Shabbat to Share

Food For the Soul

Confronting the Heifer

In the Parshah Chukat (Numbers 19:1-22:1) Moses is taught the law of the red heifer. This law is the most mysterious law of the Torah. Somehow, the red heifer would purify one who contracted the most severe form of ritual impurity, that of coming in contact with a human corpse.

Chassidic philosophy explains that the red heifer captures the secret of the uniquely Jewish approach to purifying the negativity within each of us. It is the key to dealing with our inner passions, which overwhelm us with the force of their energy.

Purity is not achieved by suppressing or waging war against desire. The Torah teaches us to look right at the passionate, forceful red heifer. Look at its core and understand that the red heifer is not negative, nor is it spiritually neutral. The Torah wants us to understand that the heifer can be the most powerful agent of purity in our life. The power of desire, its incredible force and energy, is not evil. For while the external expression of the desire may be negative and must be burned, the ashes of the heifer, its inner essence, is the source of purity. When the ashes are mixed into the “living waters,” when the power of desire is directed toward a positive goal, the heifer itself will be an unbridled force that will provide spiritual and emotional purity. 

From an article by Rabbi Menachem Feldman


Shabbat Shalom

Upcoming Holiday: The Three Weeks (July 16 to August 7)

The Three Weeks is an annual mourning period that falls out in the summer. This is when we mourn the destruction of the Holy Temple and our launch into a still-ongoing exile. With an eye to the future, we also learn about the Third Temple, which is yet to be built.

The period begins on the 17th day of the Hebrew month of Tamuz, a fast day that marks the day when the walls of Jerusalem were breached by the Romans in 69 CE. It reaches its climax and concludes with the fast of the 9th of Av, the date when both Holy Temples were set aflame. This is the saddest day of the Jewish calendar, and it is also the date that many other tragedies befell our people. 

Read about Tisha B’Av and The Three Weeks at Chabad.org.


Mind Over Matter

Thoughts Channel Emotions

Our Torah tells you that you must not fear. Even if an army is charging towards you, you must not fear. For there is no danger worse than fear.

But you are only human. Do you truly have control over the dread and panic pounding in your heart? Yes. Not directly, but through the power of your mind. If you will choose not to dwell on those things that instill panic and dread, those emotions will wither and fade.

And the choice is yours. What do you want to speak about? What do you want to think about?

For the thoughts of your mind are the conduit of life for the emotions of your heart.

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman


Moshiach Thoughts

“This is the Torah’s decree… have them bring you a completely red heifer which has no blemish…” Chukat 19:2ff.

Maimonides cites a Mishnah with the following words: “Nine ‘red heifers’ were prepared from the time this precept was ordained until the Second Temple was destroyed: the first was prepared by Moses our Master, the second Ezra prepared, and there were seven from Ezra to the destruction of the Temple. The tenth will be prepared by King Moshiach-may he soon be revealed, amen, may thus be (G-d’s) Will!” (Hilchot Parah Adumah 3:4)

Our present mitzvot can make this happen momentarily!

From an article by Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet


Have I Got A Story

Spread the Love

I overheard a discussion. One woman was complaining about her teenage son’s aggravating behavior. “Sometimes, I could just kill him!” She vented. Unbeknownst to her, the other woman was in the middle of chemotherapy treatment for her own son to fight his life-threatening illness. I observed her tense up at the choice of words. Calmly, she replied: “Kids will be kids. But beneath it all, we love them so much that we would do anything to keep them healthy—even with their irritating antics.”

[The Parshah Chukat] speaks of the death of Moses’s brother, Aaron. “The entire Israel wept for Aaron for thirty days.” (Numbers 20:29). The entire nation mourned Aaron’s death because he was so beloved to them. The Midrash (Avos d’Rabbi Nosson 12:3) explains that he worked hard at restoring peace between quarrelling friends or spouses.

Aaron would approach each of the disagreeing individuals separately and soften them by saying, “Your friend/spouse is utterly embarrassed over what he did to you! He wishes you would be reconciled.” When the two would later meet, they would be ready to overlook their differences and re-establish their relationship. We are permitted to modify the truth for the sake of peace, but on face value, it seems like Aaron was actually saying a complete lie, which is not permitted.

But in truth, Aaron’s words were not inherently false (Sichos Kodesh, 5741). To love our fellow is a cardinal mitzvah of the Torah, which we all want to fulfill. While on the outside, these friends or spouses were angry with each other, Aaron was able to help them dig a little deeper to expose their true feelings and wishes.

In the first talk that the [Lubavitcher] Rebbe delivered on his official acceptance of leadership, he articulated what would become his mission statement. He spoke about love of one’s fellow human being, as well as the interrelation between loving G-d and loving His children. “A person who loves G-d will eventually come to love what G-d loves—all His children. And his love will drive him to wish to bring G-d’s children close to Torah—because that’s what G-d loves.”

There are times that circumstances create barriers between us. Due to the many pressures in our lives, we may sometimes act selfishly or insensitively, or respond angrily or unkindly. But deep down, that’s not really who we are or wish to be.

Loving our fellow means stripping away those external barriers that divide us to find the deepest bonds that connect us. Because, despite irritating antics or behaviors, that love is what is truly real.

From an article by Chana Weinberg

Food For the Soul

Inside/Outside

The sixteenth chapter of Numbers tells the story of the mutiny led by Korach, a cousin of Moses who challenged Moses’ authority. In the end, Korach and his henchmen were swallowed by the earth in a divine display of rather unearthly justice.

The Midrash reveals some of the behind-the-scenes dialogue between these men. Remember, Korach was no pushover. Besides being of noble lineage, he was clever, wealthy and quite charismatic. One of the questions Korach put to Moses was this: does a house full of holy books still require a mezuzah? Moses answered that it did. Korach scoffed at the idea, ridiculing Moses. The little mezuzah contains the Shema—but two chapters of Torah. A whole houseful of books with the entire Torah won’t do the trick, and a little mezuzah will? It doesn’t make any sense, argued Korach.

Why was Moses’ answer correct? What indeed is the significance of a small parchment on the doorpost in relation to a library inside? The Lubavitcher Rebbe explained that it all depends on location. The books are inside. The mezuzah is outside. When there are Jewish texts inside our study and living rooms, this indicates that the home is a Jewish home. This is good, and as it should be. But what happens when we leave the comfortable confines of our home? Do we cease to be Jewish?

The mezuzah is at the threshold of our homes, at the juncture and crossover between our inner lives and outer lives. As we make the transition from private person to public citizen, we need to be reminded of whom we are, and that we take our identity with us wherever we may go. There is only One G-d, says the little scroll, whether in our private domain or in the big, wide world.

From an article by Rabbi Yossy Goldman


Shabbat Shalom

Joshua Stops the Sun 

July 2, 2022 – the third of Tamuz – commemorates the third of Tamuz of the year 2488 from creation (1273 BCE) when Joshua was leading the Jewish people in one of the battles to conquer the Land of Israel. Victory was imminent, but darkness was about to fall. “Sun,” proclaimed Joshua, “be still at Giv’on; moon, at the Ayalon valley” (Joshua 10:12). The heavenly bodies acquiesced, halting their progress through the sky until Israel’s armies brought the battle to its successful conclusion.

Chabad.org


Mind Over Matter

Disruptive Spirit

Even the most sublime strivings of the spirit must be restrained when its passion drives a wedge between ourselves and others. We know our passion is misdirected when it prompts us to look down on others who have achieved less than us or begrudge those who have achieved more…

True love for G-d should not drive us from each other; G-d loves others as much as he loves us. Now we understand where Korach went wrong. Korach’s zeal for the high priesthood led him to a rebellion that was bitterly divisive. This was the first indicator that his passion for G-d was misguided…

From an article by Rabbi Lazer Gurkow


Moshiach Thoughts

“Korach the son of Yitzhar… assembled against Moses and against Aaron…” (Korach 16:1-3)

Korach erred by assembling his followers to rise and rebel against Moses. He thought that by doing so he could, as it were, force the realization of the redemption before its time. He did not realize that it could not happen until the refinement of the world would be completed. 

From an article by Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet


Have I Got A Story

The Greenest Grass

A rabbinical colleague tells me that he’s had extensive contact with one of the most popular and renowned entertainment celebrities of our time. This star is not only hugely famous, wealthy and successful, but has been acclaimed around the globe for his rare talent and genius. Hundreds of thousands of fans wish they could have his life, that they could be him. In the course of their conversations, the rabbi asked this man what it is that he constantly wishes for in life. His answer: Obscurity. His dream is to fade from the limelight, and lead a simple, anonymous, man-on-the-street, white-picket-fence existence.

In this week’s Torah portion, Korach, we meet a man who by all accounts was a very intelligent, affluent and gifted individual. A Levite by birth, he already occupied a position of prominence and prestige within the community of Israel. Yet he rallies together a band of fellow Levites to challenge the leadership of Moses and the priesthood of Aaron. “The entire community—all of them—are holy, and G-d is among them,” Korach protests, “so why do you [Moses and Aaron] exalt yourselves over the congregation of G-d?”

How virtuous. How egalitarian. After all, every soul, bar none, is a spark of G-d. How then can distinctions be drawn between Jews—whereby this one is a tribal prince, this one a Levite, this one a priest and yet another a high priest? Let us all stand as one without separation or distinction.

Righteous indignation is often nothing more than envy with a halo. Indeed, for all of his “man of the people” posturing, Korach was not nearly as unselfish and altruistic as his words might suggest. The man felt rebuffed in that Aaron, and not he, was granted the high priesthood, and could not abide this perceived snub to his own standing and stature.

In responding to Korach, Moses says: “It is too much for you, O offspring of Levi.” In other words, can you not recognize the beauty and uniqueness of the gifts you do have? You are a member of the chosen people. As a Levite you are a keeper of the sanctuary. You are a respected dignitary. You have so much going for yourself. How could you possibly be discontent? Why must you seek the priesthood, when G-d clearly gave that to somebody else? Korach’s begrudging spirit gave him no peace, and ultimately led to a fatally disastrous end for him and his group.

The sages teach us: “There is no man who does not have his place.” If that’s the case, the commentaries ask, why is it that there are so many people who are so unhappy with their lot? The answer is that instead of savoring their own special place and flourishing therein, they futilely crave the place that belongs to somebody else.

The reason G-d created man as a single unit rather than as an entire species (as He did with the animal kingdom) is to show you that one man equals the world, says the Mishnah. Every individual is unique. You were handpicked to fulfill a specific mission, a mission that only you can perform. That mission is to enhance and perfect your world. And what is “your world”? It’s whatever you wake up to in the morning: your life, your family, your community, your personality, your problems, your circumstances—that’s your world. That’s the life you were put into, and that’s where your purpose can be found. We don’t sit around saying “if only.” “If only I had kids like those . . . if only my mother wouldn’t have married my father . . . if only I were better looking, more intelligent, more talented . . . ”  It makes for nice fantasy, perhaps, but a total waste of time and energy when it invades reality.

When you live with a sense of divine purpose, you recognize that you are who you are, your life is what it is, because that’s what it’s meant to be. And it is within your own life that you are called upon to serve your Creator and fulfill your very distinctive mission and purpose.

Korach would have done well (as would we all) to heed the profound words of the serenity prayer. The key to living a good and happy life is to have the courage to change those things which can be changed, the serenity to accept those things which cannot be changed and the wisdom to know the difference.  A person who sees the essence of life as serving the will of His Creator does not expend useless energy craving places where the grass is greener. He finds meaning, purpose, joy and fulfillment in the place where the grass is greenest of all: his own.

From an article by Rabbi Moshe Bryski 

Food For the Soul

Minority Truths

In democracies as well as in Jewish Law, majority rules. A beit din (court of Torah law) must always consist of an odd number of judges, so that there should always be a majority opinion. But the fact is, sometimes the majority gets it wrong. The story in the Parsha Shelach, of the twelve spies sent by Moses to the Promised Land, is a case in point. 

Only two of the dozen, Joshua and Caleb, remained faithful to their leader, to the purpose of their mission and to G-d’s assurance that it was a good land. The other ten spies went awry. The spies were sent on a reconnaissance mission to determine how best to approach the coming conquest of the land of Canaan. Instead of doing what they were sent to do—to suggest the best way forward—ten of the twelve spies brought back a negative report that was designed to intimidate the people and discourage them from entering a ferocious “land that devours its inhabitants,” and which signed off with the categorical conclusion that “we cannot ascend.”

The people responded accordingly. They cried out to Moses, lamenting their very departure from Egypt. So G-d decreed that this generation was not worthy of His precious Promised Land. Furthermore, this day of weeping, on which they cried for no good reason, would become a day of tears for generations. Indeed, our sages explain, this occurred on the Ninth of Av, the day that would become a day of mourning for the destruction of our Holy Temples and many other national calamities throughout history.

Now, the question I’d like to pose here is: why did the people not follow the two good spies, Joshua and Caleb, instead of the others? The obvious answer: they were outvoted and outnumbered. Ten vs. two—no contest. Majority rules.

Tragically, though, they backed the losers. And the result was an extended vacation in the wilderness for them, and a tragedy for all of us to this day. So, although we may be staunch democrats and believers in the democratic process, clearly, there will be times when the minority is right.

From an article by Rabbi Yossy Goldman


Shabbat Shalom

Why light at least two candles on Shabbat?

Actually, you can fulfill the mitzvah of Shabbat candle-lighting with even one candle. That said, the custom is to light multiple candles. The basic reason why we light two candles for Shabbat is that they correspond to the two forms of the mitzvah of Shabbat: positive commandments and negative prohibitions associated with sanctifying Shabbat. Our sages tell us that the reason we light the Shabbat candles is to bring peace and tranquility into the home. According to some, this is one of the reasons for two candles—to represent husband and wife. Some explain that the reason for lighting at least two candles is based on the Talmudic teaching that on Shabbat we receive an additional soul, which imbues us with an extra sense of holiness and spirituality throughout the day. The additional candle corresponds to the second soul. While the widespread custom is to light at least two candles for Shabbat, many have the custom to light more.

From an article by Rabbi Yehuda Shurpin


Mind Over Matter

Perfection

Stop seeking perfection and start fixing the world.

You have to begin with the knowledge that there is nothing perfect in this world.

Our job is not to hunt down perfection and live within it.

It is to take whatever broken pieces we have found
and sew them together to create beauty.

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman


Moshiach Thoughts

Refine the Physical World

[The] ultimate perfection of the Messianic era and the time of the Resurrection of the Dead depends on our actions and service of G-d throughout the duration of the galut (exile). The sin of the spies [in the Parsha Shelach] was that they tried to circumvent the process of this refining of the physical world and preparing it for Moshiach.

Mundane entanglements, involvement with worldly matters, may be tiresome, difficult and distasteful for one who aspires to spiritual heights. They are, however, an integral part of the Divine plan, and as Chassidism explains: “The ultimate intent of the descent and exile is to prepare for an immense ascent when, in the days of Moshiach, the light of G-d will radiate in a manifest way!” 

From an article by Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet


Have I Got A Story

Mission Possible

A story: Rabbi Hirsh Altein suffered tremendous back pains, and after unsuccessfully trying many medications and treatments all the specialists he visited advised him that surgery was the only way to rid himself of the problem. When the Rebbe was asked for advice, he implied that surgery was unnecessary; there must be a cream on the market which could solve the problem! But the doctors continued to insist that they know of no alternative to surgery. As a last resort, Rabbi Altein visited Dr. Avrohom Seligson (the Rebbe’s personal doctor, and a devoted chassid). Dr. Seligson, who was not a back specialist, checked Rabbi Altein and prescribed an ointment for his back. Sure enough, until his passing more than twenty years later, Rabbi Altein never had a recurrence of his back pains.

When Dr. Seligson was asked how he knew to prescribe the particular cream, when all the specialists thought that surgery was the only option, he responded: “The results of the check-up indicated that he needed surgery—but the Rebbe said that this wasn’t the case. I realized that the Rebbe merely wanted a ‘vessel’ through which a miracle could be manifest, so I prescribed the simplest and cheapest cream available on the market!”

The spies’ reconnaissance mission to Canaan was intended to gather intelligence information about the enemy. They were told to scout the lay of the land, as well as its natural and man-made fortifications. They were to report on the enemy’s strengths and weaknesses, and the natural resources they could rely on during times of battle. This information would be used by the Israelite military brass to formulate an appropriate combat strategy for the impending battle to conquer the Holy Land.

The spies – all of whom were upright and pious people with unquestionable integrity – faithfully went about their task, but what they saw made their stomachs churn: the Canaanites were a powerful nation, gargantuan people with awesome strength. No fewer than 31 kings had royal palaces defended by military contingents on the Canaan mainland. There was no way, the spies concluded, for the Israelites to achieve a natural victory against the formidable Canaanite foe. “We are unable to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we,” they declared! Yet this honest conclusion had disastrous results. G-d was highly displeased with their report and the reaction it engendered, and it caused the premature demise of the entire generation which left Egypt.

Where did the spies go wrong? The Rebbe explains that the spies erred in assuming that they had to reach a conclusion. They were told to go to Canaan and bring back dry facts: the nature of the land and its population etc. They were not asked to render a decision regarding the feasibility of conquering the land. G-d had promised the Jews a military victory against the Canaanites, and therefore that was not a debatable issue. The question wasn’t if it could be done, but rather how it would be done.

The same is true with our personal lives. We all are “sent on a mission” to this world, to illuminate our surroundings with the radiance of Torah and mitzvot. Often the opposition seems to be too formidable; the obstacles to implementing G-d’s appear to be insurmountable. When these thoughts enter our minds we must remember that if G-d charged us with the mission it certainly can be carried out. Our job is only to figure out how to do it.

From an article by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg

Food For the Soul

Timeless Torah

The Parshah  Behaalotecha tells us, “The Ark of the Covenant of G-d journeyed before them” (Numbers 10:33). Rashi interprets this to mean that the Ark—which housed the Tablets inscribed with the Ten commandments—would miraculously prepare the groundwork for their future encampments. What this is also telling us is that the Torah (as embodied by the Tablets) is way ahead of the game. It goes before us. It is not only timeless; it is ahead of its time.

I can think of so many values and lifestyles which have become trendy now, which Torah has been encouraging for centuries.

A Time magazine cover story focused on young moms putting successful careers on hold in order to stay home and nurture their children when they need them most. From the beginning, Torah exempted women from timebound mitzvahs like tefillin or thrice-daily prayers, so that they could fulfill the more important mitzvah of raising the next generation. 

The Jewish tradition of sitting shiva when one loses a family member is today recognized by psychologists of all faiths and cultures as being excellent bereavement therapy. When Jacob cooked lentils for his father, Isaac, it was because Isaac was a mourner sitting shiva for Abraham.

Whereas a generation ago women spurned mikvah as demeaning, today’s woman is embracing it as a supreme acknowledgment of her sexuality and as the most beautiful spiritual experience available. But there were mikvahs in Masada, in Jerusalem during the Temple era, and long before. And the phenomenon of a society in search of spirituality, with celebrities and pop icons studying the Kabbalah, serves only to validate the teachings of Jewish mysticism, which are indeed of ancient days.

Paisley ties were once compulsory, but today are verboten. Fads and fashions come and go, but G-dly values, the morals of menschlichkeit and the mitzvahs of Torah, are not behind the times. If anything, they are ahead of the times.

As He is beyond time, so are His commandments. If they appear to our mortal eyes as anachronistic, then that is our challenge: to relate Torah to our own realities, and to shape our lives according to its standard. He intended it for us and our world, so obviously it can be done.

From an article by Rabbi Yossy Goldman


Shabbat Shalom

Shabbat and the Divine Mind

In six days, G-d created heaven and earth, and on the seventh day, He rested. But when G-d rests, how is there a heaven and earth? What force sustains the molecules in their places, the electrons in their shells? In what way does any form or matter exist at all?

Rather, for six days, G-d sustains the creation of heaven and earth by His word, and on the seventh day, it rests within His thought. For six days, as you speak words to others outside of yourself, so the Creator generates a universe in which each creature senses itself to be outside of Him. But on Shabbat, if you will only stop to listen, to perceive and to know, you will discover a universe as it is found within the mind of its Creator.

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman


Mind Over Matter

Inspiring Others

It’s not easy to reach out to others. We often feel shy or awkward, worried about interfering, and unconvinced of our ability to be of any use. Far easier to hide in one’s own little huddle and let the world take care of itself.

We can’t, we mustn’t. The exponential effects of inspiring others, the good engendered and inspiration effected have such powerful consequences, that to abnegate our responsibilities would be to condemn both ourselves and others to a sterile, frosty existence.

From an article by Rabbi Elisha Greenbaum


Moshiach Thoughts

“Six hundred thousand footmen are the people, bekirbo (in whose midst) I am…” (Beha’alotecha 11:21)

This verse intimates the mystical principle that there is a spark or part of Moses in every one of his people: taking the word bekirbo literally, the verse reads “in whose innards I am.” Thus Moses was connected with every Jew, and this enabled him to be the “faithful shepherd” of Israel and its redeemer from Egypt. The same applies to Moshiach. Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov teaches that within every Jew there is a spark of the soul of Moshiach. This spark constitutes the very core of everyone’s soul which each one is to unveil and release to govern his life. Each one will thus redeem himself, and this will bring about the national redemption for all of Israel. Moshiach is connected with the entire nation of Israel, with every single Jew, and that is why he is able to redeem all the Jewish people. 

Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet


Have I Got A Story

Miriam’s Message to the Powerless

A teenager was complaining because her school had punished her for a misdemeanor, while her partner in crime had escaped even a reprimand. “Since her father is on the school board, they won’t punish her! How can I respect such an unfair system when the principal has no real principles!”


At the conclusion of the shacharit (morning) prayers, we recite the Six Remembrances. These are six occurrences that happened at the birth of our nationhood. According to many authorities, we are obligated to remember them every day.

G-d commands us to remember our Exodus, the revelation at Sinai and sanctifying the Shabbat day because they are integral to who we are and our destiny as G-d’s  people. Remembering Amalek’s G-dless attack and our obligation to obliterate them also provides the necessary reminder of the danger of evil and how we must be on guard to eradicate it.

Even remembering our rebelliousness soon after receiving the Torah reminds us of the many times our nation erred and strayed, and to be careful not to repeat this pattern.

However, one of the remembrances has always struck me as odd: “Remember what G-d did to Miriam on the way when you went out of Egypt.”

Miriam loved her younger brother, Moses, and when she heard that he had separated from his wife (not realizing that G-d had instructed him to do so), she spoke to her brother Aaron about it. G-d punished her with leprosy. This daily remembrance reminds us not to speak ill of others or jump to conclusions about their behavior, even if we have positive intentions. The temptation is so great that we need to be reminded daily!

Nevertheless, there are other instances of evil talk, some of which caused far greater harm than Miriam. Moreover, the wording is curious in that it doesn’t remind us of what Miriam did, but rather “to remember what G-d did to her . . . ”

Miriam saved Moses as a baby; she was a prophet, a holy woman and a righteous leader who taught and guided. She also had “powerful connections” as the sister of Moses. One would imagine that G-d would overlook a minor misjudgment by a person of such stature! Nevertheless, G-d didn’t and commands us to remember this daily, so that we internalize that in G-d’s book—because of her greatness—she needed to be an even better example.

We live in an imperfect world where it is easy to become cynical about justice, even among those meant to be our mentors or leaders. So often if feels like it’s not what you know, but who you know; it’s not about your personal integrity or effort, but your power or cunning.

And so, G-d reminds us daily that ultimately, there is true justice. In G-d’s system, you are seen for what you are, for what you accomplish and for what you aspire to be. And that’s something worth remembering daily!

Chana Weisberg