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Devarim Deutronomy

June 29, 2018 - 16 Tamuz, 5778

1528: Balak

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The Weekly Publication For Every Jewish Person
Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.

  1527: Chukas1529: Pinchas  

It Pays to Be Thorough  |  Living with the Rebbe  |  A Slice of Life  |  What's New
The Rebbe Writes  |  All Together  |  A Word from the Director  |  Thoughts that Count
It Once Happened  |  Moshiach Matters

It Pays to Be Thorough

You're expecting some guests.

You clean the bathroom, straighten out the books on the bookshelf, dust the furniture, and hide all the bits and pieces in your junk drawer and clutter closet. Everything looks fine from the outside.

And then, like a bolt of lightning, it hits you. How could you have forgotten that among the guests will be your grandmother, a neat-nut if you ever saw one? Just doing the outside, surface stuff won't be enough.

So you start cleaning a little more seriously. You clean out the fridge, straighten up your bedroom (you were just planning on closing the door), and scrub the bathtub. Then run to get some of Grandma's provisions: decaffeinated tea, bran flakes, and prunes.

Starting this Shabbat, we enter the period known as the "Three Weeks." It is a three-week mourning period for the destruction of Jerusalem and the two Holy Temples. It is also an opportunity to focus on and propel ourselves forward to the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Third Holy Temple.

"Next year in Jerusalem" "I believe with perfect faith..." smashing a glass under the chupa... At different moments in our lives, consciously or unconsciously, we have prayed for the Redemption.

Throughout our lives, the mitzvot we have done have helped to hasten the Redemption - the ultimate purpose for the creation of the world. Our mitzvot - those between ourselves and G-d and those between ourselves and our fellowmen - have been effecting spiritual changes in the world which will eventually lead to the spiritual and physical perfection of the world in the Messianic Era.

What does all of this have to do with guests and cleaning?

In our regular day-to-day lives, we straighten a little, take the garbage out, load up the dishwasher, do the laundry. We listen to a friend's tale of woe, give a coin to a street person, visit a sick friend, drive the kids to Hebrew school.

At special times, when "guests" are coming, we clean a little more vigorously and straighten a bit more enthusiastically. We go to a seder, light a Chanuka menora, hear the sounding of the shofar.

Then, there's now. Not just any guest is coming, a very close relative will be arriving soon. And special measures need to be taken. We know we need to clean the insides - the insides of our fridge and the inside of the tub. We go beyond the closed doors of our bedrooms and closets and straighten those up, too.

A special guest will be arriving soon, a close relative to every one of us - Moshiach. It should hit us like a bolt of lighting: We have to do more than we've done in the past. We have to clean up the insides and behind the closed doors. We have to do more mitzvot, go to classes, read about Moshiach and the Redemption. We have to go out of our way to have in our house the "necessities" that this special guest would like to see there: mezuzot on our doors, Jewish books, a tzedaka box in a place of importance. And we have to try to live like the Redemption is already here by being kinder, more considerate, less competitive, more truthful.

Living with the Rebbe

In this week's Torah portion, Balak, we read how the Moabite King Balak hired the wicked Bilaam to curse the Jews. But ultimately, G-d forces him to bless them instead. Thus Bilaam says the famous words, "How goodly are your tents, O Jacob, your dwelling places, O Israel! ... Those who bless them will be blessed, and those who curse them will be cursed."

The utterly disgusted Balak sends Bilaam away for blessing the Jews rather than cursing them. Before leaving, though, Bilaam goes on to say a prophecy of the end of days and Moshiach's coming: "I see it, but not now; I behold it, but not soon. A star has gone forth from Jacob, and a staff will arise from Israel which will crush the princes of Moab and uproot all the sons of Seth..." He also speaks about the eventual destruction of Esau, Amalek and Assyria.

What purpose does it serve for G-d to have the prophecy of Moshiach's coming said specifically by a wicked, Jew-hating person like Bilaam?

Just to add fuel to the fire. This prophecy is found in the Torah portion of Balak, which is named after a wicked, Jew- hating king. In addition, there are no mitzvot (commandments) in this portion and the portion ends with the Jewish people degrading themselves to a low level of immorality.

In what seems to be the lowest Torah portion, the lowest of people - Bilaam - prophesies the greatest event the Jewish people will ever experience. This event is one of the 13 principles of Judaism: the coming of Moshiach.

This is truly a testament to the power of the Jewish people, to transform even the darkest of places, the darkest of situations.

We have the ability and the obligation to shine light and lift and transform even the most profane to holiness. What's more, G-d puts us in these dark situations and gives us the power to transform them.

When you lift from the bottom, you lift the whole thing.

That is the message found in the fact that the prophecy of Moshiach is found in this portion, seemingly the lowest, by Bilaam the lowest of people. Even a Bilaam changes to be able to say Moshiach's prophecy.

How amazing is G-d that He has ordained that through us, the lowest, darkest situations and most evil people can and will be transformed to goodness and light. We are truly blessed.

Adapted by Rabbi Yitzi Hurwitz from the teachings of the Rebbe, Rabbi Hurwitz, who is battling ALS, and his wife Dina, are emissaries of the Rebbe in Temecula, Ca.

A Slice of Life

It Will Blossom
with Rabbi Nissan Mangel

This spring was the 30th International March Of The Living in Poland, which was attended by tens of thousands. Many of them were survivors of the Holocaust and/or their family members, while others were just concerned individuals.

Rabbi Nissan Mangel, one of the youngest survivors of numerous concentration camps was a featured speaker throughout the event. Rabbi Mangel related one of the more powerful and moving moments.

I was interviewed by a highly respected reporter of one of the main Television stations. The understanding was, while we will be speaking in English, the station will be translating it simultaneously into Polish, with subtitles. As the hour long interview was coming to a closure, the moderator said, "Rabbi Mangel, I will like to ask one final question. The question is, 'What is the future of Judaism in Poland?'"

I replied, "Our sages teach us that a Roman governess asked the Jewish scholars the following question; 'Your religion believes that the dead will come back to life. That means that the same person and body comes back to life. That can be understood if you are speaking about a recently deceased person. So then the Creator gives life to the dead body.

" 'However, what are you going to explain when it comes to the bodies of earlier generations of hundreds and even thousands of years ago? Their bodies have decomposed, so if there is a new life, it is not them that are coming back to life, it will be new bodies."

"The sage replied, there is a bone in the vertebrae (the spinal column, which in Hebrew is called the Luz bone), and that bone does not decompose. You can try to shatter it with a sledge hammer, burn it in a fire or place it in an acid, yet it will remain intact. That bone belonged to that persons body and from that bone all those who are brought back to life, will live.

"Based on this I will reply to your question.

"The chimney of the crematorium was at least 14 meters (around 40 feet) high. There were times that the fire was so powerful that instead of ashes coming out of the chimney top, we witnessed flames, so it was an incredible powerful fire. Yet at the end of the day, when the ashes of the bottom of the crematorium was shoveled out, there were small bones among them. No one understood how those bones survived the fire. Now I know that it was that bone that our sages were talking about.

"Before the war, the Jewish population in Poland was around three million. After the war there were only seven thousand Jews left in Poland. That means that almost ninety-eight percent of Polish Jewry were killed or banished from their homeland.

"From the remaining two percent that remained in Poland, more than half of them were afraid to identify as Jews, they hid their identity. So indeed we were decimated.

"But the small bone can not be destroyed. Now over 70 years later, look at the Jewish communal rebirth in Poland. Yes, it is like the rebirth of the dead.

"So you want to know about the future of Polish Jewry? It will blossom."

The following day, a woman from one of the prestigious magazines came to interview me. In the course of the conversation, she said a few Hebrew expressions and I asked her if she is Jewish. She replied, "No, but I visited Israel and I picked up these expressions."

As the interview was coming to an end and I was about to leave, the reporter who interviewed me the previous day came into the room and said, "Rabbi will you please respond again to the question I asked you yesterday, at the end of our meeting?"

Although it was late, I felt that it would be better if I oblige so I repeated it.

They both thanked me and he walked me to where I had to be.

On the way there he said, "Rabbi I have to tell you; after you left the interview yesterday, I sat in the office for five minutes. I was shaking from emotions. I am a child of one of the Jews who hid their identity. No one in the corporation knows that I am Jewish. In fact, besides the few Jewish friends that I am associated with, who also hide their identity, no one knows that I (or they) are Jewish.

"But I decided to act on what you said, you ignited the flame in that little bone that you were talking about and I announced to everyone that I am being rejuvenated and I am stating publically that I am a Jew and will live like a Jew.

"The lady who just interviewed you is also Jewish and she was baptized, so if you ask her if she is Jewish, she would reply, 'No!'

"Therefore, I wanted her to hear it from you directly that she too should realize who she really is and declare her birthright as a Jew. So I came to you as the interview with her was ending and I know she will put it in the article. Knowing her I am positive she too will declare her Jewishness!

"Hopefully hundreds and thousands of our brothers and sisters that will see you on the Television and/or read the article she will write, where this statement will be a headline and will be inspired as well. Rabbi, Thank you."

What's New

Chicken Soup Conference

A need for a full-day conference about Chicken Soup? According to Chabad on Call there is, which is why they held a day long conference in Brooklyn this month. During a crisis, illness, or traumatic event, the Rebbe's emissaries are always there, bringing comfort and warmth to those who need it. And Chabad on Call is there for the Chabad emissaries who service medical centers through education, networking, and practical resources. The conference provided tools for navigating the social, cultural, psychological, and Jewish legal issues that arise when dealing with illness and bereavement.

Tanya Printed at British Headquarters

A very unique Tanya was printed at the headquarters of the British Army, to give strength and support to the members of the armed forces. This special event was coordinated with Major Rabbi Reuben Livingstone, chief chaplain to the British Armed Forces

The Rebbe Writes

26th of Tishrei, 5718 [1957]

Blessing and Greeting:

I received your letter of the beginning of September. My reply was delayed on account of the intervening Holy Days.

Inasmuch as you do not mention anything about your health, I trust that everything is in order, and I shall always be glad to hear good news from you.

In reference to what you write about the two schools of medical thought, namely, one that favors artificial means and external treatment, and the other favoring natural recovery, seeking to bring about an improvement in health through the internal strengthening of the natural powers of the organism itself; and for some reason you think that the Jewish religion prefers the first method --

In general, you are mistaken in this view, inasmuch as our religion has expressed no specific preference for one or the other. On the other hand, one of the greatest adherent[s] of the naturalistic school was none other than the great Maimonides, who was both the outstanding Talmudist and Codifier, as well as one of the greatest physicians of his age, whose influence in medical science is felt to this day. At the same time, he is also one of the greatest authorities on Jewish law to this day. In his famous Code of Jewish Law, he strongly defends the naturalistic approach (cf. Hilechoth Deoth).

Your defense of the naturalistic school does not entirely hold good, as can also be seen from Maimonides, quoted above. Your arguments that there should be no interference with the course of nature and the Divine order, and to permit the organism itself to recover without outside interference, etc., would be valid if we were dealing with a perfect organism in its perfect natural state. Unfortunately, such a thing hardly exists, for there is no perfection in this physical world, largely due to the fact that extraneous factors come into play, such as accidents, war, and the like, or an unnatural way of life, such as over-indulgence in food and material pleasures. In a case of an organism thus affected, it cannot be argued that no extraneous methods be used to correct that which has been caused by extraneous forces, and that nature itself will do the job. Moreover, the maladies of present day are often the result of cumulative effect, not only of the individual himself, but of generations that sinned against the Divine order.

Needless to say, it is not my intention to convey the idea that I leave no room at all for the naturalistic method of treatment. My only intention is to exclude the extreme form of application of this method, as the best method is the combination of both, in the proper ratio, which depends in each case on its own merit.

Finally, I would also mention that here too we find an analogy between the physical and spiritual, especially in the life of the Jew. I mean to say that the spiritual health of the Jew is determined by his daily conduct, in accordance with the Torah and Mitzvoth [commandments], and, similarly, his physical health is dependent upon his spiritual health, which is the natural way of life for the Jew. Hence, the observant Jew, who has led as nearly perfect a life as possible, requires no special precautions to guard himself against temptation, etc., whereas the one who is not so well equipped, must take precaution upon precaution, and set a fence around a fence to protect himself through doing even a little better than the minimum required by the Torah. It is surely unnecessary to elaborate on this.

With prayerful wishes to hear good news from you, and

With blessing,

The enclosed message, which is of timely interest throughout the year will, I trust, be of interest to you, and you will make good use of it.

All Together

GIDON (Gideon) means a "mighty warrior." Gidon, one of the Judges of Israel (Judges 6:11), was also a warrior who defeated the Midianites in a surprise night attack. He was from the tribe of Menashe.

GITA is from the Yiddish, meaning "good." Variant forms are Gite, Gittel, Gitty, Gutta. The Hebrew version of the name would be "Tova." (Not to be confused with the name Toba, Yiddish for "dove," and the Hebrew equivalent of which would be "Yona.")

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

This Shabbat is the 17th of Tammuz and the fast usually commemorated on this date is postponed until Sunday. The Rebbe explained that there are two ways of explaining the fact that the fast is put off:

It is forbidden to fast on Shabbat, because no element of sadness should be associated with this day. In particular, this applies in regard to those fasts that commemorate national calamities.

The postponement serves as a foretaste of the revelation of the true nature of the date of the fast that will surface in the Era of the Redemption when, as Maimonides writes, "all the fasts will be nullified... and will be transformed into festivals and days of joy and rejoicing."

On an overt level, a fast day is obviously undesirable. The suffering endured on a fast is surely not pleasurable, nor appreciated. Never-theless, the inner dimension of a fast is good, as the prophet states, "It is a day of will to G-d."

This contrast is openly expressed in regard to the 17th of Tammuz. On an obvious level it is associated with negative factors, the breaching of the walls of Jerusalem, which led to the destruction of the Holy Temple. Nevertheless, its inner, essential quality is good. This is even alluded to in the date itself, for 17 is numerically equivalent to the word "tov." This points to the intent of the exile, that it should lead the Jews to the Era of the Redemption.

The connection to the Redemption also relates to Shabbat which is a foretaste of "the era which is all Shabbat and rest for eternity." Moreover, the mitzva of delighting in the Shabbat by partaking of material delicacies is also paralleled by "the feast that G-d will make for the righteous in that future era." That feast will be an actual physical meal. For, as Chasidut explains, the ultimate reward of the Messianic Era will be experienced in this material world, as the souls are enclothed within the body.

May this take place immediately!

Thoughts that Count

Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said: "Each and every day a Heavenly Voice goes forth from Mount Choreb... (Ethics 6:2)

Our souls exist on several planes simultaneously. This Heavenly Voice reverberates, and is "heard" by our souls as they exist in the spiritual realms. And this causes our souls as they are enclothed within our bodies to be aroused to teshuva.

(Likkutei Sichos, Vol. IX, p. 25)

This is the way to acquire Torah: Eat bread with salt, drink water in small measure, sleep on the ground, live a life of deprivation, and toil in the Torah.... (Ethics 6:4)

Both poverty and wealth present challenges to divine service. The challenge of wealth, however, is greater than the challenge of poverty. When a person is prosperous, there is a natural tendency for him to think, "My strength and the power of my hand achieved this bounty for me."Such an approach runs in direct contradiction to the study of Torah. For the essence of our relationship with the Torah revolves around kabbalat ol - absolute acceptance of G-d's laws, even when they run contrary to one's own thinking. Any material success we may enjoy should be regarded as a reward given by G-d, and should not lead to pride. Few of us today are beset by the challenges of extreme poverty. We do, however, confront the challenges of wealth. To overcome these challenges, we need self-control, and the reinforcement, humility and strength that one person can offer a friend.

(Likkutei Sichot, Vol. II, 643-644)

Torah is greater than priesthood or royalty. For royalty is acquired [together] with 30 tendencies, and the priesthood with 24, but for one to acquire Torah, he must have the following 48 tendencies... (Ethics 6:6)

Tendencies - The beraisa uses the word "tendencies" rather than "virtues" to emphasize that a person should not be concerned with his own virtue or achievements. Instead, he should humbly view the positive qualities he possesses merely as mediums enabling him to carry out G-d's will.

(Likkutei Sichot, Vol. IX, p. 367)

From In the Paths of Our Fathers,

It Once Happened

About 120 years ago there was a large wave of Jewish immigration to the Holy Land. Many people came as part of organized groups, while others arrived as individuals. The majority settled in the Old City of Jerusalem, which soon became extremely overcrowded. But there were very few other options, as the gentiles were reluctant to sell any property to Jews.

Beyond the walls of Jerusalem was desolate wasteland, vast stretches of stony, uninhabited terrain. Bands of plundering Arabs roamed about freely, and Jews rarely ventured outside the relative safety of their enclave. Even the settlement that had recently been founded by the famous Sir Moses Montefiore was having difficulty attracting occupants. Many courageous Jews who had moved there had subsequently given up and returned to the Old City.

One Shabbat an announcement was made that quickly spread throughout the Jewish quarter. Reb Zalman Baharan (the son of Rabbi Nachum of Shadik) would be holding an urgent meeting right after sundown to discuss the expansion of the Jewish settlement of Jerusalem. No one expected that a simple meeting could lead to practical results, but as Reb Zalman was a respected member of the community, everyone complied.

That Saturday night over a hundred people were crammed into the Menachem Zion synagogue when Reb Zalman proposed his plan for a new settlement, calling upon everyone present to contribute a majida (worth 100 coins) to the building fund as a show of good faith. Unbelievably, by the end of the evening, no less than 100 majidot had been collected to purchase land for the new development.

It took several years until Meah Shearim, the first Jewish settlement in modern times outside the walls of Old Jerusalem, was founded. But when it finally came to fruition it greatly alleviated the Jews' desperate living conditions, and many more settlements followed in its wake.

Our story takes place during the time after the land was purchased but before construction had actually begun. This is what happened:

Reb Zalman Baharan had a beloved student by the name of Issachar. When Issachar reached marriageable age he was betrothed to a girl from a fine family, but two years passed after their engagement and they were still not married. Eventually the bride's father gave Issachar an ultimatum: Either marry my daughter at once, or break off the engagement.

Unfortunately, Issachar did not have two cents to rub together, let alone enough money to make a wedding and support a wife. He could not recall the last time he had bought a new article of clothing.

Reb Zalman was touched by the young man's plight and longed to help him. At first he considered going from door to door collecting donations, but he knew that his student would never accept a handout. To further complicate matters, his own dire financial straits prevented him from helping Issachar, either.

Now, Reb Zalman had a cousin who also named Zalman; to differentiate between the two, one was called Reb Zalman Baharan and the other Reb Zalman Baharil (ben Harav Yaakov Leib's). Reb Zalman decided to ask his cousin's advice, and the two Zalmans put their heads together to devise a plan.

It was obvious that they couldn't take out a loan, for how would they ever repay it? Reb Zalman Baharil then suggested that they wait until Sukkot and sell etrogim, but his cousin countered that it would deprive the regular etrog merchants of their livelihood. In the end it was Reb Zalman Baharan himself who came up with a viable plan: The field they had just purchased for the new settlement north of Jerusalem was still vacant, as they had yet to obtain enough money to start building. "Why don't we use part of the land to grow wheat for shmura matza?" he suggested. [The wheat that is used to bake shmura matza is carefully watched from the moment of cultivation throughout the baking process to make sure that it doesn't become leavened.] "We'll have lots of customers, as everyone trusts our integrity. We won't be taking away anyone's livelihood, and the profits will pay for Issachar's wedding!"

That very day the residents of Jerusalem were astonished to see two of its most distinguished citizens setting out with hoes over their shoulders. For three days straight the two Zalmans weeded and plowed until the ground was ready for seeding. The day after the wheat was planted a light rain fell - a sign, the two men agreed, that G-d approved their plan.

A few days later Reb Zalman and his cousin informed the girl's father that the wedding would take place before Passover. From there they went and secured a loan, confident that they would be able to repay it. Issachar and his bride were finally wed.

At the end of the season the two Reb Zalmans harvested the wheat, bundled it into sheaves, and personally milled and sifted it. It was a very fine quality of wheat, and kosher for Passover according the highest standards. With the money they made they easily repaid the loan.

And that is how the community of Meah Shearim was founded.

Moshiach Matters

Having a clear vision of what we are working toward makes all the difference in the quality of our work and the effort we invest in it. G-d wants us to serve Him in an inspired way; He wants our vision to be His vision, our goals to be His goals. Ideally, G-d wants us to dream of what He dreams about; this is why He shares with us His dream for the Messianic future. It is therefore vital to study the prophecies and statements of our sages about Moshaich and the Redemption. This will enable us to form a clear picture in our mind of what the world is really meant to be and how we can make this a reality.

(From Daily Wisdom, by Moshe Wisnefsky from the teachings of the Rebbe)

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