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Though most of the world operates on a metric system for weight, liquid, cubic, square and linear measurements, the United States continues to use a system still known as the English system, despite the fact that the English switched to metric decades ago.
Years back, it was expected that Americans would gradually wean themselves off English and switch to metric; thus products produced in the U.S., even those not manufactured for export, carry both the metric and English measurements. Goods imported into the U.S. from Israel and Europe carry both metric and English designations. But for most American schoolchildren, their only familiarity with the metric system is the knowledge that soft drinks come in one, two or three liter bottles.
There is, however, another system of measurement, linear at least. And it is called the "Jewish yardstick."
The Jewish yardstick is simple to use, and it doesn't interfere with any other system of weight, liquid, cubic, square, or linear measurement.
The rules for using the Jewish yardstick are as follow: When measuring up your neighbor, friend, co-worker, relative or any stranger, judge him leniently and favorably. When measuring yourself and your accomplishments, be stringent.
In Chasidic terminology one would say: Look at another with the "right eye" - with kindness; look at yourself with the "left eye" - with strictness.
Such an approach is based on the commandment to "Love your fellow as yourself." Just as a person's intrinsic self-love allows him to overlook his own faults, so too, must we overlook another's faults.
In regard to our personal conduct, we strive to both push away the negative and to do good. When relating to another individual, however, the Jewish yardstick's method is to channel our energies solely into the positive path - "Do good."
Although there may be times when someone's conduct warrants reproof, before criticizing - even before giving "positive criticism" - we should question ourselves as to whether we are fit to be the one to administer it. Furthermore, if reproof must be given, it should be offered gently, which will obviously enable it to be accepted more readily than harsh speech.
Moreover, such words should be spoken only on select occasions.
The old saying, "Spare the rod and spoil the child," is a derivation of the Biblical verse, "One who spares the rod hates his son." Judaism indicates that rebuke and reprimand are not only important, but at times, essential. However, admonishment may be given only when the relationship between two individuals is like that between a father and son: To give rebuke, one must love the other person just as a father loves his child; additionally, the difference in level between the two people must be as radical as the difference between a father and a son. Needless to say, this does not apply in most cases.
Why is all this true? Because the ultimate value of every Jew is immeasurable.
Based on the last public talk of the Rebbe on 25 Adar I, 5752 (1992)
This week's Torah portion, Re'ei, touches upon numerous subjects, including the warning not to be involved with idolatrous practices, a list of kosher animals and non-kosher birds, the laws of tithes and a brief discussion of the three Pilgrimage Festivals.
The portion opens with the words: "See [re'ei], I set before you." G-d commanded Moses to convey to the Jewish people that they must consider and reflect on the holy words of Torah until they can actually "see" how G-d Himself takes care of each and every individual, great and small. G-d abandons all His other affairs, as it were, to provide every Jew with all his needs, "from His full, open, holy and broad hand."
It is not enough for a Jew to believe this on faith or understand it as an intellectual principle. A Jew must be able to "see" Divine Providence in the same way he can perceive a physical object with his fleshly eyes.
This, in fact, is the practical directive to be derived from this week's Torah reading, whose name "Re'ei" means "See":
Everything in Torah that a Jew learns should be "seen" rather than merely accepted or believed. In other words, a person should be so confident and sure of what he has learned that it is as if he can actually see it on the physical level.
This level of surety applies at all times and in all circumstances, whether it is "daytime" or "nighttime" in either the literal or symbolic sense. A Jew must always strive to see the G-dliness and holiness in all his actions.
Even before drinking a simple glass of water we make the blessing "Shehakol -Blessed are You, L-rd our G-d, King of the world, that everything came into being with His word." We address G-d directly, recognizing that everything in the world was created and exists only because of His will.
By accustoming ourselves to always look for G-d's hand in everything around us, we will merit to "see" the fulfillment of the verse at the end of the Torah portion:
"Three times a year shall all your males be seen before the L-rd your G-d in the place which He shall choose." Our daily prayers will be answered, "May the Holy Temple be rebuilt speedily in our days," and "May our eyes behold Your return to Zion in mercy," with the coming of Moshiach and the Final Redemption.
Adapted from talks on 20 and 21 Menachem Av 5749, and 22 Menachem Av 5750
The Bat Mitzva
by Dena Laber
This story began 22 years ago. Twelve-year-old Amy Israel was a sixth grader at the Hebrew Academy of Albany, New York. She had been asked to write a poem about Shabbat and to submit it to a special project that was underway.
What had prompted the request for the poems was a book that was to be published by the Shabbat Candle Lighting Campaign of the Lubavitch Women's Organization. Initiated by the Rebbe in 1975, the Campaign had flourished under the directorship of Mrs. Esther Sternberg. The book Mrs. Sternberg undertook to publish would be entitled, "A Candle of My Own" and would contain original poems and compositions by Jewish girls from around the world.
Over the years Amy became more and more involved in Jewish observance with the help of Rabbi Yisroel and Rivkah Rubin, the Rebbe's emissaries to Albany. Amy now went by her Jewish name, Emunah. She married Ron Sohn, and they had four children. Eventually, the Sohns moved to New Jersey.
When her eldest daughter, Eliana, neared her twelfth birthday, Emunah asked how she would like to celebrate this special event. Suggesting that perhaps a trip to Israel would be meaningful, Emunah was taken aback by Eliana's response.
"Oh mom, no big party," Eliana replied. "I'll just take a couple of friends to Disney World."
Emunah was surprised that a trip to Disney World was her daughter's idea of what would be an appropriate way of celebrating becoming an adult in Judaism. Although Eliana attended a Jewish day school, Emunah realized that she needed to supplement her daughter's education in this area.
And so, Emunah phoned Nechama Dina Laber, who, together with her husband Rabbi Avraham Laber, is one of the Rebbe's emissaries in Troy, New York. Nechama Dina had been Eliana's teacher at the Maimonides Day School when the Sohns lived in Albany.
Emunah knew that Nechama Dina had organized a Bat Mitzva Club for girls in fifth and sixth grades to help them learn about the special journey they were about to embark upon as young Jewish women. In fact, each year Nechama Dina would ask Emunah to speak with the pre-teens about such diverse topics as cultivating friendships, maintaining relationships and even hygiene. Emunah had seen the club from the inside out and was sure that if her daughter would be a part of the Bat Mitzva Club experience she would grow and mature as a young Jewish woman.
"Are you still running a program for Bat Mitzvah age girls?" Emunah asked Nechama Dina. Nechama Dina explained that for various reasons she had not intended on running the club that year. Emunah offered to sponsor the first club meeting at her mother's home in Albany and Nechama Dina agreed to undertake organizing the club.
The Bat Mitzva Club was publicized at Maimonides' Day School and at the Hebrew Academy of Albany. Emunah and Nechama Dina had expected about eight girls to attend the initial meeting and were delighted when 20 girls showed up from all walks of Jewish life. Thus began a monthly two-hour journey for mother and daughter from New Jersey to Troy. And the relationship between Emunah and Nechama Dina that had begun years earlier deepened.
The end of the school year was fast approaching. Nechama Dina Laber called Emunah and asked her to speak at the special banquet that was being organized for all of the girls who had participated in the Bat Mitzva Club, their mothers and grandmothers.
"A number of girls will be reading original poems," Nechama Dina informed Emunah. "And we'd like you to speak at the banquet as well."
"Poems?" Emunah asked. Emunah recalled a conversation with Nechama Dina a few years back. Nechama Dina had been looking through a copy of A Candle of My Own and had noticed a poem written by Amy Israel of the Hebrew Academy of Albany. That was when Emunah had discovered that the poem she had written when she was her daughter's age was published in the book.
"Do you have a copy of A Candle of My Own so you can read me my poem?" she asked.
Nechama Dina found the book and read the poem to Emunah, who had not heard the poem in 22 years. Then Emunah heard the page of the book turn and Nechama Dina gasped in delight. On the very next page was a photograph of five-year-old Nechama Dina gazing into a lit candle. Nechama Dina had never before noticed that her picture and Emunah's poem were back-to-back. The two women marveled at how their lives intertwined at so many pivotal moments.
Emunah agreed to speak at the Bat Mitzva Club Banquet, knowing that she would tell this very story of her growing involvement in Judaism, her search for a meaningful way for her daughter to celebrate her Bat Mitzva, and how Nechama Dina Laber and the Rebbe's Candle Lighting Campaign had brought things full circle.
Eliana will shortly be celebrating her Bat Mitzva, but not at Disney Land. She is currently attending a two-week Bat Mitzva Camp in Troy, together with 30 other girls her age. And Nechama Dina likes to share this story of Divine providence and how every good action we do can have a ripple effect that impacts not only on our own family but throughout our entire community, as well.
There are hundreds of Bat Mitzva Clubs run by Chabad-Lubavitch Centers around the world. Call your local Center to find out if they sponsor a club or, for a listing of all club locations, call Tzivos Hashem at (718) 467-6630 ext. 282.
The author, Dena Laber, is the sister-in-law of Nechama Dina Laber.
Above are the 10 couples who renewed their wedding vows, this time according to Jewish law during the 16th Annual Gala Wedding at the Bris Avrohom Center (Congregation Shomrei Torah-Ohel Yosef Yitzchok) in New Jersey. The event was organized by Rabbi Mordechai and Shterney Kanelsky, directors of Bris Avrohom. Bris Avrohom is dedicated to bringing Jewish awareness and education to emigrants from the Former Soviet Union.
22 Menachem Av, 5737 
Greeting and Blessing:
I received some information about the relationship at home, but I do not know to what extent it reflects the actual situation.
Hence, I want to convey to you some thoughts in light of what the relationship should be according to the Shulchan Aruch [Code of Jewish Law] - the Jew's practical guide in life. If the relationship is, indeed, in keeping with it, the purpose of this letter will be to strengthen and deepen it, as there is always room for improvement in all matters of goodness and holiness, Torah and Mitzvos. On the other hand, if it is not quite what it should be, I trust that, since the Torah is surely "a lamp unto your feet," you will bring it up to the desired level and you will do it with joy and gladness of heart.
The central point in the way of conducting a Jewish home and family life is that it has to be based on the way of the Torah, "whose ways are ways of pleasantness and all its paths are peace."
If this rule applies to all activities of a Jew, even outside the home, how much more so within the home itself!
Of course, since G-d has created human beings with minds and feelings of their own and these are not uniform in all, peace and harmony can be achieved only on the basis of "give and take," that is, meeting each other halfway. For a husband and wife to make concessions to each other is not, and should not be considered, a sacrifice, G-d forbid. On the contrary, this is what the Torah teaches and expects, for we are talking about concessions that do not involve compromise in regard to the fulfillment of Mitzvos, and both of you are of the same mind that the laws of the Shulchan Aruch must not be compromised.
Furthermore, to achieve true peace and harmony calls for making such concessions willingly and graciously - not grudgingly, as if it were a sacrifice, as mentioned above, but in the realization that it is for the benefit of one's self and one's partner in life, and for one's self perhaps even more, since it is made in fulfillment of G-d's Will. And if our Sages exhort every Jew "to receive every person with a friendly face," certainly one's wife or husband.
Many are the sayings of our Sages, including also our Rebbes of saintly memory, which urge husband and wife always to discuss matters of mutual concern, and to give patient attention to the opinion of the other and then act in mutual agreement. It is also very desirable that they should have at least one regular shiur (study period) in a section of Torah which is of interest to both, such as on the weekly Sedra [Torah portion], or on a timely subject connected with a particular season or festival, as for example now that we are approaching the month of Elul - on prayer and Teshuvah [repentance], and similarly on the festivals of Tishrei, and so forth.
It has been pointed out that while the major obligation to study Torah is incumbent on men, it has been emphasized at the same time that women, too, have to fulfill the Mitzvah of Torah study in areas where they are directly involved, as explained in Hilchos Talmud Torah by the Alter Rebbe [the Laws of Torah study as codified by Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi]. All the more so in the present day and age when women have the possibility - hence the obligation - to do their share of spreading Yiddishkeit not less than men.
If it may sometimes appear difficult for the husband to take time out from his preoccupation with a Torah matter in order to discuss mutual problems with his wife, or study Torah with her in another area, he should not look at it as a sacrifice, but, on the contrary, should do it eagerly in fulfillment of a most important Mitzvah - Sholom Bayis [a harmonious marriage]. And if any Mitzvah has to be carried out with joy, how much more so such a cardinal Mitzvah.
Finally I would like to add that of the Mitzvah Campaigns which have been emphasized in recent years, special attention has been focused on the Mitzvah of Ahavas Yisroel [love of a fellow Jew], which embraces every Jew, even a stranger; how much more so to a near and dear one.
I hope and pray that each and both of you will make every effort in the direction outlined above and will do so with real joy and gladness of heart, and may G-d grant that you should have true Nachas [pleasure], which is Torah Nachas, from each other and jointly from your offspring, in happy circumstances materially and spiritually.
29 Av 5761
Positive mitzva 97: defilement through the carcass of certain creeping creatures
By this injunction (Lev. 11:29-30) we are commanded concerning the uncleanness of the eight varieties of creeping things: the weasel, mouse, great lizard, gecko, land crocodile, lizard, sand lizard and chameleon. The commandment includes the law of their uncleanness and the related detailed rules.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
The month of Elul is almost upon us, a time of introspection and soul-searching. As the old year draws to a close, we take stock of our behavior and make amends for any wrongs we may have committed. In preparation for the New Year, we conduct an honest assessment of our conduct, that we may be aroused to repentance and improvement of our Divine service.
During Elul, a Jew can almost sense the difference in the air. Everyone feels an inexplicable urge to draw closer to G-d, to increase in Torah and mitzvot.
The G-dly soul that every Jew possesses automatically pulls him in the direction of holiness. However, there are two basic ways to motivate a person: the "carrot" and the "stick." Fear of punishment may yield the desired results, but it usually causes more damage than benefit.
Historically, it was against this backdrop that the Baal Shem Tov and his disciples first arose. In those days, itinerant preachers would "put the fear of G-d" into simple Jews by vividly describing the punishments that would befall them if they did not walk the straight and narrow.
The Chasidic approach, however, is the exact opposite. The Baal Shem Tov emphasized the innate worth of every Jew, the value of serving G-d with purity of heart, the immense power of prayer and the beauty of the Jewish soul.
On countless occasions the Rebbe has declared that the way to draw a Jew closer to Judaism is by spreading the light of Torah and mitzvot. "One should explain to him the greatness of being a descendent of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob...the 'only child' of the King of kings, the Holy One, Blessed be He, and that his soul is 'a veritable part of G-d Above.'"
In Elul, G-d's Thirteen Attributes of Mercy are manifested with particular intensity. It should thus be a time of only emphasizing the positive and increasing our love for our fellow Jew. In the merit of our good deeds (especially the mitzva of charity), each and every one of us will be found deserving, and G-d will inscribe us together with all the righteous.
And you shall possess it and dwell in it (Deut. 11:31)
The very next verse continues: "And you shall take care to do all the statutes and judgments which I set before you this day." From this we learn that the mitzva to dwell in the Land of Israel is considered equal to all of the Torah's commandments.
But when you go over the Jordan, and live in the land the L-rd your G-d gives you to inherit, and when He gives you rest from all your enemies around, so that you live in safety (Deut. 12:10)
At first glance this verse appears redundant. If G-d gives us rest from all our enemies, wouldn't we automatically enjoy security and protection? However, with these words the Torah is offering us surefire advice: If you want G-d to take care of all your enemies, make sure that "you live in safety" within your own camp. When Jews are united and cohesive rather than divided into separate factions and groups, they have nothing to fear from their adversaries, as our Sages said: "If Israel were one cohesive unit, no nation or tongue would have power over them."
And all your children shall be taught of the L-rd; and great shall be the peace of your children (Isaiah 54:13; from the haftorah)
The first Holy Temple was destroyed because the Jewish people did not keep the Torah's laws properly. The second Holy Temple was destroyed because of the sin of unwarranted hatred. The Prophet Isaiah, however, assures us that in the Messianic era, neither of these negative factors will affect the Third Holy Temple. "All your children shall be taught of the L-rd" - all Jews will be knowledgeable and observe the Torah; "and great shall be the peace of your children" - they will live together in harmony and brotherhood.
It happened once that some Chasidim of the Baal Shem Tov were sitting and farbrenging together. The longer they shared their stories and insights and sang their Chasidic melodies, the stronger their desire to be with the Baal Shem Tov grew, till they impulsively decided to hire a horse and wagon and set out for the Baal Shem Tov's town of Mezhibozh.
Their own shtetl was actually quite a distance from Mezhibozh; even if they traveled non-stop for several days, there was only a small chance they might make it before Shabbat. The wagon driver was less than enthusiastic; as far as he was concerned there was no need to hurry, and in his opinion, it was simply not possible to cover that many miles before sundown on Friday. The roads were very bad, he pointed out, and there were always unexpected obstacles and delays while traveling.
But the Chasidim could not be deterred. Logical considerations could not compete with their intense longing to see their Rebbe. Without further ado they were on their way.
The wagon driver soon had the horses at a gallop, running as fast as they could under the circumstances. The roads were very narrow, wide enough for only one vehicle. They were so narrow, in fact, that if another vehicle were to appear, passing it on either side would be impossible.
As the Chasidim reached a fork in the road, at an intersection where another path joined the main thoroughfare, an elegant carriage suddenly pulled out in front of them. It was the carriage of the local poritz (landowner), and he was clearly in no hurry to go anywhere. At a leisurely pace his carriage ambled down the road, blocking all traffic. The Chasidim were now stuck behind it, reduced to a crawl.
The wagon driver gritted his teeth; even the Chasidim were becoming angry. The tiny chance they had to make it to Mezhibozh in time for Shabbat was rapidly evaporating before their eyes.
One Chasid was more upset than the others. "I can't believe it!" he complained. "After all our efforts, how can something so ridiculous spoil our plans? Just because of this slowpoke we're going to miss out on spending Shabbat with the Baal Shem Tov!"
Another Chasid, however, hastened to calm him down. "My dear brother, how can you say such a thing? Why are you worried? Have you forgotten what our master the Baal Shem Tov has taught us, that the Holy One, Blessed Be He, directly supervises every minute detail in the world, and that a leaf doesn't turn in the wind without Divine Providence? Does it not state in the Torah, 'From Him no evil will descend'? Nothing bad can come from on High, and indeed, everything is for the good. Whatever G-d does is only good and for the best. The more we accustom ourselves to thinking and acting accordingly, the more we will merit to see the good that exists in everything openly revealed. How can it be that this basic principle should be forgotten when it comes to actually implementing it in our own lives? I tell you friend, this is only a trial..."
The Chasid's fervent plea entered the hearts of the others, and their impatience disappeared. Their wagon could still only proceed at a sluggish pace, but they were filled with renewed faith and confidence that the unexpected delay was for the best.
The wagon continued over the next few miles until suddenly, another potential problem appeared on the horizon. All the way up ahead, at the next intersection, they could see a group of drunken peasants waiting to pounce on the first wagon that passed by...
There was no doubt what the drunken peasants would have done to the Chasidim if they had been alone on the road, or traveling ahead of the poritz's carriage. No one would have stood up for the Jews or sought justice for them after the fact. They would have simply received the "usual" treatment drunken peasants knew so well how to mete out. The Chasidim would have been grateful to have escaped with their lives, let alone continue on their journey.
As it turned out, however, because the poritz's carriage was hogging the right of way, the hooligans simply dispersed once they saw whom it contained. By the time the Chasidim reached the intersection they had all slunk away and the danger was over.
A few minutes later the poritz's carriage turned off onto a side road, and the main thoroughfare was suddenly clear. With a crack of the whip the horses were again at a gallop, and the Chasidim made it to Mezhibozh before Shabbat - with plenty of time to spare.
From which we learn that even something that doesn't appear to be good at first, may in fact be so in reality.
When Israel asked Bilaam, "When will salvation come?" he answered them: "I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not nigh" (Num. 24:17). Said the Holy One, blessed be He, to them: "Is this your sense? Do you not know that Bilaam ... does not wish My salvation to come? Be like your patriarch who said, "I wait for Your salvation, G-d (Gen. 49:18). Wait for salvation for it is close at hand!" Thus it says, "For My salvation is near to come" (Isaiah 56:1)
Shemos Rabba 30:24