Our Children | 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
The Midrash teaches that the Jewish people were given the Torah after they offered future generations as the guarantors.
by David Y.B. Kaufman
Recently all our children came to visit, with all our grandchildren. It was crowded, hectic, chaotic, a lot of fun and very revealing.
Inter-generational interactions, and intra-generational interactions, are very important. In many ways, they provide nourishment to the nuclear family (parents and children). Of course, such family get-togethers are becoming increasingly rare in our increasingly mobile, fractured society, especially ones where the dynamics remain positive, as opposed to the almost cliched arguments, tensions and fights that occur, the dredging up of past wounds and unresolved rivalries.
And our digital age is a two-edged sword, on the one hand, contributing to the factions, distance and lack of communication, superficial, healing or otherwise, and on the other allowing us to stay in touch and connect much more intimately and immediately than ever before. The immediacy of email or text, or the visuals of FaceTime or Skype, etc., allows us to communicate, to be part of each other's lives, to defy distance and dissonance and distractions in ways only imagined before.
Of course, I'm not the first to make these observations, but their power and poignancy struck me deeply during their visit, as I watched and interacted with my children, now grown, and especially my grandchildren, even as I wrestled with my own health issues and its impact on my future.
In the face of the inevitable uncertainty of our futures, children, and perhaps especially grandchildren, give us not only a measure of hope, not only a sense of continuity, but a reassurance that our lives have value, meaning and substance. We have not only been a partner in creation, we have revealed something of the Eternal. From generation to generation includes us in a larger community, transforms us into integrated parts of a greater whole.
Whether we play with our grandchildren, or watch them play with each other -indeed, whether we are the uncles and aunts, or even the cousins, that join or extend a family - and as we observe the interaction of the next generation with its own next generation, we participate in a continuity that both emphasizes our moments and broadens our souls. We discover a spiritual rootedness in our physical encounters, elevating the mundane spinning of a toy or reading of a book to an almost sacred experience, like the mystical attachments that arise from the repetitions of prayer.
Driving it all is the simple joy of being - being there and being with. And as they struggle into competence, we, too, regain our own, finding ourselves renewed, as it were, in their joyful discoveries.
We come together all too briefly and all too infrequently, and even as we maintain contact, interest and involvement, we yearn for the immediacy of a prolonged presence. But every moment is a blessing, and as we, the elder generation, struggle with our own inner conflicts, our own ailments, our own (still) becoming, it is a comfort to have not just the connection, but the relationship with children and grandchildren. A gift from the Almighty, we bless them, but even more, they bless us.
In this week's Torah portion, Bamidbar, the Jewish people are counted and organized. Every one was counted, every one had their place under the banner of their tribe, surrounding the Mishkan, the Tabernacle.
These countings are so significant, that our Sages named this fourth book of the Torah "Chumash Hapekudim," the Book of Numbers.
The portion of Bamidbar is always read right before Shavuot, the day G-d gave us the Torah at Mount Sinai.
What is the significance of this counting? What is the connection between this counting and Shavuot?
In the innermost chamber of the Mishkan stood the Ark, the Ark. In the Ark were the tablets of the Ten Commandments which we received from Hashem on Shavuot.
Around the Mishkan camped the tribe of Levi and around them, all twelve tribes.
Being counted and organized around the Mishkan, teaches us that each of us have a specific part, a unique mission, that we are being counted on to do in the service of Hashem, symbolized by the Mishkan.
Being counted also unites us as one, with one grand purpose.
For this reason too, every one of us had to be at Mount Sinai to receive the Torah. G-d was telling us, "You each are absolutely necessary, you each have a unique part of the Torah that was given specifically to you and to you alone." When you do your mitzva (commandment), all of us are effected by it, as being counted makes the sum whole. When we camped at Mount Sinai we were as one man with one heart, united as a people, united in purpose.
When a soldier does his mission, he positively effects his army and his country.
I love having visitors and thank G-d I'm blessed with many. Bikur Cholim, visiting the sick, is a great mitzva. One time when I was visited by long time friends of mine, after being with them for a few minutes, I could sense that there was a quality to their visit that was special. I could tell that this is their special mitzva. Perhaps when their souls stood at Mount Sinai, visiting the sick was given to them as one of their unique missions.
By each of us championing our unique missions, we will surely merit to stand once again together, like one man with one heart this Shavuot, with the coming of Moshiach.
By Rabbi Yitzi Hurwitz, yitzihurwitz.blogspot.com. Rabbi Hurwitz, who is battling ALS, and his wife Dina, are emissaries of the Rebbe in Temecula, Ca.
A scribe, or Sofer, began the painstaking process of transcribing a new Torah scroll for the Chabad of the Rivertowns, a growing Jewish congregation in Dobbs Ferry.
The day was a festive one, though the new scroll's origin is one of hardship.
That is fitting, says Jean-Marc Orlando, who is donating the Sefer Torah, because turning darkness into light is a familiar Jewish story.
Orlando, a former-high-level employee at French bank BNP Paribas and a practicing Orthodox Jew, was attending a 2011 work summit in Amsterdam when his life suddenly careened away from him. He was forced to attend two screenings of a training film that depicted the CEO of Deutsche Bank, a major competitor, as Adolf Hitler.
Orlando, a dual citizen of the United States and France, is of Tunisian ancestry. His grandmother was abducted by the Nazis, only narrowly escaping deportation.
As the video aired at that training session, he fled the building and began to weep on the street outside. That night, he called Rabbi Benjy Silverman, of Chabad of the Rivertowns. The two had been friends since Orlando began attending the nascent congregation in 2006.
"There was no better person to talk to," Orlando said. "This hit me in my core, and who better to speak to than with my rabbi?"
Silverman still remembers the tremble in Orlando's voice.
"It was a very difficult time," Silverman said "To him, this was not just an attack against him but an insult to his Judaism, an insult to us all."
An apology, according to a lawsuit he later filed, was all he wanted. Instead, he faced intimidation and threats.
"Orlando, I've heard enough," a superior told him, according to his court complaint. "If you dare open your [expletive] mouth one more time on this topic, I will take care of your career and what is left of it."
Within a year of the incident he was fired.
Orlando's health deteriorated. He was diagnosed with depression and began having seizures. A top performer who was well-respected by colleagues, he was fired in 2012.
Orlando settled the landmark discrimination suit against his former employer in February 2016 for an undisclosed amount.
What he did with some of the money, his rabbi said, is of tremendous inspiration to him, to the Chabad community and to Jews worldwide.
The Torah is the holiest book in Judaism and the centerpiece of religious services.
The new scroll, which will cost around $40,000, will travel to Israel where a second scribe will do the bulk of the work, expertly transcribing it character by character. The process can take upwards of a year and is done according to strict religious regulations.
It ultimately will return to Dobbs Ferry, where the final character will be written.
Orlando, who still lives in Scarsdale and now works for his own financial technology company, says his gift will long outlast his own story.
"We will have 20 generations that will learn and read from this Torah," he said. "This (case) will be forgotten in 10 years, but people will be inspired in the future, not by this incident but by the Torah itself. It is a candle that we lit in the darkness."
Reprinted from lohud.com
Each year on the festival of Shavuot we relive the giving of the Torah to the Jewish people by G-d at Mount Sinai by hearing the Ten Commandments read in the synagogue from a Torah scroll. It is a special mitzva (commandment) for every man, woman and child to be in the synagogue on Shavuot to hear the Torah reading. This year, the Torah reading that tells of the giving of the Torah will be read on the first day of Shavuot, Sunday, June 12, in synagogues around the world. Many Chabad-Lubavitch Centers sponsor "ice cream" parties (in keeping with the ancient tradition of eating dairy products on Shavuot) for the young and the young at heart. To find out about the closest Shavuot ice cream party call your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center.
Chabad Center at JFK
The Chabad Center at JFK/Kennedy Airport in New York has expanded its activities and now has a permanent facility in the airport. The dedication of the facility was held at the conclusion of the reciting of Kaddish for the Center's founder, Rabbi Yekutiel Rapp of blessed memory, who passed away tragically last year. The programming of the Center at JFK has expanded in this past year and is the fulfillment of Rabbi Rapp's last conversation with his son just two hours before his passing.
Adapted from a letter to the Lubavitch Women's Organization convention, dated Lag B'Omer, 5731 (1971)
Torah from Sinai begins with the Ten Commandments, of which the first two: "I am G-d, your G-d" (the root and foundation of all positive mitzvoth - commandments) and "You shall have no other gods" (the root and foundation of all prohibitions) proclaim the Unity of G-d. A precondition to the Giving of the Torah was the unity of the Jewish people (as it is written, "And Israel encamped there facing the Mountain"- in the singular form, indicating, as our Sages explain, "as one person with one heart"). The essence of the Giving of the Torah is to realize in the material world the Unity of G-d, through the "one nation on earth," the Jewish people, fulfilling the 613 mitzvoth of the one Torah.
At first glance it is difficult to understand how such unity can be achieved, considering that G-d Himself created mankind as diverse individuals, differing in their opinions ("as they differ in their faces so they differ in their minds"), living in a world which He likewise created variegated as to climate and physical features. How can a whole nation attain true unity within itself and bring unity into such a diversified world?
The explanation is to be found in the verse, "And they stood themselves under the Mountain (Mount Sinai)" - all of the 600,000 adult men, their wives, sons and daughters. This means that, as they were about to receive the Torah, all submitted themselves to it so completely, that mundane matters ceased to exist for them, as it were; their self-effacement (bitul) and joy of receiving the Torah left room for nothing else. And since the "Mountain" was the same for all, and all were permeated with the same feeling of self-effacement and joy, this brought true unity to all the individual Jews, and also unity into the world, through the one Torah.
The Jewish people began with one family, that of our ancestors Abraham and Sara, and ever since then the Jewish family has been the foundation of our people. In the family, too, each member is a separate individual, with a particular function and purpose in life assigned to him and her by Divine Providence. Unless there is unity in the family, there can be no unity of the Jewish people. How is family unity achieved? In the same way as mentioned above: When all the members of the family accept the One Torah from the One G-d in such a way that the Torah and mitzvoth are the only essential thing, and all other things are merely secondary, and have a significance only insofar as they are related to the essence - then there is true unity in the family.
In attaining this family unity - bearing in mind also that Jewish families are the component parts of the Jewish people, hence the basis of the unity of the Jewish people, as mentioned above - the Jewish mother and daughter have a most important part, being the Foundation of the Home, as has been underscored on previous occasions.
Needless to say, the said unity must be a constant one, without interruptions; this is to say, it must be expressed not only on certain days of the year, or certain hours of the day, but in every day of the year and in every hour of the day. This means that a Jewish home must be wholly based on the foundations of the Torah and mitzvoth, and so permeated with the spirit of Torah dedication and the joy of mitzva that this should be reflected also in the conduct outside the home, in the street, and in the entire environment.
Herein lies the essence of the "integrity" and unity of the Jewish family and of Jewish family life - the main theme of this year's Convention.
It is hoped that this point will be brought out at the Convention with the proper clarity and forcefulness, together with its aim and purpose - its realization in daily life, in keeping with the basic principle of our Sages of blessed memory: The essential thing is the deed.
In a spiritual sense, the lessons from Hakhel are applicable even in the Diaspora, even in the time after the Temple's destruction. Hakhel involves gathering together all Jews: men, women, and children. Hence, it is appropriate that everyone take part in assembling all the Jews. Men must try to influence men; women, women; and children, children to gather together. May it be G-d's will that the men, women, and children all accept good resolutions in regard to all the above and that we will climb over all the boundaries and limitations of exile and proceed to the true and ultimate redemption. Then we will hear Moshiach read the Torah in the Temple courtyard.
(The Rebbe, 1981)
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
Shavuot is "the season of the giving of our Torah," the time when G-d gave the Torah to the Jewish people. On Shavuot, the Rebbe would bless the congregation to "receive the Torah with happiness and inner feeling."
This blessing intimates that not only does Shavuot commemorate when we were given the Torah, but also the time when we accept and "receive" the Torah.
The Rebbe explained that our personal experiences on Shavuot should reflect both of these qualities: giving and receiving the Torah. The Rebbe urged every Jewish man, woman and child to become a teacher of Torah. The Rebbe explained that not only would the people being taught benefit from the Torah study, but that the teacher would benefit greatly as well.
Our Sages have taught that if a person knows even just the Hebrew letter alef, he is obligated to teach someone who doesn't know alef. There are hundreds of thousands of Jewish men, women and children who don't know "alef," or don't know about Shabbat candles, or about the mitzva (commandment) to give charity, or that Shavuot begins this Saturday night. But you know! And you can teach your Jewish friend, co-worker, doctor, teacher.
On the first day of Shavuot (Sunday this year), we will read in the synagogue the verses in the Torah that recount the giving of the Ten Commandments. Being in the synagogue for the Torah reading enables us to relive the experience of our ancestors had at Mount Sinai.
Our Sages have assured us that an increase in Torah study and mitzva observance will bring about increased blessings in all matters. May this also lead to the ultimate blessing, the coming of Moshiach and the ultimate and complete redemption. May it be in the immediate future.
And the L-rd spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the Tent of Meeting (Num. 1:1)
"In the wilderness of Sinai" teaches that a Jew should be as humble as Mount Sinai, the smallest of all the mountains; "in the Tent of Meeting" teaches that he should be joyous, as the word for "Meeting," "Moed," also means festival. The greater one's humility, the more genuine joy he will experience at having merited to be able to serve G-d.
(Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk)
Take a census of all the people of Israel (Num. 1:2)
Moses' counting of the Jews caused the Divine Presence to rest among them. Every Jew realized that he was part of an exact number, and that he, the individual, had the power to influence the fate of the entire nation. Similarly, Maimonides writes (Laws of Repentance): "Every person should consider himself...half innocent and half guilty, and the whole world as if half meritorious and half culpable. If he does one mitzva, he tips the balance to the side of merit and brings salvation to himself and entire world." Thus by arousing them to repentance, the census caused G-d's Presence to dwell among the Jews.
(Shnei Luchot HaBrit)
Our Sages note that the giving of the Torah at Sinai required the presence of all 600,000 Jews; if just one had been missing, the Torah would not have been given. The portion of Bamidbar is always read before Shavuot, the day on which the Torah was given, to remind us of this principle. Furthermore, it reminds us that it was not enough for all Jews to be present; it was necessary that the Jewish people be united in love for one another. "Israel camped there [before Mount Sinai] as one man with one mind." This peace and unity is the channel for all Divine blessings, including the greatest of all - the coming of Moshiach.
The upcoming holiday of Shavuot is the anniversary of the passing of King David.
Living in the Holy Land of Israel in the times of King Saul and King David, there were constant wars. Time and again, the Philistines attacked the Jews, sometimes in small bands, often with large armies.
One time, the Canaanite armies overpowered the Jews. They swarmed into Shilo, destroyed the Tabernacle, and carried off the Holy Ark in triumph. But their rejoicing was short lived. First they placed the Ark in the temple of their god, Dagon. But the next morning, they found the idol on the floor, with its head and hands off. Terrified, the people sent the Ark to a different city. But after a few days, everyone there became sick and started dying. From one place to another, wherever the Ark went, it brought only death and terror.
The Philistines realized that they had to get rid of the Ark. Their wise men advised placing it in a beautiful new wagon, together with gifts of gold and silver. The wagon would be hitched to two nursing mother cows. "Let us see where they pull it to," they said scoffingly. To their amazement, the cows ignored their hungry baby calves, and pulled the wagon right back to the Jews. It was an open miracle. All Israel rejoiced. For the next 20 years, the Ark remained with a righteous man named Avinadav.
In the meantime, David became king and fought a series of battles until he had totally defeated the Philistine enemy. "Now at last," he thought, "there is peace. I can bring the Ark to where it belongs, to Jerusalem." In his heart, David yearned to build a permanent home for the Ark, a Holy Temple that would be an eternal dwelling place for G-d's Presence in this world.
Bringing the Ark to Jerusalem was not a simple thing. This was the Ark of G-d, with the Ten Commandments in it. Special honors and a ceremony had to be arranged. Tens of thousands of Jews were invited to attend, and 150,000 judges. The Ark would be brought in the same beautiful wagon that the Philistines had made, to remind everyone of the great miracle that had taken place.
But the decision to use the Philistine wagon proved to be a fatal mistake. A huge crowd accompanied King David to the home of Avinadav. The Ark was loaded onto the wagon pulled by prize oxen. Lively music filled the air. Musicians played the harp, the flute, and drums. Tens of thousands of people followed the procession.
The Ark, however, is not allowed to be placed in a wagon. It must be carried on the shoulders of men from the Levite family of Kehot. As the procession passed by the farm of Aravna the Jebusite, where the Holy Temple would one day be built, the oxen suddenly lost their balance, and the wagon shook.
"Oh no!" cried Uzza, the son of Avinadav. "The Ark is falling!" Instinctively, he ran forward and stretched out his hand to support the Ark. No sooner did Uzza touch the holy Ark, than he suddenly fell lifeless to the ground. The Ark did not fall. It floated in the air, supported only by its own holiness.Whoever saw it was filled with fear and awe.
The procession could not continue. The death of Uzza put a halt to everything. The Ark was instead taken to the home of a righteous person, named Oved Edom. For three months the Ark stayed there, and Oved Edom prospered unbelievably. His fields produced bumper crops, and all the women in his family - his wife and eight daughters-in-law, gave birth to healthy children. Everyone could see that great blessing had come to him through the Ark.
Once again, King David prepared to bring the Ark to Jerusalem. This time the Ark was covered, as it was when the Jews had travelled in the desert. And the Levites carried the Ark on their shoulders. Miraculously, they did not feel its great weight. It even seemed like the Ark was carrying them.
Shofars and trumpets were sounded to remind everyone of the solemnity of the occasion. King David did not dress in royal robes, but in simple white linen, like a Priest on Yom Kippur. On his head he wore tefillin, and in his arm he cradled a small Torah scroll.
King David was euphoric. The Ark was returning. The Tablets that G-d Himself had given at Mt. Sinai had been taken way from the Jews. And now they were coming home. With boundless joy, King David danced before the Ark, leaping and cavorting with happiness.
Finally the Ark was brought into the city and placed in a special tent that had been prepared. Then the king blessed all the people, and presented every one with a loaf of bread, a portion of meat, and a flask of wine, so that they could all rejoice with their families.
When King David's wife, Michal, the daughter of King Shaul, saw her husband from the window, dancing and leaping in the street, she was very upset. She had never seen such behavior in her father's house. It seemed to her lowly and shameful for a king to make such a spectacle of himself in public.
When David came home, she could not contain her feelings, and burst out with harsh words against him. "How could you behave like that?" she said. "Have you no sense of dignity? You have brought shame on the kingship and shame on us all."
"No," said David, "that is not true. If I danced in public before the Ark, it was only for the honor of G-d. He is my great Master! Before Him I am nothing, less than a simple common person. For He is all my honor and my joy, and whatever I did is only for His sake."
And so the Ark with the Tablets of the Ten Commandments came to its resting place in Jerusalem. King David then began making plans for the building of the Holy Temple where the Ark would one day find its permanent home, may it be restored speedily in our days.
From The Moshiach Times
The Messianic King will arise in the future and restore the Davidic KinG-dom to its former state and original sovereignty. He will build the Sanctuary1 and gather the dispersed of Israel.All the laws will be re-instituted in his days as they had been aforetimes;sacrifices will be offered, and the Sabbatical years and Jubilee years will be observed fully as ordained by the Torah. Anyone who does not believe in Moshiach, or whoever does not look forward to his coming, denies not only the teachings of the other prophets but also those of the Torah and of Moses our Teacher.
(Mishneh Torah of Maimonides, Laws of Kings 11:1)