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The woman in the bakery was puzzled by the fellow who entered the shop every morning.
Each day he asked for yesterday's bread, stressing that he did not want today's fresh bread.
She sold it to him for a few pennies.
Convinced that the man was too poor to afford fresh bread, and being kind-hearted, the woman decided to give the man a nice surprise the following morning.
She prepared a loaf of fresh bread, cut it into slices and carefully buttered each slice. The woman then wrapped it in paper, as she usually did, and waited expectantly for her customer.
When the man entered the bakery at his regular hour and made his routine request, she simply handed him the package she had prepared that morning, smiling inwardly at the unexpected joy the man would feel when he opened his parcel of bread.
The next morning, our poor friend walked into the bakery with an angry look on his face. "What did you do to me?" he shouted.
"You caused me thousands of dollars worth of damage!"
The kind-hearted woman was stunned. For what reason did she warrant such an attack? What had she done?
"I am an architect," the man continued. "I've been working for over half a year on a new project on the south side of town.
We draw our architectural plans on special paper with a special type of pencil. To make corrections or erase lines we use lumps of stale bread. Fresh bread does not erase, and worse, it make smudges.
"Yesterday, while I was preoccupied with my work, I tore off a small piece of the bread you had given me in order to erase something in a very important part of the plan. Suddenly, I saw bits of fresh bread and butter smeared all over the plan. Now I'm going to have to do the whole thing over from the beginning!"
Which one of us hasn't entertained the thought at one time or another, "If I were G-d, I would do things this way. If I were G-d, I would not have done that."
"If you were G-d," a chasid once answered another chasid making these very same comments, "you would have done everything exactly the same way."
"When I'm a parent, I'm going to let my kids eat candy a whole day," a little child says when his mother or father "cruelly" limits his consumption of sugar.
"When you're a parent, you'll do things exactly the same way," the parent says knowingly G-d, the Architect and Creator of the entire world, knows good and well what every individual and each entity, needs. G-d doesn't give us what we want, He gives us what we need.
If, out of seeming good-heartedness, we try to make changes and corrections in G-d's Torah -- the draft for all humanity -- we fail abysmally. Because only G-d knows when dry bread is needed and when fresh bread is appropriate.
If a child needs "tough love" and the parent is too lenient or indulgent to give the child what he truly needs, this is the opposite of kindheartedness. It is misplaced compassion.
Were we to go through the Torah, and, using our own intellect, decide which mitzva is obsolete, which mitzva is too severe, which mitzva fits in with our understanding of goodness, or were to alter mitzvot so that they would conform to our interpretation of morality, G-dliness and kindness, we would be using fresh bread to alter the Divine plan for the world and for ourselves personally.
The Torah, like bread, is literally our staff of life.
But only G-d knows when to nourish us with fresh-from-the-oven and when "day-old" is the proper food.
Adapted from The Nechoma Greisman Anthology
The controversy between Korach and Moses was coming to a head.
On one side stood Moses, leader of the Jewish people, on the other was Korach and his 250 followers.
G-d told Moses to tell the Jews, "Get away from about the dwelling of Korach, Datan and Aviram." G-d had issued His warning; in a few minutes the earth would split open and swallow up Korach and his entire group.
The Torah describes Moses' actions immediately upon hearing this command. "And Moses rose up and went to Datan and Aviram, and after him went the elders of Israel."
The reaction of Moses was curious.
He had already spoken previously to Datan and Aviram and had exhausted every prior opportunity to make peace.
Why did he return?
Wasn't it already too late?
G-d had issued His decree; their fate was sealed.
And if Moses' intent was to bring Datan and Aviram to repentance, why doesn't the Torah say that he spoke to them? Why are we are told only that Moses "rose up and went"?
Rashi, the great Torah commentator, explains that Moses was sure that Datan and Aviram would receive him favorably.
Despite the fact that G-d had already rendered judgment, Moses' great love for his fellow Jews, even evildoers such as Datan and Aviram, prompted him to try one last time to set things right.
Mere words may have failed, but Moses had one more tactic he could employ in an effort to move Datan and Aviram to repentance -- utilizing his status as leader of the Jewish people.
"Moses rose up" -- in full kingly splendor, Moses returned to Datan and Aviram, hopeful that they would repent and avert their bitter fate when they beheld his glory.
In this light, the rest of the verse -- "and after him went the elders of Israel" -- is also clearly understood.
The regal appearance of Moses, resplendent in his full spiritual stature as king, was so powerful a sight that the elders were inspired to accompany him.
Unfortunately, however, Korach and his followers were not similarly affected, and their punishment was meted out as planned.
This episode serves to underscore the depth of Moses' love for his fellow Jew and the great lengths to which he was willing to go to bring a Jew back from the brink.
Even after G-d had pronounced judgment and locked the very gates of repentance, Moses, as leader and shepherd, would not give up.
If Moses could feel this way toward such evil people, how much more so must we emulate his behavior today!
In our time, transgressions are committed largely out of a lack of knowledge; each Jew must therefore do all in his power to bring his fellow Jew closer to our Father in Heaven.
Adapted from Likutei Sichot of the Rebbe, Vol. 28
Reprinted, with permission, from Kosher Living
by Leah Lederman
A few years ago my family and I entered a new phase of our Jewishness: we began keeping kosher.
This was not a quick or easy decision; in fact, it wasn't until it became clear to me that, as a Jewish woman, I could no longer live any other way, that we made the commitment.
I had reached the point where I could not reconcile certain contradictions in our lifestyle.
My husband and I had made a point of calling our daughter by her Hebrew name, we fasted on Yom Kippur, and we ate matza on Passover.
But in my eyes, this display of our Jewish identity seemed empty without the integration of Judaism into our daily lives, which keeping kosher provides.
Now, after two years of keeping kosher, I still cannot put into words how precious kosher living has become to me.
I derive a great sense of personal fulfillment and satisfaction from knowing that keeping kosher is part of my life.
The sense of control I have gained from keeping kosher has spread into every area of my life.
As a family, we have been drawn together more closely in indefinable ways -- in ways which I can only attribute to the role keeping kosher plays in our lives.
At this point, although my family and I cannot even imagine eating foods which were basic components of our diet three years ago, the transition still seems new. And in some ways, the transition is not yet over, for we are always learning and growing.
There is no denying that, in one way or another, keeping kosher maintains an important status in the soul of every Jew.
And it is precisely the importance kashrut plays in the life of a Jew which can make the transition to kosher seem intimidating.
In my case, the seeming myriad of intricate laws and differences in custom, the traditional stereotypes of kosher food as bland and limited, the social pressures of business, family and friends -- all combined to create looming obstacles, despite the urgency of my need to keep kosher.
With my husband and young daughter, I encountered and overcame these fears.
We read books, had family conferences, and encouraged each other until the obstacles that had separated us from kosher life fell away one by one.
Together we entered a world in which we found as much variety in culinary experience and social opportunity as we had previously enjoyed -- in some cases creating new opportunities not only for our cooking practices, but also our social encounters.
As a family, I think our greatest fear about keeping kosher was that of losing our culinary identity.
I myself grew up in the Southwest United States, which may have the most non-kosher cuisine in the world.
We enjoy cooking and eating a wide variety of foods, and with each new cookbook or inspiration I acquired, we went through periods of eating Indian food, Chinese food, gourmet, macrobiotic, Mexican, etc.
Yet keeping kosher, rather than limiting my cooking abilities, expanded them.
The first and most obvious challenge kashrut presented was how to continue to cook our old favorites but keep them kosher.
Through experimentation, substitution, and the advice of friends, I discovered that there was very little, if any, sacrifice involved in using new versions of my favorite dishes.
And thanks to the "vegetarian phase" I went through prior to my marriage, I had plenty of vegetarian recipes which needed little or no adaptations to meet kashrut requirements.
In addition, there are a number of very good kosher cookbooks with recipes that extend kosher cooking to many types of cuisines.
The constantly growing availability of foods with proper kashrut supervision has encouraged me to cook a variety of foods which range from fish sticks to miso-lentil burgers to Beef Wellington.
NEW CHABAD HOUSE
At the dedication ceremony of the Chabad House.
A new Chabad House was recently dedicated in Bahia Blanca, Argentina.
Chabad of Bahia Blanca, under the directorship of Rabbi Moshe and Sarah Friedman, opened 8 years ago.
With successful and well-attended programs, Chabad of Bahia Blanca quickly outgrew its initial facilities.
The new Chabad House includes classrooms and meeting rooms, a shul, playground, library, and modern kitchen where Shabbat and holiday meals for scores of guests are prepared.
HURRICANE ANDREW REVISITED
Hurricane Andrew was headed straight for Miami Beach, yet the Rebbe advised that it was safe to stay put.
Not even one family who listened to the Rebbe's advice suffered property damage.
A 30-minute video, produced by Rabbi I. Gansburg, explores the hurricane and the Rebbe's prophetic statements concerning it.
For more information write to: Rabbi Gansburg, 1367 President St., Bklyn, NY 11213.
VACATION FROM WHAT?
From a letter of the Rebbe
Erev Shavuot-The Festival of
the Receiving of Our Torah, 5734 (1974)
To all Boy Students and To All Girl Students
G-d bless you!
Greetings and Blessings:
Summer vacation is approaching, and no doubt you are all looking forward to making the most of it. I would like to make a suggestion to you in this connection.
The summer recess is meant to give you an opportunity to strengthen your health of body and soul, which, of course, go together hand in hand.
For Jewish boys and girls to be truly healthy means, first of all, to have healthy neshamas (souls).
And a Jewish soul derives its health from the Torah and mitzvot, which are "our life and the length of our days," as we say in our prayers.
Needless to say, life and health must be continuous, and one cannot take a "vacation" from them.
The Torah and mitzvot are to the Jewish soul what breathing and nourishment are to the body.
A healthy person seldom thinks about the vital necessity of breathing and food.
However, on certain occasions one becomes acutely aware of these things.
For example, when one swims under water and holds his breath, then comes up and feels the urge to fill his lungs with fresh air. Or, after a fast-day, when the body has been temporarily weakened from lack of food and drink.
Now, during the school year, when a great deal of time that could be spent in studying the Torah and doing mitzvot is taken up with other unavoidable occupations, such as the study of English and arithmetic, etc. the soul gets somewhat undernourished. That makes it more eager to get back to Torah and mitzvot whenever time is available.
When the summer recess comes, your soul can breathe more freely and more fully, for you are then released from those other unavoidable studies and occupations.
Thus, the summer vacation gives you an opportunity to apply yourselves to Torah study and Torah activities with the utmost eagerness and enthusiasm -- not only to make good use of your free time, but also to make up for lost time during the past school period, and, what is not less important, to give your soul a chance to fortify itself and "take a deep breath" for the school period ahead.
As a matter of fact, the summer vacation seems to be very well planned for this purpose, for it is a time when you can devote yourselves to Torah study and Torah activities in particularly agreeable circumstances: in a relaxed frame of mind and in pleasant natural surroundings of sunshine and fresh air.
Moreover, it comes soon after the Festival of Shavuot, the Season of Receiving Our Torah at Sinai.
As you know, this Festival comes after the days and weeks of Counting the Omer, in memory of the eager anticipation of our ancestors, from the day after they left Egypt until receiving this greatest Divine gift -- the Torah and mitzvot -- seven weeks later.
This should provide an added measure of inspiration to last through each and every day of the summer vacation and, indeed, throughout the year.
I urge you, dear children, to make the most of your summer vacation in light of all that has been said above.
Think about it, and put it into effect -- in the fullest measure, and G-d will surely bless you with a happy and healthy summer, happy and healthy both spiritually and physically.
Levi was the son of the forebears of the Jewish people, Jacob and Leah.
Levi was one of the Twelve Tribes, the sons of Jacob, and he lived the longest of all the brothers.
Of all the Jews, only the tribe of Levi was not enslaved in Egypt.
They were the teachers in the Torah academy which Jacob had established, were occupied with spiritual matters, and did not assimilate with the Egyptians.
Levi's grandson, Amram was the father of Moses.
The entire tribe of Levi refused to worship the Golden Calf.
They were rewarded with the priesthood, which had originally been intended for all the firstborn.
As a preparation for the unity we will experience in the Messianic Era, every person should work on refining him/herself into a united, coordinated personality.
To illustrate this concept, the Rebbe told the following story:
Reb Zalman Aharon, the elder son of the fourth Lubavitcher Rebbe, the Rebbe Maharash, once asked his uncle if he recited his prayers "b'tzibbur" -- with the community, i.e., with a minyan (a quorum). The uncle answered in the affirmative.
The next day, Reb Zalman Aharon noticed that his uncle was praying at great length, taking much more time than any member of the community.
Reb Zalman Aharon approached his uncle later and asked, "Didn't you tell me you prayed b'tzibbur?"
"I do," his uncle replied. "B'tzibbur means 'with the collective.' After I unify the seven emotional and three intellectual aspects of my soul, I pray!"
But how can we accomplish this internal unity?
How can one bring the divergent aspects of his/her personality into harmony?
By using our talents and gifts for the purpose of bringing G-dliness into the world and uniting with G-d.
Far from being an impossible task, this job of marshalling our talents to the service of G-d is intrinsic to every Jew, for each soul -- as explained at length in Chasidic philosophy -- is an actual part of G-d.
Thus, uniting the diverse aspects of one's personality through devotion to G-d is intrinsic and the essential part of the existence of every Jew.
When we begin working on personal unity and harmony, we find that it is much easier to foster unity and harmony amongst the Jewish people as a whole.
Although it is customary for preachers to delve into the particular Torah reading of the week to find material for their lectures, drawing lessons from the portion of Korach is always appropriate, for unfortunately, controversy runs rampant and is not limited to one week a year.
And Korach took [a bold step]...together with Datan and Aviram...and Own, the son of Pelet (Num. 16:1)
Own, the son of Pelet, was one of Korach's 250 followers in his insurrection against Moses.
Yet when the Torah lists those who were punished, Own's name is omitted. Why?
Own was saved by his righteous wife.
When she learned of her husband's intention s she persuaded him that it was wrong to go against Moses. Own, however, had a dilemma.
He had already promised Korach he would join him.
What did she do? Own's wife gave him a large meal and strong wine, causing him to fall asleep.
When Korach and his group came looking for him, she pointedly sat in front of her tent, immodestly uncovered her hair and began to comb it. Korach and his followers would not approach her. Because of his virtuous wife, Own's life was spared.
And they shall keep the charge of the Tent of Meeting (Num. 18:4)
From this verse we learn of the mitzva of guarding the Tabernacle, and subsequently, the Holy Temple.
This mitzva, given to the Levites and kohanim, was purely ceremonial, to arouse honor and respect for the holy site.
Even after the destruction, the sanctity of the site where the Holy Temple stood remains in full force. Why then do we not continue to guard it even during the exile?
Until Moshiach comes, speedily in our day, the Jewish people is in constant danger from the nations of the world. This applies not only when non-Jews have sovereignty over the land of Israel, but also when the land is in Jewish hands -- and even when peace treaties have been signed with our enemies.
As "saving even one life takes precedence over the entire Torah," for reasons of safety we are unable to perform the mitzva of guarding the site of the Holy Temple today.
(The Rebbe, Parshat Tisa, 5747--1987)
King Achav was an evil, arrogant man with an insatiable desire for pleasure and honor.
His close friend, Chiel, was equally evil.
Yehoshua had cursed anyone who would try to rebuild Jericho, but Chiel set about to do just that. During the rebuilding all of Chiel's sons perished. But still, he persisted.
When Chiel sat mourning for his son, G-d sent Eliyahu to visit and comfort him. But the prophet objected saying, "How can I go to such a despicable sinner? He will curse Your Name!"
But G-d did not relent. However, G-d told Eliyahu that if he was to curse Chiel, the curse would be fulfilled.
When Eliyahu arrived at the house, he found Chiel and Achav sitting together discussing the passage in Torah which describes Yehoshua's curse.
In his great arrogance Achav turned to the prophet and asked, "Who is greater, Moshe or Yehoshua?" Eliyahu replied, "The master is greater than the student."
This was the answer Achav expected, and he retorted, "If he was so great, why was his prophecy not fulfilled?
The Torah says, 'Beware lest your hearts stray and you worship false gods...G-d will close up the heavens and there will be no rain.' And yet, although we all worship idols, not only have I not been punished, but I have been rewarded, for I am victorious in battle, the kingdom is flourishing, and the crops are bountiful. On the other hand, Yehoshua's curse on the builders of Jericho has been fulfilled. Explain that."
Eliyahu was enraged by the king's blasphemous words.
He cried, "It was only G-d's great mercy that spared you until now, but I decree that from this moment there will be years of drought. Rain will not fall until I decree it!" G-d carried out Eliyahu's decree and a drought began.
During the reign of King Achav, Eliyahu performed a great miracle before the Jewish people on Mount Carmel.
The prophet challenged Achav, "I will prove that Hashem is the true G-d. I will build an altar and offer a calf, and your priests of Baal will do exactly the same thing. Only G-d will send down a heavenly fire to consume the sacrifice."
Achav agreed, but to make sure that it would come out in his favor, Chiel, the king's friend had a plan.
He would hide inside a hollow altar, bringing with him burning coals. When the priests called out to Baal, he would ignite the wood on the altar with the burning coals.
All the Jews were summoned to Mount Carmel to witness the great event.
Identical calves were brought to the site and the sacrifices were prepared. Eliyahu addressed the masses: "How long will you waver between the two opinions before choosing whom to serve? If it is Hashem, then follow Him and observe the commandments. If you believe in Baal, then worship him!"
The shocked populace stood in silence.
Eliyahu continued, "I stand alone against 250 prophets of Baal to test which sacrifice will be accepted. Upon only one will the Heavenly fire descend, and that will be the proof of the true G-d."
The priests of Baal came first.
They sacrificed their calf and shouted to their god.
Chiel lay concealed under the altar about to ignite the logs from below.
But just at the moment his hand was poised to move the burning coals, a poisonous snake bit him and he died.
The king stood waiting for his friend to carry out his plot, but the wait was in vain. The pagan priests jumped and cried, screamed and danced. But neither their shouts nor their magic succeeded in igniting the offering.
Then Eliyahu rose and stood by his altar.
The sun was already beginning to set, but Eliyahu wanted the miracle to be visible to everyone.
He cried out, "Sun! Sun! You stood still once for Yehoshua. Now, stand still again so that I may sanctify G-d's name before this huge congregation. Let all the Jews know that only He is the true G-d." The sun stopped its descent.
Eliyahu built an altar of twelve stones, symbolizing the twelve tribes and dug a trench around the entire edifice.
He then commanded his disciple Elisha to fill a pail with water and pour it over his hands. Eliyahu's fingers became ten spouts of water which continued to flow until the trench was filled with water.
Then Eliyahu prayed to G-d saying, "In Your great mercy, send down a fire to consume the offering so that the Jewish people will believe in Your greatness and power. Let them know that the prophets of Baal are false prophets of a false god."
Before the eyes of all the people standing on the mountain, fire descended from the heavens. It consumed the sacrifice and licked every drop of water from the trench. The people fell on their faces and exclaimed, "Hashem is the true G-d!"
Just then, rain began to fall on the land which had been parched for the past three years, and the punishing drought ended.
As both a genius and tzadik, the Moshiach will see through the sham and hypocrisy of this world.
Thus, the prophet foretold (Isa. 11:3), "He will sense the fear of the L-rd, and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, nor decide after the hearing of his ears."
(The Real Messiah, by Aryeh Kaplan)