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The invitations, the hall, the caterer, the band, photographer, gown, flowers and guest list. Everything has been done for the wedding. The bride and groom have even been reading the latest best-sellers on how men and women differ, how they have unique ways of communicating, and how to make their marriage work in this day and age of divorce.
One thing the new couple knows for sure even without reading it or being told is: "In a relationship like marriage, there's no such thing as "minimum."
Whereas in business or other partnerships one might be able to ponder: "What's the least I can do in order to keep going?" such cannot be a consideration in marriage. Rather, "What can I do to enhance this relationship, to make it stronger, to help it grow" should be primary concerns of both husband and wife.
The approaching holiday of Shavuot (this year from the evening of May 23 through the evening of May 25) is likened to the marriage of G-d and the Jewish people. The Jewish people, being the bride, received the Torah -- our ketuba -- from G-d on that day. Mount Sinai was our chupa.
Our relationship with G-d, then, is like that of wife and husband.
And, whereas the thought of "what's the minimum I can do and still remain in a healthy relationship with my significant other" could never be entertained in a human marriage, the same thought should never be a conscious or subconscious consideration regarding our relationship with G-d.
"What can I do to enhance my relationship with G-d, to make it stronger, to help it grow?" are questions we can and should ask ourselves. For Judaism encourages asking sincere questions, and then genuinely trying to find out the answers.
One answer to the above question comes from the realization that, although "G-d wants the heart," G-d also wants every other part of our bodies. Our marriage to G-d makes our relationship with Him anything but platonic. To have a healthy relationship with G-d we have to get physical.
Our hands, our feet, our brains, our mouths, should be physically involved in this relationship: our hands to give charity or light a Shabbat candle; our feet to walk to shul or to visit a friend who isn't well; our brains to study Torah and find answers to our questions; our mouths to pray and only speak well of others.
And as our relationship with G-d grows, as our love deepens and intensifies, we will come to realize that we are truly content that G-d chose, 3308 years ago, to become united with the Jewish people, His eternal bride.
In truth, there have been tough times in this Divine marriage, as there are in any marriage. But the bride and Groom together eagerly await the time when this union will be truly perfect, in the Messianic Era.
The Midrash relates that the Jewish people slept through the entire night before the Torah was given on Shavuot. Their sleep was so deep and so pleasant, in fact, that we are told that the insects didn't dare to disturb them.
The next morning, the day on which the Torah was to be given, they overslept! G-d Himself had to awaken them. Unbelievably, the Jewish people arrived late for the revelation at Mount Sinai.
In commemoration of this event it is customary to remain awake the entire night of Shavuot learning Torah in the synagogue. But how could the Children of Israel have allowed themselves to fall asleep in the first place? If the greatest human king had promised to give us a valuable treasure, wouldn't we be too excited to sleep the night before? How much more so a gift that is expected from the King of kings!
In truth, having been told that G-d would be giving them the Torah in 50 days, the Jews yearned with such anticipation that they immediately began to count the days. Each day, as they counted, they ascended one spiritual rung after the other by ridding themselves of the negative characteristics they had acquired in Egypt and transforming them into positive ones. The nearer the day came, the greater was their excitement. And yet, when the day finally arrived, they almost slept right through it!
To explain: The Jewish people did not fall asleep by accident; they did so deliberately, with good intentions. For they were convinced that going to sleep would constitute the final stage in their preparation for receiving the Torah.
When a person sleeps, his soul ascends on high. Thus the Jews deliberately went to sleep to allow their souls to comprehend even higher levels of the Torah. Nonetheless, G-d did not approve of their behavior, as it missed the point of the entire revelation.
In His Torah, G-d commanded us to utilize physical objects in the performance of His mitzvot. Thinking about giving charity is not enough; we have to actually give a poor person the money. By utilizing physical objects (a lulav on Sukkot, for example) we imbue the world with holiness, thereby connecting the spiritual and material realms.
When a person sleeps, however, his soul is not connected to the physical world, and the spiritual and material realms remain disunited -- the antithesis of G-d's intent in giving us His Torah.
Accordingly, the proper preparation for receiving the Torah should have involved serving G-d on the highest spiritual levels while still awake, the better to fulfill G-d's ultimate intention in creating the world.
Adapted from Likutei Sichot of the Rebbe, Volume 4
Children of Chernobyl
by Carl Alpert
At a time when the news from Israel is not always bright and encouraging, we report on a heart-warming, life-saving project which is little known, and even less understood. This is the on-going program of the rescue of the Jewish children of Chernobyl.
Though the nuclear disaster in the Ukrainian city occurred ten years ago in April 1986, and took a death toll which by now has exceeded 125,000, the hideous effects are still claiming victims who remain in or near the contaminated areas.
This was the area known in Czarist times as the Pale of Settlement. It was home to millions of Jews, and several hundred thousand still reside there, though their numbers are dwindling rapidly as the children, most susceptible to the radiation induced cancers, are dying young.
Six years ago the Chabad movement initiated a rescue program which is comparable to the origins of the Youth Aliyah movement, in which German Jewish parents sent their children on to Palestine to escape the Nazi fate which they foresaw.
In the present instance, Jewish families in the Chernobyl area place their children in the humanitarian care of Chabad and sent them to Israel where they are provided with crucial medical treatment and enabled to grow up in a healthy environment. To date, close to 1300 youngsters have been saved and given a new lease on life.
What is remarkable about this program -- and sad, too -- is that no help whatsoever is provided by any of the major Jewish rescue bodies -- not the JDC, not the Jewish Agency, not HIAS. All funds are raised privately by Chabad from individual generous donors.
Several thousand children have been registered by their parents on the waiting list but their turn can come only when funds are available for the flight, the housing, education and medical care in Israel. The little ones, aged roughly from six to 15 or so, arrive in Israel as tourists; they do not receive the benefits given by the government to new immigrants.
They are housed at Kfar Chabad, in the center of the country, where a complete network of educational and medical facilities has been set up. They are clothed. They can phone home to their parents from time to time.
The sponsors pay for everything, for every band-aid. The Hadassah Hospital provides splendid medical and clinical services, but I was shocked to hear that it charges Chabad full rates for use of its facilities.
Even on its relatively limited scale, what Chabad is doing for the Jewish children of the Ukraine, exceeds what the U.N. and all its agencies are doing for the general population of the area. The major international effort is being devoted now to research, to learn what to do in case of a repetition of a similar disaster elsewhere.
The basis of the program is a two year stay at Kfar Chabad. At the end of that period, in most cases, the parents come here as olim [immigrants], pick up their healthy children and begin fresh family lives with new homes, and jobs. But the follow-up? Do the disciples of Lubavitch permit these children to "escape their missionary grasp?"
On our in-depth tour of Kfar Chabad and our talks with those concerned, we were assured that there is no follow-up and no missionary efforts. If the sponsors have been able to instill a little basic Yiddishkiet into these children who back in the Ukraine had been completely detached from any Jewish consciousness, they are satisfied.
There is no coercion. Follow-up? There is neither time nor money for that. All efforts must be saved to bring over another hundred and still another hundred and still another of those on the ever- lengthening waiting list to get them away from the contaminated areas, before their health is affected beyond all cure. This is a program with the purest of Jewish humanitarian motivation.
The facilities at Kfar Chabad are spartan, but comfortable.
The children are taught Hebrew and English, and get a full academic program equivalent to what would be provided in the usual Jewish day school. Medical care and attention are important, for many of the young ones arrive with early symptoms of thyroid cancer. The immune systems of many have been affected by their exposure back home.
With a minimum budget, and with insufficient publicity, the Chabad Children of Chernobyl project has already rescued almost 1300 youngsters, and serves as a shining example of Judaism and Israel at their best.
(If you would like to assist in this endeavor, please contact Jay Litvin, Executive Director by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org and tell him you read about this work here. --YY)
Yes, You Can Teach Torah
The celebration of Shavuot should inspire each individual to intensify his commitment to Torah study. Each individual should also endeavor to share his Torah knowledge by establishing a new Torah study session in which he/she will teach others.
This applies to every single Jew -- man, woman, or child. Each one -- according to his/her knowledge and ability -- should organize a shiur in which he teaches others. This is a matter of immediate necessity and should be publicized throughout the entire world.
(The Rebbe, Shavuot, 5750)
TORAH OF TRUTH AND LIFE
3 Sivan, 5711 
On the approach of Shavuot, the Festival of our Receiving the Torah, I send you herewith my best wishes for an inspired and joyous festival.
The Torah, being G-d-given, is infinite in its aspects. To some it may be a means to gain reward and avoid punishment, as promised in the Torah. To others, the Torah is a guide to good, wholesome living, and an ideal social system. Both views are limited.
Chabad goes deeper than that, delving into the profound inner significance of the Torah. Accordingly, the underlying purpose of the Torah is to serve as the link between the Creator and creation.
To amplify this but very briefly: The Creator is Infinite; creation is finite. There is no common denominator between the two (as is fully explained in Chabad literature). In this respect, there is no difference between the "Four Kingdoms" of creation, between the highest intellect among the men, and the crudest stone, for both are creations, and consequently have no co-relationship with the Creator.
That is why even the most intellectual of men cannot grasp G-d with his intellect. However, in His infinite goodness, G-d gave man a possibility to approach and commune with Him. G-d showed us how a finite created being can reach beyond his inherent limitations and commune with G-d the Infinite.
Herein lies the most important aspect of the Torah and mitzvot, for they provide the ways and means whereby we may reach a plane over rand beyond our status as created, mortals. Clearly, this plane is incomparably above the highest perfection which a man can attain within his own created (hence, limited) sphere.
In this deeper sense we may now understand the words of the Torah: "And you who cleave unto G-d your G-d, are all living this day."
Wishing you and yours a happy Yom Tov, with lasting inspiration throughout the year,
Rosh Chodesh Sivan, 5726 
This year's Annual Banquet is taking place within several days of Shavuot, the Festival of Mattan Torah, the Giving of the Torah at Sinai. I trust that all participants will bring with them to the Banquet a goodly measure of the inspiration and joy of this great Yom Tov, and make the Banquet the success it deserves in every respect.
Our Sages tell us that when G-d was about to give the Torah at Mt. Sinai, He requested guarantors to ensure that the Torah would be studied and observed. All guarantees were rejected, until Moshe Rabbeinu [Moses, our teacher] declared: "Our children will be our guarantors!" Without this guarantee, not even Moshe Rabbeinu could have received the Torah. Henceforth, it became the responsibility of Moshe Rabbeinu and, indeed, of all Jews, to see to it that the Torah and the Torah-way of life would be perpetuated through our children.
The Torah is called Torat Chaim, the Torah of Life, meaning that it is both the source of everlasting life as well as the true guide in the daily life, for Torah means "guidance" and "instruction." It is the Divine and eternal Torah which we receive annually on Shavuot and, indeed, every day throughout the year we renew and reaffirm our eternal bond with it, as it has been throughout the ages, and in all places wherever Jews have lived.
It is the work of the Merkos L'Inyonei Chinuch [Central Organization for Jewish Education established by the Previous Rebbe], in many parts of this country and the world over, to strengthen the bond between our Jewish people and the Torah, and particularly, to see to it that the children would be able, not only to receive their great heritage, but also transmit it for future generations. Fortunate indeed is the Jewish community of the Twin Cities [S. Paul and Minneapolis], to have the Merkos in its midst, and to have also, many devoted friends and dedicated partners, in this very vital endeavor.
May the Almighty bless each and every one of you, with success in your efforts in behalf of our children -- "our guarantors" -- for the perpetuation of our Jewish way of life, and, indeed, for our survival and happy future.
LESSONS FOR MEN AND WOMEN
In Jewish thought women and men are not only completely different, but are utterly equal in presence and importance, in strength and in potential.
Thus, the theme of the Shabbat Discovery Weekend hosted by the Lubavitch community of Crown Heights is, "Nurturing Our Feminine Side: Lessons from the Matriarches for Jewish Men and Women."
The weekend, which takes place June 7-9, is open to Jewish couples, families and singles and includes thought-provoking lectures and discussions accompanied by delicious cuisine amidst the unique joy of Chasidic family life.
For more information call (718) 953-1000.
Chabad of Capetown, South Africa, joined the ever-growing list of Chabad Centers throughout the world offering a post-high school yeshiva experience for young women. Students hail from around the world and become intimately involved with the Jewish community of Capetown as they expand their Jewish education.
It is interesting to note that the festival of Shavuot does not have an independent date of its own, as do all other Jewish holidays; no month or day is specified in the Torah as the time for its celebration. It is only specified that Shavuot is the "Fiftieth Day" of the counting of the Omer -- the counting which we begin on the second day of Passover, on the day after the liberation from Egyptian bondage.
In this way the Torah emphasizes that Shavuot is the goal of Passover: that the Season of the Giving of Our Torah is the culmination of the Season of Our Freedom. This teaches us that the true and complete freedom, both for the individual as well as for the community, and both materially and spiritually, can be attained only through Torah.
We live in a time and in a country where, notwithstanding external "freedom," in general we are still largely "enslaved" and at a loss how to free ourselves from the shackles of spiritual and mental confusion.
The only key to the bars and shackles of our enslavement is a Torah education. For our children -- and every Jewish child is "our" child -- this means an uncompromsing Jewish education. For ourselves this means attending Torah classes, studying and reading Jewish texts privately, and teaching and inspiring others.
May we all merit to learn this year not only the Torah that was given and revealed to us 3,308 years ago at Mount Sinai, but the "new Torah" that will be taught by our righteous Moshiach in the Messianic Era.
G-d gave His three-part Torah (the Five Books of Moses, the Prophets and the Writings) to a three-part nation (the Jewish people, who are divided into Priests, Levites and Israelites) in the third month (Sivan, the third month of the year when counting from Nisan, the "first month" according to the Bible).
Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev used to say: Shavuot is the only Biblical festival in connection with which the Torah does not command that a "sin offering" be brought. For on Shavuot, the day on which the Torah was received, every Jew is in the category of a convert, who is considered to be "a young child who is just born." Just as a newborn infant is without sin, so too is the Jewish people without sin on Shavuot.
And Israel camped opposite the mountain [Mount Sinai]
The word the Torah uses for "camped" is in the singular tense, for the Jewish people stood at Mount Sinai "like one man, with one heart," with perfect unity and love for one another. This feeling of unity constituted the most appropriate preparation for receiving the Torah, for when Jews are united, they merit G-d's blessing.
(Likutei Sichot, Vol. 2)
The Baal Shem Tov taught that we must love every Jew, the simplest person as well as the greatest Torah scholar. Jews are G-d's "tefilin," as it were, the Baal Shem Tov explained.
Scholarly Jews, those with great intellectual abilities, are the tefilin that are worn on the head. Simple Jews, those who perform G-d's mitzvot with joy and gladness, are the tefilin that are worn on the arm.
Just as when putting on tefilin the hand precedes the head, so too must we demonstrate love for the simple Jews first.
When the second Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Dov Ber (known as the "Mitteler Rebbe") passed away, there were three prospective successors.
Though all three were immensely qualified for the leadership of the Chabad movement, all three unanimously declined all the importuning of the Chasidim. These three were: Reb Chaim Avraham, the brother of Rabbi Dov Ber and youngest son of the Alter Rebbe, Reb Menachem Nachum, the Mitteler Rebbe's son, and the Tzemach Tzedek, the son of the Alter Rebbe's eldest daughter.
As time passed, the pressure among the Chasidim to find a successor escalated, though it seemed that no solution was in sight. Finally, despairing of a solution being found, two of the Chasidim declared, "It is impossible to be without a Rebbe!" They decided to travel to Ruzhin with the intention of accepting the Ruzhiner Rebbe as their Rebbe.
The Ruzhiner Rebbe, Reb Yisrael, was the grandson of the Mezritcher Maggid, and so highly thought of for his enormous piety that he was called the "Holy Ruzhiner."
These two Chasidim travelled to Ruzhin for Shavuot. As was the custom there, (as well as among many other Chasidim) the Ruzhiner distributed shirayim -- food from his table -- to his Chasidim. It was Yom Tov and the Ruzhiner began to distribute wine from his own cup to each of the Chasidim. The two Chabad Chasidim also wanted to participate and receive wine from the Ruzhiner and they proffered their cups for the "cup of blessing."
The Ruzhiner, however, refused them, saying, "If you want some wine, you may take it yourself, but I will not give it to you."
The two were very surprised and protested, "Why won't you give it to us, after all we have come here in order to accept you as our Rebbe?"
Upon hearing those words, the Ruzhiner sat down at the table and began to deliver a deep Chasidic discourse based on the theme, "The Giving of the Torah began, not at Mount Sinai, but at the burning bush."
He explained in great depth that when G-d gave Moshe the task of taking the Children of Israel out of Egypt, G-d told Moshe to "tell the Jews that I have remembered you and want to take you out of Egypt."
Moshe's reaction was strange. He replied that he was afraid the Jews would ask him what is G-d's name. To this G-d replied, "Tell them My Name is, 'I will be what I will be.' "
The Ruzhiner posed the question, "Why did Moshe ask this question of G-d? For Moshe did know G-d's name as he had been handed down a tradition that it was spelled Yud-Kei-Vav-Kei! And why did G-d answer, 'I will be what I will be.'"
The Ruzhiner elucidated the point through the use of numerical equivalents which are often used to explicate texts. He explained that the numerical equivalent of Yud-Kei-Vav-Kei is 26, while that of the words "I will be what I will be" equals 441 which is " emet" -- truth. G-d desired that Moshe be able to reveal to the Jews the truth.
"The word 'emet'," continued the Rebbe, "is also an acronym for, "Torat Menachem Emet" ["the Torah of Menachem is truth"].
When the two Chabad Chasidim heard these words being spoken by the Holy Ruzhiner, they realized that he was intimating that they should return home to the city of Lubavitch and that the Tzemach Tzedek, whose name was Menachem Mendel, should become Rebbe.
Upon arriving in Lubavitch two weeks later, the Tzemach Tzedek had already acquiesced. The returning Chasidim repeated to their fellows the discourse they had heard from the mouth of the Holy Ruzhiner in regard to the word "emet" intimating that the Tzemach Tzedek should be the Rebbe.
The Chasidim recalled with amazement that the Tzemach Tzedek had delivered the same discourse that very same Shavuot, but when he reached the part which identified the acronym of emet with his name, Menachem, he merely hesitated and smiled to himself. Now, they all understood why he had smiled.
- (Back to text) The Hebrew letter "hei" has been represented by "kei" here because of the prohibition of pronouncing G-d's name.
King David -- who passed away on Shavuot -- revealed in the Torah the aspect of Song [through his composition of the Book of Psalms]. And when Moshiach, the son of David, will come at the End of Days, all the peoples of the world will stream after him, and they will give to G-d the Crown of sovereignty.
(Book of Our Heritage)