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The Lamplighter Weekly

Volume 20 Issue 14
April 15-21, 2018-Rosh Chodesh-6 Iyar, 5778 
Torah Reading: Tazria/Metzora
Candle Lighting: 7:40 PM
Shabbos Ends: 8:35 PM
Pirkei Avos, Chapter 2
 

Parsha Synopsis · A Word From the Rabbi
Essay ·
Thoughts That Count
Once Upon A Chassid · Tid Bits · Happenings · Notes From Israel

 

Parsha Synopsis

Tazria/Metzora
Leviticus 12:1-15:33

The Parshahs of Tazria and Metzora continue the discussion of the laws of tumah v’taharah ritual impurity and purity.

woman giving  birth should undergo a process of purification, which includes immersing in a mikvah (a naturally gathered  pool of water) and bringing offerings to the Holy Temple. All male infants are to be circumcised on the  eighth day of life.

Tzaraat (often mistranslated as “leprosy”) is a supra-natural plague, which can afflict people as well as  garments or  homes. If white or pink patches appear on a person’s skin (dark pink or dark green in garments or homes), a kohen is summoned. Judging by various signs, such as an increase in size of the afflicted area after a seven-day quarantine, the kohen  pronounces it tamei (impure) or tahor (pure).

A person afflicted with tzaraat must dwell alone outside of the camp (or city) until he is healed. The afflicted area in a garment or home must be removed; if the tzaraat recurs, the entire garment or home must be  destroyed.

When the metzora (“leper”) heals, he or she is purified by the kohen with a special procedure involving two birds,  spring water in an earthen vessel, a piece of  cedar wood, a scarlet thread and a bundle of  hyssop.

Ritual impurity is also engendered through a seminal or other discharge in a man, and menstruation or other discharge of  blood in a woman, necessitating purification through  immersion in a mikvah.

A Word From the Rabbi

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LIFE IS A BOX OF (BITTERSWEET) CHOCOLATE
The Silver Lining Behind Challenge and Adversity

Life is so full of sadness and sorrow, some say it’s better not to have been born at all!... But how many people do you meet in a lifetime who are that lucky?

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When things go wrong as they sometimes will
When the road you’re trudging seems all up hill

When funds are low and debts are high
As you try to smile but somehow sigh.

When life weigh’s you down more than a bit
Rest you must but don’t ever quit.

Life can be tough with its twists and its turns
Often it is wearisome as we somberly learn.

You mustn’t give up though the pace seems slow
You’re liable to succeed with just one more blow.

Success is failure turned inside out
The silver lining behind dark clouds of doubt.

Many a failure will turn about
You may be a winner should you stick it out.

You never can tell how close you are
It may be very near when it seems so so far.

So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit
It’s when things seem worst that you must recommit!

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“Der Ba’al Agalah Shmaised, Dee Ferd Briken-Zich, Un-Dervaile Fort-Men” (Yiddish). Loosely translated: The coachman whips, the horses lash-out and in the meantime the journey is underway. (Reb Mendel Futerfass)

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Who said that life was supposed to be smooth sailing; unimpeded and unhampered by adversity or resistance? Whoever said that life was to be tranquil and challenge-free was certainly not quoting the Torah. The fact is that the Torah is replete with the opposite message.

From the tumultuous lives of our ancestors, Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov, to our slavery in Egypt, and the ill faded forty-year sojourn in the desert, the recurring theme is one of challenge and failure, then and only then comes the taste of triumph.

This phenomenon is summed up by King Solomon, in the book of Proverbs, rather succinctly: “Sheva Yipol Tzaddik V’kam” (a Tzaddik – righteous person – falls seven times and rises). 

Wavering and faltering; the ups and the downs, the highs and the lows, the rise and the fall of the human spirit is part and parcel of mortal existence.  

In the early 1900's, in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, a local Rabbi once ran into the Episcopalian Minister who was not very fond of his immigrant neighbors’ ghetto-like lifestyle. "What a coincidence!” remarked the minister: “It was just last night that I dreamt I was in Jewish Heaven."

"Jewish Heaven," mused the Rabbi. "What’s it like in Jewish Heaven?"

"Oh!" replied the minister snidely, "In Jewish Heaven children with dirty faces, un-tucked, un-pressed shirts play in the dirt. In Jewish heaven women haggle with vendors as panhandlers rudely interrupt.

In Jewish heaven laundry hangs from a maze of clotheslines; dripping water on to the muddy surface. And of course,” continued the minister with a wry grin, “There are plenty of Rabbis running to and fro, with large tomes under their arms!”

“How amazing!” retorted the Rabbi pursing his lips: “In my dream last night I found myself, of all places, in Episcopalian heaven.”

"Really?” muttered the minister. "I’ve always wondered what Episcopalian Heaven was like. Please tell me what you saw.”

“I must admit,” said the Rabbi with a wide smile, "It is nothing short of immaculate.” The streets glitter as if they had just been washed, homes are lined-up in perfect symmetry, as their fresh paint sparkles in the sunlight!” the lawns and gardens are manicured to perfection.

"Not at all surprising,” said the pleased, almost giddy minister, nodding excessively. “But tell me about the people! I’m curious to know what the people are like”

“The people,” frowned the Rabbi, as he looked the minister in the eye: “What people? There were no people to be seen!”

Life is in reality a messy business; a cacophony of challenges, failures and victories; a hodgepodge of pain and of gain. As much as we don’t like or approve of it, there is nothing consistent or predictable about life, nor is it neat or tranquil. Life was apparently not meant to be a box of chocolates.

A spiritual mentor of mine put it rather bluntly: “You want tranquility? Visit the cemetery; among the dead it is very peaceful. Among the living there is strife and disorder.”

But how is this to be understood? How does Judaism explain challenge, adversity and turmoil? Is it bad or good, or is it just an unfortunate and inexplicable fact of life?

The answer is that the Torah portrays adversity and challenge in an extremely positive light. It is a deep-rooted Jewish belief that everything that occurs, even that which appears to be negative, is in reality good.

This outlook is underscored by the Talmudic requirement to bless the Lord for the seeming evil in our lives even as we bless Him for the good. Hence the law that when a Jew hears good tidings, he blesses G‑d who “Is good and does good.” And when he hears bad news of death or destruction, heaven forbid, he similarly praises G‑d: “Blessed are you O Lord, the true judge.”

The notion that every occurrence is infused with good and is for the good, pertains to all adversity, even to Divine retribution. The following observation made by the classic Torah commentaries in reference to the affliction of Tzaraas – which constitutes the majority of the second of this week's double Torah portions, Mitzora – is a fitting illustration of this fundamental Jewish principle. 

The Torah renders the Mitzora, one with a leprosy-like malady – a condition brought-on by spiritual deficiency – spiritually impure and requires him to be quarantined. A unique characteristic of the Tzaraas condition was its capacity to manifest itself in a person’s body, garments, as well as the walls of his home.

In Chapter, 14 Verse 33, the Torah relates the following instruction: “When you arrive in the land of Canaan that I give you as a possession, and I will place a Tzaraas affliction upon a house in the land of your possession. The one to whom the house belongs shall come and declare to the Kohen saying: ‘A sort of affliction has appeared to me in the house’ . . . The Kohen shall return on the seventh day; he shall look and behold the affliction had spread in the walls of the house. The Kohen shall command, and they shall remove the stones that contain the affliction . . . If the affliction returns and erupts in the house after he has removed the stones . . . it is a malignant Tzaraas in the house, it is contaminated. He shall demolish the house – its stones, its timbers, and all the mortar of the house . . .”

Needless to say, when Tzaraas struck, in whatever form, it was not a pleasant occurrence. In the case of the afflicted house it was particularly distressing, since in its worst form, it would result in the demolition of the house – a rather costly and devastating ordeal on the part of the owner. Yet ironically, the commentaries perceive this destructive form of Tzaraas in a highly positive and constructive light.  

From the peculiar manner in which the Torah introduces this topic: “When you arrive in the land . . . I will place a Tzaraas affliction upon a house . . .” – the implication being that this is some type of good tiding, asserts Rashi, the foremost commentator on the Torah, that the Canaanite inhabitants – resigned to the fact that the Israelites were poised to conquer the land – went ahead and hid their valuables in the walls of their homes. In order to enable the Jewish owners to detect and acquire this wealth, G‑d placed the affliction on the wall where the treasure was buried so that the stones would have to be removed and hence the treasure uncovered.

Is it not amazing? We’re talking about a person who had been stricken with a serious catastrophe, perhaps as a punishment for damaging transgressions. Still, our sages are stanch in their view that this is as much about Divine mercy and blessing as it is about anything else. How is this to be understood?

The answer is that herein lies the very essence of the Jewish perspective regarding adversity. G‑d, being the epitome of goodness and compassion, does not perform acts of badness or evil. Even when G‑d tests us or exacts punishment, the very act is itself permeated with His loving kindness.

Rabbi Akiva, the Talmud relates, was accustomed to saying: Kol mah d’ovied Rachmono, l’tav ovied, meaning: Everything that the Merciful-One [G‑d] does is for the good. Once, while he was traveling, recounts the Talmud, he was in dire need of lodging, he knocked on the door of a home in the village at which he had arrived, but was refused hospitality. Yet, instead of being discouraged, Rabbi Akiva declared “Everything that the Merciful-One does is for the good.”

He knocked on another door but the response was much the same and so too was his reaction: “Everything that the Merciful-One does is for the good.” His demeanor did not change even after he knocked on every door in town and was refused entry. Lacking a more favorable alternative, he encamped in a field on the outskirts of the town.

Now, Rabbi Akiva was accustomed to traveling with some paraphernalia, including a donkey to carry his belongings, a rooster to awaken him early, and a lamp so that he might study at night. Much to his regret, a lion appeared before long and destroyed his donkey. “Everything that the Merciful-One does is for the good,” reflected Rabbi Akiva. Such were his thoughts even when a cat devoured his rooster and his torch was extinguished by a strong wind.

The following morning Rabbi Akiva learned of the dreadful calamity that had befallen the people of the village. During the night a Roman legion converged on the town taking all its residents captive. Had he been welcomed in any of the homes, he would have met the same fate as did the townspeople. Had his donkey or rooster remained alive they would have promptly given-him-up to the legionnaires. And had his fire remained burning it would have led them directly to him. A similar story is told about a pious man named Nachum Ish Gamzu.

Rather than punishment or revenge, the purpose of adversity and struggle is often for our own benefit physically and spiritually, it is to help us uncover deep hidden treasures, whether within the walls of our homes or the confines of our souls.

Much as with Tzaraas there is nothing pretty or orderly about adversity and challenge, other than the ultimate result – the triumph of the soul and the fulfillment of its earthly mission. 

May we merit to witness that day with our fleshly eyes in an open and revealed manner. May we soon arrive at the promised age when challenge and adversity will vanish from the world, when we will experience the true reward and purpose for human existence, with the coming of the righteous Moshiach BBA. 

book mockup.png  Gut Shabbos! 

Rabbi Kahanov is the founder/director of Chabad in Northeast FL, consisting of 6 Chabad Centers
He is also the author of "What Chabad Really Believes"
If you like this, you might be interested in purchasing his book click here for more information 

 

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The Wonder That Is Woman

G‑d spoke to Moses, saying: “A woman who shall conceive and give birth . . .” (Leviticus 12:1–2)

It happens 250 times a minute, almost 15,000 times every hour. It happens after years of effort and anticipation, or “by accident.” It occurs on every socioeconomic level, in every country and village in the world. But no matter how frequently it transpires, no matter how commonplace an event it is, we always stand back in awe and say: a miracle.

That one being should give birth to, should create, another. If there is any area in which a creature emulates its Creator—if there is any act by which we express the spark of divinity at our core—it is the miracle of birth.

Yet it is in this, the most G‑dly of our achievements, that we also most reveal the limitations of our individuality. Feeding, sleeping, thinking, producing a work of art or building a house—virtually everything we do, we can do on our own. But giving birth to a child is something we can do only together with another person. To give birth, we must cease to be an entity unto ourselves and become a part, a component, of a community of two.

Because if we are only what we are, we are most decidedly not divine. As beings unto ourselves, we are finite and self-absorbed things, manufacturers rather than creators. To create, we must rise above our individuality. To actualize our divine essence, we must transcend the bounds of self.

 


 

It is the woman, not the man, who gives birth. It is the woman who is most fulfilled in parenthood, and who most acutely feels the lack when parenthood is denied her. It is the woman who continues to mother her child long after the man has fathered it. It is the woman, according to Torah law, who exclusively determines the spiritual identity of her child.

Because it is the woman who most surrenders her selfhood to create life. She is the passive and receptive element in the procreation process. For nine months, her very body ceases to be hers alone as it bears and nurtures another life. So it is the woman, rather than the man, who “conceives and gives birth,” and to whom motherhood is a state of being, rather than an “achievement” or “experience.”

Yet everyone can become a “mother.” What comes naturally to the female half of creation can be learned and assimilated by all, and not only in giving birth to children but in every one of life’s endeavors. We all have the power to recognize that there is more to our existence than the narrow confines of individual identity.

We all have the power to become more than we are and to do more than we can—by becoming receptive to the divine essence that underlies the self and pervades the whole of existence.

 

By Yanki Tauber; based on the teachings of the Rebbe.

Thoughts That Count
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For the person undergoing the purification there be taken two live kosher birds, cedar wood, yarn dyed crimson in the blood of a worm, and a hyssop branch. (Lev. 14:4)

The disease of tzaraat is the result of slanderous talk which is like babbling words. Consequently, birds which babble continuously were required for his purification. The disease was also caused by pride. Through humility one rid himself of this trait. The lowly hyssop and the worm from the purification process allude to the necessity of viewing oneself with humility. (Rashi)

When Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev would hear someone speak poorly of another person he would go up to him and say, "My dear friend, aren't you ashamed? You are slandering G‑d's tefilin upon which it is written, "Who is Your People Israel."

He shall shave off all his hair - his head, his beard, and his eyebrows. (Lev. 14:9)

Tzaraat came as punishment for three things: haughtiness, gossip, and jealousy. Therefore, the cleansing process for one afflicted with tzaraat was done in the following order: First, the hair on the head was shaved off, because the person's excessive pride caused him to desire to be above others; second, the hair of the beard was removed, because he did not control his mouth and spoke slanderously against his fellow man; and third, the eyebrows were shaved off, as they did not prevent his eyes from looking narrowly and with avarice at the possessions of others. (Klai Yakar)

Once Upon A Chassid

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Strength in Numbers

This is the law of one afflicted with leprosy… he shall be brought to the Kohen… (14:2)

Even if the leper is himself a Kohen, he must go and consult with another Kohen. For "a man can see all afflictions except for his own." (The Talmud, Nega'im 2:5)

When Rabbi DovBer of Lubavitch was sixteen years old, his father entrusted him with the task of serving as a mashpia (a spiritual guide and mentor) to the young men in the Chabad community.

Rabbi DovBer strongly encouraged his pupils to gather together in informal farbrengens to inspire, rebuke, and consult with one another in matters concerning the refinement of their character and their service of G‑d. "Look at it this way," said Rabbi DovBer, "when two Jews get together and one tells the other what ails his heart, or if one notices a negative trait in his fellow and discusses it with him, the result is two G‑dly souls taking on a single animal soul."

Every Jew possesses both an animal and G‑dly souls. The 'animal soul' is driven by the self-centered aspirations of physical life, and the 'G‑dly soul', by the selfless quest to serve the Almighty. But the animal soul, which is utterly self-oriented, has no interest in the triumph of her fellow animal soul; not so the G‑dly soul, who's only desire is that the will of her Creator be fulfilled. So when a person grapples alone with his spiritual ills, what we have is a one-on-one struggle of his two selves; but when two Jews get together, the animal soul of each is overwhelmed by a double onslaught of the Divine essence of man.

Tid Bits
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What is a Schnorrer?
tid bit
Schnorrer (noun): A Yiddish term for an individual who engages in the act of schnorring, taking from others, typically in the form of charitable gifts; a corollary would be the English description of a “moocher.”

The term schnorrer is generally regarded as derogatory (and has expanded to refer to anyone who is not quite making it, socially, financially or appearance-wise) and has generated a full genre of Jewish legends, stories and jokes. But all humor aside, Jewish communities have historically done the honorable work of accommodating and supporting schnorrers with dignity.

Many contemporary Jewish communities have a special board to whom traveling collectors can present their bona fides (medical bills, letters from local rabbis etc.) in exchange for a letter of recommendation (known as a hamlatzah). With these letters in hand, they go from door to door (identifying Jewish homes by the mezuzah scroll on the right side of the doorway) and canvass synagogues to collect donations large and small.

Communities may also make accommodations available so that the collectors can minimize the expenses accrued during their travels. In times gone by, many communities supported a hekdesh (Hebrew for “sacred [place]”), where wayfarers and other indigents could find lodgings. Since these places were often somewhat neglected, this term has also come to refer to a messy place, along the lines of a  chazer shtahl (Yiddish for “pigsty”).

The Meshuloch: Literally “agent,” a meshuloch (pl. meshulochim) refers to one who is collecting funds for a cause other than himself and his immediate family. These typically include social service organizations or institutions of Torah scholarship. Since the Middle Ages, there has been a stream of meshulochim traveling from the Holy Land to the diaspora to give Jews the merit of supporting those who make their homes on the sacred soil of Israel. A meshuloch from the Land of Israel was often known as a shadar, an acronym for  sheliach derabanan (“agent of the rabbis”), presumably since the rabbis of the Holy Land would often choose an outstanding scholar to represent their cause to communities abroad.

In Chabad parlance, the term was also given to select chassidim whose responsibilities included raising funds for the Rebbe’s institutions.

Hachnosas KallahMany poor folk manage to eke out a living without relying on others until their children reach marriageable age, when the expenses of holding a respectable wedding and setting up the new couple prove beyond their modest means. People collecting money to marry off their children may state that they are collecting for hachnosas kallah (“bringing in the bride”)which the Mishnah lists as a cause so special that it pays immediate dividends to the donor in This World, and the principal still awaits them in the World to Come.

Tizkeh LemitzvosAfter they receive a donation (and often even before), a collector may tell a (prospective) patron, tizkeh lemitzvos, “may you merit to mitzvahs.” This reflects the rabbinic notion that the reward for a good deed is the ability to perform another one.

Tzedakah: Despite the negative connotations attached to the term schnorrer, the collector himself may feel little shame in what he is doing. On the contrary, he may feel that he is doing his fellow Jews a favor by allowing them to contribute to the worthy cause(s) he represents. This ties in directly to the word tzedakah, which is often translated as “charity” but actually means “justice.” For a Jew to give money to another is not an act of generosity or largess. Rather, it is an honest reflection of the way of the world: As everything belongs to G‑d, and He gives one person more than another so that they may perfect His world by redistributing the wealth accordingly, tzedakah is better translated as righteousness, or a means of setting the world right.

This gives perspective to the following story, which, true or not, reflects the Jewish approach to charitable giving:

The Baron and the Beggar

There was once a fellow who would regularly collect alms from a Jewish magnate (known in Yiddish as as a gvir), claiming that the money was for his impoverished mother.

Time passed and the mother passed on. When the son next came to collect his regular stipend, the gvir’s assistant challenged him: “Your mother is no longer among the living. Why are you here now?”

“Just one second!” shot back the witty beggar. “It’s bad enough that I am mourning my dear mother. You want the gvir to lose his mitzvah as well?” 

Notes From Israel

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