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The Lamplighter Weekly

Volume 22 Issue 19
May 24-30, 2020 -Rosh Chodesh-7 Sivan 5780
Torah Reading: Shavuos
 Candle Lighting May 27: 8:04 PM
Candle Lighting May 28: 8:05
Yom Tov/Shabbos Ends: 9:04 PM

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


Parsha Synopsis

Exodus: 19:1-20:23, Deuteronomy: 14:22-16:17

On the first day of Shavuot we read from Exodus chapters 19 and 20.

A summary of the content: The Children of Israel camp opposite  Mount Sinai, where they are told that G‑d has  chosen them to be His "kingdom of priests" and "holy nation." The people respond by proclaiming, "All that G‑d has spoken, we shall  do."

On the sixth day of the third month (Sivan), seven weeks after the  Exodus, the entire nation of Israel assembles at the foot of Mount Sinai. G‑d  descends on the mountain amidst thunder, lightning, billows of smoke and the blast of the shofar, and summons Moses to  ascend.

G‑d proclaims the  Ten Commandments, commanding the people of Israel to believe in  G‑d, not to worship  idols or take G‑d's  name in vain, to honor their  parents, keep the  Shabbat, and not to  murder, commit  adultery steal, bear false  witness or  covet another's property. The people cry out to Moses that the revelation is too intense for them to bear, begging him to receive the  Torah from G‑d and convey it to them.



On the second day of Shavuot we read from Deuteronomy chapters 14-16 which detail the laws of the three  pilgrimage festivals —  Passover Shavuot and  Sukkot — on which all Jews came "to  see and  be seen before the  face of G‑d" in the Holy Temple in  Jerusalem.

A Word From the Rabbi



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Self Discovery and Refinement

A professor once lamented to the Lubavitcher Rebbe about the depravity of human nature. “While most people,” argued the academic, “seem very nice and charming (politically correct) on the outside, beneath the surface we all tend to share the same ugly essence. We are all selfish, arrogant, and egotistical. Why should the intrinsic character of man be so abhorrent?”

The Rebbe responded with a parable: “When one takes a stroll down the street, one sees lovely houses, green lawns, flowery trees, paved roads and shiny cars. But when one takes a hoe and digs beneath the surface he exposes nothing but dirt and more dirt. The surface beauty is all gone.”

Not realizing where the Rebbe was heading with this, the professor found himself nodding in agreement. The Rebbe was actually affirming his point.

“But,” the Rebbe continued. “If one were not to give-up so quickly and continue digging even deeper, you know what he is likely to find? Water, minerals, perhaps even diamonds.” To encounter the inherent goodness in man one must be willing to dig a little deeper.

The period between Pesach and Shavuot is the season of the counting of the Omer; a time for self- discovery and refinement.

Recalling this Divine promise to Moshe, “When you lead the people out of Egypt, they shall serve G‑d on this mountain,” (Exodus 3:12) the Jews have eagerly counted the days, from the moment of Exodus, until they reached Mt. Sinai. Ever since then Jews continue to count these 49 days from the second day of Pesach until the holiday of Shavuot, which commemorates our receiving of the Torah. 

The observance of Pesach, Sefiras HaOmer, and Shavuot is more than a sequential commemoration of our early beginnings. Each of these events corresponds to a stage of spiritual development in the life of each individual Jew, similar to what transpired upon our birth as a people.

Pesach marks the first stage. Before the Exodus, the Jewish people were enslaved – dominated body and soul by the Egyptians. Their spiritual state is described as “naked and bare.” They could never have been freed from slavery on the basis of their own merit. Only through G‑d’s benevolence was the Exodus possible. He revealed Himself and redeemed them, despite the depths to which they had sunk.

The fact that the redemption from Egypt did not result from their own Divine service affected the manner in which they responded to the freedom they had not earned. They fled. The reason they fled, as noted in Chassidic philosophy, was because the evil within them was still vibrant.

Lacking personal refinement the Jewish people feared that the evil, which still lurked beneath the surface might rear its head and again take control of them, therefore they fled. Their desire was to escape the defilement of Egypt.

Most people are aware of the presence of both good and evil impulses within their hearts. Even someone who wishes to serve G‑d may struggle against a part of himself that opposes this wish and seeks personal and animalistic gratification instead. As a result, he feels the need to “flee from himself;” to repress his identity in order to commit himself to G‑d.

Rejection of evil, however, is only a preliminary stage in our service of G‑d. We cannot base our entire Judaism on a negative – the flight from something we do not desire. We cannot, for example, base our entire Judaism, as some would have us believe, on the fact that we are not Christians.

The ultimate goal is to cleave to positive – to bring together all the elements of our personalities in the positive service of the Almighty, which is what the holiday of Shavuot represents.

This level of service can only be achieved through a consorted effort. The seven weeks of Sefirat HaOmer, are devoted to this endeavor. The 49 days of Sefirat HaOmer, correspond to the 49 emotive attributes within the human character. Each day is related to the elevation of a different trait, as we systematically refine our characters.

This process of refinement allows us to resolve the conflict between our good and evil impulses. On Pesach, our individual identity and spiritual goals may be separate from each other, or even in conflict. The spiritual labors of Sefirah, however, enable us to refine ourselves – allowing for the integration of our spiritual and individual identities on Shavuot.

May we – this Shavuot – uncover the deeper dimensions of our souls and realize the vast treasures that we each possess, achieving thereby a genuine state of harmony and balance, with the coming of the righteous Moshiach BBA.

Gut Yom Tov 

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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 


In the Desert

In the desert there are no office buildings or factories. So if you lived in the desert, chances are you wouldn't have a job. There'd be no boss bossing you, and no underlings under you.

In the desert there are no towns or neighborhoods—you'd be neither on the right nor on the wrong side of the tracks. There aren't any department stores or grocery stores—you'd eat manna from heaven and wear the same pair of shoes for forty years.

Which is why, say our sages, G‑d gave us the Torah in the desert.

Had He given it to us on Wall Street, He would have had to decide whom to appoint to the board and who should retain a controlling interest. Had He given it to us in the Holy Land, He'd have had to decide if He wants it in religious Jerusalem, mystical Sefad or hi-tech Tel Aviv. Or perhaps He'd have preferred a Marxist kibbutz or even a neo-Zionist settlement?

G‑d wanted no shareholders in his Torah, no corporate structure, no social or political context. In fact, no context whatsoever. Just us and the Torah.

Wouldn't it have been great to stay in the desert?

But as soon as G‑d was sure that we'd gotten the message—that we understood that the Torah is not the product of any particular age, environment or cultural milieu, and that it belongs, absolutely and unequivocally, to each and every one of us—he sent us to the cities and the towns of His world, to its farms and marketplaces, to its universities and office complexes. He told us that now that He's done His part, it's up to us to make His Torah relevant in all these places and in all these contexts.

Still, it's nice to come back to the desert once in a while. At least for a visit.

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

Thoughts That Count
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In the wilderness of Sinai, in the tent of meeting (Num. 1:1)

All of the Divine utterances that were said during the Jews' first year in the desert, before the Sanctuary was erected, are described as having been said "at Mount Sinai." However, once the Sanctuary was built, the Torah uses the words "in the wilderness of Sinai, in the tent of meeting," since the sanctuary was now the place where the Divine Presence rested. (Rashbam)

The Levites shall keep charge of the Sanctuary of Testimony (Num. 1:53)

The Levites, whose job it was to "guard" the Sanctuary and the Holy Temple, were counted in the census from the age of one month. But how can a one-month-old infant possibly "keep the charge of the Sanctuary of Testimony"? "Guarding" the holiness of the Sanctuary refers to spiritual guardianship, not physical protection. The Levites served not by virtue of their physical prowess or outstanding bravery, but because of their high spiritual stature, something that even a small baby had already inherited.

Every man by his own flag, by the ensigns of their family division (Num. 2:2)

Each flag bore the symbol of a different tribe: Reuben, the form of a man; Yehuda, a lion; Ephraim, an ox; Dan, an eagle. (Ibn Ezra)

And the charge of the Children of Israel (Num. 3:8)

The function of the Levites, to "guard the honor of G‑d," also serves to protect the Jewish people as a whole, as it states, "G‑d is your guardian, G‑d is your shadow." Why a shadow? Because G‑d conducts Himself with man in the very same manner as He is served... (Kiflaim L'Toshia)

Once Upon A Chassid

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Ungrammatically Correct

G‑d spoke to Moses in the Sinai Desert (1:1)

The Torah was given to us in the barren, ownerless desert to emphasize that no man may claim any superior right to the word of G‑d. It is equally the heritage of every Jew, man, woman, and child, equally accessible to the accomplished scholar and the most simple of Jews. (Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, of righteous memory)

The Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka, wife of Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch, was forever reciting Psalms, but with many mispronunciations.

Once, she commented to her son, Rabbi Yehudah Leib: "You know, it's strange. By now, I should know the book of Psalms by heart. I've been reciting the Psalms every day for many years now." "True," said Rabbi Yehudah Leib, "but each time you recite them with new mistakes."

The Rebbetzin related this exchange to her husband, adding that perhaps she had better stop her custom rather than distort the holy words. "No," insisted Rabbi Menachem Mendel, "continue to recite as before."

Later, Rabbi Menachem Mendel admonished his son and instructed him to ask his mother for forgiveness. "What do you know?" he told him. "My success in Petersburgwas in the merit of your mother's Psalms."

Tid Bits
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A Tribute To The Many COVID-19 Warriors

tid bit
 This week, we begin the book of Bamidbar, which is also known as the book of Numbers (Chamesh HaPekudim) because it begins and ends with a detailed census. All of Israel who were warriors, of draftable age, were counted.

“To count” in Hebrew is written literally as “to raise the head.” As we wage war against the coronavirus, it’s an appropriate time to “count” our many warriors and “raise up” or pay respects to those valiantly fighting this terrible enemy.

To the many mommies and daddies at home, you try so hard to have patience for your children as you entertain them, while you cook and clean (and possibly, still work remotely), despite your own stress.

To the children and teenagers, like my own daughter, your lives have been disrupted and you feel so alone, yet you refrain from meeting up with friends because you understand the harm it can cause others.

To those who lost their jobs or businesses and are worried about their economic future, yet fight despair.

To spouses who are not used to spending so much time in such close proximity during a taxing situation, yet are being careful to act kindly.

To the doctors, nurses, health-care professional (including members of Hatzolah) who are being called to act way beyond your call of duty and are endangering your own lives to save others, we can never adequately express our gratitude.

To those sick and infected with the COVID-19, who are fighting the greatest battle of their lives, please stay strong.

To those many people who are taking on extra mitzvot, reciting Psalms, studying Torah or praying more you are spiritually fighting to help those who are ill.

To those who have lost loved ones, including a dear friend whose husband passed away right before Passover, and another who buried her father, who are valiantly struggling to remain brave for those around them, you are examples of faith and courage.

For our grandparents and great-grandparents, like my parents or like those in even less fortunate situations who are in complete solitude, please keep up your spirit and good health, we need you!

To the many volunteers, like those shopping for their isolated neighbors, or like those who have recovered from the virus and stood in line to donate their plasma, or like the woman who sews masks and hangs them in her front lawn, your generous spirit remains an inspiration.

To our teachers, you always deserved our praise, but now you have stepped up to learn a whole new way of teaching creatively online (some even while caring for their own children!).

To the many essential workers who are staffing supermarkets, managing gas stations, and picking up trash and recyclables, you are showing up so that we can buy our food, keep our vehicles running and dispose of the waste of that food.

And to the many others who are warriors on the coronavirus front, even if your contribution is “just” staying home to save others, I stand in admiration for your determination and love of your fellow.

Together, we will overcome this!

Chana Weisberg,

Editor, TJW



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