anti-anger) and be careful what we see (anti-pride).

There's a way to prevent getting dehydrated as well; drink lots of water beforehand. Spiritually, that means studying Torah. The more Torah we study, the more our minds prevail over our emotions - in this case, parti-cularly anger and pride. Our reason, cool reason. rules the heart. Thus we can more readily understand why the Torah is often compared to water.

And if we didn't take enough precautions? The cure is the same - more protective clothing and soothing skin creams, more water; spiritually, more mitzvot, more ego-nullification, more Torah study.

Living with the Rebbe

As enumerated by Maimonides, the last of the Torah's positive mitzvot (commandments) is "to adjudge the laws of inheritance," found in this week's Torah portion, Pinchas.

Maimonides' enumeration of the Torah's 613 commandments is extremely precise. If he chose this particular mitzva as the last, it must, of necessity, express the completion of all the other mitzvot that preceded it.

The mitzva of the laws of inheritance is actually an extension of the division of the land of Israel among the tribes. The Land of Israel was given to us by G-d according to three principles: 1) Inheritance; 2) a logical apportionment of land; 3) the process of determination according to lot.

The Holy Land is our direct inheritance from G-d. It expresses the deep and unique connection that exists between the Jewish people and the Creator.

There are three aspects to our possession of Israel, as expressed in the verse, "How goodly is our portion, how pleasant is our lot, and how beautiful our inheritance." Inheritance, the third expression of our relationship with G-d, is the highest level of our connection to Him.

There are three ways in which a person may acquire ownership of an object: by inheriting it, by purchasing it, or by receiving it as a gift.

The transfer of property through the process of selling depends on the will of the buyer. He pays money for an object, and it becomes his.

A gift, by contrast, is dependent upon the will of the giver. It is his decision whether or not to give the gift.

In both of these instances, the object or property passes from one individual to the other.

Inheritance, however, is an "automatic" process. The inheritor automatically assumes the place of the one from whom he inherits. This is the highest level of connection, as it is entirely independent of the will of either of them.

The process of selling is similar to the apportionment of land according to logical rules. In the spiritual sense, this refers to the connection with G-d we achieve from our own individual service - "How goodly is our portion."

The transfer of a gift is similar to the division of land according to lot. In spiritual terms, this refers to the connection we have with G-d not by virtue of our actions, but solely because He has chosen us from all other nations - "How pleasant is our lot."

But the deepest level of our connection with G-d is "How beautiful is our inheritance." This is an "automatic" connection that has nothing to do with our personal will. It is for this reason that Maimonides enumerates this mitzva last, for it expresses the very highest level of the Jew's bond with G-d.

Adapted from Likutei Sichot, Volume 28

A Slice of Life

Kosher Cop
by Steve Riback

Growing up in Southern California, I felt just like every other kid. I was very active in sports and Boy Scouts, among many other things. Although I was Jewish, the only time I really knew what that meant was at Chanuka, when we would light the menora and exchange gifts. I didn't know anything about Shabbat or Passover, and I don't recall ever fasting on Yom Kippur.

I currently work as a detective for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, where I have been for over 11 years. From police chases to shootings to undercover assignments... you name it and I have probably seen it.

Ironically, one of the most meaningful events in my life during this time period had absolutely nothing to do with police work. Six years ago, through a friend, I was invited to the home of Rabbi Mendy and Rebbetzin Chaya Harlig, of Chabad of Green Valley, Nevada, for a Shabbat dinner. During the evening I witnessed many traditions, such as Rebbetzin Chaya lighting candles, the rabbi making a blessing over the wine and the delicious challah. As I sat at the table, I felt tremendously embarrassed, as I had no clue what any of this meant. I was disgusted with myself because I knew about the Holocaust and the persecution of the Jewish people and how hard Jews have fought to keep our traditions alive throughout our existence. And yet there I was, so uneducated, being so careless with my Judaism.

That first Friday night at the Harligs' home lit a spark within me that made me want to learn and consume as much information as I could to compensate for the years of having no education or knowledge in Judaism. As I learned more and more, I was fascinated with the question of why we do the things we do. We don't do traditions arbitrarily or casually; we have specific and meaningful explanations for everything. I took steps to gradually change to a more meaningful and spiritually gratifying life as an observant Jew. Observing the Sabbath, eating only kosher foods, keeping my head covered, not shaving my beard and wearing tzitzit were now my way of life.

Being Jewish is great and being a police officer is great, but after I made these life changes, the two didn't seem to mix very well. I always kept my religion to myself at work, especially while working in an undercover role. I didn't wear my yarmulke and tzitzit strings out while involved in undercover police operations. I did, however, keep my head covered with hats, and always wore my tzitzit, but tucked in. I felt protected wherever I went, especially while I was working undercover and not wearing a bulletproof vest.

My Jewish observance remained "undercover," until I was required to participate in a police operation scheduled for Friday, a day I normally had off. Although the operation was canceled, it was to be scheduled again in the near future. I explained to the department head that I observed the Sabbath but would always be willing to work in an emergency; however, this police operation could not be described as an emergency. Therefore, I could not join it on the Sabbath.

In order to avoid future Sabbath conflicts, I voluntarily changed assignments to a desk job. Little did I know, this was to be the start of one of the most defining events in my life.

I met with my new supervisor and explained about keeping my head covered and wearing a beard. My supervisor was very understanding. About six weeks into this new assignment, a high-ranking officer saw me with my beard and ordered it to be removed immediately, making no mention of the yarmulke. I sought the assistance of the department's diversity director and my rabbi for guidance, and did some research on my own.

I discovered a court case that specifically addressed circumstances allowing police officers to wear beards for religious reasons. I presented this information to my department, but was denied permission to wear a beard and yarmulke. I tried to compromise, saying I would wear a plain hat instead, but that too was denied.

The most disturbing fact was that both beards and hats were already allowed under existing policies for my department. After my attempts to compromise were rejected, I was forced to seek the assistance of attorneys for a long and costly battle for my own rights, as well as those of other officers who might face the same opposition.

Support came immediately from Rabbi Mendy and Shea Harlig and from the local Chabad of Nevada community. The ACLU, the Rutherford Foundation and the Muslim group CAIR formally supported my case but no Jewish groups or organizations other than Chabad did. Needless to say, it was extremely disappointing.

I won the right to wear the beard in a preliminary injunction in November 2007. The U.S. District Court ruled that my First Amendment rights with respect to my beard request had been violated by the department. The judge, however, did not rule on the legality of the head covering. Instead, he set the issue for a jury trial. The case never went to trial, since we finally reached a settlement with the police department.

Ironically, in the settlement, the police force agreed to exactly what I had suggested at the beginning, before the prolonged legal battle - a neat beard and a non-yarmulke head covering.

A new policy and procedure has been implemented in the Las Vegas Police Department in order to prevent this type of incident from occurring again. The rulings by the judge have established a precedent for others. However, had the department accepted my compromise earlier, they could have avoided litigation and a large expense for the taxpayers.

Steve Riback lives in Las Vegas with his wife Michal and daughter Gavriella Leah. For more info, visit Reprinted with permission from the N'Shei Chabad Newsletter.

What's New

New Emissaries

Rabbi Motti and Temmi Hadar are moving to Johannesburg, South Africa, where Rabbi Hadar will be the principal of the Torah Academy Boys' High School in Johannesburg.

The California Delta area is getting a new Chabad House. Rabbi Dovber and Chaya Berkowitz will be the directors of the new center, serving the needs of the Jewish residents in Pittsburg, Antioch, Brentwood, Oakley, and Discovery Bay.

Rabbi Shaul and Rosie Pearlstein are arriving soon in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where they will be establishing a new Chabad-Lubavitch Center. Chattanooga is the fourth city in Tennessee to have Shluchim (emissaries) of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

The Rebbe Writes

Freely translated and adapted

27 Adar I, 5711 (1951)

It was upsetting not to have heard any news from you for such a long while. It therefore gladdened me greatly to receive your letter with the news that - thank G-d - your health has improved. Naturally I will read the pidyon nefesh (petition) that you sent at the sacred resting place of my father-in-law, the Rebbe.

Once again, I reiterate my request that you think long and hard about how G-d directs the world as a whole and each and every one of us in particular.

Realizing this will remove your anxieties, for it will then be clear to you that G-d takes care of all matters in the best possible manner. Taking care, [i.e., micromanaging our lives in its every detail,] is not our responsibility; our responsibility is solely regarding matters of performing Torah and mitzvos (commandments), over which we were granted freedom of choice and not over matters that are Divinely ordained and over which we do not have freedom of choice.

With the above, I am not writing anything new; these matters are fundamental and known to all. However, if these matters remain tangential to our lives and we know them only peripherally, and in actual practice we conduct ourselves as if these matters depend on ourselves, then we make our lives - our actual physical lives - extremely difficult.

This, however, is not the case when we are permeated with the concept that "G-d is my shepherd" - then even the body and animal soul are cognizant that "I lack nothing."

Heaven forfend that you think I am chastising you; it is only that I am pained by your anguish and distress which you cause yourself over something that has no foundation and surely is also groundless - and as known, the difference between the service of "tests" (nisyonos), where the difficulty is merely in the person's own mind and once the person succeeds in overcoming the test the difficulty disappears, and the service of "refinement and elevation" (birurim).

Looking forward to hearing glad tidings from you about the improvement in your and your wife's health.

15 Menachem Av, 5717 (1957)

In reply to your letter of the 10th of Menachem [Av,] in which you write that there are times when you feel a constriction in your windpipe:

This is merely a matter of nerves, from which we understand that if you take your mind off this matter and strengthen your bitachon (trust) in G-d, "Healer of all flesh and Performer of wonders," [i.e., the giver of the Torah and its commandments,] then your symptoms will gradually disappear by themselves.

You must, however, provide at least some vessel via natural means in which to receive G-d's healing. You should therefore go to a doctor and follow his instructions.

Of course you should also increase your diligence and assiduousness in your study of Torah, both Toras HaNiglah (the revealed Torah) and Toras HaChassidus (Chasidic philosophy), and see to affect your friends in this direction. When you do so, it will be good for you both materially and spiritually.

5 Kislev, 5715 (1954)

I recently received your letter that came in response to mine. However, even in your second letter I fail to see any grounds for your lack of happiness and for that which you write that suddenly everything has fallen apart.

Since your lack of happiness is based on something without foundation, it can easily disappear - "here today and gone tomorrow" - that is, provided you do not egg it on by morose thoughts that are contrary to the nature of man and the dictates of our Torah of Life that requires us to serve G-d (service which can and must be during every moment of our lives) specifically with joy.

You surely know from your own experience and we verily observe that if at times it is difficult to battle a certain mood, the best advice is to distract your attention from the situation not by fighting these thoughts but by focusing your thoughts elsewhere.

The general catch-phrase for this is: "G-d made man uncomplicated, but they have sought many schemes." Since it is "they," [i.e., the person himself and not G-d,] who is doing the scheming, therefore this can be easily nullified.

As per your request, when I am at the holy resting place of my father-in-law, the Rebbe, of sainted memory, I will mention in prayer all the individuals you wrote about.

I will conclude with my advice - since you sought my counsel:

Completely ignore all your introspective, self-examining thoughts and go forth with confidence along life's path, since G-d's providence accompanies all of us every step of our lives - not only regarding those matters that seem to us to be of great import, but in each and every detail of our lives. And as known, this is one of the fundamentals of the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov, later expounded upon at length in the teachings of Chassidus Chabad.

From Healthy in Body, Mind and Spirit, Vol III, compiled by Rabbi Sholom B. Wineberg, published by Sichos in English

A Call to Action

Study About the Holy Temple

During the "Three Weeks" between 17 Tammuz and 9 Av it is customary to study topics relating to the Holy Temple. "This study should be carried out in anxious anticipation of the Holy Temple being rebuilt. We should study about the Holy Temple with the awareness that in the very near future, we will see what we are studying about in actual reality.

(The Rebbe, 24 Tammuz, 5751)

In memory of Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg and the other kedoshim of Mumbai

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

This past Thursday, on the 17th of Tammuz, (July 9, 2009) we commemorated the beginning of the destruction of the holy city of Jerusalem. For, it was on the 17th of Tammuz that the fortified walls surrounding Jerusalem were breached and began to crack and crumble.

The famous Song of Songs by King Solomon is a song of devotion and commitment between the Jewish people and G-d. One of the verses in it reads, "Here he is standing behind our wall, looking out the window, peering through the lattice." This verse describes how close G-d is to the Jewish people.

On this verse, the Rebbe explained:" "In our generation we see and feel that Moshiach is 'standing behind our wall.' Even more so, the wall is not solid, for it already has windows and lattices. Moshiach is looking out the window and peering through the lattice. He is looking out and waiting; when will we finish the last few things that we have to do here in exile?

"If we do not see Moshiach, it is because it is our wall concealing and hiding Moshiach from us."

The cracking and crumbling of a wall, like the wall surrounding Jerusalem, however, need not be totally negative, especially when the wall is specifically the one concealing Moshiach. A few years ago, the Rebbe discussed the above verse once again and added: "The Righteous Moshiach is on the other side of the wall, a wall which is already cracked and crumbling. And through the windows and lattices thus created, he is looking and peering out at us. It is understood that a glance from Moshiach gives one the personal strength necessary to complete the preparations required of him to be ready to welcome Moshiach."

May the wall, lattice, curtain, or whatever it may be surrounding Moshiach, continue to crack and crumble until we very soon merit the complete revelation of Moshiach to the entire world.

Thoughts that Count

Our father was not in the company of those who gathered together against the L-rd in the company of Korach; but died in his own sin, and had no sons. And Moses brought their cause before the L-rd (Num. 27:3;5)

Moses was reluctant to judge the case of the daughters of Tzelofchad, lest their claim that their father was not "in the company of Korach" be misconstrued as a "bribe" that would invalidate his decision. Therefor, he turned the matter over to G-d to judge it directly.

(Minchat Chinuch)

And if he has no brothers, then you shall give his inheritance to his father's brothers (Num. 27:10)

Why doesn't his inheritance go to his father? Isn't a father a closer personal relation than an uncle? Rather, the Torah goes out of its way not to mention the possibility of a son passing away during his father's lifetime...

(Meirat Einayim)

Let the L-rd, the G-d of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation (Num. 27:16)

Years later, in the times of the Prophet Samuel, the Jewish people would make another request for a Jewish leader when they demanded, "Give us a king." Moses asked G-d to appoint a head "over the congregation," whereas the later request was for a leader who could be easily manipulated by the people.

(Degel Machane Efraim)

The Portion of Pinchas

The Torah portion of Pinchas, which enumerates all the festivals of the year, is usually read during the Three Weeks [between the 17th of Tammuz and the 9th of Av]. This is because in the Messianic era, the 17th of Tammuz will be the "first day of Yom Tov," the 9th of Av will be the "last day of Yom Tov," and the Three-Week period will be "the Intermediate Days of the Festival," as it states (Jeremiah 31:13): "And I will transform their mourning into joy." (On Intermediate Days, the Torah reading reflects the holiday being celebrated.)

(Rabbi Yisrael of Ruzhin)

It Once Happened

Many of the Baal Shem Tov's ways might have seemed strange to an outsider. Reb Zev Wolf Kitzes, the Baal Shem Tov's constant companion, however, had enough confidence in his rebbe never to doubt his actions. He knew that in the end - even if it took years - all would be for the best.

Reb Zev Wolf accompanied the Baal Shem Tov once on a visit to a certain village Jew. The impoverished villager welcomed the Baal Shem Tov into his home whereupon the Baal Shem Tov requested, "I must have a donation of 18 rubles."

The poor man did not have this large sum. But, considering that it was the Baal Shem Tov making the request, the villager took some of his furniture and his cow, sold them and gave the Baal Shem Tov the money. Reb Zev Wolf looked on silently while the Baal Shem Tov took the money and then departed.

Several days later the villager's rent was due on his inn. He could not produce the sum and the landlord evicted him. The villager, seeing no future for himself in this small village, decided to try his luck elsewhere. He finally found himself a tiny hut in a different village with a different landlord. By selling some more of his possessions, the villager managed to buy a cow. The cow provided him with his sole source of income; he sold her milk and eked out a meager living.

Some time later the landlord's cow became sick and her milk was unusable. One of the landlord's servants who knew of the new tenant quickly went to this villager and bought milk for the landlord.

When the landlord was served the milk, he commented, "This milk is of a superior quality. Tell the owner that I will pay handsomely for the privilege of being his only customer."

This incident turned the tide of fortune for the villager. Each day he delivered milk to the manor and each day the landlord commented on the quality of the milk and milk products derived from it. He grew fond of the Jew and began to consult him about his business, slowly turning over to him many responsibilities. The landlord trusted him implicitly and appreciated the Jew's honesty, reliability, and faithful service.

The landlord's relationship and bond with the villager became so deep that, being childless, he transferred ownership of that village and the nearby city to the Jew. Feeling that now everything was in good hands, the landlord took leave and went abroad after having given the Jew legal title to the area.

A few years later, Reb Zev Wolf came to the village of the new landlord collecting money on behalf of Jewish prisoners and captives. Reb Zev Wolf had already collected all but 300 rubles of the sum which the Baal Shem Tov had designated.

Upon meeting with the village rabbi, Reb Zev Wolf questioned him as to why he was so festively attired.

"I am going, together with a group of the town dignitaries, to greet the landlord of this city who will be paying us a visit today. Why don't you come along with us? He is a Jew and will most probably be willing to contribute to your cause."

Reb Zev Wolf accompanied the rabbi and his companions. The landlord greeted the delegation warmly, paying special attention to Reb Zev Wolf. After a little while, the landlord took Reb Zev Wolf aside.

"You don't remember me, do you?" he began. Reb Zev Wolf could not place the wealthy man's face. The landlord went on to retell the story of his change of fortune. Then, he took out 300 rubles and gave it to Reb Zev Wolf.

It was only upon returning to the Baal Shem Tov that Reb Zev Wolf understood the entire story. "The last 300 rubles were donated by the village Jew whom you once asked for a donation of 18 rubles. Today he is a wealthy man."

"Let me now tell you why I extracted that large sum from him when his circumstances were so difficult," began the Baal Shem Tov. "A change of fortune was awaiting the villager in the future but not in that place. It was necessary to bring him to the end of his rope so that he would be forced to leave and settle elsewhere. That is exactly what happened. The rest you already know."

Moshiach Matters

A person might ask: "How can I bring about the Redemption? I am involved only in a small portion of the world." A Jew must infuse G-dliness into his portion of the world. This will affect the whole world, for each portion of the world includes the entire world. Thus, a person can fulfill our Sages' directive, "Every person must say, 'The world was created for me.' " By fulfilling the intent of his individual portion of the world, he can bring the entire world to fulfillment. Through experiencing a personal redemption, and expressing that redemption in every aspect of his conduct, each person can hasten the universal Redemption.

(The Lubavitcher Rebbe, 24 Tammuz, 1991)

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