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Have you shopped for Father's Day cards yet? Even if you haven't, certainly you remember from previous years that most Father's Day cards fall into a few categories. There are the sweet and sentimental ones with the soft-touch drawing on the front and then there are the humorous or tongue-in-cheek cards that seem to be written especially for your dad. Some cards talk about Dad always being there, making things right, listening and caring. Others extoll Dad's virtues and then ask for the car keys, or a few extra dollars.
G-d is often referred to in our prayers as Our Father. Just like your dad, G-d is interested and even involved in the most mundane and seemingly insignificant parts of your life. He can be approached by every Jew, no matter where, no matter when. And He can and should be approached for any of the things you might ask your flesh-and-blood father for: some money for a new car, extra assistance on the final exam, a listening ear, or forgiveness, to name a few.
"I can get by with a little help from my friends," some people say. "I don't believe in asking G-d for what I need." That sounds nice. Sort of like you don't want to bother G-d with your "trivialities." But did you know that it is a mitzva to ask G-d for our needs? To pray that the refrigerator doesn't break down because you can't afford a new one right now. To ask G-d to heal a sick friend. To request success on that presentation you have to make next week.
Asking your dad for something you need--and his being able to help out--gives him pleasure. Similarly, asking G-d for what we need--and His giving it to us--gives Him "pleasure."
There are times, too, that in order to get our dad's attention we have to respectfully demand that he put down the newspaper or turn off the T.V. and LISTEN. "Listen to our voice, merciful Father, have compassion on us, accept our prayers; do not turn us away empty-handed for You hear everyone's prayers."
G-d hears our prayers, He listens to our requests, He registers our complaints. But does that mean that things always go the way we want them to? Not necessarily! Did your father always give you the car keys, or let you go to every party you were invited to, or always lend you the money you asked him for? Sometimes yes, and sometimes no.
When you got a yes, you probably never asked him why. But the no always needed an explanation.
Why a no? Sometimes, what you were asking for wasn't right. You knew it and he knew it, but you had to ask anyway. Sometimes it wasn't right, but just Dad knew it; and later, looking back, you realized Dad had made the correct decision. And sometimes, for some inexplicable reason, Dad said no without explaining himself, and you just had to accept it. This is true, too, of our Heavenly Father. Sometimes, He accedes to our requests and at other times He denies them, for He truly knows what is best for us.
There is one request, however, which we know is correct and which we have a right to demand G-d listen to. It is the plea for Moshiach, who will help the world achieve the purpose for which it was created, an era of peace, prosperity and the pursuit of G-dliness.
Father, hear our prayer, we want Moshiach NOW!
- (Back to text) Paraphrase of one of the 19 blessings that we say in the Amida prayer recited three times each weekday.
In the very beginning of this week's Torah portion, B'Haalotcha, we read the command to Aaron, "When you light the lamps..." This is a clear instruction that a Jew has to "kindle lights" to illuminate the surroundings. In this, too, a Jew has to emulate, so to speak, the Creator, Who, immediately after creating Heaven and earth, gave the order, "Let there be light!"
The essential thing about a candle (in the ordinary sense) is that it should give forth light and illuminate its surroundings. An unlit, or extinguished candle brings no benefit and has no meaning in that state per se. Only when it gives light and shines does it fulfill its purpose, which isto serve man by enabling him to see by its light everything around him. In this way it illuminates his way so that he will not stumble in darkness, and generally helps him to do and accomplish what he must.
The nature of a candle is that when one puts a flame to its wick, even a small flame--so long as he does it effectively--the flame catches on, and then it continues to give off light on its own. This, too, is indicated in the text, as our Sages comment: When you light the lamps [of the menora]--"[light them so] that the flame goes up on its own."
The instruction is thus:
G-d has endowed the human being with a soul, a Divine "lamp," as it is written, "The soul of man is the lamp of G-d"--to illuminate his or her path in life, and to illuminate the world. But this soul-lamp, or candle, has first to be ignited with the flame of Torah in order that it should shine forth with its true light, the light of "a mitzva is a candle and the Torah is light." (Proverbs)
And this is the task and purpose of every Jew: to be a brightly shining lamp and to kindle, or add brightness to every Divine "lamp"--Jewish soul--with which he or she comes in contact. And one must do this to completeness, in a way that the lamps they light likewise continue to shine brightly on their own, and also become "lamp-lighters," kindling other souls, "from candle to candle," in a continuous chain.
Needless to say, though the instruction to light the menora was given to Aaron the Priest, it includes all Jews, in their spiritual life, since every Jew is a member of the "Kingdom of Priests." Moreover, there is the exhortation: "Be of the disciples of Aaron...loving the creatures and bringing them closer to Torah." To be a disciple of Aaron one must be permeated with love for every Jew and one must be involved in transmitting Judaism.
Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
The Radio Rabbi of Russia
by Shoshanna Silcove
In 1985, when Rabbi Dov Ber Haskelevitch was asked by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty to be producer and commentator for a weekly rabbi's talk he had some concerns. "Most of my listeners would not be Jewish. I had to discuss things that were relevant to everyone without compromising my Torah principles."
Since the Lubavitcher Rebbe had begun speaking about the Seven Noahide Laws as universal laws for all non-Jews, Rabbi Haskelevitch saw this as a unique opportunity to fulfill the Rebbe's directive by educating his largely non-Jewish audience to follow the Seven Noahide Laws.
"I began,"he said, "by concentrating on episodes from the Bible and explaining them in light of Chasidic philosophy and also in terms of the Seven Noahide Laws. I received a very positive reaction from Jews and non-Jews."
One non-Jewish family recently wrote to the rabbi that they have become so inspired by the weekly talk that the entire family now routinely listens to the show every week. They are thoroughly convinced that the Seven Noahide Laws are the answer to all of the world's problems.
Today, Rabbi Haskelevitch's radio program reaches 50 to 60 million listeners across the former Soviet Union and in other parts of Eastern Europe as well. "When I first began doing this program it was before Glasnost. The management asked me to wish the Russian people a good year on January 1, 1985. I expressed my hope that the Russian nation should come to appreciate religious freedom. People called me afterwards and asked me, 'Do you really believe that such a country could have any real changes?' I answered that I sincerely believed it. I had a sense from the Rebbe's advice to Jews in Russia at the time--telling them to cooperate with the government--that the Rebbe was anticipating a change. My hunch was correct."
With the unprecedented and miraculous downfall of the most repressive regime known to world history came the opening up of the floodgates of religious freedom. Unfortunately, however, this also brought on a resurgence in anti-Semitism. Pamphlets have been printed in Russia accusing Jews of baking matzohs with Christian blood and people believe it to such an extent that some are even afraid to let their children out of the house during the Passover season.
"Another objective of my program is to dispel anti-Semitism. I say that Torah teaches love of one's neighbor and it would never condone the victimization of gentiles. They learn that through the Seven Noahide Laws they are equal partners with us in G-d's creation. This changes their attitude."
Rabbi Haskelevitch grew up the son of a respected Torah scholar under the Soviet regime. At an early age he had to resolve intellectual conflicts resulting from the discrepancy between his Jewish upbringing and the propaganda he learned in the Soviet school system.
The teachings of Chabad Chasidut helped him to reject atheistic indoctrination and at age 14 he became a Lubavitcher chasid. Later as a young man Rabbi Haskelevitch came to Crown Heights, Brooklyn, where he now resides with his Russian-born wife Chaya Sara and their eight children. "I originally came to see if everything I had heard about the Rebbe was true. I came for a short visit and I never went back," he said.
The Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty program is creating some controversy in several segments of Russian society. A newspaper article recently asserted that the chasidim are trying to destroy particularistic Russian nationalism by introducing the "dangerous" concept of a universal set of laws for all nations. A political party, the anti-Semitic Pamyat, after learning of the Jewish roots of the Russian Orthodox religion, is seeking to erase any trace of Jewish influence on its creed, thereby going back to Russian paganism. Gorbachev himself admitted, after having escaped a coup d'etat with his life, that he owed his survival to the fact that he was listening to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. "After Gorbachev admitted this, my program rose greatly in its popularity. I am convinced that Gorbachev had always been listening to me." Rabbi Haskelevitch asserted.
To Rabbi Haskelevitch, however, the controversy surrounding his work is merely amusing. He is mostly concerned with reaching the average Russian citizens and educating them to understand spiritual concepts that they were denied access to for so long. That is why he has expanded his work to include an umbrella organization called H.O.A.S.C.A.N.I.M. (Hebrew Orthodox Assoc. for Societal and Cultural Advancement through National and International Media). HOASCANIM, which is the Hebrew word for activists, supports Radio Liberty and is publishing books and magazines in Russia as well as conducting lectures to the many groups which have recently formed to keep and learn more about the Seven Noahide Laws. Its objectives are to spread the teachings of Torah among Jews, to educate gentiles on the Seven Noahide Laws, and to dispel anti-Semitic myths.
To what does Rabbi Haskelevitch attribute his success? "When we are talking to the deeply atheistic nations of the former Soviet empire, now miraculously turned anti-communist, about a religion of one G-d with one set of laws for all mankind, then this is an indication that we are living in the times right before the coming of the Messiah. Actually, communism was the belief in a good future, a utopia. The idea of communism was that mankind could build a world that could become so prosperous that life could become better for all people. This is an idea that I underscore as coming from Judaism. We can use all of science and materialism for the good but first we must become better. That can only be through faith. This is a Messianic idea and it is a Jewish one that must be based on faith."
SOUTHERN ONTARIO CAMP
Chabad Lubavitch of Southern Ontario is once again sponsoring an overnight camp for boys ages 8 - 13 this summer. The camp, Or Simcha, will run for a three-week session from August 11 - Sept. 2. Fully equipped camp grounds are located on a beautiful lake-front. For more info call Rabbi Yosef Gansburg at (416) 731-1000.
SUMMER CAMPS IN RUSSIA
Two hundred young people from America and Israel have joined the 140 Chabad emissaries and students currently in C.I.S. to staff Chabad-Lubavitch day and overnight camps this summer. Under the auspices of Ezras Achim, 10 overnight camps, 4 seminars for college students, and 25 day camps will be open this summer. In addition, yeshiva students will be visiting 60 cities throughout the former Soviet Union to give classes. Ezras Achim has also shipped over 150 tons of food from Switzerland, France, Israel and America to help feed the 9,000 children and young adults who will be participating in the camps or seminars. For more info call Ezras Achim at (718) 467-0070.
From a letter of the Lubavitcher Rebbe
Teshuva ("repentance") enables a person to rectify completely all that should have been achieved throughout the past, in matters of Torah and mitzvot--"with one `turn' and in one moment."
Parenthetically, it is surely needless to emphasize that the above must not, G-d forbid, serve as an excuse for wrongdoing, as our Sages warned, "Whoever says, 'I will sin and repent later,' is not given an opportunity to do teshuva."
We will amplify the said point in order to make it clearer how much it concerns the conduct of a Jew, and of any person in general. By way of introduction:
On reflection, it can easily be seen that the world contains more quantity (materiality) than quality (spirituality), and more by far. Indeed, the more corporeal and gross a thing is, the greater is the quantity in which it is found. Thus, for example, the world of inanimate, (inorganic) matter is much greater in volume than the vegetable kingdom, and the latter is qualitatively greater than the animal kingdom, which, in turn, surpasses by far, in quantity, the highest of the four kingdoms mankind (the "speaking" creature). Similarly in the human body: the lowest extremities, the legs are larger in size than the rest of the body, and the latter is much greater in bulk than the head, wherein are located the organs of speech and the senses of smell, hearing and sight, as well as the intellect, etc., which animates the entire body and direct all its activities.
On further reflection, a person might also become disheartened, G-d forbid, wondering how is one to fulfill adequately one's real purpose in life on this earth, which is, to quote our Sages, "I was created to serve my Creator"--seeing that most of one's time is necessarily taken up with materialistic things, such as eating and drinking, sleeping, earning a livelihood, etc. What with the fact that the earliest years of a human being, before reaching maturity and knowledgeability, are spent in an entirely materialistic mode of living.
The answer is, first of all, that even the so-called materialistic preoccupations of daily life must not become purely materialistic and animal-like, for we have to be always mindful of the imperative, "Let all your doings be for the sake of Heaven," and "Know Him (G-d) in all your ways."
This means that also in carrying out the activities which are connected with the physical and material aspects of life (which, as mentioned, take up the greater part of a person's time) a human being must know that those material aspects are not an end in themselves. They are, and must serve as, the means to attain to the higher, spiritual realm of life, namely, G-dliness. In this way he permeates all those materialistic-physical aspects with spiritual content, and utilizes them for spiritual purpose. Thus, all these mundane, and in themselves trivial matters, are elevated to their proper role, perfection and spirituality.
But in addition to the above, there is also the unique effectiveness of teshuva, which has the power to transform--"with one `turn' and in one moment"--the whole past--the very materiality of it into spirituality.
Time is, of course, not measured simply by duration, but by its content in terms of achievement. Thus, in evaluating time there are vast differences in terms of content, and, hence, in real worth, of a minute, an hour, etc. Suffice it to mention, by way of example, that one cannot compare an hour of prayer and outpouring of the soul before G-d with an hour of sleep. And to use the analogy of coins, there may be coins of identical size and shape, yet differing in their intrinsic value, depending upon whether they are made of copper, silver or gold.
With all the wonderful opportunities that G-d provides for a person to fill his time, there is the most unique gift from "G-d who does wonders" of the extraordinary quality of teshuva, which transcends all limitations, including the limitations of time, so that "in one moment" it transforms the whole past, to the degree of absolute perfection in quality and spirituality.
Are there special ways to prepare oneself for prayer?
There is a custom, mentioned in the prayer book compiled by Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi--the founder of Chabad Chasidut--which is based on the teachings of Kabala, that one say, "I hereby undertake to fulfill the mitzva, `Love your fellowman as yourself,' " before beginning to pray. For fulfilling the commandment of loving a fellow Jew is the gateway that enables a person to enter and stand before G-d in prayer. By virtue of this love one's prayers are accepted."
Pirkei Avot. One of the first teachings that we read is from Rabbi Yehuda HaNassi, who said, "Reflect upon three things and you will not come to sin: Know what is above you--an Eye that sees, an Ear that hears, and all your deeds are recorded in a Book."
A deeper explanation of the above is that to keep oneself from transgressing, one must reflect on three things: the existence of G-d--who is Above; the all-seeing Eye and all-hearing Ear which makes us aware of Divine Providence--that G-d oversees everything; that everything is "written in the Book" which informs us that it is impossible that we will not be punished for any transgressions.
The Maggid of Mezritch rephrases just a few of Rabbi Yehuda's words and gives us the following inspiring comment. "Know that everything which is Above--is from you." Everything in this world is dependent on G-d Above. But in addition, teaches the Maggid, all the blessings that rain from Above are dependent on each individual's personal actions.
How can this be so? According to the Talmud, every person must consider the world as being totally balanced between good deeds and not good deeds. Through one deed a person can tip the scale to the side of good.
And if this equation is true for any deed, it is certainly even truer when it comes to deeds which foster love of our fellow-Jews and peace in the world at large. For, as our Sages have taught, the Torah was given to bring peace to the world--peace between one person and another and between the Creator and His creations.
The Rebbe, shlita, has reminded us numerous times of this concept that the world is in balance, particularly when speaking of the imminent arrival of Moshiach. Just as in general the world can be tipped to the side of good through one good deed, so, too, can the arrival of Moshiach be hastened and in fact actualized through one good deed.
Do a good deed today. It might just be the one which brings Moshiach!
Rabbi Shmuel Butman
Rabbi Chaim Halberstam of Sanz, known as the Sanzer Rav, was deeply involved in the mitzva of tzedaka (charity), giving with an open hand from his own funds and soliciting from others as well. In keeping with the rabbinical dictum that charity collectors should travel in pairs, he always went on his rounds with a respected member of the community.
One time Rabbi Chaim set about to collect a large amount of tzedaka for a certain wealthy man who had gone bankrupt. He and a trusted companion went about from house to house soliciting funds, when they came to the elegant home of one of the richest men in the city. They entered the beautifully appointed anteroom and were shown to a velvet sofa where they were served tea from a silver tea service while they waited for the master of the house to appear. After a few minutes a well-dressed gentleman entered and greeted the illustrious Rabbi warmly.
The Rabbi and his companion requested that the wealthy man donate the large amount of five hundred rubles for an unspecified "worthy cause."
The rich man considered their request for a few moments and then asked, "Tell me, exactly what is the cause you're collecting for? Is it for some public institution or for a private person?"
Rabbi Chaim replied that he was collecting for a wealthy citizen who had lost all his money and gone into bankruptcy. But this answer wasn't sufficient for the man, and he began to inquire further about the identity of the person.
"I'm sorry," replied Rabbi Chaim, "but I cannot divulge the man's name, since that would cause him terrible embarrassment. You'll just have to trust me when I tell you that he's a very deserving individual."
The rich man refused to be dissuaded from his curious pursuit of the man's identity. "Of course, I trust you implicitly, and I would be only too happy to donate even several thousand rubles to help you, but I would first like to know to whom I'm giving the money."
At this point the man who was accompanying the Rabbi interjected his opinion that perhaps it wouldn't be so bad to divulge the man's identity in this case. Certainly the rich donor wouldn't allow the information to leave the room, and it was a wonderful opportunity to amass the large amount of money to help a fellow Jew rebuild his life.
But Rabbi Chaim would say only that the man had up until recently been one of the pillars of the community and had himself contributed to many worthy causes before his unfortunate business collapse. Again he protested that he couldn't and wouldn't publicize the man's name.
The rich man, far from being silenced, was even more aroused in his curiosity. "If you tell me his name I will give you half of the entire amount you need."
His fellow collector again tried to convince the Rav to tell the man's name, in view of the tremendous sum of money involved, but to no avail.
"You must understand," he replied, "that even though the sum you are offering is more than generous, the honor of this Jew is more important and valuable to me than any amount of money! If you were to give me the total sum that I require, I would still refuse to reveal the identity of the recipient!"
The rich man's countenance changed suddenly and he became very still. He quietly asked Reb Chaim to step into an adjacent room, for he wished to speak with him privately.
Standing alone with the Rabbi, the rich man broke down into bitter sobbing. "Rebbe," he began, "I, too, have lost my entire fortune and am about to enter into bankruptcy. I was too embarrassed to tell this to anyone, but when I saw how scrupulously you guarded the other man's privacy I knew I could trust you. Please forgive me for testing you in such an outrageous manner, but I am a desperate man. I needed to know for sure that under no circumstances would you tell anyone about my terrible situation. I am in debt for such a huge sum, I have no hope at all of repaying it. I'm afraid that I will have no choice but to leave my family and go begging from door to door!"
The Sanzer Rav left the home of the rich man, and needless to say, not a soul ever heard a word of their conversation. Less than a week later he returned to the same man's house with a large sum of money. He had been able to raise enough money to rescue not only the original intended recipient, but this one as well. They were both able to pay off their debts and resume their businesses successfully.
The role of the saintly Sanzer Rav in this affair became known only many years later after he had gone to his eternal reward.
This is the workmanship of the menora--beaten work of gold (Num. 8:4)
"Beaten work of gold," explains Rashi, means that the menora was to be made of a single piece of gold, beaten or pounded with a hammer and other tools, until it assumed the proper shape. Likewise, a person who desires to transform himself into a "menora," to kindle his G-dly spark and be illuminated with the light of Torah, should also do the same to himself--striking away at his negative qualities and working on his character until he, too, assumes the proper form.
From the base, until the flowers, beaten work (Num. 8:4)
The base of the menora symbolizes the lowest level of Jews; the flowers, those on the highest spiritual plane. The Torah demands that the menora be made out of one piece of gold, just as the Jewish people is but one entity. Every Jew is incomplete by himself, without the rest of the Jewish nation, just as in the human body, the foot needs the head to function no less than the head requires the foot for mobility.
That there be no plague among the Children of Israel, when the Children of Israel approach the Sanctuary (Num. 8:19)
There are, unfortunately, Jews who only interest themselves in Judaism after a misfortune has befallen them. Our aim should be, however, to approach G-d not only through suffering and sorrow, but with joy and happiness.
But the man Moses was very humble, more so than any man upon the face of the earth (Num. 12:3)
The famous Chasidic rabbi, Reb Baruch, once asked his disciple, Rabbi Baruch Stuchiner, if he had as yet succeeded in locating proper accommodations in the town of Pshischa. The chasid replied that he had not yet found a place to stay. Reb Baruch responded: "One who does not 'take up space" will always be able to find a place wherever he goes."
Before dawn comes, the darkness of night thickens, and it is when daybreak is imminent that a heavy slumber descends upon one. It is then that one needs to gather strength, so that one will not fall asleep. The light [of the Messianic Era] is about to come, thank G-d; daybreak is beginning. Now is therefore the time when we should invest every effort and exertion to ensure that we are not overtaken by sleep.
(Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn in Likkutei Diburim)