Printed from CSTLSeattle.org

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin‏

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin‏

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Matot-Massei

 FROM THE DESK OF RABBI LEVITIN.jpg

Dear Friend,

I am pleased to send you this article, entitled "A Jew is a Catalyst" for Parsha Matot-Massei, from last year's issue of Here's My Story

Please click on this link to read the article: http://myencounterblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/04-JEM-Matos-Maasei.pdf.

Be well. Have a beautiful Shabbos.

Warmly,
Rabbi SB Levitin

“The Enemy Triumphed and the City was Breached” | From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin

“The Enemy Triumphed and the City was Breached”

It was 4:30 a.m. on 21 Iyar (May 17, 2017) the earliest time that day when Shacharis (morning prayers) could be said at the Holy Wall referred to as the Kotel in Jerusalem. Standing there in the early morning light, facing the remains of the once magnificent Holy Temple, was (as always) a moving experience for me. I went to “my place” within the tunnel and saw familiar faces from three years earlier. The serenity, the holiness, and the tranquility were palpable. The opportunity for one on one communion with Hashem (G-d), at this holy sight, has the ability to lift a person to a whole different reality.

A Little History on this Holy Sight:

“After giving the Torah to the Jewish people, G‑d commanded them, ‘Make Me a Sanctuary,’ and promised them, ‘And I will dwell within.’ From that time onward, there was a place — or more particularly, a series of places — that served as a dwelling for G‑d’s Presence within our material world” (From the talks of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson).

The Rebbe continues with a question:
“This concept, that a place on earth would serve as a dwell­ing for G‑d, is problematic. The difficulty is not the question: How can G‑dliness become manifest within the physical setting of our material world? For physical existence cannot interfere with the expression of G‑dliness. It is no less appropriate for G‑d to become manifest within the setting of our material world than within the spiritual realms. He is infinite and om­nipotent, and can manifest His presence wherever He desires. The difficulty is: Why is that manifestation confined to a single location? ‘The entire earth is filled with His glory.’ Why then is there only one place that serves as a dwelling for Him in this world?

The Open Manifestation of G‑dliness

One of the explanations frequently offered to resolve the above question is that although G‑dliness permeates every place within the world, this G‑dliness is not openly revealed. In the Beis HaMikdash, not only was G‑d present, His presence was evident.

This, however, is not an adequate resolution. Indeed, it reinforces the question. The revelation of G‑dliness is dependent on the service of the Jewish people, and that service can be carried out in any place throughout the world. Why then is there only one place which serves as G‑d’s dwelling?

The Ultimate of Perfection; Complete Infinity

The questions mentioned above can be resolved by focus­ing on the nature of G‑d — He whose presence is manifest in the Beis HaMikdash. The Avodas HaKodesh states that the Or Ein Sof (G‑d’s infinite light) is the ultimate of perfection. Accordingly, just as the Or Ein Sof possesses an infinite dimension, it possesses a finite dimension. For were it not to possess a finite dimension, it would lack perfection.

To explain: Infinity appears more representative of G‑d than finite existence, for finite existence has specific limits and G‑d is, by definition, unlimited and unbounded. Nevertheless, were G‑d to be only infinite, without having a finite dimension, He would also be limited, for the entire realm of finiteness would be apart from Him. In this sense, infinity would serve as a definition, confining and restricting the nature of His being.

In truth, however, G‑d is neither finite, nor infinite; He is what He is, in a realm totally above human conception. When coming into revelation, He employs both the infinite and the finite. The most complete expression of Him comes in the fu­sion of the finite and the infinite, joining together these opposite thrusts in a transcendent manner.

The Place of the Ark, the Fusion of Finiteness and Infinity

This transcendent union of opposites was revealed in the Sanctuary and in the Beis HaMikdash, the classic example being the ark in the Holy of Holies. The ark was two and a half cubits wide. There were ten cubits on either side of it, and yet the entire span of the Holy of Holies was twenty cubits. The two and a half cubits of the ark’s width did not take up any space at all. The fusion between finiteness and infinity was openly revealed.

What is most significant is that all the measurements of the sacred articles in the Sanctuary and the Beis HaMikdash were required to be precise. If the size of the article exceeded the pre­scribed measure, or was smaller than it, they were not accept­able. Nevertheless, in this place where precise detail was so significant, a dimension of G‑d’s infinity which transcends the entire concept of space was revealed.

A similar concept applies regarding the Beis HaMikdash as a whole. Although it was part of our material world, miracles which reflect unlimited spirituality were revealed openly in that setting on a daily basis.

G‑d’s Dwelling: A Specific Place for Infinite Revelation

On this basis, it is possible to resolve the initial question: why was there only one place on earth for G‑d’s Presence to be manifest? The aim of the Beis HaMikdash is to enable the Jewish people to relate to G‑d’s essence, the level which tran­scends both finiteness and infinity. Therefore:

a) There is a restriction to a specific place — thus indicating that the revelation of His presence does not reflect merely the limited conception of infinity mentioned above.

b) Within that single place, there is an infinite revelation, demonstrating that the Beis HaMikdash reflects a level that tran­scends even the most perfect conception of finite existence. Through our sacrifices and our prayers, we seek to develop an active bond of closeness with this transcendent dimension of G‑dliness.

‘I Will Dwell Among Them’

Although the Beis HaMik­dash can only be built in one spe­cific place, ‘from there, light issued forth to illuminate the entire world.’ This influence grants the Jewish people the potential to create ‘sanctuaries in microcosm’ throughout the world.

This concept is implied by G‑d’s promise which was coupled with the command to build the sanctuary VeShachanti Be'socham translated above as ‘I will dwell within.’ Our Rabbis note that this phrase does not state ‘within it,’ i.e., the Sanctuary, but Be'socham, which means ‘among them. The construction of the Sanctuary enabled the Jewish people to bring the Divine Pres­ence into every dimension of their lives, as it is written, ‘Know G‑d in all your ways.’

In this manner, it is possible to experience an awareness of G‑dliness in the midst of one’s ordinary, mundane activities. To cite an example: The table on which we eat our food is consid­ered as equivalent to the altar in the Beis HaMikdash. 

This approach will lead to the ultimate fusion of the spiri­tual and the material which will take place in the Era of the Redemption. For then it will be revealed that the entire world is a dwelling for G‑d. May this take place in the immediate future.”

The Fast of the 17th of Tammuz (Corresponding this year to Tuesday, July 11th)

The fast of the 17th of the Hebrew month of Tammuz, known as Shivah Asar B’Tammuz, is the start of a three-week mourning period for the destruction of Jerusalem and the two Holy Temples.

The fast actually commemorates five tragic events that occurred on this date:

  1. Moses broke the tablets when he saw the Jewish people worshipping the Golden Calf.
  2. During the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem, the Jews were forced to cease offering the daily sacrifices due to the lack of sheep.
  3. Apostomos burned the holy Torah.
  4. An idol was placed in the Holy Temple.
  5. The walls of Jerusalem were breached by the Romans, in 69 CE, after a lengthy siege. (Three weeks later, after the Jews put up a valiant struggle, the Romans destroyed the second Holy Temple on the 9th of Av.) **The Jerusalem Talmud maintains that this is also the date when the Babylonians breached the walls of Jerusalem on their way to destroying the first Temple.

“There are days when the entire Jewish people fast because of the calamities that occurred to them then, to arouse [their] hearts and initiate [them in] the paths of repentance” (Rambam, Hilchot Ta’Anoit Chapter 5).

The Rambam continues at the end of Chapter 5:

“All these [commemorative] fasts will be nullified in the Messianic era and, indeed ultimately, they will be transformed into holidays and days of rejoicing and celebration, as [Zechariah 8:19] states: ‘Thus declares the Lord of Hosts, the fast of the fourth [month], the fast of the fifth [month], the fast of the seventh [month], and the fast of the tenth [month] will be [times of] happiness and celebration and festivals for the House of Judah. And they shall love truth and peace.’”

Let us all internalize the history and meaning of these days and look forward to the coming of our Righteous Moshiach – may it be speedily in our time.

Have a wonderful Shabbos.

Warmly,
Rabbi SB Levitin

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Until the Last Drop of Blood

The 12th of Tammuz marks the 90th anniversary of the release from exile in Russia of the 6thLubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson (obm); it is also the anniversary of his birthday. He was incarcerated at 2:15 a.m. on Wednesday, Sivan 5, 5687 (June 15, 1927) and sentenced to death.

 


 

They took an oath: the group of ten, including nine young Yeshiva students, were called together by the previous Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson (obm), to meet in secret (so secret, that today it remains unknown who exactly attended this meeting) somewhere in the former Soviet Union in the early 1920’s to swear to uphold Jewish life “until the last drop of blood.”

Of the participants in this secret meeting, only the Rebbe and two others survived. The seven remaining were either murdered or died in the infamous Gulag.

The events leading up to this meeting grew out of the Bolshevik revolution of November 1917. In his introduction to the book, The Heroic Struggle, *Dr. William W. Brickman, PhD, writes: “the teaching of religious doctrines in all state and public, as well as in private, education institutions in which general subjects are taught, is forbidden. So, decreed, in January of 1918 the Council of People’s Commissars.”

Dr. Brickman continues: “under the new basic law, religion was confined to houses of worship, but any public manifestation was forbidden. Even this minor measure of leniency, whether a concession to internal protest or an attempt to project a façade of tolerance to foreign nations, was very much mitigated by anti-religious forces in the state structure and the societal hierarchy [. . .] But the actual application of Communist power in the Jewish community (‘on the Jewish street’) was carried our by Yevsektzia (Jewish section of the Communist party), particularly the assault upon the beliefs and practices of the Jewish religion.”

Dr. Brickman also writes that “it was an irony of history, but not of the Soviet experience that the reward of these renegades was not a plaque on the wall of the Kremlin, but liquidation during the Stalin purges of 1936-1938.”

Leading up to his arrest and imprisonment, Dr. Brickman explains: “The narrative of the imprisonment and release of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson (obm), describes his sufferings for his activities to spread Jewish religious education and observance behind the Communist Iron Curtain. His stubborn efforts contributed immeasurably to the perpetuation of Yiddishkeit in the former U.S.S.R. and ultimately to the current revival in the post-Soviet era. This was accomplished in the face of the Russian regime’s perennial policy of atheistic indoctrination and forcible prevention of the exercise of religious freedom. The enormity of the task and the significance of the achievement is especially evident given the history of Judaism in Russia.”

The Arrest

From the personal writings of the Holy Rebbe (obm):

“The date was Tuesday night, the 14th of Sivan, 5687 (June 14, 1927). It was already twelve o’clock at night, shortly after I had concluded receiving people for private audiences. It was my custom to receive people for these audiences three times a week – Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday. The meetings were scheduled for the hours of seven until ten at night, but usually extended for an hour to two more, particularly during the summer months, due to the many visitors. That particular night these sessions extended until half past eleven [. . .] I washed my hands in the traditional manner for the evening meal with the members of my household, a few moments after twelve o’clock (a.m.). About twenty minutes had passed when the doorbell rang forcefully. The door was opened, and two men burst into the dining room shouting: ‘We are representatives of the G.P.U. (a precursor organization of the KGB). Who is [Rabbi] Schneerson? And where is he?’ As they spoke, a contingent of armed men entered after them and stood in a line awaiting their commands. I answered calmly and clearly: ‘I do not know which Schneerson you seek. If you enter into someone’s home, surely you know in advance who dwells there, and this drama is pointless. Deliver your message and clearly state your wishes. The building superintendent, who knows the identity of all the people in this house, is here with you. What need is there for this clamor and disruption?’

‘I am not shouting,’ said the spokesman, ‘this is my normal manner of speech. It seems that you are not familiar with the methods of G.P.U. representatives. Show us through your apartment so that we can place an appropriate legal guard, and as master of the household, come with us to observe the search.’

‘True,’ I replied, ‘I am not fully aware of your methods, and I have no desire to know them. Either you are completely in error, or someone has fabricated a libel against us. In any event, it makes no difference to me. As for the emissaries from your organization, I have not feared, I do not fear, and I will not fear them. The building attendant can direct you about my quarters, and you may search as you wish in ostensible accordance with the law that you invoke.’ I then calmly added, ‘I am certain that you will not disturb me from my evening meal.’

My words, spoken evenly and without any betrayal of emotion, had a strong effect on the callous officials, and for a brief instant their wings drooped. They gazed at me with surprise, as silence prevailed in the house.’”

Before being taken into custody, the Rebbe said: “I demand permission to put on tefillin and pray, and also that kosher food be made available to me from my own home.”

In the Cell

The following is more of the Holy Rebbe’s (obm) personal account of his time in a Russian prison cell:

“The room was 2 ½ archin (former Russian measurement equivalent to twenty-eight inches) wide and five archin long and 2 ½ archin high. The walls were of stone and one arhcin in thickness. The door was of iron. High on the wall close to the ceiling and facing the courtyard was an opening for a window. This opening was one archin in length by half and archin in width, covered by vertical iron bars and one horizontal iron bar, forming an intersecting barrier. The window was imbedded in an iron frame; the glass itself was only a handbreadth by handbreadth.

There were three men in the room whose identity I did not know. Two of them reclined on boards supported by wooden frames, and one reclined on the metal bed attached to the wall. One of them was a Jew and the other two were gentiles.”

During his time in prison, the Rebbe’s (obm) tefillin was taken from him. In protest, he refused to eat or drink. Around the fourth day of his hunger strike, and after much suffering at the hands of prison officials, which included physical abuse, a Jewish member of the G.P.U. brought him his tefillin and sacred books. The Rebbe’s (obm) response was: “I will not eat the prison food, only the food which is brought from my home.”

Step One on the Road to Freeing the Rebbe: Exile to Kastroma

Worldwide efforts to free the Rebbe (obm), resulted in his being released from the prison cell and sentenced to exile. This miracle was of course, a blessing from The Almighty. On the third of Tammuz (July 3rd), after nineteen days in prison, the Rebbe (obm) was called to the prison office and informed that permission had been given for him to return home, where he could remain only for approximately six hours. At eight o’clock that evening he was to take the train for Kastroma (on the Volga River), a remote city deep in the interior of Russia, where he would be exiled for a period of three years.

The Rebbe arrived at the train station under heavy guard: there members of the CHEKA (the secret police), civil police, soldiers, and officers of the Civil Investigation Department. From the steps of the coach, the Rebbe (obm) turned to the large crowd that had gathered and spoke these words:

“We raise our lips in prayer to G-d, ‘May G-d be with us as He was with our ancestors, to neither forsake nor abandon us’ (I Kings 8:57) – and He will in fact be with us. Though our merit is not comparable to that of our ancestors, who endured intense self-sacrifice for the sake of Torah and its mitzvot. In the words of one of my revered ancestors in response to a governmental decree regarding Jewish education and the Rabbinate:

‘We did not depart from the Land of Israel of our own free will, nor shall we return to the Land of Israel by virtue of our own capabilities. G-d, our Father and King, has sent us into exile. He, may He be blessed, shall redeem us and gather in the dispersed from the four corners of the earth, and cause us to be led back firmly and proudly by Mashiach, our righteous Redeemer – may this occur speedily, in our times. This, however, all the nations of the world must know: Only our bodies were sent into exile and subjugated to alien rule; our souls were not given over into captivity and foreign rule. We must proclaim openly and before all that any matter affecting the Jewish religion, Torah, and its mitzvot and customs is not subject to the coercion of others. No one can impose his belief upon us, nor coerce us to conduct ourselves contrary to our beliefs. It is our solemn and sacred task to cry out and state with the ancient steadfastness of the Jewish people, with courage derived from thousands of years of self-sacrifice: Touch not My anointed nor attempt to de evil to My prophets.’

Thus spoke one utterly willing to endure self-sacrifice.”

The Rebbe, after delivering these words, boarded the train for Kastroma.

Step Two: Full Freedom

After only tens days in exile, the Rebbe was granted a complete reprieve. And when he next made his weekly visit to report to the local police station, the G.P.U. official greeted him with a friendly smile: “You no longer have to report here; you are completely free. And, by the way, I am happy to be the first to give you this news.”

The enormous outpouring of concern and support from all over the world across religious and political lines, combined with the prayers and efforts of the Jewish community, resulted in the release and full freedom of the Holy Rebbe (obm).

Shortly after his release, the Rebbe (obm) was encouraged to leave the Soviet Union and he settled, in Riga, Latvia, where he continued his clandestine activities to try as best as possible to maintain the Jewish life for his people in the Soviet Union through his chassidim and followers.

For over seventy years, and continued and broadened by his successor, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the 7th Lubavitcher Rebbe (obm), the network of underground Jewish religious schools and associated Jewish traditions maintained the spark of Jewish life in the former Soviet Union.

Today, there are over 300 Shluchim with a vast array of Jewish institutions serving the needs of over 1.5 million Jews in the former Soviet Union.

As this day, the Twelfth of Tammuz, corresponding this year, to July 6th, is celebrated throughout the world let us rededicate ourselves to the ideals, practices, and teachings of our faith. May the history of this day, serve as inspiration to stand up for our beliefs against all forms of oppression.

Have a beautiful Shabbos. L’Chaim!

Warmly,
Rabbi Sholom Ber Levitin

 

*Dr. William Brickman, who was born in Manhattan, was associated with New York University from 1940 to 1962. He was chairman of the History of Education department at New York University's School of Education from 1952 to 1957 and a professor of educational and comparative education from 1957 to 1962. He received his PhD from NYU in 1938 and was professor emeritus at the University of Pennsylvania where he taught educational history and comparative education.  He is survived by his wife, the former Sylvia Schnitzer; a sister, Zelda Pine of Queens; a son, Dr. Chaim Mann of Southfield, Mich.; two daughters, Joy R. Poupko of Waterbury, Conn., and Sara V. Soudry of Natanya, Israel, and seven grandchildren.

**For further information and video presentations from our Holy Rebbe (obm) please visit the Chabad.org site.

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin for Parsha Chukat

kiddush.png 

Dear Friend,
I am pleased to share this article entitled, "An Enduring Marriage" recently published in Here's My Story.

Rabbi Meilech Leib DuBrow, a Kosherfit Master Coach, is the founder of Kosher Health & Fitness, based in Los Angeles, where he was interviewed in September of 2011.

To read this story, please click on this link: http://myencounterblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/230.-Nasso-5777.pdf.

Be well. Have a beautiful Shabbos.

Warmly,
Rabbi SB Levitin

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Article to Commemorate Yahrzeit of Holy Rebbe

“My beloved, My Brethren and Friends”
Epistile 27, Iggeret HaKodesh, Tanya, Vol. 4

In memory of the Holy Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn obm, on the 23rd anniversary of his passing. Gimmel Tammuz – 3rd Day of Tammuz. Corresponding this year, to Tuesday June 27th.

The title of this article, taken from Epistle 27, was written by the Alter Rebbe in his letter of condolence to his chassidim in 1788, after the passing of his colleague and mentor, the saintly R. Mendele of Vitebsk (or Horodok), who had settled in the Holy Land in 1777.

My wife and I just visited the Reb Mendele’s grave site on our recent visit to Eretz Yisroel before Shavous. My maternal grandfather, Zedi Nissan obm, and my two uncles, Reb Yisroel and Reb Meir obm, are buried not far from his holy grave site in Tveria (Tiberias).

From the Alter Rebbe:

 “Having first duly inquired after the welfare of those who love [G-d’s] Name. I have come to speak to the heart of the smitten, who are sighing and groaning over the passing of R. Mendele, and to console you with redoubled support with what my ear has heard from others and with what I have understood myself, regarding the idiom used by our Sages to signify the passing of a tzaddik (righteous person – holy) – he has left life for all the living. For a tzaddik lives by this faith and by the awe of G-d [which leads] to life, and by the flashing of fiery sparks of his love [for G-d, that is even greater] than life, investing in them – in his faith and awe of and love – the life of his Ruach [moreover, of his Neshamah] throughout his life.” [Epistle 27, 164-5.]

The Alter Rebbe continues:

“G-d elevates his Ruach and gathers up his soul unto Himself and he ascends from one elevation to the next, to the very highest of levels, he [then] leaves over the life of his Ruach, the deeds in which he has formerly labored with Israel, the labor of a tzaddik for life, to every living being, that is, to the soul of every living being who is bound to his soul by the thick ropes of a magnanimous love, and an eternal love, that will not be moved forever. For any man who eagerly desires life [and who seeks] to cleave to the living G-d, through his service his soul will cleave and will be bound up in the bond of life with G-d, in the life of the Ruach (literally, the life-giving ‘breath’) of our nostrils of which we have said, ‘In its [protective] shadow we shall live among the nations.” [Epistle 27, 166-8.]

These powerful words give us a glimpse into the life of a tzaddik and the impact that a tzaddik has on his generation.

“Found in All the Worlds More than During his Lifetime” [Zohar]

“This, then, is the meaning of the statement in the sacred Zohar, that ‘when a tzaddik departs he is to be found in all the worlds more than during his lifetime.’ That is, even in this world of action, (in the mundane world of which it is written), this day – to do them, the departed tzaddik is found more [than during his lifetime], because the action [of his disciples] continues to produce successive generations of offshoots.”

Gimmel Tammuz – Third of Tammuz, 5754, June 1994

I will always remember those tragic words, when I received the call from New York right after Shabbos: “der Rebbe is avek” (the Rebbe has passed away). It is very difficult, even today – twenty-three years later – to verbalize the feelings and emotions that pulsated through me as I heard those words.

Those first moments, hours, and days; while dealing with my personal emotions, balancing my responsibilities as the Rebbe’s Shliach to the Pacific Northwest, together with being a son, husband, father, already grandfather (thank G-d), was very difficult to say the least. Following the funeral, which hundreds of thousands participated in, and the seven day mourning period that followed, organizational meetings, etc. took place on all levels. The question echoed, “Where do we go from here?”

There is a quote from the Midrash about Jacob, our forefather, which says, “Because the seed of Jacob is alive, so he is alive.”

The absolute resoluteness among Chassidim, and especially among the Shluchim (emissaries) worldwide, was not only to perpetuate “the message,” but to expand it, deepen it and disseminate it on a broader level than ever before. Twenty-three years ago, social media was still in its infancy, but as these years have passed the vast teachings of the Rebbe in all areas of Torah have reached, impacted, and transformed literally millions and millions of people from within the Jewish community and mankind in general. The huge reach of global media communications, including Chabad.org, the largest Jewish media site in the world, has led the way in this dissemination.

The words of the Alter Rebbe: “because the action [of his disciples] continues to produce successive generations of offshoots” is living testament to the Rebbe’s spirit, guidance, and blessing continuing to permeate our collective and individual lives.

The Enduring Presence

From the very first recorded letters that the Holy Rebbe wrote to Rabbi Michoel Lipsker obm, after the passing of his holy father-in-law in January of 1950, 20th of Shavout 5710, “It is for sure the will of my holy father-in-law that there should G-d forbid, not be any slackening in our work.” And he then urges Rabbi Lipsker “as per my discussion with my father-in-law, a few days before his passing, concerning the education of Jewish children in the countries of Africa, you should be the one to assist in this holy endeavor.”

Rabbi Lipsker accepted the position and spent many years in Morocco and Tunisia developing a whole network of educational institutions in very precarious times and under very perilous conditions.  Rabbi Lipsker and the thousands and thousands of Shluchim who followed him are the embodiment of the Rebbe’s continued spiritual presence.

We all rededicate ourselves to continue this holy mission with joy and spirit, gaining our guidance from the vast Torah teachings of the Rebbe until the day of the coming of our righteous Mashiach speedily in our time.

Be well. Have a beautiful Shabbos,

Warmly,
Rabbi Levitin

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin for Parsha Shlach

kiddush (1).jpg 

Dear Friend,
I am pleased to share this week's edition of Here's My Story for Parsha Shlach, entitled: "Remove the Dirt".

Mr. Louis Goldstein is the owner of A-Z Paper Products in Sydney, Australia, where he was interviewed in July of 2016.

Please click on this link to read this article: http://myencounterblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/232.-Shelach-5777.pdf.

Have a beautiful Shabbos.

Warmly,
Rabbi SB Levitin

Beha’aloctecha (When You Raise Up) | June 2017

The name of this Parsha, Beha’alotecha (when you raise up), refers to how, after the princes of the 12 tribes offered up their sacrifices at the inauguration of the Tabernacle during the first 12 days of Nissan 2449, G-d had Moses instruct Aaron concerning how to kindle the wicks of the Candelabrum. Specifically, Aaron is told that when he kindles the lamps, he must ensure that each of them is able to continue burning on its own.

The Torah then continues describing the events of 1 Nissan by recounting how the Levites were installed into their office on that day: they had to be ritually purified from defilement, be shaved, and collectively offer up a special set of sacrifices. The community then had to lean on them and Aaron had to lift each of them up individually.

On the same day, G-d told the Jewish people that they would be expected to observe the rites of the Passover sacrifice in two weeks, the first anniversary of the Exodus. When the day came, however, there were a few Jews who were unable to observe the rites on the account of being ritually defiled. They complained about being left out, and for their benefit G-d instituted the compensatory holiday of the Second Passover, to be observed each year one month after Passover. Anyone who cannot participate in the Passover rites on time on account of being ritually defiled may do so on the Second Passover holiday.

The Torah then continues its description of how G-d readied the people for their journey from Mount Sinai. First, it describes how G-d would signal the people it was time to move: The cloud that continuously hovered over the Tabernacle would position itself at the head of the people’s encampment and lead them. Moses would then entreat G-d to protect them on their journey. Finally, the priests would blow trumpets in a specific musical sequence in order to signal the people to get ready to depart.

On 20 Iyar, 2449, the people set out from Mount Sinai. They miraculously covered three day’s journey in one day, but instead of acknowledging this miracle, some of the mixed multitude used it as an excuse to complain. G-d’s corrective response was immediate: fire broke out among them and among the elders who were responsible for teaching them proper attitudes, killing the guilty.

Unfortunately, once these individuals from the mixed multitude started complaining, their attitude spread – first among the rest of the mixed multitude and then among the Jews themselves. Some of them began to complain about their lack of meat (even thought they had plenty) and about the blandness of the manna (even thought it was delicious). The spirit of unjustified complaining even affected Moses, who complained to G-d about the impossibility of leading the people on his own. In response to the people’s and Moses’ complaints, G-d showed the people that He was indeed capable of providing for them. He further had Moses select 70 new elders to assist him, granting them the gift of prophecy.

So ended the events at the people’s first encampment, where they stayed for one month. They then journeyed to their second stop. Moses’ sister Miriam had overheard his wife Tziporah remark to no one in particular that he had separated from her. Miriam was unaware that Moses had done this at G-d’s bidding in order that he be ready at all times for Divine communication, which must be received in a state of ritual purity. Had Miriam confronted Moses personally, he would have explained this to her and thereby quieted her indignation over his apparent disregard for Tziporah. But instead, she chose to involve Aaron, and the two of them, jumping to conclusions, voiced their unjustified complaints against Moses.

In response to Miriam’s slander, G-d struck her with tzara’at, a supernatural disease that, as we have seen, afflicted people guilty of slander. Moses prayed for her recovery, and G-d told him to quarantine her for a week, after which she would be healed. Thus, the people remained at their second stop for a week. Despite their two delays, however, they were poised at the end of this Parsha to proceed directly into the Promised Land.

The connection between the optimistic mood of the preparations for travel described in the first half of the Parsha and the depressing series of complaints and Divine corrective punishment in the second half is found in the name of the Parsha. G-d’s instruction to make sure that the lamps of the Candelabrum burn on their own allegorically means that we should ensure that our own souls, the souls of those around us, and indeed the whole world be aflame with Divine consciousness. When this happens, we can elevate all aspects of our lives – even our rebellions and complaints – by revealing their inner, Divine source. Deep down, the reason we complain is because we know that we are not living up to our divine mission: the shallowness of our relationship with G-d leaves us profoundly unsatisfied, causing us to complain.

The lesson of Parsha Beha’alotecha, then, is that whenever we feel ourselves starting to complain, we should realize the deeper reason why we are doing so, and instead of giving free reign to our thoughts of mutiny, realize that what we must rebel against is our own inattention to G-d’s call to dedicate ourselves fully to making ourselves and our milieu into His true home. Our complaints, if we still have them, will then be properly motivated, and G-d will grant our requests, just as He gave the Second Passover to the Jews who complained about being left out of the rituals for no fault of their own.

Have a beautiful Shabbos.

Warmly,
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

FB_IMG_1491496331510.jpg

 

 

Looking for older posts? See the sidebar for the Archive.