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From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin‏

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin‏

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Bamidbar

Dear Friends,

I am pleased to share this article from entitled "The Unforgotten Jew", originally published in the October of 2016 edition of Here's My Story

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Nemes works in the administration of Tzivos Hashem youth group, at the Jewish Children’s Museum in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. He was interviewed in Brooklyn, in July of 2012.

Please click on the link to read this article: http://myencounterblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/196.-Vayelech-5776.pdf.

Be well. Have a beautiful Shabbos.

Warmly,
Rabbi SB Levitin

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Behar-Bechukotai

Dear Friend,

I am pleased to share this issue originally published in Here's My Story entitled, "She Can See You". 

Rabbi Mordechai Tzvi Sufrin, a renowned mashpia, lecturer and educator passed away in 2016. He taught in Lubavitch Grammer School and the Lubavitch Mechina in London, where he was interviewed in August of 2011.

Please click on this link to read the article: http://myencounterblog.com/wp-content/uploads//2016/11/204.-Toldos-5777.pdf

Be well and have a beautiful Shabbos!

Warmly,
Rabbi SB Levitin

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Some Thoughts on Parsha Emor

 

Because You Can, That Means I Can? Why?

It was in the summer of 1974, I was sitting with my dear friend and fellow Shliach (colleague), Rabbi Yosef Samuels, late at night, discussing a community project we were planning. I was trying to sway him to oversee this initiative, when he turned to me and said: “Why don’t you do it?”

I responded, “If I can do it, why can’t you do it?”

He looked me in the eye and said: “Just because you can do it, why do you think I can do it as well? I feel you are a better fit for this project than I would be.”

Later, while reflecting upon this matter, I realized Rabbi Samuels’ argument made logical sense.

Both last week’s Parsha – Acharei-Kedoshim and this week’s Parsha – Emor, discuss the subject of “holy” (Kedoshim). The Torah states for Parsha Kedoshim: “Hashem spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to the entire assembly of the Children of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy, for holy am I, Hashem, you G-d” [Leviticus: 19, 1-2].

For this week’s Parsha Emor, the Torah states: “Hashem says to Moses: Say to the Kohanim (priests), the sons of Aaron, and you shall say to them: to a [dead] persona he shall not become impure among his people.” And again, “They shall be holy to their G-d and they shall not desecrate the Name of their G-d” [Leviticus: 21, 1 & 6].

In reference to the commandment to all the Children of Israel, “You should be holy, for I am holy” begs the question, because G-d is holy, therefore we are expected to be holy??

It’s as if you would say: because Albert Einstein was a genius, we are all expected to be geniuses?

 

The Soul

Tanya, Chapter Two: “The second soul of the Israelite is ‘a piece of G-d above’ (Job 31:2) literally.”

As the verse Genesis 2:7 says: “And [G-d] blew into his nostrils the breath of life.”

Nachmanides, in explaining this verse as evidence of a Divine Soul, said: “This verse hints for us the virtue of the soul . . . It states that [G-d] breathed into his nostrils a soul of life to inform you that [the soul] is not derived from the elements . . . rather, it is the spirit of G-d” (Ramban, commentary to Genesis 2:7).

The Tanya continues: “You breathed it [the soul] into me” (Liturgy, Morning Prayers).  And, as the Zohar states, ‘One who blows, blows from his innards’ meaning from the innermost depths of his being.”

From these quotes we gain a sense of the potential in each and every one of us having “piece of G-d” within us. When that “piece” is developed, it allows us to illuminate our lives with a G-dly persona, hallow our physical reality, and imbue the world with holiness.

 

“And You Shall Walk in His Ways” (Deuteronomy 28:9)

In the Rambam’s, Hilchot Deot, Chapter One refers to the above quote by saying: “ [Our Sages] taught [the following] explanation of this mitzvah: Just as He is called ‘Gracious,’ you shall be gracious; Just as He is called ‘Merciful,’ you shall be merciful; Just as He is called ‘Holy.’ You shall be holy.”

From this quote, we see that the Rambam is issuing a Halachic ruling – that we are all expected to be holy. In other words, the Rambam has an expectation of all us to walk in G-d’s ways and be as holy as He is. How? Why?

Given the previous quotes and other sources, we have an understanding of the Rambam’s ruling, as we are all infused with the breath of G-d.

 

“We Must All Be Holy”

“You shall be holy. This admonition to strive for absolute human perfection is addressed to each and every member of the nation as an individual. No station in life, no sex, no age, no state of personal fortune is excluded from this call to strive for the heights of absolute morality, nor is the call addressed to any one individual apart from all others. We must all be ‘holy.’

Holiness results when a morally free human being has complete dominion over all his energies and inclinations and over the enticements and tendencies associated with these, and places them into the service of G-d’s will. Such dominion over one’s self, the greatest skill in man’s power to practice, does not consist in neglecting, stunting, suppressing or destroying any human drive or faculty. No potential or impulse given to man, from the most spiritual to the most sensual, is good or bad in itself. Each has been given to him for beneficial purpose in order to accomplish the will of G-d on earth. G-d’s Law has set for each a positive purpose and negative limits. Anything employed in the service of this G-d-appointed purpose and within the limits drawn by G-d is holy and good.“ (Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsh). 

 

Above – Actually

Hayom Yom writes: “In the winter of 5652 (1891-2), when my father taught me in Tanya. ‘The second soul in Israel is actually part of G-d above,’ he explained that the connotations of the words ‘above’ and ‘actually’ are contradictory.  ‘Above’ indicates the most spiritual of spiritual levels, while ‘actually’ (palpable, in Hebrew “mamash”) describes the most material of material things. He explained that this is the unique quality of the ‘second soul,’ that though it is the epitome of the spiritual it has an effect upon the most material of materiality.” (Manachem Av 23).

When reviewing the above concepts of “holiness” I reflect on the tremendous responsibility and opportunity that the good G-d has endowed each and every one of us with.  May we make the best of what we were given.

Have a warm and beautiful Shabbos.

In friendship, 
Rabbi SB Levitin

 

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parshat Acharei-Kedoshim

Dear Friend,
I am very pleased to share this week's Here's My Story article entitled, "The Young Role Model" published for Parsha Acharei-Kedoshim.

Mrs. Rochel Leah Presman, a mother of eight, gives Torah classes in Russian and is a teacher at Ulpan Morasha in Jerusalem where she was interviewed in February of 2017. 

Please click on the link to read this inspiring story: http://myencounterblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/226.-Acharei-Kedoshim-5777.pdf

Be well.
Have a Beautiful Shabbos.

Warmly,
Rabbi SB Levitin 

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Tazria-Metzora

Dear Friend,
I am pleased to share this article from Here's My Story, entitled, "Safe Skies" which was published for Parsha Shemini.

Rabbi Dr. Chaim Shine is a law professor who lectures at Shaarei Mishpat Academic Center and Netanya College. He is also a columnist for the Israel Ha Yom Newspaper. He was interviewed in his home in Ra'anana, Israel, in January of 2014. 

Please click on the link to read: http://myencounterblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/224.-Shemini-5777.pdf

Have a beautiful Shabbos.

Warmly,
Rabbi SB Levitin 

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Shemini (The Eighth Day)

Taken from the Writings of The Lubavitcher Rebbe (OBM). Originally published by: Kehot Publication Society in Chayenu Daily Torah Study, Issue April 16-22, 2017

 

The name of this Parsha, Shemini ("Eighth"), refers to the eight day of the consecration rites of the Tabernacle, which occurred on 1 Nissan 2449. As recounted at the end of the preceding Parsha, Tzav, every day during the week preceding this date, Moses performed specific rites intended to initiate the Tabernacle and the priests (Aaron and his four sons) into their functions and offices. Thereafter, the Tabernacle would be able to serve as the spiritual hub of the nation, the seat of sacrificial rites, and the priests would be able to perform these rites.  

Each day during the installation week, Moses erected the Tabernacle in the morning and dismantled it in the afternoon. This day, the first of Nissan, would be the first day on which, after being assembled, it would remain standing until G-d would command the Jewish people to journey forth from Mount Sinai. This was also the first day that Aaron, assisted by his sons, performed the sacrificial rites. And, most importantly, this this day would be the first day that G-d's presence would be revealed in the Tabernacle - in the form of fire that would descend from heaven and consume the sacrifices. No heavenly fire had descended to consume the sacrifices that had been offered up during the preceding seven days.

This lack of Divine manifestation during the previous week troubled the Jewish people, who had donated the materials for the Tabernacle (along with the priestly garments) so generously and had worked so enthusiastically to construct it and fashion all its accoutrements. Moses therefore opened the day's proceedings with the announcement that "today G-d is going to appear to you."

There follows the account of Aaron's performance of the rites, which differed from the rites that Moses had performed during the preceding week. At their conclusion, Aaron blessed the people from atop the Altar. Yet, still no heavenly fire had descended. While the sacrificial parts remained arrayed on the Altar, Aaron descended and entered the Tabernacle building with Moses, where they prayed for G-d to accept both the people's desire for His presence to be manifest and Aaron's service. They emerged from the Tabernacle and blessed the tense and anxious crowd of Jewish people. As they finished their prayer, fire finally descended from heaven and consumed the sacrifices. In a moment a pure Divine ecstasy, the people sang G-d's praises and prostrated themselves.

The joy of the moment was soon dispelled, however, when two of Aaron's sons, Nadav and Avihu, in their excessive enthusiasm, entered the Holy of Holies (the inner chamber of the Tabernacle) and offered up incense that G-d had intended form Moses to offer up. No sooner had they done so when fire burst forth from the Holy of Holies, entered their nostrils and killed them both.

Moses acted quickly. First, he comforted his grief-stricken brother, Aaron, by informing that his sons had actually "sanctified G-d's Name" by demonstrating His greatness while serving as an abject lesson that His instructions must be followed precisely, and that going against them is counterproductive and event dangerous - sometimes mortally so. In fact, Moses continued to tell Aaron, G-d had already told Moses that someone was going to die for this very purpose on the day of the Tabernacle's inauguration. Moses had assumed that it was going to be either himself or Aaron, but apparently, Nadav and Avihu were more worthy of being G-d's instrument in this instance. Aaron accepted Moses' words of comfort and remained silent.

As a reward for Aaron's acceptance of G-d's decree, G-d addressed him individually, communicated certain details of the laws of the priesthood to him directly rather than through Moses as usual.  

Next, the day's proceedings had to be resumed. After having the bodies removed from the Tabernacle precincts, Moses instructed Aaron and his two remaining sons to continue with the rites - specifically, to eat their designated portions of the sacrifices. But now a technical legal issue arose: are they allowed to eat sacrificial meat while in a state of mourning? Moses told them that yes, they are. Aaron reasoned that this ruling applied only to the special sacrifices of the day, not the regular sacrifices that he had also offered up. Therefore, he had the priests' portions of those sacrifices burned. When Moses discovered this, he was at first upset, but upon hearing Aaron's reasoning, he admitted that G-d had not told him what to do in this specific case and Aaron's argument made more sense than his own.

The Torah then describes how G-d gave the Jewish people the primary laws of Kashrut: which animals are permitted for consumption and which are not. Among land animals, only those that chew their cud and have cloven feet are allowed. Among the fish, only those who possess both fins and scales are allowed. Among fowl, a list was given of those that are forbidden; all others are permitted. Among insects, only certain species of grasshoppers are permitted.

The Torah then informs us that touching the carcasses of certain animals prohibited for consumption renders the person who touched them ritually defiled. Ritual defilement is a condition that disqualifies a person from entering the Tabernacle precincts and consuming those portions of the sacrifices he would normally be permitted to consume. Under certain circumstances, these carcasses can render vessels ritually defiled as well.

Thus, the contents of the Parsha are split between two seemingly unrelated topics: the eighth day of Tabernacle's consecration and the laws of Kashrut and ritual defilement. Their common denominator is alluded to by the name of the Parsha, Shemini, for the number eight signifies the transcendence from the natural order (indicated by the number seven) to the supernatural order. The revelation of G-d in the Tabernacle was clearly a supernatural phenomenon; the division of the naturally undifferentiated animal kingdom into permitted and forbidden species transforms the natural world into a school for supernatural refinement.

As such, both the inaugural day of the Tabernacle and the laws of Kashrut express the same goal: the transformation of the natural world into the supernatural home for G-d that it was created to be.   

 

 

 

Have a beautiful Shabbos! 

Warmly,
Rabbi SB Levitin

 

 

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Happy Passover

Dear Friend,
I am pleased to share this article from Here's My Story, entitled, "Long Distance Care"

Mr. Eliezer Shefer serves as the chairman of World Organization of Orthodox Communities and Synagogues in Israel and the Diaspora. He, Shaul Shiff, and Aryeh Han were interviewed in March of 2010.

Please click here: http://myencounterblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/222.-Tzav-5777.pdf 

May you all have a meaningful and happy Passover.

Warmly,
Rabbi Levitin 

Washington State Governor Inslee Proclaims 11th of Nissan (April 7, 2017) Education and Sharing Day!

Today, 11th of Nissan, in commemoration of the 115th birthday of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, obm, the office of Chabad in Thurston County, WA, led by Rabbi Yosef and Mrs. Rivki Schtroks, facilitated this Proclamation from the Governor of the State of Washington, Jay Inslee.

Often described as the most influential rabbi in modern history, the Rebbe’s, obm, teachings which emphasize the inherent goodness of mankind, the infinite potential within every individual and the profound value of even the smallest good deed, inspired multitudes and resonated globally. “The young are the leaders of the next generation,” The Rebbe, obm, would say, “and proper education can prevent many of today’s challenges.

Rabbi Schneerson was the only rabbi ever to receive the Congressional Gold Medal and to have an American national day proclaimed in his honor, Education and Sharing Day. His role within the Jewish community was unparalleled, both as a preeminent scholar and as an indefatigable leader.

In commemoration of the anniversary, Gov. Inslee has proclaimed April 7, 2017, as “Education & Sharing Day” in the State of Washington, and “called upon educators, volunteers and citizens, to reach out to young people and work to create a better, brighter, and more hopeful future for all.”

"...THE OPPORTUNITY TO PAUSE AND RECOGNIZE OUR RESPONSIBILITY TO ENSURE OUR YOUNG PEOPLE HAVE THE FOUNDATION NECESSARY TO LEAD LIVES RICH IN PURPOSE AND FULFILLMENT..." - QUOTE FROM PROCLAMATIONS

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Passover Message From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin - Parsha Tzav

The Story of Divine Providence 

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The festival of Passover calls for early and elaborate preparations to make the Jewish home fitting for the great festival. It is not physical preparedness alone that is required of us, but also spiritual preparedness – for in life the physical and spiritual are closely linked together, especially in the celebration of our Sabbath and festivals.

On Passover we celebrate the liberation of the Jewish people from Egyptian slavery and, together with it, the liberation from and negation of, the ancient Egyptian system and way of life: the “abominations of Egypt”. Thus we celebrate our physical liberation together with our spiritual freedom. Indeed, there cannot be one without the other; there can be no real freedom without accepting the precepts of our Torah guiding our daily life. Pure and holy life eventually leads to real freedom.

It is said: “In every generation each Jew should see himself as though he personally had been liberated from Egypt.” This is to say, the lesson of Passover has a timely message for every individual. The story of Passover is the story of the special Divine Providence, which alone determines the fate of our people. What is happening in the outside world need not affect us; we might be singled out for suffering, G-d forbid, amid general prosperity. Likewise, we may be singled out for safety amid a general plague or catastrophe. The story of our enslavement and liberation gives ample illustration of this; for the fate of our people is determined by its adherence to G-d and His Prophets.

This lesson is emphasized by the three principal symbols of the Seder, which according to our Sages, unless we explain their significance we have not observed the Seder properly: Pesach (the Paschal Offering), Matzoh, and Moror (bitter herbs). Using these three symbols in their chronological order and in accordance with the Haggadah explanation, we may say: The Jews avoid Moror (bitterness of life) only through Pesach (G-d’s special care passing over and saving the Jewish homes amidst one of the greatest plagues) and Matzoh – then the very catastrophe and the enemies of the Jews will work for the benefit of the Jews, driving them in great haste out of “Mitzraim” (Egypt), the place of perversion and darkness and placing them under the beam of light and holiness.

One other important thing we must remember: the celebration of the festival of freedom must be connected with the commandment “You shall relate it to your son.” The formation and existence of the Jewish home, and the Jewish people as a whole, is dependent upon the upbringing of the younger generation, both boys and girls. All children are G-d’s children and it’s our sacred duty to see it to it that they all live up to that title, and this we can achieve only through Jewish education, in full adherence to G-d’s Torah. Only then will we merit the realization of our ardent hopes: “In the next year may we be free; in the next year may we be in Jerusalem!”

 

{In memory of Shmuel ben Nisan, OBM, Samuel Stroum Yartzeit March 9, 2001/14 Adar 5761}

Warmly,
Rabbi SB Levitin 

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Vayikra

Dear Friend,

I am very pleased to share this week's article from Here's My Story, entitled: "Extended Family" for this week's Parsha Vayikra.

Please click this link to read the article:  http://myencounterblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/221.-Vayikra-5777.pdf

Warmest wishes for a beautiful Shabbos.

Warmly,
Rabbi Levitin 

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin for Parshat Vayakhel-Pikudei

Dear Friend, 

I am very pleased to share the following article entitled, "True Merits" from a recent edition of Here's My Story. Please enjoy by clicking on the link below.

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Gluckowsky is the Assistant Director of Chabad Rabbinate in Israel and the Director of the Chabad Rabbinate in Rechovot, where he has served as the Rebbe's emissary for nearly 40 years. He was interviewed in October of 2016. 

Link to article: http://myencounterblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Ki-Sisa-5777.pdf 

Warmest wishes for a beautiful Shabbos,
Rabbi SB Levitin 


From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parshat Ki Tisa

Dear Friend,

I am pleased to share this article from Here's My Story, entitled "The Rice Diet". 

Beginning at 19 years old, when he was the youngest synagogue minister to ever serve in the United Kingdom, Rabbi Dov Lent held various rabbinical and teaching positions for twenty years. In 1987, with the Rebbe's blessing, he opened a dairy company that is still running today. He was interviewed in his home in March of 2015.

Link to article:  http://myencounterblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Terumah-5777.pdf

Have a beautiful Shabbos.

Warmly,
Rabbi Levitin 

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin for Parsha Tetzaveh

Dear Friend,

I am pleased to share this week's edition of  "Here's My Story" for Parsha Tetzaveh.

Rabbi Shlomo Kugel, together with his wife Rivka, is the director of Chabad of the West Side, Manhattan, where he has served as Chabad emissary for nearly 25 years. He was interviewed in April of 2016.

Please click the link for the article: http://myencounterblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Tetzaveh-5777.pdf

Have a beautiful Shabbos and a Happy Purim!

Warmly,
Rabbi Levitin 

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Terumah

Dear Friend,

I am pleased to share this article form Here's My Story, entitled "The Rice Diet", for this week's Parsha Terumah. 

Beginning at 19 years old, when he was the youngest synagogue minister to ever serve in the United Kingdom, Rabbi Dov Lent held various rabbinical and teaching positions for twenty years. In 1987, with the Rebbe's blessing, he opened a dairy company that is still running today. He was interviewed in his home in March of 2015.

Link to article:  http://myencounterblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Terumah-5777.pdf

Have a beautiful Shabbos.

Warmly,
Rabbi Levitin 

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parshat Mishpatim

Dear Friend,

I am pleased to share with you this week's Here's My Story entitled, "Early Years - Paris" for Parsha Mishpatim.  

Mr. Berel (Bernard) Lax worked in the textile business for many years. He was interviewed in his home in London, in May of 2007 and again shortly before passing away in 2010.

Please click on the link to read this article:  http://myencounterblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/215.-Yisro-5777.pdf 

Warmest wishes for a Beautiful Shabbos.

Warmly,
Rabbi Levitin 

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