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From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin‏

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Nasso

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Dear Friends, 

We are pleased to send you this week’s edition of Here’s My Story

Dr. David W. Weiss, of blessed memory, is a scientist who moved to Israel in 1966. He was interviewed in his home in Jerusalem in September of 2015. A very powerful interview. 

Click 
 here  for the story.

Have a beautiful Shabbos.

Warmly,

Rabbi Levitin 

Farbrengen with the Rebbe

Dear Friends,

As we prepare ourselves for this Holy Shabbos, Parsha Bamidbar (May 19), followed by the Yom Tov of Shavous - Zman Matan Torasenu (the time of the giving of the Torah) Sunday and Monday, May 20-21, I'd like to share with you a section of a farbrengen given by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, OBM. The Rebbe is speaking in Yiddish with translated English captions. Please, click on the image below to see the video.

Pre-Shavuot Farbrengen with the Rebbe, OBM

An hour-long excerpt from a 1982 farbrengen

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Each year, the Rebbe would hold a Farbrengen the night before Shavuot, often touching on topics from Tractate Sotah, which is customarily studied during the Counting of the Omer period, as well as discussing the lessons of the approaching holiday.  

Tractate Sotah in the Babylonian Talmud concludes with a surprising statement of Rabbi Yosef. In the Jerusalem Talmud the tractate concludes with a story featuring Hillel, Shmuel the Small, and Rabbi Eliezer the Great.  

In this pre-Shavuot Farbrengen, the Rebbe delivers a Hadran (studying the tractate’s conclusion); drawing on these colorful personalities to explain the hidden link that connects them, and the deeper lesson which their stories convey.  

  We urge everyone to attend services on Sunday, May 20th to hear the reading of the Ten Commandments.

www.chabadofseattle.org

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Behar-Bechukotai

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Dear Friends, 
We are pleased to send you this week’s edition of Here’s My Story
Mr. Peter Kalms is a businessman who has had many interactions with the Rebbe throughout the years. He was interviewed in his home on aMy Encounter trip to London, England, in August of 2007.

Click 
here for the story.

Have a beautiful Shabbos.

Warmly,
Rabbi Levitin 

"On The Run" - From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin

It was after the horrible destruction. The resistance had been fierce. There was dissention among the defenders. At the end, the second temple was destroyed and Jerusalem lay desolate. Among those who survived was the famous Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai, author of the HolyZohar (Sefer Tanya, Iggeres Ha Kodesh 143a), whose Yahrzeit is today, the 18th of Iyar, the 33rd day of the Omer, known as Lag B’omer.

Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai, also known as the Rashbi, was being pursued by the Roman authorities. A death warrant had been issued against him.

Talmud Shabbos 33b

“Upon hearing that a death sentence had been passed upon him, Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai and his son, Rabbi Elazar, ran away and hid in a study hall. Every day, Rabbi Shimon’s wife would bring them bread and small pitcher of water, and they would eat this to sustain themselves. When, however, the decree intensified. i.e. the Romans escalated their hunt for the fugitives….”

“They then went and hid themselves in a cave. Food was thus no longer brought to them, but a miracle happened and a carob tree and a spring of water were created for them, and they drew their sustenance from these sources…”

The Gemara recounts their daily routine in hiding: “They would shed their clothes, and would sit covered in sand up to their necks. All day long they would study together, and when the times for prayer arrived, they would dress, cover themselves, and pray. They would return and shed their clothes, immersing themselves in sand once again, so that their clothes would not wear out from prolonged use…”

The Gemara continues: “They dwelled secluded in the cave for twelve years.” (According to tradition, it was during his time in this cave that Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai composed the Holy Zohar.)

Exiting the Cave

“Elijah the prophet came and stood at the mouth of the cave, and he proclaimed: “Who will inform the son of Yochai that the Caesar has died, and that the decree has been annulled?” – Rabbi Yochai and his son heard this, and they emerged from the cave…”

As they ventured back to civilization, they saw some people who were plowing a field and sowing crops there. Angered by this, Rabbi Yochai declared: “These people are forsaking the pursuit of the Life of the World to come, and occupying themselves instead with the concerns of the transitory life!” – And there-after, everywhere Rabbi Yochai and his son would cast their gaze the object of their vision would immediately be incinerated.

Finally, a heavenly voice rang out and proclaimed to them: “Have you emerged from seclusion in order to destroy My world?” Return to your cave!”

“So, they returned to the cave…” They remained there for twelve additional months.

“A heavenly voice rang out and proclaimed: “Emerge from the cave!”

“They emerged from the cave, and again encountered people seeking their livelihood through ordinary means. This time though, everywhere Rabbi Elazar would destroy something through his fiery gaze, Rabbi Shimon, his father, would heal it…”

“Presently, Rabbi Shimon said to Rabbi Elazar: “My son, the world has enough total devotees of Torah study in you and me alone; we need not hold others to our standard of devotion and diligence.”

The Gemara continues: “As night began to fall late Friday afternoon, Rabbi Shimon and his son saw a certain old man who was clutching two bundles of myrtles, and was running home with them as twilight descended. They said to him: “The myrtle bundles; for what do you need them?” He answered them: “They are in honor of the Sabbath.”

Rabbi Shimon and his son questioned: “But could you not have sufficed with just one bundle?” He answered them: “One is forzachor, and one is for shamor.” [In the Ten Commandments, the almighty enjoined the Jewish people to remember (Zachor) and observe (Shamor) the Shabbos day]

Hearing this, Rabbi Shimon said to his son: “Look how cherished themitzvos are to the Jewish people; each nuance of the law they celebrate separately!” And they were appeased.”

“In The Beginning”

“In the beginning of G-d’s creating the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1/1)

Rashi: In “G-d’s creating” (this name of G-d, used in this first verse of the bible, represents G-d in his attribute of strict justice.) The name representing His attribute for mercy (Hashem) is not used here, because, “at first it rose in thought (i.e. G-d considered, so to speak) to create It (the world) with the attribute of strict judgement, but he saw that the world could not last if he did. He gave precedence to the attribute of mercy and joined it (fusion) to the attribute of strict judgement.”

RamBam, Hilchot De’ot, chapter 3, 1

“A person might say, “Since envy, desire, (the pursuit) of honor, and the like, are a wrong path and drive a person from the world, I shall separate from them to a very great degree and move away from them to the opposite extreme” For example, he will not eat meat, nor drink wine, nor live in a pleasant home, nor wear fine clothing, but, rather, wear sackcloth and coarse wool and the like…”

“This, too, is a bad path and it is forbidden to walk upon it. Whoever follows this path is called a sinner (as implied by Numbers 6:11’s) statement concerning a nazarite: “and he (the priest) shall make an atonement for him, for his having sinned because of the dead.” Our sages declared: how much more so does one who abstains from everything.”

Purpose of Creation

Maybe it’s just possible for us to suggest that Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai and his son, Rabbi Elazar achieved a level of spiritual elevation during “twelve years in the cave”, as the original plan of G-d in the process of creation through strict justice. But, the purpose of the creation for people like ourselves, as the RamBam describes above, is to engage the physical world, infuse, elevate, and ultimately to transform the mundane and make it an abode for the G-dly presence.

Have a Good Shabbos.
Warmly,
Rabbi S.B. Levitin

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