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1063: Vayakhel-Pekudei

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Devarim Deutronomy

March 20, 2009 - 24 Adar, 5769

1063: Vayakhel-Pekudei

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

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  1062: Ki Sisa1064: Vayikra  

Dirty Dishes  |  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

Dirty Dishes

Perhaps you fit into the category of people who let the dishes pile up. Or maybe you live with someone who never seems to get around to doing the dishes. So they pile up. Sometimes they aren't washed until every knife, fork and spoon is used.

There are specialists in dirty dishes. You know, the pot-soaker - whenever he uses a pot, he has to let it soak, to make it easier to wash, of course. So it sits in once soapy water - for a week.

Now you may be saying, well, we don't have that problem any more because we have dishwashers. Ah, but do you rinse the dishes before putting them in the dishwasher? And if you're just using a spoon to stir your coffee, do you just drop it in the dishwasher's silverware tray, even when it's empty, knowing full well it'll be three days before you've used enough dishes to get the thing half-full and make it worthwhile to run without thinking about a waste of electricity and water?

So even with a dishwasher a dirty dish or utensil can sit unwashed, with not too many companions, for days.

And then at some point, you've had enough. You just can't stand the mess. In a fury or a whirlwind you scrub every pot, scour every piece of silverware, rub every plate, rinse, and rinse again - by hand - every glass.

There, you sigh, satisfied, but promising yourself you'll never again let the dirty dishes accumulate.

Sometimes we treat ourselves like we're a sink full of dirty dishes.

Instead of cleaning our "dishes" when they get dirty, we let them pile up until the work seems overwhelming. And when we finally do get around to washing them, we're a bit annoyed at ourselves.

We use dishes to prepare our #food, and to hold our food, and to help us eat our food. By analogy, since Torah is the food for the soul, our "dishes" are those things we use and do that help us prepare to and also nourish us spiritually.

All the little things that take us through the day - the chat with the bus driver, wiping up the coffee spilled in the office kitchenette, paying the phone bill, arguing with the cashier over the price of that sweater, answering the phone when it's a survey, not saying anything to the person who almost knocked us over in the mall - etc. Every act can, and ought to, have a spiritual purpose, if not directly, then indirectly as part of the process that gives us time, leisure, the peace of mind to feed ourselves spiritually - to learn Torah.

But let's face it, we get dirty in the process. We gossip a little too much with the bus driver, we recalculate the phone bill three or four times, we pushed the cashier a little too hard, we got really annoyed at surveyor.

We can let these accumulate, and then "clean all the dishes" in a frenzy on Yom Kippur. Or we may get ambitious, partially (like doing all the dishes but not the pots), i.e., "get into" a major holiday (Passover's coming up!) or become Jewishly involved or aware for a little while.

Or, we can "clean our dishes" on a daily, or weekly, basis, doing a self-inventory, using the tools the Sages handed down. For you see, in the daily prayers, there are special opportunities to examine our deeds, acknowledge our errors, pray for forgiveness, and forgive others - a time, and place in the service, to daily wash our dirty dishes.

Living with the Rebbe

This week we read two Torah portions, Vayakhel and Pekudei. In the beginning Vayakhel, Moshe relates G-d's command to the Jewish people: "Six days shall work be done, and the seventh day shall be holy, a Sabbath of rest to G-d."

In order to observe Shabbat properly, in accordance with G-d's command, the groundwork must first be laid by the six days of the work week: "Six days shall work be done."

Significantly, the commandment is not "Six days shall you do work." The verse does not instruct us to toil laboriously. "Six days shall work be done" - as if the work is being done by itself. You needn't exert undue effort or invest too much of your energy, the Torah tells us. Rather, your work will be accomplished with a minimal amount of exertion.

This is a special blessing which G-d has bestowed on the Jewish people. Our Sages state, "When Israel does the work of G-d [when they serve Him properly], their work will be done by others." Not "Six days shall you do work," but "Six days shall work be done." Their work will already be completed.

This contains a lesson for every Jew to apply in their daily life. Yes, a Jew is obligated to work for a living, to provide for the members of his family, but only his most external powers and abilities should be invested toward this end.

It states in Psalms (128:2): "You shall eat the labor of your hands; happy shall you be, and it shall be good for you." When is it good for man? When only his "hands" are involved in his work; when his head and his heart, his thoughts and emotions, are reserved for higher matters: the study of Torah and the performance of mitzvot (commandments).

A Jew must never invest himself totally in his business affairs. For it is "the blessing of G-d that makes a man rich." A person's success is not determined by the amount of effort he puts into it. His efforts only create the vessel through which G-d bestows blessings. Thus a Jew must reserve his intellect and energy for spiritual matters, while his business must be viewed as if it is taking care of itself.

Approaching work in such a manner ensures that the Shabbat will be observed properly, that the Jew will be able to put aside his material concerns on the day of rest. If a Jew is overly preoccupied with his livelihood during the work week, his Shabbat will be disturbed by worry and anxiety: How can he earn more money? What should he buy and sell? On Shabbat he will find it difficult to disconnect from worldly matters. Thus "Six days shall work be done" is the most appropriate preparation for "the seventh day shall be holy."

In this manner all the days of the week will acquire a Shabbat-like quality, and the Shabbat itself will have an increased measure of holiness, as implied by the Torah's repetition, "Shabbat shabbaton - a Shabbat of rest."

Adapted for Maayan Chai from Likutei Sichot, vol. 1

A Slice of Life

Moments to Live
by Nechamie Margolis

"I'd better visit soon, Nechamie." There is a small tremor in my grandfather's voice that had never been there before.

"If you wait much longer, I don't think Grandma will recognize you any more."

I had known this was coming, but the words swirl around me like a dark cloud.

"I'm coming." I manage. "I'll book the tickets today."

One week later, I arrive in New Orleans with my two year old son Menachem. I'm desperately afraid that I'm too late. Afraid that the grandmother who loves me and takes so much pride in my accomplishments, will stare at me in non-recognition and ask, "Who are you? What is your name?

I hold my breath as I greet my grandmother with a crushing hug, my heart beating a little slower as she excitedly greets me and calls me by name. She hasn't forgotten me. Yet.

How is she doing?" I ask my aunt in an undertone several minutes later. My aunt purses her lips. "Not good."

I glance over to my grandmother, absorbed in the antics of little Menachem.

"What is the name of your charming baby again? she asks in a stage whisper. "You'll have to excuse me. My mind doesn't seem to work so well in the morning." Her voice trails off. "...or in the evening either."

I almost burst into tears and fling my arms around her, as she opens the door to what's most on my mind. Instead I hastily change the subject and ask my grandmother if she would like to go for coffee at the local Starbucks.

Once there, Grandma looks around the tastefully decorated coffee shop she has visited countless times in the past.

"How lovely!" she exclaims. "Couches in a coffee shop! I can't believe I've lived here all these years, and I've ever been here before."

"But Grandma, didn't we come here the last time I visited?

I immediately regret my words as she looks at me, confusion clouding her smoky blue eyes.

"Of course I've never been here," she says defensively. "I would certainly have remembered it, if I came here before."

It is several minutes later when she repeats that she's never seen Starbucks before. The words form in my mind, "of course you have," but by sheer force I manage not to say it aloud. I smile instead.

Back home, I leave my grandmother to her rest and walk with Menachem in the verdant park bordering my grandparents building.

I try to imagine life without memories. I can almost see myself many years in the future. Would I want to be corrected if I was losing my memory, or would I want to be humored? I hold tight to the thought that while the body might deteriorate, the soul is eternal, with love and positive experiences imprinted in the ageless terrain of the soul forever.

Menachem's urgent pointing as he strains against his stroller harness drags me from my thoughts. "Look, doggie,' he points, face alight with excitement. "Yes, doggie" I repeat mechanically, my mind miles away. His repeated exclamations draw my mind back into the park, from the out reaches of thoughts. I don't remember what I was thinking about- something about memory, identity, about life's meaning and the soul, but I lost it.

"Mommy, doggie," he repeats. I look to where his finger is pointing. It's the same dog.

For a brief moment I try to see the world through his eyes. I try to deliberately forget that I just saw the same dog two minutes ago and attempt to see it as my son did ; an adorable ball of fur, endlessly playing fetch with his owner, but I don't succeed in shutting off my memory. I see the ducks eagerly scrambling after the small crumbs of bread being thrown by an elderly gentleman, but somehow can't separate it from the ducks I used to feed with my mother in Prospect Park.

I find myself wondering if there's really a way to be present in life and in the moment without relinquishing my hold on my past and future.

My grandfather calls me on my way to the airport.

"Thank you for coming," he says simply.

There is a pause as though he is considering whether to say the next words. They come out in a jumbled rush.

"Grandma asked me when you were coming to visit. She said that I promised her that you were going to come and you didn't show up."

His voice broke slightly. "She's already forgotten the visit."

"I'll remember, Grandpa," I whisper through my tear choked voice. "I'll remember."

Reprinted with permission from the N'shei Chabad Newsletter

What's New

New Emissaries

Rabbi David and Chani Slavin arrived in Yassi, Romania, a city with 7,000 Jewish families on the Ukrainian border as emissaries of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Rabbi Levi and Rivky Dubinsky are establishing a new Chabad House in Mountain Lakes, New Jersey, to serve the Jewish community of Boonton Township and Denville. Rabbi Bery and Chenchie Schmukler have moved to Las Cruces, New Mexico, to establish a new Chabad House to serve the needs of the Jewish community in that city. Rabbi Yakov Dovid and Sara Leiter will be arriving soon in Mumbai, India, to carry on the work of Rabbi Gavriel and Rivky Holtzberg (Hy"d) for a three-month period. Sara is Rivky's sister.


An error was made in L'Chaim # 1059 in the Slice of Life article "Icy Goodness," written by Naomi Zirkind. The article describes Mrs. Zirkind's resolution to have a positive attitude in a difficult situation, in accordance with Chasidic teachings which emphasize that having a positive attitude leads to a positive outcome. In the midst of the difficulties, Mrs. Zirkind emphatically says to herself, "Wow, this event is so spectacular! This is just so good, its goodness is on such a high level that I cannot comprehend it!" The editors referred to this statement as a "mantra." The origin of the word "mantra" is in the religious practice of Hinduism. Mrs. Zirkind did not authorize the use of this word in the article. The editors apologize for inserting this word into the article. A corrected version of the article can be found at

The Rebbe Writes

From a letter of the Rebbe

I am in receipt of your letter in which you write about various recent events in your life - which were not in the category of obvious good - and you ask what your reaction should be.

In general, as you surely know, Jews are guided by the Torah, the "Torah of Life," which is to say that Torah is the Jew's true guide in everyday life. The Torah is also called Torah Or, the "Torah of Illumination," since it illuminates the Jew's life and its instructions are as clear and lucid as light itself.

One of the best-known portions of the Torah, which Jews recite daily in both morning and evening, is the portion of the Shema [prayer], in which the Torah tells us to love G d "with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might."

The Hebrew word m'odecha, generally translated as "your might," also conveys the meaning of middah - "measure" or "dimension," as our Sages explain. This means that a Jew has to love G-d regardless of the kind of "deal" he thinks is meted out to him by Divine providence.

This profound love is to express itself, as the text indicates, in the study of Torah and the observance of its mitzvos (commandments), particularly the mitzvos of tefillin and mezuzah which are mentioned specifically, and particularly so since tefillin is symbolic of all the mitzvos.

Moreover, inasmuch as the hand tefillin is placed on the left arm facing the heart, the seat of the emotions, and [the head tefillin] on the head facing the brain, the seat of the intellect, tefillin symbolizes that a Jew is to be totally involved - both emotionally and intellectually - in serving and fulfilling His commandments.

In other words, whatever happens in a Jew's life must not in any way affect his love of and devotion to G-d, nor his everyday life and conduct in accordance with the Torah and mitzvos. (Needless to say, the mitzvah of reciting the Shema daily is not reserved for exceptional Jews, but is for each and every Jew.)

The question now arises: Is the above something that can really be implemented, and if so, how is one to explain how this can actually be implemented?

To be sure, the human intellect is limited and cannot possibly fathom the Divine wisdom that is in the Torah. On the other hand, the Torah itself describes the Jewish people as a "wise and understanding people," and it provides at least some explanation that helps us to understand, in however limited a degree, G-d's ways.

One of the basic teachings of the Torah is that G-d does not expect anything of a human being that is beyond the human capacity to carry out.

This, in fact, is eminently understandable: Even a human being, who is a very long way away from absolute perfection, would not expect a tool that he has fashioned to perform in a capacity greater than its original design. Certainly G-d, the Creator of man, knows man's capacities.

From this it naturally follows that when a Jew faces any kind of a test of faith, it is certain that he has been given the capacity to overcome it. And the more difficult the test, the greater are the individual's capacities.

The reason that an individual is tested is not that G-d wants to know how well he will conduct himself, but in order that this person be afforded the opportunity to realize his potential, even that which is unknown to him. And when one's potential capacities are released and activated, they become part and parcel of his or her arsenal, to be used for personal as well as communal benefit. ...

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

A Call to Action

Maot Chitim

Thirty days before a holiday is the time to begin studying about and preparing for it. As we are now 30 days before Passover it is traditional to begin collecting charity now for Maot Chitim "wheat money" that will be used toward the purchase of matzas and other holiday needs for the poor.

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

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

This Shabbat is the 25th of Adar, the birthday of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson, and marks the anniversary of the "Jewish Birthday campaign" that the Rebbe established on the Rebbetzin's birthday in 1988.

Because the day of one's birth is the day one's "mazel" shines (according to the Talmud) one should spend part of the day celebrating in an especially Jewish way.

A Jew has the ability to utilize his birthday for a positive end, instead of letting it pass as just another day. He can make it a holiday with emphasis on more Torah and mitzvot.

One's birthday is a time for reflection, when one may "remember and think about those aspects of his life which need improvement and repentance" (HaYom Yom, 11th Nissan).

Here are some suggestions:

On your birthday increase your contribution to charity. When the birthday is on Shabbat or Yom Tov, give the extra charity before Shabbat or the holiday.

Put time and effort (or more time and effort) into prayer.

Study the chapter in King David's Psalms that corresponds to your new age.

Study extra Torah.

Review your conduct for the past year - see what needs repentance and improvement - and make good resolutions for the future years.

If possible say the blessing of "Shehecheyanu" on a new fruit.

Celebrate with your family and friends in honor of your birthday - give thanks to G-d for enabling you to reach this milestone.

To find out when your Jewish birthday is, call your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center, the Tzivos Hashem Superphone at (718) 467-7800 or visit

Thoughts that Count

You shall not kindle any fire in your dwellings on Shabbat (Ex. 35:3)

Why does the Torah single out this prohibition from amongst the other 39 types of labor which are also forbidden on Shabbat? Heated arguments and disputes are like a fire; unfortunately, controversy has the power to disrupt many a peaceful home. When people are occupied with their daily tasks they do not have time to argue with one another; on Shabbat, however, they are less busy than during the week. The Torah therefore warns us not to kindle the fires of controversy on Shabbat by keeping ourselves busy with Torah study and prayer. Incidentally, rearranging the final letters of the above verse in Hebrew results in the word "shalom" - "peace"!

(Our Sages)

And he put in his heart that he may teach (Ex. 35:34)

This expression appears only once more in Scripture, in the verse, "That you be able to teach the Children of Israel all the statutes which the L-rd has spoken through Moses," to teach us that whoever is blessed with wisdom and understanding of Torah is obligated to share it with others and not keep the knowledge to himself.

(Parperaot LaTorah)

For the cloud of the L-rd was upon the Sanctuary by day, and the fire that was on it by night... throughout all their journeys (Ex. 40:38)

In this, the last verse in the book of Exodus, day represents the times when the Jewish people flourish; night represents the darkest hours of Jewish history. The Torah assures us that throughout all our travels, regardless of whether or not the sun is shining, G-d's clouds and heavenly fire protect us and assure our safety and survival.

(Our Sages)

It Once Happened

Rabbi Yehuda ben Moshe Hakohen was the personal physician of King Alfonso X of Castile, one of the first provinces which the Spaniards had recaptured from the North African Arabs in the 13th century.

A great friend of the Jews, the king invited them to settle in Toledo, Cordova, Seville and other cities in Spain, and had many prominent Jewish advisors. Because King Alfonso appreciated the services the Jews performed for his kingdom, he protected them and allowed them to worship and live as they pleased.

However, like kings of other lands, Alfonso was strongly influenced by the clergy, who were fanatically hostile to the Jews. Rabbi Yehuda was ever on guard lest the king fall under the influence of the clergy.

One day Rabbi Yehuda came to the palace to visit the king, as he often did, only to be informed that the king couldn't see him. The change in the king's attitude towards Rabbi Yehuda was evident, and he was filled with anxiety and foreboding. Heavy- hearted, he left the palace, but instead of returning home, he went to consult with his close friend Don Yitzchak de la Maleha.

Don Yitzchak was not surprised, for he knew that the king had important visitors, two ambassadors of the king of Portugal, Alfonso the Third.

He didn't know what sort of business was being conducted, but he had friends in the Portuguese court from whom he could inquire. The two friends agreed to meet again in three days' time, to exchange information and decide on a course of action.

But before the three days passed, Yitzchak de la Maleha sent urgent word to his friend: "I have learned that the Crown Prince of Portugal, Diniz, is suffering from some mysterious illness which the Portuguese doctors were unable to cure.

In the meantime, the king's priest used the opportunity to turn the king against his loyal Jewish officials. "As you know, our Crown Prince, Sancho, is always scheming and lusting for more power. He wants to form a political alliance with Portugal by making a match between his sister, Princess Maria, and Diniz."

"What's so bad about that?" asked Yehuda.

"What are you saying? One of the conditions of the alliance is that the two Christian kingdoms join in expelling the Jews who will not convert to the Christian faith!"

Yehuda paled and tears appeared in his eyes. "The Guardian of Israel save us," he uttered in a heartfelt prayer. The purpose of the Portuguese ambassadors was clear, as was the cold and unfriendly attitude of the King.

Yehuda thought for a minute. "Royal matchmaking takes time. In the meantime we may be able to avert the danger. Perhaps if the king finds out that Diniz is ill, he will call off the match."

"In matters of political convenience, illness isn't an impediment," replied Don Yitzchak. "But I have a better idea, if G-d only grants us success, and you will be the one to intercede."

"I will do whatever I can. But what is it?" asked Rabbi Yehuda.

"You will travel to Lisbon and cure the Crown Prince."

The two friends discussed the plan at great length. Rabbi Yehuda packed his medical kit and secretly departed for Portugal. Word was to be spread in the royal court in Lisbon about the arrival of a great physician from Spain.

As soon as the king heard the news he sent for the new doctor to examine his beloved son. He promised any reward, if only this doctor would succeed where all the royal physicians of Portugal had failed.

Rabbi Yehuda examined the ill man and informed the king that he had a blood clot on the brain. It would require delicate surgery, but he would undertake it. Until that time, the prince would be under his care. The king agreed. All went as planned, but then, on the scheduled day of the operation, Rabbi Yehuda received the unexpected order to leave the country without delay. It was incomprehensible, but Rabbi Yehuda packed and left at once.

He had been on the road only a few hours when a carriage drew up to him and the king, himself alighted. "The priest has cooked up a nasty dish this time, but he will pay for it! What do I care if you are a Jew, if you can cure my son!" He then related what had transpired.

The priest, being sure that this new doctor was a Jew, and probably the doctor of the King of Castile, was eager to discredit him. So, he went to the king with the lie that the Jews had decided to kill the Crown Prince with the help of this Jewish doctor, in order to stop the proposed marriage.

"I admit I was swayed by the priest, but when I told my son, he just scoffed at the accusation. He cried that if you were not permitted to treat him, he would commit suicide. You are his last hope, and he has complete confidence in your skill. I have come in person to beg your forgiveness and ask you to treat my son."

Yehuda Hakohen performed the operation, and the Almighty gave him success. The Crown Prince recovered his health, and Rabbi Yehuda was sent home laden with gifts. Of course, his greatest reward was having averted the threatened deportation of the Jews, who continued to live in Spain and Portugal for the next two hundred years in relative peace and prosperity.

Adapted from Talks and Tales

Moshiach Matters

The Talmud teaches, "Three things come unawares: Moshiach, a found object, and a scorpion." This doesn't mean that a person shouldn't think about the Redemption and anticipate its coming. It means that though logically he sees no possibility for Redemption, a Jew persists with an intense belief that transcends his reason. This meaning springs from the Hebrew idiom b'hesech hada'at (here translated "unawares"), literally "with one's reason set aside." There are those who argue that this generation is unworthy of Moshiach. In light of the above, this very argument is a clear indication of an imminent Redemption.

(Likutei Sichot, 10:171)

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