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The Lamplighter Weekly

Volume 24 Issue 4
 Jan. 23-29, 2022 -21-27 Shevat, 5782
Torah Reading: Mishpatim
 Candle Lighting : 5:42 PM
Shabbos Ends: 6:38 PM
Blessing of New Month: Adar I

Parsha Synopsis · A Word From the Rabbi

Essay · Thoughts That Count
Once Upon A Chassid · Tid Bits · Happenings · Notes From Israel

 

Parsha Synopsis

Mishpatim
Exodus: 21:1-24:18

Following the  revelation at Sinai G‑d legislates a series of laws for the people of Israel. These include the laws of the  indentured servant; the penalties for murder, kidnapping, assault and theft; civil laws pertaining to redress of damages, the granting of  loans and the responsibilities of the “ Four Guardians”; and the rules governing the conduct of justice by courts of law.

Also included are laws warning against mistreatment of  foreigners; the observance of the  seasonal festivals, and the agricultural gifts that are to be brought to the  Holy Temple in  Jerusalem; the prohibition against cooking  meat with milk; and the mitzvah of  prayer. Altogether, the  Parshah of Mishpatim contains 53  mitzvot—23 imperative commandments and 30 prohibitions.

G‑d promises to bring the people of Israel to the  Holy Land, and warns them against assuming the pagan ways of its current inhabitants.

The people of Israel proclaim, “ We will do and we will hear all that G‑d commands us.” Leaving  Aaron and  Hur in charge in the Israelite camp, Moses ascends  Mount Sinai and remains there for  forty days and forty nights to receive the  Torah from G‑d.

 

A Word From the Rabbi

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G-D AND STATE
Judaism's View on Secular Life

When Minister Joe Wright was asked to open the new session of the Kansas State Senate, everyone was expecting the usual generalities, but this is what they heard:

“Heavenly Father, we come before You today to ask Your forgiveness and to seek Your direction and guidance. We know Your word says, ‘Woe to those who call evil good,’ but that is exactly what we have done. We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and reversed our values.

We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery.

We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare.

We have killed our unborn and called it choice.

We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable.

We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self-esteem.

We have abused power and called it politics.

We have coveted our neighbor’s possessions and called it ambition.

We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression.

We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment.

Search us, oh G‑d, and know our hearts today; cleanse us from every sin and set us free. Amen!”

The response was immediate. A number of legislators walked out during the prayer in protest.

However, during the 6 short weeks that followed, the Church where Rev. Wright is pastor logged more than 5,000 phone calls with only 47 of those calls responding negatively.

The church has received international requests for copies of this prayer from India, Africa and Korea. Commentator Paul Harvey aired this prayer on his radio program “The Rest of the Story” and received a larger response to this program than any other he has ever aired.

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“Freedom prospers when religion is vibrant and the rule of law under G‑d is acknowledged.” ― Ronald Reagan

“The separation of church and state is a source of strength, but the conscience of our nation does not call for separation between men of state and faith in the Supreme Being.” – Lyndon B. Johnson

 

The highlight of last week’s Torah portion was the world-changing revelation at Sinai and the transmission of the Ten Commandments with much drama and fanfare. It was the most lofty and spiritual experience in the history of mankind. Our portion – Mishpatim – which opens with the statement: “And these are the ordinances,” talks about far more subdued day-to-day social laws.

Rashi comments that the juxtaposition of this portion – which deals primarily with civil and tort law – and the Ten Commandments discussed last week, teaches us that just as the Ten Commandments originated at Sinai and are thus, obviously, imbued with Sublime sanctity and holiness, so too are the seemingly mundane civil laws – discussed in this week’s portion. They too are from Sinai and their every detail is permeated with the selfsame Divine spirit and eminence.

This classic Rashi, note the commentaries, contains profound insight into Judaism’s perspective of the role of religion in secular life. Some people are inclined to banish religion to the most spiritual and holy spheres of existence – in both time and place – they perceive no use for it in the every-day mundane realm.

In other words, they observe everyday life – including civil activities and the basic principles of morality – as belonging to the secular and mundane realm of existence, not necessarily, or necessarily not, of spiritual or G‑dly order. Religion in their mind is meant to be confined to scarcely designated moments and places in life. Outside of its confined domain religion is obstructive, intrusive and even embarrassing.

Not true, says Rashi: “Just as those [the Ten Commandments] were from Sinai, so are these.” We don’t live a dual existence. Our life is not 90% secular and 10% spiritual, or 30/70, or even 90% spiritual. Even the seemingly mundane elements of life are imbued with G‑dly origins and purpose. G‑d is certainly not confined to the four walls of the Synagogue.

Our courtrooms are as much a sanctuary as are our temples. We serve G‑d when we interact in the marketplace no less than when we rest on the Shabbos. In Judaism there is nothing mundane about the ordinary and nothing ordinary about the mundane.

Indeed, our basic laws of morality and civility are contingent on higher spiritual existence. From whence then do the rules of morality stem? Has there ever been a society that has lost its spirituality and maintained its morality? The Torah as interpreted by Rashi is prophetically correct when it suggests that one cannot and must not separate the spiritual from the mundane.

There are those who espouse the opposite erroneous notion: “Sure,” they say, “There are times in life when we must put our fate in the hands of G‑d – situations that are completely beyond our control – but there is no need to inject G‑d into areas of life where we seem to have a good grip on the situation ourselves.

We must, of course, pray to the Almighty and give Him credit for the things that are beyond our control – the ‘Big stuff,’ but not necessarily for that which appears to be the product of our own doing – the ‘Small stuff.’ After all, we are surely entitled to our own ‘Four cubits of space’ in this world. We are surely deserving of credit for the matters of our own doing. We ought to recognize the separation of G‑d and self.” The fact is however that this ideology is not compatible with Judaism nor is it compatible with truth; its embrace can hence only lead to unfavorable consequences. 

One has to wonder whether there is any connection between the removal of G‑d from our secular lives and the ever growing crisis into which our country tends to be slipping. Cheating appears to have become the way of the land. The only thing that seems to change is the method.

The taking mentality, which used to be considered dishonorable and embarrassing, has now become fashionable and commendable. We are hence subjected to radio and TV advertisements that openly encourage us to stiff our lenders and sue our doctors.

Neither is the problem limited to the financial sector. The cheating bug seems to have infiltrated all areas of our culture, from government and media to sports and education. A survey conducted by Northwestern University revealed that half of 527 randomly selected journalists surveyed, admitted to have seen unethical behavior in their newsroom. 60%-75% of high school students admit to some cheating academically.

It is likewise no secret that competitive sports, from professional to amateur, are saturated with the illegal use of steroids in order to gain an unfair advantage. In fact drug cheating has become commonplace in sports. A CDC survey indicated that 5% of all high school students reported lifetime use of steroids without a doctor’s prescription.

There is of course no need to discuss the scandals inherent within our government, as they are so prevalent and notorious.

It is hard to deny the glaring connection between the prevailing cultural attitude of separation between G‑d and “State” and the moral and ethical standards of a society. The issue of G‑d and “State” has everything to do with the way we live our lives. One has to be clueless not to recognize the steady moral deterioration and decline that has gripped our culture as a result of the removal of a Higher authority from its midst. “If we ever forget that we're one nation under G‑d, then we will be one nation gone under,” said Ronald Reagan.

There is a clear and powerful correlation between the banishment of G‑d from “State” and the ever increasing moral deterioration and ethical decline. For if there is no Higher Authority within what appears to be entirely secular – “State,” then everything is acceptable, because ultimately nothing matters.

On the other hand, if one believes that there is a Divine code of morality and ethics and a G‑d that sees and cares about one’s every action, be it in the Synagogue or in the activities that we call “State,” i.e. school, sports, business relationships, recreation etc., then we would behave like every act counts, as the Rambam/Maimonides states: A person must see himself and the world as equally balanced on two ends of the scale; by doing one good deed, he tips the scale and brings for himself and the entire world redemption and salvation, Maimonides Laws of Repentance, 3:4.

Our Parsha reminds us that “Just as the Ten Commandments originated at Sinai and are rooted within Divine holiness, so too are man’s seemingly mundane laws and activities from Sinai and permeated with Divine spirit and eminence. The notion that there is any space, object, entity, phenomenon or existence, big or small, which is outside of G‑d and his purview, is heretical.

In fact according to Kabbalah/Chasidus the entire purpose for the creation of the world was so that the Holy One may have a dwelling place for Himself in this lowly world. The lowliness of this world in which G‑d seeks a dwelling place is not just the Synagogue on Yom Kippur or the Western Wall in Jerusalem, but rather an everyday classroom in some mid-American secular grade school, or the hallways of a Senate building in some southern State, the Whitehouse, Kremlin, Zhongnanhai, Palacio Nacional, markets and court-houses, etc. throughout the world. We must seek to bring the Divine Glory into all experiences, activities and places, especially as Jews who are “A kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”

Through our efforts in bringing the holiness of “Sinai” into our secular lives and the lowly realms of the world, we will succeed in turning it into a dwelling place for Him and hasten thereby the coming of Moshiach BBA.      

Gut Shabbos 

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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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Meat, Milk and Logic

Murderers and thieves are punished: Logical.

Your ox gores mine — you pay: Logical.

Don't mistreat widows, orphans or converts: Logical.

Don't boil a kid in its mother's milk: ????

This week's Torah reading is called Mishpatim, which literally means "laws" but refers specifically to the logical, self-evident systems that all societies in all eras have accepted and protected.

However, to establish systems of justice, to pass laws governing torts and damages and regulations designed to protect the vulnerable, is a no-brainer that surely needs no justification, and scarcely seems necessary for inclusion in the Torah at all.

But when one examines the rationale for keeping Judaism in the first place — because by following G‑d's orders one becomes closer to Him — it becomes apparent that one should keep the  mishpatim, the understandable mitzvot, with the same degree of self-sacrifice and sense of surrender to G‑d as one exhibits when following G‑d's unexplained desires.

Perhaps this is why the very last of a long string of otherwise sane and more or less self-evident laws is the wholly inexplicable decree against mixing milk and meat: even the rational actions we undertake, acting with honesty, humanity and compassion, are undertaken with a higher purpose than mere logic. Whatever we do, wherever we go, our actions and directions speak of our unbreakable acceptance of a higher reason and express our connection and dedication to G‑d's purpose and desire.

Rabbi Elisha Greenbaum is spiritual leader of Moorabbin Hebrew Congregation and co-director of L’Chaim Chabad in Moorabbin, Victoria, Australia.

 

Thoughts That Count
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And you shall serve the L-rd your G‑d (Ex 23:25)

According to Maimonides, we learn the positive mitzva of praying to G‑d from this verse; “service” refers to “the service of the heart,” i.e., prayer. As is known, during the exile our prayers must take the place of the sacrifices that were offered in the Holy Temple. However, when the Temple stood, only kohanim (priests) were allowed to actually bring the sacrifices; Levites and Israelites were prohibited from doing so. Thus the exile has a certain advantage over the time when the Holy Temple was in existence, for nowadays, every Jew can fulfill the role of the greatest kohen just by calling upon his Father in heaven. (Peninei Geula)

And you shall make two cherubim (Ex 25:18)

As Rashi explains, the wings of the baby-faced cherubim were spread over the ark which contained the Tablets of the Law. We learn from this that the continued existence and perpetuation of Torah depends on the “cherubim” – the very youngest Jewish children who study Torah and follow its ways. (Likutei Sichot)

If you lend money – kesef. (Ex. 22:24)

The Tzemach Tzedek, the third Chabad-Lubavitch Rebbe, explained that the Hebrew word for “money,” – kesef – comes from the root word meaning “longing and yearning.” The soul, he explained, always yearns to go upward, attaining higher and higher levels of spirituality. “If you lend money” – G‑d “lends” the eternal soul to each of us for a certain period of time, to dwell in a physical body in this world. It is up to the individual to utilize that loan to the fullest, taking advantage of every day that is granted on earth. (Hayom Yom)

Once Upon A Chassid

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Halachic Medicine

Meat of that is treifah ('torn') in the field, you shall not eat… (22:30)

A sign of a treifah animal is that it cannot remain alive for twelve months (The Talmud, Chulin 57b.)

Rabbi Eliyahu Yosef of Dribin, a chassid of Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch, was once smitten with a critical illness. Rabbi Menachem Mendel advised him to relocate to the Holy Land, where he completely recovered.

Rabbi Menachem Mendel later explained that in the section of the Code of Jewish Law which deals with the laws of treifah, two great halachic authorities, the Beis Yosef and the Ramoh, disagree regarding Reb Eliyahu Yosef's 'case'. The Ramoh rules that an animal with such an illness cannot survive a year and is therefore treifah and unfit for consumption; the Beis Yosef, however, holds that it is kosher. In Europe, where we rule according to the Ramoh, Reb Eliyahu Yosef was afflicted with a terminal disease, G‑d forbid; but in the Land of Israel, where the rulings of the Beis Yosef are followed, his recovery could be achieved…

 

Tid Bits
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Thousands of Chabad Shluchos Gathered In-Person and Online for Annual Shluchos Conference
tid bit

 

Thousands of leaders and role models in communities around the globe joined together last weekend in person and online for the annual International Conference of Chabad-Lubavitch Women Emissaries (Kinus Hashluchos in Hebrew), which encompassed six days of camaraderie, bonding, learning and inspiration as they reconnected with their sister emissaries on six continents and more than 100 countries and territories.

The thousands of women leaders are at the forefront of Chabad’s staggering growth, including over the course of the coronavirus pandemic, which saw more than $100 million raised in Chabad capital campaigns across the country. Those figures dovetail with the findings of the Pew Research Center’s 2021 study of Jewish American life that two in five Jewish adults (38 percent, or 2.2 million people) report engaging with Chabad-Lubavitch. The Pew data also shows that Chabad attracts a diverse population—more than half of all participants personally identify as Reform, Conservative or unaffiliated.

For the many emissaries who struggle to leave behind their families and communities for the weekend, this year’s conference provided the flexibility to tune in when they can, from where they can, say organizers. All sessions were both in person and live streamed, giving participants the chance to connect in a way that is best for them. “There was a lot of excitement around this new format,” Rivkie Kahanov, co-director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Northeast Florida and a member of the Kinus executive committee, tells Chabad.org.

The online format also meant that a wider pool of contributors and panelists are available to lead the session and workshops. “Online sessions give a voice to some of those we don’t normally hear from,” says Ella Potash, co-director of Chabad of Redwood City, Calif., who explains that some people are hesitant to speak up at a crowded conference, while the online environment can make listeners into more active participants.

She added that online sessions mean that it’s easier to jump from one session to the next from the comfort of one’s own home. “I’m very much looking forward to the Kinus and being able to reconnect with other shluchos in similar circumstances,” she says.

For those who prefer it, in-person attendance was an option with smaller groups convening in a safe manner, following all current New York City health guidelines and the recommendations of the conference medical advisory board.

Webcast Honoring the Rebbetzin

The conference began in 1991 with 65 attendees at the behest of the RebbeRabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory—in memory of his wife—Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson, of righteous memory—will conclude with a program to honor her the legacy and ongoing influence.

The evening of tribute was broadcast worldwide on Sunday, Jan. 23, from 8:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., corresponding to the anniversary of the Rebbetzin’s passing on 22 Shevat, which begins on Sunday at nightfall. Earlier in the day, participants visited the gravesites of the Rebbetzin and the Rebbe at the Ohel in Queens, N.Y.

The program began with the reciting of Psalms led by Chaya Chourke of Tel Aviv, followed by an introduction to the evening by Rabbi Moshe Kotlarksy, vice chairman of Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch—the educational arm of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement—who spoke about how the emissaries are connected to the Rebbetzin in all that they do.

A video tribute to the Rebbetzin was followed by a talk by Chanie Krasnianki of New York, N.Y., who gave an overview of how one particular sicha (address) by the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, sets the tone for our unique times. Brocha Sapochkinsky of Westlake Village, Calif., spoke about the women emissaries of our generation and Chanie Rosenblum of Pittsburgh detailed the “Love, Warmth and Joy of Yiddishkeit.” There were musical interludes throughout the program.

This year, all sessions were held in person and streamed worldwide. (Credit: Kinus.com)

Dini Sharfstein, co-director of Chabad of St. Johns County in Northern Florida, chose to come to Brooklyn and experience the conference live this year.

“There is a certain magic that happens between the sessions at the Kinus among the women. We discuss the sessions, connect with other  shluchos [“emissaries”] and share experiences,” she explains. “Although I have gained immensely from the previous two years online, I was so excited to be able to come in person. We farbreng together, and we find strength in one another—the energy of shluchos coming together is something you get nowhere else.”

“We hope that we will all be able to safely gather physically very soon,” says Kahanov. “The theme of this year’s conference is the role of women in bringing Moshiach, who will end all sorrow and suffering, and reunite us all once again in Jerusalem.”

 

Happenings

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