Holidays   Shabbat   Chabad-houses   Chassidism   Subscribe   Calendar   Links B"H
The Weekly Publication for Every Jewish Person
Archives Current Issues Home Current Issue
                         L'CHAIM - ISSUE # 761
                           Copyright (c) 2003
                 Lubavitch Youth Organization - L.Y.O.
                              Brooklyn, NY
                  Electronic version provided free at:
                    To receive the L'CHAIM by e-mail
                  write to:
                              Subscribe W1
   Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.
        March 14, 2003          Vayikra         10 Adar II, 5763

                         The Sudden Turn Around

You've seen it happen, probably more than once. The home team - your
team - is losing, by a lot. Fourth quarter, less than ten minutes to go,
down by three touchdowns. Top of the ninth, one out, the score's 5-0.
All of a sudden, out of nowhere, things begin to happen. An
interception, a big-run, a two-run double - and your team is back in the
game. What looked like a sure-fire loss turns into a maybe.

And as the impossible becomes more and more likely, you become more
excited. At this point, the team can't lose. It better not lose. The
disappointment over such a loss, after such a great comeback, would be
bitter, indeed - more bitter than if they'd just put forth an effort and
couldn't get it done. More bitter than if they had just given up.

Imagine your elation, then, when they do manage to win. And of course,
the bigger the comeback - a last buzzer-beater from almost half-court, a
game-winning field goal or better, a broken play turned into a
touchdown, a bases loaded, bottom-of-the-ninth, two out homer - the
bigger the thrill, the greater the ecstasy of player and fan alike.

The sudden reversal is a standard of literature, as well. The cavalry
charges over the hill, the hero arrives in time, the real villain cracks
under pressure and confesses - it can be done well, it can be done
poorly, but we expect, anticipate, even demand some last minute
revelation, some reversal, some twist of the plot. If it's not there, if
the story's end is predictable, we feel cheated. Whatever build-up the
story had, whatever our interest in the characters, if the ending
doesn't work - if it doesn't provide us with satisfaction and surprise -
the story fails.

Without the unexpected, life is dull.

The sudden twist, the turn of the plot, the astonishing denouement occur
in "real life," too. The gravely ill who has a miraculous recovery, the
loved one who walks away from a serious accident unscathed, the business
about to close when an old friend calls looking for a deal - are not our
lives filled with such moments, such dramatic reversals? Who has not had
a desperate moment - an upcoming exam and no notes - only to find
"relief and help from another place"?

Shall we recall Gulf War I, with the desperate warnings, the gas masks
in Israel, the billions of dollars of damage from the Scud missiles -
and not one Jew died in Israel as a result?

We cannot anticipate these moments. We do not know when they will come.
Of course, for if we did, they would not be unexpected.

Nor do they come at our bidding. The "royal palace" we seek as a
sanctuary may be the dungeon of our souls. The path to leisure and
security may be a trap.

But history, like sports and literature - and science - tells us that
the upside down, the mirror perspective, the reversal, the sudden turn
around - these are real and revealing, revealing of an inner essence. As
one mystic put it, what is valuable in this world is worthless in the
world to come, and what is thought of little value here is priceless

This, then, is the theme of Purim. Not a "fairy tale," a "folk story,"
but a look within - a seeing of the hidden truth that opens the eyes.

The key moment comes when Mordechai tells Esther: "Do not imagine that
in the palace you will escape the fate of all the other Jews. If you
remain silent at this time, relief and help will come to the Jews from
another place..."

The reversal can come only if the players are in place, if we prepare
for it, believe it's possible, anticipate the "relief and help" even
knowing not from whence it will come.

This is the story of Purim.

The sudden turn around.

And this is the story of Moshiach.

This week's Torah portion, Vayikra, is the first portion in the book of
Leviticus. It discusses the various types of sacrifices the Jewish
people were commanded to offer during the times of the Tabernacle and
later the Holy Temple. In the description of the first few types of
sacrifices, the wood used for the fire on the altar is mentioned
numerous times.

The Talmud relates that when the Jews returned to Israel from the
Babylonian Exile, after the destruction of the First Holy Temple, they
found no wood for the altar in the Temple's storehouses. Several
families banded together and donated wood. Later, these families were
given the permanent honor of supplying the wood for the altar. The Sages
decreed that the days when the wood was donated should be celebrated as
a minor festival by the families.

Interestingly, there is another instance in which celebrations are
connected to wood. The Mishna states: "There were no other holidays as
great to all of Israel as the 15th of Av and Yom Kippur." One of the
reasons for the joy on the 15th of Av was that this day marked the end
of the harvest of trees whose wood would be used to burn the sacrifices.

What is so significant about the wood for the altar that its donation
mandated an actual holiday, and its harvest brought such joy to the
entire Jewish nation?

The wood was not merely fuel for the fire by which the offerings were
burnt; it played a far deeper role in the spiritual function of the Holy
Temple, and was an essential element of the sacrifices themselves.

But to grasp the importance of wood, we must first understand the
significance of the sacrifices. According to Nachmanides, an individual
bringing an offering was to have in mind that the animal being
slaughtered was in his stead. Only through G-d's good will did He accept
an animal in exchange.

There were many different types of offerings, and the thoughts
accompanying each of them varied. For example, when a person brought a
sin offering, he was required to dwell on thoughts of repentance and
make amends for his wrongdoing, whereas the thanks-offerings aroused a
deep love for G-d. Each offering was to be brought with its appropriate
reflections and meditations.

But the most fundamental thought of all, no matter which offering was
brought, was that of giving oneself totally over to G-d. This absolute
self-sacrifice transcended any personal emotions or motivations. Only
after this requirement was met could the individual go on to express the
emotions demanded by the particular offering.

This self-sacrifice was expressed by the burning of the wood on the
altar. The Torah likens man to a tree. The burning of the wood
symbolized the willingness to sacrifice oneself without personal
considerations. For, when bringing an offering, the donor might derive
some degree of satisfaction, personal glory or benefit from the act.
However, the burning wood reminded him that there should be no such
ulterior motives. The celebrations surrounding the provision of wood for
the altar therefore epitomized the purest and most lofty aim of the
sacrifices themselves.

                    Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe

                             SLICE OF LIFE

                            PURIM SNAPSHOTS
                           by Roiza Weinreich

I am looking through the Purim pictures that we took several years ago.
My nine-year-old daughter Chavy is a "fancy lady" on Purim. She is
wearing my old fur jacket. Chaya Rivky is a Queen. Sholom is a very cute
cowboy. He has a costume with fringe, a red bandanna, a cowboy hat and,
of course, a toy gun in his holster. Aaron is a very kissable Torah
scroll. We made his costume out of blue velour and painted a crown and
the Ten Commandments on the front with fabric paint.

What can we learn from Purim? How can we add new meaning to a very holy
and precious day. What can we do to make this day extraordinary? How can
we share our joy even more? How can we feel that G-d is with us, right
here? I'd like to share some Purim snapshots with you and hope that you
will find them as meaningful as I have.

                             An Open House

My former landlady is called "Nenie" by everyone. "Nenie" is aunt in
Hungarian and this special woman is everyone's aunt. She has an open
house policy; everyone can come and visit. Nenie looks forward to
surprises and means it when she says, "I'm so happy to see you."

Nenie shows me a Purim picture. Her ("real") nephews took it at 1 a.m.
on Purim morning. Nenie is in the center of the photo. Her face is
brilliant with a radiant smile. Towering around her are seven
15-year-old boys dressed like soldiers.

Nenie explains, "My nephews are studying in a yeshiva in Upstate New
York but they all wanted to be in Boro Park for Purim. They needed a
place to stay." She smiles and then adds matter-of-factly, "So they
stayed here. They left their mishloach manot (food gift packages for
friends) here between deliveries. They stopped in during the day for a
snack and then came back later for the Purim meal. Finally, at 1 a.m.
they came back to sleep for the night. They were so happy because they
had collected money throughout the day for a worthy tzedaka (charity
fund). They wanted to take a picture with me and this is the picture.
Then I prepared a place for them to sleep on the living room floor."

I look at the picture again. "Do I know anyone who needs a home base?" I
ask myself.

                       Remembering Our Neighbors

About 20 years ago I remember my friend showing me this picture in camp.
Her mother's dining room table is covered with hundreds of tiny
mishloach manot. "We live in Long Island," Batya explains. "There are
many elderly people in our community who live alone and their families
are far away. My mother gives out about 200 mishloach manot to the
neighbors. For some it's the only mishloach manot they will get on

I was so taken by the photograph Batya shared with me that when I was a
newlywed, I prepared about 50 mishloach manot and distributed them in
the old age home on Foster Avenue. On my first Purim it took my husband
three and a half hours to deliver all of our mishloach manot. That's
when we decided to make a shorter list. Now I send a letter and a
donation to tzedaka instead of mishloach manot to friends whom I know
get dozens of packages anyway. However, I still have my private list of
people whom I known don't receive many mishloach manot.

Many of us are so inundated with mishloach manot that we don't know what
to do with them after Purim. But what about those who sit alone all day
on Purim and their homes are quiet, too quiet?

                       Friendships and Thank You

Ah, here is a photo of two smiling friends wearing funny hats. They are
holding champagne glasses filled with ginger ale and saying, "L'Chaim
and Happy Purim." If you feel shy to stop in all year but you want to
revive a friendship, Purim is the perfect opportunity to do that.
Surprise someone. If you used to keep in touch and haven't called in
months, call on Purim; it's a good day to say "hello." Purim is a great
"thank you" day. Say thank you to the mother who does car pool. Say
thanks to the neighbor who helps you in neighborly ways. Stop in and say
thank you to the person who keeps your spare key in case you get locked

                              An Open Hand

Here is a picture of people giving tzedaka (charity) dressed in Purim
costumes. One of the special mitzvot of Purim is to give tzedaka to at
least two people. In addition, it's traditional to give tzedaka to
anyone who asks. We're told that on Purim, G-d says, "My hand is open
too, to grant your requests." Because of G-d's open hand Purim is also
an auspicious day for prayer.

I know a woman named Esther who takes this message to heart. "Because my
name is Esther, like the heroine of Purim, I have a special feeling
about praying on Purim. Every year there are people who call and ask me
to pray for them on Purim morning. One woman called me who didn't have
any children yet. My whole family woke up early on Purim morning and
prayed with the sunrise. A year later the woman who had called me had a

We should all strive to have an open hand.

                         Be Happy. It's Purim!

Here is a photograph from the Gulf War in 1991. Do you remember? Do you
remember the miracle of the SCUDs that fell into the ocean and on the
sandy desert? Iraq was defeated on Purim over a decade ago. Let's not
forget the miracles. This is the time for surprises; the time for joy.
What will this year's Purim be like?

We rise each morning and discover to our dismay that the perfect peace,
prosperity, knowledge and health that Moshiach will bring has still not
commenced. So many miracles, glorious miracles, have already happened.
But please, G-d, send us the most joyous, wondrous miracle of all. Send
us Moshiach!

    Roiza Weinreich is the author of numerous books as well as a weekly
    Torah e-mail that you can receive by contacting

                               WHAT'S NEW
                    Educational Materials in Russia

The Ohr Avner Resource Center in Moscow, Russia,  develops Jewish
educational curricula and teaching aids for use throughout the FSU. The
center recently released a number of materials, including "Purim," a
tape of Purim songs translated into Russian performed by the children's
choir of Lugansk, Ukraine. The tape comes with a sing-along book and
information about the holiday of Purim.

                            THE REBBE WRITES
                           Purim, 5719 [1959]

To all the Members and Friends of the Merkos L'Inyonei Chinuch in
Detroit, Mich.

G-d bless you all!

Sholom u'Brocho [Peace and Blessing]:

On the occasion of the eventful convention of the Members and Friends of
the Merkos L'Inyonei Chinuch in Detroit, taking place on the 19th of
Adar II, I send my prayerful wishes to all of you who have joined the
ranks of dedicated workers for Torah and Tradition and Torah-true Jewish
education under the auspices of the Merkos L'Inyonei Chinuch. By
participating in the work of this outstanding worldwide organization,
you have become partners in a great movement which is dedicated to the
revival and strengthening of true Yiddishkeit not only in your
community, but also in other communities, countries and continents,
including our Holy Land.

On this day of Purim, I welcome you all into the happy family of
"Mordechai's men." Mordechai, as our Sages tell us, was the head of the
Sanhedrin; and at the time when Haman's terrible decree of annihilation
hung over the heads of all our people, Mordechai gathered 22,000 Jewish
children and taught them the Torah. Moreover, he taught them a certain
part of the Torah which seemed "out of time and out of place," for he
taught them about the Omer offering, though the Jews were in exile, the
Beis Hamikdosh [Holy Temple] in ruins, and the Omer had been disrupted.
Nor did this study of the Torah seem to have any bearing on the problems
of the day, nor could it apparently serve as a natural cause for Haman's
downfall. Yet precisely this kind of dedication to the Torah and Torah
education brought about Haman's downfall and the salvation of all our
people in all the 127 provinces of the Persian Empire ruling the world
at that time.

The lesson is obvious: The survival of our people in a hostile world can
be assured only by virtue of our attachment to the Torah and Mitzvos
[commandments] - even though this may seem to some misguided individuals
as impractical, unreasonable or "out of time and place." For our
attachment to G-d, His Torah and his Mitzvos, is our very life and

Following in the footsteps of Mordechai the Jew you will surely be
blessed by G-d, you and your families, to enjoy "light, gladness and
honor," [from the Megila read on Purim] materially and spiritually.

With blessing,

                            RAMBAM THIS WEEK
12 Adar II, 5763 - March 16, 2003

Positive Mitzva 114: Donating the Value of a Person to G-d

This mitzva is based on the verse (Lev. 27:2) "If a man makes a singular
vow, to give to the L-rd the estimated value of persons." If someone
wants to make a donation to a holy purpose in the service of G-d, he may
decide that his contribution will be equal to the value of a person. Set
values are affixed for all men and women according to their age. This is
the amount that the donor is commanded to give. The three mitzvot for 13
Adar II, 5763 - March 17, 2003 (Positive mitzvot 115-117) concern one
who wishes to donate the value of an animal, house or field; the amount
of the donation is set by the priest according to guidelines of the

                        A WORD FROM THE DIRECTOR
                         Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
Over 2,000 years ago in ancient Persia, the wicked Haman schemed to
destroy the Jewish People. But through a miraculous sequence of events,
involving Mordechai and Queen Esther, the tables were turned; Haman and
his henchmen were hanged on the gallows, instead.

Haman, in those days, did not need to resort to newfangled inventions in
his attempt at the first "Final Solution." With the mere signing of a
royal proclamation giving him the power to do as he pleased, our fate as
a people seemed to be sealed.

But, Haman's plans were foiled by Esther, who had been placed in the
palace by G-d to deflect Haman's evil decree.

Modern-day Hamans try to wreak havoc on the Jewish people in the Holy
Land and on all people throughout the world.

Every year the victory of the survival of the Jewish people, despite all
odds, is celebrated on the joyous Festival of Purim. And although the
story of Purim happened so long ago, its lesson of faith and trust in
G-d is as relevant today as ever.

This year, celebrate Purim. And send a message of true Jewish strength -
that trust in G-d is stronger than anything. For, with each special
Purim mitzva or general mitzva we do, we are strengthening ourselves,
the Jewish people, and the entire world.

                          THOUGHTS THAT COUNT
One who reads the Megila backwards has not fulfilled his obligation
(Mishna, Megila)

The Baal Shem Tov offered a Chasidic interpretation of this law: A
person must not view the story of Purim as just an historical narrative,
something that happened long ago in another time and place. The purpose
of reading the megila on Purim is to ensure that "these days are
remembered and kept throughout the generations." The events of Purim are
not only relevant to the present time, but each detail of the story
contains lessons to be applied in our daily lives.

                                *  *  *

A person who brings close [offers] from you a sacrifice to G-d. (Lev.

Grammatically, "A person from among you who brings close a sacrifice,"
would have been more correct. But, the Torah teaches us a lesson from
the order of the words. If you wish to be close, it comes "from you" -
it is only dependent on you. Any Jew who wishes, can reach the lofty
heights of closeness to G-d attained by our great forebears.

            (Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak of Lubavitch, the Previous Rebbe)

                                *  *  *

Writes Rabbi Shenur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidism: "A person who
brings close" - in order that  a person becomes closer to G-d - "from
you a sacrifice to G-d" - he must bring the offering of himself. He must
sacrifice his personal "animal," the desire for evil that is called the
animal soul.

                                                        (Hayom Yom)

                                *  *  *

Do not leave out the salt. (Lev. 2:13)

The salt was an integral part of the sacrifices. Though not edible on
its own, salt adds flavor to the entire meal. The same is true regarding
Torah. Chasidism, the inner secrets of Torah, though not widely
understood because of its profundity, provides the flavor and background
for the remainder of the Torah.

                                              (Rabbi Shneur Zalman)

                                *  *  *

You may not burn any leaven or any honey as a fire offering to G-d.
(Lev. 2:11)

"Any leaven" is a person who is moody or melancholy. In the morning or
evening, on Shabbat, holidays or weekdays, he is always sour. "Any
honey" is one who is always pleasant and sweet. Whatever happens, he's
always smiling. "You may not burn [either of them] as a  fire  offering
to G-d!" You cannot properly bring a sacrifice to G-d from either of
these emotions. A person must rule his character traits, even his
positive attributes. For surely there are times when one must be
"leaven" and times when one must be "honey."

                                        (Rabbi Shmuel of Lubavitch)

                            IT ONCE HAPPENED
The last rays of the sun had already disappeared, marking the end of the
"Fast of Esther," and the beginning of the holiday of Purim. The
synagogue of Reb Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev was filled to overflowing.
Everyone waited patiently as Reb Levi Yitzchak ascended the lecturn to
begin the evening service and then the reading of the megila, the story
of Purim recorded in the Scroll of Esther.

The sexton approached Reb Levi Yitzchak and whispered something in his
ear. The Rebbe immediately went out from the shul into an adjoining

There, a poor women was standing with a ritually slaughtered chicken.
When salting the chicken before cooking it, she had noticed what seemed
to be a broken bone and had come to ask the Rebbe if it was kosher. Reb
Levi Yitzchak examined the chicken and found it to be not kosher. "Oy,
what will I do? My husband is sick and my children are starving. I spent
my last few coins on this chicken, hoping the soup would help my husband
and satisfy my children. What shall I do?" the woman sobbed.

"Do not worry, my daughter. G-d helps everyone and will certainly help
you, too," said Reb Levi Yitzchak compassionately. "Now go to the shul
and listen to the megila," he added.

When the woman had left, Reb Levi Yitzchak put on his overcoat and went
quickly to his home. There he gathered up everything his wife had
prepared for the Purim feast the next day; fresh hamentashen, fish,
chicken, soup, challah, and all kinds of delicacies. He tied it securely
in a large, white tablecloth and made his way to the home of the poor

Reb Levi Yitzchak entered the house and immediately heard the voice of
the sick husband. "Is that you Sara? What happened with the chicken?" he
asked in a weak voice.

"A good Purim, happy Purim," answered Reb Levi Yitzchak. "G-d has sent
you a Purim gift." The Rebbe set the table neatly and then hurried back
to the shul. The prayers and megila reading had not continued without
the Rebbe; despite the late hour, no one wished to miss hearing Reb Levi
Yitzchak read the megila.

That year, the megila reading seemed to take on new meaning for those
gathered in the shul, especially when the Rebbe read the words about
sending mishloach manot - gifts of food to one's friends - and giving
extra charity to the poor. Everyone understood the implications of love
and unity that were inherent in these mitzvot [commandments].

When Reb Levi Yitzchak's wife returned home, she was more than a little
surprised to find that everything she had prepared for the Purim meal
was missing! She entered her husband's study and found him deeply
immersed in a holy book, his face aglow. The Rebbetzin intuitively
understood what had happened. She managed to pull together a suitable
meal from leftovers here and there.

When the poor family told the town excitedly that Elijah the Prophet had
visited their house and brought "mishloach manot from G-d" the
townspeople also understood where their Rebbe had been. He had
substituted for Elijah.

That year, the unusually generous people of Berdichev were even more
generous than usual. They sent food in abundance to Reb Levi Yitzchak
for his festive Purim meal, and extra food and charity to all the poor
of the city.

                            MOSHIACH MATTERS
The Midrash (Mishlei 9:2) teaches: "All the festivals will be annulled
in future time, except for Purim." The future revelation of Divinity
will be so intense that the revelation currently evinced by the
festivals will be as insignificant as a midday candle. Purim, however,
will be the exception, because the Purim miracle was called forth by the
year-long self-sacrifice of the Jewish people of that time. (They could
have averted Haman's decree by apostasy.) Their self-sacrifice evoked a
Divine reaction so sublime that even in the future time it will never be

                                     (Sefer HaMaamarim 5626, p. 34)

                END OF TEXT - L'CHAIM 761 - Vayikra 5763

  • Daily Lessons
  • Weekly Texts & Audio
  • Candle-Lighting times

    613 Commandments
  • 248 Positive
  • 365 Negative

  • BlackBerry
  • iPhone / iPod Touch
  • Java Phones
  • Palm Pilot
  • Palm Pre
  • Pocket PC
  • P800/P900
  • Moshiach
  • Resurrection
  • For children - part 1
  • For children - part 2

  • Jewish Women
  • Holiday guides
  • About Holidays
  • The Hebrew Alphabet
  • Hebrew/English Calendar
  • Glossary

  • by SIE
  • About
  • Chabad
  • The Baal Shem Tov
  • The Alter Rebbe
  • The Rebbe Maharash
  • The Previous Rebbe
  • The Rebbe
  • Mitzvah Campaign

    Children's Corner
  • Rabbi Riddle
  • Rebbetzin Riddle
  • Tzivos Hashem

  • © Copyright 1988-2009
    All Rights Reserved
    L'Chaim Weekly