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1331: Masei

Devarim Deutronomy

July 25, 2014 - 27 Tamuz, 5774

1331: Masei

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  1330: Matos1332: Devarim  

When Did That Happen?  |  Living with the Rebbe  |  A Slice of Life  |  What's New
The Rebbe Writes  |  Today Is ...  |  A Word from the Director  |  Thoughts that Count
It Once Happened  |  Moshiach Matters

When Did That Happen?

Standing near your front door you overhear someone exclaiming in surprise, "These trees blossomed overnight. I'm sure the flowers weren't here yesterday."

You wonder to yourself, "Hmm, were the flowers there yesterday? They couldn't have appeared overnight. Maybe I just didn't notice them!"

The next time, it's you wondering how that house on the corner lot that's been empty for years suddenly appeared. It seems to have materialized from nowhere. Why, you pass this way everyday and never noticed it before.

As you go down the aisles of the supermarket with your shopping list in hand, you stop in front of the coffee. "When did coffee get so expensive," you gasp. "Maybe it's global warming," you mutter. Or maybe you just buy coffee so infrequently that you never noticed the prices getting higher.

Night descends slowly, though suddenly you notice that it is no longer light outside. Light creeps through your window, day dawns. But didn't darkness envelope the world just moments before?

This phenomenon is common to many of life's experiences; though taking place over hours, weeks, months or even over the course of years, they seem to suddenly be manifest in their completeness before our very eyes.

The visual and verbal image many have for the Messianic Era is the "dawning" of a new age, a better world, a perfect world. Not surprisingly, sunrises seem an appropriate illustration of this concept.

Many Jewish sources discuss how the Messianic Era will materialize: Moshiach will come riding on a donkey or on clouds of glory; G-d promises that the Redemption of the Jewish people and the entire world will come "in its time" but that He will "hasten it"; The Talmud tells us that if we see certain behavior and attitudes pervading society (all of which are prevalent today) we should "listen for the footsteps of Moshiach." The Rebbe declared that the time of the Redemption has arrived, if we open our eyes we can see that the table is literally set for the Messianic banquet, all we need to do is greet Moshiach. Yet, we have yet to step over the threshold and into the actual Redemption.

There seem to be contradictions between the sources, even within a particular source, because the movement toward the Redemption is not necessarily perceived. But it's happening.

Since the creation of the world nearly 6,000 years ago, when the spirit of G-d hovered over the waters (and as the commentaries explain, the "spirit" is that of Moshiach) we have been moving toward Moshiach and the Redemption. The time for the Redemption, as the Rebbe stated, has arrived. And the Rebbe sees the dawning (not just the day but the actual process of dawning) of the Redemption with a clarity of perception and vision that most of us lack.

What we can do now is to adjust ourselves now to this new era. We can do this by incorporating into our lives at this very moment how we will naturally be living very soon: performing additional acts of goodness and kindness; studying more Torah; experiencing Jewish living more fully; trying to see G-d's hand everywhere.

Living with the Rebbe

There is a unique factor that features in this week's Torah reading, Masei, that never occurs on any other Sabbath. In the midst of the recounting of the events that occurred to the Jewish people in their journey from Egypt to the Promised Land, the Torah relates that in the 40th year of their wanderings, on the first day of the fifth month, Aaron the High Priest died. Now when we count the months from Nissan, as the Torah does, the fifth month of the Jewish calendar is Av. Parshat Masei is always read in the month of Av or on the Sabbath on which that month is blessed. Thus on Shabbat Masei, we are reading about an event integrally related to the time.

Now the Torah does not inform us explicitly of the date of the death of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses or Miriam. The fact that it does so with regard to Aaron and, moreover, that this passage is always read close to the very day that this passing took place is certainly significant.

What singles out the month of Av? It is the month of the destruction of the Temple: the First Temple, by the Babylonians and the Second Temple, by the Romans. Our Sages ask why the Second Temple was destroyed and explain that the destruction came because of the sin of unwarranted hatred. There was strife and enmity among the people. Moreover, this was not merely a spiritual factor. As anyone aware of the history of that era knows, it was the rivalry, in-fighting, and discord among the Jewish people themselves that cost them their supplies of food and water and, ultimately, led to their defeat by the Romans.

What was unique about Aaron the High Priest? His continuous efforts to establish peace and harmony among the Jewish people. Why is Aaron's death associated with the month of Av? Our Sages state: Gd prepares the cure before the wound. Centuries before there arose the strife and friction that led to the destruction of the Temple, Gd saw to it that the month of Av would be influenced by Aaron who stood for the opposite qualities, friendship and love.

The destruction of the Temple is not merely a story of the past. On the contrary, our Sages state that whoever does not see the Temple built in his days should consider it as if it was destroyed in his days. Moreover, the same factor that led to the destruction of the Temple, the lack of unity and oneness among our people, is also preventing it from being rebuilt. For according to the Jewish tradition, reward and punishment is given "measure for measure." It follows that were the friction and strife that were the cause of the exile to be eradicated, the result, the exile itself, would also cease.

Now is the time to take a cue from Aaron the High Priest and proactively seek out our fellowmen and heighten the bonds of love and unity that bind us together.

From Keeping in Touch, adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe by Rabbi E. Touger, published by Sichos in English.

A Slice of Life

Torah - A Mathematical Equation
by Leah Merenfeld

From a speech at the annual Lubavitch Women's Organization convention.
In my home growing up in Miami, Florida, we jumped at any excuse to get together and eat. Rosh Hashana we ate our apples dipped in honey. Yom Kippur I remember most the "break-fast." On Passover we had a seder, but inevitably half-way through my grandfather complained that he was hungry and we would cut straight to the meal.

My parents are both doctors. And like all Jewish doctors they just knew all of their children would follow in their footsteps. Well they are still waiting.

My introduction to Chabad was through my older twin brothers Noach and Josh. I was nine and they were 18 when Noach stumbled into a Judaica store with his buddy on the way back from the beach. The owner was actually an emissary of the Rebbe, Rabbi Daniel Greene. He encouraged them to put on tefillin, then he asked if they would be interested in joining some Torah classes. Noach said, "Absolutely not, but maybe my brother is!" A few months later, Josh was off to a yeshiva in Seagate, New York.

My family was left wondering, "We always knew Josh was quirky. But maybe he cracked?" My parents had all the usual complaints: "They're brain-washing you. What about college? You're not going to eat my food? You're not going to answer my calls on Saturdays? Will you still hug Grandma?" Understandably they were very worried. Josh (now Yehoshua) was entering a life they knew nothing about. They felt so disconnected; they were worried that this would permanently separate them from their son. But they couldn't have been more wrong.

Fast-forward one year. After having given Josh a hard time for long enough Noach started going to the local Chabad House of Rabbi Shloime and Faige Halsband and he brought me and my younger sister Sammi along. We loved hanging out with our older brother all Saturday, we loved chatting with Faige, and we loved the food. We thought it was so cool doing something that none of our friends were doing.

I learned for the first time what it means to observe Shabbat. Though it was difficult, it was fun. But most importantly it was the first time I felt Jewish. Until then I had never met a Jew who lives with Judaism as the top priority. At the Chabad House I realized we Jews are different. And if we are different we must act differently. But my parents weren't prepared to let their young daughters turn around their lives, nor were they prepared to turn their own lives around.

After Noah went to yeshiva, and later on both Josh and Noah got married, my initial enthusiasm for Torah was forgotten. I entered what I call my "typical teen" phase in high school and college. There was lots of partying and at first it was fun and exciting. But eventually it became very repetitive.

Also, being Torah observant just made sense to me, like a mathematical equation. If Jews were given the gift of Shabbat and keep Shabbat, and I am a Jew, then I should keep Shabbat. If a=b and b=c then a=c. Also seeing my brother's homes, the warmth, the incredible self-control, the dedication, and their cute kids, definitely had an effect on me.

Soon I decided I would only eat kosher meat. I started being really careful about the time to light Shabbat candles. At the time I was working at a kosher supermarket which was very conducive to my change. But there was something that always bothered me there. All the customers thought I was not Jewish like the rest of the employees. They would tell me "have a great weekend" while saying "have a good Shabbos" to the owner. It drove me crazy. That's when I started dressing Jewishly - modestly. Nobody ever told me "have a great weekend" again!

One day at university on break between classes, I called up Noach and Yehoshua and told them I would be moving up to New York to study at this mysterious place called Machon Chana, a yeshiva for young women like me. They were very excited. Now I had to tell my parents.

Keep in mind this was 10 years after Yehoshua had moved to New York. The twins were both married, had beautiful children, a supportive community, stable jobs, good marriages, and a thirst for Torah learning. My parents had completely accepted their lifestyle, even admired it. My father was putting on tefilin every weekday. My mother lights Shabbat candles every week at the correct time, and attends a weekly class. By the time I told them I wanted to study in Machon Chana they were saying "Well what are you still doing in Florida?"

In September I moved into the Machon Chana dorm. I had a lot of catching up to do, about 18 years worth! One of the things I had to get used to was the never ending thirst for knowledge and self-improvement. I had never seen so much extra-curricular studying in my entire life.

It took me time to adjust but I pushed on and continued to grow each day. I truly feel like I've found my place in this community. Everybody takes care of everybody here, something I think people take for granted. And in Machon Chana the care that Rabbi Majeski, Mrs. Gansburg, and all the teachers and mentors have for each girl is inconceivable.

Rabbi Majeski literally makes time for every student and every single problem. There is an ongoing joke in the dorm that we all wish Rabbi Majeski could be our Zaidy. Mrs. Gansburg, our dorm mother, has been with Machon Chana for nearly 40 years. Her stories and her wisdom make her so special. As for the teachers, mentors, staff and dorm counselors, we have a great team supporting us. They help us with incorporating this new lifestyle without losing ourselves and individual personalities, and setting reasonable goals. One thing I appreciate most about all of them is the level of respect with which they treat each student. I remember coming here and feeling so overwhelmed. How could I ever catch up on my lost years? But the curriculum is planned in such a way that we cover so much ground, in depth, without feeling overwhelmed.

The friends I've met here are the most caring and diverse I've ever had. We have students from all over the world coming together for one common purpose - to study Torah. But when they come to Machon Chana they leave their differences at the door.

I feel so honored to be a part of this institution whose students the Rebbe called "my daughters." Machon Chana has changed me in every way imaginable. Being one of the Rebbe's daughters gives you a boost of refinement, maturity, intellectualism, energy, confidence, and love for Torah. I will be very sad to leave this year, but I couldn't feel more prepared.

What's New

My Jewish Days of the Week

My Jewish Days of the Week is a fun-filled journey toward the best day of all. It begins with a family Sunday spent in the garden, a busy Monday spent at school, and ends with Thursday grocery shopping and Friday cooking and cleaning. All week long, the characters prepare for the experience of ushering in and observing Shabbat. The catchy rhymes and old-world illustrations portray everyday life as a joyous adventure for toddlers. The text is set in a large clear font, the pages are laminated and a beautiful chart at the end of the book reviews all the days of the week in both English and Hebrew. Written by Dvora Waysman illustrated by Melanie Schmidt, published by HaChai Publishing.

The Rebbe Writes

Continued from the previous issue, from a letter dated 16 Tammuz 5743 [1983]

Needless to say, the layman cannot be familiar with all the sources and has no way of verifying the facts. But what does a layman do in other areas, medical science for example? A patient may well have his doubts about the efficacy of a drug prescribed by his physician. Will he refuse to take it until he has been able to attend medical courses and learn all that his doctor has learned in his lifetime studies and experience? Will he not rely on the authority of the medical specialist? If he has doubts about the expertise of one doctor, he can obtain a second opinion, and a third; but when all agree that he needs that medicine and the prescribed medical regimen, would he refuse to take that expert advice, even if he still has "strong doubts" about it?

By the same token, if you will ask any "specialist" in Yiddishkeit [Judaism] - a person who has dedicated his life to the study of Torah and actually lives by the Torah and mitzvoth [commandments] in his everyday life and conduct, what is the right thing for you to do, the answer will be the same, because Jews have only one Torah and one Halachah [Jewish law]. Indeed, if in matters of physical health it is logical that na'aseh [we will do] must come before nishma [we will understand] - how much more so in matters of the eternal soul (with which the wellbeing of the body is also intimately connected).

I have taken time out to write to you at some length, even though it is also common sense, and it is not original with me, for you can find it, and more, in such sources as the Kuzari and other works of our great Jewish philosophers, because I have in mind the saying of our Sages, "There is no point in bewailing the past." I trust that the wrong actions you are contemplating and have already initiated as a result of your woefully erroneous conclusion, may yet be reversed, and that this letter may help you see your way clear to do what is good and proper, good and proper also for you and your family, which is also why this letter is being sent via Special Delivery.

Incidentally, this letter is being written on the day before the Fast of the 17th of Tammuz, commemorating the fateful breach in the wall of Jerusalem under siege, which eventually led to the destruction of the Beis Hamikdosh [Holy Temple]. It reminds us, everyone of us, to do our utmost to eliminate the cause that led to the Destruction and Golus [exile], the sole cause being, as we say in our prayer Umipnei chato'einu - "Because of our sins we have been exiled from our land."

It particularly reminds us how careful one must be not to let anything make even a crack in the wall that protects "Jerusalem," yira-shalem [total fear], the "inner Beis Hamikdosh" which is the most cherished possession of every Jew - the indestructible counterpart of the physical Beis Hamikdosh that stood in Jerusalem of old. This inner Sanctuary is what G-d desires most, as implied in His order and request, "Let them make Me a Mikdosh [Sanctuary] and I will dwell among [in the midst and within] them"; within them - within every Jew and every Jewish home.

With blessing,

Today Is ...

Rosh Chodesh Menachem Av

The unique quality of Mashiach is that he will be humble. Though he will be the ultimate in greatness, for he will teach Torah to the Patriarchs and to Moses still he will be the ultimate in humility and self-nullification, for he will also teach simple folk.

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

The rebuilding of the Third Holy Temple is central to the Redemption. Maimonides states that the rebuilding of the Temple will actually confirm that the Redemption has begun.

There are two different opinions as to who will build the Temple. According to the Zohar, G-d Himself will build the Temple. The Midrash states that people will build the eternal Holy Temple.

Maimonides' ruling agrees with the Midrash, saying that rebuilding the Temple is a commandment incumbent upon the Jewish people. Although these opinions may seem at variance, they are, in fact, not contradictory.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains that the Jewish people will build part of the Temple, as commanded, and that the Divine features of the Temple - those aspects which will ensure its eternity - will be built by G-d Himself.

Maimonides does not mention Divine participation because his work is a work of halacha, Jewish law; he writes only about that which is incumbent upon the Jewish people.

The man-made and the G-dly components will be combined in the Holy Temple.

Chasidic thought teaches that this combination of man's effort "from below," united with G-d's effort "from above," is the true meaning of Redemption.

For, with the Redemption, the material and the spiritual will be eternally and fully bound.

One explanation of how they will be com-bined is brought from the verse in Lamentations, "Her gates sank into the ground..."

The Midrash asserts that the gates of the Holy Temple are buried on the Temple Mount. When the Third Temple descends from heaven, the gates will rise up - but only with man's help. As the one who fixes the gates is considered to have built entire house, so too, in this case, the Jews will thus fulfill the commandment to build the Holy Temple by fixing its gates in place.

May it happen in the immediate future.

Thoughts that Count

Know what is above you - an Eye that sees, an Ear that hears and all your deeds are recorded in a book (Ethics, 2:1).

All three of these things are "above" a person in the sense that they are beyond his control: The Eye observes against one's will; the Ear listens against one's will; and all of one's deeds are recorded in G-d's book whether one likes it or not

(Ktav Sofer)

And all your deeds are recorded in a book (Ethics, 2:1).

Why does it say that G-d writes our deeds down? Does He really need a notebook to remind him of man's actions? Rather, the fact that each deed is recorded serves to remind us that our actions down below are important and make a definite impression above. (It is interesting to note that this saying is attributed to Rabbi Yehuda Hanassi, who was responsible for compiling the Mishna and committing it to writing because of the difficulties and hardships of the exile)

(Blossoms, Rabbi Yisroel Rubin)

Rabbi Shimon said: 'One who sees the consequences of his actions' (Ethics, 2:10)

What is meant by "seeing" instead of "understanding" the results of one's actions? Although a person may very well under-stand intellectually that a certain course of action will lead him to sin, unless that rational understanding is internalized, he may not refrain from transgressing. The intellect is not always strong enough to rule over the emotions. Furthermore, the Evil Inclina-tion sometimes presents itself clothed in logical rationalizations, which nonetheless lead a person astray. Seeing, however, indicates a degree of understanding deeper than mere intellectual comprehension. It is very difficult to dissuade a person from believing something he has seen with his own two eyes.

(Biurim L'Pirkei Avot)

Rabbi Shimon said, "Be meticulous in reading the Shema and in prayer" (Ethics, 2:13).

The Hebrew word for "meticulous," "zahir," relates to the word "zohar," which means "to shine." Rabbi Shimon specified reciting the Shema and praying, as opposed to Torah study, because these services are relevant to each and every Jew, regardless of his level of learning. Every Jew is enjoined to shine forth and illuminate his surroundings in this manner. Although in general, the concept of exuding light is associated with Torah study, Rabbi Shimon generated the potential for such light to be produced through the services of reciting the Shema and the daily prayers."

(Lubavitcher Rebbe)

It Once Happened

While the Holy Temple stood, G-d gave the Jews a way to purify themselves from even the grossest impurity, and that was through sprinkling upon them the ashes of a red heifer. But finding such a cow was no easy matter. First of all, it had to be completely red, with not even the slightest admixture of another color.

Secondly, it had to be a cow which had never borne a yoke on its neck, that is, a cow which had not yet been used for any work. Such a heifer was rare, and, therefore, every valuable, and the Sages would go to great lengths to procure one.

So, when the Sages heard that a red heifer was owned by a certain gentile, they travelled to seen him and to examine the heifer. Upon close examination, they saw that the cow was completely kosher and they offered to buy it. "We would like to buy this cow from you and we will gladly meet your price. How much do you want?"

The gentile was very agreeable and answered, "If you pay what I'm asking, I will sell it to you." The man realized that this was his chance to make a good profit. He said, "I'm asking three, no, four gold coins."

Although the price was high, the Sages didn't haggle. They agreed at once, saying only that they had to return home for the rest of the money.

When they left, the gentile began to think: Why did the Jews want this particular cow? What was so special about it? And if something was so special about this cow, perhaps he should have asked a higher price. He thought and thought, until he remembered that the Jews needed a red calf for their Temple. He decided to renegotiate when they came back.

The rabbis returned shortly, expecting to make the purchase and return home, but the gentile refused to sell the animal! He demanded a much higher price--a thousand gold coins! The rabbis were shocked,but acquiesced and returned home to get the enormous sum of money required.

The gentile, however, wasn't satisfied. Now he decided to have one up on them. He would put a yoke on the cow's back - why, they would never know and he would get the money anyway! What he didn't know was that there were two signs distinguishing a cow that has never worked from a cow which has borne a yoke: there are two hairs on a cow's neck that stand up straight before a yoke is placed upon it and a cow's eyes look straight ahead. Afterward, its eyes tend to cross and look to the side.

The Sages returned, money in hand, ready to bring the precious heifer back to Jerusalem with them. They examined it for a final time, but they couldn't believe their eyes! The telltale hairs on the heifer's back were now flat and crooked. They checked the heifer's eyes, and they were crossed and gazed to the side. They understood that they'd been duped. The cow that had been priceless in value was now worthless.

Meanwhile, the gentile, never suspecting a problem, was impatiently waiting to receive his money. His mouth dropped open when he heard the words: "We have no use for your cow now, since by putting a yoke in it, you have made it invalid for use in our Holy Temple. We will have to look further for a red heifer." With those words, the rabbis turned and sadly made their way back to Jerusalem without the coveted cow?

The gentiles was shocked by what had occurred. He had thought to play a joke on the Jews, but he had never dreamed that he would be the one to suffer. His opinion of the Jewish Sages changed to one of respect and admiration. How had these holy men been able to discern any difference in the heifer? The man suffered from his great disappointment to such an extent that his health suffered and he was never the same again.

Moshiach Matters

Along with the obligation to believe in the redemption through Moshiach, Maimonides rules that it is also an incontestable principle of Judaism to constantly long for Moshiach's arrival. This genuine longing stems from the awareness that life as a Jew, both nationally and individually, is incomplete in its current state. For someone who lives constantly desiring an urgent need be met, the mere mention of the topic inevitably brings a heartfelt prayer for his hope to be fulfilled. Thus, in order to teach the extent of our obligation to anticipate Moshiach's arrival, Maimonides inserted a prayer for Moshiach in the midst of the entirely unrelated laws of the Red Heifer. He thereby exemplified how anxiously we must yearn for Moshiach's speedy revelation. Amen, so may it be G-d's will.

(Likutei Sichot vol. 28)

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