B"H Monday, 28 Nisan 5777 | April 24 2017
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 At the core of our beings 

A chassid was sent by the Previous Rebbe, R. Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, to visit Jews in outlying communities and inspire them in the observance of the mitzvos. When he returned to the Rebbe, he told him that the Jews he visited had asked him the purpose of his trip, and he had answered them using the following analogy. In previous generations, there were itinerant scribes who would travel from community to community, checking the Torah scrolls and correcting any cracked or faded letters.

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 Keeping in Touch: Chukas 

Two chassidim and a secular Jew named Bernhardt were part of a hard labor unit which was forced to accompany the German troops in their retreat through Hungary before the rapidly advancing Russian army at the close of World War II.

At this point, the Germans realized that they had lost the war. Frightened and frustrated, they vented their vehemence and anxiety on the Jews in the hard labor unit. As their threats and violence increased, these three men began to plan their escape. "It's true," they told each other, "that the probability of fleeing without being detected is not high. But neither is the probability of remaining alive through the brutalities of this retreat."

And so, they planned their breakout. They figured that the Germans would not pursue them very far; they would not risk confrontation with a Russian scouting party. If they could make it beyond the camp's limits and avoid detection the first night, they would probably be safe.

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 Keeping in Touch: Behar 

It was in the early years of the space effort. Millions of dollars and years of planning had gone into designing a rocket launch. At the planned time, the rocket rose from Cape Kennedy and ascended upward. Everything looked fine and then suddenly, a fire broke out. On TV screens throughout the country, everyone watched in horror as the flames spread and the rocket exploded.

When NASA investigated what had gone wrong, they discovered that almost everything had been in order. The only problem was that one screw had been slightly loose. That had allowed for a current of air to pry loose some of the coating and ultimately destroy the entire rocket.

This tragic incident brings home a fundamental point: There is no such thing as a small, inconsequential element of a larger picture. On the contrary, every element of the picture relates to the set as a whole.

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 Keeping in Touch: Emor 
Once Reb Simchah Bunim of Pesischitza sent his chassidim to visit an innkeeper in a distant village. "You'll learn something very important from him," R. Simchah Bunim promised.
When the chassidim reached the inn, their happy host prepared a feast for them. But they were slightly hesitant about partaking of the meal. They were very meticulous about the kashrus of the food they ate. Did the innkeeper keep such high standards?

The appetizing aroma of the food soon began to waft through the air, and the question became quite agonizing: Could they partake of the food?

With hushed whispers, they discussed the matter. The innkeeper appeared simple, how much could he have studied? Was it possible for him to know all the laws? He spoke naturally with his non-Jewish workers. Perhaps that implied that he fraternized with them at other times as well.

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 Keeping in Touch: Achrei 

It was Yom Kippur eve and everyone was in shul waiting for the Alter Rebbe to give the signal to begin the Kol Nidrei service. The Rebbe was wearing his kittel, the special Yom Kippur robe, and had lifted his tallis over his head. The entire congregation had their eyes focused on him, watching him while he stood absorbed in thought.

Suddenly, the Rebbe removed his tallis and his kittel and strode quickly out of the synagogue.

Stunned, the chassidim remained in shul, waiting for him to return. They waited 10 minutes, 20 minutes, half an hour.... Where had the Rebbe gone? Why on the holiest day of the year was he not in the synagogue?

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 Keeping in Touch: Tazria-Metzorah 
The Rebbe tells of two sages traveling in a coach on a mission to help Jews in a distant community. They were speaking words of Torah and as such, they were accompanied by angels. The horses, on the other hand, were going to their destination to receive their fodder, while the wagon driver was motivated by thoughts of his paycheck. The sages had a mission to accomplish and the angels, well, who can know what spurs them.
When describing this setting, the Rebbe would conclude: "Because the horses were thinking about their fodder, are the angels not angels?"

The mindset that prevails within our world does not enable us to appreciate spiritual reality, but our lack of appreciation does not obstruct the existence of that reality. Concepts like purity and impurity are real. They describe forces as potent - indeed even more potent - than forces in our material realm. Mortals, however, cannot perceive them openly.

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 Keeping in Touch: Shemini 

R. Yisrael Meir, the founder of the chassidic dynasty of Ger, was wont to forgo any food concerning which there was the slightest question whether it was kosher or not. Even if a Rabbi would rule that it was acceptable, he would refrain from eating it.

Once a new maid began working in R. Yisrael Meir's kitchen. She was unaware of this practice and so when a question arose as to whether a chicken was kosher or not, she brought it to the local Rabbi. When he ruled that it was acceptable, she served it to R. Yisrael Meir.

Unaware of what the maid had done, he nevertheless politely put the chicken on the side, saying he had no appetite for it. Later the chassidim investigated and discovered what had happened.

"Ruach HaKodesh, prophetic inspiration," they claimed.

"No," answered R. Yisrael Meir. "This is something anyone can do. When a person makes a firm resolve that he will not eat anything that is not kosher, G-d puts him in touch with his feelings and enables him to see to it that the desire will be fulfilled."

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 Yud Aleph Nissan 

One Saturday night, shortly after the conclusion of the Sabbath, the phone rang in the home of Rabbi Leibel Groner, the Rebbe's personal secretary. An elderly chassid was on the line asking for a blessing for his wife. She had been in the hospital for several days, and her condition was critical.

"Could Rabbi Groner ask the Rebbe for a blessing?" the chassid asked.

Rabbi Groner offered some words of reassurance to the chassid but told him that it was often difficult to establish contact with the Rebbe on Saturday night. He would try, but if it was not possible, he would communicate the message first thing Sunday morning.

As Rabbi Groner had suspected, he was unable to contact the Rebbe that night. Sunday morning, as soon as the Rebbe came to 770, Rabbi Groner told him of the chassid's wife. The Rebbe listened and told Rabbi Groner to call Rabbi Chodakov, the Rebbe's senior aide. Rabbi Groner got Rabbi Chodakov on the line.

After speaking to the Rebbe for several minutes, Rabbi Chodakov told Rabbi Groner to call the chassid so that he, Rabbi Chodakov, could communicate a message from the Rebbe.

Several moments after Rabbi Chodakov spoke to the chassid, the elder man called Rabbi Groner back and told him the entire story.

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 Keeping in Touch: Rabbi Eliyahu Touger 

Before Rabbi Shlomo of Karlin passed away, he made it known that his students should transfer their allegiance to Reb Mordechai of Nishchiz. As each of Rabbi Shlomo's disciples came to Karlin after the sage's passing, they were given this advice and made their way to Nishchiz.

One of Reb Shlomo's students was Reb Uri, known as "the fiery one" because of his ardent love of G-d and fervid character. He also set out for Nishchiz and arrived at a time when Reb Mordechai was receiving visitors. With his spiritual insight, Reb Uri perceived that among those calling on the Rebbe was a man who had just committed a grave sin. This man had merely come to inquire about a business matter and to seek a blessing.

Reb Mordechai received this man warmly. As they were talking, Reb Mordechai sensed Reb Uri seething with anger. The disciple was thinking: How could this man approach the Rebbe without repenting? Before Reb Uri could speak, Reb Mordechai ordered him to leave the room, and continued talking cordially to his guest.

Reb Uri, dismayed at being sent away by the man he had hoped would agree to become his new spiritual guide, went to one of the synagogues in town to think. Shortly afterwards, Reb Mordechai sent for him. "Don't you think I saw what you saw?" he asked Reb Uri. "I also knew the severity of his sin.

But this is why Reb Shlomo sent you here: so that you should learn how to love your fellow man. If your feelings of love aren't powerful enough that you want to embrace even a man who has sinned, you are lacking. Moreover, this is the best way to spur a person to repentance. When you reach out to a sinner with love, he will naturally improve his conduct."

Reb Uri had been able to see behind the visitor's physical appearance and perceive his spiritual faults, but Reb Mordechai had looked even deeper. He recognized the other person's G-dly core and understood his potential for good.

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 Keeping in Touch: Tetzave 

An unlearned chassid would recite his prayers in prolonged meditation. His conduct attracted the attention of his colleagues who wondered what was the subject of his lengthy contemplation.

"What are you thinking about while you are praying?" they inquired.
With whole-hearted simplicity, the chassid repeated a teaching he had heard from the Alter Rebbe. In the Book of Exodus, the Ten Commandments introduce the Sabbath with the word Zachor ("remember").

In the repetition of the Ten Commandments in the Book of Deuteronomy, however, this command begins with the word Shamor ("Observe"; literally, "pay heed to"). Our Sages explain that there is no contradiction: "Shamor and Zachor were recited in one statement." The Alter Rebbe offered a non-literal interpretation of their words: "In every statement, a person should remember and pay heed to the One."

"That," he told his attentive colleagues, "is what I try to do when I pray."

There are two dimensions to prayer:

Asking G-d for our needs. This is very important, for we should realize that He - and not our own efforts - is the ultimate source for our success and well-being.

Connecting with Him. Each one of us has moments when he or she rises above thinking about his wants or needs. At that time, we pray so that we establish a bond and identify with G-d and His purpose.

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 Keeping in Touch: Parshas Terumah 

"Where is G-d?" the Kotzker Rebbe once asked his students.

The students were perplexed. The Rebbe had always told them that G-d is everywhere, that His Being permeates every element of existence. They did not answer their teacher.

And so the Rebbe told them: "Where is G-d? Where you let Him in."

Although G-dliness is everywhere, for G-dliness to become an apparent and revealed factor in one's life, man must let Him in and open himself to G-d's involvement.

As an invitation for mankind as a whole to bring G-dliness into the world, G-d commanded us to build Him a Sanctuary in the desert and later a Temple in Jerusalem. This commandment, the subject of this week's Torah reading, enabled man to create an ongoing source of spiritual inspiration for our world.

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 Keeping in touch: Mishpatim 
I was recently speaking with a friend, a podiatrist with a growing practice in the Midwest. He mentioned that he had been observant for two years before he believed in G-d. "How could that be?" I asked him in surprise. "Belief in G-d is the starting point of Jewish practice. If you ...
    
 
 Keeping in touch: Yitro 
There he was, shipwrecked, alone on an island. He surveyed the few articles washed ashore with him: a few tools, a few necessities, and one book. He took the book and put it in a special place, for he realized that this was to be his sole source of outside intellectual stimulation. The island had ...
    
 
 Keeping in Touch: Beshalach 
In the 1950s, there was a Reform Rabbi who carried on an extended correspondence with the Rebbe and would visit him from time to time. Once he told the Rebbe, "I envy the peaceful happiness and calm that radiates from the faces of your followers. I feel, however, it stems from naivet?. Were ...
    
 
 Keeping in touch: Bo 
In 5751, the Rebbe complained that he was having difficulty reading the commentaries whose notes are printed in small letters in the Talmud. His secretary, Rabbi Leibel Groner, arranged that an ophthalmologist check the Rebbe's vision. One of the tests required that he insert several drops in the ...
    
 
 Keeping in touch: Vaeira 
A boy came running to his father in tears. He had been playing hide-and-go-seek with his friends and the boy who had been chosen to be "it" had played a trick on him. They had all hidden, but instead of going to find them, the one chosen to be "it" simply went home. For a ...
    
 

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